Will O’Meara crunches the numbers as he investigates the rifle and scope combo that’s shaking up his shooting performance
New rifle, new scope, ‘wind dots’, ‘speed drops’ and ‘quick millers’… are you ready?
I recently got my hands on the Tikka UPR that was released early this year. Its arrival to market may have been somewhat overshadowed by the arrival of its stablemate the Sako S20, but I was keen to get my hands on the Tikka.
I admired both rifles and must admit that the S20 does have lots of appeal. While the S20 features such as the integrated Picatinny rail and interchangeable skins appealed to me, I would lean more toward the target configuration as the thumb-hole stock fascination has come and gone for me.
On hearing about the Tikka UPR “Ultimate Precision Rifle” I was intrigued… the name conjured up images of a bull-barrelled action mated to an adjustable chassis with arca rails, weights and a calibre spread including the likes of 6mm Creedmoor and 6.5PRC – but I was to be disappointed… or was I?
When I examined the spec of the UPR I realised that this rifle was very close to what I put together for myself last year; a hybrid hunting-target tool. The UPR is essentially a CTR that has been mated to a carbon, kevlar composite stock.
Last year I was won over by the CTR’s capability; the perfect profile barrel for a hybrid gun; that bottom metal with the best mag release I have ever seen; those 10 round magazines that operate flawlessly and are not obtrusive; the crisp and deliberate trigger; the renowned Tikka bolt action with its intuitive cycling and of course that “out of the box” accuracy and reliability.
So, the new part of the “new” UPR is the stock. The stock feels good in the hand, the pistol grip is vertical/ tactical style but it is not too “fat” – it fits really well in my hand and promotes positive control and feedback.
The check piece is easily adjustable – and slim – allowing you to centre up nicely behind the scope. I weighed the stock separately and it came in at a featherweight 800 grams (1.76lbs). The forend is slim and rigid and has adequate clearance on the barrel channel to ensure no contact on oscillation.
Arriving at the firearms emporium of my good friend John Lambert, the first order of business was, as usual, to swap insults, then talk hunting, then sip a coffee alongside discussion of the relevant kit – the UPR. John was equally impressed by the stock ergonomics and the handling of this relative heavy-weight (he’s a carbon-light man).
We stripped the rifle then adjusted and tested the trigger, as light as it would go. The only modification I have made to the rifle is the addition of a Picatinny rail up front and a Spartan Precision gunsmith adaptor just forward of the mag-well.
The rifle shoots well and has a natural affinity for both the Sako TRG and the Sako Gamehead Pro Ammunition. I think this rifle is actually the closest that I have had to the ideal dual-purpose rifle for me, suiting both my style of hunting and my interest in precision rifle competitions.
However, this article is actually about the Steiner scope I have put on the UPR, and more specifically about the reticle in that scope and how to use it. It is about as far from a traditional hunting reticle as you can get but my intention is to master it on the range and utilise that proficiency in the hunting field.
The scope I have settled on is the Steiner M5Xi 5-25 x56 with the TReMoR 3 reticle. The scope itself has all the clarity, functional ergonomics and reliability that I have come to appreciate from Steiner and features such as the changing display on the elevation turret add to this functionality.
Todd Hodnett of Accuracy First is the man behind the TReMoR reticles. I have used and taught Todd’s “Perfect Wind” formula for many years – I love its simplicity.
I am also a geek (shhh- don’t tell anyone), I love numbers and correlations, especially when they are used as tools to quickly apply corrections in shooting. Making the complex into the simple is a fantastic thing and Todd is the master when it comes to this.
The major feature of all Horus reticles is that you hold for elevation and for wind. This is very fast as you have no adjustment of the windage or elevation turrets. It also eliminates any mechanical inaccuracies that may exist in your turrets, but it does have its costs. One of the main costs is how “busy” that reticle appears.
I have seen many people look though the scope and say – “Oh, that’s far to busy for me”. The reality of the situation is that once you start shooting the TReMoR 3 reticle you start to only focus on that point of reference that you need – everything else almost disappears.
For pure observation of a scene the dots and lines of the reticle can of course obscure your picture slightly – the upper half of your picture is very open to maximise your field of observation.
This Steiner Military focused scope is a Mil/Mil FFP scope. That means that both the crosshair and the turrets are in mil. Each distinct click of the turret will be 1cm at 100m, 2cm at 200m etc.
The lines on these reticles represent 1.0Mils, 0.5Mils, 0.2 Mils and even down to 0.1Mils. TReMoR stands for “The Refined Mill Reticle” and as such has evolved from the Mildot, through the likes of the P4L and most recently the Horus H reticles (H58 etc).
What makes the TReMoR 3 different is that it uses ‘Wind Dots’. Each of these black dots equate to (generally) a 4MPH wind hold. In a normal “Mil” reticle you have to judge the wind and then convert that wind to a mil value depending on your distance from the target.
For my 6.5 Creedmoor using the 136gr TRG rounds at 500m I would hold 0.5Mils for a 6mph wind, 1.0Mils for a 12 MPH wind etc. At 500m this would equate to 25cm and 50cm respectively. With the TReMoR 3 reticle I don’t need to convert from MPH to Mils.
I just hold on the respective wind dot. I will explain how to calibrate the wind dots later but for now it is safe to say that for most rifles each wind dot represents 4MPH. A 500m shot process might look like this:
- Range the target: 500m
- Get your elevation hold: 3.3Mils
- Hold 3.3Mils of elevation
- Judge the Wind: 4MPH
- Hold on the first wind-dot in line with 3.3Mils of elevation – then send it!
I also found a handy training tool on the Horus Vision website – essentially it is a computer game that uses the TReMoR 3 (or any Horus Reticle) and simulates shooting at different ranges in varied wind conditions.
So now we have a quick and easy method of holding for wind – no conversions required. Let’s jump back quickly and look at how to calibrate or check what MPH each dot represents for your rifle/bullet combo. This is calculated from the wind-dots that coincide with the 4Mil elevation line on your TReMoR 3 reticle.
The second wind dot at that “distance” is equal to 0.95 Mils. Go to your ballistic app, turn off spin drift, apply the relevant atmospherics for your normal shooting conditions and scroll down through your drop chart until you see your drop/elevation equals 4.0Mils – in my 6.5 Creedmoor this coincided with a range of 560m.
Next, I input 8MPH of wind and I see that this equals 1.0Mil – this is so close to 0.95 I am happy; all my wind-dots are ballistically correct for the range/elevation they coincide with.
An important point to note here is that there are a few different marks on the windage axis. On the main crosshair you have the numbers 2,4,6,8 above the line – these are for MPH movers out to about 500m. The other general rule is that all dots are MPH where as all lines are Mils/mRad.
This is an FFP scope – First Focal Plane – thus your crosshair gets bigger/ smaller as you zoom in/out. This means that your holds are always correct. The only time your wind dots will not be correct is if you dial for elevation. For that reason you have 0.2Mil lines under the main horizontal crosshair – you can use the perfect wind formula in this instance.
Another feature of tactical scopes is the ability to judge distance using the reticle. This is based on the rule of sub-tension; 1Mil = 1 metre at 1000 metres. If you know the size of your target you can reverse engineer your range from it.
Your target has the physical dimensions of 1m2. You measure the target in your scope it measures 1.0Mil wide thus it is 1000m away. If it measures 0.5Mil wide it is 500m away…and so on.
The formula is:
Range in metres = (Target size in cm/Target size in Mil) x10
Here are a few examples to help you:
(100cm/1Mil) x10 = 1000m
(30cm/1.5Mil) x 10 = 200m
The trick here is to know your target size and to be able to accurately mill the target.
The TReMoR 3 target has chevrons that can help to mill down to 0.1Mil and there are some quick “Millers” over the main horizontal crosshair, these measure 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9 and 1.0Mils.
There may be a competition where there is a predominant target – this could be a 30cm/12” plate for example, and perhaps other targets that are multiples of this – e.g. 45cm/60cm.
For these “Quick Millers” I make a small card – illustrated below, that tells me what each of these equals… In short if I make a card for 12” plates then I know the elevation to hold depending on the “Quick Miller” that fits that target. Clear as mud, right? But it works.
Is your brain ready to explode yet? If not, then read on! Other speedy solutions from the Accuracy First camp includes ‘Speed Drops’.
Speed Drop is a tool that you can use to quickly know what elevation to apply depending on your distance to target. It is based on a simple formula that is easy to do in your head – there is a minimum/ maximum range within which this ‘speed drop’ formula works.
So how does it work? It is based on a repeated relationship between numbers. Those numbers are the range to your target and the elevation required to hit that target. This is a speedy solution so is only accurate to 0.2Mils.
For my Tikka, it works from 200m to 575m – in my case, at worst it I will be a maximum of 5.5cm off at that range – I can live with that! If you were on the 0.2Mils limit at that range for your rifle you would be 11.5cm high/low – not bad for a speedy solution.
The value of this combined with the TReMoR grid reticle system is that you don’t need to take your eye out of the scope picture for multiple target engagements. For single shots it allows you to maintain your focus on target and not get sucked into data cards or ballistic calculator.
How do you work out your speed drop? It is pretty simple… you just look at your ballistic app/range card and you subtract your Mils hold (multiplied by 10) from your range (remove last digit). Let’s apply this to a practical example; say my range card shows a distance of 482m and my elevation hold is 3.1Mils.
I can apply this as follows:
Range to target = 482m. Remove the last digit to get 48. Multiply 3.1Mils by 10 to get 31. Finally, 48 – 31 = 17
So, we can deduct from this data that my speed drop is 17.
Once your know your speed drop, it is simple to use. Let’s look at two working examples for my set-up:
1. Range Target = 350m (converts to 35) 35 – 17 = 18. Hold = 1.8Mils
2. Range Target = 464m (converts to 46) 46 – 17 = 31. Hold = 3.1Mils
In my rifle/bullet combination, the formula works for any range between 250m and 575m.
So, there we have it, a new rifle that seems to fit the hybrid precision rifle target/mountain hunting requirement really well. A scope that appears complex but actually aims to simplify your wind solution and some hacks for quick holdovers and milling. Now get out there and practise!