Applied Ballistics Seminar (Sophia, NC)

ab_seminar_20161103_gh4_004If you have spent any amount of time in the precision rifle world, it is likely that you have heard of Bryan Litz and Applied Ballistics. Bryan is a long time competitive rifle shooter and current member of the US Rifle Team. He is also the Chief Ballistician of Berger Bullets. To say that Bryan wrote the book on modern rifle ballistics would be true. In fact, he has written several. I first became acquainted with Bryan’s work when I read “Applied Ballistics for the Long Range Shooter”. This book is now in Volume III, and contains an extensive library of tested G7 Ballistic Coefficients for popular long range bullets. I was incredibly excited when Applied Ballistics invited me to their seminar in Sophia, NC.

It is a well known fact that people learn in different ways. Some can easily learn and retain material by reading it from a book. Some require a more interactive environment. This year Applied Ballistics has added several seminars to add a more personal touch to their information.

ab_seminar_20161104_gh4_028The folks at Applied Ballistics were kind enough to invite me to attend their final seminar of 2016. This seminar was held at the Caraway Conference Center in Sophia, NC. The Caraway Conference Center is a “full service” facility that offers dining, lodging and conference rooms. Lunch and dinner both nights was included in the Seminar package. This was convenient since there were few food options close by. I did choose to stay at an off-site hotel for this seminar, but rooms at Caraway were available as a bundle.

The seminar started promptly at 8 AM, Thursday. Registration for the Seminar included all of the current books in the AB library. When I arrived I picked up the sizable stack, containing:

  • Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting 3rd Edition(2015)
  •  Ballistic Performance of Rifle Bullets 2nd Edition(2015)
  • Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting Vol 1.(2014)
  • Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting Vol 2. (2016)
  • Accuracy and Precision for Long Range Shooting(2012)
  • Putting Rounds on Target DVD 3 Disc + Bonus

Applied Ballistics also included a tote bag and an insulated coffee mug with Applied Ballistic logo. If you went to the AB website and purchased all of this material, it would cost you $238.23

In addition to the books and DVD set, attendees received an email prior to the seminar with instructions on how to download and register the AB Analytics Program. This is a $200 piece of software. While it was not required for the seminar, how to use the software was covered. As you can see, you really get a lot for your $500 registration fee.

AB ItineraryAt each seat we received a binder containing the printed version of the powerpoint presentation for each block of instruction and an itinerary for the two days. The binder was well laid out with blank space for notes on each page. I would later find this very useful.
As you can see from the itinerary, this seminar is chocked full of information. However the most important part was the introduction. This was a chance for the attendees to hear about Bryan’s history, but also a chance for attendees to voice what they wanted to get out of the seminar. There is so much information available, that the course can be tailored to the shooter’s in attendance. In this case, we had a fairly wide mix of benchrest, F-class, ELR and PRS/Tactical shooters. More than a handful of those attending this seminar are professional military and law enforcement shooters. The experience levels ranged from those who have been shooting rifles for their entire lives, to those with only a few years under their belts.

AB SeminarI won’t attempt to touch on all the information that was covered. A two day seminar just begins to elaborate on some of the information contained in the volumes included. What the seminar did do, is explain and demonstrate the concepts and give attendees the chance to ask clarifying questions. The added bonus was that throughout the day, during breaks, attendees had the opportunity to ask individual questions to the presenters. This, plus interaction with the other shooters in attendance really kept the gears turning and developed questions that I had not originally thought to ask.

What I found most interesting was that in the two days I was there, I did not hear a single “stupid question”. I also saw that there was no ego on display. Bryan is a very “down to earth” guy. He readily admits when you approach a type of competition that he does not have much experience with. I had the pleasure of shooting the Guardian Long Range Competition in Michigan with Bryan. He explained to me then that he was very much a novice at that type of rifle competition.  When PRS questions came up at the seminar, he would try to answer them as well as possible. Ballistics are the same, no matter if it is a F-Class rifle or a Precision/Tactical rig. However, what strategy to use on those stages is entirely different.

ab_seminar_20161103_gh4_007While Bryan Litz headlined this gig, the seminar included several other great speakers. Emil Praslick formerly of the Army Marksmanship Unit, gave a great block of instruction on Managing the Wind. Listening to his explanation of using aggressive wind calls until you are “missing on the professional (upwind) side” was incredibly informative.

Later in the day Bryan Litz spoke about Strategies for Managing Wind in Competition. If you were an F-Class or ELR shooter, this would be incredibly useful. However the time limits in most tactical/PRS style matches do not allow for these strategies. I would find that occasionally a piece of advice or information did not apply to the type of shooting that I am often involved in. However, this would be the exception, not the rule. Most of the topics were directly applicable to a wide range of rifle competition.

ab_seminar_20161103_gh4_024Nick Vitalbo with nVisti gave a great period of instruction on modern laser rangefinders. It was useful to hear what the design limitations are on civilian and military devices. Nick also covered the practical testing that he did in order to rank the performance and
value of many of the top LRF models. The information he conveyed could easily prevent someone from making a costly purchasing mistake. Looking at the performance graphs confirmed my decision to wait until the Sig Kilo 2400 hits the market before making a new LRF purchase.

AB Seminar LunchLunch and Dinner for both days was served buffet style in the Caraway Conference Center dining room. It was not fantastic fare, but it was adequate. Caraway was fifteen minutes away from the nearest BBQ joint, so going out was not really an option. There was more than enough food, an available salad bar and all the lemonade or iced tea you could drink.

AB Seminar FiresideAfter dinner on both evenings, there were “breakout sessions.” Each speaker had their own area, and you were able to mingle about and ask them individual questions or listen to them answer questions from other attendees. One group commandeered the fire pit on the back porch. This turned out to be a very relaxing setting to mingle with the other attendees. While most of us were at the seminar to hear from the AB crew, the amount of experience that the other attendees had was outstanding. Often comparing your experiences to theirs shed a considerable  amount of light on a certain topic.

AB Seminar spin stabilityDay two started promptly with Spin Stability. The math behind the topics involved should not intimidate your average long range shooter. The formulas were shown, but the information was broken down into table form to make it easier to visualize.

One of the most interesting points was the effect of “over spinning” a bullet and the resulting stability in the transonic zone. This was another point where a light went on for me. The information in this block will definitely affect some choices on my next rifle build.

AB Seminar 375 Lethal MagnumBefore lunch on day two, we were treated to a block taught by Mitch Fitzpatrick of Lethal Precision Arms. Mitch is a member of the US Rifle Team and winner of the “King of Two Miles” ELR competition. Mitch gave us a great rundown on the development of the .375 Lethal Magnum cartridge that he developed for that competition.

After lunch, we got our geek on learning about Weapon Employment Zone (WEZ) and group analysis. Prior to the seminar, I was not sure how WEZ really fit into my shooting and equipment selection. After seeing the potential of WEZ analysis, I will now likely use it often to see if what I am doing will actually make a measurable effect on my hit potential at long range. I believe that WEZ analysis has the potential to save a considerable amount of time and money. Simple things like seeing the effect that going from a 1 MOA rifle to a 1/4 MOA rifle has when combined with real world effects, is an eye opener.

AB Seminar VortexWe were originally scheduled to receive a block of instruction from Eric Stecker with Berger Bullets. In his place, Ian Klemm from Vortex Optics gave us a great inside look at scope design. His was the most detailed explanation of the difference between a first focal place and second focal plane rifle scope. The information he conveyed put a lot of the marketing hype in perspective. While Ian works for Vortex, none of his presentation felt like a sales pitch. It was information that applies to a wide array of scope manufacturers and really focused on why scopes look and work like they do.

AB Seminar AnalyticsThe last block of instruction was presented by Nick Vitalbo and and Doc Beech. This covered setup and use of the AB Analytics program. This program has an in-depth ballistic calculator using G1 and G7 models as well as the AB Custom Drag Curves. You can build gun profiles in the AB Analytics program and load them into your Kestrel. In addition to the ballistic tables, you can also use the AB Analytics software to do WEZ analysis. It allows you to run more than one instance of the program at a time, so you can compare changes to your setup.

AB SeminarThe last day rounded out with another after-dinner breakout session. We spent a good deal of time by the fire sorting out the lessons of the last two days. I managed to get Bryan to lay out his load workup strategy and I was surprised to find out that it was fairly simple. You may see it pop up when we do our .300WM load workup for the Remington 700 Long Range.

If you have read this far, hopefully you have been able to determine if this seminar would benefit you. I have been shooting precision rifles for most of my adult life. However I consider myself on a continual path of education. No matter how much knowledge you accumulate, there is always more to be learned. I consider this seminar a great investment in my precision rifle education.

If you are a new shooter, the Applied Ballistics Seminar may be a bit intimidating. You may find it difficult to visualize some of the concepts. If you have been shooting long range for a couple years, or you have been through some professional classes in the past, then the AB Seminar may give you the knowledge to take your shooting to the next level and to avoid some costly mistakes.

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