Consistency Equals…?

There is a classic shooting adage, “consistency equals accuracy.” I tend to take phrases like that on face value and use them as general guidelines. Sometimes it helps to deconstruct them to correct errors.

I was prompted to consider whether this phrase is valid after my failure to get my shooting system (rifle, scope, ammo, shooter, etc…) to shoot to my expectations. I believe I have a gift for robot-like consistency of action. The loads were weighed consistently, the screws were torqued consistently, I believe I used the rifle in a consistent manner, but I did not achieve the “accuracy” I was looking for. Sure, you could pick things down to a finer level, such as whether the stock provided a consistent surface for the action to sit on, which would probably actually help a lot, but the question that popped into my mind is, what if you’re consistently doing the wrong thing? Is it possible to be consistently bad? Upon experience and observation, I would have to say that the answer is yes.

This is similar to Saul Kirsch’s point (buy his book, it’s well worth the read) that practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Similarly, consistency doesn’t equal accuracy. The phrase should be corrected to read like this: Consistency yields an accurate measure of quality of the total system and manner of operation. A quality system operated consistently in a correct manner yields accuracy.”

The corrected phraseology opens up the ability to inquire as to what part(s) of the system require improvement. It comes down to stock, action, barrel, scope, rings, mount, support if any, ammo, and shooter. Not only is the quality of each component important, the way the components are mated together is just as important. Action to stock, barrel to action, base to action, rings to base, scope to rings, ammo to chamber, bullet to bore and twist, shooter to rifle. If there are multiple parts of the system that detract from a reasonable level of performance it can be extremely difficult to troubleshoot.

For instance, my rifle is equipped with a high quality 20 MOA rail made by Near Manufacturing. The rail has a recoil lug to help keep it solid.  A small issue that negates the presence of the recoil lug is that it does not contact the action. The high quality of the base could also be largely negated if it did not conform well to the shape of the action it sits on.  This issue is probably the least of my worries, but it’s something that isn’t exactly right either.

IMG_2116 Cropped and resized
 

Finally, top quality gear operated poorly will be just as useless as run of the mill gear, or sub-par gear, or even downright crap. In fact, because it will perform at the same level due to the operator being the extreme weak link, it equates to wasted money. The key there is that while nice stuff is cool to have, learning to use it is probably more important.

The ideal way to do things is to begin with top notch components ($$$), have an experienced gunsmith built it ($$$), and get trained up to shoot it correctly ($$$). What I am doing is trying to do the best I can with the means I have available, which won’t get me there as quickly, but I think I’m learning a lot on the way there.

 

Increasing the Value of Range Time

So far this year I’ve probably shot somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 rounds or so. About 100 of them were tied up in load development. A good number of the rest were spent working on improving precision (diagnosing a lack of precision) in bipod prone. In comparison to how much I shot last year during the same time period, 500 rounds is a lot, perhaps not as much as I would like or how much it would take to improve at the rate I would like.

If there is one thing that I think has been missing during that time, it would be a more substantive dry fire routine. So far the only thing I have done this year in live fire that I could not have accomplished with dry fire was testing loads, experiments to improve precision, and working on recoil control. Come to think of it, those were the primary things I’ve been working on. Aside from that, the rest of my skill set has been left alone for the most part.

As I have gained experience as a shooter I have become more convinced than ever of the necessity of a strong dry fire regimen. Live fire, and the recoil that accompanies it, can be corrosive to the fine skills necessary to shoot a rifle well. Even while I have not had what I would consider a strong dry fire routine lately, I have started working ball and dummy into my regular range routine, which means that anywhere from 50% to 80% of my shots at the range are clicks rather than booms. I believe that the ratio of dry fire to live fire should be way more than that.

Dry fire trains not only the foundational elements of shooting- position, natural point of aim, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, breathing, follow through, etc., but it also trains the mind and body that pressing the trigger doesn’t have to be loud, concussive, or even painful. Pressing the trigger can be relearned to be an innocuous event.

For a shooter, having a flinch is par for the course. Even if there’s no obvious flinch, there are things we do, such as tensing of the shoulder that interfere with optimum operation of the rifle. There are things we can do to mitigate the flinch, but it’s always something to watch for.

Dry fire does not carry any negative messages to the subconscious- no blast and no recoil (and no money being sent out the muzzle). There’s only information there. What you see during dry fire can teach you a lot. It trains you to call your shot. It will tell you what is happening when you press the trigger, whether you trigger press upsets the rifle’s alignment, or if your position suddenly relaxes and shifts the rifle at the moment the trigger breaks. You can see exactly what the accuracy of your hold is in any position.

Dry fire has been my main tool to work on shooting with improvised support. I look at furniture as training props. Couches, tables, chairs, coffee tables, shelves, corners of walls all make convenient things to use as support in the absence of rocks, trees, fences, cars, and all the things we might make use of in the field. Initially it can be a slow process to figure out how to conform the body, and a shooting position, that will allow for the most accurate use of the support surface. After a bit of practice, and trial and error, things start falling into place much more quickly.

Something that makes dry fire fun for me is that it doesn’t matter how accurate your rifle is. I consider my rifle, scope, ammo, accessories, and myself to be components of a total system. The one component of the system that I know I can improve the quality of, for free, for sure, is me. That means that the system is being upgraded over time regardless of how much money I can, or more likely in my case, cannot, afford to put into it. This also means that when (not if) I can afford to significantly upgrade the hardware end of it I won’t be as much of a weak link.

In my experience benefits of dry fire are somewhat nullified by going to the range and loading up. I may not be the brightest bulb in the knife drawer, but I know that loading the rifle will change the experience of pressing the trigger just a smidge. There’s a way to bring the benefits of dry fire into live fire. It’s something I like to call ball and dummy. If you’re wondering how you might be able to fool yourself at the range, click on the “dummy” link above.

The uncertainty of whether there actually is a live round in the chamber, and the relatively low probability, 20%-50%, that the gun will go bang, imports the feeling from dry fire into live fire. Conceptually, ball and dummy seems like a chore, or something that should be reserved for those rare times when you wonder if you are wimpy enough to be flinching (whisper: “The answer is yes.”). In reality though, it’s not really a chore at all, unless you’re on such a compressed timetable to get a predetermined number of rounds downrange in a limited amount of time, e.g., load testing.

Ball and dummy has several side benefits. Not only do you still get to manipulate a round through the action, but you also get to practice a failure to fire clearance. Since the density of rounds actually shot in your practice time is reduced, the value of each round fired is increased. Not only are you training yourself in terms of probability to train down the flinch, but also in terms of how much it actually hurts. Consider that 20 rounds from a .308 in a day shouldn’t hurt, but that 60-80 just might.

I have found that because I have made ball and dummy a range staple, I need to keep a fresh batch of dummies in the bag. After getting repeatedly worked through the action and landing on the ground, the dummies turn into something that you don’t want to put back into the rifle. Also, if you are stinky, and thereby are forced to go to the range yourself and load your own dummies without looking, a dinged up dummy round will be easily discernible from your live ammo. If you cull brass, you might set aside some purposefully to make dummy rounds with.

In addition to ball and dummy, I find it helpful to dry fire several times prior to, and in between strings of fire. It refreshes the mind and brings into play all of the things that you have been working on. It seems silly, or like a waste of time at first, but range time is best measured by quality and not quantity.

My evaluation of my shooting work so far this year is that the lack of sufficient dry fire has made the live fire that I have done far less meaningful than it could have been. I have been told, and I believe, that live fire should really only be a test of what is worked on in dry fire. Dry fire is like the roots of a tree or the foundation of a building. Because it is not as significant to the senses it may seem less important, but a tree without roots, or a building without some kind of foundation won’t stand. A shooting regimen without structure is just as meaningless. Marksmanship practice that only occurs on the range is, for those of us with families and jobs, is very unlikely to produce improvement. Furthermore, range practice without integration of dry fire can fail to bring to bear, to a degree, the benefits that are gained from dry fire.

Welcome

I hope you like the new place.  It’s kind of like I moved myself and all my furniture over here because the old place was too crowded.  I’m going to leave what is on the old blog already over at its existing location.  I figured there’s no reason to delete it.

I like the more open feel here, plus everyone knows that WordPress is so much more artsy than Blogger.  I’m also wearing a very dramatic looking beret when I type, and snapping when I write something particularly hip.

Right now this blog is somewhat like the Death Star in Return of the Jedi- it isn’t finished yet but it is functional.  All of the old posts are here, and all of the comments that were posted prior to this week, which is when I imported the blog over.  The comments are a treasure trove of great information.  I’m still working on making sure that all the links are good, the pictures and videos work, and that the spacing is correct.

One thing I’d like to direct your attention to is the “Reference Section” tab at the top menu.  I’m in the process of creating an index of the living book that this blog has become.  If you want to learn about positions, bolt manipulation, sling technique, or any number of other topics they’re easy to find, all in one place. I’m still working on compiling and organizing it, but there’s already a lot there.  I have most of the meat from up through 2011 in there already, and will keep adding and organizing it.

In the not too distant future I should have a blogroll tab and maybe some other stuff, but I want to keep the clean look because it makes for more relaxed reading, in my opinion.

The RifleCraft Store is less finished than the blog, but it’s coming along and should be open for business soon.  This way I can keep the blogging separate from sling sales, but it’s there if you decide you want to shop.

Thanks for reading.  I really appreciate you coming here, and I always learn from your comments.

On Missing the Bus

As I said last time, something arose that made attending the rifle competitions, while not exactly impossible, a lot lower priority than other things I had to deal with.  It was the latest of several setbacks to my shooting improvement this year that were the result of life happening in unfortunate ways.

One thing I had been very happy about was that I was able to buy a Zeiss PRF rangefinder.  I had been using it often.  I had been in the habit of taking it to work with me.  When I had a spare moment I would pull it out, look at something in the distance, estimate its range, then use the rangefinder to check.  This was going just great in getting my eye calibrated.  Somehow on one of these work trips I lost it.  I have no idea how, but it is GONE.  It’s completely unfathomable how it happened, but my hours have changed and there are some times when my mental state is such that the lights are on but  no one’s home.

I had gotten a really great deal on the rangefinder as well, which made the prospect of replacing it even more daunting.  My wife, surprisingly, told me that I could just get another.  I was ready to get one when the reason I needed it, these impending competitions, fell out from under me.  All that was just an aside to show you that I’m getting to the point where I could write a good country or blues song based on personal anecdotes.

The feeling I had after finding out I would not make the Steel Challenge (a precision rifle course with the same name as the pistol match) or the Sniper’s Hide Cup was that my opportunity for great learning, growth, and improvement was flushed down the toilet.  Also, I had arranged to shoot the Steel Challenge with reader, commenter, and friend “SLG”, so I missed my chance to finally meet him.

Subjectively, it seems to me that I have not really improved at shooting lately, and that this was my big opportunity.  Upon some reflection I realized that I did not have this feeling of stagnation prior to this year.  The difference is a lack of context that the shooting fits into.  Shooting on its own is like spinning wheels in the air.  Without application it’s difficult to have a frame of reference to even measure, track, or drive improvement.

Before February, I had a solid role, context, and frame of reference; it was sort of an identity for my shooting.  After that was gone I figured I could simply transition that into competing, and that I could actually make faster progress at shooting without having to work on ancillary field skills.  That put me almost seamlessly into preparation mode, trying to fill some obvious gaps.  When I found out I could not attend these competitions, it seemed as though my preparation was wasted.  It really felt as though the bottom had dropped out from beneath me.

Starting the blog back in 2011 was fun, and there was always a lot to write about.  For the first few months I was just conveying information I was extremely familiar with, which was easy.  After that I went in some easy circles, coming back to the same topics as I gained some insights here and there.

This year I got to the point where I was tired of revisiting the same topics repeatedly.  I started feeling like a bit of a fraud because I’m writing from the exact point that I’m exploring.  Essentially I have no basis of authority on the information I’m presenting because it’s essentially the noise from my brain as I try to figure out what I’m doing.  It’s especially hard when my efforts don’t result in tangible gains.

The only thing left to do is to pick the proverbial bicycle up and get back on it.  In the next few weeks I’ll be relaunching the blog at a different site.  The emphasis will be on moving on from being a decent general rifle shooter to having more finely honed skills with smaller targets, and at longer ranges.  While it felt as though I missed the bus to really stepping up my game, I figured out that there will be more opportunities coming along that route that I could jump on when I can.

 

 

Load and Rifle Configuration Notes

An unexpected family health issue came up the day before I was supposed to leave for my first competition, and will prevent me from attending both of the ones that I had signed up for and had been preparing for (and really looking forward to). I had written the following article to put in the blog queue prior to finding out that it would be irrelevant. I decided to go ahead and put it out since it sort of ties up what I had been working on for a while, and since I’m not quite ready to do much writing just yet. Sling orders are still on hold, as I would like to get out of town for a break if it will be possible.

_______________________________________________________________________

For the last month or two I have been picking nits in an effort to bump up my game in the precision rifle shooting arena. It has involved a lot of exploration, some learning, fine tuning, an improvement in the process of taking a shot, and maybe some modest gains in what shows up on paper.

One of the underpinnings my work in the last month was my attempt to work up a really good load for my rifle. I worked with the components I could get, which was lucky in the first place. The components consisted of 155 grain Sierra Palma bullets, Federal cases, Winchester primers, and Vihtavuori N140. I estimate that I will need 400 rounds for the competitions I have coming up, and I was able to secure 500 bullets and 3 pounds of powder, which would theoretically put me just over that.

My experience during load development was that there were too many individual sources of inaccuracy to really nail down the thing I was looking for, which was an accuracy node. It was not until I ran out of time and extra ammo to play with that I was even finding a methodology that seemed to yield any meaningful results.

I started with ladder tests at 130 yards, which is the farthest I can get without getting really creative with the range space (and taking up all the available “bays”). Ladders are best done at farther distances, but as long as you know which hole belongs to which bullet, there’s something to interpret. I saw quite a bit of something that one does expect (or want) to see at that distance, which was significant horizontal shifting. Normally in ladder testing, horizontal point of impact shifts are attributed to wind and disregarded. What I was seeing could not be attributed to the modest and fairly consistent wind I was shooting in.

I decided to try an Optimal Charge Weight load development round. The results conflicted with my ladder testing, and turned out not to be fruitful, to make a long story short. That accounted for 22 bullets and accompanying powder that I lost. I’m not saying the methodology is flawed, just that my system was not equipped to take advantage of it.

Some side experiments during that time seemed to get me closer to being on track. I put the Atlas on the TRG and got a weird and wide flier with a strange and different recoil impulse. I borrowed the Vortex Razor 5-20×50 from the TRG and put it on the FN. The scope has parallax adjustment, which the SWFA does not. It is also significantly larger and heavier, which for the most part is undesirable, but was instructive in the way it changed the character of the recoil impulse.

IMG_1942 Resized

Changing the scope seemed to help a bit. I don’t think it affected the crazy stuff I was seeing, because I still experience some of it.  It did, on the other hand, seem to help in a small way in general.  The best groups I shot with it were, I think, the best groups I have shot with the rifle.

I also borrowed a Harris bipod. The Atlas had been bothering me. I was starting to suspect that the adjustments and features of the Atlas were making it impractically difficult for me to find consistency. It tilts. It pans. It has a tension knob that is supposed to lock it down, but which in my experience doesn’t really, and tends to loosen rapidly. The panning feature invariably allowed (caused?) my right bipod leg to walk forward. When the leg walks forward to the end of its travel (who knows when that happens?) there is hard contact on one side that maybe wasn’t there before, and is not there on the other side. It just doesn’t seem like a good thing to me. It could be that I was doing something wrong, but it does seem that if that was the case the Atlas was not helping matters. 

The first Harris I borrowed was too tall, which meant that I could not get good contact on the rear bag. I did get a little vertical stringing as I struggled to keep the rear bag in consistent contact with the stock, BUT, something happened that was reassuring. Every hit in the group, which turned out to be 7 rounds or so (got carried away), was consistent with my call for that shot.

To sum it up, I left the biggerbetter scope on the rifle, and borrowed a Harris of appropriate height (thanks SLG!!!) and started seeing results that, while not amazing, were consistent. This unfortunately was too late a development in my botched load testing to assure me that I did the best I could.

What I learned was that my rifle will shoot Federal Gold Medal Match fairly consistently in sub-minute 3 round groups. I apologize for 3 round groups, but this was load testing, and time and ammo were both at a premium. My average group size over 7 3-round groups was 0.96 MOA.

I found out way too late that I had to redo my load development to get something that would come anywhere even resembling acceptable. What I learned was that I could get reasonably consistent muzzle velocities with any charge that I tried enough of to tell what consistent was. I chronoed every round I shot, and the consistency of the numbers was one of the only things I could look at to say that at least one thing was happening the same way every time over the course of several weeks. Most of the loads would not shoot, including ones with standard deviation of ~11. In the end, I just went old school, shooting 3 round groups for group size. The best I could do was a consistent pair of 1.2 MOA groups. I did not have enough components or time in reserve to play with seating depth. My suspicion is that my rifle does not much like these bullets, which have a reputation for wanting to reach a velocity of 2950-3000 FPS before they start shooting well. My velocity with the 20” barrel is ~2814.

I also learned what I had not been able to when I tried to eliminate the bipod hop. Moving the butt closer to my sternum resulted in a definite reduction in the hop to the left. This puts the heel of the stock at the top of my pectoral muscle just below the collarbone. I notice that my head and neck seem to sit “truer” in this position.

I learned that a heavier rifle, even if just a pound or so, really helps in prone. It helps more than I would have thought. It does not help at all for me in offhand, and it makes the rifle less pleasant to carry around. It has caused me to rethink the feasibility of one rifle that can do everything well. I’m still committed to the idea of something handy, which is not what my rifle has morphed into in the last few weeks (it has probably gained ~20 oz.). Who knows what the future holds.

This officially closes the chapter on my sole obsession with precision shooting via the bipod and rear bag. Now comes the time to begin the hurried sharpening of the other tools in the box, and to ready them for use…

 

Click Click Boom

If you have been reading here at all in the past month, it should be evident that I have been plagued with dissatisfying downrange results.  After a while it starts to play with the mind.  It’s probably natural to start wondering if what initially seems like an equipment problem can be shooter induced, as per Rifleslinger’s Razor.

I had a hard time believing that I could be the cause of a 3 inch flinch (I don’t know if that’s an accurate description, or at what distance it would be accurate; it sounded cool).  Flinching is one of those things that will rear its ugly head to any rifle shooter from time to time.  One must maintain constant vigilance against it.

I had already sort of proven to myself that the rifle, and not me, was what was causing my inaccuracy woes.  A few weeks ago I did a test in which I assumed a firing position in prone and had Young Miss Rifleslinger actuate the trigger during the bottom of my breath cycle.  The result was a mediocre 1.55 MOA group.

Probably the best way to deal with a flinch on a routine basis is through the ball and dummy drill.  I had been looking for my dummies for a few weeks.  Luckily, the liquid portion of my lunch completely evacuated from its container into my backpack, which compelled me to empty it for cleaning and I found them.

>Doing ball and dummy by oneself is not hard.  It’s actually really good practice for manipulating the rifle without looking at it, which keeps the eyes downrange.  I’m not saying one should never look at the rifle for a visual cue, but overdoing it can be a crutch.  Shooting is such a visual activity, and rifle shooting sort of revolves around target detection, that keeping the eyes off the rifle as much as possible is a good idea.

Initially I began loading three dummies and one live round into my four round mag.  That works pretty well unless you happen to shoot dummies for the first three rounds.  I also got to where I could feel a difference in several ways.  The live rounds would be cooler due to not having been cycled through the action.  The dummies get rough.  My reloads with this batch of brass were not sufficiently resized.  I made a new batch of dummies with my new, bright, shiny brass, and reset my sizing die to take care of the things I could fix.

The next trip to the range with my new dummies gave me a lot more confidence.  I have not seen more than a half inch of movement (at 129 yards) upon firing, and that much is uncommon.  That movement was not due to flinch, but to trigger control and/or NPA issues.  Most of the dummy dry fires were very smooth.

After playing with the 1 live/3 dummies method for a while, I stumbled onto something that worked a lot better in my opinion.  I made four new dummies.  I started grabbing 2 live rounds to work into the mix.  Somehow I ended up with 6 cartridges in my hand as I was loading the mag.  Four went into the mag.  I put the mag in the rifle with the bolt slightly forward and topped it off with one of the remaining rounds.  The other round I carefully set aside so I would not see it.  The beauty of this dummy loading method is that even at the last round in the mag one cannot be certain whether it’s a dummy or a live round, and you can be assured that at least one round in the gun is live.

As I continue training for my upcoming matches I’m going to keep up the ball and dummy.  I think it will be more useful as I transition into focusing on field positions.  It also stretches out the quality of training per round, which is becoming more important considering the ammo supply line.

Still Hoppin’

In my recent concentrated work on bipod prone I have had occasional fleeting experiences of my reticle staying almost on target through the recoil cycle.  Having the skill in this position to watch the hits appear on the target has been a goal of mine for a long time, and was one of my official goals of 2012, and the goal for that year that I didn’t make any progress on.  I thought that with my recent minor and infrequent successes (but more than I have experienced in a while), it was time to get this figured out.

One of the problems with my approach to improving my bipod prone technique has been that I have not really tried anything new.  I have been like the inexperienced Appleseed orange hat instructor who doesn’t really get down and coach, but walks by and yells, “BY THE NUMBERS!!!”.  What I had been repeating to myself was, “Straight back, load the bipod.”  It does not take two years to learn how to get straight behind the rifle or load the bipod, but in my simple mind I thought that if I accomplished those things I would get it.  No.  Shooting was intended to be more difficult for me than for others.  So instead of gaining those years of shooting experience, I repeated the same shooting session every time I shot with the bipod. 

Lately I think I have learned a lot from taking a more methodical experimental approach.  What I thought I could do was to take more ammo than I usually would to the range, and just concentrate on figuring out this one easy problemwithout worrying about how well I shot.  I had an extra 80 rounds of those handloads sitting around, so why not?

I identified some strategies I might try in order to begin to find the right technique or kinesthetic cues that might start me down the road of success.  I took my voice recorder so I could keep track of exactly what I was doing for each shot and group of shots.  I printed out 16 targets so I could track my results downrange, although I was not attached to achieving a particular output from any specific input.  I took a hard look at the recent times that my point of aim did not suddenly move hard left on recoil and noted what I might have been doing at the time to accomplish that. 

During this range session I messed with my body angle, relaxation, the strength of my hold, loading the bipod hard, not loading it, using a negative load, the angle and height of the bipod, how high the butt was in my shoulder, shooting left handed, putting weight down on the pistol grip, and some other stuff.  None of the physical gadgetry worked.  That was obvious by the first half of the test.  Then I tried simply having the intention to keep the crosshairs on target.  That didn’t work, but actually seemed to result in less hop.  Then I tried to manifest the desire to see the bullet hole appear.  Still nothing really seemed to work. 

My previous theory had been that the bipod was not actually moving, but that I was the weak link, and that the butt was somehow fishtailing in my shoulder or some such stupid thing.  I decided to take my attention away from the scope for a group of shots and to keep my eye on the bipod. I noticed that the bipod legs did move about an inch to the left.  I also got a nice dead center hit (these things sometimes just happen). 

What would make the bipod legs hop to the left instead of remaining in place?  Here is my understanding of what should happen.  Loading the bipod takes up the slack in it in a forward direction.  The body behind it is in a straight line,supple and relaxed, with the spine on a line parallel to that of the muzzle.  On recoil, the rifle pushes back into the body, the bipod unloads briefly, and the suppleness of the body moves things back to where they should be.  So what would cause a bounce?  It would seem most reasonable that an unforgiving surface would cause the rifle to bounce forward or perhaps at an angle in that progression.  So instead of being the weak link, I guess I’m the overly hard and strong link?  Just humor me.

Learning recoil control with my rifle reminds me a lot of learning recoil control with a pistol, which I had a lot of frustration with about 10 years ago.  In retrospect, with the pistol I was working around the problem rather than on it.  It wasn’t until I happened upon its solution that I understood it, and maybe I still don’t completely understand.  What I noticed back then was it was the times I was trying to figure it out that it most eluded me, but the times when I was manifesting more intensity and intent to just hit the target quickly, it would work.  My stance and grip were adapting for me, but only at certain times. 

Although nothing worked I am feeling a bit of serenity with regard to my current mediocre ability to shoot precisely and control recoil.  If I can’t force it, then I won’t.  I’ll just shoot my best, and let the bullets fall where they may. 

Stay True

Games are a good way to work on things without making it seem like work.  I created a game that plays like a hostage scenario for points. 

Hostage Ball


The actual PDF is made for full sheet of 8.5”x11” paper.  The hostage ball is about 4” while I think the scoring targets are 1.5”.  The positive point target is obscured by the -100 point ball, while the negative point target is on the other side.  Most points wins. 

The version of the target that is pictured above in a shrunken down version was made for 100 yards.  The original one that I made was quite a bit smaller.  I played against Young Miss Rifleslinger at 25 yards. 

Hers: 

4-17-13 ymrs

Mine: 

4-17-13 rs


It’s too hard to read points with a .30 caliber with targets that small, so I don’t really know who one.  I told her she probably did, which is probably true because of the way the negative scoring rings were configured on that version.  I have since corrected that. 

Turning the Corner???

Something I have been wondering about is parallax.  It has been on my mind lately.  I had emailed Ilya to ask about whether reducing scope power could possibly affect parallax error.  I was thinking that a smaller image would reduce the error.  Have you ever experienced that you shot better on a lower power.  That was my basic train of thought.  He told me, if I understood correctly, that decreasing power makes for a larger exit pupil, which actually gives one more latitude to miss the sweet spot of the scope image and theoretically increases the opportunity for parallax error.  Ilya also told me that my scope’s factory set parallax should be set somewhere in the vicinity of 150 yards, but that it could vary somewhat from scope to scope.

I was preparing to test some handloads, so instead of my normal distance of 107 yards for the testing, I stretched things WAY out to a whopping  129 yards, which is the maximum distance of my current range without playing tricky with the angles.  Prior to the load testing, I set to try out a few things, my obligatory 3 round with the cold bore shot, a 5 round group at 6x magnification, which is the mid-range of my 3-9x scope, trying the boards again (I wanted to see if this would prove effective a second time to help with making my load testing a bit more valid).

The 3 round group was sub-minute:

4-17-13 1point31

3 round cold bore: 1.31”, 129 x 1.047 = 135.063, sub-minute 0.97 

Group at 6x:

4-17-13 1point69

1.69”.  I guess Ilya was right. (~1.25 MOA). 


Although that group was poor, I found the process of shooting it quite useful.  Normally I’ve been coming out of recoil with my scope pointing left approximately 7′-10′ and about 3′ down.  At the first shot I saw it  pop over to the target just to the left of the one I was shooting at.  For some reason I started thinking of my left hand, which was supporting the bag with the lower 3 fingers and the rifle with the thumb and index.  After my next shot the scope popped right (???) which is almost unheard of for me.  I put more attention, and perhaps some change, into my left hand.  Upon the next shot I saw my scope rise vertically through the recoil cycle approximately 1′.  The last two shots left my scope on the target, though not exactly in the center.  This gives me hope that something about what I am doing is working in some way.  It makes sense that doing it inconsistently will not put the best results on paper, but perhaps doing it consistently would.

Using the board contraption again:

 

4-17-13 1point12

1.12”/1.35063 = ~0.83 MOA

This is probably the single best and most consistent day I’ve had with this rifle so far.  I noticed at 129 yards  that I did not detect the presence of parallax when trying to move my head and find it.  Coincidence??? 

Compulsion

I normally don’t carry over “themes” of rifle shooting and learning from one month to the next.  It makes it less convenient to readers who use the blog archive to navigate the topics.  I have to make an exception here, because I am not done exploring this topic. 

Mark called to discuss possible interventions for my intensely bad groups.  One of the places our discussion went was the bipod hop problem.  He said something to the effect of “sometimes my scope ends up off the target.  I don’t know why that happens; it just does.  It seems like when it does the shot usually doesn’t end up well.” 

I got to thinking about what might cause the muzzle to move left.  Obviously it has to be the rear of the rifle moving right or the front moving left, since the bipod makes for an axis.  I don’t contact the front of the rifle, so it stands to reason that the rear of the rifle is moving right.  It got me thinking about the solidity and the support offered by my shoulder at the butt.  It would seem as though a surface that did not support the butt equally on the left and on the right could lead to side to side movement upon recoil.

I started paying a lot of attention to how my body might best support the rifle butt.  I looked for something that felt like an envelopment of the rifle butt on each side.  I also started really paying attention to how much “give” was left in my shoulder due to it not being all the way relaxed.  If the shoulder were tense there would conceivably be room for the rifle to move upon recoil.  That could allow the rifle to move both to the right and to the rear.

Another thing he brought up was that the scope was consistently level for each shot.  I have not used a level or plumb bob when setting targets as of late, and I don’t have a level for the scope on the FN.  It’s something to ferment in the ol’ braincase for a while. 

Another thing to test was something that commenter Mossyrock suggested: to try a few groups with FGMM to rule out an ammo problem.  I had been shooting FGMM exclusively for about the first 1400 rounds out of the rifle, but he has to recommend trying it when I no longer have the large cache available.  Thanks.  I did have a few rounds left of the Hornady TAP 168 and 110 grain loads, so I took those along as well.

A few things to note about the progression of the experiments at this point.  I can really no longer consider these even pseudoscientific.  I am finding things along the way that need to be fixed that I am hanging onto.  This means that my control group ceases to be valid and I am compounding things that seem to make improvements.

Another thing is that I have bought a rangefinder.  I checked the distance I have been shooting at and have noted that it’s 107 yards.  That makes my groups marginally better than I had thought.

The 3 round cold bore group: 

4-16-13 1point60

1.6”

Next, the five round group with a very intentional butt to shoulder pocket contact: 

4-16-13 0point98

0.98”.  About the minimum I expect from the system. 

Same type of methodology with the Hornady 168 TAP gives similar results: 

4-16-13 168 TAP 0point97

0.97”

Next was the 110 TAP with the V-Max bullet.  What I noticed here was that the reduced recoil of this round allowed me more “control” with the movement of the rifle on recoil.  The first shot moved the scope slightly left.  The subsequent shots left me feeling like a bit of a forced hold kept it mostly on target. 

4-16-13 tap 110 1point37

1.37”

I had my bipod set as low as I could get it and still see the target.  The back of my neck was feeling pinched and I wanted to see if raising it would alleviate that feeling.  It’s a common assertion that raising the rifle will degrade the precision.  That turned out to be true: 

4-16-13 raised bipod 2point20

2.20”

Lastly, I wanted to try to re-create the control of the recoil impulse that I had fleetingly experienced with the 110 TAP through use of an exaggeratedly hard hold.  I experienced better control of the rifle on some, but not all of the shots.  You could say that the converse of the old axiom would be “inconsistency is inaccuracy”. 

4-16-13 hop control attempt 1point63

1.63”

That’s all for this time.  More next time.  I apologize for being boring, but I think I am actually learning now.