What the Pros Use, How about Practice ?
You see a lot of article referencing, “What the Pros Use" and every one of them focuses on the gear. Well sure, it’s easy to point to this element of the sport as most matches record the equipment used by the competitors. I know we do, we have a complete form you fill out when signing up for the Sniper’s Hide Cup, that includes equipment. ??But this only tells a small part of the story.
What the Pros use is, their time wisely. They engage in deliberate practice and many have the talent to back up their performance. This stuff is sports science 101. There are plenty of groups who study the effect of practice vs talent. So the question you have to ask yourself is, can you buy success by studying what the Pros Use when it comes to gear only ? Will a Bushnell scope push you to the next level because Team Gap uses them ? ??In a few cases, sure, some of this goes to lessons learned. Picking the right combination of equipment to execute the solution needed to place well in a precision rifle competition is a valid consideration. Some stages favor a piece of gear vs other stages, but how you use it matters too. For me, the key is understanding what goes into these matches, how the match director has designed the stages dictates a lot. It’s basic problem solving, and his a big part of it. ??What the Pros Use most effectively is time. It’s everything they do between the matches to include using their gear properly. This takes practice.
It takes a certain amount of understanding of the stages you will find at a typical precision rifle match. Many of the matches have similar stages or concepts which allow the shooter to practice these skills effectively and not waste their time engaging in practice that will not yield the desired results. If you can already shoot a 3/8 MOA 5-shot group at 100 yards from the prone, it makes no sense to practice that over and over again. Instead you want to practice on the stages you struggle with. Most likely this means shooting from alternate positions, so get off your belly.
The Pros usually have barricades they practice off of more often than shooting in the prone. They are not engaging in endless load development, they have settled on a load that balances speed (Muzzle Velocity) and accuracy. Their dope has been boiled down so elevation is never an issue, it just about the wind. ??By using your time wisely you can concentrate on those difficult stages, you learn how to address the obstacles quickly and effectively. It’s all about building a stable position while managing your time. With stages that average 2 minutes for multiple shots from multiple positions you don’t have the luxury to waste 30 seconds building a stable position. The Pros use their time to understand what compromises have to be made. Close shots value speed, the farther shots balance towards accuracy.
We want to break the targets up into High Value and Low Value shots. The high value shots are one you can not miss vs the low value shots which have the least possibility for success. As a match director we always build shots into the stage the majority of shooters will not make or reach under the time. Where I see the biggest issue is, when shooters attempt to “Make it to the end of the stage” when I know it was designed not be completed. So instead of taking the shots they can hit under the time they race to the end missing a majority of shots that should have, and could have been hit. I am guilty of breaking this time management issue myself. You have to determine what your personal limit is. Is it better to hit all the targets from the first 3 positions or only hit 1 target on all 4 ?
A great lesson in this was the last Core Shooting Solution match, the Accuracy International Long Range Classic. On day two we repeated the Day One Stages allowing us to address these problems having learned from our mistakes the first day. It allowed you to take that hindsight we all have and put it to the test. For a new shooter attending a National Level match for the first time, you should take this opportunity as a learning experience before anything else. Instead of going into it nervous and afraid of your placement, use it as a learning experience. A way to fine tune your training for the next. Try taking notes so you can then go home and practice the stages that gave you the most trouble. It requires a certain amount of discipline to record the match from a training standpoint vs any other reasoning. But the dividends it will pay later cannot be understated.
If you go home and think, “Man I need a different caliber, scope, or stock” vs “This is what I need to practice” you have missed the point.
A great example of this is Mark Rosset of OTM. He shot in my Squad at Core Shooting and place in the Top 15 overall. Mark was shooting a .223 with 80gr AMAX bullets. His rifle was not wearing the latest chassis nor did he have something special by way of a scope, or muzzle brake. What he did have was excellent technique. ??So instead of asking someone what reticle they have in their scope, ask the next Pro you meet what their training regimen is ? Ask them how they use their time in-between the matches to practice, so when they arrive they feel better prepared. ??Gear can have an effect, but it’s not nearly as big as you think. So don’t get wrapped around the axle when it comes to scopes, stocks and reticles. Ask them what the best use of your time is. This will carry you much farther much sooner. As many have heard before, it’s not the Bow, but the Indian behind it, and there is a lot of truth to that.
Sport’s science says it’s about 10,000 hours to become an expert, however they have found this number can be adjusted due to talent. There are plenty of examples of newer shooters to the sport doing very well, very quickly. That is pure talent, and copying what rifle and scope they have is not gonna infuse you with more of it. In those cases where talent is not the defining factor, you need deliberate practice. Don’t overlook this by chasing the latest and greatest piece of equipment. Save a few bucks, buy more ammo and then, hit Home Depot and build a barricade for yourself. ??Dry practice is a great training tool. Putting that barricade in your garage, and practicing to set up your position quickly and effectively will go a long, long way towards higher placements than any given reticle will do. ??Finally, if you have other, like minded shooters in your area. Work together in order to push each other in a positive direction. Micro competitions, among friends, or even better, local matches meant to mimic National Match stages can be a super tool for the precision rifle shooter. Push each other to be stronger shooters. Don’t overlook your local matches and if you find the stages don’t fit your needs, meet with the match director and try steering them, (politely) in a different direction. It will not only make your area stronger from a shooters perspective, but it can help grown the sport which is the ultimate goal.
The gear comes later, and most of the piece of equipment that make the bigger differences early on are small things, and not the big expensive stuff.
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect, not just practice. If all you do is shooting from the prone, you’ll never excel. Get out of your comfort zone and practice the stuff you are bad at. ??