Part of getting where I want to be is knowing where I’m starting from. I didn’t do much shooting during the summer. Time makes the memories more impressive. A hypothetical 7 inch, 5 shot, 300 yard group, with one flier and the others clustered into 4 inches, will in time be remembered as a 3″ group unless it’s recorded and revisited periodically. In other words, the longer the hiatus the greater I was, which of course gets carried into the present.
Over the years my outlook on shooting performance has gotten more realistic. That comes from learning to disregard 90% of the claims I hear. When truth is what you want, you learn that humans must be geared, well, to put it nicely, exaggerate. I used to expect great things of myself and get disappointed. Now I wait and see what I can actually do, skip the disappointment, and see what I can do to get better.
As part of my search for a measure of realistic performance, I decided to put some requirements on how I shoot groups. What I used to do was to take the 10 best shots I could in as much time as I needed. I never went to the extreme of putting the rifle down for each shot, or cleaned in between shots or anything like that, but there was no sense of urgency.
The methodology has to be defined in terms of the goal, so let me restate the 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
Apparently taking my time is not an option anymore. I should be thinking about worst case scenario performances. However, I’m looking to establish a baseline, and worst case scenario is not a baseline. What I decided to do was to come up with well defined ways to work in some of the qualifiers in the goal statement. Here is what I came up with:
This was a draft that I never even saved to the computer, but I decided to use it for my last range trip (it went like this: “I am going to the range and don’t know what to do. Uh, here is a chart. I’ll do that”). My idea was to pick a few boxes at random and fill them with group sizes in MOA. I’m back with 10 shot groups, and I want to limit myself to 40-60 rounds per session. Each session includes a recorded cold bore, a 10 shot follow up group, and a 10 shot group at the end to re-verify that the system is still “on”. I could probably use 5 shot groups for purposes of verification, but I got paranoid that I was letting myself slack with the 5 round groups earlier in the year.
The agenda for this day turned out to be two from the “Time Stress Rapid” column- rice paddy prone and mid-level support, and one from the “Time Stress Exerted” column, bipod prone. For the mid level support, I used a shooting bench at the range that is 33” tall. It was too tall for me to use reverse kneeling, so I went double kneeling, leaned into the support, and rested the rifle on a soft bag that slips over the bipod legs.
I’ll skip the details of my cold bore. The 10 shot group was not great, 1.86” or 1.78 MOA. It turns out to be pretty consistent. The rifle is starting to go downhill a bit, but at least it’s consistent. As I said before, a previous 10 shot group with the bipod was 0.8 MOA, not even trying. What I saw with this group was the first three shots into one ragged hole, just below the bullseye, then holes began to appear to the left, about an inch away. After that it just got worse, as groups are wont to do when you keep putting bullets through them.
As a reference, this is what the rifle’s 10 shot group looked like in 2011:
The next group was the first of my diagnostic groups. I used the mid level support in the “Time Stress Rapid” configuration. As you can see from the chart, time stress rapid gives me 20 seconds to load loose rounds into the rifle, and another 60 seconds to fire 10 rounds. I used a repeating countdown timer set at 20 seconds as a reference for how I was doing time-wise. This rifle has a hinged floorplate and holds 4 rounds.
The mid-level support was from double kneeling. The support was 33″, too tall for me to use my firing side knee to support my firing side elbow, which I think is generally preferable. In the photos below I re-created the technique I used, with the exception that the support is 34″. The surface was smooth, so neither a bipod nor bag would have held it’s spot very well, so I used my hand to brace myself against the support. In dry fire, taking my time, this works very well. I aim at an insulator on a power pole at 240 and see a “hit” every time.
To handle the recoil most effectively, the shoulders are square (not bladed) the hips are in front of the knees and the shoulders in front of the hips. The support hand supports the forward lean and also grasps the sling to keep the rifle from sliding forward on the support.
Using the bipod would require a different body position due to height. It would also depend on the uniformity of the surface. The bag is kind of a nicety. I could have also used my fist to grasp the sling/swivel/stud interface, a la the Hawkins position, but it would have unsquared my shoulders slightly. The bag would also work in the event I couldn’t use my bipod and was using my support hand for something else.
I found out a lot of things with this group. I learned that it’s difficult to get the first shot off within 20 seconds. It seems to actually take 23-25 seconds. Even then, the time stress is sure on me, so I’m counting the shots. Something else that I found out was that I can get off the four rounds in about 20 seconds. If you do the math that means the time is not very generous.
Because of that time crunch, I see things happen in my scope that I’m not used to seeing, and the groups are also larger than I remember shooting before. The first shot started out with a centered sight picture, and banked hard left as I pressed the trigger. While I know some group degradation is to be expected because of the increased difficulty of compressed time, if feels like I have taken a step backwards. That is a good thing, because my subconscious will want to maintain the status quo and will cause me to bump up my performance.
The group stats are pictured below. Adding to that is for a 4″ target at 100 yards (half of my goal distance), my hit ratio was 70%. The zero offset is inline with what I saw for the prone shooting, requiring 0.1 up and 0.1 to in this case 0.2 right.
Rice paddy prone, the next position I tested, has been a puzzle for me. It’s great in dry fire, as in spectacularly good. In live fire it tends to be erratic, and not just a little bit. Also, regardless of my ability to shoot groups at any given time, this seems to be a position in which I can “hit stuff’, even difficult shots when I have something to shoot at, not that you would know that by looking at the following target. The hit ratio on a 4” target at 100 yards was 40%.
The next lucky winner was the bipod prone row in the Time Stress Exerted column. That’s a minute of jumping jacks, 20 good pushups, then loading my rifle and firing a shot within 20 seconds (or just a hair more on this day), then firing the full 10 shot group in under a minute. The hit ratio on a 4″ stationary target at 100 yards was 100%, although the low shot was close. I disposed of the original target, but I believe it was completely inside a 4″ circle.
Finally it was time to re-verify while taking my time.
It was quite similar to my first 10 shot group of the day, but better. The shapes were even similar. The groups were centered in almost exactly the same spot, indicating the need for a zero adjustment. I overlayed both of them onto one fresh target and plotted the hits from each to create a 20 round composite group. Here it is:
It was about 7% larger than the larger of the 2 10 round groups.
I have drawn some conclusions from these groups that I will address in the next article.