If you shoot a pistol, you should watch this video. It covers the key fundamentals of handgun shooting: stance, arm position, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. This excellent video features USAMU shooter SGT Shane Coley.
Arm/Elbow Position: You should not lock your elbows says SGT Coley: “Because my elbows are slightly bent, it allows the recoil to transfer into my shoulders, down my core, into my legs and to the ground, allowing me to maintain a flat-shooting gun … on multiple targets.”
There’s no denying that 3-Gun competition is growing in popularity nationwide. Using a pistol, rifle and shotgun to shoot multiple targets at varying distances is exciting and challenging. Here are some pointers for performing better on the 3-Gun range by the USAMU’s SSG Daniel Horner, a two-time winner of Crimson Trace’s Midnight 3-Gun Invitational (M3GI) match.
Competing in Night-Time Stages
“I use the same gear all year long, so when it comes time for this match (the M3GI), I just adapt the guns, so they will work for the night time,” stated Daniel Horner. “I attach the Crimson Trace lasers and lights to the guns in whatever is the easiest way possible. Last year I just screwed a rail to my shotgun with wood screws. So, people can compete with pretty much whatever they have available and make it work.” Horner also recommends using a pair of head-mounted lamps. One can illuminate your firearms’ iron sights while the other headlamp is aimed at the targets.
This week, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit is pleased to host pistol teams from the various U.S. Armed Services in the 56th Annual Interservice Pistol Championship. Our Handloading Shop members have enjoyed discussing pistol accuracy and enjoying the camaraderie of competitive shooters from all over. In that spirit, this week’s topic will focus on handloading for best pistol accuracy, rather than our usual rifle-oriented information.
Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. Different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.
In the just-released June 2015 issue of Shooting Sports USA, you’ll find an excellent profile of SFC Emil Praslick III, a legendary figure in American shooting. As a marksmanship instructor and coach for the USAMU, Praslick has been a mentor for many of America’s greatest marksmen. Praslick has also served as a wind coach for many civilian teams over the years, guiding them to victory in high-level championship events. SFC Praslick plans to retire later this year, when SFC Shane Barnhart will take over as coach of the USAMU Service Rifle Team.
In a wide-ranging Shooting Sports USA interview with writer John Parker, SFC Praslick offers many interesting insights. Here are some highlights (after the jump):
SGT Tyler Payne of the USAMU gets rounds downrange quickly. Check out the spent brass.
The Sniper’s Hide Cup, one of the premier events on the tactical match circuit, has been underway this weekend in Colorado at the 6000-acre T3 Ranch. This year’s match got off to great start despite the bad weather. The 236 shooters completed all eight stages on time, a significant accomplishment in a field-type match of this scale. Here’s a video report from Day 2 of the event:
Just a week after securing a third straight NCAA Rifle Championship, the West Virginia University (WVU) Rifle team has notched another impressive team victory. At the 2015 NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championships, the Mountaineers just won the Smallbore Rifle competition, compiling an aggregate 2116 team score (out of a possible 2400). Now WVU hopes to win the combined Smallbore and Air Rifle events to secure the overall Championship.
After clenching the Smallbore Championship, the Mountaineers carry a 17-point lead into today’s Air Rifle competition at the USAMU’s facility at Fort Benning, Georgia. In second, with their eyes still on the Championship trophy, is Clemson University at 2099. Penn State rounds out the top three with 2084.
It’s rare when Soldiers and Marines agree on anything. But in this case, both Army shooters and Marine marksmen endorsed the electronic target system at Talladega. Members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) and the U.S. Marine Corps Service Rifle Team traveled to Alabama to test the Kongsberg electronic target system at the CMP’s new Talladega Marksmanship Park. Despite wet weather, the system worked well, allowing shooters to see their shot locations (and scores) instantly. At each shooting station a monitor displays the shooter’s target. Shots are plotted as contrasting white dots with shot values automatically calculated. Watch the video below to hear what the Soldiers and Marines thought of this high-tech system.
Video Shows Electronic Target System in Action
SGT Joseph Hall of the USAMU said the target system was “Super-smooth, super-quick. So far everything has been fantastic. We are saving a tremendous amount of time. There are no pit changes because everything is electronic. We are able to concentrate more on the shooting aspect… and less on … taking care of the targets and pit changes and relay changes. The relay changes here are just as simple as moving your equipment and the next guy getting on the line. The amount of time you’re saving is just incredible.”
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Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Yesterday’s post covered primer seating depth. This article offers many useful tips — including a clever way to measure primer seating depth with ordinary jaw-type calipers. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.
Primer Seating Depth — Why Uniformity is Important
The first concern is for safety: for that reason, primers should be seated below flush with the case head. One primary cause of “slam fires” (which includes catastrophic failures from firing out of battery) is “high,” or protruding primers. These stand above the case head, are readily felt with simple finger-tip inspection, and may fire when slammed by the bolt face and/or a floating firing pin in feeding.
Here at the USAMU, we ensure our rifle primers generally run -0.003″ to -0.005″ below the case head. Maximum primer depth is -0.006″ and minimum is -0.002″. Upon inspection, any cases with high primers will be corrected before loading. Aside from improving ballistic uniformity, ensuring the primers have proper compression upon seating also helps reduce possible misfires. These can be caused by the firing pin’s expending part of its energy either seating the primer or having to deform the primer cup enough to reach the anvil.
SMART TIP: How to Measure Primer Seating Depth with a Set of Calipers
A zeroed, precision set of standard calipers will also measure primer seating depth. (You don’t really need a custom tool.) Merely close the jaws and place the calipers’ narrow end squarely across the center of the case head/primer pocket. Keeping the narrow end in full contact with the case head, gently open the jaws, and the center bar will extend until it reaches the primer face. Voilà! Primer depth is read on the dial. Taking a few measurements to ensure accuracy and repeatability is recommended until one is familiar with this technique.
Brass and Primer Defects Can Cause Seating-Depth Variances
Factors affecting variance of primer seating depth include brass maker and lot number — all primer pockets are not created equal! Another factor is the primer manufacturer and individual primer lot. We’ve encountered occasional primer lots by top-quality makers that included some primers with slight defects affecting seating. While finely accurate, these primers were out-of-round or had small slivers of cup material protruding which affected primer feeding or seating depth.
Has one’s brass been fired previously? If so, how many times and the pressures involved also affect future primer seating. Obviously, this is another factor in favor of segregating one’s high-accuracy brass by maker, lot number, and number of times fired, if possible.
Measuring Primer Seating Depth with Purpose-Built Gauge
The next question, “How do we measure primer depth?” happily can be answered using tools already owned by most handloaders. [See tip above on how to measure depth with calipers.] At the USAMU, we have the luxury of purpose-built gauges made by the talented machinists of the Custom Firearms Shop. One places the primed case into the gauge, and the dial indicator reads the depth quickly and easily. The indicator is calibrated using a squarely-machined plug that simulates a case head with a perfectly flush-seated primer, easily giving meaningful “minus” or “plus” readings. The gauge is usable with a variety of case head sizes.
Primer Seating with Progressive Presses
Methods of primer seating include hand-seating using either hand held or bench-mounted tools, vs. progressive-press seating. Progressive presses may either seat by “feel,” subjective to each operator, or by using a mechanical “stop” that positively locates primers nearly identically every time. Testing here has shown that we get more uniform seating with the latter type progressive press, than we do with a high-quality bench-mounted tool lacking a positive stop.
Primer stop depth adjustments on our main progressive presses involve turning a punch screw in and out. While the screw is not calibrated, fine “tick” marks added to the top of the press help users gauge/repeat settings by “eye” efficiently with practice. Then, once a sample of primed cases is run to confirm the range and accuracy of depths, the identifying lot number and maker is noted on the press for reference. When it’s necessary to switch brass/primer lots, changes are easy to make and settings are easily repeated when it’s time to switch back.
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Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Today’s “Handloading Hump Day” post covers removal of military primer pocket crimps. If you ever use surplus military brass, you really should this article. It contains vital information “learned the hard way”. The writer has tried many different options for removing/swaging out crimps. He weighs the pros and cons of various methods and provides some advice that will save you time and headaches. This article is the second in a 3-part series. Last week the USAMU discussed cleaning of surplus brass. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.
A common question, and important issue with US GI surplus 5.56 brass is “what to do with the primer crimp?” Our Handloading Shop does not prime/re-prime GI 5.56 brass, as we receive it in virgin state (primed) and don’t reload it. However, our staff has extensive private experience handloading GI brass in our own competitive shooting careers, and have several tips to offer.
Once the brass is full-length sized and decapped, the staked-in ring of displaced metal from the primer crimp remains, and hinders re-priming. Some swaging tools exist to swage out this ring, allowing free access to the primer pocket. Some are stand-alone products, and some are reloading-press mounted. Early in this writer’s High Power career, he used the common press-mounted kit several times, with less than stellar results.
Setting Up Swaging Tools
Surplus brass tends to come from mixed lots, and primer crimp varies from very mild to strong. Also, primer pocket dimensions vary. So, setting up this “one size fits most” tool involves trying to find a happy medium for a selection of different types of brass in your particular lot. Some are over-swaged, some under-swaged, and some are “Just Right.” Overall, it was a time-consuming and sub-optimal process, in this writer’s experience.
Cutting Out the Crimp Ring with a Chamfer Tool
[After trying swaging tools] this writer evolved to using the ubiquitous Wilson/RCBS/Other brands chamfer and deburring tool to cut out only the displaced crimp ring at the top of the primer pocket. One caution: DON’T OVER-DO IT! Just a little practice will let the handloader develop a “feel” for the right degree of chamfer that permits easy re-priming without removing so much metal that primer edges start to flow under pressure. For this writer, it was three half-turns of the tool in the primer pocket, with medium pressure.
Here, as with all bulk reloading operations, mechanization is our friend. A popular reloading supply house has developed an inexpensive adaptor that houses the chamfer/deburr tool (retained by an allen screw) and allows mounting in a hand drill or drill press. This speeds the operation significantly, as does use of one of the popular Case Preparation Stations that feature multiple powered operations. (Say good-bye to carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis!)
One advantage of chamfering the primer pockets lightly to remove remnants of primer crimp, vs. swaging, is that primer pockets are not loosened in this process. US GI (usually LC) NATO 5.56 brass has a great reputation for longevity due to the superior hardness of the case head vs. some softer brands of commercial brass. This means the brass will stand up well to multiple full-pressure loads without loosening primer pockets, and the chamfering method helps support this benefit.
Powered Case Prep Centers — What to Look For
A word of advice (often learned the hard way) — think carefully before jumping on the “latest/greatest” case prep center. One with a proven, long-time track record of durability and excellent customer support has a lot going for it, vs. the flashy “new kid on the block.” Analyze the functions each case prep center can support simultaneously — i.e., can it chamfer, deburr and clean primer pockets all at the same time, without having to re-configure?
Do the tool-heads that come with it look truly functional and durable? If not, can they be easily replaced with proven or more-needed versions, such as a VLD chamfer tool, or a solid/textured primer pocket cleaner rather than a less-durable wire-brush type?
Tips for Priming with Progressive Presses
When re-priming, a couple of factors are worth noting. When re-priming using either single-stage presses, hand tools, or bench-mounted tools (such as the RCBS bench-mounted priming tool), precise alignment of the primer pocket entrance with the primer is easily achieved, and priming goes very smoothly. When using certain progressive presses, due to the tolerances involved in shell-heads, etc., one may occasionally encounter a primer that isn’t quite perfectly aligned with the primer pocket.
If resistance is felt when attempting to re-prime, DO NOT attempt to force the primer in — doing so can be dangerous! Rather, just exert SLIGHT upward pressure to keep the primer in contact with the case-head, and with the support hand, move the case back/forth a trifle. The primer will drop into alignment with the primer pocket, and then prime as usual. After priming, check each seated primer by feel. Ensure it is below flush with the case head (cleaning primer pockets helps here), and that there are no snags, burrs or deformed primers.
More Info on Primer Pocket Swaging
For more information about removing military crimps in primer pockets, we recommend you read Get the Crimp Out on the Squibloads Gun Thoughts Blog. This is a detailed, well-illustrated article that shows how to use various primer pocket reamers/cutters. It also has a very extensive discussion of swaging using CH4D, RCBS, and Dillon tools. The Squibloads author had much better luck with swaging tools than did the USAMU’s writer — so if you are considering swaging, definitely read the Squibloads article.
The illustration of primer pocket types is from the Squibloads Blog Article, Get the Crimp Out.
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Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Yesterday’s “Handloading Hump Day” post covered preparation of once-fired 5.56x45mm brass. This article, the first in a 3-part series, has many useful tips. If you shoot a rifle chambered in .223 Rem or 5.56x45mm, this article is worth reading. And visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.
This week, Handloading Hump-Day will answer a special request from several competitive shooters in Alaska. They asked about procedures for morphing once-fired GI 5.56mm brass into accurate match brass for NRA High Power Rifle use. The USAMU has used virgin Lake City (LC) 5.56 brass to win National Championships and set National Records for many years. In this 3-part series, we’ll share techniques proven to wring match-winning accuracy from combat-grade brass.
Preparing Once-Fired GI 5.56 Brass for Reloading (Part 1 of 3)
Assuming our readers will be getting brass once-fired as received from surplus dealers, the following steps can help process the low-cost raw material into reliably accurate components.
1. Clean the Brass
First, clean the brass of any dirt/mud/debris, if applicable. Depending on the brass’s condition, washing it in a soap solution followed by a thorough rinsing may help. [This step also extends the life of the tumbling media.] Approaches range from low-tech, using gallon jugs 1/2 full of water/dish soap plus brass and shaking vigorously, to more high-tech, expensive and time-consuming methods.
2. Wet-Tumbling Options (Be Sure to Dry the Brass)
When applying the final cleaning/polish, some use tumblers with liquid cleaning media and stainless steel pins for a brilliant shine inside and out, while others take the traditional vibratory tumbler/ground media approach. Degree of case shine is purely personal preference, but the key issue is simple cleanliness to avoid scratching ones’ dies.
If a liquid cleaner is used, be SURE to dry the cases thoroughly to preclude corrosion inside. One method is to dump the wet brass into an old pillow case, then tilt it left/right so the cases re-orient themselves while shifting from corner to corner. Several repetitions, pausing at each corner until water stops draining, will remove most water. They can then be left to air-dry on a towel, or can be dried in a warm (150° F-200° F max) oven for a few minutes to speed evaporation.
Shown below are Lake City cases after cleaning with Stainless Media (STM). Note: STM Case cleaning was done by a third party, not the USAMU, which does not endorse any particular cleaning method.
3. Inspect Every Case
Once dry, inspect each case for significant deformation (i.e., someone stepped on it), damaged mouths/necks and case head/rim damage. Some rifles’ ejectors actually dig small chunks of brass out of the case head — obviously, not ideal for precision shooting. Similarly, some extractors can bend the case rims so badly that distortion is visible when spinning them in one’s fingers. These can be used for plinking, but our match brass should have straight, undamaged rims.
Dented case mouths are common, and these can easily be rounded using a conical, tapered tool, [such as a .223 expander mandrel. A dummy 7.62 or .30-06 cartridge with a FMJ spitzer can also work.] If most of your brass is of one headstamp, this is a good time to cull out any odd cases.
4. Check the Primers Before Decapping
Your clean, dry and inspected brass is now ready for full-length sizing, decapping and re-priming. Historically, primer crimps on GI brass have caused some head-scratching (and vile language) among handloaders. Our next installment will detail efficient, easy and practical methods to remove primer crimp, plus other useful handloading tips. Until next week, Good Shooting!
NOTE: The USAMU Handloading (HL) Shop does not RE-load fired 5.56 brass. We use virgin LC brass with our chosen primer already staked in place. However, our staff has extensive personal experience reloading GI brass for competition, which will supplement the Shop’s customary steps. In handloading, as in life, there are many ways to accomplish any given task. Our suggestions are note presented as the “only way,” by any means. Time for loading/practicing is always at a premium. Readers who have more efficient, alternative methods that maintain top accuracy are invited to share them here.
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Can a human being, hand-holding a rifle, out-shoot a mechanical test rest? Who would win in this battle between man and machine? You might just be surprised. At 600 yards, with an AR-platform rifle, the results can be remarkably close, based on targets provided by the USAMU. When clamped in a test rig, a USAMU M16A2 produced a 200-18X group with handloads. The USAMU says this was “one of our better 20-shot groups at 600 yards, testing ammo from a machine rest”. Can a human do better?
Remarkably, a human soldier came very close to matching the group shot from the machine rest. The photo below shows a 20-shot group shot by a USAMU marksman with sling and iron sights, using USAMU-loaded ammunition. The score, 200-16X, was nearly the same. As you can see, the USAMU rifleman didn’t give up much to the machine rest, even at 600 yards!
In fairness, this was no ordinary human performance. The 200-16X score was a new National Record set in December, 1994. This was fired by PFC Coleman in an Interservice Match at Okeechobee, Florida. Nice shootin’ soldier!
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Commonly, hunters won’t have the ability to fire one or two fouling shots before heading out on a hunt. Therefore it’s important that a hunter understands how his rifle shoots with a “cold bore shot”. Both the point of impact (and possibly velocity), may be different with a cold bore than with a barrel that has been warmed and fouled with a series of shots. In this video from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), you’ll learn how to determine your cold bore point of impact (POI) for a rifle that just been cleaned, as well as the cold bore POI with a barrel that has already been “fouled in”.
SGT Joe Hein of the USAMU shows how to plot cold bore POI with both a clean bore and a fouled bore. Note that the “cold bore” shot from a fouled barrel was closer to the follow-up shots than the cold bore shot from a clean barrel. This is typical of many factory barrels. SGT Hein provides a simple way to understand your rifle’s cold bore performance. Hein’s advice can keep you from missing that long range shot at that big buck on opening day. A little time spent on the range before that critical first shot will help ensure you have meat in the freezer this season.
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Daniel Horner of the USAMU has been crowned the World Shooting Champion, and he has a $50,000 check to prove it. In the first running of the Trijicon World Shooting Championship (TWSC), 159 of the world’s top shooters competed in a grueling 4-day, multi-discipline event. To do well at the TWSC you had to be an expert with rifle, shotgun, and pistol — and you couldn’t have any real weaknesses. You needed mastery of speed pistol, trap shooting, long-range rifle shooting, cowboy action disciplines, “run and gun”, and defensive action scenarios.
SSG Daniel Horner (File photo — not from TWSC)
Horner topped the field with 966.856 points. In second place was Bianchi Cup Ace Bruce Piatt with 924.895. The legendary Jerry Miculek took third with 870.153. Jerry’s performance gave hope for us old guys. There must also be something about Miculek DNA — Jerry’s daughter Lena was the top female competitor, finishing 28th overall. We also want to acknowledge young Brian Nelson who, competing as a Junior, finished fourth overall, a great accomplishment. Other than Nelson, most of the top finishers are professional 3-Gun competitors. These folks know how to put rounds on target quickly and transition smoothly from one firearm to the next.
For four days, the shooters competed in twelve equally-weighted disciplines from various shooting sports. The match combines pistol shooting (action and bullseye), rifle shooting (action, smallbore, high-power, and F-Class), and Shotgun (Sporting Clays/trap/tactical). All firearms and ammunition were provided for each event.
Horner won the big prize through consistency. Out of the 12 shooting events, he finished in the top 10 in all but two. Writing in the Shooting Wire, Jim Shepherd reports: “Horner took outright stage wins in the Wobble Trap Doubles (100%) and NRA Action Rifle (100%) and used them to overcome his two worst scores, a 28th-place finish in F-Class rifle and a 13th-place in .22 rifle. For his achievement, Horner wins the $50,000 prize, and the dubious honor of now knowing that every competition shooter in the world has him solidly in their sights now, not just the 3-gun shooters he regularly tests … and bests.”
Big Cash Awards and Unrivaled Prize Table
Competitors came to the Peacemaker National Training Center in Glengary, WV for a chance to be crowned the “World Shooting Champion” and receive a $50,000 first place cash prize. This match carried “multi-gun” competition to a whole new level, with BIG MONEY at stake:. There were cash payouts for most stages and over $150,000 worth of hardware on the prize table.
First Place Overall: $50,000
Lady Champion: $5,000
Pistol Segment Winner: $5,000
Rifle Segment Winner: $5,000
Shotgun Segment Winner: $5,000
Second Place Overall: $3,000
Third Place Overall: $2,000
Fourth Place Overall: $1,000
Stage Winner $2,000
Side Match Winner: $1,000
Meanwhile, in Spain — the ISSF World Shooting Championships
The next TWSC will be held October 15-17, 2015. This inaugural event went well, and it will surely grow in prestige as time passes. However, we do question the notion that this was truly a “World Championship”. The TWSC took place in West Virginia at the same time that the ISSF World Championships were being held in Granada, Spain. That means that virtually none of the world’s top shotgun aces or top prone/3P rifle shooters attended the TWSC — they were in Spain instead. Over 2000 shooters are competing at the 2014 ISSF World Championships, including hundreds of Olympians. The TWSC had less than 200 competitors, and few Olympians. TWSC was, then, more realistically, a North American Multi-Gun Championship. Let’s hope that, in the years to come, the TWSC will attract more foreign-born competitors. That way it can properly be called a “World Shooting Championship”.
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We are already half-way through the NRA High Power National Championship and SSG Shane Barnhart of the USAMU remains atop the leaderboard, with a score of 1193-64X out of a possible 1200 points. Barnhart shot a 595-28X during Sunday’s Navy Cup, Coast Guard Trophy, and Army Cup matches. Barnhart currently holds a three-point lead over second place SSG Brandon Green (1190-58X), the defending High Power National Champion. Like Barnhart, Green shoots for the USAMU. Kenneth Lankford leads the “any sight” (scopes allowed) division with 1191-54X.
High Power Hardware: The Guns of Perry
We thought our readers would like to see some of the ultra-accurate rifles campaigned by High Power competitors at Camp Perry. Both bolt-action and self-loading rifles are popular. Among bolt guns, Tubb 2000s and Eliseo tubeguns are popular. Semi-auto AR platform “Space Guns” offer some advantages (particularly during rapid-fire and for standing position), and are favored by many of the top marksmen. Many Camp Perry High Power competitors are also shooting less exotic AR service rifles.
Here is your current leader, SSG Shane Barnhart, with an AR Space Gun. Note the side charging handle and tall iron sight set-up.
Tubb 2000 with a shortened handguard, and custom hand support bracket forward of mag well.
The modern AR Space Gun, scoped version. Note the side charging handle, and absence of forward assist. A block fitted under the handguard helps with the standing position. The scope is mounted on a “piggy-back” rail that extends forward of upper receiver’s built-in rail.
Tubb 2000 rifle, left-hand version. Note how the butt-plate is adjusted for cant, angle, and drop.
Look carefully — it appears that a separate fore-arm section is duct-taped to the red free-floated handguard. Perhaps this AR owner experienced some wiggle, and that’s why he seems puzzled?
A countdown timer is attached directly to this shooter’s Tubb 2000 rifle.
This Service Rifle competitor shows how to get some “R & R” between relays.
Tyrel Cooper of Creedmoor Sports will be competing at Camp Perry this summer. A past member of the USAMU, Cooper’s shooting resume includes five national championships (one each in 2008, 2011, 2012, and two in 2013). He is the current (2013) NRA National Long Range Champion, and reigning (2013) NRA National Service Rifle Champion. In this article, Cooper offers advice to other competitive shooters.
Below is a 2012 file photo of SSG Ty Cooper shooting a service rifle. Cooper won the 2013 NRA National High Power Rifle Long Range Championships with a final score of 1243-71X. In the Long Range Championships, Cooper used a Nesika-actioned bolt gun with long barrel chambered in 7mm SAUM.
Mental Preparation by Tyrel Cooper
Getting focused mentally is an important part of preparation for Perry. I have shot two long range team matches and a no-sighter, 50-shot across-the-course match since last Perry — that’s it. So I expect to be a little rusty but at the same time I am preparing myself to win mentally. I am telling myself “I am the 2014 Nation Champion”. Now my goal hasn’t been to be the Service Rifle National Champion; no, my goal the last 4 years has been to be the overall National Champion and do it with a Service Rifle. Now I haven’t achieved that goal and with today’s rifles and calibers it might never happen. The purpose of this goal is to look past a service rifle and go after everyone.
In 2011 I was chasing Sherri Gallagher, since then I have been chasing Brandon Green and last year almost got him. If I get beat by a Service Rifle I am going to make him or her work for it. So there is your peak into my mental process. I go for the top and if I am hanging with them then the Service Rifle National Championship will come, Kind of like how I shoot for X’s and Tens will come.
Now I understand everyone is at different levels. You have to figure out what your goals are and then lie to yourself that you’ve already achieved them. Here is a trick that I used back in 2008: When I was a kid just starting out, my Dad made me read several books on shooting. One of them being With Winning In Mind by Lanny Bassham. One of the things I remember from his book is that he would make notes and place them where he would see them often. They contained his goals or stated he was already a world champion. I took a page from his book and did the same thing.
I made 3×5 cards and wrote my personal best 500 and 800 aggregate scores and taped on the horn of my truck, above the radio in my truck, on my laptop and a few other places I would see them often. Every time I saw those I would tell myself that I average those scores and I would get used to seeing them. By doing this you are lying to yourself to overcome the mental blocks the subconscious mind lays out for you.
I went from my worst year in 2007 to winning my first National Championship in 2008. I kind of slacked off in 2009 because I had reached my goals and didn’t set new ones and it showed, so I had to find new goals and motivation which I did and that pushed me back to the top.
Long story short, this is a mental sport and you have to figure out what you need to do to perform at your highest levels and breaking through those mental road blocks. You have to figure out how to get yourself to relax and control your mind keeping calm when you are shooting a personal best, either standing or on the day.
Here is a tip from my mental process from shooting. First I shoot for Xs, I took the line from the movie The Patriot and applied it to my shooting, “Aim small, miss small” and it is true. If you accept wide shots then you will keep shooting wide shots.
Slow, Solid, Smooth, Center
Always focus on the positive and good shots, and what you did physically and mentally, when you shot them. When I am nervous and need to calm myself down I tell myself: slow, solid, smooth, center.
I want my movement to be slow… I can shoot tens and Xs all day with slow movement.
Solid like a rock, a rock doesn’t move and that’s how I want my positions. By saying solid it reminds me to go through my little checks to make sure I am doing what I need to do make that happen.
Smooth — that is my trigger word for smooth movement. You don’t want fast choppy movement but slow and smooth. This also reminds me to be smooth on the trigger. You can be smooth-fast or you can be smooth-slow but you have to be smooth and most people aren’t when they think they are. Just before leaving the USAMU, I walked up and down the line of five shooters during a rapid fire string and only one of them was smooth with their trigger control. It’s the second most important thing when it comes to shooting.
This reminds me that I want my shots in the middle. It is just a positive reinforcement of where I want my shots to go. I shoot a reverse flat tire so it also kind of reminds me as to what I am looking for.
Organizing Your Gear
[This year] I have all new gear, a new place, and I am creating a new system. Coming from the Army Marksmanship Unit, I had years to develop and refine my system from my daily routines, to my gear, and to my set-up process. I wanted to share with you a little bit of what I am going through right now.
I went and shot a match at [Fort] Benning a few weekends ago and I had more issues with my gear and system than I did with the act of shooting, it was frustrating and I didn’t like it one bit. So in my preparation for Perry, I took all of my gear apart in my living room and started over. I went through as if I was going to shoot a match; placing gear where I wanted it in or on my Creedmoor Range Cart. There is a lot to be said for having a system and not having to worry about where your gear is or isn’t. Once I got all of my gear in place, I put my new Ron Brown Sling on my rifle and dry fired a little bit. Worked on sitting and prone to figure out what sling notches I would need to use and how my new glove/mitt combination would work. My gear is set and ready to go in my living room, and even though I am not leaving until Sunday, I am setting all the shooting gear and equipment aside to make sure I have everything I need.
If you don’t have a system with your gear where everything has its place or certain spot, then I would suggest you start working on one. When it comes to a match, you don’t want to be searching for something or worrying if it was forgotten at home.
If you have a good system, it allows you to focus on the important things such as how to get your mind in your little bubble, working on what you need to think about to shoot Xs, and thinking about whatever reminders you need to think about to get you to perform at your highest level.
My reminder that I ask myself when I am setting up my gear either in my living room or getting ready to head down range is this: Scope, mat, rifle, stool, jacket, sweatshirt, sling, glove, ammo, mags, data book, and ear plugs. This is the most important stuff that I can’t shoot a match without. I always have extra pens, flags and small stuff in my stool.
Story Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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A great time was had by boys and girls, men and women, young and old alike at the 2014 Small Arms Firing School (SAFS) held July 17, 2014 at Camp Perry. This year’s SAFS was a great learning experience for the hundreds of participants, ranging in age from 7 to 70.
Military Rifle Coaches and CMP Rifle Master Instructors taught marksmanship basics and fundamentals to some 472 rifle marksmen (and “markswomen”). The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Rifle Team Members conducted a classroom session in the morning, and then the Army Rifle Coaches provided “world-class” instruction on the firing line. The Rifle SAFS concluded with the Rifle Excellence in Competition (EIC) Match. SEE Match Results.
Here are photos from the CMP SAFS Photo Gallery. CLICK HERE to see hundreds more images …
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Report based on story by Lars Dalseide forNRA Blog
This afternoon, SSG Patrick Franks of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit walked off the Rodriguez range as the new NRA National Pistol Champion. This is his first-ever National Pistol Championship — and it didn’t come easy. With a final score of 2649-147X, Patrick’s victory was by a slim margin.
“He won by 16 Xs,” said Match Director Tom Hughes. “I can’t remember one ever being this close.”
2014 has been a great year for Patrick Franks. “This year was my first 1st-place win at Interservice (the 55th Interservice Pistol Championships at Fort Benning),” said Franks. “A lot of our team matches at Interservice and at Canton were milestone performances and looking back at those I just kept going with it while I’m here.”
“I thought I was shooting pretty well,” Franks continued. “Good for my average, good for being up here. Just tried concentrating on the team matches and ended up coming out better than I expected. Just enough.”
The USAMU Pistol Team enjoyed a clean sweep of the individual matches, won the .45 caliber team match, and secured the overall Team title. Congratulations to SSG Patrick Franks on winning his first National Pistol Championship, to SFC James Henderson for taking second, and to SGT Greg Markowski for taking third. (Markowski also won the Revolver Match). 13-time NRA Pistol Champion Brian Zins, a few weeks out of hip surgery, finished 10th.
Here are photos from the CMP Photo Gallery for the 2014 National Trophy Pistol Matches at Camp Perry.
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Using a spotting scope seems simple. Just point it at the target and focus, right? Well, actually, it’s not that simple. Sometimes you want to watch mirage or trace, and that involves different focus and viewing priorities. Along with resolving bullet holes (or seeing other features on the target itself), you can use your spotting scope to monitor mirage. When watching mirage, you actually want to focus the spotting scope not on the target, but, typically, about two-thirds of the distance downrange. When spotting for another shooter, you can also use the spotting scope to watch the bullet trace, i.e. the vapor trail of the bullet. This will help you determine where the bullet is actually landing, even if it does not impact on the target backer.
In this video, SFC L.D. Lewis explains how to use a spotting scope to monitor mirage, and to watch trace. SFC Lewis is a former Army Marksmanship Unit member, U.S. Army Sniper School instructor, and current U.S. Army Reserve Service Rifle Shooting Team member. In discussing how precision shooters can employ spotting scopes, Lewis compares the use of a spotting scope for competition shooters vs. military snipers. NOTE: You may wish to turn up the audio volume, during the actual interview segment of this video.
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Report based on story by Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer/Editor
Would you like to learn AR marksmanship under the tutelage of world-class USAMU team members? Then consider attending the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s Rifle Small Arms Firing School (SAFS), held Wednesday, July 16-17, during the National Rifle and Pistol Matches at historic Camp Perry. SAFS courses have been conducted at the National Matches since 1918. Hundreds of rifle participants are expected this year.
The school is structured toward teaching new shooters, so no past firearm experience is required. Intermediate shooters are also welcome to participate. Students will learn basic firing practices and competition skills. In addition to the live fire practice, students will compete in an EIC Match. All participants will be instructed by members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) and coached by Military Rifle Team Members or CMP Rifle Master Instructors.
For those already familiar with rifle shooting, an Advanced Rifle Course will also be held to provide additional class instruction and the chance to fire in a special Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) Match. Whether an experience shooter or picking up a firearm for the first time, come enjoy a day of fellowship and fun in one of America’s oldest pastimes with the security and knowledge of some of the best marksmen in the country!
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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, Sheri 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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