Safety and Training

Practical D.O.P.E. for Long-Range Rifle Shooting

Do you gather and organize D.O.P.E. (Data On Previous Engagements) to improve your long-range rifle shooting? In this National Shooting Sports Foundation video, Ryan Cleckner discusses what information to gather and how to make it handy enough to access under any shooting conditions. The goal of D.O.P.E. is to allow you to repeat previous performances when you shoot.

Covered: 0:51 “Try D.O.P.E.” is data that’s available before you collect your own — published ballistics information, ammunition specs, and so on.

1:05 It’s important to gather unique data for you, your rifle, and your optics.

1:15 Discussion of ballistic data available on ammo boxes and how to use it to get started.

2:15 How and why to use a preprinted D.O.P.E. book and it’s limitations.

3:10 How to store and use index cards to collect D.O.P.E.

3:30 Why a contractor’s pencil is invaluable for writing down information reliably.

4:00 How to use a manufacturer’s bullet-drop compensator and how to make your own.

4:30 How to use masking tape to place D.O.P.E. inside your scope cover.

4:50 Taping D.O.P.E. index card directly onto the buttstock.

5:05 Features of a Retractable Ballistic Tape.

6:00 Demonstration on 650-yard target. (Note: Downrange view is through a spotting scope, not the riflescope.)

Do you have a long range shooting tip? Share it with us in the comment section.

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Comments (18)

  1. Flick: We all do so don’t sweat the petty stuff, I wish that had an editorial feature like some blogs do that let you correct the screw ups we missed the first time. It’s the thought that usually counts.

  2. I have to echo: “to each his own.” I didn’t start reloading until this BS ammo shortage started but so far I’m happy with the results. I think after trial and error we end up with favorite cartridge selections for specific firearms. For my 30-06 it has become Winchester’s 150 grain. They’ve always given me consistent results with moderate cost and easy availability at Walmart a half mile away.

    Maybe it’s just my imagination, but since I’ve been reloading with my RCBS Rock Chucker, Winchester rifle powder and Sierra 150 grain bullets my groups have been a lot more consistent. Or at least as good as I was getting from the factory ammo.

    As far as the technology applied to the process is concerned, I’ve practiced something all my adult life that was ingrained in me by my DI 54 years ago. In my time, every recruit was issued a pocket spiral notebook and a Scripto mechanical pencil and it became part of the learning experience. Now it’s a Pentel mechanical pencil with 8mm leads, but you’re not likely to catch me without it and a pocket notebook at any time. The one you’ll find in my shirt or jacket pocket at the range or in the field tucks nicely between my cheek pad and the stock and it’s a good refresher for the DOPE I memorized and am not likely to forget. We all seem to find our own way.

  3. Thanks for the info…I love Factoids…never too old to learn something new…
    I agree that “Premium”ammo is expensive but I dont plan on shooting more than needed…hopefully no more than one set of Double Tap’s per customer…
    Ill continue handloading for my other shooting endeavors

    1. As will I JM. When I am at my loading bench each round I produce is a veritable work of art. I don’t use a high dollar multistage press. I use a single stage high dollar press. Each round is inspected, as it should be, with great care at every stage of the loading process.
      I knew a guy once that reloaded nothing but JHP for his 45. He would melt wax into the cavity of each round and place a large pistol primer in each one. Needless to say, we parted company many years ago. Take Care

    2. Veritable work of art? Great care?………hmmm…….

      I’m not here to bash reloading. I just think that YOU, and the guy who wrote this article, have a little too much time on your hands, and have an inflated sense of perfectionism versus reality in outside factors that affect where the bullet hits at long range, especially in regards to looking at a historical DOPE book.

    3. Well sir, with all due respect…. If my “Historical Log” tells me I am getting a 3 inch MOA at 500yds with this butter and this powder charge, I am going to make every conceivable effort to build my ammunition “Exactly””With Great Care” the same way and worry about any outside factors, such as weather, when I get to the firing line or in a position to put a substantial amount of meat in my freezer.

  4. I agree as to the preference’s of handload but I also believe in Murphy’s Law and O’Toole’s Law,especially when it comes to self defense/carry loads.
    Murphy says that 4,999 of my handloads will function perfectly but when my rear end depends on one shot,the 5000th will have a smidge of fingerprint oil on the primer or some such and thats all she wrote.
    O’Toole says Murphy is an optimist.
    On the subject of using handloads for everyday carry;In the early 80’s gun writers were big on loading a .45 semi-wadcutter upside down over x.x grns of Unique for close in work and it is devastating.
    I also know a man who carried such a load and shot a man in self-defense.
    The Grand Jury refused to indict but an atty in the civil suit cost him dearly by using the load to prove he was “out looking for it”.
    Every day we make choices.Mine is to carry Premium Gold Dots or Critical Defense and keep my house and life savings.
    Ill play at the range with my loads.

    1. Flick old buddy, your comment is reeeally funny….lol.
      Since you mention it, Edward A. Murphy first coined the phrase in 1949 while he was an engineer testing whether or not a human could survive ejecting from an aircraft at 630mph.
      Since then there have been many such laws announced….ie… Sod’s law, Finagle’s law, To’s law…etc, but, There is not one shred of scientific evidence to support any of them. It is possible Edward Murphy’s announcement has saved lives but the sad fact is, he was killed by his own law. One evening his car ran out of gas. Returning to his car, walking on the correct side of the road facing traffic, he was struck and killed by a British driver, driving on the wrong side of the road.
      Back to your comment… I suppose you can say Murphy’s law will bite you even with your “Very Expensive” factory ammunition as well.

  5. What Larry describes seems obsessive, but to each his own.

    Whoever said anything about Walmart? There is superior ammo from superior companies out there, and most of us know how to find it.

    1. As I said…. Each manufacturer has their own way to get the job done. One type may work well where another type from the same manufacturer may not. The only way to know what works best in your particular rifle is to test and document the findings for comparison.
      Obsessive…. Hardly. Anyone who loads their own ammunition will tell you virtually the same thing… Factory ammunition cannot compare with the accuracy of well constructed hand loaded ammunition. A lot of companies manufacturer superior components but a difference of one “Grain” of powder during mass production will make an incredible difference at 500yds.

  6. I’m not a hunter either, or a least anymore. I tend to be a sport shooter,
    I shoot for fun, I shoot for accuracy as well. I’m not an offensive shooter, I’m defense. I do it, just for the pleasure of the shoot. I don’t know of any other way too say or put it.

  7. This is way too much information for me. I’m not a hunter, so I’m going to put this in the only context I could imagine for me.

    Let’s say I’m in the desert or the mountains and I come across drug smugglers or other criminals that start to chase me, and then we wind up on foot. If I’m 1000 yards from these guys, I’m either going to be running farther away, or shoring up my position and waiting for a 500 yard shot.

    I do need to do some practicing at 500 yards to see what my rifles can do, but I don’t need a DOPE book. I just need to find the right ammo, stick with it, and know what the drop is at 500 yards, and how to judge what is 500 yards with my eyes.

    1. Yes, you are obviously new to precision shooting at long (by your estimate) ranges.
      You can probably practice for a year every day and barely scratch the surface on what your “Rifle” is capable of. The question and the bottom line reason to keep a dope record is “When” you will be at a level equal to your rifle.
      The best of the best in long range shooting have well over a million rounds fired in practice and practice constantly still.
      Sticking with one type of ammunition will not give you the accuracy you desire unless you do your own reloading, with the exact same powder charge, bullet weigh (with no imperfections), seating each bullet exactly the same, trimming each brass to the exact same length relative to the chamber of you rifle…etc,etc.
      Going to Walmart and grabbing the same brand of ammo may be inexpensive but true accuracy is pretty much out the window.
      A data log is vital even then as each manufacturer produces their own combination of bullet, powder, case, primer…etc…
      You will learn, eventually what works best in your rifle at your level of ability… IF… you keep accurate logs.

  8. I agree with you, 100%. But, I think is a number of factors and mindsets involved here. For the most part, some shooter’s think the government in going to swoop down in their Blackhawk helicopters, steal their rifles and flyaway. Secondly, I think some shooter’s think if they can’t shoot beyond 1,000-meters, that makes them either a Wimp or a Wuss. And thirdly, I think a lot of rifle shooter’s, firmly believe in their minds. The more expensive the Rifle, the better marksman your going to be.

    I mean, I’m the best shot in the world, by any sniper standard’s. But I can a least shootout to 500-meters, using a 98k Mauser 7.92x57mm or a 30-06 (7.62x63mm) M1903 Springfield Rifle or an M1E6 Garand Rifle. And these rifles, are not by any means the most expensive, or even expensive rifles in the world.

  9. The ” Sniper” craze hit hard a number of years ago,the reason unknown.
    For the purist,there is NOTHING that beats the satisfaction/thrill of shooting at something a 1000 yds away and knowing you scored.
    Sadly,however,90% of rifle owners/shooters have zero business trying to shoot something outside maybe 400 yds.
    Everyone should try to improve themselves, of course, and hobbies are good for everybody.
    This is a great intro film and all rifle owners should watch it.
    But Im afraid too many people, after watching it, will declare themselves competent and go wound untold numbers of animals.
    Just because you read of professional coyote hunters with custom built 6.5×284 rigs taking animals at 1350 yds all day doesnt mean you can do it just because you shoot the same gun,even if you did pay 5000.00 bucks for it.
    Every person should be aware of their limitations.

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