U.S. Bests Russia, or Did We?

This gun will shoot accurately for almost 3 miles. Photo: author

Issues between Russia and the USA is big news these days. It’s the cold war, once thought to be over, now heated up again. I’m not going to get into the geo-political issues but those of you who remember when Russia (then a part of the U.S.S.R) and the USA were constantly at odds know there were persistent side issues.

Whether Khrushchev was pounding his shoe on the podium or Gorbachev was presiding over a failing war in Afghanistan, their international antics often brought less attention than the “side” competitions between the US and USSR. Perhaps it started with the space race.

The Russians sent a tiny satellite into orbit that did nothing more than send out a beep every couple seconds. The race was on. Then came other races, involving everything from mountain climbing to sports. Particularly sports.

To both the Soviet Union and the USA the success or failure of an Olympic games hinged on whether Americans or Russians brought home more medals. With the renewed tensions escalating between our countries, so has the side-competitions.

One competition you may not have heard of is now big news in the world of competitive shooting. Which country has long range shooters who can hit the farthest target?

On the surface, one would think this would be a relatively simple competition. Hang a target way, way out there and see which rifleman can hit it. Then move the target even farther and shoot again – and again. The longest shot wins.

Another competition could be putting a target ridiculously far downrange and count the number of shots it takes to finally score a hit. The shooter taking the least number of trigger-pulls wins.

Or perhaps, if both shooters punch a hole on their first shot, they keep shooting until one of them misses. He or she is the loser.

There are surely other games that could be played to see if the USA shooters are better or worse than the Ruskies. The problem seems to be there’s no set, or perhaps logical, rules to the competitions.

Recently, a team of Russians claimed the world record for making the longest shot, ever. The bullet struck a one-meter square target set up 4210 meters downrange. For us non-metric thinkers, that’s a target a bit over 39 inches square and a long step farther than 4600 yards. In miles that’s over 2.6. A truly long way to arch a bullet.

So when the announcement came across my screen that a former U.S. Navy Seal sniper had bested the Russians, I was USA-proud. Our guy slammed one home at 5000 yards! Then I read the details of both amazing shots.

I’m not belittling either record. It takes a special gun with special ammunition to even shoot that far, much less hit the mark, whether it’s a meter-square target or the broad side of a barn. Dirty Harry’s pistol (“the most powerful handgun in the world,” said Harry), will only lob a bullet about half that distance and few bullets fired from conventional hunting rifles will carry more than 4000 yards.

Don’t forget it would take an amazing and expensive scope with cleverly precise cross hairs to even see a target that distant, much less being able to align on it. How about the shooter? A guy would have to have iron nerves to hold a gun steady enough to see the target, put the cross-hairs on it and squeeze the trigger without moving the muzzle the billionth of an inch which would send the bullet high, low or off to the side.

Here’s the disconnect, however. Our guy hit the target on his 37th try.

That’s what’s creating the minor storm in competitive shooting circles. Granted, the Russians required multiple shots to set their long range record, as well. But what kind of competition is this that allows 37 tries to get it right?

I wouldn’t object to perhaps five or ten practice shots, then the announcement, “This one is for real.” Then see where it hits. It seems unfair, to then say, “Okay, this next one is for real,” or the next or the next. Give me enough ammo, and I could do it – eventually.

Impressive as this competition may be, and hooray for our team USA, I’d feel more patriotic if the game was being played with a firm set of international rules. What do you think?

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