The best way to learn the trajectory of your bullet is to shoot at long range. That’s not an easy option for many shooters so we rely on ballistic reticles, drop charts or ballistic software to help us reach out and get hits. External ballistics – the flight of the bullet between barrel and target – is just a physics problem. Yes, it’s a complicated physics problem but there’s always a mathematical solution. Nikon has simplified this math problem so anyone can work it.
The Nikon Spot-On program is an Internet based, external ballistics calculator. It does several things common to most ballistic calculators. I also dose some additional things that allow shooters to apply the calculations to their specific Nikon riflescope.
One problem many shooters have when working with ballistic programs is obtaining the muzzle velocity of a particular load and the ballistic coefficient (BC) of the bullet used. The BC for most every bullet and the muzzle velocity for almost all currently manufactured ammunitions are already integrated into the Nikon Spot-On program. You don’t have to look them up.
First, log on the Nikon Spot-On web site. You can view tutorials or go right to the calculator. The program will provide trajectory data you can use with any riflescope but its custom tailored to work with Nikon riflescopes. If you have a Nikon riflescope the first thing you need to do is select your scope model. To illustrate how this program works I mounted a Nikon 2-8X32mm Scope with the BDC reticle on my S&W M&P 15-22 and chose that option.
Selecting your ammunition is the next step. Factory advertised velocities are provided but ideally you should input the exact velocity an average velocity obtained with a chronograph. This is precisely what I did using CCI Velocitor ammo. CCI’s advertised velocity was 1435 fps but the actual, average velocity from my rifle was 1410 fps.
Next, enter the appropriate atmospheric and wind conditions. This is relatively easy to obtain by checking the weather on your computer or your smart phone. (More on smart phones later.) You might have to guess at the actual wind direction and speed at your location. Now, you’re ready to look at the trajectory data and go shoot.
There’s several ways the data can be viewed. You can view a field reference ballistics chart, a ballistics table or a ballistics graph. The information can encompass everything from drop, wind drift, downrange energy and velocity and even time of flight. These charts or graphs can be printed, exported to Microsoft Excel or even turned into an Adobe PDF document.
The Spot-On program also correlates the trajectory data to the additional aiming points on Nikon scopes with BDC reticles. It tells you at what range each point will correspond to the bullet’s trajectory. Each BDC circle actually offers three aiming points top, center and bottom. By clicking the “Expand BDC Circles” button you can see the range each point correlates to. Further fine tuning can be achieved by changing scope magnification.
With the printed results – based on a 25 yard zero – in hand, I stepped out to my range and zeroed the M&P 15-22 at 25 yards. I then fired at a 100 yard target using the center of the first circle as an aiming point. The five-shot group impacted the target Spot-On – pun intended. I also checked the combination at 150 yards. The program told me the bottom of the third circle would correspond to 149 yards and that’s the aiming point I used. The group opened to almost three inches but was about as close to center as practical.
This system works just as well with centerfire cartridges. Last year I used a Sisk Rifle .308 Winchester on a Wyoming mule deer hunt. It was topped with a Nikon Monarch 2.5-10X42 riflescope with a BDC reticle. I was using Nosler Custom ammunition and prior to the hunt ran the combination through the Spot-On program. My shot came at 329 yards on a grand old buck. I’d memorized the drop data but also made a cheat sheet and taped it to the rifle’s stock. Using the bottom of the second circle as an aiming point, one shot was all it took.
But what if you handload or shoot a new cartridge not cataloged in the Spot-On program? Not an issue since the only cartridge specific data you need is the muzzle velocity and bullet BC. There is even a section in the program to record handload data. I’ve been shooting the Wilson Combat 7.62 X 40 WT cartridge a lot. By inputting the chronographed velocity of the Wilson Combat ammo and the BC of the 125 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet into the Spot-On Program I found the trajectory data provided was accurate.
There are two other Spot-On features that are neat. The program will tell you how many clicks are needed to adjust the point of aim of any Nikon scope at the range you are shooting. And, what some folks do not realize is that with a standard Nikoplex reticle you can use the taper point on the bottom vertical stadia wire as an additional aiming point – kind of like a BDC reticle. The Spot On program will tell you at what range this point coincides with your load’s trajectory and you can fine tune this range by altering the magnification, by the distance you zero your rifle at or both.
Remember, I said we’d get back to the smart phones? There’s now an APP for the iPhone and one soon to come for Andriod phones. When I worked the Spot-On calculations for the 7.62 X 40 WT I used my iPhone. The data was double checked with my computer and it was exact. Smart phones also make it really easy to obtain atmospheric conditions. Just tap the “current conditions” button and the iPhone does the rest.
Nikon has always made great scopes and the Spot-On program makes them even better. This is especially true for those wanting to reach out and touch something with a bullet. Keep that in mind when you are looking to purchase your next riflescope.
The Nikon Spot-On program lets you consider different zero settings and how they impact your trajectory and your ability to easily apply the Nikon BDC reticle before you start shooting. By altering your zero range or scope magnification you can fine tune your Nikon scope to best match your trajectory.
This old mule deer buck was taken at 329 yards with the aid of a Nikon BDC riflescope and the Nikon Spot-On program. Nikon’s Spot-On program takes the guesswork out of long range shooting.
To maximize the versatility of your Nikon BDC reticle, the Spot-On program has a feature that lets you expand the BDC data. Use this if you want to work with multiple aiming points and better fine tune your long range shooting.