For long-range marksmen there has been an ongoing discussion about the best way to transition from one distance to another while rounds on range as rapidly as possible. In fact, an entire cottage industry exists around range-estimating and hold over scope reticles.
The United States military and many of our allies long ago settled on the Mil-Dot system and corresponding scope reticles. Savvy scope makers have riflescopes with adjustments knobs in “Mils” eliminating the need to perform math conversions in the field.
Many long-range shooters swear by the hold-over method using the tick marks or dots on the reticle to “guesstimate” the shot placement. Those desiring a more precise shot, such as in a known distance competition, will carefully count each click up or down to dial in the scope to the desired elevation.
I will admit that I was a student of both schools. When on a KD (known distance) range, I would count clicks up for each distance. On the range you have ample time to get your dope just right. When I started hunting varmints I found that counting clicks was not going to work, as the window of opportunity to take the shot would close quickly. I found myself estimating hold-over for all shots beyond my 100 yard zero.
The hold-over technique is naturally the fastest method, but is really is not much more than an educated guess. Many factors can affect your hold-over estimation—primarily sunlight, or lack thereof.
Fine adjustment, where the shooter applies a specific number of “clicks” or “mils” to the scope by counting each one, is very precise but also time-consuming. In order to count a specific amount of clicks or mils you need to have ample time and little or no distractions. Try counting clicks when someone is yelling commands, the bad guys are ducking in and out of cover, and explosions are going off left and right.
It was not until I met Scotty Reitz in the spring of 2010 that I learned a new way to adjust from one distance to another rapidly and get shots on target every time. First of all, you need to start with a riflescope that has been zeroed to a constant setting. One hundred yards (or meters) is generally the benchmark but you could also do it with a 200-yard zero I suppose.
During a three-day Urban Sniper course at ITTS (International Tactical Training Seminars) Mr. Reitz had us all zero our scopes to 100 yards and then mark the elevation adjustment knob with a line large enough to be seen quickly, even in low light. I used a silver paint pen from the craft section of my local hobby store to mark mine.
Regardless of whether or not you use the speed dialing technique, you should mark your knobs. This allows you quickly verify that your adjustment knobs (both elevation and windage) are set at their zero point. Anytime you dial up off of your zero you need to return the knob back to start before your move.
The next step was to live fire at reactive steel targets spread out from 100 to 450 yards. These targets were all approximately the size of a human torso. Steel is a fantastic training tool—a hit is a hit and a miss is a miss; you either get the “clang” report back or not.
The first half of day one was all about getting to know your equipment. We started out using range cards and dialed in the exact setting on the elevation knob. While we were doing this, “Uncle Scotty” as we came to know him, admonished us to check where the line was on our elevation knob. We learned that it was generally either an eighth, a quarter, or a half turn.
By lunchtime on day one we were running drills where we would engage multiple targets at varied ranges. This was not always a near-to-far drill. Sometimes we’d start at 450 yards, dial down to 125 and then back up to 300.