Today is practice day for the Mid-Range F-Class Nationals, which commence bright and early tomorrow morning in Lodi, Wisconsin. In any shooting competition, you must try to avoid major screw-ups that can ruin your day (or your match). In this article, reigning F-TR National Mid-Range and Long Range Champion Bryan Litz talks about “Train Wrecks”, i.e. those big disasters (such as equipment failures) that can ruin a whole match. Bryan illustrates the types of “train wrecks” that commonly befall competitors, and he explains how to avoid these “unmitigated disasters”.
Urban Dictionary “Train Wreck” Definition: “A total @#$&! disaster … the kind that makes you want to shake your head.”
Success in long range competition depends on many things. Those who aspire to be competitive are usually detail-oriented, and focused on all the small things that might give them an edge. Unfortunately it’s common for shooters lose sight of the big picture — missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.
Consistency is one of the universal principles of successful shooting. The tournament champion is the shooter with the highest average performance over several days, often times not winning a single match. While you can win tournaments without an isolated stellar performance, you cannot win tournaments if you have a single train wreck performance. And this is why it’s important for the detail-oriented shooter to keep an eye out for potential “big picture” problems that can derail the train of success!
Train wrecks can be defined differently by shooters of various skill levels and categories. Anything from problems causing a miss, to problems causing a 3/4-MOA shift in wind zero can manifest as a train wreck, depending on the kind of shooting you’re doing.
Below is a list of common Shooting Match Train Wrecks, and suggestions for avoiding them.
1. Cross-Firing. The fastest and most common way to destroy your score (and any hopes of winning a tournament) is to cross-fire. The cure is obviously basic awareness of your target number on each shot, but you can stack the odds in your favor if you’re smart. For sling shooters, establish your Natural Point of Aim (NPA) and monitor that it doesn’t shift during your course of fire. If you’re doing this right, you’ll always come back on your target naturally, without deliberately checking each time. You should be doing this anyway, but avoiding cross-fires is another incentive for monitoring this important fundamental. In F-Class shooting, pay attention to how the rifle recoils, and where the crosshairs settle. If the crosshairs always settle to the right, either make an adjustment to your bipod, hold, or simply make sure to move back each shot. Also consider your scope. Running super high magnification can leave the number board out of the scope’s field view. That can really increase the risk of cross-firing.
2. Equipment Failure. There are a wide variety of equipment failures you may encounter at a match, from loose sight fasteners, to broken bipods, to high-round-count barrels that that suddenly “go south” (just to mention a few possibilities). Mechanical components can and do fail. The best policy is to put some thought into what the critical failure points are, monitor wear of these parts, and have spares ready. This is where an ounce of prevention can prevent a ton of train wreck. On this note, if you like running hot loads, consider whether that extra 20 fps is worth blowing up a bullet (10 points), sticking a bolt (DNF), or worse yet, causing injury to yourself or someone nearby.
[Editor’s Note: The 2016 F-Class Nationals will employ electronic targets so conventional pit duties won’t be required. However, the following advice does apply for matches with conventional targets.]
3. Scoring/Pit Malfunction. Although not related to your shooting technique, doing things to insure you get at least fair treatment from your scorer and pit puller is a good idea. Try to meet the others on your target so they can associate a face with the shooter for whom they’re pulling. If you learn your scorer is a Democrat, it’s probably best not to tell Obama jokes before you go for record. If your pit puller is elderly, it may be unwise to shoot very rapidly and risk a shot being missed (by the pit worker), or having to call for a mark. Slowing down a second or two between shots might prevent a 5-minute delay and possibly an undeserved miss.
4. Wind Issues. Tricky winds derail many trains. A lot can be written about wind strategies, but here’s a simple tip about how to take the edge off a worse case scenario. You don’t have to start blazing away on the command of “Commence fire”. If the wind is blowing like a bastard when your time starts, just wait! You’re allotted 30 minutes to fire your string in long range slow fire. With average pit service, it might take you 10 minutes if you hustle, less in F-Class. Point being, you have about three times longer than you need. So let everyone else shoot through the storm and look for a window (or windows) of time which are not so adverse. Of course this is a risk, conditions might get worse if you wait. This is where judgment comes in. Just know you have options for managing time and keep an eye on the clock. Saving rounds in a slow fire match is a costly and embarrassing train wreck.
5. Mind Your Physical Health. While traveling for shooting matches, most shooters break their normal patterns of diet, sleep, alcohol consumption, etc. These disruptions to the norm can have detrimental effects on your body and your ability to shoot and even think clearly. If you’re used to an indoor job and eating salads in air-conditioned break rooms and you travel to a week-long rifle match which keeps you on your feet all day in 90-degree heat and high humidity, while eating greasy restaurant food, drinking beer and getting little sleep, then you might as well plan on daily train wrecks. If the match is four hours away, rather than leaving at 3:00 am and drinking five cups of coffee on the morning drive, arrive the night before and get a good night’s sleep.”
Keep focused on the important stuff. You never want to lose sight of the big picture. Keep the important, common sense things in mind as well as the minutia of meplat trimming, weighing powder to the kernel, and cleaning your barrel ’til it’s squeaky clean. Remember, all the little enhancements can’t make up for one big train wreck!
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The 2016 F-Class National Championships commence today in Lodi, Wisconsin. The Mid-Range Championships will run through September 27th, followed immediately by the Long Range Championships which conclude on October 1st.
Hopefully, this article may provide a little inspiration for our readers who will be competing at the Nationals in the days ahead. Here are some motivational messages that shooters can use to stay calm and focused, and to tune up their “mental game”.
“Shoot Like a Champion”. Bryan Litz, author of Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting, says he often sees notes like this tucked in shooter’s gear (or taped to an ammo box) at matches. What “marksmanship mantras” do you use? Do you have a favorite quote that you keep in mind during competition?
On the Applied Ballistics Facebook Page, Bryan invited other shooters to post the motivating words (and little reminders) they use in competition. Here are some of the best responses:
“Shoot 10s and No One Can Catch You…” — James Crofts
“You Can’t Miss Fast Enough to Win.” — G. Smith
“Forget the last shot. Shoot what you see!” — P. Kelley
“Breathe, relax, you’ve got this, just don’t [mess] up.” — S. Wolf
“It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” — J. McEwen
“Keep calm and shoot V-Bull.” — R. Fortier
“Be still and know that I am God[.]” (PS 46:10) — D.J. Meyer
“Work Hard, Stay Humble.” — J. Snyder
“Shoot with your mind.” — K. Skarphedinsson
“The flags are lying.” — R. Cumbus
“Relax and Breathe.” — T. Fox
“Zero Excuses.” — M. Johnson
“SLOW DOWN!” — T. Shelton
“Aim Small.” — K. Buster
“Don’t Forget the Ammo!” (Taped on Gun Case) — Anonymous
PARTING SHOT: It’s not really a mantra, but Rick Jensen said his favorite quote was by gunsmith Stick Starks: “Them boys drove a long ways to suck”. Rick adds: “I don’t want to be that guy”, i.e. the subject of that remark.
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The movie “The Patriot” gave us the phrase “Aim small, miss small”. While that’s a good mantra, aiming strategies for long-range competition are a bit more complicated, as this article explains…
The U.S. Mid-Range and Long Range Nationals kick off tomorrow, September 23rd, in Lodi, Wisconsin. Here are some tips that can help F-TR and F-Open shooters aim more precisely, and achieve higher scores. F-Class ace Monte Milanuk reviews reticle choices and strategies for holding off.
In our Shooters Forum, one newcomer wanted some advice on selecting a reticle for F-Class optics. He wondered about the advantage of Front (first) Focal Plane (FFP) vs. Second Focal Plane scopes and also wondered if one type of reticle was better for “holding off” than others.
In responding to this question, Forum regular Monte Milanuk provided an excellent summary of aiming methods used in F-Class. For anyone shooting score targets, Monte’s post is worth reading:
Aiming Methods for F-Class (and Long-Range) Shooting — by Monte Milanuk
F-Class is a known-distance event, with targets of known dimensions that have markings (rings) of known sizes. Any ‘holding off’ can be done using the target face itself. Most ‘benefits’ of Front (first) focal plain (FFP) optics are null and void here — they work great on two-way ranges where ‘minute of man’ is the defining criteria — but how many FFP scopes do you know of in the 30-40X magnification range? Very, very few, because what people who buy high-magnification scopes want is something that allows them to hold finer on the target, and see more detail of the target, not something where the reticle covers the same amount of real estate and appears ‘coarser’ in view against the target, while getting almost too fine to see at lower powers.
Whether a person clicks or holds off is largely personal preference. Some people might decline to adjust their scope as long as they can hold off somewhere on the target. Some of that may stem from the unfortunate effect of scopes being mechanical objects which sometimes don’t work entirely as advertised (i.e. one or two clicks being more or less than anticipated). Me personally, if I get outside 1-1.5 MOA from center, I usually correct accordingly. I also shoot on a range where wind corrections are often in revolutions, not clicks or minutes, between shots.
Some shooters do a modified form of ‘chase the spotter’ — i.e. Take a swag at the wind, dial it on, aim center and shoot. Spotter comes up mid-ring 10 at 4 o’clock… so for the next shot aim mid-ring 10 at 10 o’clock and shoot. This should come up a center X (in theory). Adjust process as necessary to take into account for varying wind speeds and direction.
Others use a plot sheet that is a scaled representation of the target face, complete with a grid overlaid on it that matches the increments of their optics — usually in MOA. Take your Swag at the wind, dial it on, hold center and shoot. Shot comes up a 10 o’clock ‘8’… plot the shot on the sheet, look at the grid and take your corrections from that and dial the scope accordingly. This process should put you in the center (or pretty close), assuming that you didn’t completely ignore the wind in the mean time. Once in the center, hold off and shoot and plot, and if you see a ‘group’ forming (say low right in the 10 ring) either continue to hold high and left or apply the needed corrections to bring your group into the x-ring.
Just holding is generally faster, and allows the shooter to shoot fast and (hopefully) stay ahead of the wind. Plotting is more methodical and may save your bacon if the wind completely changes on you… plotting provides a good reference for dialing back the other way while staying in the middle of the target. — YMMV, Monte
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Readers often ask us: “Is there a decent, easy-to-comprehend book that can help my wind-reading?” Many of our Forum members have recommended The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters by Linda Miller and Keith Cunningham. This 146-page book, published in 2007, is a very informative resource. But you don’t have to take our word for it. If you click this link, you can read book excerpts and decide for yourself. When the Amazon page opens, click the book cover (labeled “Look Inside”) and another screen will appear. This lets you preview the first few chapters, and see some illustrations.
Other books cover wind reading in a broader discussion of ballistics or long-range shooting, such as Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting by Bryan Litz. But the Miller & Cunningham book is ALL about wind reading from cover to cover, and that is its strength. The book focuses on real world skills that can help you accurately gauge wind angle, wind velocity, and wind cycles.
All other factors being equal, it is your ability to read the wind that will make the most difference in your shooting accuracy. The better you understand the behavior of the wind, the better you will understand the behavior of your bullet. — Wind Book for Rifle Shooters
The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters covers techniques and tactics used by expert wind-readers. There are numerous charts and illustrations. The authors show you how to put together a simple wind-reading “toolbox” for calculating wind speed, direction, deflection and drift. Then they explain how to use these tools to read flags and mirage, record and interpret your observations, and time your shots to compensate for wind. Here’s are two reviews from actual book buyers:
I believe this is a must-have book if you are a long-range sport shooter. I compete in F-Class Open and when I first purchased this book and read it from cover to cover, it helped me understand wind reading and making accurate scope corrections. Buy this book, read it, put into practice what it tells you, you will not be disappointed. — P. Janzso
If you have one book for wind reading, this should be it. Whether you’re a novice or experienced wind shooter this book has something for you. It covers how to get wind speed and direction from flags, mirage, and natural phenomenon. In my opinion this is the best book for learning to read wind speed and direction. — Muddler
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Have you ever wondered how Olympic-class position shooters hold their aim so steady? Those bulky shooting coats help, but there is a lot of bio-mechanics involved also. Top shooters employ their body structure to help support the weight of their rifles, and to steady their aim. This interesting video, produced by GOnra Media, 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.
Jamie Gray, London 2012 Gold Medalist in Women’s 3 X 20, has retired from top-level competitive shooting. However, Jamie remains involved in the shooting sports as a Public Relations/Marketing representative for ELEY, a leading maker of rimfire ammunition. Jamie also works with shooting clubs and educational institutions to promote smallbore target shooting.
Images are stills from GOnraMedia video linked above.
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Do you know which one of your eyes is dominant? It’s easy to determine eye dominance with a simple exercise. Pick an object about 6-10 feet away (a light switch or door knob works well). Make an “OK” sign with your right hand (see photo) and hold that about 18″ from your face. Now, with both eyes open, look through the circle formed by your thumb and index finger. Center the circle on the object, so you can see the object in the middle.
Now, here’s the important part — while still holding your hand up, centered on the object, first close your right eye. If you don’t see the object anymore, then your right eye is dominant. If you still see the object, then repeat the procedure with the left eye shut and right eye open. If you don’t see the object when your left eye (only) is closed, then you are left-eye dominant.
The digital archives of Shooting Sports USA contain many interesting articles. A while 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.
Top Rifle Champions Talk About Eye Dominance:
David Tubb — 11-Time National High Power Champion
I keep both eyes open, always. Some use an opaque blinder in rifle or shotgun shooting. If you close your non-dominant eye, you will not get as good a sight picture. If your aiming eye is not your dominant eye, you have even more of a problem to overcome.
Lones Wigger — World, National and Olympic Champion Rifleman
Shooters should try to use the dominant eye unless the vision is impaired and the non-dominant eye has better vision. You should always shoot with both eyes open since this will allow the shooting eye to function properly.
Dennis DeMille — National Service Rifle Champion
I close my non-shooting eye initially. Once I pick up my sight picture, it’s not something I focus on. For those that use a patch, I recommend that they use something white to block their view, rather than cover the eye.
Bruce Piatt — 2015 World Shooting Championship Winner
Some shooters, especially those with nearly equal or cross-dominance, will naturally find themselves squinting one eye. When anyone does this, you are also closing your dominant eye to some extent and adding stress to your face.
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“[Elite] shooters have this specific thing that happens in their brain when they are shooting well. Maybe you’d call it a ‘quiet time’. One interpretation is that it is a lack of self-instruction or analysis. Once you are an expert you really shouldn’t be [thinking] ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’.”
In this video from USA Shooting, a scientist uses brain wave (EEG) and muscle activity monitors to study the biomechanics and cognitive functions involved in competitive shooting. The study explores how elite shooters control their muscles and mind before executing a perfect shot.
In the video, USOC Sports Psychologist Lindsay Thornton works with pistol shooter Teresa Chambers to evaluate (and optimize) Teresa muscle and brain wave activity during shooting. One purpose of the study is to see how a shooter’s muscles function before, during and after a firing sequence. The goal is to use the muscles in the most efficient manner. This reduces fatigue and improves shot-to-shot consistency. Thorton says: “We are trying to define [muscle activity] efficiency with numbers so we can replicate that.”
Thorton is also exploring how a top shooter’s brain functions when he or she is “dialed in” and shooting most accurately. Thornton explains: “We are looking at EEG activity, which is brain wave activity. Research studies show that shooters have this specific thing that happens in their brain when they are shooting well. Maybe you’d call it a ‘quiet time’. One interpretation is that it is a lack of self-instruction or analysis. Once you are an expert you really shouldn’t be [thinking] ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’ — everything should be pretty automatic.” Interestingly, the test showed a specific pattern of Alpha band brain waves right before a trained shooter breaks the shot.
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The 2016 NRA World Shooting Championship (WSC) takes place September 15th through 17th, 2016 at the Peacemaker National Training Center in Glengary, West Virginia. The richest multi-gun event in North America, boasting $250,000 in cash and prizes, the WSC attracts the world’s best multi-gun shooters. This unique 3-day multi-gun match tests competitors’ skills across twelve stages sampling nearly every major shooting discipline (rifle, shotgun, and pistol). To be honest, the WSC is mostly a “run and gun” speed game, but competitors still must engage small targets at long range, so genuine marksmanship skills are required.
This year there will be three divisions: Open Professional, Stock Professional, and Amateur. Stock Professionals and Amateurs will use provided guns and ammo. But a 2016 WSC Rule change allows Open Pro competitors to bring their own firearms and ammunition for the match. Allowing the top Pros to shoot their own, optimized match guns should produce faster times and higher scores (plus fewer complaints about off-the-shelf guns that aren’t zeroed or don’t run right).
How to Win the World Shooting Championship
As first published in the NRA Blog, here are competition tips from reigning overall NRA World Shooting Champion Bruce Piatt, and Dianna Muller, the top female competitor at the 2016 WSC:
“The format at the NRA World Shooting Championship is unique in that you don’t know what you have to shoot until you show up, so training for the event is a little difficult. My advice is to pack some good eye and ear protection, bring an open mind, be prepared to listen to the stage descriptions, figure out the best way you can take the guns they provide, and post the best score you can. When the match supplies all the guns and ammo, all you have to do is deal with ‘the performance’. This is the most level playing field in the shooting sports — anyone from around the world can come and play.” — Bruce Piatt
“The NRA World Shooting Championship match is such a different breed — it’s really a difficult match for which to prepare! Over the past two years, I’ve learned to relax. I focus on relaxing in my own sport, because when you focus on the expectations over the procedure, it usually never works out in the shooter’s favor. The same goes for this match. You are tackling disciplines outside your expertise and using guns you aren’t familiar with, and that can really rattle your nerves if you don’t prepare for that mental challenge. But you can use this match design to your advantage. Remove all expectations, because, who is great at ALL the disciplines (besides Jerry Miculek)?! Give yourself some room to be ‘not so great’, focus on the fundamentals and try to enjoy the match. It is kind of liberating throwing everything to the wind and seeing how you stack up against all kinds of shooters! Coming from such a gear intensive sport as 3-Gun, I really enjoy walking up to 12 different stages and shooting guns and ammo that are provided. Although there may be issues with that format, it’s a great way to level the playing field, get down to brass tacks and see who is the most well rounded world champion shooter!” — Dianna Muller
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The National Shooting Sports Foundation and Cavern Cove Rimfire welcomes everyone to join us October 14 – 16, 2016 for the 2016 NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Championship! The event will be hosted at the Cavern Cove Rimfire facility in Woodville, Alabama.
Competitors will be challenged with both rimfire pistol and rifle stages. As with all NSSF Rimfire Challenge events, both novice and experienced shooters are encouraged to participate. This event is designed to be fun and enjoyable for all skill levels. For many shooters, a Rimfire Challenge represents their first competitive shooting experience.
Rimfire Challenge events are intended to be entertaining for the entire family. Whether you’re coming as a spectator or a competitor, side shooting activities are in the works so that everyone in attendance will have the opportunity to enjoy some trigger time. Come one come all to what will be a very exciting and fun weekend!
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Are you a died-in-the-wool .50 BMG fan? Got a hankerin’ for heavy artillery? Then visit the FCSA Photo Gallery page. There you’ll find hundreds of photos from Fifty Caliber Shooting Association (FCSA) matches and 50 Cal fun shoots in eleven states plus Australia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. To access the photos from the Gallery Page, start by selecting a state/country and then click on the colored buttons for the event date (e.g. 2015-04).
Photo sets go all the way back to 2002, so you can see the evolution of the hardware over the years. Sample multiple archives to see the differences in terrain from one range to another — from Raton’s alpine setting to the hot, dry Nevada desert. This Gallery is really a treasure-trove of .50-Cal history. Here are a few sample images.
Story Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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The ability to read the wind is what separates good shooters from great shooters. If you want to learn wind-doping from one of the best, watch this video with 2010 National High Power Champion (and U.S. Army 2010 Soldier of the Year) Sherri Gallagher. Part of the USAMU’s Pro Tips Video Series, this video covers the basics of wind reading including: Determining wind direction and speed, Bracketing Wind, Reading Mirage, and Adjusting to cross-winds using both sight/scope adjustments and hold-off methods. Correctly determining wind angle is vital, Sheri explains, because a wind at a 90-degree angle has much more of an effect on bullet lateral movement than a headwind or tailwind. Wind speed, of course, is just as important as wind angle. To calculate wind speed, Sherri recommends “Wind Bracketing”: [This] is where you take the estimate of the highest possible condition and the lowest possible condition and [then] take the average of the two.”
It is also important to understand mirage. Sheri explains that “Mirage is the reflection of light through layers of air, based off the temperature of the ground. These layers … are blown by the wind, and can be monitored through a spotting scope to detect direction and speed. You can see what appears to be waves running across the range — this is mirage.” To best evaluate mirage, you need to set your spotting scope correctly. First get the target in sharp focus, then (on most scopes), Sheri advises that you turn your adjustment knob “a quarter-turn counter-clockwise. That will make the mirage your primary focus.”
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The National Shooting Sports Foundation is pleased to announce that registration is now open for its 2016 Fall Shooting Sports Fantasy Camps in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There will be two (2) sessions this October, each with 33 spots available.
Watch Highlights from the First-Ever Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas:
The NSSF 2016 Fall Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp will take place at the world class United States Shooting Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Two date options will be offered:
NSSF has lined up seven of our country’s top professional shooters for this premier event, including the first family of shooting, Jerry and Kay Miculek and Lena Miculek-Afentul, world class professional shooter, Bruce Piatt, 3-Gun pro couple Dianna and Ryan Muller, and Top Shot Season 4 winner Chris Cheng.
In addition to learning from today’s best shots, you’ll also be provided all meals, hotel accommodations, a swag bag full of premium shooting gear and more! You will need to provide your own travel arrangements and the camp registration fee of $3,495.
Camp Placements Will Sell Out Soon
If you are interestested, we recommend that you register soon — don’t delay. NSSF’s first Fantasy Camp (held this past spring in Las Vegas) sold out immediately. There are only 33 slots available for each date choice. For more information visit www.shootingsportsfantasycamp.com.
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Ruger has created a series of videos showcasing competitive shooting competitions including: Rimfire Challenge, Metallic Silhouette, Biathlon, IDPA, SCSA (Steel Challenge), USPSA, and Cowboy Action shooting events. Log on to Ruger’s Beginner’s Guide to Shooting Competitions webpage to see informative videos for these sports. Rimfire Competition is affordable and fun, Silhouette is a great family sport, and the Steel Challenge is the ultimate pistol speed-shooting event.
INTRO to RUGER RIMFIRE CHALLENGE Matches
INTRO to STEEL CHALLENGE Pistol Competition
Ruger also offers many other cool videos, both on its Video Webpage and on Ruger’s YouTube Channel. On YouTube, you’ll find a great four-part Tactical Carbine video series, hosted by Dave Spaulding, winner of the 2010 Trainer of the Year award by Law Officer Magazine. There are also a number of videos featuring the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR) a popular (and affordable) rig for Tactical/Practical shooting competitions. The video below explains the RPR’s adjustments:
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Could your gun club or youth shooting group use money to upgrade range facilities or run training programs? Well here’s a chance to get some cold, hard cash to help with operations. Every year, the NRA Foundation Grant Program provides hundreds of grants to deserving organizations. The 2017 Grant Application is now available. CLICK HERE to Apply for a Grant.
Since its inception, the NRA Foundation has funded over 41,000 grants totaling over $300 million. Grants went to qualified local, state and national shooting sports programs, hunting and conservation programs, Second Amendment education and for the preservation of historical firearms.
Grant money comes from generous donors and volunteer fund-raising efforts. Through its Grant Program the NRA Foundation seeks to: 1) Promote shooting sports and hunting safety; 2) Help educate individuals in proper firearms use and marksmanship; and 3) Enhance shooting range facilities and support active shooting sports organizations.
Range Improvement Grants
Helping clubs improve shooting range facilities is one of the main missions of the NRA Grant Program. Such programs might include: Berm improvements (example below), Clubhouse improvements, Covered firing lines, Road improvements, Trap Machines, and other permanent improvements to club properties and/or facilities.
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On some internet shooting forums, self-declared “experts” advise new rifle shooters to stick to low-end factory rifles. These “experts” (many of whom don’t own a single really accurate rifle), claim that it will take years for a new shooter to learn how to shoot a rifle accurately. So, the argument goes, the accuracy offered by a precision-chambered rifle, with a custom barrel, is “wasted” on a new shooter.
We disagree with that viewpoint, at least when it comes to rifles shot from a rest. We’ve seen relatively new shooters, with help from a skilled mentor, do remarkably well with precision rifles right from the start. With a good bench gun, many new shooters can shoot well under 1 MOA on the first day. Certainly it takes time for a complete novice to learn how to handle the gun and to work the trigger smoothly. However, this editor has personally seen some inexperienced shooters try their hand at benchrest shooting, and within few month they are doing very well indeed at club shoots.
Accurate Rifles Reward Progress As Novices Build Skills
For bench shooting, we think a highly accurate rifle is a much better training device for a new shooter than a typical, cheap factory sporter. With a gun capable of 1.5-2.0 MOA at best, you can never really determine if a “flyer” is you or the gun. Conversely, when a novice shoots a gun that can put 5 shots through one ragged hole, if a shot goes way high or low, the shooter knows his aim, trigger control, or gun-handling is to blame. He (or she) can then correct the problem. And when the shooter does everything right, he or she will see a nice tight group on the target. The accurate rifle provides more meaningful feedback and it rewards progress. That helps the novice become a better shooter in a shorter period of time.
A while back, Forum Member Preacher and his “bunny hugger” niece from California proved this point. The young lady, with almost no shooting experience, took Preacher’s 6-6.5×47 and shot a sub-quarter-MOA, 3-shot group at 350 yards. Don’t tell her she needs to stick to a cheap factory rifle. Preacher reports: “My niece flew in from the west coast and came up to visit. When she saw a few of my full-blown varmint rifles, she wanted to shoot one. She did a super job even if she IS a ‘bunny hugger’. She pulled the 1.5 ounce Jewell on a few fired cases to check out the trigger pull and then got in behind the gun and put three shots into a 350-yard target with a one-inch circle.” We measured her group at 0.822″ (0.224 MOA). Don’t tell Preacher that accuracy is “wasted” on novices. He joked: “I sure don’t want her shooting at me ….”
Rifle Features BAT Action, Krieger Barrel, and Russo Laminated Stock:
For those who are interested, Preacher’s rifle features a BAT 3-lug action, 30″ Krieger 7.5-twist heavy contour barrel, and Russo stock (with clear coat by Preacher). Chambered in 6-6.5×47 Lapua, this gun “shoots the 108gr Bergers very well” according to Preacher. Yep, we agree with that — even when a novice “bunny-hugger” does the trigger-pulling.
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Forest of Windflags at World Benchrest Championships in France in 2011
There’s a simple, inexpensive “miracle device” that can cut your groups in half. If you’re not using this device, you’re giving away accuracy. The “miracle device” to which we refer is a simple wind indicator aka “windflag”. Using windflags may actually improve your accuracy on target much more than weighing charges to the kernel, or spending your life savings on the “latest and greatest” hardware.
Remarkably, many shooters who spend $3000.00 or more on a precision rifle never bother to set up windflags, or even simple wood stakes with some ribbon to show the wind. Whether you’re a competitive shooter, a varminter, or someone who just likes to punch small groups, you should always take a set of windflags (or some kind of wind indicators) when you head to the range or the prairie dog fields. And yes, if you pay attention to your windflags, you can easily cut your group sizes in half. Here’s proof…
Miss a 5 mph Shift and Double Your Group Size
The table below records the effect of a 5 mph crosswind at 100, 200, and 300 yards. You may be thinking, “well, I’d never miss a 5 mph let-off.” Consider this — if a gentle 2.5 mph breeze switches from 3 o’clock (R to L) to 9 o’clock (L to R), you’ve just missed a 5 mph net change. What will that do to your group? Look at the table to find out.
Values from Point Blank Ballistics software for 500′ elevation and 70° temperature.
Imagine you have a 6mm rifle that shoots half-MOA consistently in no-wind conditions. What happens if you miss a 5 mph shift (the equivalent of a full reversal of a 2.5 mph crosswind)? Well, if you’re shooting a 68gr flatbase bullet, your shot is going to move about 0.49″ at 100 yards, nearly doubling your group size. With a 105gr VLD, the bullet moves 0.28″ … not as much to be sure, but still enough to ruin a nice small group. What about an AR15, shooting 55-grainers at 3300 fps? Well, if you miss that same 5 mph shift, your low-BC bullet moves 0.68″. That pushes a half-inch group well past an inch. If you had a half-MOA capable AR, now it’s shooting worse than 1 MOA. And, as you might expect, the wind effects at 200 and 300 yards are even more dramatic. If you miss a 5 mph, full-value wind change, your 300-yard group could easily expand by 2.5″ or more.
If you’ve already invested in an accurate rifle with a good barrel, you are “throwing away” accuracy if you shoot without wind flags. You can spend a ton of money on fancy shooting accessories (such as expensive front rests and spotting scopes) but, dollar for dollar, nothing will potentially improve your shooting as much as a good set of windflags, used religiously.
Our friend Kirsten Joy Weiss is a modern-day Annie Oakley. A very successful competitive shooter in the collegiate ranks, Kirsten now produces a popular YouTube Channel focusing on the “Joy of Shooting”. In her videos, Kirsten offers shooting tips and performs a variety of trick shots — such as splitting cards with a .22 LR rimfire. This young lady can shoot, that’s for sure.
In this video, Kirsten shoots at some tiny reactive targets — “Pop-Its”. These pea-sized targets “pop” audibly when hit. They make a very challenging target, even when bunched together. Kirsten secured three (3) Pop-Its with a clothespin, and then placed the clothespin in the ground.
It took a couple tries, but Kirsten did manage to light off a Pop-It or two. Kirsten reports: “Basically a small exploding target, Pop-Its, also known as ‘Bang Snaps’, snaps, snappers, party snaps, etc., are a fun firework trick noisemaker — but will they make a good target? Let’s put it to the test to see if these poppers are gun range-worthy targets. These little Pop-Its make for some challenging shots with reactive targets.” Enjoy the video:
Equipment Report: For this video, Kirsten shot Lapua .22 LR ammo in a Volquartsen Ultra-lite semi-auto .22 LR rimfire rifle, fitted with a C-More Red-Dot sight. She was using Oakley eye protection.
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In this video, Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics focuses on training. Bryan says that training is key for success in Long Range shooting: “Training in the sense that you want to want to refine your fundamentals of marksmanship — your sight alignment, your trigger control. You should practice those things enough that they become second nature and you don’t have to think about them. Keep in mind, it’s not just good enough to train, you have to learn how to train. You need to learn how to practice effectively, to get the most out of everything you do.”
Bryan says that success in Long Range shooting is not just about the hardware. It’s what’s between your ears that really counts: “The most important element in Long Range shooting is your knowledge — your understanding and practice of fundamentals of marksmanship, as well as your understanding of ballistics. You have to be able to fire the rifle, execute good shots that will put your rounds on target, but you also need to make intelligent sight corrections that will accurately account for the effects of gravity drop, and wind deflection, to center your group on those targets”.
Litz Competition Shooting Tips
Competition TIP ONE. Improving your scores in long range competition is a constant process of self-assessment. After each match, carefully analyze how you lost points and make a plan to improve. Beginning shooters will lose a lot of points to fundamental things like sight alignment and trigger control. Veteran shooters will lose far fewer points to a smaller list of mistakes. At every step along the way, always ask yourself why you’re losing points and address the issues. Sometimes the weak links that you need to work on aren’t your favorite thing to do, and success will take work in these areas as well.
Competition TIP TWO. Select your wind shooting strategy carefully. For beginners and veterans, most points are typically lost to wind. Successful shooters put a lot of thought into their approach to wind shooting. Sometimes it’s best to shoot fast and minimize the changes you’ll have to navigate. Other times it’s best to wait out a condition which may take several minutes. Develop a comfortable rest position so you have an easier time waiting when you should be waiting.
Competition TIP THREE. Actively avoid major train wrecks. Sounds obvious but it happens a lot. Select equipment that is reliable, get comfortable with it and have back-ups for important things. Don’t load on the verge of max pressure, don’t go to an important match with a barrel that’s near shot out, physically check tightness of all important screws prior to shooting each string. Observe what train wrecks you and others experience, and put measures in place to avoid them.
Article based on report in NRABlog.com.
Want to get young people involved in the shooting sports? Through organized training programs youngsters learn safe firearms handling, improve marksmanship skills, and meet other kids with similar interests. They also learn important life skills such as teamwork and goal attainment. There are several youth marksmanship programs available. All these programs let you share your joy of shooting with the younger generation. Remember today’s juniors are the future of our sport.
NRA National Junior Shooting Camps
File photo from NRA Smallbore Rifle Championship
The NRA’s National Junior Shooting Camps provide high-quality training opportunities in rifle, pistol and shotgun disciplines. Instruction is directed by highly qualified, top-level coaches. NRA offers camps for advanced and intermediate juniors. There are also Junior Olympic Shooting Camps, hosted by USA Shooting and supported by the NRA and the Civilian Marksmanship Program.
National 4-H Shooting Sports
The National 4-H Shooting Sports Program was created to teach marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and much more. State level 4-H clubs offer programs for individual training as well as team competitive shooting. There is also a National 4-H Shooting Sports Championship each summer which hosts Shotgun, Air Rifle, Air Pistol, Smallbore Rifle, Smallbore Pistol, Compound Archery, Recurve Archery, Muzzleloading Rifle and Hunting Skills events.
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) offers several marksmanship opportunities for new and intermediate shooters. Programs provide training for marksmanship badges and there are a variety of other competitive and recreational programs. Check with your local Boy Scout organization to learn about the range offerings for scouts in your region.
American Legion Junior Program
Thousands of male and female junior shooters have participated in the American Legion Junior Shooting Sports Program, which has a perfect safety record. The Junior Program includes a Basic Marksmanship Course, Qualification Awards and Air Rifle Competition. To learn more, visit www.legion.org/shooting.
Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC)
The NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) program helps kids 18 and under to learn hunting, marksmanship, and safety skills. From rifle, bow, and muzzleloader shooting, to wildlife identification, map & compass orienteering and more, YHEC participants get hands-on training in eight skill areas. This is a great program for parents and kids who want to go on family hunts together.
Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program
From a young shooter’s first BB gun to sophisticated air rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, pistols, and rifles, the year-round Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program offers a pathway to excellence for young shooters. Qualification shooting provides incentive awards for developing and improving marksmanship skills. Progression is self-paced and scores are challenging but attainable. Performance is measured against established par scores and any shooter who meets or exceeds those scores is entitled recognition awards for that rating.
Brownells / NRA Day
Brownells / NRA Day events provide adults, youth, families, hunters, sportsmen, competitors – literally everyone – the opportunity to come together under a formal program to learn, experience, share, and grow in appreciation of the shooting sports. The event themes offered in the program are designed for discovery. They provide exposure to the many different activities available in shooting sports and offer participants the opportunity to explore them in a safe, controlled environment.
John Whidden of Whidden Gunworks won his fourth Long Range National Championship at Camp Perry this month. In this article, the first of a three-part series on Long Range competition, John shares his thoughts on wind strategies and keeping one’s composure in pressure situations. John tells us Camp Perry was very challenging this year: “The 2016 Long Range Championship will go down in my memory as one with quick wind changes that made it very easy to shoot a 9.”
How to Win at Long Range Shooting
(Or at least what worked at the 2016 National Championships)
by John Whidden, 2016 National Long Range Champion
The NRA Long Range National Championships at Camp Perry Ohio are now in the history books and the competitors are home and reflecting on what they could have done to improve their score. I think anyone who has ever competed always knows they could have done even better if they had changed this detail or that aspect. This is the case regardless of where a shooter places in the standings, even for the winners.
This year the winds were reasonably tough. We mostly have either headwinds or winds from the 2-3 O’clock positions with speeds often in the 9-11 mph range. The changes came quickly and we had to be on our toes. Fortunately the course of fire allows the shooters some options. For the 1000-yard matches, we typically have 33 minutes for preparation, an unlimited number of sighter shots, and then 20 shots for record. Many shooters will shoot about 3-5 sighters and complete the task in about 15 minutes.
The 2016 Long Range Championship was definitely a match where you had to fight for every point during the whole event.
In preparation for shooting by watching the wind, I realized that the quick changes were going to add to the difficulty. Given the conditions, I chose a strategy of choosing only one condition to shoot in and waiting during any changes away from my desired condition. This plan meant that I would have to be very patient and plan to use all of my 33 minutes allotted time if needed.
The sun was shining for most of the matches so we had mirage to look at. There are plenty of flags at Camp Perry and I was glad for them!
As the wind speeds get higher I think a shooter should study the appearance of the flags. Some people look at the flag, and some really LOOK at the flags. The difference is observing things like how many ripples are in the flag, how far the flag stands off the pole, the angle of the flag in a headwind or tailwind, and how high the tip of the flag is relative to where the flag is attached to the pole. These details make all of the difference.
Time Management and Patience
Patience in wind reading can be a virtue. Choosing a condition and being patient has probably yielded more success in my long range wind reading than any other method. It’s not the only way to go, but on a day when you have time available and patience on your side it can yield a win! It should be obvious now that keeping a timer and managing the available time along with the number of shots remaining is an important part of this.
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