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Unknown Distance Course. NRA Whittington Center

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Someone here e-mailed me for the AAR so here it is. Most fun course I have taught to date.

It is always more fun when you teach it with your wife known as BlueFeather on the forums. And my best friend known on the forum as Long Rifle, from CO.



master linky here:


Find it, range it and shoot it! All at the prestigious NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico.

This was our first stand alone Unknown Distance(UD) event. And what a success it was. There will be more of these in the future!

Thanks to the WC staff for making this event a success and for letting us use one of their back country ranges.

The prerequisites for this course are a standard 2 day Appleseed and our KD or Known Distance event. Here you will become one with your rifle, your specific load and how to make hits at distance to a least 400 yards or more! The KD course deals goes into vast detail on trajectory, come ups, battle sight zero (BSZ). We shoot 4 MOA squares to 400 yards. Then we shoot a full distance AQT!

In our standard 2 day Appleseed event we ask the question. Why shoot distance? The answer is: because it proves that the fundamentals you learn at 25 yard work at real distances.

In or standard 2 day Appleseed event we can only touch on the tasks of a Rifleman in the field, in real world conditions, far from the groomed static ranges on even increments of a hundred yards. These tasks include target detection, range estimation, wind/angle estimation/corrections. The last task involves taking the shot and a Rifleman needs to know how to adjust his sights for long distance. That is where the KD course really kicks in.

This UD course is perfectly suited for the wide open spaces of the west where there is varied terrain.

Here we take the aforementioned tasks of the rifleman and put it action vs just theorizing about it.

The first day we do some quick reviews of our 2 aforementioned courses. Then we get a solid near zero and far zero. We zero for 300 Yards or what is basically BSZ. This works pretty well for modern day ammo and many rifle platforms.

On day 2, we go to another range far form the other ranges.

Shooters are greeted with the usual NRA Whittington Center sunrise.

Don’t tread on us. We are on a private range the hoi poli never see.

Long Rifle starts the reviews.

Then after getting our 25 yard near zero we check the groups at 300 yards.

There are a few ranging targets at the 300 yard line next to the big backers with full size AQT’s. Also the 575, 710 and 810 yard targets are barely visible.

At the 300 yard line. How big is my group and where is my group.

Shooters measure groups in MOA and convert to clicks.

Meticulous record keeping is a must.










Day 2 begins with a traffic jam at the range.

Halt! This range belongs to the deer and antelope that have roamed here for centuries.

The range in full view. This little basin is now home to our UD course. It is used by YHEC (Youth Hunter Education Challenge). It is also home to the NRA WC ADVC (Adventure Camp) for the short range rifle instruction portion of the NRA WC ADVC.

The bluff is at 845 yards. There will be 19 targets for this range will be from about 145 to 420 yards. Most will be within Battle Sight Zero.

The view back to the range angling down to the firing line.

Is there enough angle that a Rifleman needs to correct to get the true ballistic range ?




The beauty of the NRA Whittington Center has no peer.


The covered area makes a great field expedient classroom. Here BlueFeather (or Mrs. TaosGlock) does a quick review of Target Detection, Range Estimation and making a field map in relation to the days UD mission: find it, range it and shoot it.



Your friendly shoot boss.


Intermediate come up notes in our field classroom on the fly.


Range cards for your rifle and detailed scan sheets for target detection and range estimation are a must for a Rifleman.

Recording data for every shot you take can be useful for later.


Here are some of the targets used at ranges from 145-420 yards.

Many blend in incredibly well. Many appear to change shape/color as the light moves or as it heats up and the mirage comes up.

Some are only visible in certain light conditions at a certain time of day.

So most of the day was spent here finding, ranging and finally shooting these steel targets! Most all could be found.

Targets shapes vary and are sized at 6x5”, 12’’, 8”, 8x16”, and 25x18”. Placing these fixed sizes targets at various distances allows one to vary the MOA size.

However, some were placed at odd angles so a 6MOA target placed as such is no longer 6MOA. See pics.










These small AR500’s measures roughly 6”x5”. when placed at 100 yards each represents a torso at about 400 yards. But placing this target at 300 yards makes the target detection equal to 1200 yards! Three of these were placed at 145, 190 and 310 yards.

Since target size in inches is divided by yards equals minutes of angle, you can figure out how many MOA these targets are.



Time to get to work on target detection and range estimation.

Targets are id first on a standard range sheet. Then the shooters go back and range them. They us the front sight method or their reticle.The light changes rapidly so some have to be reacquired then ranged. Then they get the true range with their rangefinder and note any discrepancies. Then it is time to shoot!






A MD reticle makes a quick and dirty ballistic drop reticle.

This is done by real world shooting. A computerized ballistic readout based on your load is merely a starting place. These work great on torso sized targets.

Here is an example for my rifle.

For 1000M or roughly 1125 yards, I use 6 power and the top of the duplex below the last Mil-Dot. Confirmed!



Off to the 1000M range.

More data is acquired here. Meters are converted to yards to conform with the existing data in yards-a good exercise.

This static range also has steel from 200-500M with roughly 3-4 MOA steel.

Meters to yards conversion and your come ups are often necessary to know so you can calculate hit probability based on target size in relation to you rifle/ammo data.






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Sounds like a trip is order after I retire.......

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Awesome !

Thanks for sharing.

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I see they have RV hookups available there.....

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Yes, they have primitive camping, log cabins and various hook ups. Something for everyone and it is cheaper than the motels 15 minutes away!

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I want to go!!!


What's the cost on that bad boy??

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Yes, they have primitive camping, log cabins and various hook ups. Something for everyone and it is cheaper than the motels 15 minutes away!


I'd have been more impressed if You had used your Glock !. :segrin: :hysterical3: Nice Post great pictures keep up the good work !!!...

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Barrett holds their 50 BMG courses there. I soooo want to attend one of those.

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Well, I have a spare $175. Now I just need free time and a proper rifle for that!


That's awesome TaosGlock. And I appreciate it a little more knowing how excited you seem to be just to teach it. That enthusiasm can be contagious.

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Cost was only $175. :)

You're joking right??

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Do not forget that altho $175 seems reasonable, travel is expensive, time from job, 300 rounds of centerfire, etc

You don't need a fancy rifle. Most guys run simple scope bolt guns, some use service rifles, other use scoped AR's of various calibers.

2 guys last year brought Mosins. Yeah they are harder to use but you will really know your rifle under many conditions.

Wrung what ya brung

You should also have at least one 2 day standard Appleseed under your belt.

I can waive the tuition for our standard 2 day Appleseed if you PM me. :tiphat:

Or if you shoot/compete a lot, just make sure to be well versed in the fundamentals of rifle shooting. But be honest with yourself.

We will know as soon as you lay behind your trigger and fire your first group. :)

Hint: your target will tell you what you are doing wrong or right. It is all about the fundamentals.

We start out with reviews and warm up to get people up to speed as even previous students need a refresher to get going.


WC is a looong way from most of your homes.

Then you have food/lodging but that is pretty reasonable in NM. Range fees are $25 per day.

And you have to put with a cranky instructor. :tongue:

But you will have fun and learn some distance shooting and get to hang out with other likeminded shooters in the after hours.

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