On my first trip to the new range about a month ago I shot using a “non-designated” firing lane that takes up two sections of the range in order to get a bit more distance.  I decided that it was more trouble than it was worth.  It really was, because I dropped a magazine for my rifle (1 of 2) out there.

It took me 2 to 3 weeks for me to notice the magazine was missing, because so much other stuff was going on.  A spare mag costs about $45, so I was really set on finding it and had no idea where it was.  Finding it became an obsession.  I thought it had  to be in my rifle bag so I emptied it completely.  Being empty, it’s pretty clear that nothing is in it, but I kept checking.  Repeatedly.  Obsessively.  I did the same thing with my backpack, my sling making office/factory area, the living room, etc…

Eventually I did find the mag by doing a 2 person line search with a 6 year old (i.e. looked for it randomly with no help) after correlating the time I lost it with the time I was shooting at an odd spot at the range that I had not returned to since.

The important part of the story is the obsessive/compulsiveness that I picked up as a result.  That’s what lead me, while checking my gun room for the 5th or 6th time,  to reading the insert that came with my Atlas bipod that had the sentence fragment reading, “Engraving away from muzzle.”  The next step was figuring out that my bipod had been mounted backwards for about 7 months.  Maybe I had inadvertently stumbled onto the missing clue that was affecting my accuracy.  Time to go to the range and finally be victorious!!!

Evidently not:



I got a little bit ahead of the session there.  The experiments of the day were:

            -3 round cold bore “warm up” group
            -5 rounds with bipod on correctly
            -5 rounds with boards set up to eliminate panning of the bipod and to provide a
                consistent “load”
            -5 rounds with the butt moved from the shoulder pocket proper
                towards the center approximately 1.5” to 2”

Obviously the bipod orientation did nothing for me.  That Atlas looks pretty much the same from either direction, since the legs can be set in four positions, unlike a Harris where the folding makes it really obvious.  I did think that it felt like it “loaded” better when it was on right.

I keep noticing something I can do different, then thinking it will be the one thing that puts all the pieces together in the right order and makes it all “good”.  I really don’t think that’s the case anymore.

The next experiment came from a minor gripe I’ve had about the Atlas, which stems from its “panning” (side to side rotation capability).  It seems that it’s difficult to get the Atlas to set perpendicular to the axis of the bore.  Even if the rifle is set up that way, the bipod tends to move unevenly on a non-uniform surface, which is to say practically all “real life” surfaces, upon firing.  This was a lot worse when I shot a lot in gravel, which allowed the bipod to shift through it a lot more than dirt and grass.  The gravel also would allow one side of the bipod to sink in more than the other.  The combination of these conditions would often put the bipod at the full deviation of both its panning and tilting functions.  It seemed like a support that would stop in one direction and allow free movement in the other could be detrimental to precision.

To eliminate the panning and tilting I brought a 1”x4” board, a small piece of plywood, a type of antique protractor, and some tent stakes.

I set the protractor arm to 0°, sighted down the arm from my firing position to the target with the 1”x4” flush with the bottom edge of the protractor.  Then I held it in that position with the plywood under it and slightly protruding out towards me.




This contraption provided a uniform surface for the bipod to sit on and to be loaded against.  I had thought that it would keep the scope on target through recoil, but it did not do that at all.  The results on paper were encouraging:


Something else I had been wondering about was whether it would help to bring the rifle more inline to my center.  When a started shooting scoped rifles a lot a few years ago I tended to keep the butt a few inches in from my shoulder pocket.  This did not help my precision:


9 thoughts on “Obsession

  1. 1) “Oh, that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

    2) Next you’ll have to show us how your shoes are arranged in your closet. On second thought….

    3) Funny, I never had panning/tilting/loading issues when going prone with a loop sling (just all the other issues…).

    4) I hope you realize that just when you find the magic solution, the earth will fall into a black hole, we’ll pop out into an alternate dimension, none of these rules will apply, and you’ll have to start all over again!

    Well, as they say, the joy is in the pursuit….

    • I can email you when I get back to something more generally useful 🙂

      If I don’t stick to this with some tenacity I’m worried I’m going to repeat the same training day with this technique that I’ve done for the last couple of years.

  2. Can I make a comment.

    I admire your pursuit of accuracy and perfection but I think some context is required.

    What is the size of your target and at what range do you plan to acquire your target, additionally what will be the expected amount of time you expect to acquire your target.

    If it is a deer for instance it will be a reasonable sized area and at a range that any self respecting hunter would take a shot this area would be more than sufficient. Additionally at the sort of range you should take the shot the deer will likely know you are there in a short amount of time and wont hang around for long.

    What am I trying to say? A regular rifle with a non-complex scope (or none at all) and some skill in the application of that rifle (more than just trigger work) is what I feel you are really about. No rests, no props and may I suggest no slings. Just good snap shooting with purpose with a good follow-up shot is required (or for good measure).

    May I be so bold as to suggest that you have strayed a little from your path. Applied riflecraft.



    • Those are good observations. I’ll try to explain myself a bit.

      I have never been hunting. I want to, and I should, but I wasn’t raised up doing it. Every year I have a vague intention of working toward it, but I usually just have a lot going.

      I did have a fairly well defined, real-world, purposeful context for shooting until fairly recently. There were some recent changes that have left me a little less defined.

      I’m getting ready for a couple tactical precision rifle (for want of a better phrase) competitions. I don’t exactly know what to expect, but I think there will be something along the lines of 2 MOA targets out to 1200-1300 yards. I would like the precision of my system to be off my mind during that time so I can work whatever problems the matches throw at me.

      The problems I am trying to figure out now have been things that I have intended to address for a long time. I have “tried” to work through them before, but as I said in another comment somewhere else, it was more of a repetition of the same range day over and over than anything that would really teach me anything. I think the process seems boring, because the subject matter hasn’t varied much here lately, but this is actually the first time I’ve gone into depth solving a real problem I’m having in a methodical manner.

      I made a list of things that might be worth looking into, and I’m working through the list. I’m almost through the list and still really haven’t cracked the code. It seems that every time I think I’m getting close it changes. It’s still an exciting process for me because at least I’m finding out what isn’t working, either from the standpoint of a particular technique or input, or perhaps from my entire approach to working the problem.

      I don’t intend on treading in the realm of this problem forever. I do understand that it doesn’t make for good reading, and I have seen the number of viewers reduced a bit. I’m at least more than half way through this process. Whether I am successful in my goal or not, I have other things to work on. I just want to complete the process I set out for working this problem first.

    • Dear Slinger,

      I meant no disrespect. Certainly my rifle craft is far more elementary than yours. I applaud your pursuit of accuracy and your tenacity in that pursuit.

      For what it is worth, I am still reading and will continue to do so.

      A suggestion if I may. You should Google “Wabi Sabi”. Read as many different things as you can about it, it is certainly not easily explained or understood. I believe that the concept will be complimentary to your philosophy. I would be interested in what you get out if it.

      A parting thought, the journey is more important than the destination.



  3. I am with SLG that there is something to explain the wild variation in group size and lack of consitancy. Chassis/bedding, optics, crown?
    I am with you in wanting to know what the best possible precision (repeatability) the rifle has. The ultimate accuracy needs are debatable as scottoftheantipodes states and are context dependent.

    However there seems to be a random mechanical feature that is stopping you from having any consistency/repeatability.

    Rather than try different bases for the Atlas, I would take it off, take the sling off and just shoot at 100m with a bench rest.

    I have a very simple and cheap rest made of a car scissor jack set into a block of concrete with bags of rice in a sock for rear bags – it doesn’t have to be fancy! But just try to remove the human aspect as much as possible. Get someone else to shoot the rifle for groups like this over a bench. If there is a true repeatable group, be it 3″ or .5″ at least you then know what the rifle is capable and can move forward, returning to field positions.

    Without knowing if the lack of repeatability is you or a mechanical fault of the rifle you are shooting in the dark (so to speak).

    Art of the rifle, Jeff Cooper page150:
    “It may be argued that theoretical precision is unimportant in the game fields or , for that matter, in a gunfight.
    There is enough true in this to occupy our attention, but is nonetheless very comforting to the rifleman to be able to prove for himself that the weapon, ammunition and sighting system he has chosen are capable of placing every shot inside a bottle cap at the distance between the goalposts of a football field. “

    Simon in Victoria, Australia

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