What constitutes “long range” really depends on where you’re hunting at the time. Where I lived on the East Coast, most of our shots at whitetails were less than 100 yards with “ordinary” long shots sometimes stretching out to 200. An extraordinary long shot was as much as 300, but those were few and far between. The vegetation and terrain simply didn’t offer the visibility, and even if you did see a deer that far off, the same vegetation and terrain almost always provided enough cover to get closer. A “high angle” shot happened when a buck stopped under your treestand.
But now that I’m living in the West, my idea of “long range” is much different — you can really air out a bullet here. Instead of dense thickets and dark hollows, hunting often means wide-open grassland or foothills so big and steep that a Flatlander might consider them mountains. Cover can be sparse. Even the stealthiest hunter can sneak only so close to a muley standing in the middle of the prairie, and if you hunt Coues deer much you know they’re often found munching on barrel cactus buds near the tops of the foothills.
Normal hunting shots are 200 to 300 yards, and an “ordinary” long-range shot is easily 500 yards. Taking those ordinary long-range shots requires an accurate rifle and scope, flat-shooting loads, steady aim, and some knowledge of exterior ballistic variables and how to compensate for them. But just like it was Back East, you don’t always get an “ordinary” long-range shot, and you’re just as likely to be aiming down deep into a canyon as you are straight across it. When you have such an extraordinary shot, it’s not necessarily enough to have ordinary long-range gear.
For serious long-range shooting needs, Gunwerks offers impressive gun/scope/rangefinder combinations that are not just a bunch of long-range equipment put together as packages, but rather true long-range systems with purposefully engineered ballistic synergy between the gun, scope, ammo and rangefinder. “We’re not a [gun] sales company,” explains Gunwerks’ COO, Garrett Wall. “We’re an engineering company and we’re engineering an entire shooting system.”
The system I recently received consists of a Gunwerks LR-1000 bolt-action rifle topped with a 5.5-22x50mm G7 Nightforce scope that’s ballistically matched when shooting Gunwerks’ 140-grain VLD 6.5×284 loads to a G7 BR2 laser rangefinder. There are big challenges that go into making extraordinarily long shots, but this system makes them as close to “range, dial and shoot” as you can get. The system traces its roots back to when Gunwerks’ president and CEO, Aaron Davidson, was in engineering school. “Ballistic turrets were nonexistent then,” says Wall, “so he put together a formula to measure drop and then make an adjustment with the scope turret so you could just hold straight on instead of hold over. His teacher told him it was a horrible idea,” laughs Wall. “His passion started with scopes and from there parlayed into firearms.”
This particular LR-1000 is one of the first guns using Gunwerks’ new action. It’s a conventional turn-bolt with subtle functional design improvements that enhance the customer’s experience. Those improvements include positive horizontal ejection to clear large windage scope turret caps, the recoil lug machined as an integral part of the action for 55 percent more barrel threads and one less joint, and re-engineering of the helix mechanism for a 40 percent smoother bolt lift. It’s fitted with a Jewell trigger factory set at 2 1/2 pounds pull that’s also TriggerScan analyzed and tuned for force and movement. As has been my experience with other Gunwerks rifles, this is one of the few triggers I’ve had the pleasure of truly “pressing” instead of pulling to fire.
Actions are bedded in a one-piece aluminum chassis for a solid mechanical fit, and enhancing that fit is a small, threaded block just in front of the recoil lug that mates against a corresponding angled surface on the bedding chassis. As you tighten it, it slides down along the angled surface like a wedge, pushing the recoil lug against the bedding block for rock-solid surface-to-surface contact.
Stocks are designed by Gunwerks, molded by McMillan and then CNC-finished and bedded by Gunwerks. They, too, have subtle design features to enhance the shooter’s experience. “It has a little wider forend than some traditional factory rifle stocks,” says Wall. “If you look at the profile you’ll see it’s designed with a negative slope to pull away from your cheek [under recoil] instead of into your cheek.” Wall also explained how the stock has molded-in color so slight nicks or dings can simply be sanded out.
The G7 scope is made by Nightforce and equipped with a G7 ballistic top turret that is calibrated to 1,400 yards using the true ballistic profile of the load, so there is no need to hold over or use any other type of guessing method for taking long shots. All you have to do is range the target and dial in the range.
If you don’t have time to range your target and adjust your turret, the G7 reticle is useable as a ranging, measuring and compensating device, plus the horizontal stadia has hash marks to gauge hold-off when compensating for wind deflection. Because the reticle is in the second focal plane, changing scope magnification also changes MOA value. At 11X, the windage marks are 2 MOA apart, at 22X they’re 1 MOA, and a reminder is conveniently etched in the bottom right of the field of view. Hash marks on the vertical stadia are in 1/2 MOA increments at 11X and are used not only for hold-over value if you don’t have time to adjust the top turret, but also as a coarse rangefinder.
I’ve used plenty of laser rangefinders, but the G7 BR2 is one to behold — it’s like a rangefinder and a ballistic super calculator combined. As with the scope, it has more features than I can cover, but the most interesting features I found are the ability to program multiple ballistic profiles for different caliber guns, and its ability to automatically consider multiple external variables.
Profile 4 on the sample was programmed for the 6.5×284 load and rifle combination I was testing. With it, I could range an object and get the distance, which is what a rangefinder does. But this one also accounts for angle, barometric pressure, temperature and altitude, and it displays the shooting solution for your exact situation out to 1,400 yards. For example, while the distance to the target might read 600 yards, the rangefinder might tell you to adjust the turret to only 550 to make a hit because of all of the variables it’s considering above and beyond just the raw distance. It also gives you windage values for 5 to 50 mph crosswinds.
The G7 scope and G7 rangefinder are integral parts of the total Gunwerks system. They offer so much in the way of combined functionality and features that it’s simply not possible to cover them in detail in a magazine article. Instead, it’s worth your time to visit Gunwerks’ YouTube channel to learn what these devices can do. There you’ll also glean a lot of useful knowledge you can apply to your own equipment.
On the range the LR-1000 consistently shot dime-sized three-shot groups at 100 yards with the Gunwerks ammunition. The 6.5×284 isn’t exactly a hard-kicking load, so I can’t say much about the effectiveness of the stock’s negative slope other than to say the concept works on Weatherby rifles (though the Gunwerks slope isn’t nearly as flamboyant). Bolt operation is noticeably slick and smooth and ejection is exactly as Gunwerks designed it to be.
“Our customer is someone who is passionate about having the proper equipment to make precision shots, and it doesn’t have to be a long-range shot,” says Wall. “A 200-yard shot straight down a cliff face at an animal is going to require some serious change in some calculations, and our equipment does that.”
No doubt a knowledgeable and experienced shooter can just as easily have an accurate rifle built, get all of the additional optical components together and be effective at fairly long distances. But the key to that is someone who is “knowledgeable and experienced,” and who also has a heck of a lot of spare time and ammo to shoot and collect all of their ballistic data. “We’re selling a broken-in, calibrated system, and we’re doing a lot of that work for you,” says Wall. “There’s sure a lot to learn about wind, etc., but [aside from that] it’s literally just turn the dial to the appropriate yardage and pull the trigger.
As Gunwerks’ production manager, Mike Davidson, puts it, “When we ship you a gun, we know that it’s going to shoot at 1,000 yards right out of the box. The reason we know that is that we’ve already shot it at 1,000 yards before we put it in the box.”