Getting back into the habit

Since the end of the 2016 hunting season I have been making an effort to shoot more regularly. Fortunately there is a winter high-power league, and a regular small bore practice events happening on alternate weekends, so I have been taking advantage. When I first moved to the USA I bought a “brick” of 500 rounds of .22LR match ammunition, and to my shame it took me until the end of last year to use up. When I was regularly shooting in Scotland I would probably go through at least that much in a couple of months, so I have some catching up to do. Last year however I bought two new bricks of SK match, and with all the shooting I have been doing I have already got though one: things are looking up. My scores have also been improving, and although I am shooting on the NRA 50m target, not the international (which is somewhat more challenging), I have been pleased with my groups and scores.

Here are a few examples of recent targets. They are not my best targets, but they are representative.

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On the high-power side of things, I have also seen some improvements. My offhand (standing) scores have steadily improved, and the last few weekends I have managed to get all my 10 shots onto the scoring area (5 ring or better), and occasionally even into the 10. My best score was an 88/100 a few weeks ago.

My sitting rapid is going well, mostly because I can now get into position without feeling like I will break, and this last weekend I shot a decent group. It would also have been a decent score if it was centered on the bull. It wasn’t though, but I take what victories I can.

Prone rapid is going okay, and although I haven’t managed to recreate my early successes (several 100/100) I came pretty close this weekend with a 99/100. Here is a picture of the group.

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There were actually 12 shots recorded rather than 10, since I forgot to switch the system into match mode after my two sighters. The high 9 was one of the sighters (honest).

In an effort to get better at offhand, easily my worst position, I have built a small 10 meter air rifle range in my basement. In truth is it probably only 9 meters, because that’s the furthest I can go between the foundations, but for practicing my technique it works great. I am borrowing a junior CO2 powered air rifle for that, and I built a target box with a steel back plate to keep the ricochets down.

Here’s me in action:

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The air rifle weighs considerably less than my high-power rifle, which I will try to correct at some point, but I hope the practice will be worthwhile anyway. The state championship is happening at the end of the month, and since I plan to enter the 3P event I will try to spend as much time in the basement as I can before then.

 

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Another mini match

Another week another mini match. This week I managed to improve in some areas but slip slightly in others.

My position for the 200yd offhand felt less stable than last time. I had a few shots which I called as bad as soon as they went off. I think I wasn’t finding the same position every time I set up.

200 yd slow fire (offhand) 30th June '15

200 yd slow fire (offhand) 30th June ’15

My sitting rapid was better. I tried to get the rifle as vertical as I could and (possibly) as a result my group was centered more on the bull. I did make the mistake of wearing shorts and found out that the grip pads on my jacket are quite coarse and uncomfortable on bare legs.

200yd Rapid fire (Sitting) 30th June '15

200yd Rapid fire (Sitting) 30th June ’15

My 300yd rapid was also an improvement, however after firing my shots I got distracted collecting my brass and nearly missed seeing my target after it was marked. I got the score but the target was pulled before I could record the placement of my shots.

300yd rapid fire 30th June '15

300yd rapid fire 30th June ’15

My 300yd slow fire started well, and I thought I was going to improve on my previous mini match result, however I had a mystery 9 on my fourth shot and a few others that stubbornly missed the x ring. Other shooters reported having shots go high, so I wonder if the light levels shifted briefly…or I had a bad shot.

After 6 & 7 went high I adjusted my sights down a quarter minute and then shots 8 & 9 went in about a quarter minute low. Since 6 & 7 are clearly more than a quarter minute high the sight adjustment was more of a gesture since I didn’t really believe an adjustment was required. Shots 6-9 are also drifting left but I don’t know what that means.

In the end however, I suppose I can’t really grumble about 99-4.

300yd slow fire 30th June '15

300yd slow fire 30th June ’15

Another Hi-power practice.

I was out at Minneapolis Rifle Club again this week for a Hi-power practice, but instead of the usual routine we had a mini match.

*I had planned to get to the range early to shoot some small bore before the practice started, but the traffic a 3pm was as bad as the traffic at 4 that I usually drive through so I arrived later than planned. When I got to the range I realised I hadn’t brought any 50m targets with me, but then I found some old targets with clean diagrams which I put up. I continued to set up hoping to get in 20 minutes before I moved to the hi-power range, but then discovered I had left my sights at home. Thats what happens when you don’t do it regularly.*

Ordinarily we will shoot at either 200 or 300yds and shoot the full course of fire for that distance, this time however we reduced each detail to 10 shots from 20, and shot at both 200 & 300yds.

I started in the pits and pulled for the 200yd rapid sitting and offhand (standing) slow fire. Then we changed over and I shot the sitting and offhand then moved back to 300yds and shot the prone rapid and slow fire, before going back to the pits so the first group could shoot 300yds. Then we cooked some sausages.

My offhand was better than expected, I have been steadily improving. I mostly got 10s & 9s with only a few flyers (see below). The X came after I had been holding in the aim for a bit longer than I should have and decided to come out of position and start again (positive reinforcement experience there). The 7 (shot 8) was frustrating but I was pleased that I called the shot accurately.

200yds Offhand scorecard

200yds Offhand scorecard

 

My sitting rapid was less successful. My scope stand is good for prone shooting but is too short to allow me to use it to see my sighters when sitting. I adjusted my sights based upon what I could make out with the naked eye, but I ended up dropping my shots to the right. Although I have managed to develop a stable sitting position, in order to get my eye behind the sights I am canting the rifle to the right, which is probably the explanation for the position of my group (see below).

200yd sitting score card

200yd sitting score card

 

At 300yds we started with the rapid fire and again I didn’t do as I had hoped. The targets were in shade during the sighters and I had opened up my rear aperture a bit, but the sun came out again during the string and I think that may have contributed to my error (I know, excuses excuses!).

300yd rapid fire score card

300yd rapid fire score card

 

The day ended well with the 300yd slow fire. My sighters were in the 10 ring and it only got better from there. 100-6 was my final score on that detail. The guy marking my target complimented me on my shooting, then asked where the other four Xs went. To be honest I can’t explain why I pulled those shots to the right, but I will think about it.

300yd Slow fire score card

300yd Slow fire score card

 

It was a beautiful evening to spend at the range.

Evening light in the pits

Evening light in the pits

Rapid Fire Success

Last summer and a bit into Autumn I was attending NRA High Power practice shoots at MRC. If you recall on my first attempt at shooting rapid fire (10 shots in 70 seconds at 300yds prone) I got all my shots into the 10 ring. The second string was not quite so good. During one of the last practices I managed to do it again, but this time in both strings.

Second rapid fire string - Autumn 2014 practice

Second rapid fire string – Autumn 2014 practice – 300yd prone.

This picture is of my second string. Needless to say I was pretty pleased.

Now if I can just get the hang of the 200yd sitting and standing shooting I might be able to get somewhere in this discipline.

New rear sight (pimp my rifle) & Shooting Results: 300yd High Power Practice

I saved my pennies and got myself a rear sight (the one I was using was a loaner). I chose a Centra that was intended to attach directly to the rail on top of my AR, which it did. Here is a picture of it attached to my AR:

Centra Match Rear Sight

Centra Match Rear Sight

I took it with me to a high power practice at Minneapolis rifle club but I didn’t arrive as early as I had intended; which turned out to be a good thing because I figured out a very simple way to transfer the zero from the loaner sight to the new one.

I attached the new sight on the rail in front of the loaner and with the loaner set at my 300yd zero, adjusted the new sight until I had its aperture lined up between the loaner and the front sight rings. Then I removed the loaner and slid the new one back into position. It worked well because my first shot was in the 9 ring.

After sighters we shot a couple of rapid fire strings (in both strings the last round jammed, I think my bullets are seated slightly too long), I scored two 98/100. Then we shot a 20 round slow fire string. Below is my scorecard (which I discover is not quite the right one for 300yd slow fire, despite what it says).

300yd slow fire scorecard 2nd Sept 2014

300yd slow fire – 2nd Sept 2014

(I didn’t record the elevation as I hadn’t adjusted the scale plate at that point).

Pretty nice I thought: although I have to ask what is up with shot number 8, I dropped the same shot in my last slow fire string.

I will have to watch that one next time.

A Wedding in Wisconsin: Part 2

It has been an occasional pleasure on our trips back to the USA to go shooting with some friends at their home, often referred to as the ‘compound’. On these trip I would be allowed to get my hands on all sorts of fun things that don’t get seen so much these days in the UK.

On one particularly special occasion in 2009, Amanda and I happened to be back in Wisconsin for the purpose of getting married and as a present to us (although I suspect I got the most enjoyment from it) we were invited to shoot and have our pick of the guns available.

A beautiful revolver in .45 long.

A beautiful revolver in .45 long.

I chose a selection including a shotgun for some clay pigeons, a .30-06 rifle for some hi-power shenanigans, and a couple of pistols including a particularly nice one I had been shown on a previous trip but never had the chance to shoot. This belonged to the grandfather Jim, and was a beautiful nickel plated revolver in .45 long.

When I originally saw this pistol it hadn’t yet been fired, and so a few years later I asked if I could shoot it assuming it would by now have been fired. This turned out not to be the case and so I was given the pleasure of putting the first shots through it.

The first time I came to shoot at the compound, I was shown the best use yet for McDonalds happy meal toys, which is as a target for firearms. They dance and jump very satisfyingly when shot, although they take far more abuse than I feel is strictly necessary as the pseudo henchmen of a global mega corporation.

Other fun games involve filling plastic bottles with coloured liquid for dramatic effects when shot. The best effect is achieved with a hi-power rifle, hence the .30-06. I once tried shooting one of the toys with a .30-06, but it was unfortunately a bit of a dissapointment, the rounds passing straight through without moving the toy at all. I had to put the gun down and have a close look to be sure I had actually hit it. This also happened the first time I tried to shoot the aforementioned bottle of coloured water, my shots were going slightly high and were passing through the bottle just above the level of the water. A small adjustment of aim achieved the desired results.

Other pistols I have had the pleasure to shoot on these trips include a .357 Magnum and a .44 Magnum which almost tipped me over backwards with the first shot. Below is a picture of yours truly hitting the mark, not always a sure thing.

Shooting bottles of water

My friend Ben had made the trip across the sea to attend the wedding so he had a go with the guns as well. Below is a couple of pictures of him in action.

Ben shooting clays

Ben shooting clays

I am looking forward to lots more fun shoots at the compound. Hopefully soon I will be the one supplying the guns.

Ben shooting a revolver

Ben shooting a revolver