Improvised Rear Support

Sometimes all the gear I need doesn’t make it to the range with me.  As long as I cover the big ones, rifle, ammo, ear/eye protection, and targets, I can usually make do with the small stuff.  Such was the case when I forgot my rear bag when going to the range to shoot some groups.

I was looking for a suitable substitute when I came across my gloves.

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I keep my gloves in a certain pocket in my backpack, rolled up in a certain way, so that I can find them and put them on easily in the dark.

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Thumbs up.  It makes determining their orientation easier without looking at them.

The rolled up gloves made for a decent rear support.  Not as good as a rear bag, but better than nothing.  That was your short tip of the day.  Thanks for reading.

Dry Fire Menu

I hadn’t changed the menu in a while and felt the need to mix it up.  When I conceived of the menu my intent was to change it weekly.  I’m running slower than that, partially due to my dry fire being less frequent than it should be.

Dry Fire Menu

I left bipod prone on the menu for a couple reasons.  First, it is the basic default for the activities I’m currently pursuing.  Second, it’s a great time to focus breathing and trigger control is a more isolated manner.  If I’m tired or shaky from a long day, workout, or whatever, this is a position that doesn’t demand a lot physically.  It’s actually a pretty relaxing way to spend time.

I left a seated position, but changed which one is one the board.  Since crossed ankle is my real “go-to” seated position, I thought it would be best to give it some more intensive work.  It helps to have some practice in this position, as it keeps fresh in the mind how to address the target properly with the body to land in position fairly close to one’s natural point of aim.

Offhand is the most fun dry fire activity I do, so I tend to follow my muse as far as how I do it.  Snapshooting seems more interesting than hitting the smallest thing possible right now, so I thought I would work on that.  I’m still using reticle holds, which probably slows me down a bit, but I don’t think it’s much.  It’s a rather coarse holdover that I’m after, since the level of precision I expect for this technique isn’t very fine.  My speed right now is probably more accurately expressed as a lack of speed.

I don’t put a lot of thought into choosing my improvised support.  Randomness is kind of the point, in that I want to work through many different heights and types of support.  My hope is that by putting some time into figuring out how best to use it, the time that it takes to recognize the support and let it mold me into a stable position will be decreased.

When my imaginary range is great enough, I will hold for imaginary wind.  Or I will look outside and judge conditions for a more practical way of coming up with a wind hold.  There are scenarios in which I would dial for wind, but generally I think that for what I do holding is usually more practical.

Thanks for reading.

Sportsman’s Challenge 2013, Part 3

This event was the same event that had been my first foray into shooting competitively with the rifle at this time last year. What happened then was that I showed up with my TRG and just started hitting targets. I ended up in a 3-way tie for 2nd place out of 30 or so shooters. The .338 is, in many ways, like cheating, especially when it comes to bucking the wind and still having plenty of gusto at the longer distances. So I hate to say it, but I had some expectation that it would be similar to last year, expect that I’m probably a little better and more experienced.

Our first course of fire was the white animal course in the large bowl type land formation. We were getting wind at our location of approximately 5 mph, perhaps a little less with no real gusts to speak of and lulls at around 2-3, all from approximately 4:30. About 100 yards downrange, there was a hill that blocked that wind from the bullet, so I don’t think the wind at our location was particularly relevant. What I had remembered from last year is that there wasn’t much of a need to correct for it.

As we prepared to shoot I noticed that the shooters ahead of us weren’t doing all that well. A couple of the earlier shooters got only a few hits, and more than a couple just before us did not get any. Here are some photos of both of us not getting any hits as well:

 

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It turns out that most people found that shooting course very difficult. The best that anyone could figure out was that the wind was doing “weird things”, whether that means whirlwinds, updrafts, some fishtailing, I don’t know. I did see that former USMC Scout Sniper Carl Taylor spent some time after the match shooting to see just what the $%^& was going on. I can tell you that he has some wind reading ability, to put it mildly. I did not ask him what his findings, if any, were.

Getting zero points was not a good experience. I felt bad for my daughter, and was wondering exactly how and why that happened. All we could do was move on and get ready for our next challenge, which was the small game course.

I spent some time watching other shooters go through the small game course. That’s helpful in terms of knowing where all the targets are in relation to each other, which is helpful for locating them when it’s your turn. It’s also good because you can get a feel for what they’re putting in as far as wind and where the shots are going. It gave me a few chances to help the spotters when it was uncertain if the shooter scored a hit or not. It can be difficult to see or hear impacts sometimes, especially with smaller cartridges. More spotters gives the shooter a better chance. I didn’t want anyone to be cheated of points that they should have earned.

I volunteered to shoot this first out of our group. I hit a few things, but did terribly overall with a score of 3.5. The frustrating thing was that there was not much downrange feedback to tell me what went wrong. All I know is that it did. I tied with my daughter for score on that stage. She was happy that she at least hit something.

So far I had a poor performance, with not much feedback to learn from. I decided that on the last stage, the black big game animals with white scoring areas, I would have my daughter shoot first so I could make use of what I saw from her shooting as far as the wind went.

Out of the 7 targets, she got a couple of hits. I noted where the bullets went for each shot and what we were putting in for wind. That was helpful. I figured out that it seemed like what was tending to work as far as wind went was a correction for an approximately 13 MPH wind.

The last target on that stage was the bonus target: the mover. We had the hold worked out ahead of time. It was at 500 yards and was advertized as moving 3 MPH, which my computer told me was a 1.9 mil hold. It looked a little faster, perhaps as fast as 4 MPH, which would increase the lead to 2.4. I told her to start pressing when the target made it to 2.4, and if the shot hadn’t broken before it reached 1.9, to stop. For her first shot she did what I told her, but I forgot to account for the wind, which we had been holding for. I told her to dial the wind correction, which she did. On her next shot she did everything right… except have a round in the chamber. She was happy that there seemed to be no flinch. With a round in the chamber and one chance left, she set up her scope along the target’s path. I told her to put the horizontal line so the target would be travelling right along it. She started pressing and, BAM, scored a hit! She later told me that the target had gone a little farther than she thought it should have been, so maybe 3 MPH was pretty close. There is a video of that hit somewhere. If I can get it I’ll post it.

As I set up to shoot this course, Caleb, who was scoring, asked, “If your girlfriend beats you does she get to keep the rifle?” I told him she was my daughter. He got red and said he was going to be quiet.

On my turn I started shooting and started seeing plates swing on the first couple targets. I don’t recall which ones I got first round hits, second round hits, or misses on, but I ended up with a score of 4.5 out of 7.

On my first shot at the mover my shot went high… because I had not readjusted my elevation knob from the previous shot. With one shot left, another miss.

I had some email correspondence with the winner of the overall match. He had this to say, which I thought was a rather enlightening piece of insight,

On the shoot, [the spotter] and I operate on a team basis and fully believe that the wind caller/ spotter gets more credit for the hit than the shooter. For the most part when I’m calling for [the shooter], if he misses its my fault not his and the same goes for when he is calling the shots.  We have 100% trust in each other and shoot wherever we are told to!  A lot of times when the wind is swirling, the caller will have the shooter hold until the wind goes back to the direction we dialed for and then quickly tell the shooter to “send it” when its right.

I can’t imagine trying to do it by yourself!”

There were several points of learning from this shoot. The first, and most important, was that the person who can read the wind and adjust for its effects has a huge advantage. I think that point overshadows most equipment and in the case of bipod shooting, most marksmanship advantages.

The second thing, which concerns with my own ability to deal with wind, was that the approach needs to be systematic. At the last match I had some success making wild guesses, trying them out, then adjusting. That did not carry over to this match, as the wind conditions were much more difficult.

Thirdly, long range shooting is not a solo activity. See the match winner’s comments above. There is only so much one person can do.

Fourth, there doesn’t seem to be a good substitute for training at distance. I need to find a suitable place to practice that will allow me to stretch my ballistic legs, if only occasionally.

Fifth, my beginner’s luck has done run out. I suppose now that I’ve been humbled a few times I can get to work.
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Sportsman’s Challenge 2013, Part 2

My oldest daughter and I were on the road by 0545 or so. We arrived at the match with plenty of time to get signed up and to work on locating and ranging targets. I had brought 2 pairs of binos (correcting for my failure in Parma a few weeks back).

There was something else that made this process a lot easier than ever. Remember that I had lost my rangefinder a few weeks prior. I had never had the benefit of having a rangefinder for one of these competitions, instead having to resort of the high school standard tricks of eavesdropping, making quick friends and copying notes. Well, a very kind fellow had heard of my loss, and happened to have a Zeiss PRF just “sitting around”. I was, and continue to be, amazed and humbled at this act of generosity. Genuinely amazed and humbled. A lot.

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Back in the game baby!!!

The trickiest course at this event, in my opinion, generally tends to be the small game course. The reason for this is that because the entire target is steel and counts for a hit, and therefore they are very hard to locate with the naked eye. Sometimes you can spot an irregular speck of black, and some of them are too small to be seen at all without glassing for it. There were ten targets out, but I had difficulty finding the last one. My daughter ended up finding it, a crow at 527 yards.

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Looking at it now, I’m pretty sure I’m mistaken about the first black circle. I think that’s a bush.

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The targets were:

Crow 371 yards
Coyote 403
Rabbit 405
Rabbit 202
Bobcat 487
Crow 527
Rockchuck 262
Rockchuck 272
Coyote 616
Rockchuck 624

Next we located and ranged the big game targets, which were divided into two courses of fire. The big game targets are easy to find, due to them being located in the vital areas of life-sized plywood cutouts of big game animals, deer, elk, antelope, and bear. The targets themselves are steel targets, from 8″ to 16″ depending on the animal the target represents. This time the bonus target was a humanoid shaped moving target at 500 yards that traversed a span at approximately 3 mph. The mover wasn’t visible with the naked eye, but for the small indication of movement that was visible if you knew where to look. I made range cards for each course.

The view from the naked eye:

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 A little closer:

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On the left side of the center knoll are two obvious targets. The mover is between them.

A closer view:

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The scoring areas of the animal targets are steel plates, painted white, in the vital zone.  The mover is the small white thing between the two black animal cutouts.

 

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Sorry for being so sloppy.

The targets were:

Deer 436
Bear 581
Antelope 487
Ram 564
Elk 710
Deer 707
Mover 500

The final stage of the big game were black targets on white animals, reverse of the other big game stage.

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I didn’t do a very good job at matching the animal shapes with the correct animal names. I probably need to revisit pre-school. Here are the distances:

509
687
699
664
490
945

In the next article I’ll cover the shooting and how it went. Stay tuned.

Sportsman’s Challenge 2013, Part 1

It came to be the time of year to shoot the Sportsman’s Challenge.  This is a long range rifle competition put on by Caleb Hallett in which the targets are critters of various types.  The course is usually divided into some variety of big game targets that consist of plywood cutouts with the scoring area made of steel and placed in the vital zone, and small game steel silhouettes on which a hit anywhere scores a point.  This shoot, as was the shoot put on last year at this time, was at the Miller Ranch, which evidently consists of approximately a bazillion acres of land west of Spokane, Washington that looks mostly like this:

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This is a great shoot for a wide range of shooters.  While it is not easy, due to the targets being small and far away in windy conditions, it’s also good for beginners.  All of the targets can be engaged from prone with a bipod, and there are generally people around who can call wind, spot, and offer helpful advice to help out.  There are time limits, but they are not hard to beat so long as time is not wasted.  The atmosphere is one of friendly competition, and of people who would rather see everyone be at their best.

Step 1: Get Your Partner Up To Speed

About 3 days before the match I told my oldest daughter, aka Young Miss Rifleslinger, that she would be coming to the match to shoot and assist me with some spotting.  I like to spring things on her on short notice.  It keeps her off balance, giving me a slight strategic advantage.  With teenagers, any advantage is important. There are times that the side of a barn would definitely not feel safe when she is shooting a rifle, so I figured she’s good to go. She needed to know not only how to fire a round from a rifle, but to keep it fed, dial the elevation, hold for wind, return to zero when done firing, etc., all without wasting too much time.

I showed her how to estimate to a tenth of a mil in the SWFA version of a standard mil-dot reticle for use with holds and offering corrections as a spotter. We practiced that skill a little bit at the range. We used it to zero the rifles and worked on spotting impacts and conveying the information to the shooter. We did some dry fire simulation of transitioning to new targets at different ranges, working the elevation knob, adjusting for near misses, etc.

Step 2: Prepare Your Gear

Having a second shooter come to a match with me meant it would probably be better to have two rifles ready to go. This was not an automatic thing for me, being that I have been kind of a one man, one rifle show for the most part. Most of my guns just aren’t capable of rapidly adjusting zero to hit a wide variety of very small targets at a wide variety of distances. Luckily, I have a TRG-42 in my “arsenal”.

 

TRG-42
The TRG hadn’t been on my “go to” list for quite a while. It also has a fancy new bolt knob. There is a story there.

 

I had pulled the scope off the TRG-42, which is the Vortex Razor 5-25×50 that I have been using recently on the FN. The Razor is a big, heavy scope, and in my opinion was overkill for the FN in terms of weight, size, and magnification. It was put on for more of an experiment than anything else, so back on the TRG it went, where it is not overkill, but a perfect fit. The SWFA 3-9×42 went back on the FN.

The two rifles went to the range for zeroing. Zeroing the TRG was noticeably easier than the FN, as it is more precise.

5 Shots TRG-42
Threw one. The first four shots all went into about 0.33″, center to center. Have you ever had that feeling that you should just stop while it’s still that small? I had that feeling too.  Shot 5 opened it up to approximately 0.7″

 

I noticed something when shooting the TRG. My scope wasn’t flying off the target upon recoil. Granted, it does have a brake, but it is still a .338 Lapua and does have some recoil. I believe that the stock design is also a factor in this regard.

After zeroing I returned home and began getting the gear packed. I figured out about how much ammo we would need. After that it didn’t take long to figure out that I was short. By a lot. I was short 50 rounds of .308 and 15 rounds of .338. It was about 1800 the night before and I needed to be up by 0440 the next morning leave for the match. It had seemed like I had more ammo because there was a lot of the not-very-accurate 175 load I have been shooting for a while. I keep a lot of prepped brass around for the most part, so it just needed to be primed, stuffed through with a bunch of powder, and a bullet stuck in. Once I get it primed I can do about a round per minute with my ancient Redding powder measure, RCBS scale, and Redding trickler. I’m still using the Dillon machine to seat, because I haven’t seen any reason to pull my dies from the toolhead to use them in my Co-Ax.

One other thing I had to attend to was an FN mag that was causing malfunctions. It had worked fine for a couple thousand rounds or so, then I started getting rounds that would fail to feed due to the bullet nose staying down in the magazine. This magazine is an older one, and instead of having a leaf spring, has two coils, one front and one rear. There must have been a reason that they switched.

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I removed the front spring, and used a set of needle nose pliers to turn and re-tighten it. It seems to have done the trick.  No malfunctions since.  I’m not sure how long that trick will continue to work though.

The rifles were zeroed, I had ammo, and the equipment packed. All ready to go.  To be continued…

On Pursuing Excellence In Marksmanship

When I moved the blog over here, one of the many minor changes I had to consider was the blog’s subtitle. The old one was “A regular rifle shooter trying to become exceptional at regular rifle shooting”. That had basically been my mission statement in one sentence.

What I figured out over last the two years is that it is not an easy thing to be an excellent generalist. Generalities, in general, tend to be more crude than refined. The easy, sure answer to any given question tends to be less precise than one in which clarifying questions are asked to narrow down the purpose and meaning behind the question. The one size fits all approach tends to be a mediocre fit across the board.

In my mind, Colonel Cooper exemplifies the idea of someone who was an excellent generalist. He formed a complete, well thought out philosophy and method of rifle shooting based on… “who knows?”. He came up with one tool, the scout rifle, that seemed to him like it would work for whatever problem might need solving. Towards the end of his career he was able to put his philosophy down into what may be the most concise complete book of rifle shooting ever written, Art of the Rifle.

I think that the acquisition of excellence in the general may be more of a showcase of excellence in a well rounded collection of particulars than the reflection of a lifetime of pursuit in the general. Using higher education as an example, momentarily dismissing my opinion that it’s become more of an indoctrination than the actual pursuit of higher learning, advancement into post-graduate studies requires means a narrowing of the field of study.  Further advancement means further narrowing it to the point of making an original contribution.

Even if my analogy of higher learning were inapplicable to rifle shooting, the next question would be, “What are the means of advancement for the desired style of shooting?” In the case of the generalist, hunting would be a big one, some target shooting, some Appleseed style shooting, some of this, some of that, some of a lot of things.  There are some issues with those methods.  Hitting a vital zone on a big game animal doesn’t necessarily require a high degree of marksmanship skill.  Shooting the AQT reaches a point of diminishing returns.

The formal classes I can think of that apply to general “practical” rifle shooting are Gunsite 270 or Randy Cain’s practical rifle. A class occurs over a very short amount of time and simply points the way. The followup and maintenance is still up to the individual. It’s very difficult to improve a skill in something without defining what the skill is for.  I am also skeptical that the class would result in sufficient gains in my skill that it would be worth the hefty price tag (not to mention I just couldn’t afford 270 at all).

What I have done so far has been valuable in establishing a solid baseline of familiarity on a range of general skills that are good to have on hand. The problem in continuing to chase all of them is that I might focus on something in depth for a short time and improve a bit. Then it comes time to move on before everything else languishes. By the time I make it back around to that skill, I very likely have lost all the ground I gained before.

My hope is that by narrowing my sights on a smaller target, the way forward will be more clear. Attending matches provides a particular type of motivation. It provides a generally more highly skilled peer group. It provides the important element of a somewhat well defined context for training. It provides feedback, which is crucial.  It has also been pointed out that the possibility of embarrassing oneself at an upcoming match is strangely more motivating than getting ready for some “what if” that may or may not occur at some future unknown time, even with potentially life or death consequences.

Sometimes breadth of study is extremely valuable, and sometimes depth of study is more valuable. There are times and circumstances for each. Gaining breadth tends to allow one to see parallels between many different disciplines. Depth of study tends to allow one to learn excellence as a way of life, which makes it applicable to learning new things. The important thing with regard to shooting is that whatever skill aspect of it is being worked on, there needs to be a focus on how that particular relates to the fundamentals. This will hopefully allow some of what is gained in the particular to translate back to the general.

 

 

Thinking on Rifle Configuration

 

The premise of the original blog was one rifle, not only for the blog, but for every type of shooting. That meant not too heavy, not too light, not too long, not too short; essentially it meant not too great at any one thing, but hopefully decent at most things, or maybe at least passable. I’ve gotten to the point where I would like to perform at better than a passable level. I have finally had to admit that it may be time to differentiate rifles based on what I plan to use it for.

There are a few ways to think about how rifles might be differentiated. A key attribute for this is weight. Another is the expected level of precision. Weight and precision often go together, but not necessarily. Ergonomic characteristics of some rifles favor offhand shooting, while other favor bench shooting.

If we look at rifles on a continuum, on one end we might see ultralight mountain rifles, while something like a benchrest rifle might be on the other. On that continuum, the practical, do it all rifle might be somewhere near the middle, or slightly on the lighter side.

Of particular interest to me is the portion of the continuum delineated by the practical rifle on one end and the tactical rifle on the other. SLG and I had a conversation about the spectrum between these types of rifles. He is good to listen to on topics such as these, having sent a few rounds downrange, and having handled a rifle or two.

Depending on the cartridge, the weight of a practical rifle should probably be somewhere in the 8-9 lb. range. Tactical rifles are commonly as heavy as 18 pounds. The extra weight comes from a heavier barrel, bigger scope, and bipod. The stock is heavier although it’s made of composite, because it is larger, tougher, and may have an adjustable cheekpiece.

The question is, do you want a rifle made for shooting or for carrying? Do you want to have an advantage shooting offhand or prone? To gain something, you have to give up something. To try to have no weaknesses is to not have strengths anywhere. Or to quote Sun Tzu:

For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.

The difficult part for me is that shooting a rifle that’s over 14 or 15 lbs offhand doesn’t tend to work too well. I think shooting offhand, or at least having the ability to do so at a reasonable level of accuracy, is pretty important. Another thing I have enjoyed immensely is working on my snapshooting. I don’t know how well I can do that with a 15 lb rifle.

Something I would have considered wimpy and completely unnecessary on a .308 even a few months ago is a muzzle brake. I’m reconsidering that (Colorado Pete just involuntarily spit coffee all over his monitor). I’ve realized that recoil is a very relative thing. The first 5-10 shots with my rifle during a practice session feel like there’s no recoil. Rounds 60-70 will likely have enough sensation to be distracting. I might be able to fight through a flinch sufficiently to shoot better than I need to for many circumstances, but there are some shots where there might be little to no margin for error, or conditions take up so much of that margin that there’s really nothing to spare. Probably the more important reason for considering a brake is being able to spot my own impacts.

I’m still not exactly crazy about embracing the idea of a boat anchor of a rifle. Since this discussion involves a spectrum, I’m wondering where to plant my goal for the evolution of my rifle along that spectrum. I’ve given into the idea that I’m not going to get a stock intended as a do it all, like the McMillan HTG. There was a fellow at the Parma match with one, and he said that it was terribly suited to that type of shooting, due to the drop at the heel. He said this works against recoil control, which makes sense. I don’t want to be careless about putting weight on, but I’m not going to be afraid of it as I would have. It’s a good opportunity to put some muscle on anyway.

I’m also not as worried as I was about how heavy my scope is, but the Razor is definitely overkill for this rifle. Something along the lines of the Leupold Mk. 6, 3-18, the Nightforce F1, or maybe the SWFA 3-15×42 on the budget end.

My ideas about this rifle project are still evolving. I still like the Model 70 action quite a bit, but I’m strongly considering adding a second rifle for people I can make go to the range with me. I’ll keep you updated with any choices I make.

Evaluation of My Match Preparation

Part of my post mortem for the competition I recently attended in Parma, ID was how well my work beforehand prepared me for it, and what I could have done to prepare myself more effectively. I wouldn’t say that I was poorly prepared, but there was a lot of room for improvement, which I like.

The part of my preparation that worked out well was my dry fire routine with some emphasis on using improvised support. During the one stage that featured an awkward support, I did not feel out of my comfort zone. I had recently put up a menu of activities to focus on for my dry fire enjoyment:

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One thing that would have helped was a better working knowledge of my load’s trajectory, as I was doing back in September of 2012. It wasn’t exactly that I had given up learning it, although my persistence had let up a bit. This was essentially a brand new load to me, and the trajectory is quite a bit flatter than anything I have used in .308 yet. I don’t think this will be a load I use for beyond what components I’ve already bought. I need to start planning for what comes next with the rifle, and I don’t think it will still be a .308. The sooner I get to a load I will use for a while, the better. I would like to know it well.

Another thing that I need to work on, that I can do most of the work in dry fire, is being more flexible and quicker to adapt to changing shooting situations, whether that be different shooting positions, targets located in different places, etc… So far my dry fire routine has been rather static. It has all been about positions. That’s fine, but how long is it useful to use practice resting the rifle on a chair? Probably not for more than a few minutes per day.

What I will begin doing is working out a dry fire range card. Then I’ll decide which few targets I’m going to engage, maybe force myself into an awkward position or more to engage them, then work on transitioning efficiently and smoothly from one problem to the next.

Another thing I’d like to get moving on is my rimfire practice. With the limited distance I currently have available I don’t have much opportunity to work my skills at transitioning to different problems in live fire. If I set up a target at 80 yards and another at 130, it’s not going to be a huge sight adjustment to make with a .308. At least with a rimfire I would be well into the part of the trajectory that isn’t too flat. Also, I think the rimfire will allow me to pull the trigger on more live rounds without training in a flinch.

That’s all I can think of for now. Suggestions are welcome.

Rifle Match in Parma, ID: Part 3 of 3

One thing that was reaffirmed to me was that a ton of magnification doesn’t seem to me to be practical for most situations at this time. I still have the Razor 5-20×50 on the rifle. I don’t think I went over 12x the entire time. There tends to be enough mirage to make the image appear to be downright blurry when the magnification is dialed up to the maximum. There were times, however, when field of view was very important, for instance when engaging multiple targets at different locations under a time limit.

I had been very focused on my system’s precision in the last couple of months. Did it matter? Yes. It mattered primarily for paper scoring when group size was a factor in the score at 110, 220, and 425 yards. It probably mattered a bit on small targets up to 800 yards. I don’t think it mattered at all from 800-1000 when the wind was doing its thing.

I have also been focused on recoil control. This also mattered, as the ability to see bullet strike is crucial to correcting for the next shot. Ironically, I was better able to do this at longer ranges, where the relatively narrow field of view of the scope covers quite a bit of actual ground. My point of aim would move during recoil, but the time it takes for the bullet to reach, coupled with the fact that I saw more through my scope, gave me some time to view the impacts.

A stage in which I knew what to do, but forgot, involved shooting a small circular target with scoring rings from 35, 20, and 10 yards. The stage involved movement and a total time limit, so I figured that dialing for elevation would be too costly in terms of time. My reticle is well designed to use for elevation holds, so I decided to hold. I took a quick look at my dope for those distances, which are 0.5 mils up at 35, 1.6 mils up at 20, and 4.0 mils up at 10. There were 2 shots from 35 and 20, and one shot at 10. Strangely enough, any shooting position was allowed, so we all shot from prone with bipods. I would have figured that at such close range we’d all have to shoot from offhand. Anyway, in all the rush, and with all the details, I got down and just centered the crosshairs on the reticle. After the first two positions and four shots I realized that my shots were hitting low. On the last shot I held over four mils and got a nice center hit. Too bad I remembered 4 shots too late. 

Something that would have helped me remember to holdover, and what my holdovers are, is something I had been doing when the rifle was new, but had slacked off on.  I used to use holdovers in dry fire for snapshooting and offhand.  I quit making that a priority in November or December of 2012.  Too bad.

I had my first bonafide malfunction with this rifle. The nose of the cartridge was pointed down into the magazine box. I had to remove the mag to clear it. I need to pull the mags apart and check the springs.

One thing that was odd to me was that I fired 58 rounds and I did not feel sore at all from it. Normally anything over 20 rounds would leave me sore. In fact I had a small, faint spot of soreness on my shoulder from three days earlier that was still in the same condition after the shoot as it was before. I’m not sure what was different.

This competition was a good challenge for me. It was not so difficult that I was completely over my head all of the time, but it was difficult enough that I was over my head for some of the time. That’s about the right combination for good learning. I zeroed 3 out of the 15 stages. On 2 of the stages I ran out of time. My standing at the end was in a 3-way tie for 6th place out of 11 shooters. That leaves me a lot of room for improvement, which I like.

For a fee of $15 this match was a steal. What’s better is they do this every month. What seals the deal is that everyone was friendly and will offer help. I could see a person getting to be a pretty darn good shooter from showing up regularly and putting in a good effort.

With this shoot in the bag, we continued our road trip while I began processing what I learned.

Boring Oregon City
I decided not to stop here.

Rifle Match in Parma, ID: Part 2 of 3

…continued from part 1.

During sign up and setting out the equipment, people were busy rifle and atmospheric data ready. At the beginning of the day, at about 0830, the density altitude was in the area of 3500. As the temperatures rose through the day, the density altitude got to be just over 4500.

The match was comprised of 15 stages. The first stage was actually the first 5 stages in one. 3 paper targets for each shooter with scoring rings, one at 110 yards, one at 220 yards, and one at 425 yards. All three targets were shot for score, which counted for 3 stages, and the last 2 were shot for group size, for a total of 5.

The second stage I shot was shooting 2 targets, a 6” steel target at 200 meters, and a reduced size IDPA steel target at 300 meters. 5 rounds in 90 seconds, starting seated next to the empty rifle. The stage was in the sitting position with a sling allowed, so I figured it would play to my strengths.  I got my dope via the disconnected iPhone, .06 and 1.4, and figured that I had better memorize them so I wouldn’t have to fiddle with checking dope in the midst of all the other stuff I had to do, especially with the target transition under time pressure. One slight problem: maybe it’s that 0.6 and 1.4 just don’t sound impressive enough, but by the time I got to the line, I had somehow converted the numbers to 1.6 and 2.4.

A mil at 220 is 220*36/1000, or 7.92”, and a mil at 330 is 330*36/1000, which is 11.88”. Figure a 6” piece of steel is probably about 6” (we’ll just assume), and that the margin of error from the target center is probably about pretty close to 3”, so a miscalculation of approximately 8” will just about do the trick. I called 3 out of the 5 shots hits. When I was done, Brad, the range officer assigned to my squad remarked that they were all high. Yep, figured that one out. My note to self in my notebook was, “Don’t do that again.”

We shot a stage of five shots at a steel IDPA silhouette at 450 yards in 90 seconds (prep time included). I ran out of time. This was because there were three shooting locations to be shot from, all relative to half a tire that was freely balanced on the dirt (oriented like an arch). Actually the more probable reason that I ran out of time is that I took over 30 seconds to get the first shot off.  I had not realized this until the range officer told me (another benefit of getting out and pushing oneself among company).  The first shot was from the right of the tire, the last shot from the left, and the three in the middle from the top of the tire without knocking it down. I turned out to have 3 hits, but one was over time. The dry fire that I had done in the days preceding the match worked out well.

In some stages there were times when my dope seemed to be off for one distance, where I would have to hold under, typically, or sometimes over, and at a farther distance would be dead on. Rifle shooting can be confusing sometimes. What I noticed about the better shooters was that they didn’t seem to experience much of this. The equipment was squared away, and more importantly, they knew what to do with it.

In long range shooting, rapidly varying conditions mean that every shooter does not experience an identical level of difficulty. In one aspect, this means that it’s not exactly fair. Fairness is one of those concepts that is nice, but really doesn’t exist in the reality that we are bound to. Sometimes you eat that bear (pronounced “bar”), and sometimes the bear eats you. Shooting is like that- if you do it long enough, you’ll be both lucky and unlucky. The last few stages I shot were good examples of this.

The last stages were shot using 6 targets at three arrays at 770 yards, 849 yards, and 982 yards. The level of difficulty required to score a hit varied quite a lot. For a time I did not have to alter my wind holds at all between the three arrays. Part of this was the angle that they were at, and part of it was the intensity of the wind at any given time. At other times the conditions weren’t steady enough for anyone to use the information that the bullet strike told them from the previous shot a few seconds earlier.

The wind conditions during these stages were hard to read, as the wind we felt from the shooting positions didn’t relate to well, in my opinion, to what was happening to the bullets. I used a little different approach to compensating for the wind. I didn’t attempt to use any dope to give me a magic number. I didn’t try to guess what the wind velocity was. I looked at the conditions, I made a guess on what holdover to use, and I observed the result. This was kind of nice, and I don’t think it was less effective. This is the approach David Tubb advocates in his book, The Rifle Shooter. Just look at conditions and relate it directly to a sight adjustment without worrying about estimating wind speed and direction, then making a conversion. It does make sense. By bother with a conversion when you could just go straight there?

I didn’t dial any wind at all. At the ranges we were shooting at, and with the conditions changing so fast, dialing would be too slow. The reticle on the Razor is great for holding windage and elevation, and is actually set up fairly well to do both simultaneously.

 

VORTEX-Razor-HD-5-20x50-Riflescope-35mm-Tube-EBR-2-MRAD-Reticle-RZR551-Pic4

I’ll finish up my thoughts on this shoot in the next article.