On Sept. 13, the sharp report of a rifle shot echoed across the western Wyoming desert near Jackson Hole. Twenty-four seconds later, the sound of a round impacting steel 4.4 miles away was heard by a team of forward spotters. After a few moments of uncertainty, the spotters cheered.
The impact was confirmed by a hole in the target 3.125 inches from dead center and a recovered bullet.
The world record for extreme long-range target shooting distance — set by Paul Phillips of Midland, Texas, in 2020 — had been shattered, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.
The record now belongs to a team led by Scott Austin and Shepard Humphries of Nomad Rifleman.
According to a Sept. 14 news release from the “boutique extreme long range shooting experience” out of Jackson Hole, the two men, “joined by a half-dozen friends, hit the 8” bullseye with their custom long-range rifle, surpassing the previous world record of 4 miles!”
Austin and Humphries are co-authors of the 2021 book “Nomad Rifleman’s Extreme Long Range Shooting Fun.”
The story of the astonishing long-range shot began in 2020, right after the team at Nomad Rifleman succeeded in helping a client achieve the Wyoming state record with a target strike at an impressive 3.06 miles, the news release said.
The initial target date was in May 2021, but major complications in procuring and assembling the rifle and a protective bunker for the team of forward spotters pushed it back considerably.
The rifle used for the shot was a project in and unto itself.
“For a rifle like this, having a precision standard of one-ten-thousandth of an inch would not be good enough,” Nomad Rifleman said in the news release. “It had to be perfect. Rifle builders Scott Null and his sons Meshac & Nehemia of S&S Sporting in Idaho built the rifle. And boy is it a space-aged piece of beauty!”
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— TheGunBulletin (@TheGunBulletin) September 22, 2022
Because of the weapon’s sheer complexity, it required custom parts shipped from all over the world, including, Canada, New Zealand, Arkansas, South Dakota and Washington. The masterwork rifle was completed finally in May, about a full year after the original target date, according to the release.
Rifle in hand, the team also needed a custom load. Your typical off-the-shelf .416 Barrett just wasn’t going to do the job.
“With this kind of shooting, nobody has yet figured out how to get first round hits. This isn’t the kind of thing where you buy a new rifle and some ammo right off of the gun store shelf and go get lucky,” Shepard said.
Nomad Rifleman said in the news release, “The cartridge was custom made by Unknown Munitions in Idaho (which we think is the best commercial ammunition maker in the world), with Barrett brass, H50BMG propellant and a CCI135 primer. The bullet left the rifle muzzle at 3,300 feet per second and traveled 4.4 miles, slowing to 689 feet per second when it hit the target, over 24.5 seconds after being fired.”
“The Cutting Edge MTAC bullet that hit the target was hand-lathed, and weighed just under an ounce (422 gr.),” the release said.
The group added, “In the extreme long range shooting community, there isn’t an official standard for records. If trusted members of the community like Paul Phillips and Brian Litz go out shooting and say they hit a rock that was about 10 feet in diameter at 3 miles, the community counts it as a hit. If they hit a rock that is 4 feet in diameter, they get more ‘field credibility.'”
The honor of taking the impressive shot would fall to a friend of Austin and Humphries who “has a great trigger finger and smart analytical business mind.” He agreed to it on the condition of anonymity, according to the release, which referred to him as “Winston.”
When Winston pulled the trigger, the rifle’s loud report reverberated across the valley. One could imagine the spotters holding their breath in anticipation before hearing a loud impact on steel.
Shepard’s wife and expert shooter Lynn Sherwood-Humphries, Joel Austin, Tony Molina, Mick Cestia and Wade Woodhouse served as the forward spotters from the steel bunker near the target.
At first, the spotters thought the shot had struck the bunker or the camera rigging, but it had struck the target, two thin metal plates on a wooden frame that measured about 10 feet by 8 feet, according to the release.
“WE HAVE OUR FIRST HIT! Confirmed! Confirmed hit!” they said in a call to the shooters.
Moments later, the spotters found a hole punched clean through the target 3 and 1/8 inches from the 80-inch bullseye’s center. Austin would recover the bullet after a few minutes from the ground beneath the target.
D Magazine in Dallas reported that it was the “world’s eighth-longest confirmed kill shot by a sniper.” Kyle, who died in 2013, spoke of it in his book “American Sniper” as a “really, really lucky shot.”
The team at Nomad Rifleman called the record shot a matter of “probability” rather than luck.
Austin and Humphries said it was “not scientifically consistently ‘repeatable’ even with the same several hours spent walking the shot into the target,” according to the news release.
But then again, as Kyle showed us, some of the most important shots are those that beat the odds.
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