Beginning (Again) With the End in Mind

When the ideas and topics stop flowing, rather than force myself to write about things I’m not all that interested in, I take a break from the blog. I had really been spinning my rifle-shootin’ wheels, so I decided to take the opportunity to take a step back from the busy-ness of shooting for blogging, to take in some information rather than just putting it out, to decompress a bit, and to consider the main question: Why?

When I started the blog I had at least a vague sense of purpose. During the life of the blog, some life circumstances changed, some personal shooting preferences and interests changed, and I learned some things. Something about the way I was going about my pursuit of excellence in riflery had gone stale, but I didn’t know what to eliminate and what to replace it with.

One of the things I had struggled with was context. It’s easy to make a vague goal of some kind of improvement in an avocation for its own sake, but it’s not very motivating. You might as well just say, “I want to be really good.” Ideally that, and the love of the pursuit itself, should be motivation enough. In reality, for me at least, sometimes it falls short. What seems to bridge the gap is a purpose or calling that brings with it a burden of responsibility. Without going into personal detail, I think my contextual footing is back to being pretty solid.

Context alone does not equate to purpose. If Mozart had been content merely to write music, he didn’t need to put so much into it. What made him different was that he had something tangible to bring out of himself. He had a fire inside to bring the sounds from within to paper, and into the hands of musicians to bring it to life, or at least that’s how I imagine it. How could I be wrong? I’ve seen Amadeus at least half a dozen times.

I put some thought and imagination into forming a vision of what kind of shooter I wanted to become. One thing I have learned is that grandiose visions have a way of being too far out there towards the unattainable. I decided to start with something rather concrete, useful for what I need, very likely within my capabilities, and something that I would be sufficiently motivated to accomplish.

Primary short term goal.

Develop the ability to hit an uncooperative moving target, no greater than 4” in diameter, inside of 200 yards at known or unknown distance, on demand, regardless of terrain, conditions, stress, tiredness, fatigue, or time constraints.

Goal deadline: 5/1/14

I was tempted to add “regardless of shooting position”, but 2 MOA is just not realistic on even a cooperative stationary target from offhand or kneeling at this point. The intent is that if an ideal position is not available, I should be able to find one that will allow me to get the hit I need. If, in the event that terrain or circumstances create a shooting problem that I don’t have the skill to solve, the other side of the coin would be that I am sufficiently aware of my limits to know when not to shoot.

This primary goal sentence may seem like a very modest goal upon cursory reading. 2 minutes of angle should be no big deal these days. 2 minutes on a stationary paper target from supported prone or a bench, calculated from a 3 or 5 shot group really isn’t a big deal with modern equipment. The other qualifiers in the sentence are what make the goal actually quite difficult. Paper is generally a stationary, always stationery :), rather boring and cooperative thing to shoot at. It’s great when a diagnostic tool is needed, but it’s far from uncooperative. That makes it unrealistic, and it may, in the words of someone I respect greatly, give the shooter a belief in abilities he doesn’t have.

Uncooperative” means the target has a will and does not want to be shot. Since the blog was started in the spirit of “field shooting”, whatever field you operate in, I think it’s clear that the rifle is being used to kill a live target. Live things tend to have a will to stay that way. I can’t count on the target standing stationary for the time it takes me to take my Mrs. Butterworth sweet time and make everything perfect. The target dictates the time and terrain.

On demand” means that a “called flier” (or just a clean miss) equates to failure, and that even my worst shot in a 100 shot group should be a hit. “Conditions” may mean rain, snow, darkness, sub-zero temperatures, or sweltering heat. “Stress” may simply mean buck fever, or it may mean a life is on the line. “Tiredness” may mean not having slept in a day or two, or more. “Fatigue” may mean that a great deal of energy was expended just prior to the need to take a shot. “Time constraints” may simply mean a fleeting target, or it could mean that something bad will happen without ballistic intervention.

Along with the marksmanship type goals, I need to clean up my gun handling skills. I had really been dialed in and on the right track about this time last year. What it comes down to is consistently doing what makes sense and is safe over and over again until it’s actually difficult to violate established protocols, like keeping the safety rearward unless loading, unloading, or firing, keeping the scope caps shut unless observing or acquiring a target, keeping the finger off the trigger unless there’s an intention to fire, etc. I’m not horrible right at this moment, but I need to hone the edge a bit (or maybe just use a strop).

My level of fitness is another thing that needs to be ramped up. This year has been a time for getting back on track. I have managed to bring myself back to a level of fitness that is average for me (when I work out regularly) over the last 5 years or so. Now I need to add some extra intensity to provide my body what it needs to bounce back after exertion and perform fine motor skills under stress sufficient to accomplish specific goals.

Other than performance goals, there are other things that I intend to improve upon. A big one is documentation. Up until February or so I had a very accurate round count for my rifle. At this point I could be plus or minus 200 rounds. I had considered the blog to be adequate documentation of my round count, comeups and windage corrections, and level of skill/limitations. I came to find out that sometimes everything I need to know isn’t necessarily there.

I’ve neglected my data book. I would like to say, for example, “I recall being able to shoot a four minute group from kneeling in favorable weather conditions… oh yes, it was actually a 4.3 MOA 10 shot group.” I intend to review my data book templates, and to put them up on the Riflecraft website, along with covers and complete kits.

I still have a great interest in shooting long range, and will pursue that when the opportunity arises. For the time being though, I will have my work cut out for me.

By the way, my rifle is still at the gunsmith’s. In the meantime I’ll be using an accurized Remington 700 (Remmy) that long time readers of the blog may recognize.

15 thoughts on “Beginning (Again) With the End in Mind

  1. “-Develop the ability to hit an uncooperative moving target, no greater than 4” in diameter, inside of 200 yards at known or unknown distance, on demand, regardless of terrain, conditions, stress, tiredness, fatigue, or time constraints.”

    That is an incredibly Cooper-esque statement.

    I look forward to your endeavors. Remember…if all else fails, “Endeavor to persevere!”

  2. Can you tell us more about the new (old) Remington 700? You’ve only made oblique references to it in the past. I’d like to know more about it, to put your experiences in context. I also just picked one up, and I’m interested to learn more about the nuances of the rifle.

    • I don’t know how old it is, but it’s rather old. It has a trigger system in which the safety locks the bolt closed. The bolt does not appear to be original to the rifle, but appears to have been trued and lapped. The stock is a McMillan Baker Special. It has a Freeland accessory rail, on which I have 2 Harris adapters, one for the Harris and one for a swivel stud. The length of pull used to be stuck at 12.75″, until I emailed McMillan and they suggested I loosen 2 bolts that allowed me to adjust it (after 3 years of getting hit in the face with the ocular housing- I have a scar now). The barrel is fairly heavy, and 26″ long. The scope is an IOR 2.5-10×42 FFP illuminated. It’s great except for tunneling under 4x, for which reason I keep it set at approximately 3.8x as a default setting unless I need more. I often forget to turn off the illumination, which causes me to go through a lot of 2032 batteries. The scope mount is a 2 piece system, which I wouldn’t have chosen. The mount and rings are Leupold, and are quite low. Scope height over bolt is approximately 1.68, center to center. Rifle weight is about 15 lbs. I’m using a coyote tan RS2 on it at the moment. The trigger is set to approximately 3.5 lbs.

      It used to shoot 5 round groups routinely under 0.5 MOA, and I shot a no muss no fuss 0.8 MOA 10 round group rapid fire in 2011. Accuracy has dropped off. Estimated round count is 2500 to 3000. I do have a minor nick in the crown that could be causing things to go funny. I did recently shoot a 4 round group that was about a quarter inch, center to center, but it was a fluke.

      I hope that’s enough info for you.

      • Thanks. I appreciate the update. If you don’t mind, I have one more question. Are your ambivalent/negative feelings about the rifle (and the Remington 700 in general) based on the lack of fit of the rifle and the pain it caused you, or the lackluster technical details about the scope mounts and worn out barrel?

        • That’s not the only rifle that has hit me (some positions just bring me closer than is ideal with my “compromise” scope setup), so I don’t have any special grudges or anything. In the beginning of the blog when I was using the Sako, it was the disparity in class between the two rifles that really left me a little cold on it. The bottom metal is made of lower quality materials than a hot wheels car. After my experience with the Sako, and then the FN, the niceness of the rifle became much less of an issue. Now, my FN’s bottom metal is not the best out there. The 4 round mags have a certain feeling of expediency to their construction, BUT, the bottom metal itself is made of steel. As far as the rest of the FN goes, in feel, function, and appearance, I think it’s a step up from most of the 700s I’ve seen, and comparing stock factory guns there’s hardly any comparison.

          The scope mounts on the Remington are fine. The fit is fine, after figuring out how to adjust it (emailing McMillan revealed that I had been somewhat stupid). The barrel does seem tired. It might just need re-crowned, or it really might be getting tired. It still shoots better than my FN did during my last few months with it. The trigger is fine. I’m pretty sure I’ve had at least one failure to extract, maybe two, but my memory is hazy on what the malfunctions were exactly and what caused them. At the time I just wanted to clear them and keep shooting. The only malfunctions I’ve had with the FN were either magazine or shooter related.

          The scope on the Remmy is pretty nice. The only issue I have with it is that it “tunnels” from about 2.5x-3.8x. By that I mean that the edges of the image actually reduce concurrently with the magnification as it’s dialed down, and expand as it’s dialed up. Another way of saying it is that the field of view does not get larger as it should when reducing the magnification below about 3.8x, although its field of view is actually wider than a lot of the competing scopes even with the tunneling.

          So I don’t really have a problem with the Remington, I just don’t get excited by it. It’s a tool. It tends to work. Nothing is perfect.

          • Thanks for your detailed replies. I really appreciate it. It really sheds light on the differences between the rifles.

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