July 03, 2023
One of the most influential and unforgettable articles that I’ve read appeared in the September 1991 issue of Guns & Ammo. The feature was titled “Hits at A Half Mile and Beyond,” written by Ross Seyfried. Decades ahead of its time, the story recounts Seyfried’s effort to push the boundaries of rifle performance by making first-round hits on targets a mile away, using a very special custom rifle called “Miss America.”
Miss America was built by Melvin Forbes, founder of Ultra Light Arms, and chambered in a powerful .30-416 wildcat devised specifically for this project. She weighs 181/2 pounds with most of that number coming from the heavy profile 36-inch Douglas barrel. True to the name, Miss America’s stock was painted in a Stars-and-Stripes motif.
On a bitterly cold morning that allowed him to see through the usual mirage, he sent three rounds into a 17-inch triangle covering the target’s center — at a mile. Using the rifle and cartridge, along with a World War II surplus artillery rangefinder and a 16X Leupold spotter, Seyfried achieved his goal.
Making hits at a mile is no longer a feat that makes headlines across the pages of magazines. Shooters involved with Extreme Long-Range (ELR) matches regularly engage targets at two miles, and sometimes beyond. Thirty-two years ago, though, hitting a target at a mile was a difficult challenge. Today, we take for granted the bullets, optics, propellants and technology that makes long-range achievements almost predictable.
Seyfried was limited to using a 220-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet that had a ballistic coefficient of .629. Ballistic computers were analog by modern standards, as were the optics. Ultimately, it was the lack of slow powders that really hamstrung Miss America.
The article hit newsstands just months after the Gulf War ended. Seyfried’s Miss America project was so advanced that the military took possession of the rifle to evaluate its suitability for use by U.S. Special Operations troops. When an officer at Fort Bragg refused to return the rifle, Seyfried contacted the general who arranged the loan. Fortunately, the rifle was delivered to Seyfried’s ranch in Colorado a few hours later. Miss America made the return trip in the back seat of a fighter jet.
Once every year or so, I pull this article out and marvel at it. It made me wonder what Miss America would be capable of if given modern technologies. I reached out and asked Seyfried whether he’d consider revisiting the concept. “I’ve thought about it,” he replied, “but I know a young man down in Alabama who’s still mad at them.” And that is how Miss America, her reloading dies, Seyfried’s notes, and even the leftover powder, came to reside with me.
The 1-in-10-inch barrel twist limits the spectrum of bullets available, but I landed at using Hornady’s 230-grain Match A-Tip. With neck-turned Hornady .416 Rigby brass and a heavy dose of Hodgdon US 869, I achieved 3,487 feet per second of muzzle velocity. For maximum elevation travel and precise adjustments, I installed a Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm optic.
Miss America will soon reappear on stage and best her previous results. The challenge I’m working on is finding the appropriate spot to stretch her legs; a mile isn’t far enough. We’ve reached an era where the limiting factor of long-range performance is not the rifle, optic or ballistics, rather it’s the space available to attempt such hits. It amazes me how far technology and what we know about shooting has come in 30 years, not to mention the pimple-faced kid who read a G&A article way back then.
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