Incorrcct range estimation is the biggest cause of long-range misses—more so than bad wind estimation, more so than jerking a trigger, more so than a poor hold or lead, more so than incorrectly computing up/down compensation. If you blow the range estimate, you've most likely blown the shot.
There are several reasons why. The biggest is that a bullet's trajectory—which is an arc— begins more and more to plunge at great distances so that a little error has a big effect. We've depicted the trajectory of a .308 Federal Match round below.
Notice that at 100, 200, and 300 yards, it flies a very flat path. Even if you made a great range estimation error—say, concluded the target was 300 yards away when it was really 200
yards—at close range, you'd probably hit your target just by aiming center-chest.
But let's say you mistakenly concluded a target was 600 yards away and it was only 500 yards—well, now the trajectory difference is about 3 feet. You see, at farther distances, the bullet plunges in an ever-steeper arc, and even minor errors become major.
Unfortunately, it's also at these greater distances that we most often and most understandably make range estimation errors.
But the other big problem with range estimation is that mistakes become cumulative and complicate all subsequent calculations for windage, moving target leads, and so on. And this can result in even short-range misses.
Look at the drawings in the sidebar on page 338, in which we consider the cumulative effect on a target that's merely 400 yards away. Despite
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