Rifle Fit: Length of Pull

Disclaimer: This article is based only upon personal observations
based on personal practice with the rifles I own.  I have no experience
with fine English doubles, specially fitted stocks, highfalutin safari guns
that sell for $32,000, etc…

If any of you have special experience in this regard, please leave a comment.

Running a bolt action rifle efficiently and effectively involves bringing a number of actions and elements into harmony.  You must bring the rifle quickly to the shoulder.  You must get the head into a position that places the eye properly in relation to the scope or sights.  You must be able to actuate the trigger without disrupting the alignment of the sights.  When all this occurs, you must then work the bolt, which in my opinion should be done without breaking the cheekweld.  Also, again in my opinion, you should be able to do all of the above from both the strong and weak sides (ambidextrous operation).

All of the necessary components mentioned above place competing demands for the proper length of pull.  It’s like putting together a 3D puzzle.  If you change one thing, everything else is affected.

Length of pull is defined as the distance from the trigger to the rifle butt.  Most of us buy a gun and use it as-is.  Most rifles tend to come from the factory with a length of pull in the 13.25” to 13.75” range.  My Sako has a 14.25” LOP.

I’m not sure if a “perfect” length of pull exists other than a design built from the ground up for that specific person with a specific person in mind, or purely by an unlikely coincidence.  The requirements for perfection of length of pull will change if the rifle is to be used in more than one position.  Perhaps this is what confounds the rifle shooter who is able to use different positions.  Unlike a trap or skeet shooter, or maybe someone on Safari, the one “perfect” fit may not exist.

One of the most important things that is affected by LOP is eye relief.  It’s absolutely necessary that your eye ends up in the right spot when you shoulder the rifle.  You should see a clear sight picture with edge to edge clarity.  This is not as easy as it sounds unless, as stated above, you only shoot from one position.  What works from a bipod in prone will not work the same way if you shoot with a sling in prone.  Your eye will be farther away with the bipod.  In a seated position with the sling, your eye will likely be as close or closer than in prone with the sling.  In offhand your eye will be farther back, maybe as far as farther than bipod prone.  Kneeling will bring you just a bit closer than offhand.

Here’s a list of positions with eye relief from farthest to closest (in my experience):
-Urban Prone
-Hawkins
-Standard Offhand
-Kneeling
-Generally improvised support positions would fall in here somewhere
-Bipod Prone
-Carbine style offhand
-Rice Paddy Prone
-Open Leg Sitting
-Crossed Ankle Sitting
-Unsupported prone with sling
-Crossed Leg Sitting

I find that from offhand to open leg sitting I can find the proper eye relief.  If I work a bit, I can get it in crossed ankle sitting  Urban prone is just a mess, as it works better with 1x sights like the EoTech and Aimpoint.  With the up close positions like prone with sling or the seated positions, in which I’m so close to the ocular as to make correct eye relief impossible, I try to get the shaded area to be equal around the edge of the ocular lens.  I just try to avoid crossed leg sitting altogether (there must be other, more fun ways to draw blood than from getting slammed in the forehead).

Eye relief is not just a length of pull issue.  It can usually be adjusted somewhat in how the scope is mounted, although this is limited by scope design, ring height, location of the base(s) on the rifle.  What would also be nice is if the scope had a forgiving range of usable eye relief.  If you have $4000 to spend on glass, I hear that the Hensholdt scopes are great in terms of “eyebox” flexibility.  Whether this pertains to eye relief specifically, I don’t know.

The Leupold scope on my Sako has an eye relief that changes depending on magnification.  It gets longer with low magnification and vice versa.  I’m not sure if this is by design or not.  I have gotten used to it and generally think that it works well.  Look at the list, and you’ll notice that with a few exceptions, the positions with closer eye relief are generally the ones that offer more precision.  It would ultimately be nicer if the eye relief was consistent throughout the magnification range, yet offer at least the same amount of variation that my Leupold changes from 3.5-10x.  More on length of pull and eye relief later.

Another, and in my opinion, more relevant and direct result of length of pull is the ability to cycle the bolt without breaking cheekweld.  This is an area in which I think the Sako’s long LOP has been an asset.  My action is made to work with a 30-06 length cartridge.  I have never been in a shooting position that necessitated moving my head to dodge the bolt.  I have been close enough for the bolt to touch my face when cycling, but not for it to be painful, but I have a really, really fat face (now you know why I black it out).  I don’t know if I could reduce the LOP and still make this claim.

In the wonderful Norwegian rifle competitions, the shooters with the Sauer STR rifles chambered in 6.5×55 have to move their heads to dodge the bolt.  They are able to do this consistently and quickly enough to get multiple successive hits on a head size target at 250 meters at a rate of fire of approximately a round per second (not including the time it takes to change mags).  I don’t know if this is purely a function of LOP, because their sighting system and bolt technique will also place requirements on the rifle setup (these things will bring them closer to the receiver).  What I am saying by bringing up the Norwegians is that if you have to move your head, do what they do.  Make the movement very small, very quick, and very consistent.

Length of pull is often brought up in the context of how naturally and quickly the rifle can be shouldered.  A common guideline is that if the butt is placed against the bicep with the stock and forearm running parallel, the correct LOP would place the finger comfortably on the trigger.  After a bit of experimentation, I think that this guideline is probably sound and represents a good starting point.  That measurement for me indicates a good “starting point” of 13.5”.  Since I’m used to the 14.25” LOP, 13.5” feels short from the snapshot without any “re-indoctrination” time, although I’m sure I could get used to it.  I tried a rifle with a 13.0” LOP that’s known for its naturally pointing characteristics, and it felt ridiculously short.  I think that within a range, you can get used to a rifle and become quite good without a “perfect custom fit”.

Another piece of the LOP puzzle is how it affects your ability to reach the bolt knob.  I think that this is the reason that most rifles come with the 13.5ish inch LOP.  It can just be hard for me to reach the knob in positions like prone with sling.  This is why I came up with the alternate bolt technique that I wrote about here.  I could only reach the knob with my fingertips in those positions.  The Norwegians, on the other hand, keep their bolts gripped by their thumb and forefinger throughout the firing cycle in prone, and they appear to sling up tight.  Then again, they have to dodge the bolt, which I am not willing to do.

One thing that I have not been able to do in regard to bolt technique and my long LOP is to work the bolt in sling supported positions left handed.  I just… can’t… reach… it.  And it’s not like the Wonder Twins, where they could magically close that last foot by stretching somehow.  I really… just… can’t… reach… it.  If I had an inch less, maybe I could reach it.
Going back to finding some kind of ideal, or designing the perfect system from the ground up… Winchester, call me, we’ll talk.  You’re gonna thank me for this. 

To everyone else, what I think would work best is an action designed specifically for a cartridge that makes use of all those great modern advances in ballistics.  I’m thinking of something like the 6.5×47 Lapua.  This is approximately 16 mm (0.63”) shorter than my ’06.  This gives the bolt less length to hit me in the face.  Even a .308 Win or .260 Rem would be short enough, and would be more widely and currently available.  Incidentally, it makes for a lighter and stiffer action.  Shorten the LOP to 13.5”.  Put a scope on that offers flexibility in eye relief.  That would be as close to ideal as I can think of for a bolt action rifle. 

Consider this now…  what if working the bolt was taken completely out of the equation?  Yes, I’m talking about a semi-auto.  That would make the puzzle easier wouldn’t it?  The only considerations would be how the rifle shoulders and eye relief.  Then consider how a stock that adjusts on the fly for LOP would affect your ability to find the correct eye relief in a multitude of positions. 

I know that many of you are dyed in the wool bolt action/wood stock kind of guys.  I am too.  I’m just investigating something that seems to make sense from a practical shooting angle. 

Do vs. Jutsu as Applied to Shooting

If you had the guts to click on the weird title, you either already know what jutsu and Do are (pronounce it like “dough” and you’ll be close enough), or you’re expecting me to tell you about them.  Well you’re in luck!

 

Jutsu and Do are typically expressed as what we would understand as suffixes applied to Japanese words to clarify the purpose of an activity.  Jutsu implies a technique, method, or skill in the normal way we would understand.  Do could be translated to mean way, and implies that the activity is a path to self-improvement or self-actualization.  An set of examples are Judo and Jujutsu.  These are both martial arts focused on grappling.  Jujutsu is ostensibly a combat art originally used by samurai.  Judo is a sport developed for civilians.

 

To further clarify, an activity would be considered a Do activity if it was done for interest, fun, a hobby, or self-improvement.  Any martial art done for fun regardless of the suffix put on it, would in reality be Do.  I don’t care if it’s jujutsu, kenjutsu, iaijutsu, aikijujutsu, karate-jutsu, or whatever. 
Modern martial arts, by and large are not conducted with the expectation that the practitioner will actually have to use them.  They are marketed as being effective self defense, and the players generally mistakenly believe that they are learning self-defense.  Some of the players work to ensure that the techniques would be more viable in the real world, and to be fair, an advanced practitioner may well be capable of using them as such, but the intent during practice is not geared towards use in actual conflict.

 

True jutsu is practiced in military, police, or other similar training.  There is decreased emphasis on form.  The primary emphasis is that the technique is simple enough for the practitioner to remember and to be effective under stress with a determined adversary.  If the technique needs to be altered on the fly in order for it to work, so be it.  There is an emphasis in this type of training on a sufficiently aggressive mindset, which is necessary for someone engaged in a fight to overcome the aggression of the enemy.

 

In a Do setting, form is typically extremely important.  There is an incredible depth of study, to the point of the practice being philosophical.  Advanced practitioners, after years of study, are amazing in their power, composure, and economy of motion.  This change in the student is part of the goal of the art.  The skill attained is secondary.  This is the reason for the common idea that when a student reaches proficiency in a martial art the actual skill is no longer needed; the confidence, awareness and physical presence are supposed to be sufficient to keep him out of trouble.   

 

Students in a jutsu setting, by comparison, may seem to have only a crude grasp of the technique.  They may seem somewhat ignorant to the Do practitioner.  In a way they are.  They may not even like the activity they are learning about, but may instead see it as a necessary chore. The samurai had to be proficient in riding a horse, wielding several weapons, strategy, tactics, field movements, etc., that it would have been considered silly to work on only grappling, for example.  It is just a means to an end.  This reminds me of something that former SAS member Andy McNab said in his book Bravo Two Zero.  He said that he didn’t trust people with too much technical knowledge (his example was about guns) to be solid in a fight.  He thought that any knowledge beyond how to fight with it was unnecessary, and was a sign of compensating for a lack of real fighting skill. 

 

Do is analogous to laboratory study.  Variables can be eliminated, isolated, and the environment can be controlled to at least some degree.  Jutsu is analogous to the same topic as applied in the real world.  Minor situational variables can and do affect the outcome.

 

Another way to sum it up: 

 

                        Do       = Process Oriented, e.g. two perfect shots to the body and one
                                       to the head, smoothly, efficiently, and quickly.

 

                        Jutsu   = Results Oriented, e.g., bad guy is going down, whatever it takes.

 

Why are you reading about this on a blog devoted to rifle shooting?  Because most of us don’t realize the underpinnings and intent of the disciplines we are involved in.  We think that because we can shoot accurately, reload quickly, that our rifles are capable of sub-MOA accuracy, all of those things mean that we are bad hombres.  It’s going to be a bad day for the stupid perp who makes the mistake of messing with us. 

 

Here’s the breakdown in that logic.  While we train to shave a half second off our El Prez (or in my case, shaving 0.2 seconds off of my snapshot time), the stupid goblin who is going to attack us (yes he should pick a softer target to be safe) has experience in doing what works.  Though he may be unintelligent, sub-human, filthy, stinky, deplorable, ugly, unimaginative, and hooked on drugs, he can get done what he thinks he needs to get done with surprising initiative, speed, efficiency, ruthlessness, and surprise.  He’ll leave you dead and have your flat screen TV mounted using roofing nails he stole from someone’s shed on his living room wall with seven other TV’s before your body has cooled off.  Your ability to shoot a 1-hole group at 300 yards is not going to stop the lead pipe that hits you on the back of the head from knocking you out.   

 

The things that make the violent criminal not only useless, but detrimental to society, make him effective in his “trade”.  He may only want what’s in your wallet, but he doesn’t care if he has to rip your eyes out or bash your head in with a hammer to get it.  Whatever works.  Because our minds don’t work like that (thankfully), it makes us vulnerable.

 

To put it more plainly, most of us practice what we do with a Do mindset, while the dirtbag criminal uses a jutsu approach.

 

Here’s my take on what shooting activities are which:

 

                        Do

                        Bullseye Pistol
                        Highpower Rifle
                        USPSA
                        IDPA
                        Appleseed
                        Tactical Rifle Matches
                        Basically any competition, target shooting, or plinking

 

                        Jutsu

                        Military
                        Police
                        Mercenaries
                        Civilian “Tactical” Training (Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, etc…)

 

I classify hunting as a “neither fish nor foul” activity because it doesn’t fit either or could fit in both depending on the reason why.

 

If you are getting the impression that I’m looking down on or criticizing the Do approach, you would be incorrect.  Anything done for enjoyment, pleasure, or self-improvement is going to be approached with the intent to come as close as possible to mastering it.  This is what makes things fun and worthwhile.  There’s nothing wrong with this.

 

The Do approach also means that our technical understanding of the discipline we study will likely exceed in many ways that of the professionals who use it for real.  Often, the pros will turn to competition to sharpen their skills.  This is also an indication of their recognition that their training is often not up to par.

 

What is important is that we realize the limitations of our approach to learning our activities.  We need to understand that being able to use a gun well does not equate to making us a great fighters.  Sure, some knowledge may be better than none, but overconfidence without that proper attitude to back it up can be deadly.  Conversely, if you have an ideal survival attitude, but your skills are only sufficient to qualify, you are way less effective than you could be.

 

What I think is the ideal approach is the methodology of the Do approach, which is to say an orientation towards mastery, coupled with the deadly seriousness, realistic, and practical nature of the jutsu approach, which means keeping the larger vision on the “business” of what it is we’re doing.    

Rifle Fit: Cheekweld- Part 2

Adjusting the Rifle Fit 

Now that we are aware of the great importance of proper cheekweld, and the overwhelming odds against pulling a rifle out of the box that actually fits, we need to go about adjusting the rifle somehow so that it actually fits.  There are several ways to go about this.  Some are quite expensive and some are quite cheap (both in terms of money and quality). 

One of the nicest and most effective ways of adjusting the rifle to provide a proper cheekweld is through the use of an adjustable comb.  Most aftermarket “tactical” stocks are available with the option of an integrally adjustable cheekpiece.  To get a good quality example of one of these stocks will cost about as much the average person’s total rifle cost.  What you get for the price is a stock that will not demonstrate any perceptible affect from weather, a stock that is much more rigid than a wood stock, is more durable than a wood stock, and is just as light or lighter than a wood stock.  Whether it’s worth the money is largely dependent on how much money you have to spend, and how important shooting is to you. 

I have a couple rifles at my disposal that employ stocks that offer a means for adjusting cheekweld.  One of these is a Remington 700 in a McMillan stock.  The cheekpiece is attached to the stock with two metal rods that stick out of the cheekpiece.  These rods fit into corresponding holes in the stock, and are secured by two thumb screws. 

The thumb screws have a tendency to loosen with recoil and general gun handling, which is annoying.  To fight this I drilled divots into the rods where the thumbscrew tips can fit in.  I also used some plumber’s tape on the screw threads.  This helped, but was not totally effective.  I also found that my perception of the proper height of the cheekpiece changed over time, which negated the effectiveness of the divots.  The necessary approach to keep the screws tight is to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that is specifically geared towards proper screw torque.  I am working on developing this disorder. 

The other rifle that I have that offers a means to properly fit the rifle is my Sako TRG 42.  This rifle does not offer instant and infinite adjustability as does the McMillan stock.  Instead Sako offers shims to fit under the rifle’s removable cheekpiece.  This is predictable, because while Sako offers great value for the money with their rifles, they do everything they can to rip you off with accessories.  Fortunately, a fellow from Norway (I love Norway!!!) named Terje makes and sells a few key components that improve the TRG, namely spacers for cheekpiece height and length of pull that improve on the Sako parts for ease of attachment and appearance.  He made my spacers to my specification, which I determined by placing index cards under my cheekpiece and measuring the thickness of the stack that seemed “’bout right”.  As a side note, he makes a polymer sleeve that fits over the safety on the TRG that improves the ergonomics of the safety by a huge margin. 

I know that although I am a precision shooting aficionado (although a relative neophyte), not all of my readers will share my access to rather expensive equipment.  Furthermore, this blog is catered not primarily to precision shooting, but the general skill with a rifle, of which precision shooting would be only a component, and also to shooters with “regular” equipment who want to improve their skill at.  Therefore, we need to explore means that are easily and widely available to the average guy. 

I was previously able to “borrow” a friend’s S.O. Tech stock pack (actually he gave it to me and then wanted it back).  Part of this stock pack is a pad to increase the height of comb.  It was well made.  My impression of it at the time is that it didn’t quite solve my cheekweld problem (I was still in denial at that time of the gravity of the problem), and that it added a small but perceptible amount of weight to the rifle, which I did not like.

The Triad Tactical Stock Pack

More recently, as the awareness of my cheekweld issue became more acute, I decided to acquire another stock pack.  At about this time, I had noticed that Triad Tactical had begun marketing their own branded stock pack in a few different configurations.  Because of my prior experience with the weight of the S.O. Tech, and probably more significantly my desire to have the ability to shoot ambidextrously, I chose the “Slick Back” version of the stock pack.  This version has no storage pocket at all, but instead is padded on both sides to allow for ambidextrous operation of the rifle.  Total cost, including shipping, was $42.22, and it arrived four days after my order was placed.  If that sounds expensive to you, consider the cost of ammo and frustration due to improper cheekweld. 

I hope it’s not too disappointing that I’m solving my cheekweld issue with a piece of gear when my point in the initial cheekweld article was that the gear is not the problem.  In this case, the point is that the rifle may not have been the source of the inaccuracy that I was experiencing, but my lack of attention to rifle fit.  This is a low tech way of addressing rifle fit without getting downright redneck and putting duct tape on the rifle. 

Here’s what I pulled out of the box:

The extra Velcro (aka “hook and loop”) material in the bottom picture is to attach to the inside of the pad to customize the height of comb.

The quality of the stock pack appears to be very good.  It is approximately on par with the S.O. Tech pack I had used previously.  Although I believe that the S.O. Tech pack could use the hook and loop to adjust height, I don’t believe that it was explicitly mentioned in reference to that product, and I don’t believe that the extra material is included with that product.  I think that the addition of this material is a nice touch. 

It took some time to get the fit of the pack just right.  There’s a lot of trial and error involved to get the Velcro straps situated just right, and a little more trial and error to get the perfect amount of Velcro in just the right places for proper comb height.  What I found was that in positions where my cheek tends to be closer to the optic (fore and aft), I needed a bit more Velcro.  Ideally the eye would always be the same distance from the scope’s ocular lens.  This really doesn’t work with a fixed stock, because different positions bring with them different challenges.  You just have to set the scope up in a way that seems to be the best compromise, perhaps with an emphasis on a certain position.


The resulting change in rifle fit is pleasing, though not exactly the same as a stock with integral adjustment.  With the McMillan and TRG stocks, the feeling is very natural and effortless; it just fits.  The difference is that the stock pack adds girth in addition to height.  This causes a minor change to the necessary head orientation needed for correct eye relief.  This is a minor gripe, and also seems to be exaggerated by my stock’s Monte Carlo cheekpiece, which has never bothered me before.  I really only notice this in snapshooting (and I got used to it after a few hundred reps).  All in all it’s much better to have the extra width along with the correct height rather than neither.  It provides the prospect of much greater repeatability, which is what we’re after. 

There is a big downside to this piece of gear.  I’m looking at a lot of other rifles that would benefit from a proper cheekweld.  Not being a duct tape and foam padding kind of guy, I may be giving Triad more business.  Or else I will just keep shooting this one rifle at the expense of all the others(which I’m finding out is working like I thought it would). 

In part 3, I’ll post groups with and without the stock pack to see if the pack makes an apparent difference in group size.

Introduction to the Rifleman’s Mindset

Last month I identified 3 broad attributes that would be present in an ideal rifleman.  These were skills, mindset, and problem solving.  I write about skills all the time, although I don’t write about all the skills I think are necessary.  What tends to get neglected are mindset and problem solving.  Problem solving is something that is not at all easy to address, so I’m going to procrastinate until next month on that.

 

What is the proper mindset of the rifleman?  In this case I think the most prudent course of action for me, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, is to defer to something that Jeff Cooper wrote.  I highly suggest that you read Principles of Personal Defense.  Although the use of a rifle is not confined to defense, the principles he writes about, alertness, decisiveness, aggressiveness, speed, coolness, ruthlessness, and surprise seem to sum up the mindset quite well.  The book is 44 pages long, including the introduction, so you can read it in one sitting.

 

Speaking of books, I suggest you check out On Combat by Dave Grossman.  This book discusses physiological responses to critical incidents.  Another useful book, Warrior Mindset, discusses how to improve one’s ability to deal with the psychological and physiological responses.

 

Books will only take you so far.  The next step is to actually learn to embody the principles outlined by Cooper under stress.  Seeking out some training would be one way to begin to learn how to do this.  I’m not talking about training in marksmanship or gun handling, but learning how to use a gun in a fight.  This is a little different than learning how to shoot.

 

Another pastime that seems somewhat useful is to compete in practical shooting matches.  This will address gun handling and getting realistic hits under time stress.  The principles that this will build are speed, decisiveness, and coolness.  Depending on your approach, you could also work on aggressiveness in your engagement style.  The trap of shooting matches in regard to the development of proper mindset is the tendency to game the courses of fire.  The other trap is to use equipment that’s optimized for the game and not for rough field use.  If you want to be competitive, you have to play the game.  Just have the understanding that there are blind spots that you will need to find other ways to develop.

 

Airsoft, the civilian counterpart to Simunitions, seems like a very good way to work on mindset.  To make full use of the Airsoft medium, one would first have a decent grasp of tactics and actual gun handling.  You also need to take stringent safety precautions.  Airsoft guns look and feel pretty real.  You can’t have any real guns (or other weapons) accessible to you at all.  A good book about setting up force on force training is Training at the Speed of Life, by Kenneth Murray.  

 

Mindset is a vast subject.  Books have been written about it.  I will address some of the specifics in the future.

On My Obsession With the Wind

Those of you who read my blog regularly (thanks to both of you) know that it is one of my goals this year to say “I am good at reading the wind and compensating to get my bullet to hit the target”.  To that end I have decided to have an obsession with the wind.

 

It had to be a conscious decision to be obsessed with the wind.  Getting good is not going to happen by accident.  I don’t know about you, but I do better at something when I am into it 100%.  Therefore I decided to become obsessed with the wind.

 

What does it mean to have an obsession with the wind?  It means that I’m always looking out windows if I’m not outside.  I’m looking for branches to shake and making a wind speed and direction estimation based on what I see.  I might even hurry outside with the Kestrel to compare my estimate with the actual speed.

 

On walks, I might be looking at the clouds slowly passing overhead, then wondering why there is absolutely no wind at ground level.  I might go to a creek and look at the patterns and locations of the eddies and wonder if the wind does the same thing.  Stepping out of a car, I might try to estimate the wind.  You get the idea.

 

I might alter my bedtime reading to a hard copy of something like this as posted here, then after figuring out that there are other chapters, also printing out and reading this.  

 

Another aspect of my wind obsession is that I spent hours devising and constructing a set of pedagogical tools for my data book to optimize my study of wind when I’m actually shooting.  After reading The Wind Book for Shooters, by Linda K. Miller and Keith A. Cunningham, and David Tubb’s book, The Rifle Shooter, I came up with the information I thought would help me the most to organize my shooting in the wind.

 

The top row is the normal data I have been collecting for a while now.  The chart under it to the left is to chart what the wind is doing over time.  The goal here is to try to identify patterns in the wind that repeat (these are called wind cycles).  The graph to the right is to make a terrain sketch to note features that may cause wind differences downrange.  The next row down to the left is to note a primary wind speed and correction, a lull speed and correction, and a gust speed and correction.  To the right of that is a box called “Modifiers”.  This might be something downrange like a hill, valley, trees, etc., that would cause the correction to increase or decrease.  Down from that to the left is a worksheet that takes into account wind direction and value.  I’m probably going to change out my wind clock diagram to a portion of the clock that I can make larger with larger number values for easier reading since each quadrant of the clock is basically a repeat.

 

On the bottom page, there is a call plot diagram for each shot.  There is a spot on each shot to record the wind speed, direction, applied correction, what the actual correction should have been, and the elevation used.  The top target plot is actual hits.  The one below that is to plot shots according to what the correct sight setting would have been for that shot.  The idea is to write an average windage correction number on the center grid line.  For example, say that I think my average correction will be 1.2 mils right.  I would write 1.2R under the center line.  If I fire a shot and learn that the correct windage would have been 1.4 right, I would plot the hit 2 lines over to the right (one line per click).  This will allow me to correlate wind patterns with the sight correction patterns.

 

This sheet is a bit overkill.  I designed it so that I would have to pay attention to a lot of things going on with the wind.  I’m hoping it will pay off so that the process becomes more intuitive.

 

On my first day playing in the wind this year with a rifle, I was at about 520 yards:

At this time I did not yet have my special wind cards set up.  I was also with a friend, which makes gathering all the extra data somewhat of a damper on the mood.  I checked the wind speed and direction from my location, and applied the prescribed change to my scope’s windage knob.  I guessed that the wind coming from 3 o’clock through the valley on the right would increase the needed windage, but decided to wait and see.

 

My friend had his handy dandy phone, which we used to obtain a correction of 1.0 right for the approximately 8 mph wind from about 1:30 that we measured at our location using the Kestrel.  The first shot was off the target left.  It turns out that we needed 1.8 mils right to get the shots centered on the target.  There was a lot going on with the wind downrange that was not apparent from where we were, other than my hunch that the wind would be coming though the valley.  I also suspect that because we were on a hill, and the bullet is travelling high over open ground, that the wind speed that high up may be significantly higher.  Wind closer to the ground is slowed by the drag the wind encounters due to friction with the ground.

 

This is what an obsession with the wind will do to you.  Consider yourself warned.

Quick Thoughts on Bolt Technique

Like I don’t address this subject enough, right?  Actually, I may have a problem with over-coverage of rifle slings, but I’m still only borderline-high with bolt technique.

 

Watching the Norwegians work their bolts recently has inspired me to see if their technique works for me and my rifle.  If you’re unfamiliar with their technique, they manipulate the trigger with their middle finger and keep their thumb and forefinger on the bolt knob at all times.  The short answer is that my length of pull is too long to keep my hand that far forward in most positions. 

I decided to completely rework my bolt technique to give the Norwegian style a chance.  It could work in offhand.  I would have to make a change of using my support hand and arm to apply enough rearward pressure to keep the butt planted in the shoulder pocket.

 

What’s so fast about the technique is not having to reach for the knob.  With the normal technique, there’s a bit of a delay as the fingers make sure that they’re on the right spot on the bolt knob.  Big bolt knobs mitigate the need for this to a fairly significant degree.  With a normal size bolt knob, it just takes a lot more practice to make it right.  I need more practice to eliminate that speed bump.  Expect updates on this specific topic…

 

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Regular bolt work

 

I located another sticking point in my bolt technique.  I’ve been using my thumb at the junction of the receiver and pistol grip to provide some leverage to lift the bolt.  What I found is that the thumb has a tendency to want to stay there too long.  I experimented with not using the thumb to provide that leverage.  It worked, but it depends on there being a lot of pressure between the rifle butt/shoulder interface and the support hand.

 

I decided not to abandon using the thumb for leverage.  After a little special attention, it seems like the problem of the thumb lingering there too long has been dealt with.  I think I had just gotten a little sluggish with my technique. 

 

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The critical aspect of quick bolt work is locating the bolt knob perfectly.  The new, fancy “tactical” bolt guns these days have huge bolt knobs.  Regular size bolt knobs are not as easy to work the way I do it.  The index finger either finds the underside of the knob as planned, or the bolt cycling gets delayed a half second or so.  If you just grab the bolt knob, it’s not as critical.  Repetition can take the place of fancy equipment in this case.

I’ve gotten a little faster at working the bolt than I was before.  Sometimes is just seems like I hear four clicks as fast as four quarters dropped in a stack from a height of an inch and landing in the same stack.  

 

I’ve noticed a change in my technique.  There’s never really a point where I grab the knob at all, whereas I used to grasp it to close it.  The hand stays open and mostly flat.  The index finger opens it and the inside base of the thumb closes it.  It feels like the finger and thumb play a quick game of catch.  I didn’t plan it that way, the technique just morphed.

 

What’s interesting to me with all of the above is that the changes in technique that I didn’t plan seem to be working out the best.

 

This is still a work in progress.  I’ll keep you updated.

The Snapshot: Rockin’ the Bolt Gun Like a Carbine

This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.  A series of emails/comments with Colorado Pete about arm placement during the snapshot prompted me to finally give it a try.  The preliminary results in dryfire are extremely promising.

 

I have viewed rifle shooting and carbine shooting as mutually exclusive, distinctive disciplines.  While I still believe they are distinctive and different, they don’t need to be mutually exclusive.  What I finally decided to do is to try out the carbine shooting stance and try it out with a rifle.

 

One thing that has kept me from really wanting to try this is the non-adjustable length of pull.  The technique as taught by Magpul Dynamics, which is how I’ve been running carbines for a couple years, uses the collapsible stock on a short setting.  The length of pull on #1 is quite long.  Recently I saw a clip of Jerry Miculek demonstrating his rifle shooting stance from his practical rifle DVD, which has some aspects what is taught by Magpul while retaining a more bladed, rifle-like stance and a more upright posture.

 

Something I have also found helpful is the use of pointing the support finger, in-line with the barrel, to my target.  My dad learned this in Vietnam, although what they learned was completely unsighted.  The Magpul technique is easily adaptable to this.  I decided to give this a try with the rifle.  

 

This technique makes a handguard seem like a really good idea.  Note that the new breed of sniper rifles are equipped with handguards again.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Because barrels get hot, and it’s generally not a good idea to touch them, this isn’t going to work:

I don’t think it’s a good idea to lay the thumb across an exposed barrel while firing.

An option is to wear Nomex gloves and not worry too much about touching the barrel and its effect on accuracy.  The downsides are that you may interfere with you sight picture slightly, and it will hurt if you forgot your gloves.

 

Instead I decided to get my thumb out of the way.  It looks like this:

 

This grip gets set up the same way every time.  The thumb is on the same edge of the stock, the index finger is always pointing at the target, and the swivel stud is always on the same part of my finger.  It feels a little weird at first, but after a while it’s very easy to repeat and is quite intuitive.

 

Here’s where the old-school rifle shooters are going to say, “Boy, now just what do you think you’re doin’?”  The left elbow is definitely not under the rifle.  Not even close.  It’s closer to being beside the stock.  The arm is extended so far that the elbow is hardly bent.  When I started shooting carbines like this, I was very skeptical.  I found out that it just works.  The hand, being so far forward, makes it easier to move the rifle laterally.

 

 

As far as the rest of the body, I find that being less bladed seems to work more naturally with this arm position.  I’m still experimenting with degrees of upright vs. aggressive (rolled forward) shoulder positioning.

 

I have been very pleasantly surprised at how well this approach has worked in dry fire.  Everything I have learned and taught about shooting offhand and standing tells me that keeping the elbow out should yield much less accuracy.  I have found that not only does the muzzle come up on target much more intuitively and predictably, my hold appears to be steadier.

 

Why would keeping the elbow out and the hand forward lead to a steadier hold?  I think that the answer is the same as why a long sight radius (in this case a hand radius) makes hitting the target easier.  In theory, if your hold is perfect, than a long or short sight radius wouldn’t matter.  In practice, the hold is not perfect.  A longer sight radius means that the same amount of perceptible movement will lead to less movement on target.  By the same token, it seems reasonable that by keeping the support hand farther away, small variations in position and movement will lead to less shifting of the crosshairs and muzzle. 

 

To reiterate a basic definition of the snapshot from my previous work, it is defined as a hit on a 4” target from port arms in under 1.5 seconds.  Last summer, I had hoped to hit a 3” target from 25 yards in under a second.  That proved to be too much, too soon.  I was barely able to achieve Cooper’s standard on a small percentage of my attempts. 

 

The recent snapshot work I have undertaken has refined my understanding of it.  Therefore I’ll try to refine my explanation.  I can readily identify 3 phases of the snapshot:

 

1.     Point-aligned index is placed on target.
2.     Visual confirmation/correction of point of aim.
3.     Compressed surprise break and follow through.

 

With each phase there is opportunity to reduce the time involved, depending on the shooter’s strengths and weaknesses.  My trigger control under time seems to be pretty solid.  On the other hand, my index is not naturally very quick.  My visual confirmation phase is likewise not as quick as I would like it.  I figure if I can notice a time lag, it is too slow. 

 

For me, I save the most time when I work on a quick index.  Let’s examine the index phase of the snapshot.  During this phase, three things are accomplished:

 

1.    Point-aligned index is placed on target
a.     The support hand index finger points to the target.
b.     The rifle butt is placed in the shoulder.
c.     Correct cheekweld is established.

 

Parts “a” and “b” happen together; they are like 2 sides of the coin.  They are also dependent on each other to make the index effective.  If you point with your support hand index finger, but the butt placement is off, the “calibration” of your finger pointing will also be off (this is to say that the barrel is not pointing where you feel your finger pointing).  These two components are easy to work on in concert because you can run them on an intuitive level of concentration.  Just work by feel.  After working this for a while, it feels like I am tossing the rifle into position, and the butt lands solidly where it should.  My starting grip is more gentle and more tactile.  

 

The pistol grip starts out being held more by the fingertips of the firing hand than in a grip.  The thumb is riding the safety on the strong side, so there’s no “wrap-around” (opposable grip).  I don’t really have the feeling of actually holding the pistol grip in my firing hand, which although is shaped like it’s gripping, is really just rigid enough to hold its shape. 

When I bring the rifle up, the pistol grip is sitting on the middle finger (staying indexed, you know).  The arm comes up to its normal spot, which means that the hand comes up to its normal spot, which means that the part of the pistol grip that’s sitting on my middle finger (the same part every time) comes up to its normal spot.  This chain of events places the butt at precisely the same spot in my shoulder every time.

 

The other thing to work on in mounting the rifle is to come from a snappy movement to a dead stop.  The rifle just has to reach stillness immediately.  If it doesn’t, what you will see is that sight come up on target for an instant, then move away.  So how do you get it to stop?  The rifle has to follow your movement.  Don’t make your movement with any regard for the rifle’s feelings (‘cause it don’t have none); you put your body in the position you need to put it in.  The rifle may as well not be there (except for air rifle is stupider than air guitar).  

 

This kind of smooth, snappy, and efficient movement is the byproduct of, yes, you guessed it, REPETITION, but there is something more.  Your movement has to be structurally sound.  This brings into play posture, relaxation, physical condition (strength and flexibility), and efficiency.  I have a lot of time put into this type of movement.  I don’t think it’s something you can fake or come by easily unless you are unnaturally gifted.

 

Item “c” of the index phase is something that is slightly more difficult to calibrate (for me anyway).  Cheekweld is, ideally, a fine tuned aspect of marksmanship.  When speed is the primary criterion for performance, it follows that the precision of the cheekweld can be compromised without undue (noticeable/significant) detriment.  When the rifle is set up for correct cheekweld (height of comb), it is more likely that the ability to compromise the cheekweld precision is lessened.  I have found this to be the case after adding a cheekpad to my stock.  Where I used to “float” my cheekweld and let the eye find the correct relief, I now have to blend that with the proper position of the cheek.  

 

Here’s what all that gobbledegook means: If your rifle is set up correctly, it is going to be difficult to get the rifle up quick without slamming the comb into your cheekbone.  This slamming will result in a bounce, which slows down the completion of the index phase.  Taking it a step farther, it means that successfully completing the index phase quickly will likely be more difficult.  That’s what repetition is for.  Isn’t it a pain to have to do things right?

 

I’m finding that keeping the head erect is not necessarily a given.  I noticed in my first article on the snapshot that I lowered my head, and worked to eliminate it.  Lately I’ve been experimenting more.  There is a definite tendency to want to lower the head to establish the correct cheekweld.  I don’t exactly know what the “right” answer is, but I’m pretty sure that keeping the head perfectly erect is not it.  The question then becomes, “How much do I lower the head?”.  I think it depends on more than just a technical ideal for firing one shot.  If follow up shots are important, a more “aggressive” posture will be more effective in managing recoil.  If making the first shot as fast and as accurately as possible is the most important, a very slight lowering of the head seems to be working the best at this point.  I don’t believe that lowering the head is bad, in and of itself.  The important thing is that if the head is lowered, it is part of the index, and not an adjustment after the fact.

 

Let’s move to phase 2 of the snapshot: visual confirmation/correction of point of aim.  If what you see initially is an acceptable sight picture, you’re ready to move to phase 3.  This begs for a definition of “acceptable sight picture”.  I’ll address that topic next month.

 

If what you see initially is not an acceptable sight picture, you need to fix it.  This gets easier and easier with, you guessed it, REPETITION.  After a while, the correction of the sight picture looks like some sort of erratic auto-guided tracking system.  It looks like a drunk driver is driving the crosshairs to the target.  You don’t think it’s going to get there, but it does, and quickly.    When you see what you need to see, quickly execute phase 3.  After many repetitions, the trigger press seems to be automatically activated by the recognition of an acceptable sight picture.  Before you have time to recognize what is happening, you’re calling a hit.  Then work that bolt!

 

Another thing that will help you eliminate the gap between the phases is to make placing the finger on the trigger part of the index.  This may cause some controversy.  Is it a violation of Rule 3?  Not if you can be certain that your sights are on your target.  Consider that the time lag from index to trigger press will be about a half second.  If you can’t be certain of the sights coming up on target, then hold off on placing the finger on the trigger until the completion of the sight picture verification.   Speaking of Rule 3, do you think that keeping the trigger finger on between target transitions on a Steel Challenge stage would constitute a violation?  What about keeping the trigger back on a semi auto rifle through the breathing cycle for the “textbook” follow through?  What’s your interpretation of Rule 3 in regard to these examples?  

 

I’m using my dry fire target to practice.  Only one person has requested it since I mentioned it several months ago.  Here’s what it looks like:

If you click on the thumbnail, you should get one in approximately the same size that I use.  Make sure to print it without any scaling or fitting it to the printable page.  On my target, the top circle is approximately 1.35”.  The second from the top is 0.7”.  The center circle is 0.35”, and so on.  At 10 yards just move the decimal over, and you have the approximate size of the target in MOA.  The top target is about 13.5 MOA at 10 yards.  A test print of the above image yielded a slightly smaller version, but not too much smaller (not readily apparent when looking at them side by side from dry fire distance).  

 

Cooper’s definition of the snapshot involves a 4” target at 25 yards, which is about 16 MOA.  Since live fire is usually a bit more difficult, I have to artificially inflate the difficulty of the dry fire.  The top circle is therefore a good target to practice the snapshot.  I’ll take any sight picture that touches any part of the circle or rectangle I’m shooting at for the snapshot.

 

I added the shaded rectangles to the target after practicing a few times with the original target I made.  I was unable at that time to index my rifle consistently on the top circle, but the whole page was much too easy.  I also use the 7 MOA target (second circle from the top) for the snapshot occasionally.

 

I’m still practicing with my metronome to speed up my snapshot.  For those of you with a smartphone or iPod touch, here is a free metronome app that works nicely.  Here’s a conversion chart I made to convert the metronomes beats per minute (BPM) to something that works for what I’m doing:

 

 
 

For my reaction time to the shot timer, I add about a half second (I also have an adjusted spreadsheet page that adds 0.5 seconds to every cell- this seems to be about right on).  Your reaction time may be faster.  I don’t work with a timer very frequently.  Hardcore IPSC shooters practice reacting to the beep quickly.  I practice reacting to roving bands of killer NINJAS quickly (only click on that link if you have a truly tasteless and juvenile sense of humor- and it’s still a waste of time).  Here’s a free shot timer app for all you smartphone folks.  If someone would come up with a killer NINJA app I would appreciate it.

 

Here’s how I’ve been practicing my snapshots.  I do it in 3 beats of the metronome.  Beat one is the start signal, so it counts as zero.  Get the shot off by beat 3.  Pretty simple.  I think of 120 BPM as the minimum snapshot speed, which is one second (remember that the first beat is a starting signal and doesn’t count as elapsed time).  Add in my half second for theoretical shot timer reaction time, and you have Cooper’s 1.5 second snapshot.  At this very moment I can start cold at about 120, and move up to about 184 as I warm up.

 

Something interesting for me right now is that if I’m doing 3 beat snapshots at the top circle at any given speed between, say, 120 and 160, I can hit the next circle down in 4 beats.  I can hit the lower right rectangle in 2 beats.

 

If I move the metronome speed up and I just barely can’t keep up, I might take a pace or 2 forward, then move back as I get it.  Sometimes it helps to slow things down and work at a smaller target.  Other times the opposite is true, and just crank up the speed and aim for a rectangle or the whole page.  Learn to adapt your speed to the requirements that your target presents.

 

I also work my bolt in conjuction with the metronome beat.  It goes something like tick, tick, CLICK, work-the-bolt, tick…  It’s really hard for me to tell, but I think the bolt work takes two additional beats after the trigger press for a standard snapshot.  You can get a better illustration from the old video I posted on snapshot dry-firing:

A slightly more advanced way to do it is to use only 2 beats.  Even if you cut the speed in half, it is not easy at first.  I was at 138 doing 3 beats, then I turned it down to 68 for 2 beats.  I couldn’t do it at first.  I think the reason is that with faster tempos it’s easier to anticipate the starting click and cheat it a bit.  With a slower tempo, say under 100 BPM, you’re more likely to actually wait until hearing the “starting click” to begin moving.  When practicing in 2 beats, I notice that I get the rifle up more explosively, the sights don’t settle as well, I’m a little more likely to miss, and my bolt work seems really fast.  Try to get the bolt completely cycled before the next beat after firing.  Today I was working at 92 BPM in 2 beats, meaning the actual time from starting click to shot was 0.65 seconds and the bolt was worked in about the same amount of time or slightly less. 

 

I mentioned my cold start speed and what I work up to.  The cold speed is the important thing to keep in mind.  You’re not going to get to warm up for a snapshot should you ever need to take one.

 

Here’s a recap of what makes a snapshot:

 

1.    Point aligned index on target.
a.    The support hand index finger points to the target.
b.     The rifle butt is placed in the shoulder.
c.     Correct cheekweld is established.

2.     Visual confirmation/correction of point of aim.
a.    Correct point of aim if necessary.
b.    If an acceptable sight picture is verified, proceed to step 3.

 

3.     Compressed surprise break and follow through.

 

I plan to test my snapshot in live fire in the coming weeks.  I am confident that I can consistently execute the snapshot under the appropriate time to Cooper’s standard.

On the Importance of Dry Fire

Most shooters (say, 99%) tend to think that they can take care of skill maintenance and development with the occasional range trip.  Pull that ol’ pea shooter out of the closet, grab a box of 20, take’r to the range and let’er rip.  And I’m just as good as I was at the last range trip a few months ago.  If you did this for 20 years, you would not have 20 years of shooting experience.  You would have the experience of the same single range trip, just repeated over the course of 20 years.

 

How does the other 1% improve on its shooting skill?  Again, the really really smart folks out there may have gotten a hint from the title of the article.  For the folks that didn’t, it’s dry fire.

 

What can you get out of dry fire practice?  It might be easier to address what you can’t get out of dry fire practice.  You can’t really work on recoil control or doping for wind.  You won’t get the actual feedback of hits on target.  That’s about it for what you don’t get.

 

With dry fire you can still call your shots.  You can work on trigger control.  You’ll reinforce not flinching, because all the repetitions you do that do not result in recoil will train your subconscious that flinching is unnecessary.  You can practice all your gun handling skills with the same emphasis on safety and efficiency that will pay off in your live fire practice.  You can work on all your various positions (the ones that some ranges won’t allow).  You can come up with specific shooting problems or scenarios and figure out a way to work them out.  You can work on speed in a static and safe environment.  You can easily film yourself to give you that 3rd party perspective you need to improve.

 

How much time do you need to dry fire?  If you did a minimum of 10 minutes a day, you would very likely make a significant improvement.  If you’re already in possession of a great deal of skill, this may not be enough to maintain the skill you have, but you already know that (and start a blog so I can have something to read too—that means you Mark Davis, Colorado Pete, Rawhider, SLG and anyone else who might be out there).

 

My approach to dry fire is somewhat “inductive”.  Since I’m not a pro shooter (hard to believe, yes, but true), I can afford to have more fun than if I was driven wholly for immediate results.  I know generally what I’m after, so I let my subconscious and whatever happens to be interesting me at the time determine what I’m going to work on.  If I’m already interested, then I don’t have to worry about getting myself excited to pick up the rifle- I’m already curious.  This also means that I’m likely to write about it here, which causes me to have to turn the thing over and around in my slow, plodding mind, which always produces lively and exciting reading.

 

Sometimes I dry fire with a target.  Sometimes I make use of the scenery.  Sometimes I make use of handy animals that could be tasty if eaten.  Sometimes I use a shot timer with a par time to test my speed.  To build speed I like to work with a metronome, just like with guitar.  Sometimes I practice with a sling for position work.  Sometimes I work with a bipod for all the consistency I can muster.  Sometimes I come up with a shooting problem and try to solve it.  Your creativity, and the requisite safety, are the only limitations to what you can do.

 

Make sure your firearm won’t be damaged by dry fire.  Remember to have a room that does not have ammunition available when you dry fire.  Remember that guns have a nasty habit of loading themselves (or do we do it without thinking because we train ourselves to?).  Consider the ramifications of making a mistake in reference to safety to motivate yourself to be as safe as you can be.  Then have fun.

Staying on Track

I set some goals for myself in my first post of the year.  Goals without action to accomplish them are merely wishes.  A plan to accomplish the goals also makes them much more likely to succeed.  I need to work on the plans a bit, but I am trying to make sure I take action regularly to improve.

 

I believe that if I am not improving, I’m getting worse.  Every day should include some sort of activity that makes me a little bit better than I was before.  Some days may have more significant activity than others, but there should be something to keep you from slipping.

 

What happens if you slip up?  It can be demoralizing to get off track.  All the lofty expectations can all come crashing down.  Here’s something that helped me when I read it about 13 years ago (from Flashing Steel: Mastering Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship, by Masayuki Shimabukuro and Leanard J. Pellman, 1995):

The first step in your journey is to make up your mind.  You must
decide to make your training a high priority in your life, not just
something you do for entertainment or a diversion whenever you
lack something more interesting to do.

Martial arts practice, especially in a serious art like iaijutsu, is a
lifestyle, not just an extracurricular activity.  As you progress, the
discipline and dedication of your training will set you apart.  You
will begin to approach all of life with a martial artist’s outlook.  Over
time, your entire attitude and personality will evolve.  But this kind of
fundamental improvement of your character cannot occur without a
strong determination to train, even when you don’t feel like it—
especially when you don’t feel like it.  (53-54)…

 

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…This chapter began with an exhortation for commitment: a challenge
to make up your mind.  It ends with a similar admonition to persist
until the end.  Commitment and persistence are the beginning and
end of all worthwhile human endeavors.  Most simply and directly:

DON’T QUIT!

…If an accident or illness, or a drastic change in your life makes a
cessation of training necessary or unavoidable, simply resolve that
you will resume as soon as you are able.  And then do it!  Even if
you stop training for five years due to some circumstance, you will
not have quit if you eventually resume! (64-65)

I understand that swordsmanship is not shooting, but I also understand that they probably have more similarities than differences.  The important thing is to make up your mind and see your goals through to the end.  Sometimes you may get off track.  That can happen no matter who you are or how high a skill set you possess.  What really sets some people apart is how they handle adversity.  Will it completely defeat you, or can you work through it and continue on with your commitments?

 

One of the ways I have been trying to push myself to do useful things that will help me in my goals is to try to spend more time practicing with my rifle than looking at a screen.  I think you can probably understand the difficulty involved in doing this.  I will be honest and say that so far I have not accomplished it.  That has not deterred me from persisting in my effort.  What has happened is that my screen time has decreased while my practice time has increased.  Is it bad because the screen time is still more?  I’ll call it a net gain for now, and keep it in mind so I can improve even further.

 

It is normal to have small failures every day.  For example, I’m trying to stay in shape.  Although I may occasionally have a lapse and eat something that’s horrible for me, the thought in my mind that reminds me it is bad will lessen the magnitude of the “slip up”.  Because your expectation of yourself is higher, you will not allow as (really bad) a breach.  So just like with the screen time vs. practice, I still see a net gain, and still move toward my goals.  Just try to offset the small failures with more frequent and more significant successes. 

 

Our subconscious minds fear change, even if the change is for the better.  The subconscious is what drives your actions.  This can lead you to undermine your own improvement.  Keep this in mind.   To make a permanent change for the better, you will need to change the way you think about yourself.

 

Instead of trying to change to become something you want to be that you are not, think of yourself as already being the person you are trying to become.  This is where persistence, and a change of the perception of self as a whole, and not just to change a small aspect.  If you find yourself falling short of your expectations, then you are recognizing exactly where you are and where you should be.

 

So the answer to what did I do to get better today will change, but it will always be something.  On a good day, maybe I ran 1.78 miles, did pullups, pushups, leg lifts, crunches, squat-thrusts, dry fired in several different positions with several different performance goals.  I might have dry fired for 1.5 hours total for the day and spent some time observing and estimating wind conditions.  On a sub-par day, I might have only dry fired for a few minutes.  What if I didn’t have time for anything substantive?  Consider this excerpt from the same book:

 

Also remember that there is more to iaijutsu than just swinging a
sword.  If an injury leaves you temporarily or even permanently
unable to practice your techniques, you can still continue your
training by applying iaijutsu prinicples to other areas of your life.
You will probably find that you recover faster if you apply iaijutsu
principles to your recovery process, whether it is recovering
from a physical, emotional or even a financial setback. (65)

I hope that every day you find the opportunity to effect improvement in yourself.