When shooting a moving target at long distance there are several items of business that need taken care of before you worry about your lead methodology. In this article, we'll take you through the math and methodology behind engaging a moving target with a precision rifle.
ELEVATION: First and foremost, you'll need an accurate distance to calculate your elevation drop, commonly known as your "D.O.P.E." or "Data on Previous Engagement." Your ballistic program of choice should take care of this, and in today's tech world - this step is fairly easy given the correct variable inputs. You'll dial this DOPE into your elevation turret.
WIND: Normally, we would dial our elevation and hold windage. But in the case of a moving target, that usually goes back and forth, left to right and right to left, we'll go ahead and dial in our windage as well. This will allow us to maintain the same 'lead' irregardless of the direction the target is moving.
TOF: You'll also want to extract one more piece of data while in your ballistic program - the time of flight, or time that your bullet is in the air. This will come in handy in the next step.
After you've got your DOPE sorted out, both elevation and windage, and have your TOF calculated, you're ready to work on your lead, or the amount you'll hold in front of the target - allowing the target to walk/run into your bullet.
TARGET SPEED: The first task is to determine how fast your target is moving. Instead of calculating a speed in MPH, we'll use MILs (MILRADIANS) per second, or MIL/sec. Note: you can also use MOA here. In order to do this, you're going to record the amount of time it takes your moving target to traverse 10 MILs in your riflescope or spotting scope. Take this time (in seconds) and divide by 10 (the number of MILs traversed). Wala - you've got your target speed in MILs/sec.
LEAD HOLD: The final puzzle piece is to determine your lead hold, or the amount in MILs you'll hold in front of your target. At this point, the hard part is done. You'll take your target speed (MILs/sec) and multiply by the TOF (sec). The seconds 'cancel' out and you're left with MILs - your hold.
Stick that hash mark right on your target and DING!!! You're now smacking steel on your first moving target!!
LEAD METHODOLOGY: Now that we've got all the math figured out, we can focus on our strategy. There are two ways to do this - TRACKING or TRAPPING.
Just like it sounds, TRACKING a moving target, means that you are tracking (or moving) with your target, holding your LEAD HOLD on the target and firing at the moment you think you've got the hold dead nuts on.
On the other hand, TRAPPING a moving target means that you'll anticipate where your target is going to be. You're going to get all comfy and set-up and wait for the moving target to approach. Staying stationary and in position, you fire when your target crosses your LEAD HOLD hold hash mark in your riflescope.
In real life, I prefer a hybrid approach. I'll set up as if I was going to TRAP my moving target. As it approaches, instead of remaining stationary, I'll start TRACKING and fire while I'm moving, or tracking with the rifle. This allows me to have a solid position and only have to traverse with my rifle and track for a split second, right before firing.
In this Call of Duty Warzone clip, I just tracked my target. I stink at sniping in game, and am still learning how to play with my new PC and mouse & key - so it worked, this time....
What is your preferred method for engaging a moving target?