Running and Gunning…

…but not at the same time.

Sometimes life can be less predictable than we might like.  We might be able to hit whatever we want at the range, from a bench, when we are calmly hand feeding a round into the action and firing one off at about a pace of a shot every 2 minutes, when the target is stationary and big.  It’s when things are not optimal that it can be surprising how erratic things can get.

During my last trip to the range I had some “administrative” type stuff to get done.  That involved breaking my moratorium on group shooting.  Oh well, it’s not like I fell off the wagon or anything.

Something a little odd happened while I was being administrative.  I shot a random group that kind of blew me away.  I didn’t think the rifle could shoot that well.  Maybe it was the dry fire in the days leading up to it that helped…

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4 shots from 100 yards, bipod prone.

So what’s the difference between ideal conditions and mental state (as close as I get to ideal anyway- probably not that close at all) and a more realistic state of body, mind, and external events?  In this case, probably almost 10 times the group size.

Something I’ve done for a while to induce a little bit of false stress is to shoot a course of fire in which I cannot use the bipod or support other than a sling, run 50 yards from the shooting position and 50 yards back, single load a round into the rifle and fire it.  The sequence is repeated 5 times in a time limit of 5 minutes.  Any position other than prone is allowed.  I used to do 5 prone shots and 5 in any other position in a total of 10 minutes, but the prone shots ended up being “gimmes” so I threw them out.  The target is a reduced silhouette, the B-29 target.  Only shots in the 8 ring and in count as hits.  The distance is 100 yards.

I did this last in September.  My positional shooting at that time was at a low and I had a very difficult time keeping my hits dialed in.  I did a lot of work in November on positional shooting, but not much in December.  I was hoping there would be some residual skill left.

I used an RS-2 sling.  My friend used an RS-1.  He thought it made the course a lot easier than the slings he had used before.

We modified the course slightly because of the snow accumulation on the ground.  The running distance was cut by approximately a third.  We didn’t want to risk injury in the snow, like our hearts exploding or something.

I shot from sitting position.  I felt like I really took my time on my shots, which has not been the norm for me lately shooting this course.  I turned my scope power down to about 5x-6x to ensure I wouldn’t have to hunt for my target or risk crossing targets.  I called the first four shots as center hits and the last one I thought went at about 3 o’clock in the 9 ring.  Turns out I was a bit optimistic.

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My total time was somewhere in the area of 4:20.  No, it was not smoking time, just a coincidence.  I had been done a few seconds and someone asked what the time was.  It was 4:25 when I stopped my watch.

That is about as well as I’ve ever shot that course before.  Sometimes having other people around takes the mind off of all the little minutia that occupies one’s mind when he’s the only one at the range.

It’s easy to see how much the increased heart rate and the time constraints can affect things.  My sitting group at a state of rest would be closer to 2 MOA.  It’s also important to note that just increasing the heart rate does not really simulate stress.  Sometimes you can only do so much.

This is a fun course.  I recommend you give it a try.  Thanks for reading.

Increasing the Efficiency of Rifle Presentation

I’ve continued to chip away at the snapshot, specifically the presentation, in the few days since the last article on snapshooting.  I experienced some difficulties, and was able to address them by making change that feels quite a bit different, but would probably not be outwardly noticeable.

The easiest way I can illustrate this is through a discussion of the axis point of the rifle during presentation.  The most obvious axis point of the rifle to move from its angle at port arms to a nearly horizontal position is probably somewhere between the location at the center of the two hands holding it and its balance point.  That’s where it would be the most natural way to move it in terms of feel by the way the rifle balances.

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The axis of the rifle’s rotation is the red dot.  A big swing, while raising it up.  It does work, but you get the problems of wasted motion, a lot of parts moving simultaneously, and a moment of obstructed vision.

I discussed the problem with that type of movement in the previous snapshooting article.  I’ll sum it up again.  If the rifle is rotated around the obvious axis point, that axis also needs to be raised up for the sight to meet the eye.  The raising of the rifle and the rotation of the rifle tend to occur simultaneously.  This causes just a bit of excessive net movement of the rifle.  What is more of a problem is that the rifle rises into and above the line of site which obstructs the target and disrupts the visual continuity of the process.

Another problem with using the obvious axis is that the muzzle position in port arms is a good reference point of where the rifle will point when its presented to the target.  It’s like a pointer.  All the movement that is created when rotating around that obvious axis detracts from the usefulness of that pointer.

What I did in the last article to make the presentation a little more efficient was essentially move the axis of rotation forward to approximately the location of the support hand.  This improved things quite a bit.  During this movement the support hand has the feeling of moving forward to point in at the target, while the firing hand compensates to keep it on track while placing the butt to the shoulder and obtaining a firing grip.

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The primary feeling here is of the support hand, specifically the base of the index finger, driving the index to target.

While the hands move the rifle, I had to learn the feeling of getting the cheekweld established immediately.  Something that Colorado Pete said about a year ago in a discussion about snapshooting stuck with me:

“Speaking of snapshots…when I took Col. Cooper’s General Rifle course at the Whittington Center back in ’99, we had a retirement-age gentleman from New England with us. On the man-against-man steel shoot-off at the close of the course, he showed off what must have been his lifetime of grouse-shotgunning skill. The first target was a large steel at about 50 yards or so. His rifle went off when the buttplate hit his shoulder, so consistently that it seemed as if the trigger was in the buttplate. And he did not miss.”

Finding that instant cheekweld had been a problem, so I decided to mould myself using his analogy of the trigger being in the buttplate as a model.  I started breaking the dry fire shot right when the butt reached the shoulder.  If I didn’t have a sight picture I knew I didn’t get my cheekweld fast enough.  Sometimes an obvious deficiency is the quickest path to noticing the problem and rectifying it without too much fuss or thought.

I believe it was this shift from a kinesthetic approach to a visual one that broke this particular barrier for me.  Shooting is such a visual activity.  I seem to favor kinesthetic learning.  Sometimes one needs to shift from their primary learning style to make progress.

What I was finding is that there are so many moving parts in this movement that it’s rather difficult to get them all to terminate in a consistent point in a proper firing position.  I started examining the presentation with a little more logical analysis.  I knew that I had simplified the movement, but not completely.

I figured out that the muzzle is already pretty much at the height that it needs to end up in.  That makes the muzzle the most logical place to use as an axis to rotate the rest of the rifle around.  This gives the support hand pretty much nothing to do except to maintain the muzzle at an eye level height.  This gives the firing hand only one job, which is to move the rifle to its proper position.

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The photo oversimplifies the movement a little bit in comparison to the other photos, but that is how the change feels in comparison to the others.

As I said before, this is a very subtle change.  The results, in my opinion, have been more dramatic.  I use the muzzle as a guide to address my body to the target.  To say it another way, the rifle is held in the normal, comfortable port arms position, and the body is rotated left or right without altering the way the rifle is held until the muzzle is just below the target.  The eyes remain on the target.  The safety is turned off, and the sight comes up to the eye, replacing the muzzle as the visual marker.  The finger should be on the trigger at the time the sights are on the target.

This is a lot easier than trying to get everything to move all at once and land in the right spot.  I’m finding a lot greater consistency and ease of movement, and that the sight is coming up a lot closer to my intended point of aim.  Those are good things.

Thank you for reading.

Revenge of the Chicken

An Odd Tale of Home Defense

There was an interloper on the premises last week.  It was a sneaky, masked, murderous bandit.  You guessed it, it was a raccoon.  The result was the tragic death of one of our most beloved chickens.  It was the Buff Orpington named Billina who had been the mother hen of our flock.

Ten Minute Silence to honor her memory begins now.

7 minutes, 37 seconds: someone sneezed.  We’ll have to start the 10 minutes over.

OK.

There had been some tracks around, and we were able to deduce that this night stalker had been around our house for a little while.  Mrs. Rifleslinger decided to set a trap for it.  I don’t really agree with the concept of trapping.  It’s not that I think it’s cruel, I just don’t find that it has the same punctuated, satisfying finality as a bullet.

At around 2130 I heard some excitement downstairs.  The Missus had seen the little sucker in the carport, adjacent to our basement.  I didn’t have the right tool handy for the job at that moment.

We live in town, so things like this have to be handled with some delicacy and consideration for things like noise, safe backstops and such.  The stuff I keep generally handy would have been overkill, although I wouldn’t have minded causing a meat explosion with a 5.56 at 5 yards.  I retrieved a 10/22 while everyone else watched the little sucker climb up a tree about 7 yards from the downstairs door.  Some stray dogs (another nice problem, huh?) had scared it out of the kill zone.

The ideal solution to this problem, rather than a trap, would be a silent, invisible, armed sentry remaining motionless, save for the slight movement of the trigger finger after hours of waiting.  I figured that I don’t live in an ideal world and I had to work the next morning at 0700, so I went to bed.

At about 2330 I woke up to a soft growling noise.  The dog was alerted to something.  At first I didn’t want to get out of bed, but when I recalled the prospect of shooting something I found the motivation to get up.  I looked out from the upstairs window.  What did I see there climbing down the tree?  Why, it was the raccoon!  It had waited in a tree for 2 hours to come back down.

Over about 5 minutes it stealthily worked its way down that last 10 feet, stopping to look around every few seconds.  I crept down the stairs and chambered a round as silently as possible. When I reached the carport sliding glass door I could see it still working its way down.  I had left the door unlocked in anticipation.  I freed the door just a little, then about a minute later I slid it just a little more, giving me about an inch opening to shoot through.  I slid the muzzle in just enough to clear the glass and held the barrel there like a pool cue.

The carport motion sensor light kicked on.  The raccoon had gotten used to this happening, so it was no big deal.  It kept looking in my direction.  The slight noise of the door opening had likely made it a little nervous.  It took about 5 minutes for it to move from the tree to a better spot where I could see it.  During that time I started to slowly bring the stock to my shoulder.

My quarry moved a little too far to the left and I just waited.  The air outside was 20° and it just kept flowing into the house where I stood in my underwear.  The floor was also cold on my bare feet.

While I waited it started moving back to the kill zone.  I took a second to try to orient myself to the tech sights in the dark.  The aperture on the tech sights is optimized for shooting AQT’s, but it really is useless in the dark.  Before going to bed I had figured out that if I place the front sight in the center of the blurry obstruction, my sights are pretty much aligned.

The raccoon kept standing up and looking in my direction.  It was careful, patient, and quiet.  I was impressed at its degree of caution.  But for the soft growling of a dog 10 minutes earlier, no one would have ever known it was there.  Dogs are cool!

It reached the perfect spot and stood up on its hind legs to a height of about two and a half feet.  It was looking right at me.  I set the tip of the front sight in the center of its masked face.  It shifted a little to its right as if trying to make sense out of what it was looking at.  The shift briefly took away my shot.  It shifted back into my field of view and I started gently pressing back on what is by far the worst trigger I own.  Creep, slack, creep, slack, resistance… POP!

The shot hit home.  The little sucker started convulsing violently, shaking, flopping about, and kicking.  It was a lovely, heartwarming sight.  I had to call my wife to come downstairs so she could enjoy it as well.  For about a full minute it continued to do the funky chicken, which is the irony of ironies, since a chicken is what it had killed to reap this consequence.

A postmortem inspection revealed that the bullet had hit it in the mouth.  There was no exit wound.  The chickens snacked on bits of its fat while we skinned it.  No, we did not eat it.

We should have a new hat before too long.

The Snapshot: The Path of the Muzzle

I continue to peel away the onion on this snapshot thing.

Here is what I’ve done on it so far:

Those links contain most of my thoughts on the snapshot, as well as detail the evolution of my philosophy on one of the core rifle shooting exercises that the rifleman should set himself to master.

One of my goals for the year is to significantly improve my snapshot.  At this point, I define significantly as follows:

            “I would like to raise my snapshooting hit ratio significantly and lower
            my time as well.  I’d like to see my fastest hits under 1.25 seconds and
            the majority of my rounds be under 1.5.”

Basically what this means is shaving off about 2 tenths of a second from the snapshot while improving my accuracy.  I’m not going to get there by trying to do the same thing faster.  I need to remove excess movement.  That’s where mastering a discipline becomes more like creating a sculpture with a chisel than by erecting a structure out of cement.
I have identified 2 obvious areas of inefficiency in my snapshot technique.  The first I have been aware of for a while.  That is establishing cheekweld and eye relief as the rifle settles into position.  It was obvious in the last update I did, with the video of the 1.39 second snapshot hit, that I gently nestled my head down to the cheekpad just after the rifle was pointed in.  This probably added, coincidentally, about 2 tenths of a second to my time.

It’s actually pretty difficult to get to the point where you can get the head on the rifle in nothin’ flat without slamming the cheek down and jarring the whole system, but there’s a way.  I can describe the feeling of it in a couple of ways.  The first would be that you’re being played in reverse, and the original forward movement was bringing the rifle down and the head back to an erect position.  That’s pretty out there, I know.  The second way to describe it is that the final position we’re reaching is like home, and everything wants to go home, like going from a dominant chord to the tonic, for you music buffs.  The rifle belongs pointing in on the target, the cheek belongs on the cheekpad, and the eye belongs in perfect eye relief with a full sight picture.  Getting there quick doesn’t mean that we crash upon arrival.  That pretty much covers that.

The second way I’ve discovered to become more efficient is to bring the rifle up in a more efficient manner.  I learned this a long time ago when I shot a lot of USPSA.  When drawing a pistol, you want it to go in a straight line from the holster to extension.  There is something called porpoising, which you can see hypocrites with guns do on TV and in movies while they pollute our culture.

Porpoising is named for the porpoise, which jumps out of the water in and dives back in in an arc.  Some people draw their pistols up in an arc that travels over the horizontal plane that extends from the eye to the target, which creates a lot of wasted motion, and therefore wasted time.  It also obstructs one’s line of sight to the target, which is important.  All of these issues for pistol technique hold true for the rifle as well..

Here’s a video sequence of improper rifle presentation via porpoising.  I apologize for the graininess of the photos.  It was relatively low light, the camera was in sport mode (really cool), and “someone” set the lens to manual focus:

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Porpoising is a little more difficult to eliminate with the rifle because it’s a lot longer than a pistol.  You don’t have nearly as much direct control of how the rifle muzzle moves without really putting a lot of practice into it.  Here is the sequence with the muzzle going in a much more direct route to being pointed in:

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Those photos were taken during real presentations of the rifle, not posed individual shots of the camera, although the presentations were at about 1/3 speed.  What’s difficult to see about them due to my face being blacked out is the gap in time between being pointed in and attaining cheekweld.  You can see it in the final 3 photos; the muzzle is essentially in position but my face is squishing down on the cheekpad.  On an unrelated note, notice in the first photo of each sequence I’m still indexing to keep my finger off the trigger rather than using a safer method for bolt action rifles.  Even though I’m already aware of those issues they are still happening without me noticing.  It’s going to take several thousand reps of consciously doing it correctly before I can do it without having to be really aware of it.  I will have to double check myself with photos or video to make sure it is right.

It’s worth it to put a lot of practice into handling the rifle (and other stuff too) more efficiently.  I’m noticing a huge difference in my perception of the speed.  It’s similar to what happens with the bolt work sometimes.  It occasionally comes up faster than my perception is used to tracking and there’s a brief moment in time where it’s surprising.

What you’re going for in terms of muzzle control is to emphasize the support hand pointing at the target.  The firing hand just adjusts the rear of the rifle to keep the muzzle on an efficient track to its final position.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

The Firing Side Shoulder

I notice things occasionally that were probably always there but I never noticed before.  I think that’s how one gets better.  One of the things I have noticed recently pertains to my firing side shoulder.

When you’re driving a bullet to a location hundreds of yards away at a small target, small things can contribute to or detract from your ability to put the bullet on the target.  Your body is part of the shooting system, and differences in the shooting system can and will cause differences in the point of aim.  If you’re paying attention, you probably realize that’s bad.

Sometimes the recoil from even a moderately recoiling rifle can get in your head.  Sometimes, especially with moderately recoiling rifles, you might not even realize it.  You might notice this after a long day at the range after a hundred rounds or so, but sometimes the firing side shoulder, as it starts getting sore, will begin to tense up prior to the shot breaking.  I’m not talking about a flinch, or any type of sudden movement, just tension.

As rifle shooters, we know that relaxation is the most repeatable state we can shoot from.  This is what we mean when we say “bone support”, it’s leaving the muscles out as much as possible.  This is pretty much the same with any physical discipline.  Relaxation is actually a stronger and more functional state.

I have started noticing that when I pull the rifle’s butt into my shoulder that the shoulder has been tense.  It didn’t feel tense, but I found that I could relax and there would be the feeling of the butt sinking into the pocket a little farther.  Why would this make a difference?

The explosion that occurs your rifle’s chamber, and the subsequent supersonic projectile travelling out your rifle’s barrel, subject the shooting system (you, your rifle, the bullet, etc…) to significant forces.  The rifle recoils, your body is there to resist the recoil, the rifle reacts to the resistance your body offers, and very well could be guided up, down, left, or right, depending on what kind of resistance it meets.  If your rifle reacts inconsistently due to your body existing in varying states of tension, you’ll likely have varying locations of impact (over and above any shifts caused by other facets of the shooting system).

I believe that the best way to make that process the most consistent it can be is to be as relaxed as possible. Next time you prepare to fire the rifle, take note of your whole body just before you break the shot.  Your exhale should cue your body into relaxation.  Make sure you feel that stock sink right into your shoulder pocket.  That’s all for now.

Winter Shooting, Day 1

That’s correct.  I didn’t make it to the range this winter until the beginning of January.  Last year I missed out on pretty much the whole winter due to my reloading area being so full as to be unworkable, and was working to finish the new room.  I missed a lot of important information and experience by missing out on shooting in the winter last year.

I’m very interested in how the cold will affect the various aspects on my shooting.  Not that I’ve never been out in it shooting, but I haven’t really put effort into seriously studying it.  I would like to figure out what the equipment challenges are going to be including keeping warm and functional, if my cold bore zero will wander much, if my point of impact will string more than in the summer, and what additional problems will come.

I would have like to get out when it was really cold.  The coldest it gets around here is perhaps a few degrees below zero.  That’s usually at night.  I would estimate that the coldest day time temperatures here are in the single digits.  You can tell when it’s that cold because every time you breathe it freezes your nostrils.

On this day it was in the single digits in the early morning hours.  By the time I was ready to go it was in the teens.  At the range my Kestrel read 21°.  It felt a little colder than that to me at first, but either I got used to it, or the fact that it was 22° when I left made a big difference.  I was a little disappointed that the temperature was so high, but you get what you get.  That’s not so cold as to cause miserable discomfort unless you have to lay behind the rifle for 3-4 hours.  Then it’s a mind game just to stay in position.

I wore thermal underwear, top and bottom, 2 pairs of regular weight wool socks, German surplus wool pants (AWESOME!!!) my ever-present flannel, and a down coat.  I use silk glove liners and nomex gloves for dexterity work, and the liners with heavier gloves for general purpose.  On my head was one of those Cabela’s head covering, ninja mask/Russian pastry named things, and my home-made rabbit hat (kilt them all myself).  All this stuff, except for the rabbit hat, is in my man purse during winter, plus a bit of fall and spring.  It may seem like a bit much to keep with you, but I am still holding out against having a cell phone and I need to be prepared to walk home in whatever the world happens to be doing should my antique vehicle crap out on me.

This was sort of an administrative shooting session, but I still refrained from group shooting.  I had both the Rem700 and the FN.  I started with the Remmy.

My impression of the effects of the cold weather on my shooting was that it was similar to how it feels to shoot a gun in a dream.  There was a barrier between me and the rifle controls.  Most of this was how the headwear affected my ability to get a sight picture.  What I realized later was that this was greatly exacerbated by the Remmy’s short length of pull, which is in the neighborhood of 12.5” to 12.75” (can’t remember exactly right now).  It always feels cramped, which is probably why I don’t shoot it much.  Remind me to call McMillan about getting a spacer.  Another significant issue was the fogging of my eye protection.

The zero on the Remmy was 0.4 mils high.  I don’t think I’ve fired it since September.  The point of impact with the rifle is more consistent than with the FN.

With the FN I wanted to see what the cold bore for a bonded round was.  That shot went right and a little low.  Most of the following shots with the Federal Gold Medal match were more consistent, but I occasionally got a few drastically right fliers.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.  There was no change in zero on this occasion.  I think that since I have shot this rifle more consistently, I have probably already accounted for those changes that I believe occur seasonally.  I might have to check my data book to see if the adjustments over the past months equate to the same number as what the Remmy had to change.

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I also got a chance to play with the new camera.  It takes up to 5 shots per second.  Here is an eight photo sequence from just prior to the shot breaking to after the bolt is worked and the grip reacquired.

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Just to keep it fair for everyone I traded jobs for a while with my range partner for the day, Young Miss Rifleslinger.

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Then I challenged her to play a game of RifleTac-Toe.  I let her use the Remmy.  It’s heavier and shoots a bit more consistently.

Rifle Tac Toe

Her plays are in red and mine are yellow.  The play only counts if the shot touches the target dot on that grid.  Both of our first shots touched a target other than what we were aiming at.  She went first, so my first shot was nil.  I started connecting and beat her in five rounds.  That’s actually a lot more fun that just shooting groups or dot drills.

My gear did fine for the most part, although the right leg of the Atlas would not close for a while.  It either froze or was impeded due to compacted snow and ice obstructing the mechanism.  I was hoping to get cold enough to see if the home-altered lube concoction I was using would freeze.  I detected absolutely no difference in its viscosity.

Fogging is always an issue.  This isn’t a problem with the internals of most of the stuff (the camera may be an exception), but the fog from breath is a big problem.  None of the stuff that is supposed to counter fogging that I have tried has worked for me.  A trick I have learned in the past is to point my breath down when wearing the ninja mask.  This works for binos and scopes, but is too much of a chore for eye protection, in my opinion.

Another effect of the weather was that I just couldn’t get done all that I wanted to get done.  It affected my ability to move quickly and my willingness to stay as long as normal.  I guess I have the whole rest of the winter to toughen up.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a gratuitous shot of an RS2 sling in the snow:

Pistol Grip Measurement Repository

I did not plan for this post, but there is too much information that can be obtained just from photos to have a bunch of text interfering with it.  If you would like to contribute to the data repository, send me a photo of your rifle, preferably on an inch grid with a grid line at the point your finger engages the trigger.  I’m going to rule out rifles with horizontal grips, such as lever actions) for now.  Thank you.

Things to observe in the photos:

            -Distance of top and bottom of the pistol grip in relation to the trigger.
            -Angle of the grip.

            -Height of the pistol grip in reference to the trigger.

Hogue Overmolded, FN Model 70 action

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Magpul MOE

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Manners MCS-T (I apologize for the lack of bottom metal.  This stock was bedded for a different rifle and loaned to me.)

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McMillan A3-5

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McMillan A5

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McMillan Baker Special

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Sako TRG-42

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The Pistol Grip and Its Influence On Rifle Fit, Part 2: The Trigger Finger

Now we come to the meat of why I decided on this topic in the first place.  The angle and location of the pistol grip have a huge effect on the way the trigger finger will address the trigger.  Since, in my opinion, trigger technique supersedes comfort in holding the rifle, the fit of the pistol grip will then affect how comfortable the rifle can be held when shooting.

Note: the reference grids represent inches.

Here is my hand for reference:

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Here is my current main rifle for the blog, and for most of my shooting:

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Note that it’s nearly 3 and a half inches from the trigger to the bottom of the pistol grip, and about 2.25” to 2.5” to the point where the top of the hand might grasp it.

This is what my hand grasping the rifle in a way that puts my finger on the trigger correctly:

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I really have to contort my hand to bring my finger to the trigger.  Does this compromise other aspects of my ability to fire my rifle?  I’m not sure, but it seems likely it would.

The AR15 platform is presents quite a contrast.  Here’s a rifle with a Magpul MOE grip for size comparison:

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The distance from the trigger guard to the front of the grip appears to be approximately 1” at the top and 2” at the bottom.

Here is my hand on the rifle:

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No contorting necessary.  I can just grasp it normally and the finger ends up pretty close to where I want it.  I find it odd that a rifle could just fit so easily.

What if I wanted something that was more of a compromise between the easy carrying attributes of the more traditional grip and the vertical grip of the AR.  I found something in the rifles available to me that fit the bill.

Here is the grip of the Remington 700 I sometimes shoot.  The stock is a McMillan (SLG would say “Mickey’s” which for some reason makes me crave malt liquor and rap music, both of which I normally don’t like at all).  The model is the Baker Special (sounds yummy, like a Baker’s dozen of chocolate donuts- have I mentioned that I haven’t eaten sweets for over 6 weeks?).

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The distance from the trigger to the top of the area of the grip where the hand would likely go is about 1.75” and the bottom of the gripping surface is just shy of 2.5.  It places my hand in just the right spot.  I have full grip contact and the trigger press that I like.

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Part of what I think makes Micky’s Baker work is that it puts the hand at a bit of a forward angle.  It just feels nice.

Here is my TRG for comparison:

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Note that the distance from the trigger to the top of the grip is almost the same as that of the McMillan Baker Special, but that the grip is almost completely vertical.  This actually means that my finger is a little farther back from the trigger, and I need to contort my hand slightly to get the trigger finger just a little farther forward.  It’s not as bad as the FN because with the TRG My bottom fingers still have full contact.  I basically rotate my hand forward at about the same angle as the McMillan

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I’m not sure what the magic formula for grip angle and distance from the trigger is, or if there is one.

If anyone could supply specs or photo similar to what I have here on other stocks, I think it would be helpful.  If anyone can email photos with measurements like the ones I put in this article, I will post them and turn this into a reference for people trying to pick out stocks.  I myself am particularly interested in the Manners T, T3, and the McMillan HTG and A1-3 stocks.
A reader submitted a photo of the McMillan A3-5.  It appears to be fitted to a McMillan G30.  I find it strange that while he was considerate enough to send a photo of the stock, he was not considerate enough to send a photo of my hand on the stock.  Some people…  (Joking.  I am very thankful, it was on a grid, no less!)

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It looks as though the distance from the top of the grip is approximately 2.25″ and the bottom is 2.5″.  What really is different about this grip is how high it is in relation to the trigger.  The top of the gripping surface originates at the same plane that the trigger originates.  This is different than any of the other stocks from a functional standpoint.  The PBR and McMillan Baker special also originate from about the same place, but the curve will cause the firing hand to rotate down.  The TRG has a spacer to force the user’s hand down.  Note the AR grip.  It originates below the bottom of the trigger.  Interesting…

The Pistol Grip and Its Influence on Rifle Fit, Part 1

The stock is one of the things on the rifle that will make your shooting experience difficult if it is incorrectly fit.  I imagine that this is part of what pretty much every new shooter finds frustrating.  If someone was lucky enough to start shooting with a stock that actually fit, they probably wouldn’t actually notice it, but it would save them a lot of trouble and frustration.  David Tubb presents a similar argument in his book The Rifle Shooter.  If I end up going through all of this just to end up buying a T2K rifle, I’m going to seek out Mr. Tubb so he can have an opportunity to tell me that he told me so.  I would rather that I can find my own way to a good fit.

The pistol grip affects a few things in reference to your relationship with the rifle.  The shape and angle of the grip affect how the rifle carries and how it shoots, which encompass most of the things you might do with your rifle.  I’ll leave out the possibilities of impact weapons or walking canes for this article.

A grip that is straight inline with the muzzle makes for a rifle that’s easy to carry.  That’s how stocks were made when people rode around on horses a lot.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  To get an idea of how the stock would be easier to carry make two fists with two of your hands.  Place your support hand fist palm up and your firing side fist palm down.

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Imagine your rifle as a straight rod with the muzzle pointing to the direction of your support side (not at your support side).  When your arms are held in front of you, as relaxed as they can be with your fists out in front, your muzzle should be pointing slightly up and to the left for a right handed shooter.   To put the rifle in port arms, simply lower the firing hand and raise the support hand.

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Steven Spielberg edited the gun out of this photo and put in a roll of wrapping paper (non-specific “winter holiday” type), just it keep it PC.  OK, that was a lie.  Actually I don’t own a gun that’s perfectly cylindrical.

An inline pistol grip also gives the rifle a less obtrusive shape overall.  There is just less to poke into you if you happen to have the rifle slung.

Rifle grips are becoming increasingly vertical.  Why is this the case if horizontal grips carry so nicely?  The reason is that vertical grips make shooting easier.  Imagine that straight rod-shaped rifle again, and imagine holding it within your fists held out in front of you.  Now imagine putting the butt into your shoulder to fire it.  Your firing hand wrist wants to bend, which is uncomfortable.

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To stop that bending, you’d need to raise your elbow to approximately a 45° angle above horizontal.  This is very likely why the “chicken wing” is so strongly advocated among those who practice marksmanship as it was taught up through the 1950’s or so.

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Why is a straight wrist desirable?  Bending the wrist makes it harder to use the fingers to grasp the pistol grip.  It doesn’t make for the most efficient use of your fine motor skills, which you need.  It will probably make your muscles work harder to accomplish the same task.  Working harder equates to fatigue occurring sooner.  Fatigue leads to tremors.  Tremors may not be optimal for precise shooting.

The most stable shooting positions involve planting the firing side elbow on a surface for support, whether that surface be the ground or another body part, such as the leg.  If we want to get that firing side elbow down where it can be planted, we need to abandon that inline grip.  The vertical grip allows for a straight wrist while the elbow is lowered.

What about offhand?  Tradition holds that the elbow needs to be high.  Aren’t we compromising the ability to hold if we do away with the “chicken wing”?  If we consider it in terms of what makes the human body steadier, it stands to reason that the lower the body is, the steadier, which not so coincidentally also applies to positions.  Why would raising the upper arm and elbow automatically render the offhand position more stable?  I can’t think of any reason it would.  Try it yourself.  Hold your elbow up above horizontal, then bring it down.  Which was steadier?  As I mentioned before, the chicken wing is part of the legacy from when stocks were straight.  Unless you’re shooting a historical piece, it’s probably okay to let the elbow drop.

My Shooting Bench

For the duration of the blog I’ve been harping against the use of shooting benches and trying to promote practice with the rifle in a manner consistent with realistic field use.  I’ve just discovered that I’ve developed a crutch that was probably borne of pride for not using a bench.

My crutch, which I can now see is the equivalent of a shooting bench, is the known distance shooting line that allows for comfortable, unobstructed shooting from any position.  It wouldn’t have to be on a manicured patch of turf or anything, just a spot that I could comfortably plop down, set up my gear, have my range to target hand fed to me, and take my time to make a shot, or even be timed in a nicely set up, predetermined position.  Pete thought I was going to say “bipod” 🙂 .

Real life doesn’t always allow for a comfortable position.  Sometimes the distance to target won’t be displayed in yards in a position adjacent to your shooting location.  Targets may not remain stationary, or even visible, for very long.  Yet I’ve been affording myself these luxuries for most of the time I’ve been shooting.

I’m thinking that a few pieces of steel or perhaps clay pigeons set out on the berm would serve as good targets.  I might just go for a walk on the grounds of the range and decide at any moment that “now is the time to take a shot”.  If the grass in that location is too tall, I’ll have to figure out a way to get a steady position that affords me the line of sight I need.  If there is something in proximity that allows for support I’d have to figure out how to best utilize it.  Recognizing cover and making quick and effective use of it is also a great idea.

Another method I’ve used is to number a series of targets, and number a series of shooting locations.  Mark these respective locations on a series of index cards.  Grab a random card form each stack, then run to that position and shoot that target with as many shots as it takes from any position that will work from that location.  Time yourself.  That’s a humbling way to spend time at the range.