Ryan Cleckner’s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Long-Range Shooting

I know you are ambitious to become the best long-range shooter, and that’s good of you. But whom do you keep in your inner circles as a success catalyst? Remember, the ancients said that he who walks with a thief becomes a thief. This adage underscores the power of intimate associations. The people you keep close to your life will determine who and what you become.

Moreover, your closest associates significantly determine your success or failure in your new shooting hobby or career. In this post, I would like to introduce you to an experienced sniper’s mentorship guide for new shooters. Its author, Ryan Cleckner, served as a special operations sniper team leader with the U.S. Army’s elite 1st Ranger Bn. on various combat deployments. 

Ryan graduated from the premier Special Operations Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC). He has also taught snipers and police sharpshooters worldwide. He serves as a firearms industry expert and attorney. Now you see why his mentoring guide is my favorite manual on long-range shooting.

I will also share out the principles in the veteran’s guide. Don’t forget to check out this combination of YouTube videos that share his rich mine of shooting nuggets and insights. They will help you to understand better the principles he shares in his guide on long-range shooting. Additionally, they have practical demonstrations of those principles in real-life shooting sessions. 

Follow me on this adventurous journey and learn what Ryan’s book says about the following facts to kick-start your shooting career or hobby: 

  • What successful long-range shooting is and how it works;
  • The fundamental theory of long-range rifle shooting;
  • How to apply what you learn and become a precise rifle shooter.

1. The Secret to Precision

Precision is the goal of all your shooting adventures. That’s why missing a target is like Messi or Ronaldo missing a penalty for his national team in a FIFA World Cup grand finale. Can you figure out the frustration in the fan’s hearts?

The same feeling grips emerging shooters upon missing a target. It’s no wonder all shooting newbies yearn for and, at times, worry about precision. However, the truth is that you will miss targets quite often. But when you miss a target, stop sitting there worrying about the miss.

Instead, Ryan suggests you reload your gun and correct the mess by adjusting the gun to take another shot on target. He emphasizes that the key to attaining greater accuracy is to stop worrying about it. This might sound a little bit contradictory because you badly want precision.    

But no matter what happens, just maintain consistency. Remember Ryan’s trademark for attaining accuracy is: “Consistency is the key to accuracy. You need to think about a system of how you’re going to shoot that is not only comfortable, but [is] repeatable when you’re shooting.” You heard it from the horse’s mouth. 

He also stresses that there is no special trick to get repeatable results from the same input. You only need to be consistent to keep getting the desired results in your new shooting career or hobby. 

So, never worry about precision since if you do, you lose it. What cures this worrying problem among inexperienced shooters? Ryan recommends the following.

  • Don’t be too precise with your accuracy expectations. Instead, be honest with yourself and define what your acceptable hit is. Otherwise, you could end up discouraging yourself and judging your efforts too harshly. 
  • When defining your acceptable accuracy for all your shots, it should be an area you want to hit, and not necessarily a bull’s eye. For example, your acceptable accuracy could be hitting a door 100 yards away and not necessarily the padlock on it. Here, hitting any area on the door is acceptable.
  • Apply proper trigger control, and you will get encouraging results.

2. Shooting When in a Prone Position

Shooting positions can affect your accuracy in many ways. For example, they determine your stability and comfort while shooting. That’s why shooting from the prone position is Ryan’s preferred position. When using it, he advises you to shoot off a bag, whenever it’s practically possible. The bag will provide you with more stability and support than a small bipod. A bag doesn’t require rifle preloading, and it has less bounce or hop on recoil.

Therefore, learn how to distinguish between being in a repeatable and comfortable position behind the gun while shooting. Ryan recommends taking your time and lying on your belly to figure out the most comfortable shooting position before pulling the trigger. 

Getting a comfortable position means that your neck muscles won’t strain and pain you. You definitely will enjoy more time behind the gun. What is the result? You will have more time shooting. And that means sharpening your skills even more. A relaxed shooting position means you will be consistent—all the time. 

Lastly, always take a break and an inventory of how you are lying behind the gun and what you are doing.

3. Overcoming Long-range Shooting Obstacles by Learning and Mastering the Fundamentals

Starting with precision rifle shooting is challenging. Fortunately, the price you pay for it is worth the prize you seek. Even Ryan acknowledges that you will face challenges in your journey. But when, and not if, you meet obstacles, prepare to overcome them. The power to overcome your initial stumbling blocks lies in one thing—learning and mastering the fundamentals. Here are some of the fundamentals he recommends you master to succeed.

  • Equipment setup: You need to learn how to set up your rifle and scope properly. If you don’t set up your gear correctly to fit you, most likely, you will get disappointing results—more misses.
  • MOA and Mils: Ryan also stresses that you learn the “classroom basics” of long-range shooting. That’s why his beginner’s guide digs into the technical finer details of long-range shooting, like (minute of angle) MOA, velocity, ballistic coefficient, and Mils.
  • Ballistics: He also orients you into some basic scientific understanding of the science behind what happens to your bullet as it flies through the air.
  • Environmental effects: Lastly, understand environmental effects to learn how different external variables can affect your bullet’s path as they change.

4. Head and Scope Position

Clarity of scope is critical if you want to succeed in your shooting. You shouldn’t let anything cloud it. Change your scope if you can’t see clearly through it. Figure out if you see some shadows and how you can comfortably move your head to remove them. This way, your shooting gets easier and more comfortable.

5. Maximizing Various Shooting Positions

You must master different positions because you will not always have an opportunity to get in the prone position. The challenge here is that all the other positions expose you to various obstacles. For example, you might have grass or herbs in front of you. It’s also worth noting that the closer you are to the ground, the more precise your shooting is likely to be.

So, what’s the way forward? Ryan has the following tips and tricks to help you get more stable when shooting in standing, kneeling, and sitting positions. 

  • Maximize your rifle sling to get more stability while shooting. You can use the sling to support your hand (left if you are right-handed and vice versa). Wrapping it around your arm helps you kneel more stably and steadily. This way, you enjoy a better trigger control position for easier shooting.
  • Alternatively, you may use the rifle sling to get into a sitting position. However, this position needs enough practice to master because initially, it might be less comfortable. However, it’s more effective and stable than kneeling.
  • Lastly, you could try the standing position. The sling support may not help you much in this position. Fortunately, you may use a rest or tree’s branch to get more support and stability. It gives you the time to focus on good trigger control.

6. Enhancing Your Trigger Control

How you master and control your trigger directly determines your accuracy. However, it’s not a walk in the park because even Ryan himself acknowledges that. The reason is that trigger control differs, depending on the gun you are using.

Fortunately, mastering it isn’t rocket science that only a few chosen geeks can master.  You too, can master it to achieve your shooting’s goal—to hit the mark. Fortunately, its governing principles are universal. If you want to master it, dry fire the rifle more than you actually fire it when loaded.

7. Overcoming Teething Problems

Are you contemplating joining long-range precision gun shooting? Have you just taken your first baby steps and are craving success in your rifle shooting endeavors? If you do, you aren’t alone because many rookie precision shooters have excess expectations and bind themselves to many requirements. For example, Ryan observes that some shooting newbies focus too much on the gear they need.

While getting the right gear and ammunition is good, it shouldn’t be your primary focus or worry. He recommends you focus on the following basic things to give yourself a flying start:

Get a good scope.

A good scope is so critical that if you must choose between a better scope and a better rifle, Ryan recommends you go for a better scope. He suggests that you get scope you can grow with or into rather than the one you can sell after outgrowing it. Why? Because selling a used scope is a bit difficult.

Have a decent rifle.

Get a decent rifle that will help you to start your precision shooting journey successfully. 

Get training to kick-start your journey.

You can spend cash on good books, videos, or going out in the field to learn practical shooting. So, pay the price to train today so that you don’t strain tomorrow. 

Punch Line

There you have the key to catapult your journey to becoming a successful shooting hobbyist or professional. These tips and insights are practical because they were born from a successful shooting career in the army. The ball is in your court to learn before you run with that gun to new heights of long-range rifle shooting.


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