Making The 2-Mile Shot
By Shari LeGate
Extreme Long Range (ELR) shooting captivates our imagination, pushing and challenging us to conquer ever-greater yardages. Putting distance in perspective and creating a visual is hard. Particularly long distances, like 2 miles. Think about it this way, if you took a standard 100-yard football field and laid it end to end in a continuous line, you would need 35 football fields, actually 35.2 fields, to reach 2 miles (3,520 yards). Now, position yourself at the beginning of the first field, take aim at the farthest end of the 35th field and hit a 4×5-foot square target. Welcome to the King of 2 Mile (KO2M) event.
Distance tempts shooters. A test of equipment and skill, ELR shooting is still in its infancy, as is this event. Held at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico, 2017 is only the 3rd year of the King Of 2 Mile, but for long-range competition shooters the event is reaching for the stars.
The brainchild of Eduardo De Abril Fontcuberta, former President of the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association and instructor of NATO, police and military forces, this niche competition was created for specific reasons. “Back in 2015, while I was FCSA president, I recognized that as a group, both civilian and military shooters did not know what we were capable of in Extreme Long Range shooting. ELR is shooting at more than 1 mile, and if we were required to shoot in field conditions, with limited rounds, limited time, and in non-selected weather, we did not know where the limits were. That was the drive to start KO2M.”
One of the few shooting competitions requiring a team, the course of fire is pretty simple. A team consists of 3 people, and includes the shooter, a wind reader and a ballistician, both of whom double as spotters for the shooter. At the competitors meeting the night before, teams are given a map of target locations, distances of each target as determined by a laser rangefinder and the size of each target at the specified distance.
It’s only 2 days of actual competition, but it takes 3 days to shoot the event. Days 1 & 2 are qualifying rounds with 25 teams on each day shooting at four different targets approximately 1,400 to 2,000 yards out. Shooters have 5 minutes to set up and 9 minutes to complete the 4-target string. Five shots are taken on target 1 and three shots each on targets 2, 3 and 4. The distances of the targets get farther out as the team progresses through the course. Failure to hit any target with the allotted number of rounds will eliminate the team from further competition. The team must hit the target at least once in order to advance to the next target, with the top 10 scoring teams moving on to the finals.
The total length of this gun is 5 feet 2 inches and the barrel is 36 inches. As Kelly McMillan pointed out,
these stocks are made longer to control the recoil and muzzle flip. A right-handed gun with a left-hand bolt,
Derek can operate the bolt and not come off the stock while loading. As a result, he doesn’t lose his sight
picture through the scope. Photo: Derek Rodgers.
Derek Rodgers won the match making a hit on this target at 3,368 yards. Photo: Applied Ballistics
Day 3 is the finals. Target ranges are approximately 2,500 to 3,500 yards, shot at three different targets and distances.
Teams have 5 minutes to set up and 10 minutes to complete the 3-target string, taking 5 shots at each target, for a total of 15 shots. As in qualifying, the team must hit the target at least once before taking aim at the next target or they are eliminated.
“The stages were designed to challenge shooters,” explained De Abril Fontcuberta. “The main focus was in pushing innovation in rifle technology by having simple rules, being as inclusive as possible in calibers and equipment setup, reward first round hits, allow only limited rounds and limited time, and no alibis. Just like real life.”
The rules are as simple as the course of fire: A gun may be shared, but no gun is permitted to be used more than once a day. The shooting order will be adjusted for teams sharing rifles to shoot on alternate days. However, if both teams make the final, they must choose which team will compete in it.
Distances and angles to the targets are unknown until the shooters’ meeting, but angles will not exceed more than 10 degrees vertical. Any rifle under 50 pounds is allowed, but rifles over .50 caliber require prior approval. Rifle weight is determined by its “Ready to Fire” configuration. The weight of all other shooting equipment is limited to 25 pounds.
The rifle has to be supported in the front by a folding or collapsible bipod. Nothing can be added to the bipod for additional support once the rifle is on the ground, such as sandbags or stakes. The rear of the rifle may be supported by a bag of any kind, monopod or the shooter themselves, but not a shooting rest. Any optics and spotting scope system is allowed, but teams may not view the video feed from the target cameras during their record string or receive any signal from outside the firing point.
The winners of the 2017 KO2M (above, left to right) were Paul Phillips, Wind Reader/Spotter, Derek Rodgers,
Emil Praslick, Ballistician/Spotter and their .375 CheyTac rifle. These guns are big. Derek’s gun with the
custom-made McMillan ELR Beast weighs 31.46 pounds. Photos: Applied Ballistics
No Errors Allowed
Only two gun malfunctions are allowed and after that, the team is disqualified, but this rarely ever happens. Equipment is state of the art. Rifles are custom built for the shooters to their exact specifications. Each component of the gun is hand picked and in some cases designed specifically for the sport.
Kelly McMillan of McMillan Fiberglass Stocks is a passionate ELR supporter. After attending the 2016 event, McMillan saw a lot his stocks being used, but decided to design a stock explicitly for this type of shooting—the ELR Beast.
“ELR shooting has requirements other stocks just don’t have,” explained McMillan. The fore-end is longer so you can get the bipod out farther moving the center of gravity back a little bit. These barrels are so long, the gun is so muzzle heavy, the back end wants to flip up. We lowered the center of gravity so the recoil impulse comes straight back instead of having the muzzle come up. The hardest thing for these guys is seeing the impact of the bullet and if they can follow the bullet trace and watch the bullet hit because they’re not kicked off the gun under recoil, it’s easier to make their adjustments.”
“After 2017,” he continued, “I changed the backend and made the Beast 2, designed to bring the recoil impulse straight back to the middle of the stock so the gun doesn’t jump. The plane on the rear has a 5-degree angle so they can make very small elevation changes. The girth of the stock is bigger to hold these long, heavy barrels and it’s designed with materials to make it more rigid and stiff, so it’s not affected by switching positions and other factors.”
Forty-one-year old Derek Rodgers of team Applied Ballistics, the official 2017 King of 2 Miles winner, used a McMillan Beast stock and personally chose all the components of his equipment. An accomplished shooter with numerous world championships and world records to his credit, Rodgers is the first shooter in the history of the event to hit the 2-mile target, which he did in a dramatic fashion—on the very last shot of the competition.
Ironically though, when Rodgers was asked by Applied Ballistics owner, Bryan Litz, to join the team, Rodgers explained he really wasn’t interested in winning the match. He was more interested in the science of making the shot.
“I wanted to prove the science works at 2 miles. Here I was trying to help prove the calculations of ELR and I wind up winning the whole thing,” he explained. “But, I’m only one of a 3-person team. Everyone is focused on me as the shooter, but this is a team.
Ballistician Emil Praslick, taking wind readings. Photo: Applied Ballistics
Referring to teammates Emil Praslick, the Ballistician, and Paul Phillips, the Wind Reader, who both also doubled as spotters, Rodgers continued, “Paul and Emil are very good at being bullet tracers. Emil is a coach and does the real time calculations. He’s very good at it and he can do it quickly. Paul is very good at seeing the bullet trace and predicting the impact before it ever hits the ground. I don’t know how he does it, but he has a special skill set. These are two good guys to have behind you in a scope. Paul has an uncanny ability to know where the bullet is going to go and that is absolutely crucial for these ELR distances. When you miss, you have to see the impact. If you can’t see the impact, you can’t correct. It’s a big part of this sport, being able to correct off of a miss.”
In just 3 short years, the KO2M event has grown from a handful of shooters in its first year to just under 50 in 2017. “The KO2M will expand and keep growing,” said De Abril Fontcuberta. “We are all competitive by nature and we will all fight to push ahead. At KO2M, any shooter can find a real challenge and face his own limits.”
DEREK RODGERS EQUIPMENT
Stock: McMillan ELR Beast
Action: Barnard Model P-Chey
Trigger: Barnard 2-Stage
Length: 36 inches
Brake: Piercision 5-Port Muscle Brake
Optic: Nightforce 7-35x56mm ATACR F1 MOAR
Bipod: Phoenix Precision
Level: Holland’s Shooting
Cartridge & Load
Cartridge: .375 CheyTac (standard chamber)
Brass: Peterson Brass Co.
Powder: Hodgdon H50BMG
Bullet: Cutting Edge 400-grain Lazer MAX
Primer: Federal 215
Rear Bag: Edgewood Leather
Ballistics Program: Applied Ballistics App
Watch: Garmin Foretrex 701 w/AB analytics
Wind Meter: Kestrel Elite w/AB analytics
Rangefinder: SIG Kilo 2400 w/ AB analytics