Rifle Set up & Zero for the Big Dance: SHC

I compete all over the United States, so my zero in Florida at damn near sea level may not be at the same POI in Colorado approaching 4,500 ASL. So with that being said, I always make sure that before the match, I get a good solid zero at the actual match location which is another great thing to keep in mind and in your data book!

Before any tactical rifle match, I always make it a point get my rifle “Jake” prepared. This is commonly known as getting your rifle to a “base line” condition. A base line lets me know if something is happening with my rifle during a match, as I have eliminated all potential mechanical issues. Depending on how many rounds I have shot, I start by giving my Ashbury Precision Ordnance 6.5 Creedmoor SuperSport precision rifle a really good cleaning.

After visually and physically confirming that my Jake is clear of any live ammunition, I use Froglube for my CLP and my lube for the rifles working parts. Don’t overly lubricate your rifles working parts, and you certainly don’t want excess oil in your chamber which can drive up your chamber pressures. Avoid using so much lubricant that it attracts dirt and debris which could potentially cause a malfunction, and quite possibly mess up your nails!

Next I move on to my SABER chassis and check the torque on my action screws. The shoulder stock and handgrip are ergonomically adjustable, so I make any adjustments necessary to fit the clothes I intend to wear at the match making sure that my rifle fits me. I confirm my cheekpiece height and snug up the bail ring thumbscrew, insure my length of pull and recoil pad drop mechanisms move freely with their push button adjustments. Last, I check my hand grip to trigger adjustment to make sure it’s good and tight. As I mentioned stock fitting can change with different clothing, and you know that Colorado weather can be tricky so bring your snivel gear!

To get my Bushnell Elite XRS 4.5-30 scope ready, I check the screw tightness and torque of the screws on the rail to receiver, scope ring base, cap and forend screws. I clean my optical lenses with a high quality lens paper and non-fogging cleaning solution (please don’t use your shirt tail) and insure that my windage, elevation and parallax knobs move smoothly. Just to confirm that all is well with my day optic, I aim at a very small distant target and I rotate the power range from low to high to make sure my crosshairs are still centered on my point of aim. This insures that there are no visual signs of crosshair movement throughout the power range.

After I know Jake is set up to perfection, I start putting rounds downrange. I always foul my rifle barrel after a good thorough cleaning which is around 12-15 rounds. You know what they say, “a fouled barrel is a happy barrel”. I set out by confirming my zero. I do this by shooting paper target groups at 100 yards. I shoot a group of 5 rounds to see if I’m still holding a tight group or if I need to make adjustments to my elevation and windage turrets. I make sure my groups are tight and my point of aim (POA) and point of impact (POI) are the same.

I compete all over the United States, so my zero in Florida at damn near sea level may not be at the same POI in Colorado approaching 4,500 ASL. So with that being said, I always make sure that before the match, I get a good solid zero at the actual match location which is another great thing to keep in mind and in your data book!

The day before the Snipers Hide Cup, you have an open range day. Here you can make sure you have a good zero and you can also check to make sure your DOPE is on. Last year, there were targets at 900 to 1000 yards, so insuring your come ups are a crucial part your game plan.

Basically when you’re setting up your rifle, go from the muzzle to shoulder stock to make sure everything is working properly. I do all these things to make sure my rifle is ready to perform. I know that from this point forward, it is me that I have to work on.

Here’s a quick Pre-Shoot checklist that I use for practice and competition and I hope it helps you too!

  • Check muzzle brake and/or suppressors for tightness
  • Check bore and chamber for obstructions and excess oil
  • Inspect, function and safety check the action, and bolt
  • Check all stock/chassis screws for tightness/torque
  • Check optic mounts for tightness/torque
  • Check stock/chassis adjustments for tightness
  • Check bipod attachment to stock/chassis
  • Check magazines for function and damage
  • Check your ammo to make sure it’s clean and you have what you need plus extra
  • Make sure you have tools with you to make any needed repairs you can or need to during the match!

Melissa Gilliland is a well known competitive shooter in tactical long range matches, She is sponsored by Ashbury Precision Ordnance Mfg, Bushnell Tactical Optics, Armageddon Gear, Wiebad bags, Spuhr mounts, Gungoddess.com and FrogLube. She can been seen online with her husband Jim Gilliland at Trigger Time TV and at her featured blog. For more information follow the links below

Melissa's Facebook Link

Life of Missy Blog