Twenty-four seconds from trigger pull to impact. A downward trajectory of 48 degrees. Hand-lathed custom bullets. Impacts that spotters couldn’t see so had to listen for. That’s what the shooters of the Nomad Rifleman team were dealing with who set a new ELR record with a 4.4 mile rifle shot.
The shooters involved in the effort — which has been in the planning since 2020 — were shooting a custom-built rifle chambered in .416 Barrett. They used forward observers in protected positions who helped them locate misses and walk their shots in on the target. Even then, it took 69 shots before a 422 grain round hit almost dead center.
From Nomad’s press release . . .
When testing finally began, each test required the team members to coordinate their schedules away from work, and with at least one forward spotter and Scott shooting, this was a challenge. “We learned that with our 422 grain bullet landing at 689 feet per second, there was rarely enough dust signature to see where the impact point was. In this kind of shooting, a spotter sees an impact and then tells the coach, who does the data crunching, and advises the shooter how to adjust before taking the next shot. But the bullet “splash” wasn’t visible at this range. The forward spotter, typically either Shepard or his wife, Lynn Sherwood-Humphries, when more than 100 yards from the target, would most frequently hear a whistle above, right or left, and a “thump” somewhere behind or between them and the target, but could not see any dust. They needed to get closer to the target to hone in on the point of impact, which is tricky.
The three of them considered a number of solutions, and Shepard settled on what he thinks might be(?) a brand new concept in ELR, audio spotting. Audible spotting has already been used to supplement visual spotting, but there are no other known examples of someone trying to spot with ears as the primary tool. In this new system, spotters get as close as safely possible to the target and listen for thumps and triangulate the sounds.
Here are the specs on the rifle and other gear used . . .
- The rifle, with customized parts and accessories from Canada, New Zealand, Arkansas, South Dakota and elsewhere, was assembled in Idaho by S&S Sporting in Driggs, Idaho.
- Rifle is chambered in .416 Barrett
- Chassis is a Cadex Dual Strike from Canada
- Barrel is an LRI from Sturgis, SD – 40” with a 1:9 twist. These folks are amazing in every way.
- The barrel was “structured” by tacomHQ in Arkansas.
- Action is a McMillian TAC50.
- Trigger is a Timney.
- Muzzle brake is a Terminator T6 from New Zealand.
- The 350 MOA mount was custom built by S&S Sporting in Idaho.
- The custom high-rise cheek piece was built by S&S Sporting.
- The scope is the recently-released Vortex Razor 6-35×56 FFP scope with EBR-7D MOA reticle. This scope is the latest and greatest from Vortex Optics. After testing many other top-tier brands, Scott decided that this Razor was our best option.
- The scope was held in place with a double set of Leupold Mark IV rings.
- Support optics included a Delta and a Charlie TARAC from tacomHQ.
- The bipod was a LRA.
- Scott designed and built the shooting platform.
- Ballistic software used – Applied Ballistics.
Here’s video of the record-breaking shot . . .
As Cowboy State Daily reports . . .
Landing a bullet on target at 4.4 miles was “simply phenomenal,” said long-distance shooting enthusiast David Asmuth of Laramie. He’s the president of the Laramie Rifle Range board of directors.
“It’s a one-in-a-million shot. They said it’s not statistically repeatable,” he said. “The amount of precision and time that went into that shot was simply amazing.
“When a bullet is in flight for that long, you have to take into account the rotational speed of the earth. What you’re shooting at isn’t going to be in the same place it was 24 second ago when you pulled the trigger.”
Ashmuth said the longest shots he’s ever made were 2,220 yards with a bullet flight time of about 4-5 seconds.
A massive flight arc had to be calculated to make the 4.4 mile shot work, Humphries said.
The angle of the rifle’s barrel, coupled with shooting from a ridge above the target, accounted for the arc in the bullet’s trajectory, he said.
“That made it more like artillery, where you’re lobbing it in,” Humphries said.
And extremely difficult to repeat.
Shepard [Humphries] and Scott [Austin] are quick to point out that their hit is not scientifically consistently “repeatable” even with the same several hours spent walking the shot in to the target. The temperature outside and within the barrel, the speed and direction of the wind at various distances between the shooter and the target, especially at max ordinate above 2,500 feet, will not ever be the same again. Those factors, as well as other environmental conditions, make a shot like this very challenging each time it’s attempted.
“We could obviously put a few more shots in the bullseye right in a row right now, but we are tired, so we will stop shooting and strut away now,” Shepard joked. “‘Luck’ isn’t the right word; perhaps ‘probability’ is a better word. Had Winston shot another 50 shots, none might have hit the target, or at best, perhaps a few would have, and they probably wouldn’t have been in the bullseye.” In a strange coincidence, it was their 69th shot that hit the target, breaking Paul Phillips’ 4-mile record shot which also landed on the 69th shot.
Read Nomad Rifleman’s full press release here.