If you have an interest in historic arms, or just enjoy a diversion from the world of precision centerfire rifles, muzzle-loaders can be fun. There are also many states where hunters with muzzle-loaders enjoy a longer (and/or earlier) hunting season.
If you want to learn more about muzzle-loaders, the NRA and the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association have created an excellent new book, the NRA How-To-Series on Muzzleloading. This 132-page handbook ($12.00) covers muzzleloading safety, fundamentals of muzzleloader shooting, black powder basics, shooting positions, cleaning, storage and more. The “how-to” guide covers rifle, pistol, and shotgun muzzle-loaders.
The How-To book is a good starter publication for anyone interested in muzzle-loaders. Along with the book, the NRA recommends that novices attend a muzzleloading course to learn safe shooting practices from qualified instructors.
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There is an excellent article about Mirage on the South Texas Marksmanship Training Center (STMTC) website. This article explains what causes mirage and how mirage can move the perceived aiming point on your target. Most importantly, the article explains, in considerable detail, how you can “read” mirage to discern wind speeds and wind directions.
Mirage Is Your Friend
While hot days with lots of mirage can be frustrating, mirage can reveal how the wind is flowing (and changing). If you learn how to recognize and read mirage patterns, you can use that information to shoot higher scores. That’s why many leading long-range shooters tell us: “Mirage is your friend.” As the STMTC article explains: “A mirage condition is not a handicap, since it offers a very accurate method of perceiving small wind changes[.]”
This article, in longer form, appears on the USAMU Facebook page, as part of the “Handloading Hump Day Series”. This article explores three different “Philosophies” of precision reloading. Some handloaders seek to produce ammo that yields the very tightest groups (without factoring in the wind). Other shooters load their ammo to deliver the highest safe velocity. That’s because a projectile launched at higher velocity will drift less in the wind. The theory is that even if fast ammo doesn’t produce the tightest groups in zero wind conditions, it will yield higher scores in a the real world (where the wind blows). Lastly, some handloaders favor ammo that is ultra-consistent across a wide temperature range. This last philosophy dictates selection of a powder that is temp-insensitive, even if it may not produce the very best raw accuracy (or speed).
What’s Your Handloading Philosophy?
Objectives of Reloading — Accuracy, Velocity, Temp Stability What do you, the reader, primarily value in your handloads?
Viewpoint ONE: Accuracy Trumps Everything
Some shooters prize consistent, excellent medium/long range accuracy enough that they’re willing to give up some extra velocity (and reduced wind deflection) to obtain that. Their underlying philosophy could be stated: “Superior accuracy is present for every shot, but the wind isn’t”. One’s ability to hold well, aim well and read the wind are all factors in making this type decision. The photo below shows stellar raw accuracy. This is an 0.67″, 10-shot group at 300-yards fired from a text fixture. The group measures just 0.67″. (This shows the USAMU’s 600-yard load with 75gr bullets).
Anette Wachter (aka ’30CalGal’) is one of America’s top long-range sling shooters. A member of the U.S. National Rifle Team and a NRA High Master (both mid- and long-range), Anette has an impressive shooting resume. She has also recently started shooting 3-Gun and tactical matches. These “run and gun” matches involve rapid transitions, with shooting from a wide variety of positions. To help improve her 3-Gun shooting, Anette has developed a specific exercise regimen, which she calls the 3-Gun Biceps Series. Here’s a short sample:
ANETTE: One thing you can be sure of in a 3-Gun match is shooting from weird positions. I have noticed that the stage designers love port holes [in barriers]. There are many that are on the ground that you have to shoot through. Or perhaps it is not a port hole but just underneath a barrier. Imagine you are running to that spot with rifle in hand and you have to use one arm to brace your fall to the ground, while holding the rifle safely and facing down range in the other, and then get in to position to shoot, then back up again using one arm to push off of. I have an exercise I have been doing for a awhile that works great for this move…
The “Shooting Low Porthole Plank” starts off in a plank position — make sure your back is straight.
Every shooter needs to get his or her start someplace. We applaud the NSSF First Shots program that brings new shooters into the fold. If we want to “stem the tide” and resist pressures to close gun ranges and limit firearms use, we need to get new people involved in the shooting sports. And the first step in that process is getting first-timers to the range. Around the country, First Shot Seminars provide free instruction by trained firearms instructors, with guns and ammo provided at no charge to participants. The free First Shots program teaches newcomers firearms fundamentals, safety, and local regulations in a classroom setting, followed by a live-fire session with certified instructors.
Elizabeth Marsh — remember the name. This girl’s got game, as the 16-year-old Arkansas native proved at the 2015 National Junior Olympic Championships (NJOSC). In a superb performance, young Elizbeth won BOTH the Air Rifle and Smallbore Events in the Ladies’ Division at NJOSC. Remarkably, her finals score beat the current Junior World Record.
Elizabeth first claimed top honors in Air Rifle, then she won the Smallbore event with a dominating performance. She shot a world-class Smallbore Final, besting her nearest opponent by 12.1 points. In fact, her Finals score of 459.3 is 3.5 points better than the current Junior World Record (455.8) set by China’s Ruijiao Pei at last year’s World Championship.
On LongRangeHunting.com, you’ll find a good article by Shawn Carlock about wind reading. Shawn is a veteran law enforcement marksman and a past USPSA national precision rifle champion. Shawn offers good advice on how to estimate wind speeds and directions using a multitude of available indicators — not just your wind gauge: “Use anything at your disposal to accurately estimate the wind’s velocity. I keep and use a Kestrel for reading conditions….The Kestrel is very accurate but will only tell you what the conditions are where you are standing. I practice by looking at grass, brush, trees, dust, wind flags, mirage, rain, fog and anything else that will give me info on velocity and then estimate the speed.”
Shawn also explains how terrain features can cause vertical wind effects. A hunter on a hilltop must account for bullet rise if there is a headwind blowing up the slope. Many shooters consider wind in only one plane — the horizontal. In fact wind has vertical components, both up and down. If you have piloted a small aircraft you know how important vertical wind vectors can be. Match shooters will also experience vertical rise when there is a strong tailwind blowing over an up-sloping berm ahead of the target emplacements. Overall, Shawn concludes: “The more time you spend studying the wind and its effect over varying terrain the more successful you will be as a long-range shooter and hunter.”
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Here are four FREE fun targets from the NSSF. These can be downloaded as PDF files for easy, scalable printing. Choose from four fun targets: Orange Clays, Fish in a Barrel, Cans on Fence, or Bacon Xs. To download any of the targets, right click and “Save Link As”. You can also click on the four large targets and they should open up in most browsers if you have the PDF reader installed. Have Fun!
Fish in a Barrel
Cans on Fence
Download FREE Bullseye Targets
The NSSF also offers conventional bullseye-style targets on the NSSF Targets page. Here are two, high-contrast printable targets. With five (5) bullseyes per sheet, these are good for load development. They also work well at short range for pistol shooting.
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The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has released a new, first-of-its-kind educational resource, the “How to Talk to Your Kids about Firearm Safety” video. The video, starring champion shooter Julie Golob, encourages parents to have “the talk” about firearm safety with their kids sooner rather than later, and provides tips for how to have a helpful discussion.
“As a mother, I know full well how challenging this conversation can be,” Golob said. “It’s crucial that parents set an example and teach their kids about firearm safety so children don’t learn about guns solely from what their friends say or what they see on video games and TV.”
“Too often, children don’t know what to do if they find a gun,” said Steve Sanetti, President and CEO of NSSF, which developed and sponsors the Project ChildSafe firearm safety education program. “This video opens a door for honest conversation and empowers parents to be the authority on gun safety for their kids, whether they have guns in their homes or not.”
The “How to Talk to Your Kids about Firearm Safety” video was created as a resource to start positive and constructive conversations by encouraging discussion rather than lecture, and helps parents responsibly demystify the subject of guns. For more information, visit Projectchildsafe.org.
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Readers often ask for a good, authoritative resource on doping the wind and reading mirage. Many Forum members recommended M.Sgt. Jim Owens’ Wind-Reading Guide. With 22 sets of wind charts, this is offered for $12.95 as a printed book or in CD format. Owens’ Reading the Wind and Coaching Techniques clearly explains how to gauge wind speeds and angles. Owens, a well-known High Power coach and creator of Jarheadtop.com, offers a simple system for ascertaining wind value based on speed and angle. The CD also explains how to read mirage — a vital skill for long-range shooters. In many situations, reading the mirage may be just as important as watching the wind flags. Owens’ $12.95 CD provides wind-reading strategies that can be applied by coaches as well as individual shooters.
As a separate product, Owens offers a Reading the Wind DVD for $29.95. This is different than the $12.95 book/CD. It is more like an interactive class.
Played straight through, the DVD offers about 75 minutes of instruction. M.Sgt. Owens says “You will learn more in an hour and fifteen minutes than the host learned in fifteen years in the Marine Corps shooting program. This is a wind class you can attend again and again. [It provides] a simple system for judging the speed, direction and value of the wind.” The DVD also covers mirage reading, wind strategies, bullet BC and more.
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Jerry Miculek — that name is synonymous with revolvers. But Jerry is also one heck of a rifleman, as he demonstrates in this video.
Three Shots Standing at 400 Yards in 4.37 Seconds
For those of use who usually shoot from the bench, hitting a silhouette target at 400 yards from an standing position (unsupported) would be a big challenge. Here Jerry Miculek makes it look easy.
In this video, Jerry hits not one but THREE c-zone targets at 400 yards. And — get this — he does this in under 4.4 seconds starting with his rifle laying on a support. It took Jerry two tries (on his first run he hit 2 out of 3 in 4.65 seconds). On the second attempt (see video starting at 2:19), it takes Jerry just 4.37 seconds to shoulder his rifle, aim, and fire three shots, each hitting a separate steel target. Wow. That’s truly remarkable. Most of us would need ten seconds (or more) just to get the scope on the first target.
Trust us folks, this ain’t easy. It takes remarkable marksmanship skills to shoot with this kind of precision at this kind of pace. As Jerry would say himself, “Not bad for an old guy who needs glasses”.
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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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We recently showed a video of an incident at a pistol match that easily could have resulted in the death of a range worker. If you watched that video (it’s all over the web this web), you’ll understand that one momentary oversight is all it takes to put someone in the hospital (or the morgue). That’s why shooters should be prepared for the worst. Get first-aid training, and carry a basic first-aid kit whenever you go to the range.
Carry a Basic First-Aid Kit Shinnosuke Tanaka, reporter for RECOIL Magazine, offers some good advice: “OK, most of us have seen the [pistol match incident] video. YES, it is RSO’s fault not checking down range enough. BUT it’s your bullet that could hurt someone when it happen. So don’t let someone take care of safety for you, look around one more time after the command ‘Make ready’.”
Four basic firearms safety rules always apply. The Fourth Rule is: “Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it”. Shinnosuke adds: “My own fifth rule is ‘If there is doubt, don’t pull the trigger’.”
Shinnosuke cautions: “If you play with firearms you should know how to deal with gunshot wounds… Carry a simple medical kit. Here is my first aid kid, always carried on top of my shooting pack. Seek professional training and know how to use it. It’s your responsibility to stop the loss of your blood when an accident happens.”
Watch Gun Shot First Aid Video
If someone at a range is seriously injured by a gunshot, you should immediately summon emergency medical professionals. In addition, basic first aid can help stabilize the injured individual. This 55-minute video explains Basic First Aid for Gunshot Wounds:
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“These camps have everything you need to take your game to the next level,” said NRA National Coach Trainer Daniel Subia. “Each day will be filled with exercises designed to help you master your body positioning, breath, and trigger control to consistently shoot high scores. You’ll be tired at the end of each day, but you’ll leave a better shooter than you were before.”
Intermediate Junior Pistol Camp: June 26 – June 28
Held in Canton, Ohio, this camp is for beginning and intermediate shooters and is limited to 25 students. The camp registration deadline is June 1.
Intermediate Junior Rifle Camp: July 5 – July 10
Located in Camp Perry, Ohio’s Petraca Range, this camp features two admission periods for its 60 slots. The first admission period, open March 11 – April 30 is for junior shooters who have previously participated in an NRA Junior 3P or 4P Smallbore sectional match. The Second admission, open May 1, is open to all shooters.
Junior Advanced Competitive Smallbore Rifle Camp: July 6 – July 14
Held in Jericho, Vermont, this 9-day camp is a demanding training opportunity for advanced athletes and is limited to 20 students. The camp registration deadline is May 1. “[This camp] is like Top Gun for smallbore athletes. We take the best and make them better. We’re not leaving anything out. We will do everything possible to make sure that every marksman leaves this camp as a sharpshooter or better”, said Daniel Subia. “Attendees can expect a challenging, incredibly rewarding training experience that will prepare them for competition at the highest level.”
Many of us learned to shoot firearms while in the Boy Scouts or at a summer camp. To ensure that next generation of Americans learns about marksmanship and firearms safety in a positive way, it’s important to support summer camp shooting programs. The Civilian Marksmanship program is doing just that via a program that trains adults as summer camp marksmanship instructors.
CMP Camp Riflery Master Instructor Courses
Would you like to help young people learn about shooting? You can become a part of the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) growing list of Camp Riflery Master Instructors by attending one of two Camp Riflery Master Instructor Workshops being offered in 2015. A workshop will be held at Camp Perry, OH, March 16-17, and in Anniston, AL, March 23-24. Camp Riflery programs are some of the most popular activities offered at summer camps around the country. There, boys and girls learn safe gun handling and marksmanship skills, while also being introduced to the stimulating sport of target shooting. Along the way, the juniors also develop valuable life skills that will be beneficial on their journey into adulthood.
This photo is from California’s Camp Josepho. This Boy Scout facility offers one of the BSA’s best marksmanship programs, a 5-day summer session that provides intensive training on Rifle and Pistol Shooting, Archery, and Tomahawk throwing. CLICK HERE for more information.
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They say “things are bigger in Texas”. Well shots are longer too. In this video, a shooter successfully hits a 1-MOA target at 3600 yards with a .375 CheyTac rifle. That required plenty of elevation to compensate for the bullet’s drop over its 2.045 mile trajectory. The shooter, Jim Spinella of New Jersey, needed a whopping 60.2 Mils of elevation (26.8 in rail, 22.6 in turret, 10.8 hold-over). Jim had to wait a long time to confirm the hit — with the metal gong situated more than than 2 miles from the firing line, it took the bullet 7.2 seconds to hit the target.
Big 350gr Bullets with a Wicked BC
The 3600-yard hit was made with CheyTac factory ammo using 350gr CNC-turned bullets. Spinella was impressed: “The ammo chronographed out at 3080 fps with velocity differences at no more the 7 fps, which was outstanding. We found the true BC over 3600 yards to average 0.810 (G1)”.
NOTE: You see three shots in the video, but Spinella took many more before a hit was achieved: “We peppered the 2 MOA area around the target with a couple of dozen rounds. We hit the rack the target is hanging on twice. This was a fun experience, and we took a lot of data away from it. We put a lot of work and planning into this in order to be in position to be lucky. So many things are ridiculously magnified at that distance. Every 1 mph change in wind [moves the bullet] about 6 feet. As the barrel heats up the velocity changes with it [and] 10 fps velocity differences, shot to shot, are almost 5 feet.”
This ultra-long-range adventure took place last September at the FTW Ranch in Texas. Spinella worked with a team of experts from Hill Country Rifles, builders of the custom .375 CheyTac rifle, to achieve a 3600-yard shot on a 36” round steel target. Hitting a target at 2.045 miles is no mean feat. That 36″ gong represents slightly less than 1 MOA at that range. A lot can happen to send a bullet off target during a 7.2 second flight.
Rifle: Hill Country Rifles custom .375 Cheytac, Stiller Precision action, 29″ Krieger barrel
Optics: Schmidt & Bender 5-25X56mm PM-2 scope
Actual Measured Distance: 3606.41 Yards
Target: 36″ circular steel plate
Altitude: 2000 feet
Temp: 70 degrees
Elevation: 60.2 mil
Windage: 3.5 mil left
CheyTac Caliber Comparison — .375 vs. .408
The shooter, Jim Spinella, prefers the .375 CheyTac to its .408-caliber Big Brother: “I shoot both the .408 and .375. Both are great ELR rounds and will get you out there a long way. In my experience, the .375 will get you out there a little bit further. My preference is the .375 Cheytac over the .408. This has nothing really to do with external ballistics. It has to do with fouling. My .408 will go from stellar accuracy to terrible between 40 and 45 rounds. It happens that quickly and accuracy returns after cleaning the barrel. I have never experienced this with the .375. After 100 rounds there is minimal copper fouling with the .375, but I clean around this round count. I don’t know why there is heavy cooper fouling in the .408, but it is common to this round and other shooters who shoot it regularly. That said, I lightly clean the .408 using Wipeout and go back to having fun with it after about 30 minutes.”
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Brian “Gunny” Zins, 12-Time NRA National Pistol Champion, has authored an excellent guide to bullseye pistol shooting. Brian’s Clinic on the Fundamentals recently appeared in The Official Journal of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. The CMP scanned the story so you can read it online. CLICK HERE to read full article.
Top Tips from Brian Zins:
Trigger Movement: If trigger control is ever interrupted in slow fire the shot needs to be abored and the shot started over.
Relationship between Sight Alignment and Trigger Control: Often when the fundamentals are explained these two are explained as two different acts. Well, truth be told it’s really kind of hard to accomplish one without the other. They have a symbiotic relationship. In order to truly settle the movement in the dot or sights you need a smooth, steady trigger squeeze.
Trigger Finger Placement: Where should the trigger make contact on the finger? The trigger should be centered in the first crease of the trigger finger. Remember this is an article on Bullseye shooting. If this were an article on free pistol or air pistol it would be different.
Proper Grip: A proper grip is a grip that will NATURALLY align the gun’s sights to the eye of the shooter without having to tilt your head or move your or move your wrists around to do that. Also a proper grip, and most importantly, is a grip that allows the gun to return to the same position [with sights aligned] after each and every shot. The best and easiest way to get the proper grip, at least a good starting postion… is with a holster. Put your 1911 in a holster on the side of your body[.] Allow your shooting hand to come down naturally to the gun.
In recent years, Brian “Gunny” Zins has been shooting 1911s crafted by Cabot Guns.
Brian “Gunny” Zins currently holds 25 National Records.