Overdue for an update

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It’s been over 6 months since my last post, but that was not due to lack of anything to write about: rather a lack of motivation to write about it.

Since my last post I have left two jobs, declined one job offer, sidestepped a second, and accepted a third in a somewhat tumultuous process that I would have rather avoided if I could. But I think I have found myself in a good position that represents a return to a career I thought I had left behind in Scotland in 2012.

My shooting was only slightly affected by the confusion however, and despite missing a number of Tuesday night hi-power practices I managed to improve through the season and even won a hi-power match on the way. I only won that match by 1 point from my nearest challenger, who also far surpassed me in his X count, however by not disgracing myself in the offhand and sitting positions, and putting in a solid performance at prone, I did what I needed to do.

I credit my success in that match to two things: the creation in my basement of a (nearly) 10 meter air rifle range where I can practice shooting offhand, and a short rain shower during the competition that hit the range just before I shot prone, disrupted some people’s shooting, and allowed me time to sneak into the range kitchen and eat some cookies. I had forgotten to bring snacks and was getting pretty hungry. On such slender threads does the fate of…unprepared match shooters depend.

In other target shooting news, I have been regularly been attending small-bore 50 meter practices this year, and apart from using up a bunch of ammo, I think I am seeing the benefits. Last time out I scored 398/400 (admittedly on the US NRA target, which has a more generous 10 ring than the ISSF equivalent). However, my groups have been steadily shrinking and I have been making progress in my wind reading and sight adjustments which has always been a weakness for me.

A feature of the more recent small-bore practices has been an informal competition between myself and one of the junior shooters. I think he’s around 15, and it was his father who proposed the “match”. We compete for a $1 prize, and so far I have won $2. But considering I have about two decades more experience than this kid, my winning margins have been disturbingly slim. In our first match I only beat him by about 5 points out of 1200. I have talked with my wife about whether I should deliberately throw a match sometime, I feel bad taking a dollar off a 15 year old boy (well, his father) every couple of weeks, but she pointed out that when he does eventually beat me, which probably won’t take too long, it will mean that much more.

I competed in a 300m match not so long ago, and unlike the first 3P 300m match I entered where I shot from the high-power sitting position instead of kneeling, this time I did it properly. This was the first time I have ever even tried the kneeling position (which I now realise reveals a lack of preparation on my part) but I managed to get set up and shot the string. At first I struggled, the angle of the sling and support meant the rifle recoiled diagonally, or at least seemed to, which took some getting use to. But as the string wore on my shots crept closer to the X ring and I felt like with a bit more practice I might not be too bad at it. Kneeling for 20 shots slowfire is considerably more comfortable than doing it sitting cross legged, so the whole event was a lot more comfortable than my previous experience. And that was reflected in my results, which were close enough to the other competitors to be satisfying, if not prize winning.

A few years ago I had considered trying to build a rifle in 6mm BR, but due to the costs associated with that caliber I ended up building my match AR in .223 Remington. I am now inspired to resurrect that idea with the goal of being more competitive at 300m international, and I don’t think it will cost me an arm and a leg either. One of the rifles I brought with me to the USA was an Interarms Mark X in .308 Winchester. This was my first hunting rifle that I converted from a target rifle by cutting down the barrel and the stock and adding a scope. And while it was always very accurate, it was always also very heavy. I now have three other hunting rifles that are much more practical for the purpose of hauling into tree stands and putting meat in the freezer, and since I kept the original sights, mounts, and match trigger for that rifle, I have a lot of the more expensive items on the shopping list already crossed off. I have a lead on a used barrel that might be made to work for me by exposing it to the correct chamber reamer, and I have a few options for stocks that aren’t terribly expensive…so this might actually happen, eventually.

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I finally dragged the Swing out for a shoot this summer. Gopher rifle club was hosting a 600 yard practice, and though I have previously taken my AR to these events, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to blow the cobwebs off one of my prized but long neglected target rifles. I was using a new load, and I don’t remember how I did (other than not terrible), but the weather was fantastic and I had a lot of fun. Laying in the hot sun wearing too many clothes trying to make holes in distant pieces of paper shouldn’t be fun, but for some reason there are few things that give me greater joy. There has recently been created an organisation – or maybe more of an informal group masquerading as an organisation – called the 2017 Palma Alliance. In order to gain membership to this “elite” group one must swear to henceforth shoot nothing but a .308 rifle with iron sights and 155gr bullets in midrange and long range prone matches. The goal is to encourage practice with Palma eligible equipment ahead of the long range championships in 2019. I have considered joining, but I want to have a look at the fine print before I commit. I am quite happy to drag out the Swing for practices at 600yds and beyond, but I have other rifles and calibers I’d much rather shoot at 300m, and I want to be sure that won’t disqualify me before I agree to the terms. Especially since they appear quite happy to name and shame members who break that rule.

Apart from some success making holes in paper, since my last post I have also had some success making holes in animals, but this post is getting a bit long and tomorrow is Christmas eve, so I think it can wait.

Merry Christmas

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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.

 

Shooting Results 15th July 2014

Yesterday for the first time I shot from standing (or offhand as they say over here) and sitting positions.

I attended a 200yd practice at my club. The discipline they were practicing for is NRA highpower which involves shooting from various positions at various distances and at various speeds. So far it has been a lot of fun and yesterday was no different.

The quote below was taken from the Minnesota Rifle and Revolver Association website (http://www.mrra.org/disciplines.htm). It explains the course of fire for NRA Highpower competition.

High Power

In NRA Conventional Highpower Rifle Competition, shooters compete with either a service rifle or a match rifle. The service rifle category is generally limited to either the unmodified M1, M14, M16, or their commercial equivalents such as an AR15 or M1A. Match rifles typically are of custom make, conforming to the desires of the shooter. They are more free of regulations than are the service rifles. All shooting, with the exception of limited long range events, are done only with metallic aperture, or peep, sights. Shooting consists of either across the course or long range matches. Shooters competing over the course are required to fire at distances of 200, 300, and 600 yards. In a typical Regional, or 800 point aggregate match, the course of fire is a total of 88 shots. Twenty record shots are fired in each stage, plus two sighting shots. Each shot is worth a maximum of ten points, with the entire match being worth a total of 800 points.
Over The Course (OTC)…

– The first stage of fire consists of two sighting shots and 20 shots for record in 20 minutes. These shots are fired at a distance of 200 yards in the standing/offhand position. The target used has a 3 inch X-ring, a 7 inch ten-ring. Each succeeding scoring ring is three inches wide. The aiming black is 13 inches wide, consisting of the 9,10, and X rings. The lowest value ring is the 5-ring. X’s are scored a vlaue of ten and are used for tie breaking purposes.

– The second stage of fire consists of two ten-shot strings fired rapid fire from the sitting position with a time limit of 60 seconds for each string. This string is also done at 200 yards using the same target as was used for offhand. The string starts with the shooter in the standing position. Once the clock starts, the shooter drops into the sitting position and shoots the 10 shots. If the shooter is using a semi-automatic rifle, 2 shots are fired then a clip change is required and the remaining 8 shots are fired. If the shooter is using an NRA type rifle, 5 shots are fired then a re-load is performed and the remaining 5 shots are fired.

– The third stage of fire is rapid-fire prone (lying down) at 300 yards. Each of two ten-shot strings are fired in a time limit of 70 seconds. The dimensions of the target are the same as the 200 yard target, with the exception of an additional ring of black to facilitate aiming. The string starts with the shooter in the standing position. Once the clock starts, the shooter drops into the prone position and shoots the 10 record shots. The shooter uses the same re-load procedure as with the 200 yard rapid sitting.

– The final stage is fired at a distance of 600 yards. Twenty shots for record are fired slow-fire from the prone position in 20 minutes. The target used has a 6 inch X-ring, and 12 inch 10-ring. The 9 and 8 rings are each three inches wider. Each ring of value below that is six inches wider. The aiming black consists of the 7, 8, 9, 10, and X rings, which constitutes a 36 inch aiming black.

I didn’t do very well at the offhand shooting. I found it hard to prevent the rifle swinging side to side, although I found I could hold the elevation quite nicely.

The rapid fire sitting was a bit awkward at first. It found it hard to get down into a position where the rifle was naturally supported and I could see through the sights, but after a lot of wriggling and struggling I found a relatively stable position and shooting commenced.

I did better than I expected. My first string went high, mostly in the 9 ring and I scored a 94/100. I dropped my sights a minute and my second string was better, centered on the target and mostly in the 10, I scored 97. My third string didn’t feel as good, but was better still. A 99 with one shot dropped into the 9 at 6 o’clock, which I had called at the time I shot it.

Not a bad start I thought.