The forward spotter sits alone on the hill, separated from the target by nearly a quarter of a mile of Wyoming desert, separated from his shooter by almost three miles more, connected only by a radio.
“Alright, send it,” he hears.
*BANG!* he hears, coming from the radio.
Tick, tick, tick, tick. This isn’t the first shot. He knows he has to wait thirteen seconds before anything happens.
*BOOM* he hears, as the sonic boom from the last time the bullet broke the sound barrier finally reaches him.
Then he hears a whistling as the bullet finally passes him.
On August 28, 2020, the Nomad Rifleman team and their client, Mr. X, set the new Wyoming State Record for an Extreme Long Range Rifle Shot, 3.06 miles, and became only the second team in world history to achieve a hit beyond three miles! For their feat, they used a specialty .375 Cheytac rifle with custom ammunition and shot in the Wyoming desert just a short drive from Jackson Hole. But their journey to three miles started years before the record-breaking 5,385 yard second world record long range shot.
Ten years ago, Shepard Humphries and his entrepreneur wife Lynn decided to pool their strengths and created the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience, the first of its kind in the “shooting experience” sector of the entertainment shooting industry. But building a business that lands in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards with the highest rating of any activity in Wyoming and all surrounding states doesn’t happen without a great team.
Scott Austin, the Dean of Students at the Jackson Hole Bible College, is one of those elite team members. After hunting big game to feed his family for over 35 years, as a Senior Lead Coach for the Shooting Experience, Scott discovered a new passion: long-range shooting. But there’s only so much you can do when the local shooting range only has targets going out to 600 yards, and he was ready for a new challenge. With Scott’s brains, Shepard’s dreaming, and Lynn’s CEO-ing, Nomad Rifleman Extreme Long Range Shooting Experiences was born, culminating in their 2020 5,385 yard shot, becoming the second team in the world to hit a sub-2-moa target beyond 5,385.
They started out with the tagline, “The Journey to One Mile,” and were thrilled each time they helped one of their guests join the exclusive One Mile Club. “I remember my first hit at a mile. I couldn’t believe it had actually happened!” said Scott.
Though the Nomad Rifleman team makes it look easy, joining the one mile club is an extraordinary feat. Nearly twice as many people have summited Everest as have connected with a target at that distance. To hit a target a mile away, the shooter has to make complex calculations taking into account ambient and powder temperature, wind speed and direction (which can be going one way at 5.23 MPH at 280 degrees for 30 yards, and 500 yards further going the opposite direction at half the speed), and even the earth’s rotation.
When asked about the beginnings of this new facet of their Shooting Experience business, Shepard explained, “We are fortunate to get to work with many very successful people, and we realized that there really are not many options in the extreme adventure category. We thought about long range shooting and wondered if we could make it accessible to our clients.” And make it accessible, they did!
Mr. X joined the Nomad Rifleman team for his first one-mile hits in 2019. Not only did he achieve the feat with a 6.5 Creedmoor and a custom Mac’s Gunworks 7mm Remington Mag, but he also achieved a hit with a .308 shooting 175 grain bullets. “Mr. X enjoys being very good at what he does” explained Shepard. This applies not only to making a living, but it also extends to achieving new personal bests in adventure sports. So after his 2019 successes, Mr. X and his “director of adventure” Marc of M Level Concierge reached out to Shepard to see what else they could do. Mr. X wanted to shoot two miles and beyond, and he wanted to do it soon.
Shepard told Mr. X that his probabilities were about a 5% chance of making a two mile hit, and well under a 1% chance of a shot at 2.5 miles. But this did not dissuade Mr. X. He was ready to move forward with his customized ELR-3 Extreme Long Range Shooting Experience.
Shepard and Scott knew that their one-mile guns wouldn’t be sufficient to double the distance and quickly set to researching the best guns for the shot. They were tempted by the 416 Barrett, but research showed that with the short time-frame, a specialty .375 Cheytac rifle with custom ammunition would be better. But so much more goes into making a shot like the one they were about to attempt than just the gun. Every sensitive adjustment they’d had to make to account for wind, elevation, and the spin of the earth to connect with their one-mile target would be amplified. So to prepare themselves to surmount these greater obstacles, they outfitted their new rifle with a Vortex Razor scope and a Charlie Tarac, an optical accessory which utilizes mirrors to change the angle of the image coming through the scope, like a periscope, fooling your scope into thinking it has more elevation than it does, to be able to achieve longer distances.
When they went out to the desert to warm up with a 2+ mile shot, they discovered that lying prone on the ground with their new Charlie Tarac made it difficult to see the target over the ground just in front of them. They would need a custom shooting platform.
The platform would need to be wide enough to comfortably hold the shooter and long enough for even the tallest body frames. Shepard knew from experience that the front of the platform needed to be higher than the back, he got this idea from his friend Mac in Marfa Texas while teaching a class many years ago. This slanted platform would help stave off the neck pain caused by lying prone long enough to achieve extreme long range hits. Kortum Fabrication custom-designed and built the support legs and center brace portion for the new platform, and Scott got to work in his wood-shop. Before long, he had the custom setup they would need.
When the day finally came for Mr. X’s next-level Experience, early July 2020, Scott and Shepard were ready. Rather than relying on the usual two-man team working with their array of cameras and spotting scopes, they invited Tony Molina and Momo R., two of the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience’s Senior Lead Instructors, and and Jackson Hole executive security provider and avid shooter Nathan McKnight as additional spotters. (In extended ELR shooting, the first shot rarely connects, and spotters are required to work the shooter in to the target.) They had the team, the equipment, and the talented client they needed to pull off the shots.
They started with a 1.25 mile target as a warmup, figuring that such a distance would be a challenge, but after getting four hits with a 7mm Rem Mag, Mr. X was ready to go farther. And go farther, he did. By the end of the day, he had connected with the 2.12 mile target five times! The Nomad team was elated. But it wasn’t long before Mr. X reached out again. 2.12 miles wasn’t far enough. He wanted to go for more.
An early August attempt at 2.5 miles was foiled by rain. Fun was had by all, but the wet ground prevented the spotters from seeing the misses at such a distance, and they decided that the next time, they were going to skip 2.5 miles and go for three miles. Shepard and Scott were not very optimistic. A 350 grain Cutting Edge bullet traveling at just under 3,100 fps is “not supposed to” remain stable and therefore consistent at 3+ miles. We recognized from the outset that at that extreme range our bullet would only be travelling at 711 fps and might not be stable enough to achieve the consistency necessary to hit the target, considering that our barrel is only a 1:10 twist.
On the morning of August 28, 2020, A Black Car Service picked Mr. X up from Amangani in Jackson Hole and brought him to his teammates at the now-familiar ranch. The lineup included Scott, Tony, and a few new faces. Joining the spotting lineup were Tim Bruton, a reclaimed specialty timber guru and Senior Lead Instructor, Mitchell, Shepard’s client-turned-friend and experienced long range shooter, and Stuart Allan, a local gun enthusiast and JHSE family member. Shepard was even allowed to tag along as the coach of this elite team as they attempted to win the Super Bowl ten-year run equivalent of long range shooting. The dream team was ready.
The terrain dictated that the target be 5,385 yards away – 3.06 miles. At that distance, instead of keeping the whole team in camp, they split to three different locations. Mr. X and spotters Scott, Shepard, Tim, and Mitchell stayed in camp to read the wind and make all of the other complicated adjustments as they spotted the shots.
Tony was stationed just over a mile forward from them using two Longshot LR-3 target cameras, which were stationed about 30 yards from the target and streaming to his Android phone. For the previous adventures, he had been in camp, too, but the signal from the cameras just wasn’t good enough at three miles.
The final team member, Stuart, sat tucked behind a hill with a spotting scope, just 370 yards from the target. Due to the terrain, his was the only location that could get clear radio transmissions from both of the other locations, so in addition to spotting and calling the shots, the opportunity suddenly fell to him to relay radio messages between all the team members.
Shots began at 10 a.m. with spotters at all three locations calling out, “nuthin’” and “no impact.” After a couple dozen shots, Shepard moved forward to Tony’s location with a spotting scope, hoping he would be able to see the impacts from a closer vantage point. Still nothing. They knew from the rain-foiled 2.5 mile attempt just how important it was to be able to see those impacts.
Deciding to change tack, Shepard asked Stuart to call out the sound of the bullets whistling overhead, so when he heard the sound of each shot on the radio, Stuart began counting. “1001, 1002, 1003…” It took about 13 seconds of careful listening before he could hear each bullet whiz by. He used his aural acuity to hone the team in, saying things like, “I could not hear a whistle that time,” or “That one was louder, and I heard the bullet impact the ground,” They were getting closer.
Finally, it happened! Stuart spotted an impact over 100 feet from the target, low right. Now this was his first day on the job, and he was not skilled in MOA or MIL, the technical measurements used in ELR shooting. But he was a solid young man with critical thinking skills, honed in childhood when his attorney dad had bought a sawmill and hauled logs out of the woods to build the family home. Stu knew how to problem-solve and think on his feet. He described the impact location beautifully and accurately, if not technically, and finally Sr. Lead Coach Scott had something visual to base corrections on.
With switchy winds, and a morning to afternoon complete directional change, Scott had his work cut out for him. “Hold six minutes left,” Scott would call after a miss. (Each minute, or MOA, is 56.6 inches at three miles.) The next impact would still be far off, and Mr. X had a pretty steady trigger press, so Scott would see the impact, contemplate the mirage changes and correct to, “13 minutes right.” A much-needed breakthrough in reading wind came when Mitchell realized that they were looking for wind cues at the normal elevation, along the tops of the sagebrush and within a couple hundred feet off the ground, when the bullet was actually traveling much higher than that, and they needed to watch the wind farther off the ground. “Mitchell’s suggestion to watch the horizon for wind was a real game-changer” said Scott.
Finally, the general elevation hold was decided at 429 MOA, or 24,268 inches (2,022 feet) above the target. Incredibly, the barrel of the rifle was pointed 144 stories above the ground. The 102-story-tall Empire State Building could have been sitting smack dab in the middle of the Wyoming desert with the 20-story Statue of Liberty on top of it, and the bullets would have sailed over them both with room to spare.
Several times, the spotters at camp radioed, asking the forward spotters to check the cameras. “Again, are you sure it didn’t hit the bottom right?” Still nothing, though the camera clarity might not have shown a hit on the orange portion.
Finally, at 2:20 p.m., Mr. X sent a shot down range that he felt especially good about. He top-loaded another cartridge and sent it as well, before the first bullet even landed. Stuart, doing his best to be professional on his first day on the job, calmly and dryly radioed in, “Solid Hit.” and the camp exploded in cheers! (Stuart later admitted that as soon as he keyed the radio off, there was a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ and celebrating at his lonely little spotting stand, too.)
After the celebrations were over and Mr. X had headed off to the nearby FBO, Shepard stood alone in the desert, taking one last look at their simple, extraordinary target before loading it up and heading home. As he stood examining it, he remembered that second shot Mr. X had fired right before the record-breaking bullet impacted on the top-left corner of the target. They had all been celebrating during the second bullet’s thirteen seconds of travel. And they might have missed the second impact on the bottom right corner. Well, that is what they would like to think, however no one really knows when the second extended extreme long range rifle hit happened.
Back at their office locations in Jackson Hole and Boise Idaho, Lynn and Ashleigh began searching the internet for other people that had hit targets OVER 3 miles away. They realized that their team was only the second in the world to achieve a hit beyond 5,385 yards, with Paul Philip’s team achieving and remaining in first place. The Nomad Rifleman team had done it, helping the second human in history to achieve a World Record Long Range Shot beyond 5,385 yards!
- The trailblazers that came before us, making our journey smoother; Hill Country Rifles, Poor, Litz, Phillips and more
- Scott for being the brains behind it all
- Mr. X for being a dreamer and for taking action
- Jake for being an ammunition expert
- Marc, Lynn & Ashleigh for coordinating things
- Judy for catering
- Tim and Mitchell for spotting
- Tony for camera work and spotting
- Stuart for spotting and being the communications hub
- Corey for metal work on target and shooting platform
- Norm, Fred & David for their support
- Andy, Elden, Kevin, David, Ben, Leroy, Randy, Alan, Don, Kevin, Rich, Russ, John and other folks who coached us in our shooting knowledge
- Bill, Gal and Andrey for being our first Nomad Rifleman clients many years ago, and for their advice
- Our families for supporting our passion, putting up with our 3am to 9pm days and for their cheer-leading
- Our friends and shooting buddies
- Working with custom handload manufacturer Jacob Mushaney of Unknown Munitions. He recommended ammo using the Cutting Edge MTH 350gr. Lazer-Tipped hollow point bullet with a G7 BC of .415 based on Applied Ballistic’s data. Testing over our LabRadar, Jacob’s recipe achieved extreme spreads of 8 fps. and a standard deviation of 3.5. This ammo was key to our success, and while we clearly suffered instability, as evidenced by a distinct “keyhole” hit on the target, enough of our shots remained sufficiently stable to get the job done. There were 3 or 4 strings of shots Mr. X took where impacts hovered around 1.5 MOA. In our book, at that distance, that’s pretty consistent. Thanks Jake!
*Now, in pre-response to some of the keyboard warriors upcoming comments on this Second World Record Long Range Shot article:
Nope, it is not likely that either the Paul Phillips or the Nomad Rifleman team could meet you in the desert, lay down and get a first round hit on a milk jug at three miles. Neither group is claiming this. Neither group is claiming that you should hunt at three or four miles and neither group is claiming that their hobby is “realistic shooting.” We acknowledge that you are probably SOOO good with your 357 magnum Glock shotgun that you can shoot one-hole groups at 600 meters without even holding for drop and than Mr. X just got lucky and that you are WAAAY better than him. lol Our clients do not claim to have years of experience, they don’t have time to master every detail so they have Sherpas, copilots and turnkey extended ELR experiences. A one MOA target would be 56.6″ by 56.6″ and ours was just over that at about 58″ by 61″.
*Distance was determined with the OnXmaps gps app, I walked in circles around the target and pinned it, then walked in circles around the shooting platform and pinned it, then measured the pins. The result multiple times was 3.07 miles. Then, at home on the computer while writing this paragraph, I remeasured using the same app and got 3.06. miles, so the target was between 5,385 yards and 5,403 yards.
Mr. X is not identified by his choice, we promise all of our client’s complete privacy. -Shepard