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:
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.