Blast from the Past: As we gear up for SHOT Show 2014, we thought we’d dig into our archives for one of the most interesting features we posted a few years back. At the 2010 SHOT Show, we had the unique opportunity to corner three “superstars” of High Power shooting, and solicit their wind-reading secrets. Carl Bernosky, David Tubb, and John Whidden all shared some championship-caliber wind wisdom in video interviews. If you shoot competitively, you’ll want to watch these videos. David’s video is worth watching twice because some of the key points he makes go by pretty quickly.
In the three videos below (in alphabetical order), Carl Bernosky (10-Time Nat’l High Power Champion), David Tubb (11-time Nat’l High Power Champion and 7-time Nat’l Long-Range Champion), and John Whidden (2-Time Nat’l High Power Long-Range Champion) shared some of the wind-doping strategies that have carried them to victory in the nation’s most competitive shooting matches. This is GOLD folks… no matter what your discipline — be it short-range Benchrest or Long-Range High Power — watch these videos for valuable insights that can help you shoot more accurately, and post higher scores, in all wind conditions.
We were very fortunate to have these three extraordinarily gifted champions reveal their “winning ways”. These guys REALLY know their stuff. I thought to myself: “Wow, this is how a baseball fan might feel if he could assemble Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams in the same room, and have them each reveal their hitting secrets.” Editor’s Note: These interviews were conducted before Bernosky and Tubb won their most recent National Championships.
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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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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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Are you thinking, “Snow’s on the ground, winter’s here, I won’t be competing until spring.” Well think again — there are opportunities to compete indoors during these cold months.
The 2014 NRA National Indoor Rifle & Pistol Championships start January 1, 2014. There will be indoor matches around the country with a variety of disciplines including Air Pistol, Rimfire Pistol, Air Rifle, and Rimfire Rifles. There is even a BB gun class for Juniors. The Indoor Championships involve multiple sectional tournaments, held in a variety of states from January through mid-April. This is like a super-duper postal match. Your results are sent to the NRA where they’re compared to other shooters. Winners are determined in late May. It’s a fun way to compete with many other shooters and it’s easy to get involved. There will be nearly 300 sectionals in 2014, so you’ll probably find an event close to home. Here are dates for 2013:
For more information contact these NRA staffers: Dian Bullock, (703) 267-1482 (Rifle); Ann Boyd, (703) 267-1452 (Pistol); Tori Croft, (703) 267-1473 (Collegiate).
The 50m Free Pistol is one of the events in the NRA National Indoor Championship. It takes skill — the pistol is shot one-handed, with iron sights, and the Ten-Ring is only 50mm (about 1.97″) in diameter. A competitive world-class score is 560 or better out of 600 possible points. Learn more about this challenging discipline in this USA Shooting video:
Thomas Haugland, a Shooters’ Forum member from Norway, is a long-range target shooter and hunter. He has created an interesting video showing how to gauge wind velocities by watching trees, grass, and other natural vegetation. The video commentary is in English, but the units of wind speed (and distance) are metric. Haugland explains: “This is not a full tutorial, but rather a short heads-up to make you draw the lines between the dots yourself”. Here are some conversions that will help when watching the video:
.5 m/s = 1.1 mph | 1 m/s = 2.2 mph | 2 m/s = 4.5 mph
3 m/s = 6.7 mph | 4 m/s = 8.9 mph | 5 m/s =11.2 mph
Today is Thanksgiving. After partaking in the traditional Turkey Day feast, we know many of our readers will find time during the holiday to head to the range. A Thanksgiving Day shoot is a fun excursion, and a great way for young and old family members to share time together. For all you T-Day marksmen, we offer a special turkey target. This was created by our friend and Forum member Pascal (aka “DesertFrog”).
We’ve packaged the turkey target along with five (5) other varmint/animal-themed targets for your shooting pleasure. These are all offered in .pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format for easy printing.
Program Promotes Family Hunting Opportunities
Speaking of turkeys and families going shooting together, we’d like to give a plug for the “Families Afield” program. A joint effort of the Nat’l Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the “Families Afield” program works to expand the opportunities for young hunters with adult mentors. The goal of the program is to increase the number of young people getting involved in hunting. For every 100 adult hunters today, only 69 youth hunters are coming up to take their place. “Families Afield” works to reverse that trend. Several states that were restrictive to youth hunting have signed into law “Families Afield” legislation. These new laws make it possible for young hunters and their families to enjoy hunting traditions together. CLICK HERE to learn more.
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Be prepared to have your mind blown by Max Michel. This guy is FAST. In this video he puts 18 shots on three targets with two (2) reloads, in a total of 4.79 seconds. That’s right, drawing from holster, he sends 18 rounds in under five seconds, with two mag changes in the process. That works out to a rate of fire of 225 rounds per minute. Consider this — Max shoots faster than a 19th-century Gatling Gun (which had a rate of fire of roughly 200 rounds per minute). And Max is accurate as well as speedy — 16 of Max’s 18 shots were in the targets’ A-Zones, with the other two just barely outside.
At age 30, Max Michel is a legend within the world of competitive shooting. A four-time World Speed Shooting Champion, six-time USPSA National Champion, and three-time US National Steel Champion, Max is a dominant force in pistol shooting sports. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Max began shooting when he was just 5 years old. In 1999 Max joined the USAMU’s Action Pistol Team and served in the U.S. Army for 10 years as an Army shooter and trainer. Today, Max is recognized worldwide as a top-tier athlete and instructor.
When shooting at long range, two heads (and two sets of eyes) can be better than one. Teaming up with a buddy who acts as a spotter can speed up your long-range learning process. You can focus 100% on the shot, while your buddy calls the wind and spots your hits and misses.
The NSSF has created a short video that shows how shooter and spotter can work as a team. In the video, the NSSF’s Dave Miles works with Rod Ryan, owner of Storm Mountain Training Center in Elk Garden, WV. As the video shows, team-work can pay off — both during target training sessions and when you’re attempting a long shot on a hunt. Working as a two-person team divides the responsibilities, allowing the shooter to concentrate fully on breaking the perfect shot.
The spotter’s job is to watch the conditions and inform the shooter of needed wind corrections. The shooter can dial windage into his scope, or hold off if he has a suitable reticle. As Rod Ryan explains: “The most important part is for the shooter to be relaxed and… pay attention to nothing more than the shot itself.” The spotter calls the wind, gives the information to the shooter, thus allowing the shooter to concentrate on proper aim, gun handling, and trigger squeeze. Rod says: “The concept is that the spotter does all the looking, seeing and the calculations for [the shooter].”
Spotter Can Call Corrections After Missed Shots
The spotter’s ability to see misses can be as important as his role as a wind-caller. Rod explains: “If you shoot and hit, that’s great. But if you shoot and miss, since the recoil pulse of the firearm is hitting your shoulder pretty good, you’re not going to be able to see where you missed the target. The spotter [can] see exactly where you missed, so I’ll have exactly an idea of how many [inches/mils it takes] to give you a quick secondary call so you can get [back on target].”
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Some folks say you haven’t really mastered marksmanship unless you can hit a target when standing tall ‘on your own hind legs’. Of all the shooting positions, standing can be the most challenging because you have no horizontally-solid resting point for your forward arm/elbow. Here 10-time National High Power Champ Carl Bernosky explains how to make the standing shot.
Carl Bernosky is one of the greatest marksmen in history. The reigning 2012 National High Power Champion, Carl has won ten (10) National High Power Championships in his storied shooting career. In this article, Carl provides step-by-step strategies to help High Power shooters improve their standing scores. When Carl talks about standing techniques, shooters should listen. Among his peers, Carl is regard as one of the best, if not the best standing shooter in the game today. Carl rarely puts pen to paper, but he was kind enough to share his techniques with AccurateShooter.com’s readers.
If you are position shooter, or aspire to be one some day, read this article word for word, and then read it again. We guarantee you’ll learn some techniques (and strategies) that can improve your shooting and boost your scores. This stuff is gold folks, read and learn…
How to Shoot Standing by Carl Bernosky
Shooting consistently good standing stages is a matter of getting rounds down range, with thoughtfully-executed goals. But first, your hold will determine the success you will have.
1. Your hold has to be 10 Ring to shoot 10s. This means that there should be a reasonable amount of time (enough to get a shot off) that your sights are within your best hold. No attention should be paid to the sights when they are not in the middle — that’s wasted energy. My best hold is within 5 seconds after I first look though my sights. I’m ready to shoot the shot at that time. If the gun doesn’t stop, I don’t shoot. I start over.
2. The shot has to be executed with the gun sitting still within your hold. If the gun is moving, it’s most likely moving out, and you’ve missed the best part of your hold.
3. Recognizing that the gun is sitting still and within your hold will initiate you firing the shot. Lots of dry fire or live fire training will help you acquire awareness of the gun sitting still. It’s not subconscious to me, but it’s close.
4. Don’t disturb the gun when you shoot the shot. That being said, I don’t believe in using ball or dummy rounds with the object of being surprised when the shot goes off. I consciously shoot every shot. Sometimes there is a mistake and I over-hold. But the more I train the less of these I get. If I get a dud round my gun will dip.* I don’t believe you can learn to ignore recoil. You must be consistent in your reaction to it.
5. Know your hold and shoot within it. The best part of my hold is about 4 inches. When I get things rolling, I recognize a still gun within my hold and execute the shot. I train to do this every shot. Close 10s are acceptable. Mid-ring 10s are not. If my hold was 8 inches I would train the same way. Shoot the shot when it is still within the hold, and accept the occasional 9. But don’t accept the shots out of the hold.
6. Practice makes perfect. The number of rounds you put down range matter. I shudder to think the amount of rounds I’ve fired standing in my life, and it still takes a month of shooting standing before Perry to be in my comfort zone. That month before Perry I shoot about 2000 rounds standing, 22 shots at a time. It peaks me at just about the right time.
This summarizes what I believe it takes to shoot good standing stages. I hope it provides some insight, understanding, and a roadmap to your own success shooting standing.
– Good Shooting, Carl
* This is very noticeable to me when shooting pistol. I can shoot bullet holes at 25 yards, but if I’ve miscounted the rounds I’ve fired out of my magazine, my pistol will dip noticeably. So do the pistols of the best pistol shooters I’ve watched and shot with. One might call this a “jerk”, I call it “controlled aggressive execution”, executed consistently.
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Could you hit a 18″x24″ plate at 100 yards with a handgun? With a bit of practice, an experienced handgunner should be able to make that shot using a quality, full-sized pistol held two-handed. This editor has done it with a 1911 and a Sig P226. OK, now consider hitting that same-size plate at TWO hundred yards, with a 2″-barreled revolver, shot upside-down, one-handed, pulling the double-action trigger with your pinky finger. Sound crazy? Well that’s exactly what legendary wheelgunner Jerry Miculek does in this video. It’s hard to believe, but it’s all caught on camera for posterity.
As you can see in the video, Jerry was pretty excited when he makes the shot. That took some serious skill. Jerry was shooting a double-action-only Smith & Wesson 340 PD Scandium J-Frame (1.875″ barrel) with fixed sights. After making this amazing shot, Jerry explains: “Gun shoots a little right, so when you flip it over it shoots a little bit left.” Thanks Jerry — I’m not sure most of us would have figured that out.
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The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward
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, simply 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 contains straightforward guidance on the thought processes, techniques, and tactics used by expert wind-readers. The written text is supplemented by numerous easy-to-understand 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. The essential wind-reading basics taught in this book can definitely help any shooter. Here are some 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. The book also details methods for recording shots and improving your shooting and thus your wind reading skills. In my opinion this is the best book for learning to read wind speed and direction. — Muddler
I found this book to be something I have needed for quite a while. I have been shooting Long Range for 20 years and always had problems with the wind. I would just chase the spotter. This book makes it all make sense. — L. Cash
As far as I know this is the only book of its type. It’s very well written in a way that’s easy to understand for such a complex subject. The charts and graphs are extremely helpful. It’s a bit on the short side at about 146 pages but still packed with knowledge. — R. Johnson
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When a rifle isn’t shooting up to it’s potential, we need to ask: “Is it the gun or the shooter?” Having multiple shooters test the same rifle in the same conditions with the same load can be very revealing…
When developing a load for a new rifle, one can easily get consumed by all the potential variables — charge weight, seating depth, neck tension, primer options, neck lube, and so on. When you’re fully focused on loading variables, and the results on the target are disappointing, you may quickly assume you need to change your load. But we learned that sometimes the load is just fine — the problem is the trigger puller, or the set-up on the bench.
Here’s an example. A while back we tested two new Savage F-Class rifles, both chambered in 6mmBR. Initial results were promising, but not great — one gun’s owner was getting round groups with shots distributed at 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 8 o’clock, and none were touching. We could have concluded that the load was no good. But then another shooter sat down behind the rifle and put the next two shots, identical load, through the same hole. Shooter #2 eventually produced a 6-shot group that was a vertical line, with 2 shots in each hole but at three different points of impact. OK, now we can conclude the load needs to be tuned to get rid of the vertical. Right? Wrong. Shooter #3 sat down behind the gun and produced a group that strung horizontally but had almost no vertical.
Hmmm… what gives?
Well each of the three shooters had a different way of holding the gun and adjusting the rear bag. Shooter #1, the gun’s owner, used a wrap-around hold with hand and cheek pressure, and he was squeezing the bag. All that contact was moving the shot up, down, left and right. Shooter #2 was using no cheek pressure, and very slight thumb pressure behind the tang, but he was experimenting with different amounts of bag “squeeze”. His hold eliminated the side push, but variances in squeeze technique and down pressure caused the vertical string. When he kept things constant, the gun put successive shots through the same hole. Shooter #3 was using heavy cheek pressure. This settled the gun down vertically, but it also side-loaded the rifle. The result was almost no vertical, but this shooting style produced too much horizontal.
A “Second Opinion” Is Always Useful
Conclusion? Before you spend all day fiddling with a load, you might want to adjust your shooting style and see if that affects the group size and shape on the target. Additionally, it is nearly always useful to have another experienced shooter try your rifle. In our test session, each time we changed “drivers”, the way the shots grouped on the target changed significantly. We went from a big round group, to vertical string, to horizontal string.
Interestingly, all three shooters were able to diagnose problems in their shooting styles, and then refine their gun-handling. As a result, in a second session, we all shot that gun better, and the average group size dropped from 0.5-0.6 inches into the threes — with NO changes to the load.
That’s right, we cut group size in half, and we didn’t alter the load one bit. Switching shooters demonstrated that the load was good and the gun was good. The skill of the trigger-puller(s) proved to be the limiting factor in terms of group size.
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