The Offhand Position- Part 2

Improving:

My baseline was probably a 5 shot, 10 moa group.  Just a wild guess.  My previous best had been a 10 shot group about 6 moa from 25 yards (1.5″) with a Savage MKII bolt action .22 long rifle repeater from 25 yards in May of 2009.  Good enough to clean stage 1 of the Appleseed AQT, but not super great, and not repeatable for me.  I started out with a pretty much orthodox offhand technique as described in Offhand- Part 1.  There’s been enough time since then for me to go downhill a bit.

My goal is to reliably (90%  ???) shoot 4 moa from offhand.  My #1 gun at the moment is my Sako 75 bolt action in 30-06 with a 3.5-10×42 Leupold Vari-X 3.  I’ve had this rifle for a while, but haven’t shot it much until recently.  I probably had fewer than 100 rounds through it in 9 years.  I’ve had a lot of problems with the cold bore shot being high.  That seems to be over with, but it’s still not as accurate as it probably should be.

For an accuracy reference, here’s several targets from my last load testing.  I was testing 3 different powder charges, 10 rounds per powder charge.  Each target has 5 rounds, meaning each load got 2 targets.  I used a bipod and rear bag from prone.  I ended up choosing the load that was shot on targets numbered 2 and 5.  This, disappointingly enough, is about the best I can get the rifle to shoot.  When the targets only had 3 rounds on them, they still looked alright.  I think my next step will be to pillar bed the stock.

                      This is a reference group to give an idea of how the rifle shoots.

To get better I posted a dry fire target in a super-re-enforced location 🙂 .  The target, which I made myself, presents a series of 5 targets for use at 10 yards on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper.  Largest is 13.25 moa, smallest is 1.5 moa.  If you’d like a PDF of the dry fire target, email me.

I started with a game I called “10 out of 10”.  I started at about 5 yards using a target that’s 3 moa at 10 yards.  That makes it 6 moa at 5 yards.  I worked until I could hit it every time.  Then I took a step back.  If I didn’t get 10 in a row, I moved closer to the target.  I have no TV, so this keeps me from sitting on the couch, getting fat, being useless, and pretending to watch TV (TV equivalent of dry fire?).

Here’s what I learned doing that:

            -I get less horizontal movement if I let my right elbow drop a little (GASP!!!), and
              I pull the butt into my shoulder firmly, but not crazy forceful-like.

            -I couldn’t hold the rifle to a 6 moa hold, but I could press the trigger while the
              crosshairs were on during an approximate 2 second window.

            -I had previously been using a hasty sling technique.  What I found is that the
              tension made my hold less predictable.  Letting my position settle into bone
              support made the hold much steadier.  When I say settling into bone support,
              it’s a conscious decision to let the position “settle”.  Think of a heavy wedge
              settling into an crevice.  I’m going to have to see what the wind does to my
              position before I completely abandon the hasty sling.

In the beginning, the butt didn’t always move directly to its proper location in my shoulder.  About 40% of the time I would have to fix it.  Same for cheekweld and eye-relief.  Also, I wasn’t all that great at determining where my natural point of aim (NPA) would be.  I found out (again 🙁  ) that it’s a lot more rewarding to spend 10-20 seconds confirming NPA rather than five minutes reinforcing misses.  Otherwise for some weird reason (yes, sarcasm) my hit ratio went way down.

The point of getting 10 hits in a row before moving back is to build in a confidence that I will not miss.  It keeps things positive, and clearly defines my current capabilities.  I’m to the point where I know that my shot calls are pretty much where the bullet is hitting.

I worked “10 out of 10” for about 2-3 weeks, anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more a day until I felt like I hit a wall (probably at 4-5 moa).  Then I decided to work on snap shooting (future article).  After 2 weeks of practicing snap shooting my rifle pops right into its spot.  Mounting the rifle was slow and unsure in the beginning.  Now it is smooth, light, solid, and sure.  I’m also much better at predicting NPA.  The times when I pull right up onto target from a cold start is maybe 40%.  My hold has improved.  Now on a 3 moa target it looks like it did on the 6 moa target.

One other thing I found that troubles me: I think my hold is better with my support elbow not exactly under the rifle, but slightly to the support side.  Yes, I understand why this shouldn’t be the case.  But since the idea has presented itself through a good deal of practice, it would be stupid to dismiss it without a trial.  I may present this in the future.

Range results to follow in the exciting finale entitled “The Offhand Position- Part 3”!!!

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