863 meter shot with stock Mosin Nagant, vapor trails

by Miles

Or 944 yards in ‘Merican” if that is how you roll. This video came out in April last year, and for some reason we haven’t covered it yet on TFB. But news aside, with a completely stock, surplus Mosin Nagant, this guy makes a couple of successful shots at an extreme range. We all know the battle sights on the Nagant are graduated to 1000 meters, some variants even go up to 2000 meters. Of course, these rifles were never intended to hit a point target beyond 500 meters or so, instead these graduations were meant for entire groups of Russian soldiers to barrage an enemy at those distances with rifle fire, or as the British called it “volley fire” and even had a special rear sight separate from the primary rear sight that was installed on earlier SMLE MK.1 Lee Enfields to be used.

Now the second reason why I find this video extremely interesting is because the cameraman, unbeknownst to him, is actually catching the “vapor” of the bullet’s path through the air, before it reaches the target. You can see it, between the discharge of the rifle, and the impact on the target, the break up of the mirage by the trail of the bullet through the air. Now you aren’t seeing the actual bullet zipping along its trajectory, instead you are seeing the heat that it is leaving behind in the air. This elusive vapor is absolutely essential to long range precision shooting, and especially to the spotter, usually with a spotting scope. The typical practice is to focus in on the target with the spotting scope, then to dial back about a quarter turn so the target is slightly out of focus, but the area between you and the target is in focus, thus being able to catch the “vapor trail”. Sniper teams sometimes have a lot of trouble finding this happy median, and the fact that the cameraman here completely caught it offhand is pretty lucky!

But what is the use of these trails even if you do see them? Well, if you can’t see the impact of the round that missed the target, then the vapor trail will tell you whether it went left, right, high, or low. But only if you know how to read it.

It's hard to catch it because of the low quality on print screen, but if you watch before the shots in the area I highlighted, you'll see it.

This is an excellent example of catching vapor trails from a cameraman that knows his stuff.


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I've made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv

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