July 25th, 2017

‘Sights, Wind and Mirage’ in Shooting Sports USA Archives

Wind Reading Quadrant High Power

Vand Zande wind readingIn the digital archives of Shooting Sports USA, we’ve found some great features that deserve a second look. A few years back, Shooting Sports USA published Sights, Wind and Mirage, an outstanding article that explains how to judge wind speed/direction and adjust your sights accordingly. Authored by highly respected shooter Ernest (Ernie) Vande Zande, this article is a definite “must-read” for all competitive rifle shooters — even those who shoot with a scope rather than irons. Vande Zande’s discussion of mirage alone makes the article well worth reading. Highly recommended.

CLICK HERE to Read “Sights, Wind and Mirage”
by Ernie Vande Zande

Invaluable Insights from a World-Class Shooter
The article covers a wide variety of topics including Wind Reading, Mirage, Effects of Sight Canting, Quadrant Shooting, and Sight Adjustment Sequencing. Vande Zande offers many jewels of insight from his decades of experience shooting and coaching in top level tournaments. U.S. Shooting Team Leader at the 1996 Olympics, Vande Zande has set more than 200 records in National and International competition. He was the Smallbore Rifle Prone Champion at Camp Perry in 1980. An International Distinguished shooter, Ernie has been on nine Dewar teams and he was a member of the USAR Shooting Team from 1982. No matter what your discipline, if you are a competitive rifle shooter, you should CLICK HERE to read Sights, Wind, and Mirage.

Vand Zande wind reading

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July 16th, 2017

Improve Your Marksmanship with USAMU Pro Tips

USAMU Shooting USA Pro tips

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), in cooperation with Shooting USA TV, has created a series of instructional Pro Tip pages covering a wide range of shooting disciplines. All totaled, there are more than 50 USAMU Pro Tips. Most relate to rifle marksmanship but there are also numerous tips for shotgunners and pistol shooters. Each Pro Tip entry includes multiple photos and 6-15 paragraphs, in an easy-to-follow format. Many Pro Tips also include an instructional video produced by Shooting USA. Here are three Pro Tip videos, and links to seven more Pro Tip web pages.

USAMU TOP TEN PRO TIPS

1. Reading the Wind with SGT Sherri Gallagher.
Apart from gravity, wind has the most pull on the bullet as it travels down range. Being able to accurately read the wind and mirage will greatly enhance your performance on the rifle range. National Champion, SGT Gallagher gives you some of her tips.

2. Angle Shooting with SFC (Ret.) Emil Praslick.
SFC Praslick shows you how to determine the angle to your target, and then how to include that to change your data necessary to hit your target on the first shot.

3. Rifle Grip, Stance and Body Position for 3-Gun with SFC Daniel Horner.
Professional 3-gun marksman SFC Daniel Horner, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), give tips on how to properly handle a semi-automatic rifle, including grip, stance and body position.

4. Service Rifle Positions (with SFC Brandon Green)

5. Rifling and Twist Rate (with SFC Ret. Emil Praslick)

6. Setting the Right Zero (with SPC Ty Cooper)

7. Practice Drills (with SFC Lance Dement)

8. Using the Sling

9. Getting Your AR Zeroed

10. 3-Gun Rifles By Division (with SFC Daniel Horner)

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June 3rd, 2017

Interview with F-Class Ace Dan Pohlabel

Team Sinclair F-TR interview F-Class Reloading Load Development Training dry-fire
Team Sinclair F-Class

In response to many requests from Forum members who shoot F-Class, we are republishing this informative interview, which first appeared last summer. You’ll find many “solid good” tips that can help any long-range rifle competitor.

Dan Pohlabel is a member of the all-conquering Team Sinclair F-TR squad. This talented group of shooters hasn’t lost a team match in years. What’s the secret of Team Sinclair’s success? Well there is not one single factor. These guys have very accurate rifles, they work hard on load development, and they practice in all conditions. In this interview, Dan Pohlabel talks about F-TR competition, reviewing the hardware (and skill set) it takes to win. He offers some great tips on developing loads. You’ll find a longer version of this interview on the Sinclair Int’l website. CLICK HERE to Read Full Interview.

Q: What do you find most challenging in F-TR Shooting?
It has to be keeping up with the competition, our sport has grown so quickly with new talented shooters. Staying at the top requires having a laser of a rifle, perfect loads, near perfect wind reading, and, of course, breaking good shots.

Q: How can novice shooters improve their game?
Seek out the local F-TR shooters and go to matches with them, listen and learn. Attend team matches and offer to score for one of the teams. As a scorer, you will sit close enough to hear the coach make wind calls and see the results on the target. Through the spotting scope you will see changes in mirage and it’s the quickest way to learn the basics of wind reading. Choosing and buying equipment is relatively easy, learning to read the wind is a journey.

Q: What’s in your range bag for match days?
Rear bag, towel, shooting glasses, canned air, ear protection, data book, pen, rifle rain cover, hat, rifle tools, timer, ammo, and bug spray.

Q: What specialized gear can you not live without?

1. A good set of elbow pads. It’s hard to keep concentrating on shooting when your elbows are rubbed raw from days of competing on them.

2. Good bug spray. We shoot from the ground but our shooting mats aren’t that big. It’s hard to concentrate with bugs crawling or chewing on you.

Q: Load Development — How do you work up a load?
First, I call Derek Rodgers and get his load data, he is the best load development shooter I know! Otherwise, here is the procedure I recommend. Measure throat length with bullet of your choice, to determine how much room is left in the case. The above measurement determines what powders you can use. We use only Hodgdon Extreme powders. Shoot a ladder test, five rounds each in 0.2 grain increments, to find the accuracy node for that bullet/powder combination. Take the best two loads and do a jump test with five rounds each, test at .005″, .025″, .060″ jump. One of these groups will be significantly better than the rest, now you can tweak that measurement +/- .002” or .005” to get the best accuracy.

Test at least three different primers to determine which offers a little better ignition for your load, a 5-shot test will usually tell you which is the best. Go back and test the two best combinations in a 10-shot test at least twice, pick a cool overcast day and also a hot sunny day and compare results. Take your final “best load” back and do a “simulated match”, 20 shots, waiting at least 20 seconds between shots. If you like those results it’s probably a reliable and accurate load.

Q: What rear bag do you use?
I use a two-bag system, large bag on bottom with a smaller bag on top. I had the bags made of marine canvas, zippered and filled with plastic beads. I can adjust the amount of fill to make them a perfect height for my shooting position. Teammate Jeff Rorer uses a similar system and mine is nearly a copy of his rear bags.

Q: How often do you practice and how many rounds do you shoot per year?
In good weather I practice a couple times a week at the local range, a couple more dry-firing practices/week at home. I typically shoot between 2,000-2,500 rounds per year.

Q: How do you prepare mentally before a match?
[I do] lots of visualization — run the video in my head of what I expect to see and of my performance. I think about the correct strategy for the conditions, staying disciplined to the strategy.

Q: What do you avoid before a shoot?
No late nights or excessive alcohol. Very little caffeine in the morning. Leave your cell turned off. Avoid emotional people.

Q: What’s your procedure on a Match day?
I arrive early, get squadding card, move gear, watch wind speed/direction, check over rifle and gear, sit and relax, visualize and focus on the most important goal of the day. Most days we shoot three relays of 20 shots. It’s important to eat and hydrate continually all day. My focus and concentration are better when I snack all day with fruit and energy bars, and lots of water. While taking my turn in the pits, I try to relax and only focus on what is ahead of me and [not] what’s already happened.

Q: What is your favorite reloading product?
My favorite reloading product is the Sinclair Premium Neck Turning Tool with Handle, I also use the expander mandrels provided by Sinclair for sizing the brass in preparation for the turning process. Correct and repeatable neck tension begins with turning necks to a uniform thickness. Sinclair also has mandrels to size the necks after neck turning that accurately size the necks for a specific neck tension.

Q: What is your preferred scope?
The scope I find the most useful is the Nightforce Competition Scope. This scope is very light-weight, has 15-55X magnification, world-class quality glass, 10 MOA per revolution on the turrets, 1/8 moa adjustments. It’s perfect for F-Class competition.

Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the sport?
Find a local club with some F-TR shooters and ask for their help. Most shooters will be happy to take you with them to a match, listen and learn while you’re there. You may find out it’s not what you thought, or you may be hooked. If you decide to jump in, start with an inexpensive rifle. This sport is expensive and you don’t need a $5000 rifle to learn good wind-reading skills. Start with a used Savage F-TR rifle and learn the basics, shoot for a year at least before making a larger investment. The money you saved buying a used Savage rifle will help pay for your divorce lawyer, LOL.

Q: What training drills do you use?
Dry-firing the rifle at home is a good way to practice when you can’t get to the range and shoot. It allows me to practice set-up, rifle handling, and position. When I can practice at a local range, I also dry-fire between shots to increase the amount of repetitions and increase the time spent in position.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence in shooting?
Eric Bair, 2006 F-Open National Champion helped me get started and gave me great advice. Most of the shooters on Team USA and Team Sinclair help each other, nobody knows all the answers but we share what we have learned. Danny Biggs, 2008 and 2009 F-TR National Champion also helped me when I was struggling to learn some of the ranges. I learned a lot from Danny.

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April 7th, 2017

Wind Wizardry — How to Use a Kestrel Correctly

Kestrel Wind Meter Direction Vane Applied Ballistics

A lot of folks use a Kestrel Wind Meter every time at the range. That’s a good thing. However, many Kestrel owners may not be employing the Kestrel properly when seeking wind direction.

A Kestrel Wind Meter will record wind speed with its impeller wheel. However, to get the most accurate wind velocity reading, you need to have your Kestrel properly aligned with the wind direction. To find wind direction, first orient the Kestrel so that the impeller runs at minimal speed (or stops), and only then turn the BACK of the Kestrel into the wind direction. Do NOT simply rotate the Kestrel’s back panel looking for the highest wind speed reading — that’s not the correct method for finding wind direction. Rotate the side of the Kestrel into the wind first, aiming for minimal impeller movement. The correct procedure is explained below by the experts at Applied Ballistics.

How to Find the Wind Direction with a Kestrel Wind Meter

Here is the correct way to determine wind direction with a Kestrel wind meter when you have no environmental aids — no other tools than a Kestrel. (NOTE: To determine wind direction, a mounted Wind Vane is the most effective tool, but you can also look at flags, blowing grass, or even the lanyard on your Kestrel).

Step 1: Find the wind’s general direction.

Step 2: Rotate the Wind Meter 90 degrees, so that the wind is impacting the side (and not the back) of the wind meter, while still being able to see the impeller.

Step 3: Fine-tune the direction until the impeller drastically slows, or comes to a complete stop (a complete stop is preferred). If the impeller won’t come to a complete stop, find the direction which has the lowest impact on the impeller.

Step 4: Turn the BACK of the Kestrel towards the direction from which the wind is blowing. Then press the capture button, and record your wind speed.

Do NOT simply point the Kestrel’s back into the wind until you get the highest wind speed — that’s not the correct method.

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March 9th, 2017

Using Mirage to Read the Wind (Spotting Scope Technique)

wind mirage spotter spotting scope

Mirage as a Wind Indicator

Read FULL ARTICLE in Midsouth Shooters Blog
wind mirage spotter spotting scopeby Glen Zediker
Most good shooters use mirage as their leading indicator to spot changes in the wind. With well-designed stand, the scope can be set it up where you can see the wind with the left eye and see the sight with the right without anything more than a visual focus shift. That gets the shooter back on the trigger with the least chance of missing another change. In the photo above you can see 11-time National High Power Champion David Tubb using a spotting scope set up for his left eye.

There are resources that give clues or evidence of wind direction and strength: wind flags, observation of grass and trees, and mirage.

Almost always I use mirage as my leading indicator. Mirage (heat waves) is always present but you’ll need a scope to read it. For 600 yards I focus my scope about halfway to the target. Mirage flows just like water and the currents can be read with respect to wind speed as well, but it’s not clearly accurate beyond maybe a 15 mph speed. The thing is that mirage shows changes, increases or decreases, and also direction shifts, really well.

A couple more things about mirage flow: when mirage “boils,” that is appears to rise straight up, either there’s no wind or the scope is dead in-line with wind direction. And that’s a quick and accurate means to determine wind direction, by the way, move the scope until you see the boil and note the scope body angle. It’s also how to know when a “fishtail” wind is about to change, a boil precedes a shift.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope
You don’t need to spend big bucks for an effective spotting scope to view mirage. You can get the Kowa TSN-601 Angled Body for just $249.00 from B&H Photo. An eyepiece will run another $275.00 or so. Though relatively inexpensive, the TSN-601 is used by many top marksmen.

I use a long-eye-relief 20X to 25X wide-angle eyepiece. That setup shows the flow best. And pay attention to where the wind is coming from! See what’s headed your way, because what’s passed no longer matters. That’s true for any indicator. Right to left wind? Read off the right side of the range.

Once I get on target then all I am doing is watching for changes. It’s really uncommon to make a big adjustment between shots. The fewer condition changes you are enduring, the easier it is to keep everything on center. That’s why I shoot fast, and why I start at the low point in a wind cycle.

sighters spotting scope mirageMaking Corrections with Limited Sighters
Here’s a Tip for NRA High Power matches where only two sighters are allowed: “Make a full correction off the first sighting shot location! Even if there are minor changes afoot, that’s how to know how well you assessed condition influence pre-shot. Don’t second-guess. After the second sighter you should be on target and then simply watching for changes. Pay attention, correlate visible cues to the results of prior shots, and if in doubt, click into the wind.”

Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is an NRA High Master who earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

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March 8th, 2017

Improve Your Shooting Skills with Multi-Discipline Training

Michelle Gallagher Cross Training

Guest Article By Michelle Gallagher, Berger Bullets
Let’s face it. In the world of firearms, there is something for everyone. Do you like to compete? Are you a hunter? Are you more of a shotgun shooter or rifle shooter? Do you enjoy running around between stages of a timed course, or does the thought of shooting one-hole groups appeal to you more? Even though many of us shoot several different firearms and disciplines, chances are very good that we all have a favorite. Are we spreading ourselves too thin by shooting different disciplines, or is it actually beneficial? I have found that participating in multiple disciplines can actually improve your performance. Every style of shooting is different; therefore, they each develop different skills that benefit each other.

How can cross-training in other disciplines help you? For example, I am most familiar with long-range prone shooting, so let’s start there. To be a successful long-range shooter, you must have a stable position, accurate ammunition, and good wind-reading skills. You can improve all of these areas through time and effort, but there are other ways to improve more efficiently. Spend some time practicing smallbore. Smallbore rifles and targets are much less forgiving when it comes to position and shot execution. Long-range targets are very large, so you can get away with accepting less than perfect shots. Shooting smallbore will make you focus more on shooting perfectly center shots every time. Another way to do this with your High Power rifle is to shoot on reduced targets at long ranges. This will also force you to accept nothing less than perfect. Shoot at an F-Class target with your iron sights. At 1000 yards, the X-Ring on a long range target is 10 inches; it is 5 inches on an F-Class target. Because of this, you will have to focus harder on sight alignment to hit a center shot. When you go back to the conventional target, you will be amazed at how large the ten ring looks.

Michelle Gallagher Cross Training

Also, most prone rifles can be fitted with a bipod. Put a bipod and scope on your rifle, and shoot F-TR. Shooting with a scope and bipod eliminates position and eyesight factors, and will allow you to concentrate on learning how to more accurately read the wind. The smaller target will force you to be more aggressive on your wind calls. It will also help encourage you to use better loading techniques. Nothing is more frustrating than making a correct wind call on that tiny target, only to lose the point out the top or bottom due to inferior ammunition. If you put in the effort to shoot good scores on the F-Class target, you will be amazed how much easier the long-range target looks when you return to your sling and iron sights. By the same token, F-Class shooters sometimes prefer to shoot fast and chase the spotter. Shooting prone can help teach patience in choosing a wind condition to shoot in, and waiting for that condition to return if it changes.

Benchrest shooters are arguably among the most knowledgeable about reloading. If you want to learn better techniques about loading ammunition, you might want to spend some time at benchrest matches. You might not be in contention to win, but you will certainly learn a lot about reloading and gun handling. Shooting F-Open can also teach you these skills, as it is closely related to benchrest. Benchrest shooters may learn new wind-reading techniques by shooting mid- or long-range F-Class matches.

Michelle Gallagher Cross TrainingPosition shooters can also improve their skills by shooting different disciplines. High Power Across-the-Course shooters benefit from shooting smallbore and air rifle. Again, these targets are very small, which will encourage competitors to be more critical of their shot placement. Hunters may benefit from shooting silhouette matches, which will give them practice when shooting standing with a scoped rifle. Tactical matches may also be good, as tactical matches involve improvising shots from various positions and distances. [Editor: Many tactical matches also involve hiking or moving from position to position — this can motivate a shooter to maintain a good level of general fitness.]

These are just a few ways that you can benefit from branching out into other shooting disciplines. Talk to the other shooters. There is a wealth of knowledge in every discipline, and the other shooters will be more than happy to share what they have learned. Try something new. You may be surprised what you get out of it. You will certainly learn new skills and improve the ones you already have. You might develop a deeper appreciation for the discipline you started off with, or you may just discover a new passion.

This article originally appeared in the Berger Bulletin. The Berger Bulletin blog contains the latest info on Berger products, along with informative articles on target shooting and hunting.

Article Find by EdLongrange.

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March 2nd, 2017

Shooting FAILS — Why Marksmen Miss at Long Range

Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics Long Range Shooting Error Wind Call Kestrel Laser Rangefinder

Applied Ballistics has produced a series of YouTube videos about precision long range shooting. Featuring ace long-range shooter and professional ballistician Bryan Litz, these videos address various topics of interest to long-range marksmen. This featured video looks at Long Range mistakes — Bryan Litz reveals the most common ballistics-related shooting errors at Long Range. And then Bryan explains how to improve your shooting (and wind reading) to eliminate those common errors.

Watch Applied Ballistics Video about Common Mistakes in Long Range Shooting:

Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics often hears the question: “What are the main reasons people miss their target at long range?” To answer that question, in this video, Bryan explains the most important variables in Long Range shooting. Bryan says: “Probably the number one thing is range — you have to have a [precise] range to your target because your bullet is dropping, and to hit the target you need to correct for bullet drop.” Distance may be indicated on the target bay (or berm), but for open ranges you should ascertain distance-to-target with a quality laser rangefinder. Even when the distance to target is shown with a sign or marker, you may want to confirm the distance with your rangefinder. (You may be surprised — we’ve seen marked target distances at commercial ranges off by 25+ yards!) Bryan says: “Get a good laser range to the target and you’ll be within a couple yards”.

Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics Long Range Shooting Error Wind Call Kestrel Laser Rangefinder

After distance to target, the most important variable is the wind. This is the most challenging factor because the wind is constantly changing. Bryan explains: “After 300 or 400 yards, the wind [will] move your shots off the target if you don’t correct for it. The best way to account for the wind is to measure it at your location with a Kestrel. The Kestrel can give you the speed and direction of the wind at your location, which can baseline your wind call for your long-range shot.” Bryan acknowledges that there will still be variables: “The wind isn’t always blowing the same downrange as at your location… and the wind is always changing”. Bryan notes that you need to account for variances in wind between the time you gauge the wind angle and velocity and the time you actually you take your shot.

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November 28th, 2016

Wind-Reading Tips from Champion Shooters

Shooting Sports USA

The digital archives of Shooting Sports USA magazine (SSUSA) features an Expert Forum on Wind Reading. This outstanding article on wind reading starts off with a section by ballistics guru Bryan Litz, author of Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting. Then four of the greatest American shooters in history share their personal wind wisdom. Lanny Basham (Olympic Gold Medalist, author, Winning in the Wind), Nancy Tompkins (Past National HP Champion, author, Prone and Long-Range Rifle Shooting), David Tubb (11-Time Camp Perry National Champion), and Lones Wigger (Olympic Hall of Fame) all offer practical wind-reading lessons learned during their shooting careers.

CLICK HERE for Full Article in Shooting Sports USA Archive

CLICK HERE to Download Article Issue in Printable PDF Format.

Whether you shoot paper at Perry or prairie dogs in the Dakotas, this is a certified “must-read” resource on reading the wind. Here is a sample selection from the article:

Shooting Sports USA



Visit www.SSUSA.org

Shooting Sports USA magazine (SSUSA) has a modern, mobile-friendly website with tons of great content. Log on to www.ssusa.org. There you’ll find current news stories as well as popular articles from the SSUSA archives. The SSUSA website also includes match reports, gear reviews, reloading advice, plus expert marksmanship tips from the USAMU.

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November 20th, 2016

Three Champs — Bernosky, Tubb, Whidden — Talk Wind Reading

wind reading John Whidden, David Tubb, Carl Bernosky

In this article, three great champions reveal their wind-calling secrets in video interviews. We first published this “Three Champions” story a few years ago. If you are a competitive shooter, and you want to learn more about reading the wind, you should watch all three of these interviews. These guys are among the best shooters to ever shoulder a rifle, and they have much wisdom to share.

At the 2010 SHOT Show, we had the unique opportunity to corner three “superstars” of High Power shooting, and solicit their wind-reading secrets. 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 (4-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 so the introductions may list a lower number of titles won.

Top photo courtesy Rifleman’s Journal.

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September 26th, 2016

How to Win in F-TR Competition — Tips from Mike and Stan

F-TR shooting Competition Mike Miller Stan Pate

F-TR Stan Pate SavageOver the past few years, participation in F-Class competition has grown dramatically. At the 2013 SHOT Show we had a chance to talk about F-TR competition with then-U.S. National F-TR Team members Mike Miller and Stan Pate, two of America’s top F-TR shooters. With the U.S. F-Class Nationals underway this week (in Lodi, Wisconsin), we are reprising this interview for readers who may have missed it the first time around. If you shoot F-TR (even if you’re a High Master), we think you’ll learn a few things from this interview.

In this interview, Mike and Stan agreed to share their vast store of knowledge about long-range shooting. In a wide-ranging dialog, we discussed many topics of interest to F-Class shooters: position set-up, bipod shooting techniques (and hardware), gun-handling, and bullet selection. In addition, Mike and Stan offer some great advice on wind reading and precision reloading. These general tips will benefit all competitors, no matter what their discipline.

Watch Video for Tips from past U.S. National F-TR Team Members Mike Miller and Stan Pate

If you shoot F-TR or you are considering getting involved in this fast-growing shooting sport, definitely watch this 14-minute video interview from start to finish. Mike and Stan are true F-TR gurus whose knowledge of the F-TR game has been gleaned from years of top-level competition. If you shoot a .308 from a bipod, we guarantee you can learn much from Mike and Stan. If you follow their advice, we bet you’ll see your scores improve in future matches.

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September 23rd, 2016

How to Avoid Having a ‘Train Wreck’ at the F-Class Nationals

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

Today is practice day for the Mid-Range F-Class Nationals, which commence bright and early tomorrow morning in Lodi, Wisconsin. In any shooting competition, you must try to avoid major screw-ups that can ruin your day (or your match). In this article, reigning F-TR National Mid-Range and Long Range Champion Bryan Litz talks about “Train Wrecks”, i.e. those big disasters (such as equipment failures) that can ruin a whole match. Bryan illustrates the types of “train wrecks” that commonly befall competitors, and he explains how to avoid these “unmitigated disasters”.

Urban Dictionary “Train Wreck” Definition: “A total @#$&! disaster … the kind that makes you want to shake your head.”

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballisticsTrain Wrecks (and How to Avoid Them)
by Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics LLC.

Success in long range competition depends on many things. Those who aspire to be competitive are usually detail-oriented, and focused on all the small things that might give them an edge. Unfortunately it’s common for shooters lose sight of the big picture — missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.

Consistency is one of the universal principles of successful shooting. The tournament champion is the shooter with the highest average performance over several days, often times not winning a single match. While you can win tournaments without an isolated stellar performance, you cannot win tournaments if you have a single train wreck performance. And this is why it’s important for the detail-oriented shooter to keep an eye out for potential “big picture” problems that can derail the train of success!

Train wrecks can be defined differently by shooters of various skill levels and categories. Anything from problems causing a miss, to problems causing a 3/4-MOA shift in wind zero can manifest as a train wreck, depending on the kind of shooting you’re doing.

Below is a list of common Shooting Match Train Wrecks, and suggestions for avoiding them.

1. Cross-Firing. The fastest and most common way to destroy your score (and any hopes of winning a tournament) is to cross-fire. The cure is obviously basic awareness of your target number on each shot, but you can stack the odds in your favor if you’re smart. For sling shooters, establish your Natural Point of Aim (NPA) and monitor that it doesn’t shift during your course of fire. If you’re doing this right, you’ll always come back on your target naturally, without deliberately checking each time. You should be doing this anyway, but avoiding cross-fires is another incentive for monitoring this important fundamental. In F-Class shooting, pay attention to how the rifle recoils, and where the crosshairs settle. If the crosshairs always settle to the right, either make an adjustment to your bipod, hold, or simply make sure to move back each shot. Also consider your scope. Running super high magnification can leave the number board out of the scope’s field view. That can really increase the risk of cross-firing.

2. Equipment Failure. There are a wide variety of equipment failures you may encounter at a match, from loose sight fasteners, to broken bipods, to high-round-count barrels that that suddenly “go south” (just to mention a few possibilities). Mechanical components can and do fail. The best policy is to put some thought into what the critical failure points are, monitor wear of these parts, and have spares ready. This is where an ounce of prevention can prevent a ton of train wreck. On this note, if you like running hot loads, consider whether that extra 20 fps is worth blowing up a bullet (10 points), sticking a bolt (DNF), or worse yet, causing injury to yourself or someone nearby.

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

[Editor’s Note: The 2016 F-Class Nationals will employ electronic targets so conventional pit duties won’t be required. However, the following advice does apply for matches with conventional targets.]

3. Scoring/Pit Malfunction. Although not related to your shooting technique, doing things to insure you get at least fair treatment from your scorer and pit puller is a good idea. Try to meet the others on your target so they can associate a face with the shooter for whom they’re pulling. If you learn your scorer is a Democrat, it’s probably best not to tell Obama jokes before you go for record. If your pit puller is elderly, it may be unwise to shoot very rapidly and risk a shot being missed (by the pit worker), or having to call for a mark. Slowing down a second or two between shots might prevent a 5-minute delay and possibly an undeserved miss.

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics4. Wind Issues. Tricky winds derail many trains. A lot can be written about wind strategies, but here’s a simple tip about how to take the edge off a worse case scenario. You don’t have to start blazing away on the command of “Commence fire”. If the wind is blowing like a bastard when your time starts, just wait! You’re allotted 30 minutes to fire your string in long range slow fire. With average pit service, it might take you 10 minutes if you hustle, less in F-Class. Point being, you have about three times longer than you need. So let everyone else shoot through the storm and look for a window (or windows) of time which are not so adverse. Of course this is a risk, conditions might get worse if you wait. This is where judgment comes in. Just know you have options for managing time and keep an eye on the clock. Saving rounds in a slow fire match is a costly and embarrassing train wreck.

5. Mind Your Physical Health. While traveling for shooting matches, most shooters break their normal patterns of diet, sleep, alcohol consumption, etc. These disruptions to the norm can have detrimental effects on your body and your ability to shoot and even think clearly. If you’re used to an indoor job and eating salads in air-conditioned break rooms and you travel to a week-long rifle match which keeps you on your feet all day in 90-degree heat and high humidity, while eating greasy restaurant food, drinking beer and getting little sleep, then you might as well plan on daily train wrecks. If the match is four hours away, rather than leaving at 3:00 am and drinking five cups of coffee on the morning drive, arrive the night before and get a good night’s sleep.”

Keep focused on the important stuff. You never want to lose sight of the big picture. Keep the important, common sense things in mind as well as the minutia of meplat trimming, weighing powder to the kernel, and cleaning your barrel ’til it’s squeaky clean. Remember, all the little enhancements can’t make up for one big train wreck!

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September 22nd, 2016

Good Wind Reading Book for Competitive Shooters

wind reading book Camp Perry Miller Cunningham

Readers often ask us: “Is there a decent, easy-to-comprehend book that can help my wind-reading?” Many of our Forum members have recommended The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters by Linda Miller and Keith Cunningham. This 146-page book, published in 2007, is a very informative resource. But you don’t have to take our word for it. If you click this link, you can read book excerpts and decide for yourself. When the Amazon page opens, click the book cover (labeled “Look Inside”) and another screen will appear. This lets you preview the first few chapters, and see some illustrations.

Other books cover wind reading in a broader discussion of ballistics or long-range shooting, such as Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting by Bryan Litz. But the Miller & Cunningham book is ALL about wind reading from cover to cover, and that is its strength. The book focuses on real world skills that can help you accurately gauge wind angle, wind velocity, and wind cycles.

All other factors being equal, it is your ability to read the wind that will make the most difference in your shooting accuracy. The better you understand the behavior of the wind, the better you will understand the behavior of your bullet. — Wind Book for Rifle Shooters

The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters covers techniques and tactics used by expert wind-readers. There are numerous charts and illustrations. The authors show you how to put together a simple wind-reading “toolbox” for calculating wind speed, direction, deflection and drift. Then they explain how to use these tools to read flags and mirage, record and interpret your observations, and time your shots to compensate for wind. Here’s are two reviews from actual book buyers:

I believe this is a must-have book if you are a long-range sport shooter. I compete in F-Class Open and when I first purchased this book and read it from cover to cover, it helped me understand wind reading and making accurate scope corrections. Buy this book, read it, put into practice what it tells you, you will not be disappointed. — P. Janzso

If you have one book for wind reading, this should be it. Whether you’re a novice or experienced wind shooter this book has something for you. It covers how to get wind speed and direction from flags, mirage, and natural phenomenon. In my opinion this is the best book for learning to read wind speed and direction. — Muddler

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August 17th, 2016

Whidden on Winning at Long Range: Part 1 — The Wind

Camp Perry John Whidden Wind Reading Long Range Championship

John Whidden of Whidden Gunworks won his fourth Long Range National Championship at Camp Perry this month. In this article, the first of a three-part series on Long Range competition, John shares his thoughts on wind strategies and keeping one’s composure in pressure situations. John tells us Camp Perry was very challenging this year: “The 2016 Long Range Championship will go down in my memory as one with quick wind changes that made it very easy to shoot a 9.”

How to Win at Long Range Shooting
(Or at least what worked at the 2016 National Championships)

by John Whidden, 2016 National Long Range Champion
The NRA Long Range National Championships at Camp Perry Ohio are now in the history books and the competitors are home and reflecting on what they could have done to improve their score. I think anyone who has ever competed always knows they could have done even better if they had changed this detail or that aspect. This is the case regardless of where a shooter places in the standings, even for the winners.

John Whidden National Long Range Championship Camp Perry 2016 Wind Reading

This year the winds were reasonably tough. We mostly have either headwinds or winds from the 2-3 O’clock positions with speeds often in the 9-11 mph range. The changes came quickly and we had to be on our toes. Fortunately the course of fire allows the shooters some options. For the 1000-yard matches, we typically have 33 minutes for preparation, an unlimited number of sighter shots, and then 20 shots for record. Many shooters will shoot about 3-5 sighters and complete the task in about 15 minutes.

The 2016 Long Range Championship was definitely a match where you had to fight for every point during the whole event.

In preparation for shooting by watching the wind, I realized that the quick changes were going to add to the difficulty. Given the conditions, I chose a strategy of choosing only one condition to shoot in and waiting during any changes away from my desired condition. This plan meant that I would have to be very patient and plan to use all of my 33 minutes allotted time if needed.

The sun was shining for most of the matches so we had mirage to look at. There are plenty of flags at Camp Perry and I was glad for them!

As the wind speeds get higher I think a shooter should study the appearance of the flags. Some people look at the flag, and some really LOOK at the flags. The difference is observing things like how many ripples are in the flag, how far the flag stands off the pole, the angle of the flag in a headwind or tailwind, and how high the tip of the flag is relative to where the flag is attached to the pole. These details make all of the difference.

Time Management and Patience
Patience in wind reading can be a virtue. Choosing a condition and being patient has probably yielded more success in my long range wind reading than any other method. It’s not the only way to go, but on a day when you have time available and patience on your side it can yield a win! It should be obvious now that keeping a timer and managing the available time along with the number of shots remaining is an important part of this.

John Whidden National Long Range Championship Camp Perry 2016 Wind Reading
John Whidden National Long Range Championship Camp Perry 2016 Wind Reading

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June 21st, 2016

Calculating Wind Drift (When You Don’t Have A Working Device)

Applied Ballistics Crosswind Estimation Wind hack G7 BC

Applied Ballistics Wind Hack

Any long range shooter knows that wind is our ultimate nemesis. The best ways of overcoming wind are to measure what we can and use computers to calculate deflection. The Applied Ballistics Kestrel is a great tool for this. As good as our tools may be, we don’t always have them at our fingertips, or they break, batteries go dead, and so on. In these cases, it’s nice to have a simple way of estimating wind based on known variables. There are numerous wind formulas of various complexity.

The Applied Ballistics (AB) Wind Hack is about the simplest way to get a rough wind solution. Here it is: You simply add 2 to the first digit of your G7 BC, and divide your drop by this number to get the 10 mph crosswind deflection. For example, suppose you’re shooting a .308 caliber 175-grain bullet with a G7 BC of 0.260 at 1000 yards, and your drop is 37 MOA. For a G7 BC of 0.260, your “wind number” is 2+2=4. So your 10 mph wind deflection is your drop (37 MOA) divided by your “wind number” (4) = 9.25 MOA. This is really close to the actual 9.37 MOA calculated by the ballistic software.

WIND HACK Formula

10 mph Cross Wind Deflection = Drop (in MOA) divided by (G7 BC 1st Digit + 2)

Give the AB wind hack a try to see how it works with your ballistics!

Applied Ballistics Crosswind Estimation Wind hack G7 BC

Some Caveats: Your drop number has to be from a 100-yard zero. This wind hack is most accurate for supersonic flight. Within supersonic range, accuracy is typically better than +/-6″. You can easily scale the 10 mph crosswind deflection by the actual wind speed. Wind direction has to be scaled by the cosine of the angle.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 7 Comments »
April 17th, 2016

Brain Trust: Emil Praslick Offers Advice on Wind Reading

Emil Praslick USAMUTo succeed in long-range shooting matches, given the high level of competition these days, you’ll need solid wind-reading abilities. We’ve found an article by SFC Emil Praslick III, retired USAMU Service Rifle coach and U.S. Palma Team Coach, that can help you make better wind calls in competition.

Emil Praslick, now retired from the U.S. Army, is considered one of the best wind gurus in the United States, if not the world. During his service with the USAMU he authored an excellent two-part article on wind reading that is available on the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) website. Both articles contain helpful illustrations, and are “must-read” resources for any long-range shooter–not just Service Rifle and Highpower competitors.

Click to Read Articles:

Reading the Wind (Part One) | Reading the Wind (Part Two)

Part One covers basic principles, tactics, and strategies, with a focus on the 200-yard stages. Emil writes: “There are as many dimensions to ‘wind reading’ as there are stages to High Power competition. Your tactical mindset, or philosophy, must be different for the 200 and 300 yard rapid-fire stages than it would be for the 600 yard slow-fire. In the slow-fire stages you have the ability to adjust windage from shot to shot, utilizing the location of the previous shot as an indicator. Additionally, a change to the existing conditions can be identified and adjusted for prior to shooting the next shot.”

In Part Two, Praslick provides more detailed explanations of the key principles of wind zeros, wind reading, and the “Clock System” for determining wind values: “The Value of the wind is as important as its speed when deciding the proper windage to place on the rifle. A 10 MPH wind from ’12 o-clock’ has No Value, hence it will not effect the flight of the bullet. A 10 MPH wind from ‘3 o’clock’, however, would be classified as Full Value. Failure to correct for a Full Value wind will surely result in a less than desirable result.”

USAMU Praslick wind clock

Praslick also explains how to identify and evaluate mirage:

Determine the accuracy of the mirage. Mirage is the reflection of light through layers of air that have different temperatures than the ground. These layers are blown by the wind and can be monitored to detect wind direction and speed.

Focus your scope midway between yourself and the target, this will make mirage appear more prominent. I must emphasize the importance of experience when using mirage as a wind-reading tool. The best way to become proficient in the use of mirage is to correlate its appearance to a known condition. Using this as a baseline, changes in mirage can be equated to changes in the value of the wind. Above all, you must practice this skill!

Click HERE for more excellent instructional articles by Emil Praslick and other USAMU Coaches and shooters.

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March 5th, 2016

Shooting with a Wind Coach — F-Open Teamwork Demonstration

F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mm

Editor’s Comment: All long-range competitive shooters should watch this excellent video — whether you shoot with a team or as an individual. Three cameras were used so you can watch the shooter, the range flags, and the target simultaneously. After a discussion of scoring, the actual shooting starts at the five-minute mark in the video. Under the guidance of wind coach Gary Rasmussen, former U.S. F-Class Open Team Captain Shiraz Balolia shoots 100-7X for ten shots, following Gary’s wind calls. Shiraz is the President of Grizzly Industrial

Team Shooting with a Coach
F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mmShiraz tells us: “We come across a lot of shooters who have never shot under a coach. This video was produced to give shooters a basic understanding of shooting with a coach and the importance of releasing a good shot. In a team setting, you basically leave all the decision-making to the coach and aim where you’re told to aim. I’ve worked with Gary many times and it shows in the comfort level we have with each other. The coach plots the shots or a plotter advises the coach of any grouping that is not centered.”

Watch Gary Call the Wind and Shiraz Shoot 100-7X for Ten Shots

For best viewing, click the YouTube settings button to watch in 720p or 1080p HD (high definition).

Shiraz was shooting a 7mm F-Open rig: “My .284 Shehane rifle takes about 10 to 12 shots to settle down and that is probably why we made several scope adjustments while shooting. It is a great caliber and a step up from a straight .284 Winchester. The wind was relatively calm, but sometimes that slow wind with subtle angle changes can be very deceiving.”

F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mm

The video was shot the first week of May 2013 at a range in Custer, WA located about 20 miles from Bellingham, Washington. The production team included Shiraz Balolia, Gary Rasmussen, three cameramen, and a target puller. Big Thanks to Grizzly Industrial for providing the camera crew and post-production talent.
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February 11th, 2016

Three National Champions Reveal How to Read the Wind

Blast from the Past: As we get set up in Phoenix for the 2016 Berger Southwest Nationals, we thought we’d revisit one of our more interesting features from 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.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

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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January 30th, 2016

Wind Reading Resources from JarHeadTop’s M.Sgt. Jim Owens

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 $14.95 as a printed book or $12.95 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 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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May 15th, 2015

New Wind-Reading Resource from Sniper’s Hide Founder

Sniper's Hide Frank Galli Wind Reading Book Basics

For many riflemen, reading the wind is the toughest challenge in long-range shooting. Wind speeds and directions can change rapidly, mirage can be misleading, and terrain features can cause hard-to-predict effects. To become a competent wind reader, you need range-time and expert mentoring. In the latter department, Frank Galli, founder of Sniper’s Hide, has just released a new digital resource: Wind Reading Basics for the Tactical Shooter.

Wind Reading Basics is much more than an eBook — it has charts, instructions for ballistic calculators, and even embedded videos. Galli explains: “We break down the formulas, walk you through using a ballistic computer, and give you all the information in one place. From videos, to useful charts, we make it simple to get started. It’s all about having a plan, and we give you that plan.”

Galli’s Wind Reading Basics, priced at $11.99, can be downloaded from iTunes for iPads, iPhones and iOS compatible devices. Here are sample sections from the eBook (which includes videos):

(more…)

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October 18th, 2014

Video Introduction to Wind-Reading with Sniper’s Hide Boss

Frank Galli (aka “Lowlight”), the head honcho of Sniper’s Hide, has created a good 15-minute wind-reading video for the Scout web network. This video, a segment from the Sniper’s Hide Day One DVD, covers many of the important basics of wind reading. It’s a helpful introduction for those getting started in long-range rifle shooting.

Click Image to Go to Video Playback Page:
lowlight snipers hide wind reading video

Quote 1: “On the range, people describe the wind as the Great Equalizer. Next to your drop, drift from wind is the second most important consideration for the long range precision rifle shooter. Unlike drop, which is predictable, the wind is a constantly changing factor.”

Quote 2: “Wind is like water. It’s important to understand how terrain will effect the wind, how it will change the direction, velocity and consistency. It’s responsible for turbulence, it’s responsible for unseen changes that will throw our shot off. Wind will ebb and flow just like waves crashing on the beach. We need to understand the frequency and velocity of each wave.”

CLICK HERE to Watch Wind-Reading Video.

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