"Benchrest Kneeling"

In August I covered the kneeling positionThat was a long time ago.  Since then we’ve started cheating to make our positions more stable by making use of support.  I’m going to discuss two ways of using improvised support in the kneeling position. 

First, you’ll come upon a support that is solid, handy, and at a height that speaks to you thusly: “I’m about the right height for you to use the kneeling position.”  You will then utilize your support hand to steady the forend of the rifle by making use of one of the methods referenced in the above hyperlinked article entitled “Introduction to Improvised Support in Rifle Shooting”.  That’s pretty crazy, because I just hyperlinked to it again.

Here’s where we tweak the kneeling position.  In normal kneeling the front knee is up to support the bulk of the rifle’s weight and the rear knee is on the ground for stability.  When we use artificial support to steady the rifle, we eliminate the need for the support side knee to hold the weight of the rifle.  You could put that knee on the ground even without it mattering one iota.  So let’s just put it on the ground to see what happens.  Do you need both knees on the ground?  No.  Could your firing side knee perform some other function since we don’t need it on the ground for stability anymore?  YES!

What we’re going to use the right knee for is to stabilize the wobbly firing side arm (that bane of precise shooting from the kneeling position!).  I had thought of this a while back.  I later saw Michael Voigt teach this in season 3 of Top Shot (my one guilty pleasure) when they shot with the Sako TRG’s with 20” barrels.  It just goes to show that some things are so common sense that people will come to the same conclusion independently.

Here’s what it looks like (again, everything was done left handed this month, in deference to December being weak handed shooting month):



Here’s an improvement that I don’t think I would have figured out had I done the work for this article shooting right handed.  I figured out a way to make this even more stable, like a “benchrest kneeling” if you will.  This is so simple it’s stupid that I hadn’t thought of it before.  The above supported kneeling uses your firing side knee to support the elbow- that’s pretty good, right?  Why not just use the knee to support the rear of the rifle stock?  Duh???!!!



Your ability to adjust for elevation is a little more limited with Benchrest Kneeling.  If you can move the front support hand without hindrance vertically, then you’ll be able to adjust to anything.  If not, the rear knee can only go so high or so low.

This goes to show that shooting weak sided has another benefit.  You bring all your shooting experience to learning something from a new perspective.  All the principles of marksmanship that you practice will manifest themselves in ways you didn’t expect.  Being “weaker” can also help you find more efficient ways to do things.

I discovered a few things about benchrest kneeling for you.  First is that to make the best use of it you’ll want a horizontal support.  The way vertical support works, you have to hang on.  Hanging on induces a bit of wobble.  If you’re going to wobble, you might as well use regular supported kneeling, because, to be honest, benchrest kneeling is a bit of a pain.  Finding that perfect height of horizontal support (just less than the height of your knee) is like finding a unicorn.  It’s funny how I’m writing about positions that are supposed to be used with support that just happens to be there, and I go to the range and have to bring my “improvised support” with me (I’ve used a vehicle several times) or spend a long time looking for just the right thing.

Another thing I need to warn you about.  Take a look at this picture:


This was from day 2 using benchrest kneeling.  Day 1 was the day where there’s not enough daylight left and for some reason the scope isn’t adjusted the way it should be, and even if it was, I forgot to use the correct holdunder for the range I was at.  Not that I ever make mistakes.  But this was from day 2.  The red “x” denotes something bad.  You’d think that I got all of the bad stuff out on day 1.  Not so.

Looking at the picture, can you see what’s going to happen when the rifle recoils?  Let me give you a hint:  notice how the grip cap protrudes slightly.  Then notice where it is in relation to the muscle just above my knee.  Also consider what recoil is (the rifle will move back).  That made my leg stiff and sore for about 2 days, and the first day was pretty bad.

The trick to avoid sustaining an injury is to keep the knee well behind the grip cap, just in front of the rear sling swivel.  You can adjust this by altering your body angle.  This only happened on that one day, so if you do it correctly, you should be fine.

On day 3 of shooting with benchrest kneeling, I finally was able to get 10 rounds off and into a single target, though I was not pleased with the results:

 Sako75bR kn lh 2.9

This was reminiscent of the worst vertical stringing I have experienced with this rifle.  Google Earth says that the range was just over 140 yards, which makes the group 2.9 MOA.  I hadn’t thought it was quite that far; my guess was 120. I checked the torque on my action screws when I got home.  I had set the torque at 35 inch pounds prior to shooting the previous 20-40 rounds.  When I checked it after the above group they were at about 20 inch pounds.  Gotta love a wood stock, especially in the winter, when it freezes and thaws on a daily basis.

I spent some time thinking about the crappy group.  Here’s what I came up with.  I didn’t call any of my shots that bad, and I’m usually pretty accurate at calling my shots.  What I did notice while shooting was that my new zero, which is this,




makes it difficult to tell where exactly to plant the tip of the upper thick post in a black diamond that appears to be the same width as the post.  A 12 o’clock hold would have been a bit more precise.  Secondly, my rifle is known for vertical stringing.  Thirdly, I was shooting left handed.  Fourth, I was testing a new position.  Fifth, because my rifle is not super accurate, my load testing was not super extensive.  I picked a load that seemed to be OK without being super hot.

To sum up the variables, they would be:

1.    The new position.
2.    Inaccurate rifle.
3.    Left Handed.
4.    Weird and unfamiliar zero.
5.    Unknown absolute accuracy of the ammunition.

I decided to shoot this with the Remington 700 .308 and Federal Gold Medal 168 grain ammunition with a 100 yard zero.  That brings the variables to this:

1.    The new position.
2.    Inaccurate rifle.
3.    Left Handed.
4.    Weird and unfamiliar zero.
5.    Unknown absolute accuracy of the ammunition.

I also decided to shoot it right handed as well, because I want the best for you, even though December is Weak Sided Shooting Month.  That brings the variables tested to this:

1.    The new position.
2.    Inaccurate rifle.
3.    Left Handed.
4.    Weird and unfamiliar zero.
5.    Unknown absolute accuracy of the ammunition.

I sure hope you appreciate all the trouble I go to so you have an accurate test.

Here’s what happened on a balmy 30° day with plenty of fog at 100 yards:

Benchrest Kneeling Left Handed:


Benchrest Kneeling L 2point 5moa
2.5 MOA

Benchrest Kneeling:

Br Kn R 2point3 point9
2.3 MOA.  Without those three little guys (those guys, I wouldn’t worry about those guys) the group is 0.9 MOA, but it’s really still 2.3 MOA.

What about the regular supported kneeling?  It’s pretty much as good.

Left handed:

Supp Kn LH 2point1
2.1 MOA

Right Handed:

Supp Kn rh 2point4
2.4 MOA, but I was trying to make a happy face smoking a cigar, plus I have a bridge I want to sell you.

Remember when I said that I didn’t call the shots of the first group (REALLY BAD VERTICAL STRINING) as bad as they were?  I didn’t call any of these more than a half inch out of the black!  That leads me to believe that my calls in this position are faulty for some reason.  I don’t know what to make of it, because I’m used to my calls being pretty much right on.

My conclusion is that these two positions are for all intents and purposes, capable of the same level of accuracy.  I think that with some work, benchrest kneeling still has the capability to be more accurate, but it’s a real pain in the rear to shoot from.  Supported kneeling is a little more user friendly, but still needs to be practiced with, because it’s not super intuitive.

So the name, “benchrest kneeling” is pretty indicative of its potential accuracy, which is about halfway between using a bench and kneeling, if not a little bit closer to the benchrest (but then, what else would you expect from the mind of a genius?).

Good luck.  Vaya con Dios, señor.

Random Thoughts on Weak Sided Rifle Handling

Weak handed month was an interesting and rewarding experience.  I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the things I learned that didn’t apply directly to bolt guns.


I spent some time with the AR carbine left handed.  I was surprised as how well it works left handed.  I don’t think you really lose much.  The only things that weren’t as easy were dropping mags and charging the bolt with the forward hand.  Even those weren’t harder by much.  When changing mags, just use the right thumb as you pull the spent mag out.  It takes a little longer, yes, but it’s very positive.  Charging the bolt is just a matter of getting the fingers around and getting the face out of the way.  Just something to get used to.


What I was surprised of was how easy it was to operate the safety, and I don’t use an ambi.  When you’re indexed with the safety on, keep the trigger finger above the safety.  When you’re ready to fire, just sweep the finger down and the safety off.  To turn the safety on, just curl the finger back and use the tip.  It’s very easy with a little practice.  I think it’s easier than with the right hand.


The other thing you gain with the AR by using it left handed is the ability to lock the bolt to the rear and release it with the index finger.  No BAD lever needed.  Clearing double feeds just got a little faster.


I already had my flashlight mounted where I can use it with either hand.  It’s just a matter of enough practice so that it gets found automatically without any searching.


Like the AR, the M1A works beautifully left handed.  It really shines.  I consider the M1A a jack of all trades.  You’ve got more capacity, but not as much as some rifles.  You’ve got the capability for a fast, accurate rate of fire, but not as fast as, say, an AR carbine.  You’ve got decent accuracy, but not like a bolt gun.  The effective range is good, but not remarkable.  The iron sights are excellent, but mounting optics brings with it a lot of complicated changes that, in my opinion, aren’t worth it.  Take it for what it is, don’t expect anything more, and you’ll be happy with it.  The M1A looks better in person than on paper anyway, and it seems to add up to more than the sum of its attributes.


The op-rod handle being on the right works really well for using it left handed.  If you’re standing up, it’s in a great spot to bring the forward hand back to charge it.  If you can’t bring your hand back easily (say you’re slung up) then it’s not a big deal.  Say you ran the mag dry.  The mag release is ambidextrous, so no big deal.  Put in the new mag and release the bolt by rotating your left index finger around the stock.  Give the op-rod handle a little tug and home it goes.  Everything else on the rifle is already ambidextrous anyway.


Having an ambidextrous outlook on shooting requires a method to switch sides efficiently.  Regardless of the carry position, I’ve found that the same method seems to work the best to switch.  Move the butt over to the opposite side.  If the muzzle is up, then it’s kind of like swinging a pendulum.  Switch the rear hand forward, then bring the forward hand to the rear, and be careful to keep it out of the trigger guard until you’re actually ready to fire.  


One thing I haven’t come to terms with as far as the AR is concerned is what to do with the sling when I switch sides.  My preference is a 2 point sling on the AR.  The single point sling doesn’t offer enough control for me.  The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is to run the 2 point sling without my arm in it, just my neck.  I don’t like it, but what’s a guy to do?
I really hope that you’ve embraced this opportunity to spend some time on your weak side.  If you can’t deal with reality and still want to call it “non-dominant” that’s just fine to.  You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like you.

Guest Post: Lessons Learned of Hunter Education

by John M. Buol Jr.

The Department of Natural Resources of Wisconsin sends all certified hunter education instructors a compiled list of statistics from the previous season’s hunt. Being one of the top ten states for deer hunter participation, this makes an interesting and accurate case study. Let’s go over the lessons learned from the compiled numbers and see what we can discover about trends in field shooting and safety skills of hunters.


First, the good news. Organized events, even those as rudimentary as basic hunter education, are marvelously effective at improving safety skills. In 1907, decades before hunter education was established, there were 97 reported firearm mishaps statewide of which 41 resulted in death. Total deer harvested was about 6,000.


In 2002, over five decades after the first hunter education program was established, the number of incidents was less than half that (47 total) despite a much larger hunting population taking the field: 618,945 licenses sold with 277,959 deer harvested.


According to the National Safety Council there is currently an average of seven firearm-related incidents for every 100,000 hunters in the United States. Wisconsins 2002 rate works out to 7 : 92,184; close to the established national average.


This is yet more proof how safe shooting and hunting can be IF participants bother attending even the simplest, organized, skill-building event. Wisconsins hunter education course is a scant 10 hours with a large number of topics in the curriculum and there is no shooting proficiency test or standard. Twelve-year olds find the coursework simple. Worst of all, no follow-on events are offered or even suggested. Yet, the difference between the most vestigial training and none is astonishing.


Hunter education instructors and administrators deserve a pat on the back. Not too hard, though, as there are still a number of embarrassing problems to iron out.


In other articles and reports Ive pointed out that about a third of all hunting accidents are self-inflicted and half are perpetrated by a hunting party member (someone the offending hunter knew was there.) That means there is no acceptable excuse for at least 80 percent of the mishaps.


The 2002 statistics prove this yet again. 14 of the 47 incidents (29.78%) were self inflicted and 24 of the incidents (51.06%) involved a hunter shooting a member of his own party. These incidents can be traced to abject incompetence due to unfamiliarity.


Actual hunting experience, without continuing range experience and training, is of little help. Tim Lawhern, Wisconsins Hunter Education Administrator, has noted in print that hunters with a number of years of hunting experience are often some of the worst offenders, not the new, inexperienced kids. The numbers bear this observation out. Nearly half of the perpetrators (22 out of 47, 46.8%) were over the age of 35 and had hunted without mishaps for years. How can this be?


A new hunter takes basic hunter education and learns rudimentary skills. The tentative newbie is cautious with the lessons fresh in his mind. Unfortunately, after this one required event most hunters do nothing to further their field shooting and handling skills beyond this kindergarten level. As the years pass with incident-free hunts, and nothing done to relearn and reinforce lessons learned, complacency sets in.


We see this with alarming frequency when adult hunters attend a field day with their kids – at least when we can get them to actually toe the line and shoot in front of the class. Ive learned that the experienced hunter often has to be watched even closer than the kids at first.


The new students safety procedures are just beginning to approach the Consciously Competent level. He may have to think about it first, but he knows what to do. The hunter who has neglected to reinforce these lessons too often reverts back to the Unconsciously Incompetent level, and doesnt realize how much of the little skill obtained years back at the mandatory hunter education class has been forgotten.


The most basic safety protocol violations, improper muzzle control and failing to keep fingers clear of the trigger, have to be watched for and corrected for a few rounds before the hunter begins to remember them again. Without a semi-regular refresher, such as a class, match, or other event, too many hunters learn the hard, painful way and end up as statistics in reports like this.


Im continually amazed and disappointed at the number of really dumb and preventable gun mishaps. Some typical examples:

·         “Victim reholstered pistol after a shot with finger on trigger, shot self in thigh.”
·      “Victim had safety off and finger on trigger, shot self in foot.”
·      “Victim sat down against tree and gun discharged.”

The numbers confirm the need for skill-refreshing events. Nearly two-thirds of the self-inflicted incidents (9 out of 14, 64.2 percent) involved hunter education graduates shooting themselves, and a exactly three quarters of the perpetrators who shot their hunting partner (18 out of 24, 75 percent) were graduates as well.


This is NOT a condemnation of the hunter education curriculum or instructors, rather, it is further evidence of the need to provide and promote adequate follow-on activities and sufficient participation by the majority of hunters and gun owners. As noted above, the most basic training experience makes a huge difference. Its the follow-up, getting rank-and-file gun owners and hunters to bother to show up to shoots once in a while, where we drop the ball.

In summary:


·         Organized, skill building events work! The huge drop in negligence due to Hunter Education proves it.

Follow on experience is essential or the lessons will be lost. A mandatory, one time event is not enough.

Raw number of years spent hunting is a poor indicator of skill. Hunters sometimes wait a year (or more!) between hunts. Refreshing skills in between through organized shooting events is vital.



John M. Buol Jr. is a former active duty small arms instructor for the US Army serving as Course Writer and Machine Gun Gunnery NCOIC at the Small Arms Instructor Academy, Camp Bullis, TX. Having returned to a reserve status, he is the editor of American Gunsmith magazine, director of the Firearm User Network and a freelance writer on marksmanship-related topics. Buol is a member of the US Army Reserve Shooting Team, has earned both Distinguished Rifleman and Pistol Shot badges and a classification of Master in several shooting disciplines. He can be reached through his website at http://FirearmUserNetwork.com

Moving Target Engagement

Stationary paper targets have a serious drawback for the shooter who wants to become a complete rifleman.  They are stationary (please don’t be jealous of my insightful pearls of wisdom).  “Real world” targets, whether in the hunting field or the battlefield have a tendency to move.

Generally there are two broad categories for how things move, predictable and unpredictable.  A predictable target is generally one that is moving to a destination.  An unpredictable target moves because it is engaged in an activity, grazing, can’t sit still, etc…

The unpredictable target will usually move for a period of time, then stop, followed by more movement.  For this type of target you can usually wait until it stops.  I have heard this referred to as “patterning”.  I recommend dry firing at chickens’ heads to pick this up.  Just choose a target from one of your chickens as they meander around the chicken run and try to get a head shot from a decent distance.  The chicken will stop momentarily for eating or drinking.  You have to be quick because it won’t stay there long, and their head move very erratically.  Don’t worry, we’re not violating any safety rules, because if you shot it you could eat it.  Yummy.

If you don’t have any chickens…  I’m guessing you probably have a TV. In that case I would recommend placing a piece of armored steep behind your TV.  Then shoot your TV and buy some chickens (reader assumes all risk associated with following stupid advice).

For shooting at predictable targets, you will be solving the following problem: “How far will the target move in the time it takes my bullet to reach it?”  That really is the essence of the problem.  Just remember that and the numbers won’t be as confusing.  You’ll need to solve this problem ahead of time, because it involves math.  You don’t want to be doing math when it’s time to shoot.  As Tuco said in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”: “When you have to shoot- shoot, don’t do math.” To work this out you’ll need:

1. Access to a ballistics program that can give you time of flight for your load at any given distance.
2. A way to estimate your distance to target.
3. A way to estimate your target speed.
4. A calculator.

For item 1 I like to use the Berger Bullets Ballistics Program.  There are several ways to satisfy the range estimation factor, so I’ll gloss over that for now.  As for estimating target speed, you’ll probably need to do some research on your target.  Is it a deer, a coyote, an elk? How fast do they walk? How fast do they run?

On to the math.  Most people think of most moving objects in miles per hour.  I know I do, so I tend not to fight that urge.  Let’s say we have a target that moves at 5 mph and the movement is perfectly lateral to us.  Our bullet speed is measured in feet per second.  We need to compare apples to apples, so let’s convert the target’s speed in MPH to FPS.  The conversion from MPH to FPS is MPH(1.467).  For our example of 5 MPH, that would be 5(1.467) = 7.335 FPS.

Now that you know how fast the target is moving, you need to figure out how far it will move in the time it takes your bullet to reach it.  To accomplish this you need to know your distance, and the corresponding time of flight (TOF).  The TOF is the important number we need, but it’s dependent on the distance.  Let’s say the target is at an even 200 yards.  With my imaginary 155 grain Nosler Custom Competition bullet going 3000 FPS my time of flight will be around 0.2149 seconds (as predicted by the Berger Ballistics program).

To figure out how far my target will travel in the amount of time my bullet takes to reach it, we’ll use the old D = R*T.  That would be D = 7.335*0.2149. D = 1.576 with the value being feet.

Having the lead value in feet is okay, but it’s not going to be a very precise way to place a shot at 200 yards.  Instead, let’s say you have one of those really cool mil reticles that enhances your ability to utilize your shooting platform to the utmost (lucky!!!).  Then we’ll have to convert that value to mils.  Since we have been thinking in feet so far, but shooters tend to think in yards, we have to remember two things: 1.) That a mil equals 1/1000 of the distance to target, and, 2.) There are 3 feet in a yard.  That means that the denominator in our formula will be Yards(.003). That would be 200(.003) = 0.6

Let’s finish out the formula.  We’re still converting feet to mils at our distance of 200 yards.  That is 1.576/0.6 = 2.6 mils that the target will travel in the time it takes our bullet to reach it.  That makes your lead, on a 5 MPH target at a distance of 200 yards, 2.6 mils.

The entire formula calculate your lead in mils is:

(mph)(1.467)(TOF) = Lead in mils

mph= target speed in miles per hour
TOF= bullet time of flight
Yards= distance to target in yards

This assumes that your target is traveling at a 90 degree angle to the flight of your bullet   I encourage you to give this a try at the range from a known distance with a moving target of a known speed.  I was just as skeptical as you probably are, but it works.

Remember that you need to do the math ahead of time.  You can plug the formula into a spreadsheet.  Then you can make a quick reference chart.  Here’s what mine for my .308 looks like:

Mover Chart
It would help a lot to have something general committed to memory so you don’t need to consult a chart before you fire.  The chickens probably won’t wait for you.  Notice that the lead values for any given speed seem to move up rather gently and regularly as the distance increases.  This is helpful.

There are two strategies you can use to hit your moving target, “trapping” and “tracking”.

Tracking involves moving your rifle along with the target while attempting to maintain your point of aim and pressing off a shot.  I think that this works better when your target is closer or appears to be moving somewhat quickly relative to you.  A 3 MPH target at 100 yard appears to be moving quickly to me.  This seems to require a more dynamic technique, which is what tracking is.

Trapping involves waiting for your target to cross your point of aim, then breaking the shot at the precise moment that it arrives at your correct lead.  This could allow you to get “set” a little better.  The drawback is that if the target is moving quickly, you’ll have to press the trigger quickly.  This could be detrimental to your accuracy.

I mentioned before that the formula I referenced above gives a lead for a “full value” moving target, i.e., one that is moving at exactly 90° to your bullet’s flight path.  What if the target is moving at a different angle?  Let’s take it step by step.  A target moving at 90° is a full value lead.  A target moving at 0° would have no lead (although technically the distance of the target will change).  Obviously, a target moving at an oblique angle will have a lead value more than zero, and less than 100%.

To figure out the lead for a target moving at an oblique angle takes a bunch more math, multiplying the full value lead by the sine of the angle.  I did this in excel and had to convert the angle from degrees to radians to get it to work.  It was a pain.  Here’s a relevant question.  How accurately can you determine the angle that your target is moving under stress and time?  Here’s another.  How well will you be able to remember the correct value and perform the calculation?  Have we even considered what a breeze is going to do here (are you dizzy yet?)?  With that in mind, here is probably too much information:

Angle of Target Movement           Multiply the full lead by:

75°                                                    .97

60°                                                    .87

45°                                                    .71

30°                                                    .50

15°                                                    .26

This is mostly just theoretical information so you can get an idea of how it works.  I’m thinking that the most you can reasonably expect yourself to keep track of is a full lead value for the most likely average speed of your target.  If the speed increases, you might add a little lead.  If the speed appears to double, double the lead.  If the angle is significant, you might cut the lead in half.  If the angle is not so significant, you might just shave a little off.

The best way to learn to handle moving targets is to shoot moving targets.  Theory is fine, but rounds downrange is where it’s at.  So get out there.








Gear Review: Tactical Intervention Slip Cuff Rifle Sling

Last month I reviewed the Tab Gear Sling.  This month I was fortunate enough to locate and borrow a specimen of one of the competitors to the TAB, the Tactical Intervention Sling.  The Tactical Intervention has been on the tactical sling scene for quite a while now, long enough to secure a contract with the USMC.

Tactical Intervention Specialists (TIS) is a small business owned by Mike Miller, who is also a police sergeant.  Unlike TAB, TIS seems to offer only one type of product, the rifle sling.  TIS offers multiple variations of 2 basic sling designs, the Quick Cuff Sling and the Slip Cuff Sling.  The Quick Cuff Model Two is the sling that won the contract for the USMC M40A5.  The Quick Cuff incorporates a nylon band secured by velcro that is worn around the arm when deploying with the rifle.  The band has one end of a fastex buckle that can be snapped into the sling should the user want to loop up.  I don’t like wearing bands around my arm, so the Quick Cuff is not for me.  That’s why I mentioned it first- to get it out of the way.

The sling I obtained for testing and reviewing is what I believe to be a Slip Cuff Quick Release sling.  I believe the name of the sling comes from the style of the sling’s loop, which constricts like a slip knot.  The sling also has two fastex buckles.  One of the buckles opens the loop, in case you need to get out in a hurry.  The other buckle separates the sling at the center.  These slings undergo constant revisions, so it can be difficult to keep up with what you actually have.  The current sling seems to have a quick adjustment for length, which the sling I am in possession of does not.

The easiest way I can think of to describe the Slip Cuff sling is that it’s a perfected version of the USGI web sling.  If you use a USGI web sling on a “social” rifle, the Slip Cuff has everything you want from the USGI sling, nothing you don’t, and does it better than the USGI.  Let me explain.

The USGI web sling has the ability to form a “constrictor” type loop, which I described in the TAB Gear Sling review.  The constrictor type of loop is like a slip knot, and gets tighter on your arm as the sling tension increases.  The TIS Slip Cuff forms the same kind of loop.  A constrictor loop has the advantage of staying put on the arm for consistency and generally precludes the need to constantly readjust it to keep it in the right place.  The disadvantage is that it can get overly tight and restrict circulation to the support arm.

Another disadvantage with constrictor type loops is that when the sling is used to carry the rifle, the loop typically gets pulled closed, which causes the sling to get very long and makes the loop slow to locate when you need it.  I was curious as to how the Slip Cuff addressed this.  I was impressed with the genius of a simple cure to this problem.  I had designed a sling that used a fastex type buckle to hold the loop open, and thought this was the most practical way to keep the loop from closing.  I was wrong.  Mike Miller just doubled up the thickness of the sling at the loop, which keeps the slider from passing over it and closing the loop.  That’s just total genius.  It keeps the sling as simple as possible.

The TIS’s loop.


     That double thickness keeps the loop from getting closed in on itself.  Brilliant.

To loop up with the USGI web sling, you must first detach the rear of the sling from the stud.  This is not necessary with the TIS.  All you need to do is give the loop a half turn, insert the arm, pull the sling taut, and fire.

The only feature of the USGI sling that the Slip Cuff does not replicate is the extreme ease of length adjustment.  The USGI uses a slider that opens easily to adjust the length of both the loop and the overall sling length.  The TIS instead uses separate tri-glide sliders at both ends of the sling to adjust.  These are easy enough to use, and fast enough for an adjustment that really doesn’t need to be all that fast.  The overall length of the sling can be adjusted from a comfortable length for shoulder carry, to a good length for a hasty sling, or long enough to put the sling over the shoulder with the rifle on the back.

The only thing I don’t like about this particular model sling is the buckles.  I would instead opt for the regular version of the Slip Cuff.


I’ve used the TAB a lot, and the TIS a little.  Here’s my comparison:

The workmanship of the slings is comparable.  They are both constructed very well, and should last pretty much as long as you will.

The loops of the slings reflect different, and basically opposite philosophies- constrictor vs. non-constrictor.  The constrictor loop of the TIS is tighter and more solid.  The non-constrictor of the TAB is faster and more comfortable.  Your preference in this matter should determine which of these two slings you prefer.  The TAB is faster to loop up with.  The TIS will probably stay put better once you loop up.  Personally, I lean towards the non-constrictor, and therefore the TAB.  If you are the type of person that just likes things very tight, you might prefer the TIS.

The TIS is easier to adjust for length.  The hardware is similar, basically metal tri-glides.  The TAB uses what appear to be stamped tri-glides, which are flat and don’t adjust as easy.  They appear to be quite strong.  The TIS uses what appear to be cast metal tri-glides.  They are rounded and adjusted significantly easier.  For some reason, they don’t appear to be as strong as the stamped ones.  Since appearances can be deceiving, I can’t say for sure which one is actually stronger.

The TIS uses the quick release Uncle Mike’s swivels.  I have used these a lot and think they’re fine.  The only complaint I have of them is that the threaded plungers on them can move, causing you to not be able to detach them when you need to.  The TAB uses the Talon swivels, which aren’t adjustable.  This is a plus in my opinion for a rifle that may be used under stress.

The TIS was of a length that worked well and was easily adjustable to accommodate what the user has in mind.  The TAB, due to its sectional design, is either too long or too short on my rifle.  To be fair, this is somewhat dependent on the rifle and the user, but the TIS is just easier in this regard.  I believe that the non-buckle version of the TAB would be of a better length, and potentially easier to adjust, but I’ll have to buy one and see for sure.

Tips on using the TIS Slip Cuff Sling (and why it’s good to practice weak sided).

I enjoyed figuring out how to efficiently deploy this sling while at the same time adapting to using the sling while shooting left handed.  The first thing I had to get down was just being backwards and having to rewire my brain.  Of course I knew intellectually which direction to give the sling a half twist before putting the arm in, clockwise for right handed shooters, counterclockwise for southpaws, or righty tighty, lefty loosey (if you have no idea what I’m talking about read this).  Intellect being what it is, it really didn’t make it any easier to figure out instinctively how to sling up left handed.

I decided to figure out the most efficient way to loop up that I could use on either my strong side or my weak side without changing my technique.  This technique is easily adaptable to either the TIS or TAB, but there are some subtle maneuvers needed to make the TIS work just right.

First you need to give the loop a half twist the proper direction and prepare it for the support arm to enter.  In both the TIS and TAB, the loop should already be open and located approximately just in front of the trigger guard.  Reach the firing hand down from the pistol grip to the sling.  Stay to the outside of the sling.  Reach underneath the sling at approximately the middle of the loop.  Your hand should be on the part of the sling that faces away from the rifle.  Curl either the index or middle finger (one or the other, not both) into the loop.  I used the middle, because it made me feel like I was staying indexed and the middle finger was longer and easier to reach around the sling.  The argument for using the index finger is that it’s more tactile, has a better feel for where the trigger is, and can better avoid contact with the trigger when you bring it back to the trigger guard.  Try both and choose the one you like the best.

Keep the sling trapped in your fingers, and bring your hand back to the pistol grip.  The finger that you used to wrap around the loop of the sling should be placed on the outside of the trigger guard.

That took all of about 1 second.  The loop is now ready to receive your support arm.

Shove the arm in deep.  I typically get it to the bottom of the bicep on the initial shove (most people look at me and wonder how it’s possible at all to get it farther in such a small loop).  This is where the firing side hand has to work the loop over the bicep.  When using the TIS Slip Cuff, this is also where the “subtle maneuvering” comes in.  Let me explain.

In the description of the sling, I called it as I saw it, like a USGI sling without any of the problems.  That was before I used it much.  The loop on this sling, although it is like a slip knot, does not close readily when you pull it.

Sling is being pulled tight, but the loop does not close.

I believe that the reason the loop doesn’t close is that there is a lot of friction between the double thick portion of loop and the buckles.  Think of the slip knot; if you held the loop with your fist so that the rope couldn’t slide, and you pulled, the knot wouldn’t close.

The TIS Slip Cuff will only act like a slip knot if the side of the loop that connects to the upper buckle is pulled.

The trick that comes into play when using the Slip Cuff is to get the constrictor to constrict.  Why is this important?  Firstly, we don’t want the sling to slip off (I hope that’s not why it’s called the Slip Cuff).  Secondly, the length of the top portion of the sling will change as the loop tightens.  Recoil will likely be a sharp enough force to cause the loop to close in a bit.  Since the sling is the only thing that holds the rifle up (because you’re completely relaxed right???) if the length of the loop portion changes, your natural point of aim will also change (if you don’t know what NPA is read this).

So how to get the loop to close?  Picking up from where we left off, the support arm has been shoved in up to the bottom of the bicep.

We want the sling above the bicep, so the firing hand is going to have to work it up.


Working the sling up is accomplished by a side to side motion under the arm.  As you work the sling up moving side to side, grab that bottom buckle and move it to the inside of the arm and up towards the other buckle.


Now grab the webbing between the two buckles and pull that back down in the direction you just came from.

This motion was accomplished in the regular movements you would have made anyway to get the sling over the bicep.  Now you have a tight loop that shouldn’t come loose, but instead should stay snug or get tighter upon recoil.  Total time to sling up is about 9-10 seconds, about 3 seconds slower than the TAB, about half of a USGI web sling.

Rating the TIS:

I rated the TIS Slip Cuff Quick Release sling as an 8.5 out of 10.  Here’s why: The sling’s characteristics as a carry strap are as good as any sling I’ve encountered.  The length is easy to adjust.  It can be set to a perfect carry length and a perfect loop length all at the same time.  It can also be easily readjusted if need be.  This is its big advantage over the regular TAB sling I reviewed last month, which was either too long or too short in the carry mode on my rifle.

The loop is a little slower to loop up with than the TAB, and requires a little more finesse or technique.  In my opinion, it’s just a little touchier to loop up with.  Not a lot, but I think the TAB is a more instinctive sling to shoot with.

The hardware and workmanship is comparable to the TAB sling.  I like the Talon swivels on the TAB marginally better than the Uncle Mike’s swivels on the TIS.  That’s really just my personal preference.

I don’t like buckles on my slings.  That has to be an immediate drop of a half point for me.  I think they’re kind of gimmicky.  Why do I have buckles on the slings I’ve tested?  Well, the TIS isn’t mine, so as far as ordering the TAB with the buckles, live and learn I guess.

Overall, I rated the TIS a half point higher than the TAB.  I find the design quite ingenious, and I think it does what it intends to do more gracefully than the TAB.  Having said that, I still have a preference for the TAB (that is how objective I am in my reviews).  I think the loop on the TAB is quicker, easier and more intuitive to use.  I really like the triple thick portion on the back of the TAB as well.

Would I feel okay if I had to put the TIS on my rifle?  I would feel fine.  It works great for everything you could ask of it.  At this point, I’m splitting hairs, because I’m kind of a perfectionist on some things.  I would prefer this sling to a USGI any day of the week and twice on Sundays.  I hope you found this helpful.

2/2/13 note: I designed my own sling that I think works much better than either of the aforementioned slings for field use.  Details can be found here.

Guest Post: The Truth About Assault Rifles

by John M. Buol Jr.

Why do military forces around the world issue assault rifles? Why was there a switch from .30 caliber-range cartridges to the .22 caliber range? The media, including the pro-gun media, has done a good job brainwashing the average public about “assault weapons” and such.


The concept was developed in WWII by the Germans, who pioneered many new weapon designs to support their “Blitzkrieg” offensive tactics. Instead of holing up in some muddy trench, the Germans were mobile, and effectively integrated artillery, armor and infantry.


To make the troops more nimble, the relatively new small arms designs from WWI were made lighter and faster to use. Medium machine guns were used to defend trenches and were water-cooled to fulfill a SF (sustained fire) role. German designers improved on the concept by utilizing a quick change barrel (e.g., MG34 and MG42) to eliminate the overly heavy water jacket and condenser can.


Several designers noted that troops couldn’t make use of full-powered, bolt-action rifles and submachine guns with pistol ammo weren’t effective at long range, so it was decided to mutate a rifle with a subgun. The result was the Sturmgewehr, or “storm gun.” It fired an intermediate cartridge and bridged the gap between true rifles and submachine guns. This was the first assault rifle.


So, why does the military prefer assault rifles? People make a big deal about “high powered, military designed, killing machines”, but don’t understand what the military needs in small arms.


Infantry engagements are usually in poor visibility with an undefined enemy force. Troops fire in the vicinity of a poorly defined “objective”, located “over there.” For instance, the immediate action drill for a sniper is to drop, yell the rough direction, (“SNIPER, 3 O’CLOCK!”) and either close in or fall back.


An individual trooper probably won’t be able to find a clear target to engage so he engages with “suppressive fire.” That is, shooting about one round every two seconds at the “objective”, which is a target that may not be visible. The idea is to (hopefully) pin down the enemy while another element maneuvers. Then the roles are switched and another element shoots. This fire storm is basically a ruse, but it is effective. You might not have a target but you lay down lead and hope your enemy doesn’t realize this!


Also, add in the fact that your typical troop is a lousy shot. Sorry to have to say this, but military trained personnel rarely receive enough quality instruction and training time to match the skill level of competitive shooters. Add this lackluster skill set to the speed, stress, and unstable shooting conditions of combat and dependable hits to individual targets become iffy beyond hand grenade range so we compensate by shooting more.


That is why you read reports such as 20,000 rounds fired per enemy killed. But this “fire storm” works. Military small arms are designed to be bullet hoses even though the equipment is capable of shooting with reasonable precision. That’s why military rifles and carbines are chambered in intermediate cartridges. The trooper can carry more! Basic load for an infantryman is seven 30-round magazines, or 210 rounds and most carry more.


This tactic only works in large groups. Typically, infantry attacks on the company level (over 100 men) and has lots of support. They need it to provide all that ammo they are going to spray!


Assault rifles can shoot fast. But shooting fast isn’t lethal. Hitting fast is lethal.


For the individual, who has to provide his own ammo, the goal is one shot, one hit. With a rifle past 25 yards fast hits are more dependent on quality of sights, trigger and shooter skill.


A skilled rifleman with a lever action .30-30 will beat an unskilled shooter with an “assault rifle” every time. The assault rifle can lay down mucho amounts of lead, but you that doesn’t matter if you want fast hits.


Skill wins. Your rifle will do if you will.


John M. Buol Jr. is a former active duty small arms instructor for the US Army serving as Course Writer and Machine Gun Gunnery NCOIC at the Small Arms Instructor Academy, Camp Bullis, TX. Having returned to a reserve status, he is the editor of American Gunsmith magazine, director of the Firearm User Network and a freelance writer on marksmanship-related topics. Buol is a member of the US Army Reserve Shooting Team, has earned both Distinguished Rifleman and Pistol Shot badges and a classification of Master in several shooting disciplines. He can be reached through his website at http://firearmusernetwork.com/

Urban Prone

Since I’ve basically covered all of the “orthodox” rifle shooting positions, I’m taking the opportunity to cover some that are unorthodox, but still part of the established body of shooting knowledge.  Yes, the “urban prone” position is both orthodox and unorthodox, and is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  Read on if you think you can stand much more of this…


The urban prone position is not really prone at all.  It could be more accurately described as a “fetal” shooting position.  The urban part of it is really not descriptive of any aspect of the position either.  So why is it called urban prone?  It sounds cooler than “The Fetal Shooting Position”.  Shooting trainers tend to rate high on the “machismo scale” and prefer CDI factor to accurate descriptors.  This begs the question, “do chicks really dig it, or is it strictly for the ‘bromance’?”  Probably one person got my humor there- gotta do whatever I can to keep the readership at a steady drip.


What is urban prone?  It involves lying on your side, in basically a fetal position as I mentioned before.  The feet are typically in the general direction of the target, although you must take care not to shoot them.  The rifle is likewise canted 90° from its normal, upright position.


Note that I had to pose shooting left handed, because December is weak sided rifle shooting month.

Why urban prone?  There are basically two reasons you might need this: 


1.)   To shoot under something relatively low, like a car. 

2.)  To make use of shallow cover by minimizing the vertical exposure of your 
 head, which would normally be exaggerated because of the mechanical  
 offset of the rifle’s sighting system combined with the substantial amount of 
 head above the eyes, and allowing you to return fire on your threat.

Why would you want to shoot under a car?  Basically only reason would be if someone was shooting at you from the other side of the car.  I’m getting pretty good at showing you how stupid your question was.  Wait a minute, I guess I was the one who asked the question.  Who’s stupid now?  Don’t answer that.  Please.


Seriously though, shooting under a car is probably a better way to utilize an average vehicle as cover than shooting over it.  The only parts of the car that tend to work as cover are the engine, axles, and to a lesser degree, wheels and tires.  Sheet metal and plastic, well, not so much.  Staying on your feet and shooting over the engine block will be faster, and may allow you to fire more accurately, but you take the increased risk of getting shot in the head, which 4 out of 5 doctors do not recommend.  In the end, you may have to make a decision on how to utilize your terrain in real time based on the many details of the situation as they unfold.  There’s no one right answer.  What saves your life on Sunday may get you killed on Monday (what are you doing getting into gunfights on consecutive days anyway?).

In retrospect I probably should have asked for permission from the occupants of the vehicle before staging this picture, but I really don’t see why this was cause for such alarm.  Do you?  I thought that they saw me and figured they must have been OK with it.  I think it was the unexpected loud noise that upset them.

Before I get into details about shooting from the Urban Prone position, a word on my method.  Sometime in the past, a really smart and innovative shooter came up with a new position to solve a particular problem or set of problems.  He then named it Urban Prone due to the extremely high DDI factor (“Dudes Dig It”- let’s face it, chicks really don’t seem to dig it) of the name.  Someone learned it from this shooter and taught it to a new shooter.  This happened multiple times until someone taught it to me.  There was probably some “signal loss” down the chain from the original shooter to me.  When I decided to try to write an article about it, I had to do my best to make sure I had it right, so of course I did years’ worth of painstaking research (okay, days’ worth of mediocre research).  I had to adapt the technique from the realm of the carbine (where it makes the most sense) to the realm of the bolt gun (where it borders on insane and is a real stretch- but hey, it’s about doing with what I got). 


Urban Prone seems to be an inherently defensive position.  If you weren’t on the reactive end, you’d have picked a better location and position right?  It’s making the best of a really bad situation.


Here are some disadvantages of the Urban Prone position that aren’t that big of a deal in the context for which the position is designed:

            -It’s not a very precise position (but probably good ‘nuff for fairly close in, say
            < 100 yards.

            -There will be a point of aim/point of impact shift from any of the upright positions.
             This is because your sights are adjusted to compensate for a slight bit of drop
             out to your zero distance.  That amount of adjustment has just been turned
             sideways where it’s going to cause the bullet to go…

When firing a rifle while laying on your side, you can use the upper or lower shoulder.  If you’re shooting under something, you’ll want to use the lower shoulder.  Things to consider while using the lower shoulder:


            -Do you have a reciprocating bolt handle?  If so, does your position place it at
             risk of rubbing on the ground, inducing a malfunction, or damaging your rifle?


            -Having the side of the rifle (especially the right side on most rifles) can cause the
             spent casing to bounce back into the action and induce a malfunction.


            -Your grip may need to change because your firing elbow is forced in.  I found
             that using the middle finger to actuate the trigger worked best for me with my
             rifle.  This is not what I would normally use, but since we’re in urban prone, this
             is probably “plan b” or even “plan f”.   

            -A scope may make the rifle difficult to balance in this position because the rifle
             is more top heavy.  This is one of the reasons I used my middle finger to press
             the trigger- my index finger kept the rifle from rolling.

Depending on whether you end up shooting right or left handed, and whether you use the top or bottom shoulder, you may find that using the forward hand to run your bolt works best.

If you’re shooting over shallow cover, you’ll most likely want to use the upper shoulder.  In this scenario you may or may not want to use the cover as support because it could raise your position.  In the pictures below there was no way for me to get lower than my hips anyway.

A normal supported prone position exposes a lot more of the head.

For making use of very shallow cover (like a curb), there is a position that will give you a lower profile than laying on your side.  The hips and shoulders (I have very broad “birthing” hips) set the limits on your profile when you’re on your side.  The only thing lower that still allows for the 90° rotation of the rifle (keeping your skull out of play) is laying on your back.  This is a lot like the basic offhand position, except that you were frozen like a statue and fell on your back.  Note that the rifle butt will probably slip past your shoulder upon recoil if you are really laying flat.  Consider grasping the front sling attachment and locking the elbow to keep the scope at bay.

What is a supine position doing in an article titled “Urban Prone”?  The same thing as a fetal shooting position I guess.  It looks like I could have flattened out my support hand and got lower.  I’m not sure if it would have worked or not, just something to think about.

This doesn’t leave much exposed.

Now that we’ve rotated 90° but gravity did not (how inconsiderate!), what used to be elevation just became windage and vice versa.  How much will your point of impact change from your point of aim when the rifle is canted 90°?  Your normal elevation zero takes into account the bullet drop and the height of your sighting system.  Let’s say, for instance, a 2.5” drop at 100 yards and a 1.5” sight height over the bore.  We can expect that at 100 yards the bullet will strike 4” in the direction of the side we’re laying on.


Because our normal windage zero does not take gravity into account, your round will strike low from your sight’s point of aim- how far will depend on your range.  The best way to get a feel for this is to shoot in this position and see what the results look like on paper.  At the distances that this position will be likely utilized, it probably won’t matter much.

Bolt Technique with the Weak Hand

After a month of shooting left handed, I became alright at running the bolt.  It didn’t come easy, but it finally “clicked” to some degree.  I don’t have it in every position, but I think I could get there.  After the month of shooting left handed is up, I’m going to make this a part of my everyday routine until my preference for shooting right handed is less strong.  If you’re looking for my work on strong hand bolt technique look here and here


I turned to all the existing material on the internet and found… not much in the way of anything helpful or exciting.  The common piece of advice was “watch Saving Private Ryan.  The sniper is left handed and uses a 1903 bolt action rifle.”  I found the clip on youtube.  HOLLYWOOD FAILS AGAIN!!!  He’s slow and breaks his cheekweld.  


The notable exception to the usual internet drivel was a web page called Thoughts on the Manipulation of the Bolt Action Rifle  on Fr. Frog’s Pad.  He has a lot of info by Whelen and Jeff Cooper; the only problem is that it’s “organized” in a somewhat random fashion, which I didn’t have a problem with. 


The most helpful source of information I found was from Whelen himself in the book I reviewed in November, The Hunting Rifle.  


             “We must not forget the ‘south-paw.’ If, because you are left-handed or because
            of defective vision in the right eye, you have to shoot left-handed do not think
            that you will be handicapped badly with a bolt action rifle. It is almost as easy to
            operate a bolt action rifle left as right-handed if it is done right. As the left hand
            releases its grip on the pistol grip the right hand should twist the forearm a little to
            cause the rifle to cant slightly to the left. The left elbow must be raised from the
 ground or the left knee. Without taking the butt of the rifle from the shoulder,
 reach over the action with the left hand and grasp the handle with the thumb and forefinger, thumb under the bolt, knob back in the crotch of the thumb and forefinger, last three fingers on top of the receiver. Now by twisting the wrist, assisted by pressure of the little finger on top of the receiver, raise the bolt handle all the way up with a rapid, powerful twisting motion of the wrist. Now pull the bolt all the way to the rear, keeping the hand on the bolt in the same position and with the heel of the hand on top of the bolt-sleeve and rear end of the cocking piece. Be sure you pull the bolt hard all the way to the rear. Keep the knob of the bolt handle deep in the crotch of the thumb and the forefinger, then at once push the bolt forward with the heel of the hand contacting the rear of the bolt. At once push the bolt handle down with the forefinger and a twist of the wrist. The second finger also assists in this pressure. This method, when learned, is very much easier and faster than trying to grasp the bolt handle between the little finger and the palm of the hand as many attempt to do. Left-handed operation is slightly slower than right-handed, not because it is any more difficult when learned, but because it is necessary for the left elbow to be removed from the ground or knee. Nevertheless it is quite easy and very fast.”

This description by Whelen is a pretty good point of departure for anyone.  Idiosyncrasies of your particular system will likely dictate changes, minor or major, from it.  I have a scope, as will 99% of normal shootin’ folk shooting a bolt action, so we’ll have to work a little harder.


Don’t expect this to be as good as the technique on your strong side.  It can be good, but there will still be some drawbacks.  You might have a slight breach of cheekweld, which hopefully you don’t have on your strong side.  Have the intention of maintaining your cheekweld, and any separations won’t be a big deal.  Practice getting right back on.  Working the bolt from the “wrong” won’t be quite as fast; maybe a half second slower at best.  Some positions will pose significant challenges in even reaching the bolt.  You get the idea.  Anyway, onward!

Here’s what I found:


There are two paths you can choose and I think that both are valid in different situations.  Since my bolt handle is on the right side, I considered running with a “modern carbine technique” approach and working the bolt with my right hand while maintaining my “master grip”.  The other approach would be to reach over the top with the left hand.  I decided for the majority of my shooting to use the method that covers the shortest distance, which would be left hand over the top.


The first step in working that bolt is to get the left thumb to the knob.  You should be thinking about efficiency with every move you make.  Note that it’s a very short distance from the firing hand to the bolt knob:

The main consideration is still what?  Yes, you got it.  Efficiency.  To get the rest of the hand to the bolt knob, keep the inside of the wrist in contact with the stock while rotating (pronating) the hand to clear the pistol grip.  Remember back to your study of Five Animal Kung Fu, and use the Snake style.  


            Sorry ladies.  That is a wedding band  you see there.

When our happy family of fingers reaches the bolt knob, it’s time to get it moving.  The wrist is still in contact with the stock, which will provide some leverage to the thumb in order to get the bolt knob up.  The little finger will be on the side of the scope, which will also provide a little leverage:

Bend the wrist to move the fingers rearward.  Make sure to bring the bolt all the way back (HARD!):

Bend the wrist forward, exactly the opposite of the previous motion.

Close the bolt with the fingers:

Get the hand back to the pistol grip.

This goes pretty fast.  Here’s some live action:

The other alternative, like I said before, is to use your right hand to run the bolt.  This works best when the front of the rifle is support, as on a bipod.  Just grip it and rip it.  Make sure you remove the trigger finger as you work the bolt.

Here’s a free bonus tip.  You’ll want to check your rifle’s chamber before dry fire to make sure it’s not loaded, or before live fire to make sure it is loaded.  Here’s an easy and efficient way I found to check the chamber.  With the left hand on the rifle’s pistol grip and thumb wrapped around the grip, use the thumb to open the bolt. 
Keep the thumb in contact with the bolt and pull the bolt knob to the rear with the thumb.
After to check what you need to check, push the bolt close with the thumb on the bolt knob and index finger on the bolt shroud.  
When the bolt is all the way forward, use the thumb to close it.
I’ve found that my length of pull, being quite long at 14.25″, is finally causing problems with something.  With the sling on in prone, I haven’t yet figured out a way to work the bolt without letting the butt drop from my shoulder; it’s very hard to reach.  I’ll continue to work on it and report back if I figure it out.

There.  I hope you have fun with the rest of weak handed month.

Guest Post: Shooting Skills for Hunters: The .30-30 Drill

This marks the first post on this blog by anyone other than myself.  Although I think that people who use their real names on the internet are sketchy, John seems to be a good guy.  I encourage you to take a look at Mr. Buol’s website if you are interested in guns and shooting.  –RS

Shooting Skills for Hunters: The .30-30 Drill
by John M. Buol Jr.

The effective range of the .30-30 WCF  (Winchester Center Fire) is about 150-170 yards. Some of the wizzy new Magnums can outperform this by roughly 300 percent, at least on paper. But can the hunter outperform the .30-30? Can you?


The .30-30 WCF was a hot little number when first debuted in 1895 but today’s hunters complain about this “obsolete” antique. Standard wisdom states this cartridge is best contained within a range of 100-175 yards. A .30-30 will push a 150-170 grain bullet out at approximately 2200 fps or so. With a 150 yard zero, the bullet will be about two inches above line of sight at 100 yards and around five inches low at 200.


Few hunters possess enough shooting skill that warrants better performance than this. Are you one of them? Find out with the .30-30 Drill.


Begin by getting a good 150 yard zero for that anemic .30-30 (or whatever your favorite hunting rifle is chambered in.)  Set up a Y-ring steel target at 150 yards. If you don’t have a quality, self-resetting steel target that is about 8-10 inches in diameter, a paper dinner plate at 150 yards makes an ersatz substitute. Get a shooting timer, or a buddy with a whistle and stop watch, to record the time.


Start from standing up. On the start signal adopt a sitting position and fire one aimed shot at the plate. Stand back up and repeat the drill for a total of three shots. After completing this three string/three round sequence from the sitting position, do it again adopting and shooting from prone.


We are shooting at the distance we zeroed for giving point-of-impact at point-of-aim on a nice, level playing field with no intervening brush, trees, etc. All the shooting is done from the two most stable positions available in the field. Furthermore, the target is presented whole, as opposed to a large animal with the vital zone hidden somewhere inside, thus eliminating the need to estimate target angle. Just hold center and let ‘er rip!


Regardless of elapsed time, a hunter claiming to need something better than a .30-30 should get at least 5 hits out of 6 shots (83% hits) or better on this six MOA target every time. If so, our hero can actually make competent use of the ballistic capability provided by a .30-30 or equivalent for field shooting. If not, their maximum effective range in field shooting is shorter than 150 yards and the capability of a .30-30 rifle exceeds their present level of skill.


A more competent hunter-shooter who can get those same hits in ten seconds per shot or less just might benefit from a “better” rifle. They possess sufficient skill to warrant extended range.



We can repeat this drill out even further. Use the same target and set at 200, 225, 250, 300, or out as far as you dare. Give the shooter an extra three seconds or so for every 50 yards beyond 150. Sight in appropriately and shoot. For example, .308/.30-06 and cartridges of similar ballistics can set their zero to 200-250 yards.

John M. Buol Jr. is a former active duty small arms instructor for the US Army serving as Course Writer and Machine Gun Gunnery NCOIC at the Small Arms Instructor Academy, Camp Bullis, TX. Having returned to a reserve status, he is the editor of American Gunsmith magazine, director of the Firearm User Network and a freelance writer on marksmanship-related topics. Buol is a member of the US Army Reserve Shooting Team, has earned both Distinguished Rifleman and Pistol Shot badges and a classification of Master in several shooting disciplines. He can be reached through his website at http://firearmusernetwork.com/

Rifleslinger’s note:

I received a question about this article by one of my astute readers, we’ll call him “Mark”.  He wanted to know if there was a specific time limit.  I asked John.  Here is his response:

The drill should be timed but there is no time limit. Take as much
time as needed to insure a hit, but no longer.

In my experience, most hunters inflicted with benchrest-itis will
initially struggle just getting their hits when shooting from an
assumed position. A ticking clock, even without a time limit, gives a
push towards “buck fever.”

A 6 MOA target at 150 yards is well within the capacity of a .30-30.
This drill assesses if the hunter’s skill at basic field shooting is
worthy of anything more.

Only when hits become routine does the elapsed time matter.”

There you have it. From the horse’s mouth.


Tips for Behaving at a Public Range

(Or how not to act like an idiot)

Take this as more of a venting episode than an attempt to share anything useful.  Vent with me, won’t you?


(Donning my official 1950’s era narrator tone)


In this modern age of unprecedented enthusiasm for all things related to firearms and, yes, particularly rifle shooting, it behooves one to pay particular attention to range etiquette.  With an understanding that we always do our best to treat others as we would wish to be treated, and that it’s of the utmost importance to maintain our carefully earned reputation as outstanding citizens, let’s take a critical look at how to behave at a public range.

1.)   Maintain the cleanliness of the range:


Here are a few examples of what not to do:

Maybe I could say it most succinctly like this: “Leave your damn trash at home!!!”  But let’s expand on that a little, shall we?  If you want to shoot up your junk, the range is not the place to do it.  Your junk doesn’t belong at the range.  We don’t want your junk here.  Your junk should be disposed of properly by YOU, not by people who want to keep a clean shooting range.  How do you think it makes shooters look to the average person driving by?  Like a bunch of crazy idiots!!!

What are the proper targets to bring to the range?  Paper targets are a good start.  Make sure after you shoot them to pull them down.  After pulling them down, properly dispose of them by (duh?) burning them (of course).


Next on the list of “approved targets” would be reactive targets.  Steel makes a good one.  I wouldn’t leave it out though, because some (expletive) person will probably shoot it with a .220 Swift at 4500 FPS at a range of 10 yards and ruin it the minute you leave the range.  This would be the same person that brought a refrigerator door, 20 plastic milk jugs, and a computer to shoot at the public range.


4” clay pigeons make nice targets, and they are biodegradable.  This is a perfect target for folks that don’t like to clean up after themselves.  Please remember to take the box away with you, unlike whoever contributed to the junk heap in the photo.


If you want to make an occasional sacrifice of something more reactive, like say, a watermelon, it’s understandable, albeit right at the very edge of acceptable/unacceptable.  Make sure you clean it up (that would make it “acceptable”).


            2.         Wait your turn.


                        If all the available shooting lanes, bays, or whatever, are in use, and you
                        see people waiting, please don’t assume they are just there to watch you
                        go to the front of the line.  I’m sure you are very important, but we all have
                        to wait our turn.


                        I noticed that this problem got really bad just before the opening day of
                        deer season.  I pulled up to the range, saw that it was in use, and decided
                        to wait to see if anyone would finish up in a reasonable amount of time. 
15 minutes or so went by, and in drives someone who then proceeds directly  to  share a spot with someone who was already shooting.  Luckily, he was so good that all he needed was to fire one shot.  He didn’t even need a trip downrange.  Wow!  I envy the deer that he shoots at.  What a quick, ethical, and sportsmanlike kill that will be!  Let’s pray that he misses, shall we?


            3.         Don’t be an idiot.


                        Firearms are inherently dangerous.  To that end, there are safety rules.
                        Here are 4 rules that should guide your firearms handling:           

1.     All guns are always loaded.

2.    Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

3.    Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

4.    Be sure of your target, the backstop, and beyond.

5.    Don’t be an idiot.

6.    Watch out where you throw that clay pigeon.  I don’t care if it’s only birdshot; I don’t want your muzzle pointing at me (see rule #2).  If your muzzle continues to point at me, I may have to assume that you do want to destroy me and take appropriate defensive action.

7.    Try using your sights.  Those shallow ruts in the ground in between the 100 yard line and the backstop look like a bullet put them there.  The 100 foot tall backstop may not be enough to properly counter your ingenious lack of intelligence.


That may have been more than 4.


There you have it.  Public ranges are awesome!!!