On a typical trip to the range, the typical rifle shooter plans a nice day for the outing. He probably has the luxury of bringing as much gear as he wants. He can find a nice spot, possibly even a bench, and arrange his gear so it’s easy to access. The target is probably stationary, of a known size and shape, at a known distance and in front of a backstop that he very likely doesn’t need to even think about. He can choose his favorite position without having to think about it, or in a competition it may be chosen for him. He can then go through the processes of executing the fundamentals of marksmanship and gun handling. If he misses, he can the data to correct and the target will very likely still be there (the wind has been known to blow one down from time to time).
To sum up the experience of the range shooter, he determines his own course of action, how he prefers to accomplish it, and he sets his own time for accomplishing those things.
A shooter in the field may be engaging in an outwardly similar activity, but there are several important differences. He is limited to the gear he can carry with him. He does not know the time when he will take a shot, or if he will have an opportunity to take one at all. He may have to wait hours to find this out. Unless he is conducting an ambush or a raid, or is sitting in something like a tree stand, he doesn’t know the location that he will be shooting at or where he will shoot from.
The shooter has to be alert enough, and possess sufficient observational skill to detect his target. If the shooter has an opportunity to shoot, he as several quick decisions to make. These decision will be based on snap evaluations of the target, terrain, and conditions. What is the shot difficulty? What positions could the shooter use potentially use to make a shot of this difficulty? What is the best position possible given the terrain?
The conditions need to be evaluated. What is the distance to target? There are several ways of determining range that have different levels of accuracy and require different amounts of time, time and accuracy typically related. Depending on the distance, the shooter may have to estimate wind speed and direction. At longer ranges wind estimation is probably more important than any other factor. After those tasks are complete, he needs to make a very serious decision. Does he have the ability to make this shot? It takes a lot of skill and experience to even answer this question accurately. Most shooter hold their skill in too high an estimation to do this.
The shooter needs to perform all the tasks of the range shooter, but does not have the luxury of getting his space perfectly ready, or to lay out his gear for easy accessibility. He has to evaluate his backstop to determine if he can safely fire a shot. After executing the shooting sequence, the then needs to re-evaluate the situation. Does he need to fire another shot? Is there another target? If the answer is yes the entire situation must be re-evaluated.
To sum up the experience of the field shooter, his actions are determined by the target, the terrain, and the conditions. The target determines both the time of day (or night) and the duration of the firing opportunity. All this is difficult enough, but what if the target shoots back?
Range practice can instill a false sense of competence. There are many skill components of shooting that are taken out of play at the range, and most shooters take this for granted. It takes deliberate study, evaluation of one’s skills, and effort in order to build the experience and maintain the ability necessary to accurately judge a situation and take an effective course of action to address it in as little time as possible. This probably won’t happen by watching Shooter again.
Good luck and good shooting. Thanks for reading.