The old saying is “consistency is accuracy”. Phrases that get repeated a lot mostly turn out to be lies perpetrated by the progressives/socialists/mainstream media/popular culture (of death). Phrases shut off your brain because you hear them often enough, assume they must be true, and your logic circuits shut down. So let’s break the saying down and start from scratch and tackle just one aspect of it for today.
If you really want to hit your target, the thing you want is your system working without any surprises. You don’t want to snap the rifle up for a quick shot and find your scope on its maximum setting, causing you to have a narrow field of view so you can’t find your target. You don’t want to start breaking a shot on a live target and find that your safety is on. You don’t want to work your bolt and find that you fouled up your technique and caused a malfunction. Any one of those might also cause a moment of confusion that interrupts your decision making process.
The method to avoid nasty surprises in the heat of action is through consistency of action. You want to be meticulous about operating and resetting your gear in a predictable way that will flow logically into the next action. Remember what Gunny Hathcock had to say:
Pay attention to detail; details being what you have to do to produce that one, well-aimed shot… Do it as much as you can, and put all your mind and body into it, into your training. Don’t just go out to be training. Be quality training- quality, quality, quality.
Pay attention to detail. Pay attention to detail. Train, train, train, train. You have to make each and every shot the best one there is… You are not area shooting. You are pin-point precision, surgical shooting. You have to be very good. One spot you’re gonna hit, and that’s all.
When you read the Gunny’s words you have to stop and reflect for a minute. If you forgot to do that I recommend to read them again.
Let’s tacking this whole consistency thing? How do you store your rifle for short term storage? I keep my rifle in a ready to shoot condition (except for the ammo), so when I pull it out of the case it’s good to go, or at least I mostly do (I’m not perfect, bug surprise). Bipod locking nut slack, magazine in, scope power set at 3.5X, zero set at 100 yards, safety in the safe and locked position (fully to the rear), completely empty. My handmade (by me) sling is always ready to be used as a shooting aid or to shoulder the rifle. The rifle is stored in the case so that the optic is up when the case is carried.
There are times when have been careless and have placed the rifle in the case with the scope turned up to 9x, the safety off, or the magazine out of the rifle. It’s usually not a big deal, until you need to use it again. Even if it’s just in practice, the extra moment when you have to bring the rifle back down to reset the scope power is wasted time (maybe I could waste less time by not bringing it down. Hmm…). Since I don’t exist in an action movie, I have never needed to shoot my rifle in a moment’s notice. Mostly I’m just disappointed in myself when I find that my rifle isn’t in the condition I expected, but what if I am suddenly thrust into a big adventure lasting 90 minutes where I get to crash a lot of cars and shoot a lot of rounds while never reloading?
It seems appropriate that a rifle system should be handled in a very predictable way. You want to be able to focus on the shooting problem. The gear should not present unexpected distractions. Distractions will not help you make a hit. Self- induced distractions are especially egregious because they could have been prevented with some forethought and will be stacked on top of whatever distractions the outside world has ready to throw at you.
I think that mental checklists need to be trained in. What they are specifically doesn’t really matter, as long as they make sense to you and follow a logical sequence that flows- one thing into the next. You can divide it up into before the shot, during, and after the shooting. Things that need to be managed are magazines, ammo, safeties, optics- meaning elevation, windage, parallax, scope covers, anything that can be adjusted on your rifle- buttstock, bipod, sling, bolt, etc…
The rifle needs to be used in a deliberate way. Let’s look at the safety for instance. Mine has 3 positions, fire (forward), safe with bolt unlocked (middle, 90°), and safe with bolt locked (rear). My default position is all the way back, fully safe and locked. If I’m not unloading, loading, checking the chamber, in the process of firing a shot, or fulfilling some other purpose that would necessitate bolt movement, the safety stays to the rear. The only reason to use the middle position is for loading, unloading, checking the chamber, or perhaps just checking out the action for fun, and the only way I do any of those things is with the safety in the middle position. The only time the safety goes forward is when firing (or dry firing), and every time I intend to fire the safety goes forward. This is what I mean by planned, logical, and deliberate action.
Considering my rifle’s starting condition, to take a shot I need to:
-take care of hearing and eye protection
-verify that the rifle is in its proper ready configuration (no surprises)
-remove the empty magazine and place a loaded magazine in
-put the safety in the center position
-chamber a round
-reset the safety to the rear position
-determine the range to target and shot difficulty
-take an appropriate position
-deploy the bipod if necessary
-set the elevation or use a holdover
-set the windage or hold
-adjust the parallax if applicable
-remove/open the scope caps (actually I don’t have any yet)
-set the safety to the “fire” position
-press the trigger
-work the bolt while maintaining visual contact to target
That list does not cover every eventuality and every item may not be in the most efficient order. Those are simply the things that need to be done. Perhaps even a double check on conditions, the round in the chamber, or scope settings would be in order at some point. It looks like a lot of stuff, which would seem to make it all the more important to have an efficient routine that accomplishes it all in the least amount of time possible.
Something to keep in mind is whether or not the routine that works for you on your system will work for you on a buddy’s system. Recently I talked about my rifle being a controlled round feed, and how it was neat to be able to do a press check without closing the bolt completely. Then I figured out that this could get me into trouble on a push feed. Since then the bolt gets closed completely prior to a press check.
Post shooting from that location/condition, all of it needs to be undone, and the rifle returned to a starting position as a matter of course before moving on, even if it’s just in between strings of fire. You don’t want to get to the next shot, who knows how far in the future, and find that your rifle is not set to zero, but to 3.7, or is it 8.7, or maybe 13.7? Which turn is the turret on? Can you recall what your last distance was? Is this really the time to be doing that? Would it have been easier to turn it back immediately post shot? Of course it would have. That would have taken maybe 10 seconds at the time, but figuring it out later will take a lot longer, and possibly at a time when you are feeling rushed. After figuring out your windage, you’ll be in even more of a panic to find your windage knob exactly halfway through its range of travel. Was that 2.5 left or right? Hmm…
Finally, remember that the tendency is to become complacent as familiarity and skill accrue. There is only 2.5-3 lbs. of pressure required before a bullet exits your muzzle, wherever it happens to be pointing. If part of your skill set involves constantly improving your gunhandling to become more purposeful, deliberate, and deliberately safe, you will not be a liability to everyone around you.
Work out what things you need to do. Figure out an order that will most efficiently accomplish them. Train your mind and body to work through them smoothly and efficiently. Be methodical. Remember what Carlos said: “Pay attention to detail”!