Shooting Free from Distractions
A lot of our head goes into shooting. The human factor is the biggest variable we have to combat. Next to the wind, it’s the number one factor. The fundamentals of marksmanship guide us in so many ways, and deviating from them can cause both vertical and horizontal variations in our shot placement.
I recently did a private lesson for a gentleman who shoots for a living. He ran into an incident where his confidence was shaken and needed a fresher course. Immediately during our fundamental eval I noticed one of the problems, and the effect was, his initial zero was off by 1.5” from center. He was hitting low left of the target. We worked together and after only 40 rounds we were ready to leave so prior to going I had him check zero.
His zero was right back to the center of the 3/4” dot we were shooting and we never adjusted his scope. That mental mistake was costing him 1.5” at 100 yards.
It’s important we get out of our heads sometime. If you shoot alone like I do, you end up making numerous adjustments on the fly never stopping to analyze the cause and effects. So here I want you to take the time to shoot distraction free for a few series.
Put down the phone, move the target back and paint a dark neutral color, or better yet, shoot it on paper where you cannot see, and really focus on your fundamentals.
Paper beyond 400 yards is the best solution, this way you get mix of elements at play, and you should not be able to see the holes appear.
Start off by doping your rifle, both windage and elevation and do this based on your normal wind calls. In other words don’t do anything different. It’s best if you engage in this drill first thing so the calls are not only blind, but cold. This is a great way to practice the wind, and exactly what the drifts are doing. If the wind is consistent you can bring a kestrel down to the target when moving to analyze the shot groups.
Next focus in on the target and shoot your group, slow fire. Focusing on body position, use of the support hand with the rear bag, and most importantly trigger control. If need be, record your “Call” for each, but if you break position be sure to reset it properly and don’t just roll into the next.
Then, go downrange and analyze your target. Look at the group, determine it’s center and see how that measures up to your Point of Aim. Look at he horizontal spread and distance from center. Is the groups moved with the wind or against it ? Does the group appear open and strung out, or tight and just compensated for by the wind call ? All this information should help build confidence and fine tune your DOPE.
If steel is all your have, make sure you paint the plate a color where the shot groups don’t show up as well. Sure you’ll still hear the hits, but you’ll hopefully refrain from making those micro adjustments that center you up.
A few times going distraction free and not making routine, random adjustments without any recording of the data will be very helpful as your progress along.