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PRACTICAL RIFLE POINTS
When at the range I often hear benchrest shooters boast of 1/4 inch groups at 100 yards. I always smile to acknowledge their enthusiasm and respond with, "Good shooting" but wonder if they really understand anything about the application of the rifle. Don't get me wrong, 1/4 inch groups at 100 yards can be very satisfying if you enjoy devoting an entire afternoon to shooting perfectly matched handloads from a 15 pound benchrest beauty, anchored in sandbags. This type of shooting may be satisfying, but is far from practical.
Unless you are shooting the fleas off a squirrel's back, game animals and most varmints (including the two-legged variety) will succumb to a bullet strike 2 to 3 inches off the point of aim. This is a 4 to 6 inch group at 100 yards! Most rifles built in the twentieth century will print better than a 6 inch group from the bench, so it is fair to say that the inherent consistency of your rifle has little bearing upon the kill. Rather, it is your ability to deliver the bullet strike -- as quickly as possible -- within 2 to 3 inches from your point of aim that separates life from death. To improve your ability to deliver a lethal bullet strike, you must practice quick assumption of field positions (with sling), center-of-mass aim, proper sight picture, and trigger control. The more you practice, the quicker and deadlier you become.
The following training drills will improve your speed, gun handling, and accuracy.
Place a humanoid silhouette target at 100 yards. Stand in an outdoor ready position, sling in place, eyes focusing through the muzzle to the target. Your point of aim is the target's center of mass. At the start beep from your shot timer, fire one shot from standing, then drop into an intermediate support position (sitting, squatting, or kneeling) and fire your second shot, then fall forward into a prone position and fire your third shot.
All three shots should fall 2 to 3 inches (4 to 6 inch group) from the center of mass. If your group size is smaller than 4 inches, then you should work on reducing your time. Remember, we are discussing practical accuracy. Risking the time for a perfect center-of-mass bullet strike will do you no good and may get you killed if your adversary fires first and strikes you 6 inches (12 inch group) from your sternum.
The benchrest is to the marksman as cocaine is to the athlete. Both create a false sense of security, and with repeated use, physical and psychological dependence ensues. Just say no!
If you have the range, you can vary this drill by placing steel targets at 100, 200, and 300 yards. Fire your first shot at 100 yards from standing. Fire your second shot at 200 yards from an intermediate support position. Fire your third shot at 300 yards from prone position. You cannot check group size with this drill, but you will hear a very satisfying clang...clang...clang when you complete the drill in proper form.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with terms such as outdoor ready, eyes-muzzle-target, sight picture, intermediate support positions, center of mass, and trigger control, I highly recommend that you spend a four day weekend with us at FRONT SIGHT. You will be most enlightened.
Long Range Lessons
When engaging a hostile, armed adversary, shots may and should be taken out to distances as far a one can see. Any hit on the enemy, is a good hit if it takes him out of the action, slows him down, or reduces his will to fight.
The taking of game is an entirely different matter. A true sportsman is honor bound to drop his noble prey with one shot. On a large animal, the one shot kill zone is about the size of an eight inch diameter circle. Therefore, to ensure the greatest probability of a one shot kill, the hunter must be capable of hitting an eight inch diameter target -- each and every time -- from improvised field positions, at unknown ranges, under time pressure. The maximum range at which the most distinguished shooter is capable of guaranteed hits under such conditions is surprisingly close -- 250 yards. Those who are uninformed may scoff at a maximum range of 250 yards and claim that they once shot game out to 600 yards. Their claim of taking game at such extreme distances may be true (likely exaggerated) but could they do it again? Could they do it every time? Have they ever done it since? The answer is no.
It is not what you may have done once that counts, but rather what you can consistently do on demand that measures your worth.
Examining a few of the factors involved in long range shooting will clearly demonstrate why 250 yards is pushing the maximum distance for guaranteed shot placement in the field.
Modern hunting rifles have inherent accuracy which allows benchvise groups of one inch or less at 100 yards. The inexperienced shooter may mistakenly assume that the rifle will shoot two inches at 200, three inches at 300... ten inches at 1000 yards. In reality, group size does not increase in straight line proportion to distance, but rather increases in slow geometric proportion to distance. In other words, the group sizes flares with distance. As an example: 1 inch at 100 may expand to 2.4 inches at 200, which becomes 4.5 inches at 300, enlarging to 6 inches at 400...36 inches at 1000 yards.
Place a 4.5 inch at 300 (benchvise group) rifle in the hands of a hunter who must shoot from a sitting position on uneven terrain at a target of unknown range, with time pressure of the animal moving at any moment, and you will see the group size double or triple. Minute of angle bench accuracy is magically transformed under field conditions into 3 inches at 100, 7 inches at 200, 10 inches at 300, and 20 inches at 400 yards.
Also take into consideration the difficulty of seeing and holding a precise aim point on the animal's kill zone at ranges in excess of 250 yards coupled with estimating bullet drop, holdover, and windage. These factors increase margin of error and group size thus limiting the distance in which the hunter can warrant his shot placement.
Fortunately, training is available at Front Sight to improve the hunter's ability to deliver first round stops. Appropriate equipment coupled with instruction in stalking skills, sling use, improvised field positions, ballistics, shot placement, trigger and breath control will help immensely. Please note that of all the factors involved, equipment has the least influence on the outcome of the shot. Modern rifle/ammunition combinations with or without optics are capable of accuracy far beyond the ability of 99% of the shooting population.
It is the man who must strive to shoot up to the level of his rifle. It is also the man who must clearly define the limits of his ability to deliver -- on demand -- a one shot kill. Settling for anything less constitutes shoddy character. Front Sight training is known to improve one's character.
For those planning a hunt, the best dollars spent are on training in the use of your weapon. Hunting guides see client after client book $15,000.00 hunts, show up with $3000.00 rifles and not have the ability to hit their game -- some at distances less than 100 yards! For a few hundred dollars more, you can attend a Four-Day, Practical Rifle Course at Front Sight to learn the skills of a rifleman which will make all the difference in your hunt.
We strongly recommend that hunting guides and booking agencies include a Four-Day, Practical Rifle Course at Front Sight as part of their hunting package. Even your seasoned hunters will learn new techniques and benefit from a tune-up of their skills. Call us for details on a special Front Sight rate.
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