Knowing the Score

Sometime in the last few months I realized that to accomplish my shooting goal, which is basically most easily summed up with “4 inch target, 200 yards and in, any time, any conditions,” I would need to realign my thinking to be more aware of accuracy as it relates to the specified target instead of thinking primarily in terms of precision.  My old favorite target lent itself well to making as small a group as I could at 100 yards.  It was a bull just under an inch.  Since my hopes of hitting it consistently with the rifles I was using weren’t great even under perfect conditions, I never worried too much about hitting that small circle or where my groups were, so long as they were as tight as I could get them.

Another thing I had to change was the tendency to convert every shooting performance to an angular measurement.  I always felt that I’d be doing okay if I could keep my shooting under ‘x’ MOA.  While that is a good way to check consistency of performance and to see how conditions affect it, it does not encourage dynamic adaptation to environment.

Close range often brings with it a requirement for swift engagement.  Likewise, sometimes circumstances outside the shooter’s control dictate the pace of engagement.  That means that it’s a smart idea to make ready to deliver a hit in the shortest time possible.

On the other side of the coin, maximum range on a fixed size target is a rather inflexible thing, especially if a miss is out of the question.  Even if a shot group seems great in terms of size in minutes or mils, the only thing that matters is whether I can hit the target at that distance.

I had already made a target that would basically suit my needs.  It was patterned after something a friend had come up with for a four position shoot that he used to host on the 4th of July every year.  It was called the Redneck target in homage to him. That was an approximately 4 MOA target.  A hit was one point and a miss was no points.  I made my version as close to exactly 4 MOA (at 100 yards) as I could and had put in a 1 MOA “X” ring as a tie breaker.

What I wanted instead of the Redneck target was to have a finer way to evaluate my accuracy.  Making your own target means that you get to tailor the scoring to suit your goals and priorities, which is a really cool thing.  I decided that since the generic paper plate, usually just over 8”, is basically the standard for most shooters, I would allow 1 point for a hit on an 8 MOA (at 100 yards) circle.  The edges of an 8.5” x 11” target are just outside the printable area for my printer, so the sides of that circle are cut off.

The primary scoring circle of my new target, in accordance with my current shooting goal, is as close to 4 MOA at 100 yards (4.188”) as I could get it.  Don’t ask me why I didn’t use straight inches rather than MOA, especially since I intended to use this target at random distances.  It was just habit, I guess.  I decided that this should be worth a lot more points than the 8″ target, so the primary scoring circle is worth 5 points.

The next question was whether or not to make more scoring circles inside the primary circle.  It would seem at first glance to be unnecessary, since a hit is a hit, and a hit is the goal.  What made me decide to include finer scoring rings was that I could not disprove that a centered hit is “better” than an edge hit.  Why should that be, when a hit is a hit?  Because a shooter with “tighter tolerances” of shooting performance increases his chances of hitting his target, especially when conditions are sub-optimal.

Take a good shooter, wear him out, put him in a high wind and rain when it’s difficult to see the target and stay steady, and the quality of his shooting will decrease appreciably.  A mediocre shooter, who could perhaps hit the 4” target at 75 yards under ideal conditions, will be close to completely worthless to hit it at any distance under poor conditions, time stress, and exertion.  Is barely being able to keep the hits on target at any given range within a given time equally as good as getting well centered hits within the same amount of time?  I don’t think so.  So I decided that a center hit was better than an edge hit.

Since there are 5 points for a hit in the 4” zone, for every doubling of accuracy I decided to allow one additional point, with the highest score for a single shot being 8 points for a hit in the center ring, which is just barely over a half inch.  Since I pretty much always use On Target TDS to analyze my targets, I created a reference line exactly 4” long.  One of the first things that needs to be done in that program is setting a reference distance, so having a relatively long one handy makes it nice.  Sure I could use the paper length or width, but sometimes you want to zoom in a bit more.

New Target
Click here to download full sized target.  If you want to print it make sure to print it in actual size.

After shooting this target for a while, I found that it was easiest to get an idea of how I was shooting if I calculated the average points per shot.  That way I can compare different shooting sessions regardless of the number of rounds fired.  If my average is over 5, I figure that I’m doing well enough.  It takes a lot of really good hits to make up a miss, so the average really does give me a good idea of how well I’m hitting my target.

It would be nice to get an average score of 8, but keeping in mind the type of shooting I’m after, which is practical, I should be balancing speed and accuracy, especially in practice.  I should also constantly be working to extend my maximum range to hit the target, especially in positions like offhand, where I have a lot of work to do.  That means if my average points per shot is much higher than 5 I could probably be getting my hit sooner or setting my targets out a little farther.  If I had to take a shot for real I would do everything I could to get closer and get steadier of course.


7 thoughts on “Knowing the Score

  1. I like your new target. I’ll have to download and print it, and give it a whirl.

    By the way, I’m trying to resuscitate the Independence Day competition. I’m hoping to be able to stage it out near Helmer. I’ll keep you in the loop if negotiations move in the right direction.

  2. I like what you’ve done here, as it’s actually very close to my needs as well. I was thinking of putting together a sheet with a series of 2″ dots, but your system allows for averaging performance. Thanks for posting!

    • Another thing to look into, if you haven’t already is the On Target TDS program. You can print one of the targets that goes with it. They vary, but the ones I use the most have either 4, 9, or 12 targets to a sheet. Put one shot in each, scan the target, and the program will detect the hits in each bull and aggregate them into one group for you. That way you can effectively isolate each shot. I used to fire my cold bore shot and follow with a 10 shot group. Now I can fire only 10 shots and look at the cold bore by itself or in the context of the next nine shots.

      Another thing it does is calculate the mean radius, which is the average distance of all of the shots from the center of the group. This is a lot more useful statistic than extreme spread, because it takes into account each shot rather than just the worst ones. Don’t you think it’s odd that most shooters tend to look only at the outliers rather than where the bulk of the data is?

      • Awesome! Thanks for the tip on OnTarget TDS. I just checked it out. It looks like they have a scaled down version for Mac, I’ll see what I can do with it.

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