Spotting the shot – What you don’t see, CAN hurt you

Rifle and spotting scope

Let’s face it. Missing shots is part of the long range game. And when it happens, the finger is often quick to point to the shooter in a shooter/spotter duo. But how do you know it isn’t the spotter throwing the shot? Let’s take a moment to highlight a few techniques and pitfalls to watch so that your man behind the glass makes the right calls

Correct Spotter Position

One of the most common mistakes in spotting is the location of the spotter. All too often, we see spotters directly left or right of their shooter. Additionally, they may be standing while the shooter is prone (or vice versa). This situation will lead to poor shot corrections, as it is difficult for the spotter to gauge the travel and impact of the bullet when not in line with the shooter. The proper way to situate the spotter and spotting optic, is to bring them as close to the rifle’s bore axis as possible. Usually this means the spotter is directly behind the shooter in the 5 or 6 o’clock position. Being close to the rifle’s axis also means keeping the height similar - So if the shooter is prone, then no standing behind a tripod 5 feet above them. You need to be as low as possible without compromising your field of view through the spotting scope. Whether shooting prone, standing, or unconventional positions, try to adhere to the bore axis rule as much as possible.

Spotter and shooter

Bullet Trace vs. Bullet Splash

There are two basic ways to visibly see where a round will impact, and hence, allow you to make a shot correction – Watching the bullet’s trace, and watching the bullet’s impact (splash). The latter of which, is the most common indicator used by new shooters. However, this is not the best way to spot for your shooter. Bullet splash is influenced by a myriad of factors – From atmospheric and environmental conditions, to variances in terminal ballistics. Because of this, it can be difficult to identify the exact origin of the splash before it disperses. Other factors such as secondary splash make it deceptive to pinpoint the bullets point of impact. This is why tracking the bullet’s trace is a more definitive way of spotting the shot.

Where to Watch

Another common mistake made by spotters is focusing on the wrong thing. Literally. It’s a natural tendency to focus on the target. But this is not the proper way to spot, as you will only see the bullet splash and not the path it is travelling (see above). Remember, your shooter is already focused on the target. He does, after all, have cross-hairs on it. Your role as a spotter is to provide him with information OUTSIDE of what he can already see. To do this, you should have your spotting optic focused on an object at 50-60% of the distance to target. The target itself may be slightly out of focus, but the bullet’s trace will be much more visible. And it’s the bullet’s trace that we are trying to find.

The “About” Clause

Precision rifle shooting is supposed to be, well… precise. So one of the most frustrating things to hear from a spotter is the word “about”. For example, “You’re ABOUT four feet to the left”. Or “Hold over ABOUT two minutes”. The effectiveness of a shooter/spotter duo is largely contingent on their ability to communicate. The shooter is relying on input from the spotter to make the shot. So any ambiguity should be removed from the communication equation. Remember, your shooter shouldn’t have to second guess your correction, or worry about additional calculations. When relaying a correction to your shooter, be concise and accurate. Give a direct firing solution in MILS/MOA, and tell your shooter exactly what they need to hear. Basically, do all the work so your shooter can do what they are supposed to – Execute the shot.

Send it!

- The Trajektory crew

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