My Extreme Long Range Shooting Story
– Meet Stefan Van der Heide –
My Extreme Long range shooting story takes us to the Netherlands this time. A country known for its flower and shipping business also happens to be the home of some real hard-core ELR shooters. If being deprived of something is a recipe for tenacity and success, then this team is one of them. Having no ranges is no excuse for those ELR shooters that are truly into making it work. This story is a special one as I know well enough how driven these two are for this discipline and super helpful in sharing their insights. Stefan came in 2nd place at the 2022 King of 1 mile in France.
You can’t buy success – You have to earn it the smart way
Great performance at ko1m France, I know you are a great passionate ELR shooter always finding ways and time to improve what we have going in Europe. 2nd place is excellent especially coming from a country with very little in the way of rifle ranges. Believe it or not, the Netherlands has very few ranges that extend beyond 300m that are open to civilians so like other European shooters, Stefan makes his way across the European continent in search for rifle ranges. Italy is one of his favorite destinations, you can’t fault him can you? 🙂
Desert tech ELR rifle in 375 Cheytac, also a rifle in this team’s armory for ko2M in France 2022.
Such a great performance can’t go unnoticed especially as I followed some of your steps getting here and you’re shooting away from home. I also met you briefly during cold shoot Italy in Tuscany where we engaged targets to 2200m. You’re also one of the most technical and data driven shooters that I had the pleasure to chat with more than a handful of times while seeking to craft this best ELR ammo. Stefan is a surgeon by profession so his hands are super well tuned to the craft of precision and it does not come as a surprise to me that he is super into ELR either. So let’s get to know him a little better.
So, help us understand, can you walk us through the two days for Ko1m, how was the course of fire?
It was an amazing adventure! We rented a house for the two of us nearby the event location, so our stay was very relaxing. The first day we had our registration, weapon check, zero check and we had a general briefing for the qualification.
The qualification took place on the next day. 84 shooters had to show their skills. One cold bore target (729m) and four other targets (735, 845, 1022 and 1235 meter), thirteen rounds in total within nine minutes. For me, everything went extremely well. I was one of the three shooters hitting all targets. That gave me a spot in the finals. The top sixteen started the finals, three targets (1289, 1441 and 1625 meter) fifteen round within ten minutes. The Finals went well also, ended up 2nd place. So, for me and my spotter this was a great success.
What were the challenges associated with it for you and the spotter?
The biggest challenge was that we both never shot a competition before and had to perform in a field of very good competitors. Although I’m used to work under high pressure, a first competition is something different.
How did you and Harry prepare for it, let’s start from the team perspective?
We know each other for years know, we have long and detailed talks about long range shooting and every aspect of it. We shoot once a year at the Skiritai shooting Range at Livorno, Italy.
Any special attention to team communication that you can share with us at rifletalks? Spotter/shooter comms is everything.
Shooter/spotter communication is crucial. Important is clear communication with readback by the shooter so the spotter knows that his info reached the shooter the right way. But also very important: define your terminology and know your terminology.
What spotter are you guys using? It’s a critical piece of kit when used by the best guys.
We use a Hensoldt Spotter 45 with the H-32 reticle. Robust, easy to use. I think the H-32 reticle is good for ELR.
Tell us about your rifle setup, I know you’re locked into the 300RUM for sometime. You’ve studied the cartridge. What can you share with us about the 300RUM, why this cartridge?
I started with the 300RUM in 2016. Before 2016 I did 6mm BR, but for Long range I needed a bigger caliber. Due to Dutch gun laws, I was only allowed to own an 8mm max. So, a 338 LM was out of range. That made me searching for a caliber potent enough to reach the one mile and still legal for me to own. A .30 caliber was best option, but need enough push. So, 2 possible cartridges came up: 300 WinMag and het 300 Remington Ultra Magnum. After a lot of reading and talking, in my opinion the 300 RUM could give the longer and heavier bullets more push needed for long range.
300RUM performance (mimics 300Norma Mag)
Loading up some 300Norma Mag rounds in Lapua brass to test in Sicily. Same performance as the 300RUM.
What performance are you getting and which bullet head and powder? How did you optimize this load?
My 300RUM rifle is specially throated for the Berger 230 grain bullet. With vihtavuori N570 I get a muzzle velocity of 928m/s
What sort of Extreme spread do you get on your setup?
I get an extreme spread of 2-3m/s in my loads. 6-10ft/s
The Hensoldt Scope Affair
You’re one of the few shooters I know that shoots a Hensoldt, I believe mil spec model rather than a competition scope. Tell us more about this scope choice?
Correct, I use the Hensoldt zf 3,5-26×56 scope. I like the big turrets, good feedback on the clicks, idiot proof. But important: very bright glass with a very simple mildot reticle. Personally, I don’t like the “Christmas tree” reticles. What I like also, is the 36 mil elevation. With a 100 meter zero I can dial up to 2240 meter easy.
You are exposed to a large amount of supplies of amazing shooting kit, what do you look for in your scope setup?
Clear bright glass, big easy turrets, lot of internal adjustment (elevation/windage). Also important the adjustable scope mount. I do my 100 meter zero with my mount, not with adjusting the turrets. By doing this you keep your mils/moa’s available to get on target. (great advice there!)
Read about the 33XC if you’re serious about doing this ELR thing. Find out if the 33XC is for you.
How much wind did you require across the course of fire?
The wind was a bit strange because we were shooting from an elevated firing-line through a “valley”. Wind came in like it was pushed through a chimney.
Did you dial for wind or hold off this correction?
I dialed in for wind and during the stages there were some holdover corrections.
How much do you base yourself on kestrel dope and how did it play out on the field?
The Kestrel did what it supposed to do, I gave very precise corrections on elevation and windage.
Like us and many other readers, you face a perpetual challenge of finding shooting space for elr type practice. Holland where you are from is very limited so this accomplishment is especially rewarding and encouraging. Tell me more how you prepare for it?
To practice ELR in Europe is difficult. Only once a year we travel to Italy, Tuscany, to practice ELR up to 2240 meter for a few days. These sessions are intense and fun of course. But it’s all about gathering data, every shot is evaluated.
How do you get consistent ammunition?
Fl sizing, annealing, neck tension specs, tell us more about this Dutch recipe to success.
Reloading is like religion. There’s not one truth. But what I do know are the results I get with this “religion”. For me it all starts with preparing each component. Weight sorting the bullets after meplat trimming and pointing them.
- New cases are prepared by primer pocket uniforming.
- Using a mandrel I make the inside of the neck round and do an optical 50% neck turning process. Now I shoot them.
- After firing, cleaning first, I anneal them and resize the brass with a custom Warner Tool Company die.
- I.m.h.o. the best dies on the market. Minimal FL sizing according to my chamber specs and necksizing in one stroke.
- Now it’s time for case length-trimming and case neck chamfer.
Above: Stefan’s custom made tools from Warner Tool Company. A surgeon’s best friends – tools. Stefan can identify high quality tooling a mile away, literally.
After the preparations it’s time to reload again, I use the RCBS chargemaster BUT I always double check the powder charge and make it consistent.
For bullet seating I use a stand-alone arbor-press based bullet seater.
I think you can get a better feel of neck tension (which is rather low in my case). Like your friends, there’s always “funny” one. I skip this one in my batch.
After each shoot, I clean, anneal, size and do length trimming and chamfering. And keep the brass in separate batches.
What I use (no sponsoring conflicts) for preparation: Warner Tool Company dies, K+M precision shooting products, L.E. Wilson and21st Century Shooting.
Where do you see the sport going and how can other shooters overcome the challenges?
It’s a difficult one. In the Netherlands for example, the max distance you can shoot at is 300 meters (only 1 civil range and not allowed to bring the bigger guns). So, for ELR you need travel across Europe to get some range time. Travelling these days is not cheap.
The two-mile shoot – Now with Harry Drescher from SSD rifles.
Hey Harry, good having you onboard here. We’ve had many chats about the Desert tech rifles so I’m glad to see you took your very own cannon to the front to blow off some steel off its hinges.
How is the 2 mile shoot different, is the technique different?
The technique is the same, but it starts where the KO1M ends. Cold bore target was at 1560 meters, Official target number one at 1440 meters. Wind calls are even more difficult.
What rifle setup did you go with for Ko2M ELR in France and which cartridge?
We used our Full-Custom Desert Tech HTI with 38” barrel chambered in 375 CT.
How did it perform on shooting day? You have a great access to European gunsmith on your doorstep, does this help at all?
The full custom Desert Tech rifle was built in a way that the barrel is completely stress free. Using a Bartlein barrel as base material. The chambering is very exactly timed, a bit like an oversized tactical bench rest rifle. This rifle will perform the same with a cold bore shot and later on with the follow up shots. It has very little heat stress during competition runs. In this way it’s quite predictable what the bullet velocity will do and this where to aim or when to hit. The main challenge during this competition was the competition itself, because it was the 1st time for us shooting competition. We found out that it’s a different game and we had some beginners’ errors that were stress induced. Our corrections were initially only point 0.2 clicks off. So we were close, very close…
What bullet did you go with for ko2m ELR?
Berger 407 grain solids
Can you guide us about the course of fire for those of us that couldn’t make it this year?
What I would advise everybody to do is take your time for traveling and your stay at the surrounding of Camp Canjuers. Because it was our 1st competition ever, we really made sure that we would be there one day in advance without any stress or whatsoever. We had a lot of time to get set up and then meet up at the base. After being briefed about the course of the event we immediately felt very welcome and well informed.
It was also a good pleasure to meet up with our friends from the One mile club network and the previous shoots that we organized. So, on the match days we were in early so we could see everything happening and exactly know at which time we needed to perform. We even managed to get some time off, to visit the coast near Nice.
I noticed that you also mounted the March Genesis on your Desert tech rifle. I happen to have gone down same route and had the opportunity to field test mine during the Cold bore shoot your organised in Tuscany.
Tell us your views.
So, initially we were looking at the March Genesis and immediately we saw the potential of elevation. The March goes way out. This is why we selected this scope for this specific competition.
March Genesis Scope turrets- MOA Version. There is a Mil version too as used by the two shooters above.
How bad was the wind and could you see splash on your misses?
The wind was, just like the KO1M, kind of strange, it was changing all the time from direction. The Kestrel was rather accurate at the first shot.
375Cheytac Ko2M Ammo
Any special attention to ammo given between that used for ko1m and ko2m besides cartridge choice?
Both calibers were prepared the same way. The same “religion” was used.