Letting Go of the Formula

One of my boys turned 10 so I took him to an Appleseed on his birthday. I had already shown him basic positions, he has shot with a sling, and I feel comfortable turning him loose with a BB gun, but that’s about it. I figured that he needed some intensive shooting practice, as well as some other people to reinforce what I had been telling him about shooting a rifle. I also shot a bit as well.

His rifle was a 10/22 with the stock cut to an appropriate length of pull for a short person. It has the standard Ruger 8 lb trigger with 3 or 4 stages for safety. I replaced the excellent factory “buckhorn” sights (sacasm? Yes) with tech sights, which is an aperture rear with a front sight post at a matching height.

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It was difficult to bring myself to cut this fine piece of wood, but I used a precision tool befitting of wood this fancy, a skillsaw.

What’s nice about him, even at that age, is that I could just tell him what to do and be reasonably confident that he would do it and be safe. Over the course of the day he went from shooting patterns to shooting a few groups that looked like groups. Not bad. He could use a better trigger and a stock pad to make the cheekweld consistent.

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The sling was part of the birthday gifts.

As for my shooting, my Appleseed experience was significantly more challenging than I have come to expect from that venue. I shot a lot of decent groups on the sighter square targets with no time limits. Toward the end of the day we shot one full AQT, and my score was 199. I think this is the first time I have not shot over a 210 on an AQT, well, maybe ever. What went wrong?

It’s not so much that something went wrong. I have something of a formula for the AQT. My best score was 246 in November of 2012. I’ve used a bolt action on these since May of 2009 and typically have no problem making the time limits, as most of my bolt guns have detachable magazines. I use cross ankle sitting as my standard Appleseed sitting position, which has always worked well for me- almost as well as prone.

Lately I have been determined to leave my comfort zone. I decided to use kneeling and rice paddy prone instead of my standard cross ankle sitting. This change could have probably resulted in 5-10 dropped points on its own.

Another wrench in the works is that my “standard” rifle is at the gunsmith’s. I’m using a Remington 700 with a hinged floorplate. It’s not a liability for any kind of realistic shooting one might use if for, but a 4+1 capacity with no quick way to top if off completely isn’t exactly a dream come true for Appleseed. I have used this rifle to score a 213 on a full distance AQT in the past, but on that occasion I had persuaded the shoot boss to allow me to start the rapid fire stages with rounds in the mag and bolt back. Even then I was rushed, resulting in what is a low score for me. 

On this occasion I decided not to ask to put round in the mag prior to the “Fire” command, as it would be better to challenge myself and single load all the rounds, starting with an empty rifle. I already know how to run my bolt, so it would be a cop out to just stay in my comfort zone because it makes me feel good. It’s pretty hard to get 10 quality shots fired in 55 seconds single loading all of them.

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I tried something else that was not as easy as I would normally treat myself. My rifles are zeroed at 100 yards. These AQTs were shot at 25 meters. The sight correction was 0.8 mils. Last time when I was obsessed with a high score, I tried holding over for one shot group, then decided to dial after my group was clearly not as good as the “control” group in which I dialed the correction. This time I held over for the entire day. I got real familiar with the space between 0.5 and 1.0 mils. This cost me some good hits in stage 2 of the AQT as my hold was botched in my rush.

Why hold instead of dial? I don’t see touching my elevation knobs with a target that close. Distance usually equals time, and 25 meters is not a lot of distance, which means the luxury of sufficient time to dial probably won’t be an option. On a realistic size target, a hold probably wouldn’t be necessary at that distance either (the offset is just under an inch at this distance with my rifle), but since I was shooting reduced size targets, and it would matter as far as score was concerned, I needed to do what I could to get good hits.

Not keeping up on my shooting during the summer cost me some in terms of both shooting skill and how well I’m adapted to the physical positions. I’ve been having some rotator cuff issues that just seemed to be getting better. Getting the elbow under the rifle in positional shooting puts a mighty stretch on that part of the shoulder. At first I thought I was messing up my healing process, but I recalled that as I was learning these positions I had the same stretching sensation.

Because normally I’m so conservative with using only the tried and true methods that have always worked for me at Appleseed, and this time I was taking more risks to leave my comfort zone, I felt like my shooting was on the edge a lot of the time. It was like grabbing a nicely tailored coat that you expect to be perfectly comfortable and finding out that it fits a little weird. Then with a little movement the seams start to feel like they might give. It felt like the seams of my shooting technique were definitely under strain, that I was constantly outside what was comfortable and just slightly beyond my capabilities given the requirements of the stages. There was only once, I think during rapid prone, when I really started pushing the tempo and it felt like the whole thing was starting to click in terms of knowing my hold over and breaking the shot at just the right time and place.

I had a few technical difficulties that had nothing to do with the particular rifle or being rusty. I was wearing a hoodie and the drawstrings got caught in the bolt as I was closing it a couple times. Probably better to remove them. The sling was from another rifle and I had to let out some adjustment. The problem was I had cut it at the right length for the other rifle and there wasn’t enough length left to keep it secured, so it came loose once. As it was, it was too tight in prone, which made bolt manipulation and single loading a challenge in that position.

I did improve a bit over the course of the day. At first I had a point of impact shift from my normal zero due to a parallax issue from the unsupported position shifting my eye a bit. I started really paying attention to my scope image and my shots started to center up.

I also noticed something pretty early on in the day that I don’t remember seeing a lot of lately. I saw my sights through recoil. I didn’t see the bullet hole appear or anything, because recoil affects unsupported positions too much, but I could definitely see the scope movement during recoil and a clear image of my reticle. That was nice.

One of the reasons it’s hard to take risks at an event like this is because a high score equates to bragging rights. It was kind of nice to have a rifle with such a disadvantageous capacity because I already had an excuse for a substandard score. Why not just let it all hang out? For the final Redcoat target I did something I hadn’t done before. I shot it from sitting. I did use my tried and true crossed ankle sitting position and cleaned it. It actually looked better than my initial redcoat target that I shot in prone.  I began both of the redcoats with the rectangle and worked my way up the target.  On my first one (on the left) I had some help from a 10 year old rimfire shooter.

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I would have liked to have substituted sitting for prone all day long, but I didn’t want to be doing something completely out of synch with the course of instruction. It seems like it would have been rude, especially considering how much work the all-volunteer instructor corps puts into the program. There were 2 guys running the entire shoot, which is a lot of work.

I had a good day shooting with my boy, even if I didn’t get to show off really high scores.

7 thoughts on “Letting Go of the Formula

  1. We (Appleseed) have had, recently, a few OLD men that don’t get up nor down well, and they shot the entire course from kneeling or sitting positions, the prone was not on their list of things after one demonstration.

    Every day shooting with you children should be great days. May they always be.

  2. “I had a good day shooting with my boy, even if I didn’t get to show off really high scores.”

    This makes the day a real success regardless of scores.

  3. Another thought. I’ve been doing most of my shooting from (open legged) sitting. Since I am primarily interested in field work, prone is seldom a real option. Kneeling is a distinct possibility also. The couple of 1MOA groups I had were shot from sitting which, for my use, is quite satisfactory. I haven’t shot a AQT since last summer, but I used sitting in lieu of prone, and the scores were more than adequate.

    • I think how we train shoot, has much to do with why we shoot. Competitors shoot one way, the Army and Marines shoot another way, and hunters and home owners can shoot their own way.

      I remain committed to making as small a target of myself as possible, which is normally along the ground, or moving as fast as I can between bullet absorbers until I or the threat disappears.

      For Appleseed, I will teach the POI, but I do like reading how others see making their shots. I am in no hurry to perfect my technique, won’t have my secrets published and do know that 4 MOA is good enough, just wish they taught that to our military again.

  4. Glad to see you posting again. There are not many gun weblogs that emphasize technique over gear, so you have a loyal reader here.

    There is nothing wrong with throwing bragging rights out the car window before you arrive at a shoot. They can interfere with learning. I shot a few IDPA courses with a 5 shot J frame in standard revolver class, which assumes a six shooter, so I had to reload twice as much. My scores were abysmal, but It was very helpful for me in running the small revolvers I often carry.

  5. It does sound like you had a wonderful time with your son. Mine is 14, and I’ve been contemplating doing the same, though I’m going to have to wait till next year as the events up near me are done for this season.
    I also have a 10/22 for the kids to shoot. I’ve also installed Tech Sights, though in my case, I bought a youth stock from Brownells. I’m thinking though I’ll likely have to put the original stock back on for my son when the time comes.

  6. We so enjoy the Appleseed course of fire that I have established a monthly Rimfire 3-Position match at my club from March through October. It’s a real challenge when participants are chasing not merely the 210 threshold, but the 250 possible.

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