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During World War I, World War II, the Korean War, most of the Cold War, and the beginning of the Vietnam War, the U.S. issued almost the equivalent of a sniper rifle to every combat infantryman. However, only a few were equipped with telescopic sights. Although many U.S. military rifles had the theoretical capability to lay accurate, aimed fire out to 1,000 yards, the majority were used for distances of a couple hundred yards or less. Why? Most commanders and leaders had relegated sniping to a piecemeal, adjunct function, but mostly it was a technical matter: The optics available at the time lagged behind weaponry and ballistics.

Telescopic riflesights improved somewhat during the conflicts in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, but the real developments in optics, sighting systems and even electronics have occurred in the last 20 years. The ability to take out a target with one bullet at long range proved to be a game-changer. The result is that a rifleman’s averge lethality has improved from less than 100 yards to sometimes in excess of 1,000 yards. Companies like Leupold, who have been getting feedback from LE and military operators over the past two decades, have learned from just about every shot that was made using their scopes. As a result of its close association with military and police snipers, Leupold now has optics, reticles and magnification matched to specific calibers, loads and bullets. They can also teach shooters how to use their gear. I attended a 3-day class on long range shooting sponsored by Leupold and Weatherby at the incredible Gunsite Academy with several other gun writers and magazine editors. The owner of Gunsite, Buz Mills, our Gunsite rangemaster, Walt Wilkinson, and another long-range instructor, Mike Moore, welcomed and briefed us on our schedule, safety rules and student expectations. Leupold’s long-time instructor Tim O’Connor then took over as the student shooters selected their firearms for the course: Weatherby .308 Vanguard Series 2 TRR RC (Range Certified) bolt-action rifles with Leupold riflescopes on top. I selected the Leupold 4.5-14x50mm Mark 4 with the Tactical Milling Reticle (TMR)…

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