Can a human being, hand-holding a rifle, out-shoot a mechanical test rest? Who would win in this battle between man and machine? You might just be surprised. At 600 yards, with an AR-platform rifle, the results can be remarkably close, based on targets provided by the USAMU. When clamped in a test rig, a USAMU M16A2 produced a 200-18X group with handloads. The USAMU says this was “one of our better 20-shot groups at 600 yards, testing ammo from a machine rest”. Can a human do better?
Remarkably, a human soldier came very close to matching the group shot from the machine rest. The photo below shows a 20-shot group shot by a USAMU marksman with sling and iron sights, using USAMU-loaded ammunition. The score, 200-16X, was nearly the same. As you can see, the USAMU rifleman didn’t give up much to the machine rest, even at 600 yards!
In fairness, this was no ordinary human performance. The 200-16X score was a new National Record set in December, 1994. This was fired by PFC Coleman in an Interservice Match at Okeechobee, Florida. Nice shootin’ soldier!
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Wondering what to give a niece, nephew, or one of the grand-kids this Christmas? Well how about giving them something special — a 5-day camping experience, hosted by Top Shot’s Dustin Ellermann. Dustin reports that: “Youth Marksmanship Camp 2015 Spring Break Dates have been announced, and folks are grabbing them up as Christmas presents. Visit Marksmancamp.com to learn more….”
At Camp His Way in Zavalla, Texas, Ellermann hosts weekend Marksmanship Camps for kids aged 9-13 and teens 14-18. The Christian-oriented camps focus on safety, marksmanship skills, and team building. Campers enjoy a host of fun skill-oriented activities: Airgun Shooting, Archery, Blowguns, Knife Throwing, Paintball Games, Slingshots, Tomahawk Throwing, and of course Rimfire Rifle Marksmanship with a variety of rifles. Spots are now available for three weekends in March 2015:
March 10-11, 2015 – Kids Marksmanship Camp, Ages 9-13
March 13-14, 2015 – Teen Marksmanship Camp, Ages 14-18
March 20-21, 2015 – Kids Marksmanship Camp, Ages 9-13
The Camp Weekend cost $270 for kids 9-13 and $300 for teens 14-18. This fee includes all ammo and equipment, meals and lodging, and a team t-shirt. CLICK HERE to reserve a spot this spring.
Notice the young campers always wear ear and eye protection when shooting firearms. That’s as it should be. We wish adult shooters, including benchrest, smallbore, High Power, and F-Class competitors, followed this important safety practice.
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Here’s some benchrest advice that can help you reduce vertical and shoot tighter groups… without spending another penny. Next time you go to the range, experiment with the position of your rifle on the front rest, and try a couple different positions for the rear bag. You may find that the rifle handles much better after you’ve made a small change in the placement of your gun on the bags. Recoil can be tamed a bit, and tracking can improve significantly, if you optimize the front rest and rear bag positioning.
Balance Your Gun BEFORE You Spend Hours Tuning Loads
In the pursuit of ultimate accuracy, shooters may spend countless hours on brass prep, bullet selection, and load tuning. Yet the same shooters may pay little attention to how their gun is set-up on the bags. When you have acquired a new rifle, you should do some basic experimentation to find the optimal position for the forearm on the front rest, and the best position for the rear bag. Small changes can make a big difference.
Joel Kendrick, past IBS 600-yard Shooter of the Year, has observed that by adjusting forearm position on the front rest, he can tune out vertical. He has one carbon-fiber-reinforced stock that is extremely rigid. When it was placed with the front rest right under the very tip of the forearm, the gun tended to hop, creating vertical. By sliding the whole gun forward (with more forearm overhang ahead of the front sandbag), he was able to get the whole rig to settle down. That resulted in less vertical dispersion, and the gun tracked much better.
Likewise, the placement of the rear bag is very important. Many shooters, by default, will simply place the rear bag the same distance from the front rest with all their guns. In fact, different stocks and different calibers will NOT behave the same. By moving the rear bag forward and aft, you can adjust the rifle’s overall balance and this can improve the tracking significantly. One of our shooters had a Savage 6BR F-Class rifle. By default he had his rear bag set almost all the way at the end of the buttstock. When he slid the rear bag a couple inches forward the gun tracked much better. He immediately noticed that the gun returned to point of aim better (crosshairs would stay on target from shot to shot), AND the gun torqued (twisted) less. The difference was quite noticeable.
The important point to remember here is that each rig is different. One gun may perform best with the front rest right at the tip of the forearm (Position ‘D’ in photo), while another gun will work best with the rest positioned much further back. This Editor’s own 6BR sits in a laminated stock that is pretty flexy in the front. It shoots best with the front rest’s sandbag located a good 6″ back from the forearm tip (position ‘A’).
A small change in the position of the forearm on the front rest, or in the placement of the rear bag, can make a big difference in how your gun performs. You should experiment with the forearm placement, trying different positions on the front rest. Likewise, you can move the rear bag back and forth a few inches. Once you establish the optimal positions of front rest and rear bag, you should find that your gun tracks better and returns to battery more reliably. You may then discover that the gun shoots smaller groups, with less vertical dispersion. And all these benefits are possible without purchasing any expensive new gear.
Have you ever seen bullet trace? Do you know how to read trace? Well watch this NSSF video to learn how to recognize trace, and use trace to help adjust your aim on the target. Watch the video from 1:50 to 2:20 to see trace in slow motion. Watch carefully starting and you can see the trace in the milli-seconds before the bullet hits the target.
Rod Ryan of Storm Mountain Training Center explains how to read bullet trace: “If you’re looking through your spotting scope, and you focus on your target, and then back off about a quarter-turn counter-clockwise (in most cases) you’ll be able to focus a little closer to you and you’ll actually see this movement of air — it’s called the trace — going down range.”
Watch the Slow-Mo Trace Starting at 1:50. From 2:10 to 2:20 you can actually see the bullet hanging in the air just before it hits the target.
Trace is easier to see when there’s some moisture in the air. By following the bullet trace you can see if you shot is running high or low, left or right, even if you can’t see a shot imparct on the target. This is important, particularly when you’re attempting an steep-angled shot and it’s hard to see bullet impact on the ground near the target. Rod Ryan explains: “A lot of times we have an angular hill-top and you’re shooting directly into a [steep] drop [so] you can’t see any splash at all or any dirt flow after the miss happens. In this case the last thing you see is that trace.”
What you’re seeing is akin to the wake that forms behind a motorboat, but it is a trail of disturbed air rather than disturbed water. Ryan says: “It’s just like you’re looking down from space at a motorboat in the water, you can see that wake. Very close to the target, you can actually see it roll in… if you’re taking a shot at say… four, five, six hundred yards, it’s very prevalent, you can see it very well.”
Video find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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The digital archives of Shooting Sports USA contain many interesting articles. A couple seasons back, Shooting Sports USA featured a “must-read” expert Symposium on Eye Dominance, as it affects both rifle and pistol shooting. No matter whether you have normal dominance (i.e. your dominant eye is on the same side as your dominant hand), or if you have cross-dominance, you’ll benefit by reading this excellent article. The physiology and science of eye dominance is explained by Dr. Norman Wong, a noted optometrist. In addition, expert advice is provided by champion shooters such as David Tubb, Lones Wigger, Dennis DeMille, Julie Golob, Jessie Harrison, and Phil Hemphill.
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Our friend Kirsten Joy Weiss has just released a useful video that shows how to refine your trigger control for better accuracy. In this video, Kirsten talks about the actual placement of a shooter’s index finger on the trigger. It is important to have the finger positioned optimally. Otherwise you can pull the shot slightly left or slightly right.
Kirsten tells us: “Finger placement on the trigger might not seem like a big deal, but it actually is. The reason for this is because, depending on where your index finger is placed on the trigger, [this] translates to different muscle interactions with the gun.” Watch this video to see Kirsten demonstrate proper finger placement (and explain problems caused by improper finger positioning).
Here Kirsten Illustrates how the index finger should be aligned along the face of the trigger shoe.
When you pull the trigger, you only want to engage the last section of your finger, in order to avoid unwanted muscle engagement and to achieve a smooth shot.
Remember there is a “sweet spot” between the crease (first joint) and the tip of the finger. If you position the trigger in that “sweet spot”, you should see an increase in your accuracy. Don’t make the mistake of putting the trigger in the crease of your finger, as shown below.
Effects of Incorrect Finger Placements
You want to place the trigger shoe between the end of your finger and the first joint. If you place the trigger on the very tip of you finger you’ll tend to push the rear of the rifle to the left when engaging the trigger, causing shots to go right (for a right-handed shooter). On the other hand, if you put the trigger in the crease (first joint), you’ll tend to bring the rear of the rifle to the right, causing shots to fall left. This is illustrated below for a right-handed shooter.
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There are many benefits to shooting with both eyes open especially when shooting shotguns and handguns, but training yourself to do it can be challenging for some. For many, it is a struggle to fight the natural instinct to close one eye. So how do you train yourself to kick that habit?
How to Train to Keep Both Eyes Open
The first step is to determine if you can see the sights with both eyes. If you can’t get a clear sight picture on target with both eyes open, or if you see two front sights or some other strange configuration that is nearly impossible to decipher, then shooting with both eyes open may not work for you. It’s not the end of the world. It’s more important that you acquire a proper sight picture and hit your target.
If you are a competition shooter that struggles with this you can get a little help from some frosted tape. In most cases it; just a matter of determining your eye dominance and placing a piece of tape on your eye protection on the lens in front of your non-dominant eye. The tape blocks this eye from seeing the sights, but still allows you full access to your peripheral vision.
An effective way to prevent yourself from closing an eye is to spend a good amount of time dry firing. (Dry fire means NO AMMO!) Practice acquiring the sights with both eyes open. Start with the firearm at low ready with both eyes on the target. Bring the gun up to your line of sight and acquire the proper sight picture on your target. The repetition of presenting the gun will help train you to keep those eyes open when you transition to live fire. As with any habit, you’ll need to train yourself to stop — this means more than just a few times dry firing.
When you hit the shooting range, you may find that despite all that dry-fire practice, you still close an eye. It might be a matter of sympathetic reaction to recoil. Using .22 caliber, airsoft guns and light loads can help you transition to larger calibers and full power ammunition. Just as you had to concentrate keeping both eyes open in dry fire, it’s likely you will have to do the same during your live fire training as well.
Eley sponsors many of the world’s top rimfire shooters, who have shared their Tips from the Top for 2014. Five ace smallbore shooters provide advice on how to shoot better, how to train more effectively, and how to stay motivated even when “the going gets tough”. If you’re a competitive shooter (in any discipline) you can benefit from reading these words of wisdom from world-class shooters.
Henri Junghaenel, current world #1 ranked, 50M prone rifle shooter.
Focus on Fundamentals: Good performance requires a solid technical foundation. One can hunt after personal bests or one can try to work on the technical basics. The latter will probably lead to better results sooner.
Stay Motivated Over Time: Be persistent and don’t lose your motivation on your way to success. Shooting, like every other sport, requires a learning process which takes a lot of time.
Don’t Yield to Outside Pressures: Don’t let the expectations from others impact yourself. If some people try to put pressure on you (consciously or unconsciously), don’t let them!
Bill Collaros, 2013 Australian WRABF World Cup (Benchrest) and RBA team captain.
Don’t Skimp on Hardware: Ensure your equipment is a good as you can buy. This includes: rests, bags, rifle, scope, and ammunition.
Tune to Your Ammo: Ensure that the ammunition you have is tested and your rifle is tuned to it, to get the smallest possible group.
Train in All Conditions: Train in all sorts of wind and conditions so you know how your rifle and ammunition react in all circumstances.
Stine Nielsen, 2012 Olympic finalist for 3-Position Smallbore Rifle.
No Excuses: When I train, I train by my motto: “A loser has excuses. A winner has a plan.” And when I shoot in competitions I think about that mantra.
Stay Focused: When I stand at a shooting range, I have a good focus on my shooting and myself. I also have a good will to want to shoot 110%.
Zorana Arunovic, current world #2 ranked, 25M women’s pistol shooter.
Never give up: No matter how hard it is you should always find something that will inspire you to keep going further. I find my inspiration in the success of other athletes. They inspire me to work more and harder. I would say to any young athletes, never give up, no matter how hard it is.
João Costa, current world #2 ranked, 50m pistol shooter.
Breathing is Key: In shooting as in life, breathing is of paramount importance. So, when shooting try to be calm and quiet. On the bench in front of me I have my pistol, the scope, the magazine and my choice ammo then I count:
Here’s an interesting video about three-position shooting. Produced by GOnra Media, this video demonstrates rifle hold and body alignment for prone, standing, sitting, and kneeling positions. Olympic Gold Medalist Jamie Gray demonstrates the proper stance and position of arms and legs for each of the positions. Ideally, in all of the shooting positions, the shooter takes advantage of skeletal support. The shooter should align the bones of his/her arms and legs to provide a solid foundation. A shooter’s legs and arms form vertical planes helping the body remain stable in the shooting position.
In response to questions from a fellow F-Class shooter, German Salazar offered some expert advice in an article entitled: Basics: A Few Wind Reading Tips. Here are highlights from that essay. You can read the entire article on German’s Rifleman’s Journal Website. German cautions that: “I certainly am not attempting to make this short item into a comprehensive lesson in wind reading, but there may be a nugget or two in here for the newer shooter. There is, however, no substitute for range time and coaching.”
Preliminary Matters — Holding Off vs. Knob-Turning
Let’s begin by eliminating one topic altogether — I realize that the predominant method of wind correction in F-Class is holding-off with the crosshairs of your scope rather than adjusting the windage knob. I am a firm believer in aiming at the center and turning the knob as needed, but we’ll leave that for another time and focus on seeing what the wind is doing.
The Wave — Wind Cycles and Shot Timing
I find that most shooters begin to shoot immediately when the time commences rather than waiting for an appropriate moment in the cycle, this often leads to lost points early on. If you’ve been scoring prior to shooting, hopefully you’ve observing the flags and your shooter’s shot placement. It’s a very useful way of gaining some insight into the day’s wind patterns before shooting.
My technique is based on the understanding of wind as a cyclical wave motion. That statement alone should give you plenty to think about[.] Imagine for a moment, a surfer. He waits for a gentle swell, gets moving on it and rides it through it’s growth and ultimately its crescendo and hopefully avoids being swallowed in its crash. Wind typically behaves in the same fashion as that wave and a smart shooter behaves as does the surfer — get on early in the wave, ride through the major change and get off at the right moment. Knowing when to stop shooting is every bit as important as shooting quickly through the predictable portion of the wave; getting back on to the next wave is a matter of delicate judgment and timing.
When you are on that rising (or falling) wave, the idea is to shoot very quickly to minimize the amount of change between shots and to make a small adjustment on each shot. Too many shooters waste time trying to analyze the exact amount of the change, by which time it has changed even more! Get on with it, click or hold over a set amount and fire the next shot quickly. This is the foundation of how I shoot and it is very effective as long as you know when to start, when to stop and you have a good man working the target – a slow marker is the death of this method.
Watch Shots from Other Shooters
We all watch the wind flags, of course, and the trees if your range is so blessed (ours are fairly barren), and many other small wind indicators. Watching the shots of your fellow shooter can also be a very useful tool and should be observed whenever possible. When a good shooter next to you comes up with a poor shot, it should signal you to stop and reassess conditions as they may not be what they appear.
While scoring for another shooter, take a moment to scan the line of targets. You’ll be surprised at how most of the shot markers move in unison to one side and then the other. The sad truth is that most shooters are behind the changes in the wind and they will get carried to either side of the bull as the wind changes. You’ll see this in the targets as they come up, and once learned, you’ll find that the line of targets is as useful as another row of flags.
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It’s October 31st, All Hallows’ Eve, (aka “Halloween”). That means the neighborhood kids will be ringing doorbells as soon as it gets dark. No doubt some of you proscrastinators will wait ’til the last minute to set out your Halloween decorations and Jack-O-Lanterns. Don’t worry, in the video below, our friend, 3-Gun ace Taran Butler, shows how to carve a pumpkin in just about 5.5 seconds, give or take a tenth. Taran performed this feat of speed-carving with his trusty Infinity handgun, chambered in 9mm Major.
What Are the Origins of Halloween?
Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”), also known as All Hallows’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints). According to many scholars, it was originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain. Others maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has Christian roots.
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Readers often ask us: “Is there an inexpensive way I can get started in position shooting?” The answer is “yes” — across the country CMP-affiliated clubs host Rimfire Sporter matches. You can use a wide variety of .22LR rimfire rifles — manual actions (such as a Winchester model 52) or semi-automatics (such as a Ruger 10/22). There are prone, sitting/kneeling, and standing stages. CMP rules provide separate classifications for scoped rifles, open-sighted rifles, and aperature-sighted rifles. The matches are fun, the ammo is inexpensive, and everyone has a good time while improving their marksmanship.
Our friend Dennis Santiago recently helped run a CMP Rimfire Sporter Match in Southern California. Dennis reports: “You want something challenging? Well that X-Ring 50 yards away is the diameter of a 50 cent piece, and there are people out there that can womp that thing with iron sights.”
The rapid-fire sitting or kneeling stage of a CMP-sanctioned .22 Sporter Match consists of two, 5-shot strings. A manually-operated or semi-automatic rifle may be used for this match. Below is a video Dennis made that shows a sitting/kneeling rapid fire stage.
Dennis notes: “There are six (6) stages of fire on a tough little target. Notice the rifles that can be used run the gamut from pump and bolt actions to variations on the semi-auto theme. All still require a good eye and a steady hold to earn one’s bragging rights for the day. A match takes about an hour and a half per relay. The slowest part of the match is initial sighting in. It’ll take longer than the allocated 5 minutes for the typical first timer coming to a club match.”
At Dennis’s Burbank Rifle & Revolver Club (BRRC), procedures are modified a little bit: “What we typically do at BRRC is run two relays. Experienced competitors shoot per the full rulebook. New shooters are afforded a bit more relaxed environment to make the experience more fun and inviting. We do the same thing in our M-1 Garand Clinic/Match series.”
Rimfire Sporter Match Basics
The CMP Rimfire Sporter Rifle Match is an inexpensive, fun-oriented competition using .22 caliber sporter rifles (plinking and small game rifles) commonly owned by most gun enthusiasts. To compete, all you need is a basic rifle, safety gear, and ammunition. No fancy, high-dollar rifles are required.
The event is shot with standard sporter-type, rimfire rifles weighing no more than 7 ½ lbs, with sights and sling. Rifles may be manually-operated or semi-automatic. Shooters with manually-operated actions are given extra time in the rapid-fire stage to compensate for the difference. (See Video).
There are three classes of competition — the standard “O Class” for open-sighted rifles, “T-Class” for telescope-sighted and rear aperture-sighted rifles and “Tactical Rimfire” class, which is a .22 caliber A4 or AR15 style rifle. Firing for all classes is done at 50 and 25 yards on a target with a 1.78″ ten-ring and an 18″ outer one-ring. Even new shooters can get hits on this target, but it’s still tough enough that no one yet has fired a perfect 600×600 score.