How To Compensate For Shooting Angle – 3 Simple Calculations

When you shoot at an inclined angle, you need to compensate for the significant shot angle because the bullet behaves differently than shooting flat.

If you don’t understand this concept or do it right, you will miss your target all day long and waste your bullets when shooting uphill and downhill.

In order to solve this problem, you must understand holdover, and how to compensate for shooting angle.

When I first started, I wasted over $100 on ammo because I didn’t understand why I was missing. I don’t want you to make the same mistake.

So, I did some research and found this crazy niche thing called High Angle shooting.

In this article let’s learn the 3 simple steps to calculate shooting angle compensation holdover adjustments.


3 Steps To Compensate For Shooting Angle

  1. Measure the line of sight angle and distance
  2. Calculate angle modified range
  3. Use gadgets to simplify the math

Also, please check out our guide on the best rifle scope for heavy calibers for more accurate hits.

What Is High Angle Precision Shooting?

High angle shooting is a challenging aspect of precision shooting uphill and downhill, where the shot angle could be about 45 degrees or greater.

It’s very different than shooting flat where the gravity vector is perpendicular to the bullet’s path. The holdover and the gravity effect on your bullet are different. The most important piece of information is the compensating for the shot angle.

I have attached an awesome resource page here for you that lists 28 weird external ballistic effects a bullet experiences in flight, I think it’s extremely valuable info to learn for anyone interested in accuracy and ballistics.

How Does The Bullet Behave At High Angles

You love long-range shooting, and you must understand some simple trigonometry. When shooting from a high angle, the bullet trajectory is influenced by gravity.

A lot of people may not have the opportunity to do high angle shooting to realize how much impact it has on the built.

Even with a good long range scope and a good gun aren’t enough to fight the physics, and you have to learn a way.

All this has to do with gravity and the adjusted sight height above the bore of the barrel. When shooting on an incline or decline, the gravity vector is along the direction of the bullet. It’s imperative to cut guesswork and figure out the straight line distance to the target.

Think of snipers on the top of the building aiming down on the street. Yeah, That’s what I’m talking about.  It’s where your line of sight and line of the trajectory is almost parallel to the direction of the gravity.

3 Ways To Compensate Holdover Like Todd Hodnett

I don’t want to dig too deep into Pythagorean theorem on this article. If you want to read more about it, click here.

There are some rules developed by Todd Hodnett. He was an ex-marine scout sniper, featured in Magpul Precision Shooting course

The key here is to simplify our process and calculate MOA in our head quickly. So here are 3-simple rules to remember

  • 30 degrees = subtract half-MOA or 0.15 mil every 100m from your normal holdover
  • 45 degrees = subtract 1 MOA or .3mil every 100m from your normal holdover
  • 60 degrees = subtract 2 MOA or .6mil every 100m from your normal hold over AND then add 1 MOA or .3 mil back to the holdover

Simply have those printed on a range card and mount it on the side of the rifle using this mount. Even if you don’t memorize it, you have it right in front of you for use.

Step 1 – Determine The Shot Distance And Angle

The first way is to use a mil-dot master angle range compensation chart to figure out the flat line distance by indexing the angle for the corresponding value on the card. You can go with the expensive fancy digital ones that cost a lot of money that does the same thing, but the one I found on Amazon is inexpensive and it freaking works, and you can get by click here.

If you’re using a compass, simply just put it on the flat part of the rifle while aiming at the target to find the angle.

The shooting angle is measured between the horizontal axis line of your rifle and the line of sight as shown in the illustration below:

Angle Modified Range CalculationShooting at a steep angle changes the shot distance, and effect on the bullet.  So it’s imperative to beware of those numbers.

Flat Line Distance: the actual horizontal distance from the shooter to the target. Simply use the Law of Sines

The line of Sight distance times Cosine(angle) = Flat line distance, aka angle modified distance

The Line of Sight distance: The distance from your scope to the target.

Step 2 – Calculate Angle Modified Range

This part is super easy.

Angle Modified Range = Line of Sight distance X Cos (Shot Angle)

Step 3 – Use Gadgets to Speed Up The Calculation

I like to use a laser range finder to find the distance to the target. I also use a compass with a built-in angle indicator or a mounted angle indicator on my rifle. They help me to figure out my flat line distance later.

Another method is to use a mounted cosine angle indicator. It’s fundamentally a mercury angle leveler that moves as you move the angle of your rifle. The angle is converted to cosine value on the reading, so you just take that number and directly multiple it by the line of sight to get the flatline distance. I highly recommend you mount this thing on your rifle, so you don’t accidentally lose it.

If you gonna buy ANYTHING on a small budget, then make sure you get this thing on Amazon for a great price. Check out the NightForce angle cosine indicator with the mount here.

Using a rangefinder is the easiest. Simply get an angle compensating rangefinder that will calculate the flat line distance instantly for you.  When you’re using the rangefinder, be aware which mode you’re on. Some people will turn it on and grab the number they see and use it.

Make sure you switch to the right mode for the right distance! The line of sight and Angle Modified Range (Flat Line distance or Horizontal Component Distance ) are two different values if the angles are significant. I recommend the Sig Sauer Kilo 1200 Laser Range Finder or the Vortex Impact 850. They are both under $200 and. If you’re on a budget then I would just go with the Sig Kilo 1200 here on Amazon for just $159

Check out other 84 coolest gun gadgets here

Keep the Math Simple

Math the math simple. In the long-range community, they focus on the fundamental way more than the mag dumps tactical CQB community. Everything counts, but it doesn’t have to be hard. A lot of people are a little uncomfortable with it.

What you need to understand is the basic principle and long-range elements, and simplify the formula so everyone can do it. If you want an “Everything-done” for your system, please check out the NEW Sig Sauer BDX system here. It takes the ballistics guesswork out for you completely.

Practice Makes Perfect

In this article, I will cover the basics of high angle shooting. New shooters must understand how flat line zero will change when the angle of your shot changes. Choose the right gear for this type of shooting is important and it will get expensive. As the shooting distance extend, every little thing counts.

Get some high-quality accessories such as a laser range finder and angle cosine indicator. They will help you calculate ballistics at longer ranges. Also, attend a professional course where you learn from professional instructors. This type of shooting is better in person when you have real interaction and feedback. So you can learn faster and avoid mistakes.

Where To Learn High Angle Shooting

  1. School of Extreme Long Range NRA Whittington Center

The course is designed for technical thinking shooters who dig so deep into the math and science of precision shooting. They also offer a class that will teach you to shoot at the edge of science up to 2 miles.

  1. Gunsite Academy

This is for anyone interested engage targets from 1000 to 2000 meters. It’s a  4-day course that cost about $1500.

  1. Extended Long range course by McMillian

This course covers rifle/scope setup and everything you need to know about the fundamentals. They will push the student to extend their capability out to 2000 yards with wildcard calibers like the .338 and .50 or anything in between. They also offer classes for long range shooting up to 1000 yards with smaller caliber rifles. There are so many more classes you can find on Google.

4.  Accuracy 1st 

Accuracy 1st has worked with the Marine Corps and Special Forces snipers. Their Utah facility offers one of the few true high angle shooting ranges in the nation. They offer courses for snipers, high angle, designated marksman, ballistic software training and more.

Related Study Materials

The long-range Shooting handbook by Ryan M. Cleckner, former special operations sniper. This is a well-written book to help new shooters understand fundamental concepts of external ballistics. It covers everything from equipment, terminology, and basic principles of long-range shooting.

Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting Vol 2

This book contains tons of research on applied ballistics. The material inside this book is more for someone who is super into math and science. You will read about bullet dispersion and internal ballistics. If you’re a rocket science type of person, then grab this book here now on Amazon.

Magpul Dynamics The art of the precision rifle

It’s an awesome DVD set created my Magpul Dynamics. It’s almost 6 hours long instructions on long-range shooting from the one of the best instructor Todd Hodnett. Currently, it’s discontinued, so you can’t find it anywhere online for purchase. I’m sure somewhere online you can find it.