Precision Rifle Series- Intro to Competition- part 2
Match Preparation and Shooting Tips.
Match Preparation is a very important in determining the outcome of your success when facing the challenges of shooting in a competition. You really can’t just show up to match unprepared to shoot well, not against these guys. Being prepared starts way before you get to the match. Usually you have a couple of months from the time you sign up for a match to the day it starts. It’s during this time you need to really focus on becoming prepared for the match. The unique and challenging thing about our sport is all of our events present a different style and different challenge from match to match.
1. Study up-First things first, learn all you can about the shooting event. You should invest some time and study past events, look for match reviews, pictures and videos so you can mentally place yourself in the action as well as just have a comfortable feel for the match venue, pace of the match, stages, match director style, etc. 2. Pick your Event- We all have strengths and weaknesses in our shooting abilities and with the variation of style from event to event, if you’re a little wary of which event to start shooting, start with ones that offer a style of shooting you’re more comfortable with. For instance, I prefer events that offer a majority of long distance prone shots in rough terrain and I would rather have medium to strong winds too. Others may prefer matches that offer the opposite challenges like close range precision shots on paper or movers. 3. Practice to Perfection- Now that you got an idea of the style of the event, you should try to set up 5 stages and practice to perfection. For example, I might set up an array of 5 targets that offer different wind angles, a TYL stage, a chaos stage, a barricade stage and some sort of run and gun stage. Typically you will see most if not all of these stages at a match anyway. The key here is to use bigger targets at first (2moa-3moa). Remember we are building confidence and practicing to perfection. Make your first run a dry run; simulate the stage of fire under a par time while dry firing and dialing the come-ups for the various target ranges. Next, it’s time to go hot. Be sure to use a par timer so you condition yourself to the pace needed, however, during initial practice, hits is what matters most. Run through all of your practice stages until you have made first round hits on every target, thus perfection. Repeat this process 2-3 times, over different days if you can. You may think it is boring to shoot the same big targets over and over, but the key is not to practice sloppy counting on outside or edge hits but you should be watching your shot and making the corrections to make perfect shots as close to center as possible. 4. Get out of your comfort zone- after you have mastered your practice course it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. This can mean a variety of things like, go practice when it is cold & windy, not when it just calm and nice conditions. It could also mean, get off your belly and shoot from props you normally don’t (a tree branch, rock, fence post, tripod etc.). Go sprint 50 yards and drop down and fire 5 rounds on paper at 1” dot. You may now want to change out your target array to a smaller set 1 MOA or less so you can focus making the most accurate wind call and also challenging yourself to spot your misses and make the proper correction.
He who sees, wins- It’s no secret that exceptional eyesight is probably the most valued asset amongst top shooters. Just look at the best shooters in our sport and I would bet most if not all have better than 20/20 vision. But even with great eyesight, you must train your eyes to see, then you have to know what you saw and finally you have to believe what you saw.
-Training your eyes- the great thing about doing this is you don’t have to shoot your precious bullets to do it, you can spot for a buddy or get behind a spotter and help out at a match. I would recommend that you help be a spotter at a match as part of your training, it is truly amazing how much you can learn watching 1000’s of bullets flying through the air. You also get to see every shooter and how he or she approaches the stage. When practicing behind your own rifle it’s a little more challenging because you have to manage recoil for the optimum sight picture. A couple tips on spotting your shot, first I try to study the entire target area (this includes about 1 mil around the target). Take notice of any hits on target (paint missing) Are most the hits on one side or another? Also observe the area surrounding the target, is there fresh dirt impacts to one side or the other? This can tell that most of impacts are favoring one side and chances are people estimating the wind wrong. Chances are they were using a wind call similar to yours. Once you have closely examined the target area, it’s time to send the shot. Use what you have examined to make any last second change in wind holds. It is extremely important to remember your wind hold at the time of the shot breaking. Next, while managing recoil keep your eyes open and alert to the slightest changes in light, use your wide angle vision and try to continuously scan the target area. If your eyes are trained up you will be able to pinpoint the impact, being able to see the shot and make the correction is probably the most important thing you should practice.
-Knowing what you saw- Even the best of shooters sometimes struggle with knowing what they saw. They most likely were rushed or came off the scope saw a splash or an impact but were unable to pinpoint it exactly, for example they hit the right edge of the target on a strap and it swung sideways first into the impact side but the shooter only caught the target swinging the back the opposite way and is unsure what side he hit. Another very common missed spot is “was that high or low? Depending how the target is laid in the terrain it can be very tricky to discern high or low. I often will see shooters shoot over the target, but the dust signature will be below the target because of the angle of the land. It’s very important to take in account the angle of the shot and the land to pinpoint the actual impact. Another common hard to spot shot is an off the edge miss into the wind and dust signature appears directly behind the target. Most people will think that was an elevation miss and adjust up or down however a slight wind adjustment will get them on target.
-Believing what you saw- This is really the simple part but hard for newer shooters to grasp. At some point during a match you’re going to get surprised at how far off you were from the target. At that point you have to quickly re-access some things. For example, one time I was shooting at targets at 600,800, 900, and 1000 yards. With two shots each, I was able to clean 6, 8 and 9 with an increasing right wind hold (1 mil, 1.4 and 1.6) but when I got to the 1000 I missed a whole 1 mil right with a 1.8 mil hold, instead of accessing why I missed right, I immediately said to myself that can’t be right and fired again without changing anything. The important lesson to learn is to quickly gather the correction the bullet gives you and make the right correction. In general, shooters seem to underestimate the correction, for example they miss off the right edge by a tenth of mil and only correct two-tenths to get on target when they should have corrected .3 or .4 to get to center of target. Sometimes you can put it all together, make the right corrections and still miss, if this happens continuously you probably have some other problems and you should try to go re-zero or compromise a stage to ensure you have a good zero. Many times I have been the victim to a loose suppressor, brake, barrel, scope mount, stock etc. Smart shooters will mark or index any screws or thread connections and periodically check the rifle throughout the match.
Part 3 Coming Soon “The Mental Game” from the nation’s top rifle shooters.To Read Part One: Precision Rifles Series Competition
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