So far this has been on odd year for life and shooting. I made goals, then apparently decided to abandon them. I had some setbacks that changed the context through which I approach my shooting practice. I got mired down in trying through contortion and force of will to make my gun shoot more accurately. What follows is my evaluation of what I have done so far this year to get better and accomplish my goals. It may seem like I beat myself up, or that I’m too hard on myself, I feel good about identifying things as they are so I can move on. If I don’t get in touch with things as they are I won’t be able to get better. I don’t feel negative; rather I feel matter of fact and positive about the future.
I really got obsessed with trying to perfect bipod prone. I kept thinking there was something I could do to get make the rifle shoot consistently well. I have a tendency to blame myself first, and to think that it would be a cop out to blame equipment. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen others blame their equipment too often when it was far more likely shooter error. I also think it’s appropriate to take responsibility and address issues instead of making excuses. These tendencies were bolstered by sparsely intermittent times when it looked like the rifle might be able to shoot somewhat okay, perhaps not so horrible, to include, but not limited to, the following examples:
1.12″ at 129 yards, approximately 0.83 MOA.
0.97″, 100 yards.
0.98″, 100 yards.
12 rounds, 1.5″. Four 3 round groups with a sight adjustment and subsequent return to zero in between each group of 3. Not great, but better than my five round groups have been of late.
While the above groups were OK, they were few and far between. Also, there wasn’t anything I could point to what I was doing that would cause a difference between the acceptable groups, and all the rest.
I could say the intensive focus and single-minded use of my time was bad, in that it did not bring a tangible return (clear success). I could also say that it was useful as a learning process. I can tell that my trigger control and follow through are both better than before, and that the improvement is especially evident in other positions. I also put a ton of energy into checking small details and working on them, which I think will bring the results I’m looking for eventually.
Maybe the smarter thing to do would have been to shoot the rifle from a bench to remove my skill from the equation. What kept me from even considering that was a bias that bench shooting is an unacceptable activity for a “real rifleman”. A couple of intelligent readers put the idea in my brain that there are times when that is appropriate, and I thank them for prompting me to use my brain instead of sticking to some silly notion of riflemanliness. Regardless of whether I could have been more productive or not, I can’t take it back so I’ll just make the best of it and drive on.
In a lot of ways I’m in a similar place as I was last year. Last year I pillar bedded my Sako to try to get it to be as accurate as I wanted. It did make a small, measurable improvement in accuracy, but it still sent the cold bore shots high. I thought about making a project out of it, but the whole thing was so idiosyncratic that I decided it would just be better to start over. I’m glad I did. I still like that Sako, but it’s not the rifle I needed for what I had in mind.
This year I hoped a new stock would cure my woes. The new stock is a significant improvement overall, but it didn’t help my gun’s accuracy by itself. I was aware that it would have been miraculous for the rifle to start shooting like I wanted it to by only upgrading the stock. I’m a person that tends to get my hopes up.
The difference from last year is that so far I haven’t been able to break anything on this rifle and the action is good for what I want out of it. Perhaps all that is left is a new barrel, a bedding job, and some accuracy work until the rifle shoots like I want it to.
The equipment side has always been about money, and for me trying to find shortcuts around having to spend it. Where I’m at now is realizing that it’s really inevitable, but that I can spread it out over time.
In February I resigned from a voluntary position due to one of those integrity/trust vs. opportunity/privilege type situations. It was an easy choice to make, though a regrettable situation. It was basically a minor setback in terms of my opportunity to be a better shooter, and a more significant setback to my long term resume credentials.
During my adult life I have never thought too much of credentials or what letters people have after their name. Substance has always been more important to me. That’s one of the reasons I chose to write my blog anonymously. Although divulging more information would likely lend me credibility, I wanted my work to stand or fall on its merits alone. So I was surprised how much it bothered me to suddenly be without my official specialty, and the opportunity to really get good in that role. It was also disorienting to be without a specific purpose to guide my rifle training. Sticking to core principles outweighs those things, but it’s a rather lackluster reward to be able to look at myself in the mirror (if I cover my face with a black box for pictures you can guess I’m not much to look at).
This isn’t overtly shooting related, but I think it’s at least a significant tangential aspect. Consider that you have to get to a location to shoot. Prior to firing a shot you must take a shooting position. Those things must be done in as little time as possible. Sometimes a position needs to be maintained for a while, and concentration with it to make the shot a good one.
When I shot the full distance Appleseed in November of 2012, I definitely faded quickly as the days progressed, which I thought at the time was a result of being in poor shape, inadequate nutrition, inadequate caffeine to satisfy my established level of dependency, and maybe the cold, which goes back partially to being in poor condition.
I had let myself go physically during 2012 and early 2013. There was a lot of “life stuff” going on. I was also enjoying my food to the point where it was running me instead of vice versa.
In November, right after Thanksgiving, not so coincidentally, I stopped eating sugar. No white sugar, no brown sugar, no honey, no molasses, no sugar substitutes- in essence, no way to rationalize a way to cheat. To satisfy the need for things to taste good I started eating a bunch of fruit. A week after that I quit caffeine. Coffee was not the same without the sugar. I noticed that when I drank it I really didn’t enjoy it, I just had an elevated heartbeat and felt nervous and shaky. Giving up sugar has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my diet, and it’s gotten easy to maintain that part of my diet.
The aforementioned voluntary position I resigned from had physical fitness standard, although it had been weakly enforced. Out of healthy spite, I decided to get way better shape than I had been.
From February to June I got into some semblance of reasonable physical condition, but I was carrying what looked like a starter beer gut, or maybe one of those modern “donut” spare tires.
I must have had one of those moments when you see things as they actually are and noticed it. I’m one of those people who do better making a change all at once, rather than in stages, so I decided to radically change the way I eat.
I cut out all meat, eggs, and dairy at the end of May. It was a lot easier than quitting sugar, probably because I knew I could just do it. It changed the way I approach eating. Food isn’t enjoyable on the same level at all. It sounds like a bad thing, but actually it detaches most of the emotional component from eating, and makes every food choice a rational one. It also makes a lot of the past eating choices seem like more of an addiction (if you know it’s harming you, if you don’t need it, but you choose irrationally to do it anyway, is it not an addiction?) All that’s left is to make sure I get the right amount of nutrients. The challenge will be adding the meat and dairy back in such a way that objectively provide for better health in each instance and not some irrational comfort food type of thing. I’m going to give it at least another month to make sure that the better eating habits stick. I’ve dropped about 8 pounds of gut so far. I’m not quite back to looking and feeling like myself yet, but I’m getting there.
I’ve been running with a 20 pound pack and about 4 pounds of rocks in each hand. My goal is to do an 8 minute mile with all that on. I have just under 2 minutes to shave off of my current time. Without the pack I’m running at almost exactly what I did in 2010. I’ve also been doing pullups with the pack on, and sometimes my pushups as well.
If the goals were considered the route along the map, I suppose I decided to change course since setting them. The one important one that I would still like to do, and haven’t done yet is to find some good training to attend. What it really comes down to is that this rifle shooting stuff costs money, as does anything when you reach the point of trying to perform at the top X percentile (I’m not saying I’m there at all, as that’s clearly not the case).
More significantly, looking back at my goals, it doesn’t appear that I really put much thought, imagination, or consideration into them. Sometimes a self-imposed deadline creates the feeling of getting things done just to get them done.
I have about 600 rounds left worth of .308 components. Looking forward, my next priorities are to get a .22 trainer similarly configured to my main rifle, then to get what I need to bring the FN up to snuff. I’ll consider what I need to do to get the software upgraded and move from there.