Our Shooting Experience Making the World Record Extreme Long Range Shot
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Journey to the World-Record-Shattering 4.4 Mile Long-Range Rifle Shot
Scott Austin, Shepard Humphries, and half a dozen friends surpassed the previous record for longest target hit with a long range rifle on September 13, 2022, but their journey started long before that day.
Scott and Shepard both have a passion for shooting rifles at long ranges. Extreme long ranges. For many years they have operated Nomad Rifleman, a boutique extreme long range shooting experience, out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In 2020, they guided a client to set the Wyoming state record for longest hit on a target at a whopping 3.06 miles!
Not long after helping their Nomad Rifleman client break the Wyoming record, Scott, Shepard, and a group of their friends who also share a passion for long range shooting decided to attempt to set a new world record extreme-long-range shot; the record at that time was four miles. But this time it wasn’t business; it was for the challenge, fun, and bragging rights.
In late 2020 they began planning, with a target date of June or July 2021 for the attempt. A shot like this requires a custom-made, one-of-a-kind rifle. Because of the complexity of such a build, with custom parts coming in from Canada, New Zealand, Arkansas, South Dakota, Washington and elsewhere, there were many challenges to overcome in trying to get the rifle completed on time. Summer of 2021 turned out to be wishful thinking; the rifle was finally completed in May of 2022.
For a rifle like this, having a precision standard of one-ten-thousandth of an inch would not be good enough. It had to be perfect. Rifle builders Scott Null and his sons Meshac & Nehemia of S&S Sporting in Idaho built the rifle. And boy is it a space-aged piece of beauty! With the custom rifle and custom ammunition finally complete, the days for the attempt were set for mid-July 2022. Then came more delays due to nasty weather, loose screws and busy schedules.
Even after everything was built and ready to go, this was not something that could be accomplished quickly. Months of testing were required to get ready for the actual attempt. “With this kind of shooting, nobody has yet figured out how to get first round hits. This isn’t the kind of thing where you buy a new rifle and some ammo right off of the gun store shelf and go get lucky,” said Shepard.
When testing finally began, each test required the team members to coordinate their schedules away from work, and with at least one forward spotter and Scott shooting, this was a challenge. “We learned that with our 422 grain bullet landing at 689 feet per second, there was rarely enough dust signature to see where the impact point was. In this kind of shooting, a spotter sees an impact and then tells the coach, who does the data crunching, and advises the shooter how to adjust before taking the next shot. But the bullet “splash” wasn’t visible at this range. The forward spotter, typically either Shepard or his wife, Lynn Sherwood-Humphries, when more than 100 yards from the target, would most frequently hear a whistle above, right or left, and a “thump” somewhere behind or between them and the target, but could not see any dust. They needed to get closer to the target to hone in on the point of impact, which is tricky.
The three of them considered a number of solutions, and Shepard settled on what he thinks might be(?) a brand new concept in ELR, audio spotting. Audible spotting has already been used to supplement visual spotting, but there are no other known examples of someone trying to spot with ears as the primary tool. In this new system, spotters get as close as safely possible to the target and listen for thumps and triangulate the sounds.
Shepard was initially pessimistic about the accuracy and precision capabilities of audio spotting. Visual spotting would allow a spotter to pinpoint an impact to within a square inch, but imagine closing your eyes while sitting in a field and listening for a pebble that is tossed and landed within 30 feet of you. How finely could you hone in on where exactly it landed? Shepard doubted the probability would be high enough to be workable. Shepard’s wife Lynn, also an extreme long range shooter and his business partner, was optimistic and so they decided she would lead this brand new spotting team.
Next came the problem of keeping spotters safe from bullets. The attempt would require more eyes and ears, even closer to the target. Steel bunkers would need to be constructed, but how thick should the steel be? After various testing sessions, they determined the correct thickness of steel. Shepard learned to weld and built prototype after prototype until they found the correct design. Since Lynn would be leading the forward spotters, and she is quite attractive and fun to be with, Shepard kind of wanted to be sure the bunkers would be safe. Gun? Check. Bunkers? Check. But they still needed something to shoot at.
Shepard and Jackson Hole Shooting Experience shooting instructor Zack Shelton built the target, using a wood frame and two sheets of 4’x10’ thin metal, making the target 120 inches wide and 92 inches tall. An 80-inch circle was drawn on the target which would be equivalent to hitting a 1 inch circle at 100 yards. If the shooter hit within this circle, they could claim a 1-MOA shot. The gun, gear, and team were finally set.
On September 13, 2022, the group headed out to cattle country near Pinedale, Wyoming for the big day. Winds that morning were sometimes variable with an average of 8mph, changing from full value at 7am to a tailwind just before noon, making calculations for the shot a real challenge; for every mile-per-hour of wind, they had to aim almost 26 feet further to the left of the target. There were other technical issues like spin drift, the Coriolis effect and, of course, Murphy’s law.
A friend who has a great trigger finger and a smart analytical business mind did the shooting. He is a quiet, self-effacing guy and made us promise that if we got a hit, we would keep his name and identity private, so let’s call him “Winston.”
Scott Austin, who is the brains behind the rifle/ammo build and coaching the shooter, had learned much from months of testing based on number crunching with various ballistics programs, and was able to guide Winston in closer and closer to the target. He served as the coach.
Shepard was at the shooting site with Scott and Winston, handling radio communications with spotters, recording impact locations, and offering advice.
Lynn and four friends hunkered down inside the steel bunkers near the target, 4.4 miles away from the rest of the team, to listen and watch for impacts from missed shots. Jackson Hole Shooting Experience’s Range Operations manager Tony Molina did double-duty handling the camera work while also spotting from short and right of the target. Joel Austin spotted long shots from beyond the target, senior lead shooting instructor Mick Cestia from short and left, and Wade Woodhouse spotted from short of the target, directly under the flight path. Lynn, even closer to the target, was also directly under the flight path of the bullet. The spotters’ duties were to call out the impacts. Lynn devised a grid pattern to help spotters identify distances and points of impact.
A bit after 7:00 a.m., when winds are typically the calmest in the high desert of Western Wyoming, Winston sent the first shot, which landed within 30 yards of the target —a promising start. Throughout the morning, the spotting team radioed with each other and came to a consensus about where each shot had landed, if it wasn’t already obvious with the occasional dust signature and only the audible ‘thump’, and Lynn communicated to Shepard and Scott. 90% of the impacts did not show a dust signature. The shooting team made adjustments and kept shooting.
As the morning progressed, major changes were needed in elevation hold, so Scott would adjust the Charlie Tarac prism device that was mounted just forward of the scope. During these 15 minute breaks, Shepard and Winston burned off nervous energy by plinking with a .223 Remington, getting one hit at 1,370 yards, until they could get back to the business at hand.
Just before noon, with ominous clouds building on the horizon, Scott made the wind and elevation call of 1,092 MOA up and 17 MOA left. (In our original release, I forgot to include that we added a 36 MOA left mechanical wind adjustment at the beginning of the day for a total of 53 MOA for the hit. Our calculation for spindrift was 93.80” right) We did not take into account the Coriolis, as much of that is lost in the weeds with respect to wind (6-9 mph), temperature rising (constantly adjusting elevation) and time of flight. The bullet’s flight path is over 2500 feet above line-of-sight and there is a lot going on up there that we are unable to predictably compensate for. If it had been an absolutely dead-calm day it definitely would be one more variable to try to address.
When the spotters heard the reverberation of metal being hit and were sure Lynn’s bunker or the camera systems on top weren’t that metal, Wade called in from behind and said “I thought it was the target, Man!!!” Spotters gratefully refocused and the call went out to the shooter’s location: “WE HAVE OUR FIRST HIT! Confirmed! Confirmed hit!” Wanting to be extra-sure that their eyes were not deceiving them, Lynn radioed again and said “We are going to go confirm now – hang tight!”
All five spotters approached the target with Mick in the lead, and the fresh bullet penetration was officially confirmed. It wasn’t dust or rocks kicking up from a bullet landing nearby, as seen from prior nearby impacts; sure enough, the steel had a hole punched right through it! After the round pierced the sheet metal target, it struck a wood beam supporting the target, where it slowed greatly and was refracted into the dirt below. Tony started digging away with his pocket knife on the target’s wooden crossbar behind the bullet’s exact impact point and a bit later Joel found the bullet in the dirt below and right of it. They sent a text message to the shooter’s location with a picture asking, “You guys looking for this?” Through cheers of excitement in the background, Lynn again radioed to the shooter’s location: “Confirmed hit!”
The impact point was on the left edge of an 8 inch orange circle painted in the center of the target. Not only was their hit within the one MOA 40-inch radius, it was at 3 ⅛ inch to the left of the dead center of the bullseye!
Shepard and Scott are quick to point out that their hit is not scientifically consistently “repeatable” even with the same several hours spent walking the shot in to the target. The temperature outside and within the barrel, the speed and direction of the wind at various distances between the shooter and the target, especially at max ordinate above 2,500 feet, will not ever be the same again. Those factors, as well as other environmental conditions, make a shot like this very challenging each time it’s attempted.
“We could obviously put a few more shots in the bullseye right in a row right now, but we are tired, so we will stop shooting and strut away now,” Shepard joked. “‘Luck’ isn’t the right word; perhaps ‘probability’ is a better word. Had Winston shot another 50 shots, none might have hit the target, or at best, perhaps a few would have, and they probably wouldn’t have been in the bullseye.” In a strange coincidence, it was their 69th shot that hit the target, breaking Paul Phillips’ 4-mile record shot which also landed on the 69th shot.
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World Record Extreme Long Range Shot
In the extreme long range shooting community, there isn’t an official standard for records. If trusted members of the community like Paul Phillips and Brian Litz go out shooting and say they hit a rock that was about 10 feet in diameter at 3 miles, the community counts it as a hit. If they hit a rock that is 4 feet in diameter, they get more “field credibility.”
“These types of shots are just for fun” explained Shepard. “This is not for hunting purposes, and the hit isn’t consistently repeatable yet. Maybe the people who beat our record and the other smart cookies in the ELR world will be able to make first round hits at these distances in the years to come, but at this point, it isn’t a sure thing.”
Many people think of long range shooting as a hunting thing or a military thing. Regarding hunting, Shepard said, “We do not support extended long range shooting on animals as a sport, we only take chances on steel. Steel doesn’t feel pain and won’t walk around wounded for a week before dying a cold and miserable death.” Shepard, who doesn’t hunt, and Scott, an avid big game hunter, both agree that unless a hunter can, from various field positions, hit a 10-inch circle at a particular distance with a first round hit in 5 different locations, in five different wind conditions; they should work on their shooting skills and get closer until they can make an ethical shot. No, they believe that extreme-long-range shooting is a sport of its own.
Shepard and Scott also emphasize that safety is critical and that everyone involved in any sport ought to be aware of the risks. Nobody should put anyone that does not understand and accept those risks in danger.
They also want to make clear that their team made it all possible. “We each have our areas of specialty, and neither Shepard, Lynn nor I could have done it without our support team,” said Scott. Shepard likens it to the “I, Pencil” story about the thousands of people who must come together to make a simple pencil. They wish to especially thank Holly Austin, Jacob and Jessica Mushaney of Unknown Munitions, engineers David Crandall, Wes Womak of Cirque Innovation, Brian and Chris Sichter, the Null family of gunsmiths, Shamus Terry at Vortex Optics, John and Jacob Baker as well as Ken Decker at tacomHQ, Tony Molina and his coaches at the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience, Ashleigh Read, Paul Phillips for being the Roger Bannister of the 4-mile barrier and for being a giant in the ELR world, Emily Edwards, C.J. Proctor, Jimmy, Brian Litz, Dawn, David Bott, Andrew Setzer, Jared Kuhns and the 40 or so other people who played an integral role in their team’s success.
Furthermore, neither Scott nor Shepard claim to be great shots. They joke that, “Those who can – do. Those who can’t – teach.” Their specialty is helping beginners advance quickly to great
heights distances while having a blast and tolerating bad dad jokes. They look forward to sharing their story to help other folks beat their record!
The Cutting Edge MTAC bullet that hit the target was hand-lathed, and weighed just under an ounce (422 gr.)
Distance was measured using multiple trusted gps mapping applications as 4.42 miles and 4.40 miles. To keep our integrity, we are claiming only the smaller distance.
The cartridge was custom made by Unknown Munitions in Idaho (which we think is the best commercial ammunition maker in the world), with Barrett brass, H50BMG propellant and a CCI135 primer. The bullet left the rifle muzzle at 3,300 feet per second and traveled 4.4 miles, slowing to 689 feet per second when it hit the target, over 24.5 seconds after being fired. We traded with a number of vendors over the years, and we really have to thank them for always doing what they promised without excuses, bending over backwards and going above and beyond.
This adventure took over 20 months of dreaming and 1,500+ focused man-hours of studying, building and testing a never-before-built system of rifle, ammo, optics, and gear; bunkers and ballistics study and the subsequent custom builds; extensive terrain scouting at various ranches in four states; months of practical testing to get to the point that the bullet even landed on the hillside, much less the target. The final result was six of the last eight test runs having the majority of our shots landing within a 75-yard radius of the intended target. We decided to get all hands on deck to triangulate our observations. Glad we did.
- The rifle, with customized parts and accessories from Canada, New Zealand, Arkansas, South Dakota and elsewhere, was assembled in Idaho by S&S Sporting in Driggs, Idaho.
- Rifle is chambered in .416 Barrett
- Chassis is a Cadex Dual Strike from Canada
- Barrel is an LRI from Sturgis, SD – 40” with a 1:9 twist. These folks are amazing in every way.
- The barrel was “structured” by tacomHQ in Arkansas.
- Action is a McMillian TAC50.
- Trigger is a Timney.
- Muzzle brake is a Terminator T6 from New Zealand.
- The 350 MOA mount was custom built by S&S Sporting in Idaho.
- The custom high-rise cheek piece was built by S&S Sporting.
- The scope is the recently-released Vortex Razor 6-35×56 FFP scope with EBR-7D MOA reticle. This scope is the latest and greatest from Vortex Optics. After testing many other top-tier brands, Scott decided that this Razor was our best option.
- The scope was held in place with a double set of Leupold Mark IV rings.
- Support optics included a Delta and a Charlie TARAC from tacomHQ.
- The bipod was a LRA.
- Scott designed and built the shooting platform.
- Ballistic software used – Applied Ballistics.
Special thanks to Frank Green from Bartlien Barrels. When we initially requested for them to build the barrel they notified us that it would take at least 12 months, as there were others in line before our order. This speaks volumes about their integrity. Frank sent Scott a detailed email regarding recommendations as to cartridge, bullet design, barrel twist rate etc., which we are incredibly grateful for. Knowing that they could not provide the barrel in our time frame he still took the time. That’s above and beyond service in our book.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 14, 2022
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World Record for Longest Long-Range Rifle Shot Shattered – New Record 4.4 MILES
Jackson, WY: On September 13, 2022, a group of extreme-long-range shooting enthusiasts set a new world record when they achieved a confirmed target hit at 4.4 miles in the high desert of western Wyoming. Co-authors of Nomad Rifleman’s Guide to Extreme Long Range Shooting Fun, Scott Austin and Shepard Humphries, joined by a half-dozen friends, hit the 8” bullseye with their custom long-range rifle, surpassing the previous world record of 4 miles!
Background: After having a blast setting the Wyoming state record of 3.06 miles in 2020, Scott and Shepard decided to get a team together to have even more fun breaking the then world record, 4 miles, which had also been set in 2020. Their custom-built rifle, with parts coming in from all over the world, took over a year to build, and testing their systems, including optics, wind readers, and custom steel bunkers, took months more. “This was the most challenging, difficult, frustrating, time-consuming and yet rewarding professional project I have ever undertaken,” said Shepard Humphries.
“Together, we’ve spent over 1500 hours in research, highs and lows, blood, sweat, excitement and tears, with dozens of amazingly gifted people and businesses personally invested in the goal,” says Scott Austin. “This monumental task paid off yesterday with overwhelming satisfaction when we heard crackle over the radio: ‘We have our first target hit confirmed. HIT!’”
See the full press release, additional information and images for your use at: https://nomadrifleman.com/world-record-shot/
Rifle photos, thanks to gun photographer Matthew Mellor. For use in press, please credit him.
For other use of these World Record Extreme Long Range Shot images, please contact us.
World Record Extreme Long Range Shot
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