Instant vs. Delayed Gratification and Why it Matters for the Rifle Shooter

The subject of instant versus delayed gratification is typically explained in the context of getting a quick fix of pleasure versus adhering to a well thought out long term plan that would result in long term happiness.  I don’t think that most people have fully considered the difference between happiness, pleasure, and fun, these days, and I’m not going to cover that here and now, although it’s a rather profound distinction.  Regardless, the context for the rifle shooter is essentially no different from the general idea as stated in the first sentence of this paragraph.

This article will apply especially to newer shooters.  I thought about it while I was at the Appleseed shoot.  When it came time for courses of fire with time limits, the accuracy of the newer shooters’ performance fell apart.  Their skills were not sufficiently developed to be robust enough to withstand the challenge of the time limitations.

In that example, the shooters needed to make a choice between attempting to get all their shots off in time or making quality shots.  There was not an opportunity for both at their level of skill.  I think that the fork in the road at that point in a shooter’s development is a crucial one.  On one hand someone is telling them that they have a certain amount of time to fire a certain number of shots.  There is something seductive about succumbing to a call for rapid fire that is difficult to resist.  On the other hand, the implied message might be interpreted more accurately as, “I want you to compromise your ability to shoot well so you can do it faster than you really are capable of, and create some bad habits in the process.”

In that situation the thing to keep in mind is the timeline for actually developing the ability to perform well in the time limits.  In that case, it was not going to happen that day.  I think at that point the shooter would be prudent to ask, “What exactly am I hoping to accomplish here?”

This is where the shooter needs to have a vision of what they are working toward, in both the long and short term.  Am I simply working toward buying more ammo, or is there a purpose to this expenditure of time, energy, and federal reserve notes (I got all conspiratorial on y’all right there.  Did you see that)?

Every press of the trigger reinforces something.  That is the same as saying in life, every decision, every action, every word, and every thought reinforces something.  What is important is to evaluate whether our trigger presses reinforce where we want to go as shooters.  If not, just stop.  Seriously, stop.  Stop and re-evaluate the next step.

A friend who was also at that shoot put it this way to those shooters: “Three ‘5’s is better than five ‘3’s,” (the digits indicating points for the scoring area each round hits).  It’s true.  In the moment, there is no numerical difference between a score of 15 and a score of 15.  The latter means you got all your shots off, which seems exciting in the moment (fun and excitement).  The former means you got good hits, but it does feel like a let down not to get all the shots off in time.  In the long term though, it’s the difference between being a shooter who can place all his hits in the 5 ring (long term satisfaction and real happiness), or continuing to suck.  That is why the tortoise wins the race.


The X15 Gets a Stock



I can’t say “gets a new stock” because this rifle hasn’t really had one yet.  The CTR that I’d been using was borrowed from another AR, and I ended up selling the AR that it was borrowed from.  I wasn’t able to pass the receiver extension off as a stock, so the CTR had to go too.  It was time to actually get a stock for the X15.


My goal in a stock for this rifle was to improve on the cheekweld of the CTR while retaining most of the other attributes.  There were basically 3 stocks in the running, all Magpul products, the ACS, the ACS-L, and the STR.  I don’t need a place to hide my weed, so I figured that I didn’t need storage in my stock.  I made my decision based on the width of the comb.  The ACS-L seemed to be the best compromise of simplicity and the attributes I was looking for.


The Good:

The stock basically does what it’s supposed to do, and is probably better in concept than the CTR for this particular rifle.  I like that there is a larger flat at the rear of the stock for rear support.  The stock to receiver extension (buffer tube) seems to be improved over earlier Magpul products, although that can vary based on the tube manufacturer (yes, even though it’s ‘milspec’).

The Neutral:

The added width doesn’t make a perfect cheekweld.  In standing it’s very nice and it seems to fit the face well.  In positions from sitting on down, where the head is no longer erect and level, the width really doesn’t help.  I do think that over the course of an Appleseed shoot (just over 400 rounds) my jaw muscles were sore from a contact point at the side of the stock.  Overall, I’m not convinced that the cheekweld is any better than with the CTR.  It’s not worse or unworkable, it’s just not the same as a fully adjustable comb height like on a quality bolt action rifle stock.

The Stupid:

I really like the flush cup sling mounts on the CTR.  They should make them non-rotational, or with limited rotation, but they’re mounted so closely that the swivel can’t really rotate too freely anyway, which is fine.  They are also flush mounted and are on both sides right out the box.  You can just take the stock out of the box, put it on the rifle, and it’s ready to go.  Imagine that.


Instead of keeping what worked fine with the CTR, Magpul decided with the ACS-L to add a stud that needs to be screwed on to the stock via a hex head machine screw.  The swivel mount stud is approximately 3/4″ long and 3/8” wide.  The entire stud protrudes from the side of the stock that it’s mounted on, which in my case is the right side.

The sling attachment stud allows for full, free rotation of the push button swivel.  This feature means that I have to constantly untwist the sling when I pick the rifle up to use.  That’s not a feature I enjoy.

I have no idea why Magpul did this.  It’s completely stupid.  It could be to provide free access to the weed storage compartment (I think Magpul was probably still in Colorado when they designed this thing), or maybe having freely twisting slings was really important to them.  The length of the stud gives the sling a lot of leverage to either loosen the screw or to wear down the plastic on under the stud or the attachment screw.  If it was anywhere in the range between flush and ¼” high it would be a non-issue.  If it were ½” high I would probably think it was stupid but then forget about it.  BUT IT REALLY JUST STICKS OUT TOO FAR!!!  I’ve considered drilling into the stock so I can epoxy a flush cup into it, but I’m just not that ambitious, and I have too many other things that I actually have to do.

I wrote the above a few weeks ago, and have modified my opinion:

I got fed up with the ACS-L and tried my wife’s CTR on the X15.  Reality did not live up to my memory.  The cheekweld just wasn’t as usable for my type of shooting.  I also noticed that the sling stud being mounted directly into the stock on the CTR stock caused my sling to be so close to the side of the stock as to get caught between the rifle butt and my shoulder pocket when I brought the rifle up into the shoulder.  I have to say that I liked the ACS-L much better than I liked the CTR as an A/B comparison (instead of basing it on my memory of the CTR).


My only beef left with the stock is that the swivel mounts are not of the limited rotation variety.  It’s a good stock.  I do recommend it if you find the CTR to be lacking in the cheekweld department

Command Break

Running the trigger may be the most important fundamental skill in operating a firearm.  While the process of shooting is very simple in theory, the things we do to mess up the process complicate it.  Of all the things that can cause problems in the process of firing a shot, none are probably as troublesome or persistent as the difficulties that one can encounter while actuating the trigger.

The basic technique for actuating a trigger is the surprise break.  The word break in this context applies to the exact moment that the firing mechanism of the rifle actuates.  In the case of the surprise break, simply apply uniform pressure on the trigger straight to the rear, gradually increasing pressure until the shot breaks at a random, undetermined point in time.  Making the trigger break occur at a random time decreases the likelihood of the shooter reacting to the firing of the shot during the window that it is actually occurring, which would likely cause the shot to go astray.  The shooter’s reaction, generically called a ‘flinch’, is more likely in an inexperienced shooter, but is a plague to all shooters given enough live fire or heavy recoil.  That makes the surprise break a safe choice for shooters of all levels.

Adding a level of difficulty to the trigger control is what Jeff Cooper called the compressed surprise break.  The idea is simply to reduce the window of time during which the shot would break, but that the exact point is still indeterminate.  It’s hard to define the time window of a compressed surprised break but it’s probably safe to say that the maximum time would be under a second, and perhaps down to 0.25 to 0.15 on the minimum end.

Part of what makes trigger control a skill that requires frequent re-working is that people who shoot often enough get to know their guns well enough to anticipate the moment when their shot will break.  This is why we also emphasize follow through, which is really a special name for simply paying attention and willfully restraining oneself from doing anything other than correctly executing the task of keeping the sights on target while actuating the trigger.  As it becomes second nature for the shooter to instinctively predict the moment the will break, follow through becomes more and more important.

What exactly constitutes a command break?  The only difference between a compressed surprise break and a command break is that a properly executed command break is confined to a specific, finite point in time.

Why bother with a command break when the compressed surprise break can be so quick?  That’s a good question.  Less than a quarter second seems like a reasonably small window of time to fire a shot.  One reason for it is that if a target is presenting itself there’s no way of telling how long it might continue to do so.  One practical reason for me is that I have found that working different aspects of a skill increases my competence in that skill.  Trigger control is among the top skills that are pertinent to shooters, so it makes sense to pursue any potential for improvement.  In a professional application a command break could make sense in coordinating with other personnel in the coordination of a task.

It was logical to me that I should be able to progress from easier to more challenging.  Trigger control is a very perishable skill, so I spent some time making sure my surprise break was better than it had ever been.  The Appleseed I went to helped with that, as I began with a small amount of perceptible movement on a large proportion of my dry trigger presses and ended with very few that showed any movement upon the trigger break.  Some regular work at home polished things even more.

After that I started practicing perfect trigger presses with my eyes closed, so I could concentrate all my senses on the sensation of pressing the trigger.  I did this in between holding exercises that were my primary practice that week.  The holding exercises ended up factoring into my training in the command break.

When I finally started working on the command break in dry fire, it became clear that smoothly actuating the trigger on a certain point was not all that difficult.  With the gun on a bipod and rear bag, I brought out my old friend the metronome, and set myself on a countdown to fire on a specific beat.  I started at 60 beats per minute (BPM) and quickly and easily worked up to 240 BPM, which for those of you who are math wizzes, is a beat every quarter second.  It was no problem to get the shot to break right on the click probably nine out of ten times.

As I was doing this I recalled that I’d made a connection between advanced trigger manipulation and follow through.  If the technique of breaking the trigger at a finite moment in time isn’t all that difficult, then why is the command break a more difficult technique?  A big part of it is very likely follow through.  The holding exercises I’d been working on the week before were essentially a hyper exaggerated follow through- a minute of holding everything the same after the gun is dry fired.  With than in mind, I gave myself a countdown of five to break the shot, and then maintained my attention on keeping everything exactly the same for a count of ten after the shot.

In live fire I tested my command break with a 10 round group.  The position was bipod prone with a rear bag.  I was using my old, mass-loaded 55 grain FMJ load that I put away in storage a few years back, as I’m still in the testing phase with my new load(s).  It’s not a precise load, so bear with me.  I began by shooting a 10 round control group using a surprise break.  I followed immediately with a 10 round command break.

I used the metronome as a time reference for a countdown to fire with the speed at 60 beats per minute.  Live fire was where it really dawned on me that the real difference between a command break and a compressed surprise break is that I had to refrain from applying any progressive pressure in anticipation of the point at which the shot is fired.  I took up the trigger’s first stage at the beginning of the count and applied the full weight of the second stage to break the shot at the click of the metronome.  On about a third of the shots I was a fraction of a second early or late, but most were right on.

Control Group (Surprise Break):

Control- Bipod Prone

Command Break:

Command Break

My control group was marginally better, but they were very close.  The difference is probably within the margin of error for me and this rifle system.  This was a good first try, although a careful, limited, and controlled attempt with a mildly recoiling rifle.  The work that I’ve put into this technique so far has helped with my trigger technique in general.  I will continue working on it.

Supported Positions Vs. Unsupported Positions with Sling

I recently spent a great deal of time and study on ten different shooting positions.  I tested five supported positions and five unsupported positions.  For all of the unsupported positions except for standing I used a rifle sling as an aid for additional stability.  I noticed some general differences between the supported positions and the unsupported positions that were significant to me.  This has nothing to do with which is better or worse, but trying to get an indication of the capabilities and limitations.

Locked in vs Free

A common trait of any unsupported position that utilizes a sling for support is that it really locks the shooter into the shooting position.  Aside from stability, which directly affects precision, the “locked in” aspect is a primary attribute that separates the sling as a stability aid from actual support under the rifle.  There are advantages and disadvantages to being “locked in” that I think indicate suitability for certain applications versus others.

Freedom to Move

Using support under the rifle, be it artificial support or improvised from terrain or fixed manmade objects, typically does not involve fixing or binding the rifle or the shooter to anything.  It’s simply a matter of attaining stability of the shooter and rifle with reference to the support.  This is a simple and convenient process.

Using a sling, by its very nature, ties the rifle to the support arm of the shooter.  In the shooting position this means that the firing hand is responsible for manipulating anything, such as working the bolt/charging handle/op rod, loading or reloading, clearing malfunctions, adjusting the scope, etc.  Outside the shooting position either hand is available, but only one at a time until the sling is removed from the arm.

The process of slinging up to shoot and unslinging to move requires at least some time, if only a second or two, and will subject the shooter to divided attention during that time.  A mitigating factor to this is that the sling can often be looped up concurrently with taking the shooting position.  One could argue that the shooter could stay “looped in” for the duration of the shooting action, but the ability to use the support arm for anything other than shooting will be compromised to some degree during that time.

Weapons Manipulation and General Use of Hands

The evolution of the manual of arms for rifles in recent years has been tied to semi-auto rifles, most notably the AR15.  As shooters have worked to reduce unnecessary movements and time from their gun handing, it has become somewhat of a doctrine to keep the “master grip” (strong hand) on the pistol grip of the rifle.  The support hand works the charging handle and inserts magazines, and with a standard bolt release it operates that as well.

Shooting a rifle such as an AR while looped into a shooting sling completely alters the means of gun handling operations.  All necessary weapons manipulations must be done with the firing hand.  Completely altering the manual of arms to an alternate and less efficient set of techniques is, let’s say, a bit of a pain.

How finite is NPA?

I learned the concept of natural point of aim in the context of sling shooting.  It really makes it easy because when you loop up with a taut loop sling, the natural point of aim exists in one finite point if you can allow the rifle to stay there without muscling it or upsetting it during trigger manipulation.  With the sling, if you’re ‘on’ your NPA you’re golden.  You can close your eyes and shoot a really nice group if you do everything correctly.  If you’re not on your natural point of aim, you’re screwed and your group is going to reflect it.

I was a little puzzled when I first started shooting from supported positions, because I couldn’t find my natural point of aim in the same way.  On a bipod, relaxing doesn’t show you anything about where the position ‘wants’ to point the rifle.  If the rifle is set up in a fundamentally stable way the position behind it is basically recoil control.  The specific point for NPA just doesn’t seem to be as finite with a support as with a sling, which makes the index quite a bit more forgiving and flexible.  You basically get in a sound position and shoot.

Speed of Getting Into Position and On Target

When using a sling for support the sequence for getting into position and firing a shot goes something like this: locate target, sling up and get into position (concurrently if possible through use of a Ching or RifleCraft sling [unusual plug]), acquire sight picture, verify NPA, readjust if necessary, fire.

Using support might go like this: locate target, deploy bipod and get into position, acquire sight picture, fire.  The verification of natural point of aim and readjusting can be skipped.  If a pack, shooting sticks, tripod, or some other manmade object is used the process will be more complex than if a pre-existing terrain feature is used.

The big difference between the two is that with a supported position, if there is a sight picture you like just press the trigger.  With a sling you need to really do the verification to make sure you’re not muscling the rifle.

Follow up shots- speed (on a fixed target) vs flexibility

I’m still somewhat of a bolt work aficionado.  How could I not be, having written the definitive 6 part treatise on the subject?  Seriously though, a lot of the time I’ve spent working the bolt action rifles has been while I was looped up.  Having that tight, locked in position is very conducive to a very fast follow up shot… at exactly the same point of aim.

*Slight meandering*  I like to take tests on the internet.  One of the tests that I took a long time ago was called an “unintelligence test” that was meant to measure street smarts.  One of the questions was something like this: “Four crows sit on a fence.  You shoot at one, hitting it.  How many are left?”  Of course the correct answer is zero, because the ones that are still alive aren’t going to wait around to get shot.  Crows are smart.

The thing that we do as rifle shooters, which is to aim at a single target and shoot it a number of times, is even worse than assuming that three crows will be left after we shoot one.  It’s akin to assuming the same crow we just hit will still be there to shoot again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  See how that is getting ridiculous?  And again.  And again.  That’s seven rounds downrange.  Look at that.  It’s sub minute, except for those two fliers.  But I called those.  Damn.  Sub minute.  This gun is sub MOA all day long.

In the field it stands to reason that if a follow up shot is needed, it is very possible that the target will not be in the same location.  I’m not sure which type of position lends itself better to readjusting to compensate for a moving target.  I was tempted off the bat to say positions with support, and I still think (with a fair degree of certainty) that is the case.  There are, however, dynamic methods of adjusting natural point of aim with a loop sling.  This will need to be tested exhaustively with lots of math, spreadsheets, and hand drawn charts.  I wonder just who is up for such a rigorous experiment?

The Elephant In The Room

Supported positions are more precise.  Period.

It’s nice being able to back things up with numbers.  I tested one supported sitting position and two unsupported using a shooting sling.  Open leg sitting was 51% as precise as supported sitting.  Cross ankle sitting was 50% as precise.  Unsupported kneeling was 43% as precise as supported reverse kneeling.  Unsupported standing was 40% as precise as my worst supported standing, and only 13% as precise as my best supported standing position!!!

Me and Slings

The apparent irony here is that I’m a guy that designs and makes my own rifle slings that are specifically thought out to be easy to use as support.  I don’t think it’s really that ironic that I’m arguing for the use of support rather than a sling as the first line shooting aid.  The fact is that a shooter has to be adaptable to different terrain, and that the terrain will dictate the position.  At times the terrain may not offer shooting support.

As civilians in a free country who like to shoot rifles for various reasons, we are generally slaves to our targets and terrain in any type of field setting.  We cannot exercise the same type over control of live targets in the field that we maintain over our targets on the range.  As much as I would like to say, “Use support under all circumstances,” none of us can predict the future or the actions of our targets.

The bottom line is that a shooter needs to keep reasonable tools in the toolbelt, and to use the best one for the job.  I don’t believe that includes carrying five different sizes of rear bags at all times.  If support is available it’s absolutely stupid to go to the sling first.  If there is no support, get closer and use what you have, hopefully a sling.


Target Ball!

I bought this device a few months back, but I haven’t had the opportunity to bring y’all up to speed on everything that I did over the summer yet.  One day I had this idea in my head, and I typed into Google the words that came most readily to mind that expressed my idea.  The words were “self healing rifle target ball”.  Miraculously, the exact thing that I wanted popped right up:


It didn’t pop right into my hand, but I think I ordered it online for $20 to $25.  In a nice turn of coincidence, the ball is 4” in diameter, which is the size of the target I’m training myself to shoot.

While paper targets provide the richest source of information with regard to each shot and the total shooting performance, reactive targets have the benefit of being, uh, reactive.  This target has the added bonus of moving after it’s hit.

I’ve had the ball for a few months now, and haven’t used it too much since my experiments have required me to shoot paper.  It doesn’t roll quite as readily as I would like, since it’s pretty heavy.  I haven’t hit it with a .308 yet, only 9mm and .223.  I’m sure if someone hit it with a .45 ACP its knockdown power would cause the ball to jump so far as to disappear out of sight, but I haven’t tried that either.

I was curious if it was retaining some of the bullets.  I weighed it before and after a shooting session.  I don’t know if it is retaining bullets, but I can’t think of any other reason that it would be gaining weight (candy, pasta, and baked potatoes???).



It did retain some of the bullets.  It also looks like it might not be completely self-healing.  I’ll keep you updated on what I do with it and how it handles it.

“Surely You Can’t Be Serious”



Yes, I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley.



The Story of Stackfoot Sitting

I first saw this position almost exactly a year ago at some sort of formal shooter get together.  Although most of my training has been self-training, I consider myself to be trained in positional shooting.  I also tend to be a snob about wanting to use the ‘best’ techniques.  Using my training and experience as a reference, my first impression of what I saw when a shooter used this technique led me to think to myself, “What a complete idiot!  What moron came up with that abomination?”

I continued to maintain that this technique was useful for only the stupid and those that were too out of shape to loop up in an orthodox sitting position.  I also kept seeing it, and couldn’t believe that this was actually anything more than some dude’s lame attempt at cheating reality into hitting a 50” target at 50 yards.  I figured I could put this lame dog down with my own test on the source of rifle information that every rifle shooter goes to first for the final word.  NO, I DON’T MEAN GUN TALK!!!  I’m talking about this blog.  Jerk.

The Taste of Crow

I shot this position as I was doing my momentous series of tests of shooting positions that I published last month (yes, I snuck in a ‘stealth’ position in the tests that you didn’t know about- kind of like what NASA actually does [mining cotton candy from the nose of the face on Mars] while they pretend simply to go to the ISS over and over on Russian rockets ).  I shot it on the same day as I did cross ankle sitting and squatting.  That was the first time I had ever even attempted getting into this position, and it was my live fire, for the record attempt.  I probably didn’t want to be defiled by having to actually try practicing some low class, non-competition certified technique.  Boy was that a stupid attitude to have.

I was astounded at the performance of what I have named “Stackfoot Sitting”.  It simply kicked the crap out of both cross ankle and open leg sitting, both in terms of precision and all measures of time- first shot, split times, and total time.


I don’t really have any sage advice on how to fine tune this thing.  I instinctively put my support side foot on top, and that does seem to work best.  Not knowing what to do with my support hand, I used it to help control and stabilize the rifle.  That works fine.  I need to have shoes on to get a horizontal line of sight to a target.  To adjust my elevation down I turn my feet.  There’s no adjusting up unless you can find a mound or a bag to set your feet on.  I think that would be pushing the boundaries of practicality.


Slow Fire:


Time Stress:

Time Stress

Time Stress Exerted:

Time Stress Exerted

Here is how the position compared to cross ankle sitting and open leg sitting in my statistical analysis for my 86% and 99% circles.

Maximum Distance Sitting Positions Compared

Maximum Distance 99  Sitting Positions Compared

The time from the start signal for the time stress and time stress exerted groups until my first shot, which is the time it took me, from a standing position about a foot away from my rifle, to load my magazines, load the rifle, and assume a firing position, was 47.88 and 52.81 seconds respectively, averaging 63.02 seconds.  The average of all positions, for comparison, was 50.35.

The average split time for this position, excluding reloads, was 4.83 seconds (low 2.77 , high 9.17).  The average time of all the positions was 6.53.  The fastest of all positions was kneeling at 4.86.

The total times of each timed portion of the test were 117.41 and 112.47, averaging 114.99.  The average time of all the positions tested was 134.48 seconds.


This position is faster than the orthodox sitting positions because it doesn’t require the use of a sling, and it is extremely forgiving with regard to natural point of aim.  Just plop down, use the feet to adjust elevation, and shoot.

Follow up shots also come very fast.  I used my support hand to pull the rifle into my shoulder from just in front of the magazine, so it stayed on target pretty well.  This position was about 3/100 of a second slower than the position with the average fastest split times of all, which was kneeling.  My fastest split time with the position was 2.77 seconds with a bolt action rifle, which was the fastest split of the eleven positions I tested.

Fastest Split Time

This position is the real deal.  I believe that with good trigger control and zero practice in the position you’ll be cleaning stage 2 of the AQT in no time.  Now talk amongst yourselves.  I’ll be at the range.

IMG_7358b resized


Appleseed Shoot, Part 5

Summary Performance (points):

Day 1, AQT1
Stage 1: 50                Stage 2: 50                Stage 3: 50                Stage 4: 48

Day 1, AQT2
Stage 1: 49                Stage 2: 50                Stage 3: 50                Stage 4: 49

Day 2, AQT1
Stage 1: 49                Stage 2: 48                Stage 3: 50                Stage 4: 50

Day 2, AQT2
Stage 1: 48                Stage 2: 49                Stage 3: 50                Stage 4: 48

Day 2, KDAQT1
Stage 1: 48                Stage 2: 48                Stage 3: 39                Stage 4: 47

Day 2, KDAQT2
Stage 1: 50                Stage 2: 49                Stage 3: 49                Stage 4: 48

Total Performance:

My average points for each stage (including the really uncharacteristically poor KDAQT)

Stage 1: 49
Stage 2: 49
Stage 3: 48 (if you throw out the 39 the average is 49.8)
Stage 4: 48.33333333333333

My average group size (extreme spread) in MOA for each stage were as follows:

Stage 1:         9.80
Stage 2:         4.22
Stage 3:         3.76
Stage 4:         2.60

My total mean radius in MOA for each stage is as follows:

Stage 1:         2.71
Stage 2:         1.39
Stage 3:         1.37
Stage 4:         0.98

My average deviation from point of aim to mean point of impact in MOA for each stage is as follows:

Stage 1:         1.28
Stage 2:         0.98
Stage 3:         0.75
Stage 4:         0.64


I have heard Appleseed instructors say that the full distance AQT is easier than the 25 meter course.  I can’t say that I agree.  I just think that they are different.  The short course is busier with more targets and natural point of aim changes.  It’s a bit more of a time crunch.

What the short course does for the shooter is that the bullet holes are huge in scale to what the targets actually would be at a distance.  There’s a lot more leeway to touch the line with the edge of the bullet hole that is disproportionally huge on the reduced size targets.  The inside width of the 5 ‘ring’ on the full distance target is 17″.  At 400 it is approximately 4.06 MOA.  The inside width of a reduced 400 target for the 25 meter distance is approximately 1.06”, which at 25 meters is approximately 3.70 MOA.  The difference is that at 400 yards a .224 bullet hole will give approximately .06 MOA extra wiggle room (1.5% of the widest part of the 5 ring), while at 25 meters the bullet diameter gives approximately .78 MOA more wiggle room (21% of the widest part of the 5 ring).

In the long course the easy part is that there’s only one target per distance.  It takes a lot of stress off in the rapid fire stages.  I think it also helps keep the concentration sharp in the slow fire prone stages.  In the standing stage, something about the target being so huge seems to help psychologically.

The difficulties of the long course are mostly solved by having a ballistic computer.  The “standard comeup” portion of the Appleseed instruction is wholly insufficient for someone who wants to do well.  There’s just too much variance between different systems to justify having people memorize stuff that in all likelihood doesn’t apply to them.  An instructor could come up with pert near the actual comeups for several shooters over a few minutes with a smart phone and a free app at lunch.  Wind could really mess with people with gusts and lulls over the rapid fire courses, but I was fortunate to be shooting on a very calm day.

Where I actually was at a disadvantage at in the full distance course was at the 400.  Unlike stage 4 in the short course, there is no forgiveness with the edges of the bullet holes touching the lines.  Even a .30 does not have the same magical huge bullet hole effect as it does with a reduced size target at 25 meters, and I was shooting a .223.  I simply could not escape the mediocrity of my load under those circumstances.


Before the shoot I approached shooting a 250 as something that would be a combination of skill and luck, something along the lines of, “I wonder if I might shoot a 250 today.”  Previously, even getting into the 240s was not a given.  What I saw this time after tracking my performance, is that my average simply is higher.  There wasn’t much deviation in my scores.  Now I see that all I need to do is to raise my average performance a bit and that the 250 score will be an inevitability rather than a stroke of luck.

Part of my learning was just getting to experience some ‘zen’ moments with my rifle.  It just seemed as though I could watch through the scope and maintain attention as the shots broke.  As each shot broke it was pleasant to watch the crosshairs move through recoil.  The breathing, the relaxation, the trigger press, the shot breaking, and the scope movement in recoil just seemed to be moving along nicely in an integrated act.  No need for any input or effort from me.

The AR is turning out to be a wonderful gun to drive.  I think it came down to the better handguard to sell me on the AR.  It also has helped the the barrel, while not a laser, is reasonably precise, consistent, and that the rifle has been exceptionally reliable.  This is a gun that I can shoot comfortably all day long.

I think that one of the things that helped me learn through the weekend was increasing my round counts over and above what the course of fire called for.

I have a good time.  The format of the shoot allows for people of extremely varied skill levels to improve their shooting.  I’ll be back when I’m ready to shoot a 250.

Appleseed Shoot, Part 4

Day 2

It was decided early on day 2 that we’d go full distance in the afternoon.  At least I had my ballistic computer of a ‘smart’ phone there to figure it all out for me since I had never shot with that rifle/scope combination from anything other than 25 meters.

We spend all morning at the 25 meter line.  I shot my redcoat from sitting with the ‘correct’ number of rounds and cleaned it.  On the sighter squares I started out taking my time, as with the previous day as to get all my systems functioning at optimal levels.  It’s tempting to use those shots as a way to begin pushing the speed up, but I think it’s a bad idea to do that too soon.  Just let it come.  I also considered shooting some from sitting, but figured it would be better to do everything as perfectly as I could while I had the opportunity.


Some of my best shooting of day 2 came during the ball and dummy drill.  What I find odd was that there were several groups that I shot during the course of this Appleseed that were better than I shot with a bipod when checking the same load prior to the shoot.  That is very strange, but it leaves me with a secret hypothesis that I’ll have to test later.

Ball and Dummy


I started my first AQT by dropping a point in stage 1 and 2 points in stage 2.  I shot stages 3 and 4 clean, which left me with another 247.  That was the only clean score I shot on stage 4 during the entire shoot.  I should add that I shot an extra round during stage 4 on target 2, but since they were all fives I wasn’t going to penalize myself for it.

AQT 1 247

My best groups in stages 3 and 4 were in that first AQT that day:

AQT 1 Stages 3 and 4

Stage 3 composite:

AQT 1 Rapid Prone

Stage 4 composite:

AQT 1 Stage 4 Slow Prone

On the second and final 25 meter AQT of the day (that I shot) I dropped two points in standing, one point in sitting, and two points in slow fire prone, which left me with a low score of 243 points for the 25 meter AQT.  There were one or two more opportunities to shoot AQTs later in the day, but I was wearing the veneer of my abilities by then, so I decided it was better not to continue with sub-par shooting.

AQT 2 243


Having never shot this rifle/scope/ammo combination any farther than 25 meters before, I had to completely rely on my iPhone with the Shooter program to get me where I needed to be.  It was right on.

In the first KDAQT I didn’t do too well at all.  I think it was just getting used to the distance.  On stage 3 my bolt was running sluggishly (too dry) and my bolt did not lock back after the second round, which is just prior to the mag change (the course was made for the Garand).  I wasted a lot of time on a very nicely executed dry fire rep because it just didn’t register that I should have changed mags.  Then I got all in a panic and shot the following eight rounds in some record time while throwing two rounds completely under the target.  The slowest shooter had 17 seconds to spare after completing the stage and I wasn’t him.  I ended up with a score of 234, which was my low for the weekend.  It was so uncharacteristic of my shooting that I calculated the averages both with and without it.

I did shoot my tightest Stage 4 group on that first KDAQT, but I dropped points because it was offset horizontally to the right:

KDAQT 1 Stage 4

The second KDAQT ran a little smoother.  I cleaned stage 1, dropped one point each in stages 2 and 3, and dropped 2 points (multiplied by 2 in the final score) for a total of 244.

Here’s a shot of Presidentener in the middle of a nice flinch:


I created a very cool new program called “Foundation for Folks Who Can’t Shoot Good (And Do Other Stuff Good Too)”.  The idea is to give decent shot groups away to people who just can’t shoot.  It’s hard work, but to see the smiles on the face of those little guys makes it all worth it:

IMG_7263Presidentender and the Shootboss.  He’s so happy about the 400 yard target from my second KDAQT that I donated to him.  He just kept asking, “Did I do this?”   Yep Buddy.  You did that with your mil-spec rifle and iron sights! 


We (Mark, Pajamaboy and I) shot the Redcoat target standing again.  This time I loaded 20 rounds (four for each target) instead of the 13 that the stage calls for.  It was worlds better than the standing Redcoat from the previous day.


Offhand Redcoat Head

I got to see one of my slings “in the wild” for the first time.  Presidentender had the good taste to use one of my slings.

Born on 12-31-12This one was born on 12/31/12.


To be continued. Yes, again.

Appleseed Shoot, Part 3

To sum up my preparation for this Appleseed shoot, I had a great plan, but my opportunity to carry it out is best characterized by an old country song called “Aint Nothin’ Ever Turns Out Right (At All)”- okay, I just made that up.  I had very little dry fire because my doctor insisted that I be high for a while (even pain itself could not force me to rest), I was not in great shape, my scope was pulled off of my FN a few days earlier, I was shooting a mediocre 55 grain FMJ load, and my job kept me up too late to even get my gear and zero set up like I wanted.  At least I remembered a blue foam pad to shoot on as I rolled out at 0600!


After a two hour drive and a liter of water, not to mention bagels and beef jerky, I felt a sense of urgency to visit the plush outhouse at the range.  Then I got to meet Presidentender (he does have a real name).  As I met him I could only help but think, “Shake this hand.  Fresh from the outhouse, Sucker!”  This was the beginning of our heated internet feud, sort of a modern Elmer Keith versus Jack O’Connor type thing.  He had grown a beard so as to be taken seriously, but it was ineffective.  He’s not very nice, seems to take himself too seriously, but keeps to himself and doesn’t talk much.  Did I mention that he can’t shoot?

Mark Davis, aka “Shoots clean targets from standing” was also there, and that was an unexpected treat.  The shoot boss and his son were old friends from Appleseed, and I had also met another one of the instructors before, who is also a great guy (he made an 8 hour drive on his own dime so I could go shoot).  In fact all the instructors turned out to be great people.

There are two basic types of people in this world, those who can use stripper clips and Presidentender.


A theme of mine throughout this shoot is that I blatantly disregarded prescribed round counts from the beginning to the end (never less, sometimes right on, mostly more).  I started the morning red coat target with 15 rounds instead of the customary 13.  My thought was this: Why only one round for the 250 yard headshot?  In the explanation Appleseed no longer calls it a headshot, but a qualification for Morgan’s Riflemen, and it was said at this shoot that it had to be an “on demand” rather than a one time thing to be a member of Morgan’s Rifleman.  So I decided that target needed three rounds as well.  I cleaned that target, but got some extra help from Mark Davis, who was shooting some not-quite-zeroed rifle.  I’ve been waiting by the phone for a call from Daniel Morgan, whoever he is (dude, pick up the phone and call me).


Once I began shooting the customary sighter square targets, I could tell that I was going to do at least reasonably well.  The insides of the squares just kept disappearing.  I was shooting 10 rounds per square instead of the 5 that we were told to do, and I just kept drilling it.  I did not always feel rock solid, but it didn’t seem to matter.  My initial group shot from sitting, in the lower left square was an exception.  In that group I fired 6 rounds, which ended up in three groups.  Note that on square 5 (lower right) I was trying out a Sig 716 and only shot five rounds.


We shot a practice AQT to introduce the newer shooters to positions.  There were two notable things from this practice AQT.  I shot my best 10 round group of the weekend and Mark Davis put all five shots of his standing practice group in the ‘V’ ring.

Practice AQT Prone

Prone PracticeThis is the composite of my 10 shot group above.


Mark's OffhandMark’s standing group.


On the first AQT I shot, I didn’t drop any points until stage 4.  I don’t know why I didn’t just decide to shoot stage 4 clean as well, but if you’re going to drop points, go big.  I put one in the 3 zone and put another in the 4.  That dropped my AQT score to 244 for that target.

AQT 1 245

I also shot my best standing group on that first AQT:

AQT 1- Standing

On my 2nd AQT, and the last one of day 1, I dropped a point early on Stage 1.  I shot stages 2 and 3 clean, then dropped another point in stage 4.  Since the points for stage 4 are doubled, this left me with a score of 247.

AQT 2 247

I shot my best sitting group on that 2nd AQT, which was the last of the day.

AQT 2 Sitting Pic

AQT 2 Sitting

For the closing Redcoat on Day 1, Mark, Mr. PoopiePants, and I all shot it from standing, which didn’t work as well as prone.  Go figure.

IMG_7245Not qualified to shoot standing.

To be continued…

Appleseed Shoot, Part 2

Picking right up from where I left off.  My goal was to shoot a perfect 250 on the Appleseed AQT.  My basic plan was to shoot better and shrink my groups.  Groups are caused by dispersion.  Dispersion can come from the shooter, the rifle system, the ammo, or the conditions.  Since I can’t control the conditions (not much to worry about at 25 meters anyway), and I already had a plan in place for the shooter, I turned my attention to what remained.


Why not get what I can from increasing the precision of my load?  My reloading gear had not been in operation for the duration of my “broken down ‘farm’ experiment”.  We’re now crowded into a smaller house, but it’s more usable.  Sure, I sleep in the living room on a hide-a-bed.  But my lucky teenage daughter gets to have a bunch of reloading stuff in her room.  Plus, I was actually able to get something done for once.  Long story short, I got my Dillon 550 up and running and loaded up some test loads.  Short story longer, none of them really shot that well when I tested them.  I ended up using some unremarkable 55 grain FMJ rounds that I had loaded up a few years back with a keg of AA2230, several thousand Hornady bullets, a plentiful supply of WCC headstamped brass, and Wolf Magnum primers.  They were marginally more precise than some M193 ammo I had for comparison.

Hornady 55 FMJ Handload

Skill and Fitness Preparation:

At the 2012 shoot my energy levels tanked pretty quickly.  Part of it was inadequate rest but it can never hurt to be in better physical condition.  My plan was to keep what I had and make it just a little better if I could.  Unfortunately, I had some minor health issues that kept me on sort of a quasi-bedrest for several weeks.  Some of that time I was medicated (legally high).  My whole idea of getting dialed in via dry fire went out the window, as was the idea of at least maintaining the butter knife sharp edge of my physical fitness.


I had a great idea of getting a scope on the X15 again.  The empty rings were just not going to be an acceptable sighting aperture.  Of the scopes I haven’t yet tried, the Gen 2 Razor 1-6×24 from Vortex seems like a cool scope to have on the rifle in general.  I can’t afford one at the moment, but I thought maybe I could review one concurrently and work it into this project.  I sent my customary “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” email to Vortex and was… politely turned down.  I don’t understand why that’s not working when I see so many big celebrities like me having success with it.

I had another hair brained scheme to borrow a state of the art scope (circa 1988).  It’s actually a classic scope that will get the guys in their 50’s and 60’s exited:


In theory this was a great idea of a hair brained scheme.  10x is a little high on the magnification scale for 25 yards, but otherwise it seemed perfect.  Older scopes tend to have shorter eye relief, which was a potential issue with putting a full size scope on the rifle via my NightForce Unimount.  I put the thing as far forward as I could, and it was actually perfect for position shooting, and with the adjustable stock I could get dialed in for eye relief in any position.  There was just one issue why it could not work, which is pretty unique to this scope.  Pictured below is the setup that did not work.  The first person to explain in the comments (submitted, not published) why it didn’t work wins a free RS2 sling.


I decided I would have to pull the SWFA SS 3-9×42 off my PBR-XP and temporarily put it on the X15.  That went off okay, but at 25 meters the targets were not really in focus.  Oh well.  That’s just how I roll.

Final Preparation:

I thought at least I could be well rested and prepared for the shoot with plenty of ammo and a perfectly zeroed rifle.  Turns out that my stupid job got in the way.  I ended up having to unexpectedly put in a 14 hour day the night before, and couldn’t analyze my test load target to zero the rifle.  I also didn’t get much rest the night before.  On the plus side, I had a healthy diet of bagels and beef jerky planned for the entire day.  I don’t talk about vegetables here.  This is a rifle blog dammit!

To be continued…