Thoughts on Range Shooting

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ATOTT has taken up winter quarters far from home, and we do not care about missing the sleet and snow that is predicted to hit our old home front today and tonight.  Nope, sunny and 65 deg. seems quite acceptable, at least for a while.  And there is plenty of time to write and plenty of time to think.  Thinking perfects my plans and keeps my life orderly.  Lately I have been thinking about rifle range activities and I have some thoughts to share.

Sighting In

In my regular stamping grounds most of the rifle shooters are deer hunters.  You don’t see much of them for most of the year, but as fall approaches they will head for ranges to make sure Ol’ Reliable can still be counted on to put ‘em in the right place.

This, of course, is exactly what a hunter should do.  Got to be sure you can get clean kills, and it really is not complicated.  Most hunters will be using a familiar arm and a few shots that fall in a decent group will do the trick.  Half an hour and they are ready for the woods.  Won’t see them again until next year.

Occasionally, however, something more serious has taken place.  Perhaps a new scope has been installed.  Maybe a new brand or load of ammunition needs to be evaluated.  Hunters are always looking for improvement in their tools.  There may even be, halleluia! – a new rifle.  I have noted that these conditions often result in stress and difficulty at the range, especially when friends of the shooter are present.  Let me give you a scenario.

Two guys show up at the range.  Larry has a new scope, or rifle, or whatever, and Cody has come along to help and lend moral support (and also to give Larry a hard time, which is what he has been doing since they were in fourth grade together).  Larry goes to the 100-yard target line and staples a paper plate to the target holder.  Returning to the line, Larry finds the target looks pretty good in his 3-9X scope, so he sends a bullet downrange.  Hmmm.  No hole appears in the plate, and there are so many old holes in the target holder that a new one can’t be spotted.  Larry sends a couple more after the first one with the same results.  Finally, he says “Cody, I thought I saw the weeds move about a foot to the left of the target holder on that last shot.  Watch real close and see if you can spot the next one.”  After a couple more, Cody agrees that something is plunking in the berm somewhere to the left of the target holder.  If they are lucky, the weather has been dry and some dust kicks up.  Larry knows how to adjust his scope, so the next one hits at the top edge of the paper plate.  Thank God!  On the paper at last!  Now just a bit more adjustment and the next one will land right in the center.  But it does not.  It appears very close to the bottom edge of the plate, which is a mystery.  Cody thinks that maybe the new rifle is not what it is cracked up to be, and, anyway, a deer’s mortal zone is about paper plate size, so it will work, and he doesn’t really care if Larry’s new rifle isn’t very accurate.  Larry, of course, is crushed by the thought.

Usually, the trouble is that Larry does not have good support at the bench.  He is shooting off his elbows with no bench support to the stock, front or back.  Although Larry is young and strong, he cannot shoot better than an eight- or ten-inch group this way, and if he adjusts his sight after every shot, it will take a long time to get confidence in what the rifle is doing.  Larry and Cody may eventually get the job done, but they have already sent most of a $35.00 box of ammo downrange, and more is needed.

The Solution to the Problem

I have witnessed this scenario many times over the years.  And I hasten to add that I do not hold Larry and Cody in contempt.  I am sure they are much better at finding and killing deer than I would be, me having been just a sometime hunter, in spite of my gun crankiness.  Larry and Cody are good guys and I want them to be successful in pursuing America’s most unique and important freedom.

The solution to the problem scenario is very simple.

  1.  Set the first damn target, a target with a bull, at 20- to 25 yards.
  2.  Have a good rest for your piece at the bench.
  3.  Look through the bore of the solidly rested rifle and center the bull.
  4.  Move the crosshairs to the bull without moving the rifle.
  5.  Fire one and you will be on the paper.
  6.  Adjust the scope for impact 1 to 1.5 inches low at 25 yards.  Shouldn’t take more than a couple more shots.
  7. If this is OK, you will be on the paper at 100 yards and can fine-tune the scope to give what you want at that distance.   Shoot at least a three-shot group to make sure. (I probably would go to fifty for a check before moving to 100, but you know that I like to shoot a lot.  I would also shoot several three to five-shot groups at 100 yds.)

Image is important to folks who ply the outdoor sports.  You want to look good, but there are plenty of opportunities to be embarrassed with shooting activities. I don’t know if guys feel it is not macho to put a target up at only 25 yards, but I do know there is nothing macho about looking like a dork while you put round after expensive round into the weeds at 100 yards.  And, Larry, if you get an inch-or-so group at 100 yards while expending only ten rounds or so, Cody is going to be mightily impressed, although he may not admit it.

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