Dec 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

Everyone should write a quotable, pithy line. Here's mine:

Learning to pay attention to detail includes learning which details to pay attention to.
- John M. Buol Jr.

Dec 15, 2009

Evolution of the Modern Technique

Direct from Jeff Cooper himself: The Evolution of the Modern Technique

It appears that many shooters do not understand about the evolution of the Modern Technique of Pistolcraft - nor, as to that, about the technique itself. Herewith a quick synopsis:

In the beginning the pistol was a cavalry weapon - an attempt to extend the reach of both saber and lance. Thus it was a tool to be used with one hand, the other being needed to control the horse. Quickly, however, it was discovered to be the equalizer, as effective afoot as ahorse. Despite this, its ancestry ruled for a couple of centuries, and armies continued to regard it as one-handed clear up into the late twentieth century.

Then came practical shooting, the revolution, and the one-hand gun evolved into the two-hand gun. The revolution was born in Southern California, at Big Bear Lake, and I know about it because I was intimately involved in it.

When recovering from a shattered radius at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico in 1947, I "audited" the FBI Academy and ran right into what the Bureau called its "Practical Pistol Course," which, while hardly practical, was a great step forward from conventional target shooting. In company with Howie Tatt (then captain, later colonel) I dreamed up a military course of fire for the pistol which was especially suited for infantrymen of all grades whose duties precluded the packing of a rifle - drivers, mechanics, tankers, artillerymen, staff officers, etc. Target shooting did not do this. We sought improvement.

But the war ended, and as a civilian (sort of) I wound up at Big Bear Lake in California, where I continued to play around with the practical pistol. Contests were organized, beginning with a straightforward quick-draw match called "The Leatherslap," which everyone enjoyed and became an annual event. Contestants wanted more, so a monthly program began which emphasized variety and realism. No two matches could be held in the same year, and the challenges should replicate actual gunfights - so far as practical.

The creative genius was Jack Weaver, a deputy sheriff and pistol hobbyist, who observed, thought it over, and concluded that two hands are better than one. He placed seventh the first year, then came back the second year and wiped us out. Some were using the cowboy hip-shot, some the Applegate "instinctive" method, and I was shooting one-handed long-point from the target range. Jack walloped us all - and decisively - using a six-inch Smith K-38. He was very quick and he did not miss. And, of course, he shot from the Weaver Stance, which was, and is, the way to go.

So when I began to teach pistolcraft, first at Big Bear, then at Gunsite, I emphasized variety, realism, and the Weaver Stance. I thought that I covered the subject, but I ran into a theoretical obstacle. I discovered that there is a basic divergence in purpose between the amateur and the professional. The amateur seeks excellence. The professional seeks adequacy. The hobbyist shooter wants to be better. The cop wants to be good enough.

Dec 14, 2009

Wearing Helmets on the Range (shut your mouth!)

A commonly regurgitated myth on military ranges is that there is a safety requirement regarding the wearing of helmets (Kevlar, ACH, MICH, etc.) and/or body armor (IBA, Interceptor, etc.)

WRONG! This is typical monkey-see, monkey-do nonsense perpetrated by personnel inventing non-existent safety issues rather than reading the actual, written regulation. I invented a cartoon character and mascot named "Marvin the Safety Maggot" for such folks.

Check out this a photo of a two star General shooting a .50 caliber machine gun on an Army range. I found this on the front page of AKO (Army Knowledge Online)

Here is the caption:
Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commanding general of Fort Benning, shoots at targets Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, at Red Cloud Range using a M2 A1 .50-caliber machine gun. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Not good enough for you? Any literate person can browse the written regulations on range safety.

Army Regulation on Range Safety: AR 385-63
Training Circular on Ranges: TC 25-8
DA Pamphlet on Range Safety: DA PAM 385-63

Dec 1, 2009

Skill Continuum for Gun Owners

I devised a simple "skill continuum" that has proven very accurate.

Beginner and novice shooters mostly discuss which guns and ammo are "best." Ironically, at this level, choice of guns and ammo have little discernable effect.

Intermediates mostly discuss which shooting standards (courses, classes, matches, the targets used, etc.) are best.

Experts define the standards.

We would be better off discussing what shooting skill levels are best to hunt game, defend yourself, train police and military, etc., and how to convince 80 million plus gun owners to aspire to those levels.

Nov 18, 2009

Masters and Marksmanship

"I have seen one hundred men who would call themselves Masters yet if you took all their skills added together, you would not have the makings of three good students, let alone one Master…of this art there are few Masters in the world"
- Master Fiore dei Liberi, Flos Duellatorum, 1410

The quote above is 600 years old and is about swordsmanship. Unfortunately, not much has changed. In the field of marksmanship it has worsened.

How do you determine if someone truly is a master at marksmanship and worthy to teach? Jeff Cooper laid out the following criterion which remains the best I've seen to date.

What does it take to be a Master of Weaponcraft?

First, it requires demonstrated expertise with the chosen weapon. A master need not be a world champion in competition, but he does need to be a dangerous competitor. He must be able to do everything that the weapon is capable of doing, and doing it on demand. He must be able to show his students exactly what is expected of them, while not, at the same time, intimidating them.

Second, the master must understand the theory of the technique of his instrument. He must know the geometry and physiology behind the shooting process. Generations of military and police instructors have got by without this by simply emphasizing "This is the way we do it!" While that may be good enough for government work, it is not the best way to success. I remember from long years ago an encounter with a great master of the saber. We youngsters depended almost entirely upon speed, but this gentleman showed us that speed was unimportant without timing. To demonstrate he would choose a pupil and than say exactly how and where he would hit him - and then do it. When your master can do that to you, you tend to believe what he says.

Third, the master must have a genuine desire to impart. Here is where the master differs from the mere expert. He must desire excellence in his students more than excellence in himself, and seek at all times to produce that. We have all known some very good shots who have failed as teachers because of a lack of this essential desire.

Fourth, the master demonstrates "command presence," which is a combination of articulation, vocal tone, posture, and attitude. The master must be able to command without rank. Obviously, true masters of weaponcraft are not common. During the time I ran the school at Gunsite, I sought continually for people who displayed the necessary qualifications, but I did not find a lot of people who made the grade. That is doubtless one reason why really good marksmanship is so rare. Very few practitioners are truly qualified to teach it.

Nov 4, 2009

Bore Yourself Into Shooting Better


Chapman Academy of Practical Shooting

Students often ask us, how and what should I practice. The short answer? Basics. Remember what they are? Position, Grip, Trigger Control and Sight Picture.


Think about that. When that round went low, were you looking at the target when you should have been looking at the sights? When that second shot when high, did you have a strong grip and locked shooting position? It all goes back to the basics.


Answer, only if it’s perfect practice. Recall the concept of Muscle Memory Training, that is really what practice is all about, creating the proper muscle memory training so under stress you can rely on it to execute the basics correctly. The more you do it correctly in practice the more likely you are to do it correctly when you need to. Having said that we need to address the speed at which you practice. Most of us watch the top shooters on various TV shows in different competitions. They shoot with blinding speed, naturally we want to do the same. What we are seeing is the product of years and thousands of rounds of “perfect practice”. Let us put it this way. If given the opportunity to drive a high performance racecar would you just jump in and start driving it at 200 MPH, or would you take a little time to “work up to it”?

Each year in May we get the opportunity to see and talk to all the top shots from around the world who compete in the Bianchi Cup. This year’s match is May 23 - 26. I have asked several of them this question: “If you had a hundred rounds to practice with, how would you do it?” Almost to a shooter, they say "I would fire 70 to 80 of them in basic exercises, making sure I was still executing correct basics. The other 30 to 20 rounds would be for getting ready for the match." See, I told you; you were seeing the product of Perfect Practice.


Yep, you need to have goals when you practice. Unfortunately we humans are not capable of dealing with a lot of different things at once. Therefore, we need to set goals and work on one thing at a time, until we reach our ultimate objective.

Anatomy of a Perfectly Boring Perfect Practice Session

My goal: To consistently shoot a bank of plates in four seconds without missing from ten yards.

Step one: dry practice session, just to make sure I can still press the trigger without the front sight moving. Maybe five to ten minutes worth.

Step two: live fire without time limits, making sure I hit each plate with one shot. It is not going to do me any good trying to do it fast if I cannot hit the plates anyway. After five banks in a row without missing, move on to the next step.

Step three: shooting on time, but not fast. Set the timer for 6 seconds and again set a goal as in step two. Five banks in a row without missing a plate and within the time limit of six seconds.

Step four: same as step three but lower the time to five seconds.

Step five: same as the others but again lower the time limit to four seconds.

Now if that doesn't bore you, nothing will.

It not only takes perfect practice; it also takes will power, determination, concentration, and dedication on your part.

Oct 28, 2009

New Cartridges for Shooting (Magnum of the Month)

A voice of reason boomed:
“It's got to where writers and gunmakers have to invent a niche to justify making another chambering ... This plague of "Magnums" has got shooters trying shots beyond their ability and flinching while doing it.”

New cartridges are little more than a sales gimmick. There hasn't been a major Browning/Mauser/Garand-type development for decades now.

Inventing a truly new kind of firearm is hard. Inventing a "new" cartridge is comparatively quite easy. And buying into a different cartridge requires a different firearm to shoot it (or at least another barrel) and the ammunition to go along with it. This forces the purchase of another firearm and ammo/components/reloading dies. Of course, that new acquisition will require sights, accessories, maybe a new gun safe to hold it all... $$$

Gun and ammo companies can (and seem to) crank out a "hot new" cartridge every month. Folks on the publishing side are only too happy to praise this "hot new" for answering a question that nobody ever asked.

The fact that none of this helps make us better shooters, does little to get more people participating, and doesn't promote shooting to the general public never gets mentioned.

So what wrong with new chamberings, bullets, and loading techniques? Isn’t that all great for shooting?

A wise man noted, "Perhaps a better question is whether or not the droves of average shooters snapping up the new short action big bottles can make full use of the ballistic advantage under field conditions?"

We don't need new cartridges because most shooters can't shoot up to the 100 year+ old ones (.30-06, or even .30-30) we already have. These new developments will not help typical gun owners become better marksman. Thus, we "need" new cartridges like the auto industry "needs" a V7 engine.

Some people argue that new calibers are good because it encourages people to buy more stuff, which boosts the financial status of the gun industry. If it’s there, people will buy it.

This can work, but is an inefficient way to boost sales. New calibers cost money in development and time, raising expenses. They dilute inventory, because a dealer has to stock a larger variety of ammo/components and the firearms that chamber them all. That means mark ups have to be higher. All so we can sell a few extra guns and a little more ammo.

A better answer to boosting the gun economy is to encourage more participation in events where people actually use firearms, ammunition and accessories on a regular, on going basis.

Look at the retail cost difference between premium trap loads (about $5 for 25) and premium sabot slugs (about $10 for 5). The hull, powder and primer are virtually identical, and the cost difference between the different wads is negligible. True, quality shot is cheaper than a swaged slug, but not enough to justify the $1.80 per round retail cost difference.

Quality jacketed bullets for dangerous game, like 500 grain Round Nose, can be had for 40 to 50 cents apiece retail in 50 count boxes. 405-grain cast, sized and lubricated lead bullets for the .45/70 sell for about 10 cents each when bought in bulk. Where does the rest of the cost for making premium sabot slug loads go?

Even if there is some technical reason that makes the premium sabot slugs so expensive to make, where’s the option for practice ammo? Replace that expensive slug with a simple lead cylinder that is the same shape and weight. Such projectiles wouldn’t have to be lubricated or even have a grease groove as the slug travels up the bore encased in a plastic sabot. Packaged and sold similar to trap loads, there is no reason they couldn’t be made available for a similar price.

So what’s the real problem? Trap/skeet/clays/5 Stand/etc shooters actually shoot. During the season, typical trap leagues meet a few times a week and the shooters will run through at least two rounds of 25 birds per round. Bottom-of-the-score-sheet trap shooters who never practice and shoot only the minimum required to stay in the league will burn up at least 4 boxes (100 rounds) of ammo each week for the several months the league runs.

Sheer volume via regular, organized shooting means the mark up on shot shells is more reasonable. Consider that Trap and Skeet take exactly 25 shots for one round and shot shells are packaged in boxes of 25. This is no coincidence!

Now look at the typical deer hunter, who buys one box all year, shoots 3 off a bench, says "good enough" and hunts with the rest. Many scattergunners shoot more to warm up at each session than most venison fetchers shoot all year!

The cost of lead bullets also bears this out. For those of you old enough to remember, compare the cost and quality of lead pistol bullets from the '70's to today. Back then, they were soft, swaged things and sold by the hundred. Now, they're sold by the thousand, the quality is much higher, and they're less expensive. When you factor in inflation, the value is even better!

Why? The '70's saw the rise and promotion of action pistol shooting. More shooters shooting much more ammo spurned more producers. The mark ups were kept in check by sheer volume. Many sellers offer only three calibers (9mm, .40 and .45) in a one or two weights making inventory easier and cheaper.

More shooters shooting more means more sales for more manufacturers. This raises consumption and increases competition in the market place, keeping costs in line, and encouraging shooters to shoot even more...

Why hasn’t some independent manufacturer stepped in to fill the demand for the shotgun-slug deer hunters? Because the demand isn’t there to fill, at least not yet. The major ammo companies offering premium target shotshells also offer a cheaper variant for practice. These same companies make components available for reloaders, and smaller independent companies step in to offer even lower cost variants. Why? The demand is there for clay shooters, but not for slug deer hunters.

We don't need no stinking new calibers. We need more shooters, true Firearm Users, and we need to encourage them to shoot more often.

Remington, a gun company, has sponsored a NASCAR team. So does the NRA. The MBA-types in the gun industry realize that spending advertising dollars on car events is more cost effective (a better CPM) than spending those dollars on shooting events.

That's how pathetic we've become.

Oct 21, 2009

A Hunter's Image

A Hunter's Image

by Ward M. Clark

In this age of media, of news by sound byte, a sad fact of life is this: What we seem to be, may be, in many ways, more important than what we actually are.

Politicians have learned this lesson well. The modern political campaign is a battle of ten-second clips, of demagoguery, of appearances; the age of the statesman has given way to the age of the salesman. Yes, politicians have learned the value of appearances very, very well.

It's a lesson we as hunters could do well to take to heart.

It's a lesson I'd like to drive home to every member of the hunting camp I drove past this past weekend in Colorado's White River National Forest. The large group of bow hunters, afield in pursuit of deer and elk, had several cases of beer piled up in front of the trailer, in plain view of the road. Four ATV's parked outside the trailer beg the silent question of any non-hunters traveling this popular scenic road, "are they just drinking and riding those things around all day? Are these hunters just a bunch of drunks driving around shooting at things?"

These bow hunters could be, and most likely are, perfectly ethical, sober, and responsible hunters. But that doesn't matter a damn. The non-hunter who drives by their camp, sees no further than the stacked cases of beer. And it's not just non-hunters who are affected.

Last November, I was hunting elk on Hardscrabble Mountain, in this same stretch of the White River. Two partners and I made a careful, pre-sunrise approach into a remote drainage, shuffling in the freezing dark through twelve inches of snow. The peace surrounded us, the only sound an occasional whispered comment and the snow crunching under our boots.

As the sun was rising, however, that changed. A distant sputter slowly grew into the roar of a four-wheeled ATV, chugging slowly and noisily to the top of a nearby ridge, off the marked road and in violation of Forest Service rules regarding off-road vehicles. The driver proceeded to sit on the ATV, sky lined on the ridge, rifle across his knees. It's incredible that anyone could be oblivious to the fact that the noise of his four-wheeled conveyance had already resulted in every elk in Eagle County decamping for greener pastures.
In the interests of delicacy I will refrain from repeating my comments at that moment; suffice it to say we were less than pleased at the ruin of a morning's effort by a thoughtless cretin.

Why? Is this thoughtlessness, laziness, stupidity, or some combination of the three?

Again, it's image – and the non-hunter who hears the story angrily recounted later, is going to come away with a negative impression of all hunters. Given some of the people I see afield each deer/elk combined season here in Colorado, sometimes I wonder if they're justified.

Another example – an almost weekly event here in the Denver area are the massive gun and hunting equipment shows put on by several promoters. In almost every show, T-shirt vendors are present to peddle a variety of slogans in this modern walking billboard format – some of them are funny, some thought provoking, some just stupid.

A year or so back, I was at one of the larger Denver shows, looking to pick up a box of .338 Barnes X-bullets, and some other odds and ends, but mostly just enjoying the show. One of the T-shirt vendors was operating, as usual, on a three-table spread.

In front of me, a boy of perhaps 18 was shepherding his equally young girlfriend through the show. When the two, holding hands, stopped at the T-shirt vendor's table, her eyes went immediately to a shirt with a picture of a kitten, in the center of a riflescope recticle – and the legend, "I Love Cats – Dead Ones!" The look of horror and shock on this young girls' face spoke volumes.

Given the short-lived nature of teenaged relationships, it's more than likely this girl won't end up long-term with a responsible hunter of shooter; and when a ballot initiative regarding guns or hunting comes up, she'll remember that T-shirt. "Hunters? What a bunch of jerks" she'll most likely say to her friends, and she'll vote against us.

This sort of thing is stupid, stupid beyond description. This isn't the 1800's anymore. It's the Age of Perception, the Age of the Sound Byte, the Age of Media. What we seem to be, is in many ways more important than what we actually are. It's time we started to think about that. More importantly, it's time we started acting on that.

We can't afford to be seen as careless, thoughtless, or unlawful. We can't afford to make a negative impression in the minds of even one non-hunter. What, then, should we do to further the public's perception of us as respectable, responsible sportsmen and women?

Put your beer inside the tent or trailer. Park your ATV and walk into the backcountry. Exercise just a little discretion in your choice of T-shirts. Don't be stupid.

Picture yourself and your actions as a non-hunter would. They, not we, are in the majority – they, not we, will decide the future of hunting in this country. We can't afford to even appear irresponsible.Remember this in your next trip afield.

Oct 14, 2009

Football Kills Kids

Fatality Fumble: Football kills as many students as school shootings

WASHINGTON, DC -- High school football killed as many students last year as did guns -- which means politicians should either stop using school shootings as an excuse to attack the Second Amendment or start passing "football control" laws, the Libertarian party has said.

"According to the latest statistics, a football is as deadly as a gun," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director. "So why do first downs continue to be exalted while the Second Amendment continues to be vilified?"

A new study from the National School Safety Center (NSSC) reported that there were 15 "school-associated deaths" caused by violent crime -- including guns -- during the 1999-2000 school year. That number is unchanged from the 1998-1999 school year, when 15 students were killed by guns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been zero student gun deaths so far during this school year. By comparison, 15 high school football players died during regular season and playoff games in 1999, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Another 11 athletes have died in high school games and practices since late August of this year -- and that number is expected to rise during playoffs. In addition, another 29 players this year have suffered "catastrophic injuries" on the field, leaving them paralyzed or seriously disabled.

These numbers have Libertarians wondering: Given the carnage on our nation's high school football fields, why the outcry about guns -- and the utter silence about football fatalities?

"When 15 students are tragically killed by guns during a school year, every politician and anti-gun lobbying group expresses practiced outrage, and immediately demands new laws that infringe on the Second Amendment," said Dasbach. "But when 15 students are tragically killed by football, the silence is deafening.

"If the preventable death of any young person is a tragedy -- and it is -- then why wasn't there a Million Mom March demanding an end to high school football? Why no calls from Bill Clinton for 'reasonable' football control laws? Why no saturation media coverage as dead football players are carried off the field in stretchers? Why no class-action lawsuits against Spaulding for manufacturing cheap ‘Saturday Night Special’ footballs?

"Could it be that politicians get more yardage attacking guns than attacking football?"

This "outrage gap" is especially puzzling, said Dasbach, because the Constitution doesn't guarantee an explicit right to "keep and bear" footballs. "Football is nothing more than entertainment and sport. Guns are a Constitutionally protected civil right," he said. While every new gun-control law triggers a fight about the scope of the Second Amendment, football has no such protection. "If he wanted to, President Clinton could lobby for an absolute ban on high school football, in order to save the lives of 15 young people every year. The fact that he doesn't, and the fact that groups like Handgun Control, Inc. don't demand such legislation, reveals that their real motive is not to save lives, but to advance an anti-gun political agenda."

Of course, Libertarians wouldn't support a ban on football any more than they support a ban on guns, said Dasbach.

"Protecting the lives of young people who play high school football is the job of parents, school officials, and coaches, not politicians," he said. "And protecting the Second Amendment is the job of every American, since so many politicians have fumbled their duty to defend the fundamental human rights -- including the right to keep and bear arms – guaranteed in the Constitution."

Oct 7, 2009

Is Shooting Boring?

Anyone who owns a TV and a firearm realizes that shows about shooting are conspicuously absent.

I've heard people make comment that the reason shooting competitions don't make TV is because they are "boring" or don't have "spectator appeal." Yet we have things like golf and bowling on TV. Why?

These sports organizations have managed to convince television networks that these activities will bring an audience and the networks have convinced their advertisers of the same. The organizers of these televised sports have found a way to video their respective sport to make them appeal to a wide enough audience. There are enough regular viewers to keep the broadcasts going.

That is the only reason any sports show makes it on television.

If, and only if, we as shooters can convince the networks that competitive marksmanship has the same appeal, we will have a shooting program.

Consider that a show with less than 20 million viewers enjoys a prime time slot on a major TV network (CBS, ABC, NBC). The Super Bowl, which enjoys the largest audience of *any* show has just over 100 million viewers.

There are 80 million gun owners in this country. What would happen if the gun owners asked for a shooting show? The so-called anti-gun media will not ignore the repeated requests of tens of millions of viewers. It would be financial suicide.

When enough people make enough requests for shooting shows, we will have them. If the requests never materialize, then the current venue will remain.

It's as simple as that.

Sep 30, 2009

Women and Shooting

I caught a newspaper article with the headline, "Woman Kicker Vies for Penn State Job."

The article announced that, "Stephanie Weimer ... will try out with other [football] walk-ons." Ms. Weimer was a skilled and experienced soccer player, with her claim to fame being a 36-yard field goal. If she makes the team as a kicker she will be the first woman to make Penn State's football team.

The very next day I heard a radio interview with racing legend Buddy Baker. In discussing the future of stock car racing he commented that the sport is gender neutral but few women race. He went on to say that the first woman to get with a winning team in NASCAR can write her own ticket.

Why am I telling you this and what does it have to do with shooting?

Nancy Thomkins-Gallagher took the High Power championship at Camp Perry in 1998. Her daughter has taken the Wimbledon cup a number of times. I know of more than one match that no longer offers a trophy for "High Woman" because female shottists take the whole match so often. The trophy is now reserved for the top shooter who is the opposite gender of the HoA champion. Should a male manage to win overall, then it goes to the top shooting woman, and vice versa.

This situation is hardly a recent development. Even in the days when girls were largely discouraged from playing sports women have been winning major shooting tournaments. For example, Gertrude Backstrom, not content with being a multiple High Woman champion in Conventional Pistol, took the whole thing among the civilian shooters in 1957.

How about Margaret Murdoch, a Silver medallist in 3 Position at the 1976 Olympics (the was before the IOC stupidly segregated the genders in shooting.) She barely lost to Lanny Bassham, then World Champion and Silver medallist in 1972, by 1 point after in a 2400-point event. These are a few prominent examples. There were and are countless others.

So reading about how "enlightened" Penn State is for considering a female player for the first time in the 21st Century made me chuckle. A couple decades behind the power curve, bozo. What's more, she hasn't been
accepted on the team; she has just been granted the opportunity to try out. Auto racing is better, with several female IRL drivers for example, but NASCAR has yet to catch up.

But, then again, maybe we are the real clowns. Penn State and Baker are savvy enough to make it known to the general public that they are slowly but surely smashing their glass ceilings. We shooters never really had one, but never bothered to tell anyone about this fact.

Most shooting and hunting organizations give the notion of promoting our activity to women a bit of lip service. They possess the demographics showing women are largely not participaing, and the psychographics telling them that attitudes show they would *if* asked and promoted properly.

The "promoted properly" is the falling down point. When more than 94 percent of card-carrying members of the NRA (men and women) don't participate in and are largely ignorant of NRA-sponsored shooting events, why should we be surprised that the public at large is ignorant as well?

Sep 23, 2009

Prepare for the New Year

Imagine opening your local paper or tuning into the local radio station and regularly receiving positive coverage of shooting activities.

Folks living and working within a 10-mile radius of your sportsman's club, including people you've never met, recognize your name and react encouragingly. The activities held at your range are as well known as the most popular high school and other local sporting endeavors.

Imagine this turn around happening not just within your lifetime, but within the next half dozen years or so. Imagine it happening at clubs all over the United States, and for less cost than affiliating with any other national-level shooting or hunting organization. And imagine that the only work you have to contribute is to simply attend about a dozen events a year, and have a good time doing it.

When I offer this notion to hunters and gun owners I sometimes run into resistance. "Don't you believe this is a good service idea at a reasonable price?" I'll ask.

"Yes, but you can't do that. It can't be done."

Nay Sayers uttered this same "encouragement" to John Garand, because a semi-automatic rifle with full power ammo "can't be done." Few believed the Wright brothers would achieve powered flight and latter questioned the notion of passenger flights. Computer experts once believed there was a world market for, perhaps, five computers. Individuals would never need nor want to own one.

Part of the problem is the conditioning we gun owners and hunters have received. We're told that positive media coverage for hunter-shooters isn't possible.

Locally, numerous shooting event organizers have proven that this is not merely possible but likely IF, and only if, clubs know how to generate such publicity and are able to continue putting on quality, newsworthy events.

Where most organizations fail is providing the infrastructure to make this happen. Hunter-shooters join to shoot, and end up having administrative and marketing tasks dumped in their laps. Too often they aren't willing to accept this lousy no-pay secretary and publicist job, and the organization refuses to provide any real help beyond encouraging them to work harder.

NASCAR administrates and promotes races. Racecar drivers race. The drivers don't have to waste their time organizing press conferences or scoring events.

And it works! Oh, by the way, the first builders of paved stock car tracks were told, "you can't do that," because "everybody" knows that stock car racing, a sport born among moonshiners, will never become truly popular.

Maybe you think this can't be done. History remembers those who took a risk and succeeded, and has forgotten the Nay Sayers. It costs less than 10 minutes a month to read how we just might be able to help improve shooting and hunting, for you, your range or sportsman's club, and your local community.

Sep 16, 2009

Zero At Short Range

>> Is there anywhere on the net I can go to find out that if a rifle is sighted at 25 yards dead on the bullseye, how far will it shoot before the bullets changes or drops?

That answer will be totally dependant on a large number variables unique to your specific situation, such as:

  • The distance you intend to zero at
  • Sight height (height difference of the line of sight and the bore)
  • Muzzle velocity
  • Ballistic coefficient
  • Ambient temperature
  • Altitude
  • Any cant, induced by the shooter or less than perfect alignment of the sights and barrel
  • ...among others

Any one of these factors alter where the zero lies given an Initial Intersection of 25 yards. Predicting this requires knowing and measuring a these variable and running the numbers through ballistic software (or calculating by hand.) Even then, the only way to tweak it exactly is to shoot at the actual distance.

Yes, the military uses reduced distances for sighting in, but the formula works because everyone uses the same issued rifle with the same issued ammo.

Even then there are problems. Testing has shown the Army 25 meter zeroing procedure commonly needs to be tweaked when shot on a Known Distance range. This has been confirmed too many times to mention.

The ugly truth is the prescribed 25 meters is of convenience (the Army already had 25 meter ranges) and is a compromise. Soldiers, including the leadership, simply regurgitated this figure as accurate. None of
them bothered to grab a rifle, head out to the range and find out! The Marines, being a bit savvier in regards to basic rifle marksmanship training, have since modified this zero distance.

The only way to accurately confirm a true zero is to actually shoot your rifle with your chosen ammo at the actual desired distance.

What is the ideal zero distance? Unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise, my general rule of thumb for big game rifles is to zero dead on at 200 yards, or about 2 inches high at 100. We can quibble
about why your specific rifle/sight/ammo works better when zeroed at some other distance, but I'm giving a generic recommendation for any big game rifle shooting any type of suitable ammo (MV 2,000 - 3,000 fps or faster) with any type of sight.

If the only range you have available to you is 25 yards, don't despair! Despite this handicap, you can still carry out an effective field-shooting program. Smallbore gallery targets (A-17, A-36) are shot at 50 feet and a good way to practice basic position shooting. HunterShooter has reduced quarter-sized silhouettes for rimfires, and would allow simulating shots out to 100 yards when placed at 25. There are a number of reduced-range scaled targets for many shooting applications. Brush hunting scenarios can realistically be held within 25-yard distances, and fast moving targets are a challenge at any distance. Reactive steel comes in different sizes as well.

If it is extremely difficult to find a bigger range for even a once-a-year session, my best advice is to start actively shooting and promoting events at the range you have now. Create such a demand for organized shooting in your community that a large percentage of the gun owners and hunters in your area get off their butts and insist a new range gets built.

The only reason you don't have a better range available is because too few people in your area have made too little effort in creating the interest and resources needed to get one built.

Until that changes, how can you confirm an accurate zero on a reduced range, given the variables involved? What I recommend is to buy or load a large lot (several hundred rounds at least) of the chosen hunting
ammunition, find a range that does offer longer distance, wherever that might be, grit your teeth and go spend a day there.

Obtain a satisfactory zero at the actual measured full distance of 200 yards or whatever you decide. Confirm the zero from field shooting positions (Sit, Prone, etc.) with the rifle in the condition it will be
in on a hunt or at a match, i.e., cold barrel.

After confirming, immediately shoot a good 5 round group on a target at a measured 25 yards without
touching the sights. Mark the center of the group and photocopy that target.

You now have short range zero targets customized for your rifle and the desired zero for your ammunition of choice. To confirm your zero, set your photocopy custom target at a measured 25 yards and sight in to the
group center.

Sep 9, 2009


Rehashing the Rehashables

We received some great comments from this piece last time, so I'm re-posting the basic questions. Your feedback on this would be greatly appreciated.

1. In the United States there are an estimated 80 million gun owners, of which 11 million buy big game hunting licenses. Yet, only half a million or so are currently participating in organized events with any regularity. The statistics published by manufacturers prove that most gun owners, especially hunters, shoot only one box of ammunition all year, give or take.

How do we close this gap? How do we get gun owners and hunters more active? What programs will get them out to the range and participating more?

2. We have hunter's education and NRA basic courses for rank beginners. There are formal competitions and advanced classes for motivated and sophisticated shooters. But we have almost nothing for "middle of the road" folks, for people who are no longer beginners but aren't really active or advanced shooters and not interested in competing.

What would be an ideal format to attract the annual deer hunter with a few years (or 20 years) experience who isn't an active or advanced shooter and has no desire to become one?

Consider that for many hunters and most gun owners coming out for one or two events in addition to sight-in day would *double* their annual range time. A "middle" format event successful enough to attract most hunters four times a year would lead to an additional Billion rounds of ammunition being used! This would greatly benefit the shooting industry (additional sales), ranges (more activity) and the conservation groups (additional Pittman-Robertson funds generated.)

3. At what level are the marksmanship skills of typical big game hunters? If we took a statistically valid sample of hunters, what would their median shooting skill level be? And how do we improve this?

Sep 2, 2009

Parachuting and Hunting

Parachuting and Hunting: The Importance of Shooting Skills Afield

Let's pretend you're going to learn how to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft and survive the ordeal. For you straight legs, or those of you that believe the only things that fall from the sky are paratroopers and bird excrement, please follow along.

You will spend hours, if not days, in ground training. In the military, Airborne school is a full three-week course. You will enjoy several solid minutes under the canopy enjoying the ride and scenery (much less for a typical mass military MAMO jump). However, the actual leap, from exiting the aircraft to the chute deploying, takes only a few seconds.

Imagine completing ground training and anticipating your first jump. You're rigged up, waiting for the steel bird to roll in when the jumpmaster quips, "The actual deployment of your chute is such a small part of the actual jump, so when preparing for that portion we paid the least attention to it."

How would that make you feel?

In part, this is a true statement. The actual exit and deployment of the parachute is shortest portion of the ordeal. However, assuming you wish to retain an intact hide, it is the most important detail and deserves the most emphasis. If that part should fail everything preceding it was a waste of time and money, and everything planned afterward will never happen.

This is the same attitude with which hunter-shooters must approach their field marksmanship skills.

Some folks have commented that skill-at-arms is a tiny part of hunting. These folks harbor the same attitude as that misguided jumpmaster.

A hunt may be planned months in advance, from obtaining licenses and planning the trip, to scouting and saving dollars. The actual hunt could last for over a week. Even for the majority who remain in the vicinity of their home turf, established seasons reduce opportunities to a few short days or weeks each year. And the harvested venison can be savored over the course a year afterward.

The actual shot opportunity, when presented, may well be over in a few heart-pounding seconds. Despite how small of a percentage of time this entails, what you do there decides the outcome of everything else. The final result of the entire hunt hinges on your actions in those seconds.

Thus, preparing for successful field shooting is similar to preparing for a jump. The key element of the entire enterprise rests on how well prepared you are to handle those critical seconds.

Unlike the parachutist, a failed attempt is rarely lethal but it can have dire consequences. A poorly placed shot that causes prolonged suffering for the prey, or worse, game that escapes to die a lingering death later. A negligent discharge that damages property, or injures or kills someone.

Don't be a dirt dart. Give the most important part, no matter how short, the full attention it deserves. Your success as a hunter depends on it.

Aug 30, 2009

Honor the Heroes Sporting Clays Benefit Shoot

Operation Patriot, Inc. was founded in 2004, after learning of the needs of our aging Veterans living in State Veterans Nursing Homes.

We are a registered Non-Profit Corporation and have 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Please go to our website at to learn about our organization and our goals to help our Veterans.

We are sponsoring the Honor the Heroes Sporting Clay Shoot on September 26, 2009 at Tenoroc Shooting Club in Lakeland, Fl. We will be providing a continental breakfast and catered lunch. There will be a silent auction, door prizes and a 50/50 raffle. The cost is only $80 per shooter or $300 for a four person team. Registration forms can be printed from our website.

As the shoot approaches, we are in need of more shooters. We would greatly appreciate it if you would send this email to all your members, encouraging them to participate.

If you have any questions call (813) 244-8403.

Sharon Richmond
Operation Patriot, Inc.

Aug 12, 2009

Become A Better Hunter

You do not become a better hunter by going hunting. Sounds counterintuitive, but it is true.

Good players in the sporting world confirm this. Tennis players do not become better players by merely playing tennis. They work on individual skills, focusing on weak spots. A player wishing to improve, after identifying her wicked serve and weak backhand through matches, will concentrate on her backhand, slamming them out by the hundreds, probably under the watchful, knowledgeable eyes of a coach, and spend less time working on improving an already good serve.

We have dozens of gun magazines that tell you what equipment to buy, even more hunting magazines that tell you how to bring game in, and calling contests to reinforce some of those skills. But at the actual moment of truth, at the critical juncture that determines what you bring home, the ONLY thing that matters (field marksmanship skill) gets brushed aside.

Outside of HunterShooter events, I challenge you to name one venue that promotes marksmanship skill for hunters. Of 11 million plus annual big game license buyers name, name one shooting venue that regularly attracts even one half percent of them (50,000).

Buckmasters has 300,000 members, NAHC boasts 750,000 and nearly one million NRA members choose American Hunter as their magazine. Ten percent of the smallest is 30,000. The biggest, oldest, most popular shooting venues top out at 50,000 card carrying participants. Any hunting club/magazine that bothered to effectively promote a shooting venue for hunters that inspired 1 out of 10 of its readership to participate would immediately become the next big shooting discipline, and do a great job promoting hunting in the process.

Tiger Woods, demonstrably the best golfer in his era, has a golf coach. Every professional sports team pays a cadre of coaches for their players. But even suggesting that most gun owners and hunters are in need of coaching to improve their skills will often draw howls of protest.

Aug 5, 2009

Predators, Shooting, Hunters

"One does not hunt in order to kill. One hunts in order to have hunted."

Hunting can be enjoyed without a taking an animal. Returning from a hunt empty-handed should not necessarily be considered a failure. As Ortega pointed out, the experience is more important than the result. Wise hunter education instructors will point these facts to their students.

Unfortunately, this leads to the misconception that because the failure to take home a beast isn't a sporting failure that preparation for the hunt, especially field marksmanship skills, isn’t critical. This is an oft-heard excuse for not participating in pre-season skill-building events. "If I get one fine, if not that's OK, too."

This is a wrong, and possibly dangerous, conclusion. It is important to get our priorities straight. Is the goal to take an animal or not? We can and should accept an outcome that doesn't meet our goals and can still appreciate the experience, but we must make our intentions clear first.

Hunter = Predator

If the goal is to take an animal (i.e., you buy a license and take a firearm or bow with you) then you are hunting. The hunter is a predator. However, human hunters have several distinct disadvantages that need to be overcome.

In the wild predators must come in physical contact to have any effect. When this happens, the prey will either succumb rather quickly as the pride/pack finishes the deed, or escape. If the prey animal does manage to escape, it is because it wasn't mortally wounded and will likely survive the encounter. Plus, it is much harder for prey to elude a predator from contact distance compared to one from hundreds of feet away. Days-long lingering deaths, such as caused by escaped animals with jaw or gut shots that weren't tracked and finished, aren't as likely to happen in the wild.

In contrast human hunters must employ powerful tools to overcome our pathetic natural weapons. We can't outrun our prey but we don't have to because our tools can launch projectiles that will.

This advantage also poses some problems. First, the further the distance the more chances for a poor hit. An edge vital hit up close becomes a wounding miss further back. And because we aren't in close proximity, tracking and following up is less sure.

Second, humans have no natural instinct to utilize these tools as predators. The desire and responsibility to learn rests solely on a conscious decision made by the individual.

Consider your pets. Despite being domesticated, the instinct of dogs and cats to “play” builds their skills as predators. The tools employed by humans came along far too late for us to have any instinct in employing or learning to use them. No matter how much false machismo is displayed by too many (typically male) gun owners, their actual proficiency is the direct result of their success or failure in obtaining quality training, conducting proper practice, and attending organized events on a regular, on going basis to test and refresh skills. Period. We don't posses any instinct to gain skills as hunter-shooters (predators) and therefore must consciously participate in activities if we wish to. Develop your instincts and “play” like all good predators.

The power of our tools coupled with this lack of inborn instinct too often creates an unsafe and wasteful situation. If an unprepared individual shows up in the woods fat and sloppy with only the weapons he was born with his chances of wounding game and damaging natural resources are nil. Hand the same "hunter" a rifle and he has the potential to damage, wound, or at least frighten anything in visual range.

If enjoyment and appreciation of nature is the primary object of the exercise, then carry a camera. Getting in position to obtain good photographs of uncooperative wildlife requires knowledge and skills similar to what's needed to set up a successful shot. A seasoned wildlife photographer, who exchanged the camera with a rifle, would likely be a superb hunter, provided he possessed sufficient knowledge and skill at field marksmanship. And with a camera, there is no chance of wounding wildlife or otherwise defiling wild resources.

On the other hand, if the object is to actually participate in nature rather than merely observe, it is your responsibility to become a worthy participant by becoming an efficient predator.

A hunter is a predator. Have enough respect for nature, your prey, and yourself to prepare like one.

Jul 29, 2009

Save The Ranges

A rusted, bullet-riddled refrigerator was left right in the middle of the private, county-zoned shooting range my local club uses for events. Not one, but two cars in similar condition were there as well. In the corner rotted a trash heap taller than a man and some 30 paces deep.

Yes, really!

Having recently moved to this dump/shooting range, our club members had to clean it up. Despite the warts, the location, available space and super-low overhead costs made it too good to pass up. However, you can rest assured the trespassing, half-literate plinker-slobs who created the mess weren't there to help clean it up.

Part of the problem was the property owners had used it as their personal dump for 20 years and the folks who originally zoned the facility as a shooting range didn't do anything about it. It was a textbook case of "broken windows theory" in action.

If that isn't bad enough consider this. One hundred yards up the road a landscaper built a meticulously groomed golf driving range. Not one junk pile ever. Consider what impression of gun owners and golfers the hundreds of commuters who travel that state highway road every day took away from that scene.

While this may be an extreme case, it is by no means an isolated incident. Our own industry periodicals (Shooting Industry, Shot Business, etc.) have reported that promoting ranges and shooting activity is the only viable long-term choice to retaining private gun ownership, yet under promoted, sloppy, even unsafe, range conditions are wide spread.

Sound harsh? Compare the conditions of your local golf course or bowling alley to your range. Note the difference between the atmosphere (appearance, signage, etc.), location, and promotion (number of ads and stories appearing in local media.)

It's endemic throughout the shooting world, and the fault lies primarily within our own industry. Gun people like to blame their woes on the "anti-gun media" and politicians. However, I'm convinced that negative media and political attention are merely symptoms of the real problems.

When someone already has made the choice to be gun owner and then finds more joy in *not* using their firearm more than once a year that is, collectively, our own fault.

When a gun owner chooses to trespass and vandalize private property, and nobody does anything to curb or plain ridicule such activity that is, collectively, our own fault. Sure, such an individual is rare but all it takes is one bad apple.

When highly skilled shooters do make the effort to participate and even run the events that prove their skill, but the industry largely ignores their hard work and contributions that is, collectively, our own fault.

When the man and woman on the street is unable to make a distinction between these two classes of gun owner and writes them both off that is, collectively, our own fault.

This is the sad reality, but it is also the hope. Internal problems can be remedied regardless of any external forces. The solution is to take full control of our own destiny by better managing our efforts. Smooth Operations, rapid Administration, and aggressive Promotion will fix all this and more. And this is something we can do for ourselves.

Jul 22, 2009

Hunters, Go Back to School

Back to School Special

How important are shooting skills to hunters? How well can an "average" hunter shoot? How well should they be able to shoot?

I posed questions like these to a number of hunter's education administrators, writers, and the general public who frequent hunting-related news boards. The good news is the large number of positive responses from administrators who look forward to creating and having such data available. A few folks offered actual data they've compiled, which will be shared with you after we assemble it.

Strange as it might sound, I also had some negative response. Not much, an insignificant percentage, but it cropped up occasionally. I don't understand why offering a hunting-specific shooting format and suggesting that hunters should go out to the range and practice marksmanship occasionally is somehow a bad thing. People who have never participated in any type of shooting match, and have no idea what HSA is or how it compares to other formats will sometimes complain about it!

I'll agree there is much more to hunting than shooting, especially static position shooting on bullseye targets, however:

Shooting is a critical element!

My standard challenge to the "shooting is unimportant to hunters" crowd is to invite them to leave their ammunition or arrows at home. They may conduct their hunt anyway desired using any equipment or technique they wish, but can't actually employ any "unimportant" marksmanship skills.

So far, nobody is willing to take me up on this.

I believe the problem is a lack of understanding what organized shooting can do for all gun owners. Upon hearing the suggestion that matches are a good, safe way to practice shooting a few people become defensive, declaring that hunters need not win any match in order to hunt successfully.

I agree! But this isn't about winning matches. It is about learning.

Learning (and re-learning) shooting skills is best done in a safe, controlled environment on a range, instead of missing or wounding real animals in the field. We all should go "back to school" once in a while.

A relatively poor marksman *can* be an effective hunter IF he has an honest, accurate assessment of what he can and can't do. The key is knowing which shots to take and which ones to pass up. But so many hunters do not.

Many times, I've had hunters with years of experience come out to an Event. I'll put them on a target at a measured 50 yards, but they are sure it's "at least 100 yards away."

As they prepare to shoot throughout the Event, I'll remind them that HunterShooter shooting is freestyle, "You don't have to shoot Offhand. Go to Sitting, Prone, or use a rest as you wish. Do what you need to do to get clean hits to the vitals, just like in the woods."

"No, I can hit it just fine," they too often respond. The gut shots and misses on their stationary full-size deer target indicate otherwise.

Are you confident that you would never make such a mistake? These hunters felt sure they wouldn't either, until they bothered to try.

Occasionally, I'll see the opposite. The new hunter with a bit of practice under their belt but worried about wounding sometimes underestimates their skill. They'll Decline a few scenarios, only to end up with nicely centered hits in the vitals.

The beautiful thing is how rapidly all participants adjust to what they discover. Regardless of the results, a few scenarios like this paints a true picture of reality. The hunter starts making better decisions. And no matter what, everybody wins because everybody learns!

But unless the hunter bothers to get out to a range once in a while, he won't learn . . . until he misses and wounds real animals.

Standard advice is "Don't shoot unless you are at least 90% sure."

I agree. But without trying it first, how can one ever know what "90% sure" is for them?

Start participating in Events and find out!

Jul 15, 2009

The Ten Percent of Shooting

The Ten Percent of Shooting

Complaints about trick gear found in organized target shooting are usually the refuge of the incompetent.

Admittedly, this stuff makes a difference. If it didn’t then nobody would create or use it. However, it makes much less of a difference than most people realize. Ten percent seems to be the “magic” range.

Now, to a top end competitor, ten percent is a huge margin. That’s 30 points over a 300-point course. For example, the cut off to make the “President’s Hundred” over the 300 point President’s Match is usually somewhere in the mid to high 280’s. Shooting perfectly but losing even five percent due to equipment will ensure missing the cut off.

However, that means highly skilled field shooter with “regular” gear can shoot an equal score on the same course of fire as a highly skilled target shooter with all the trick gear, allowing for about a ten percent difference in the score.

So, if you truly believe that target shooters are only good because of their trinkets and that you are just as skillful, then you should be able to show up to a bullseye-type match and come within about ten percent of the top competitor. For a 300 point course that a Master-level shot routinely cleans, shooting your deer or small game rifle in your regular hunting clothes, you should score above 270 points if your skills are truly up to par.

Jul 8, 2009

Carpenters and Plinkers

Let’s say a fellow is a power tool enthusiast, presumably a carpenter.

He and his buddies study tool catalogs religiously, love to cruise hardware stores and trade shows, and can quote the characteristics of most tools by rote.

Thankfully, this fellow is good about following basic safety protocol with no problem, as are his friends (most of them, anyway.) He reads the included manuals and follows the recommended safety procedures, such as wearing eye and ear protection when using these devices and insists everyone else in the area does as well.

Unfortunately, not all of his brethren are this careful. Unbelievably, a few diehards don’t bother with such “unnecessities” as eye and ear protection. Missing digits (and pending lawsuits against manufacturers of “unsafe” tools) of a few of the real hardheaded show some are even less prudent. Thankfully, these types are a minority, but none of the group really does anything to remedy this.

He’s usually in the garage once or twice a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. So what does he do in there? Throughout the week he collects random pieces of lumber. Often, its scrap throwaway pieces. Once in a while, he’ll visit a hardware store, drool over the new tools and occasionally splurge for a piece of standard length lumber.

In the garage, drilling and cutting is done a random. A bit is picked casually and a hole bored aimlessly somewhere with little regard to placement. A chunk of wood is tossed on the table saw, an angle picked out the air and a cut make. When a piece becomes too short to cut or has too many holes, it’s disposed of. Once in a while, he’ll find a bit of junk and poke a hole in that to amuse himself. Again, safety usually isn’t a problem and he’s pretty good about keeping the area and tools cleaned up, at least better than most of his peers.

Once he started a basic woodshop project but partway through, after realizing his cutting and drilling weren’t as accurate as he thought, he quit and went back to the scrap. Most of his friends haven’t even bothered with this much.

The local hardware shop hosts classes and even sponsors woodworking shows encouraging patrons to bring in projects to demonstrate their ideas and skills, but none of these folks attend or support such activity. “Pompous”, “arrogant”, “crackpot” and “snobs” is how they describe woodworkers who use blueprints, take classes, submit entries at shows, and assert the idea that other power tool owners should do so as well. They are convinced such activity isn’t necessary to maintain their “real world” carpentry skills, provided you don’t ask them to demonstrate by showing something they’ve actually built.

Would it feel right to apply the title of “carpenter” to these fellows? Contrast this to how a serious woodworking enthusiast or professional carpenter works.

Now replace the hardware store with gun shop and public range, lumber switches to targets, replace cutting and drilling for shooting, and the woodworker’s projects and shows become shooting events and training. Note how many gun owners and plinkers follow a very similar path.

Jul 1, 2009

Cost of Shooting

Costs are up! The end is nigh! Or is this more a problem of perception?, a great forum discussing the Conventional Shooting discipline of High Power rifle, recently had a thread discussing the costs of shooting and, using the price of gasoline, better put this in perspective.

In 1942, gasoline was 19.9 cents a gallon and John Garand was making $3800 a year as a senior engineer at Springfield Armory. That works out to $1.90 an hour. So 10 gallons of gas was an upper middle class worker's hourly wage.

Today an upper middle class wage may be $40/hr or $80K a year. At $4 a gallon, it has the same bite as it did in 1942, except we can get cars that make 30-40mpg, while a WW II car was likely to get 10mpg or worse.

When adjusted for inflation gas was about as expensive in 1981 as today.

Not trying to jusify inflation, just trying to put things in perspective.

Jun 24, 2009

The Bronze Award for Shooting

Have you earned your Bronze Award for Shooting?

The Boy Scouts of America ( ) offer an Arts and Hobbies Awards at different levels for scouts who organize and host events. I extracted theses guidelines from the Boy Scouts of American Venturing Handbook (No. 33493), 1999 printing.

I pose the following question and challenge. Have you earned your "Bronze Award" for shooting and hunting? Please note to earn this award at the Bronze level a Boy Scout has to perform at least nine separate tasks in a variety of areas. Hunters and gun owners only have to focus on their one area of interest.

Here are the Boy Scout's requirements to earn a bronze level Arts and Hobbies award:

1. Choose a new hobby such as ... marksmanship.

2. Keep a log for at least 90 days of each time you participate in your hobby.

3. After participating in your hobby for at least 90 days, give a presentation on what you have learned for your crew or another group.

4. Develop a plan to assess the physical skill level of each member of a group.

5. Once you have determined your starting point or base, develop a plan with each member of your group to develop a training improvement program.

6. Test your group members on a regular basis over a 90-day period to see if there is improvement.

7. Share your results with the group and/or your crew.

8. Lead or participate in a discussion on the merits of choosing a sports hobby [like shooting]. Discuss health benefits, opportunity to associate with friends, costs, etc.

9. Ask an adult [or friend] who is not active in your crew and who has an active sports hobby to join your discussion to get his or her point of view.

10. Teach disadvantaged or disabled people a sport and organize suitable competitions, or help them develop an appreciation for an art or hobby new to them.

11. Organize a hobby meet (a place where people gather to display and share information about their hobbies) for your crew, [local community], or another group [like, say, the local media].

12. Organize a contest.

The Boy Scouts figured this much out. They expect kids to do the above in order to learn a new skill and to promote their hobby. Shouldn't we expect grown adult hunters and gun owners to do the same to promote their hobby?

How much skill and public respect would hunters and gun owners garner if every range and sportsman's club adhered to these simple guidelines; guidelines that children in the Boy Scouts are expected to follow?

If a Boy Scout looked at your shooting and hunting, would you earn your Bronze Award?

Jun 17, 2009

Gun Gremlins

Gun Gremlins

by Hubert Townsend

What with the cost of ammunition escalating and my rather frugal nature, I am happy with the advice I was given long ago. When new members of the Wyoming Guard shooting team were first issued their M14 rifles (.308 caliber) we were told to plot and write down every shot that came out of the barrel.

Info in our shooting data books included ammunition lot, date, time, place, light conditions, wind velocity and direction, temperature, sight settings and shot locations. We were wisely instructed to study our results and look for trends. And see them we did; such things as how light intensity and direction affected our aim and group location. Going from Wyoming’s high altitude down to Arkansas’ necessitated a sight change up to compensate for the thicker air down south. And now that my blurry eyes have forced a change to using scopes, the discipline of data booking continues to pay monetary dividends. But sometimes this shooting business is just plain voodoo to me.

Last year I thought I had a gnat’s ass zero on my Reserve team’s M16 rifle with its four power scope. I had consistently pounded the center ring at 300 yards. The next day I came out bright and early at the exact same time (to avoid the wind and mirage issues), fired from the exact same spot wearing the exact same equipment along with a consistent position, trigger pull and all those other pesky consistent marksmanship fundamentals. And, of course, the same lot of ammo. But my group was a minute off to the side!

Note: a minute of angle, MOA, translates into a change of an inch at 100 yds, two inches at 200 yards etc.

I complained to an experienced marksman out at the range who has been doing this stuff since his Corps days during WWII. He just told me that we are different people every day, see things slightly differently and showed me something very similar with some of his old target data. But how can change in impact happen when I thought I had taken care of all the ballistic variables? Was this knowledgeable gentleman on to something?

Well, yesterday I went to the range to confirm my civilian rifle’s zero prior to varmint hunting. Previously, at 64 degrees F at 0900 at that shooting range, it would shoot a three shot group at 100yds that could be covered with a dime (1/2 MOA) and it was exactly in the center. But now it was shooting 1 MOA high, at 100,200 and 300 yards. But all the variables were the same, including the temperature. “What gives here?” I angrily said to myself, along with some unprintable exclamations.

I later took my wife, Leta, to a sporting goods store to buy some reloading stuff and was replaying my voodoo story to the counterman whose explanation I was hoping for, as he is very experienced. After hearing the tale of woe and waiting for some kind of logical explanation, Leta, who isn’t lost in the forest for the trees when it comes to shooting, just looked at us both with that “wise woman” look and said “It’s the gun gremlins.” Doggone it! That is the best explanation I have ever heard for such things and goes a long way to explain all kinds of weird stuff that happens in spite of our very best efforts to control and account for the myriad of variables that effect where a bullet goes. Simple as that. Oh, the wisdom that comes from raising four children.

The lesson of this gremlin story is that if you have accounted for all the variables you can and your small shot groups move a wee bit off center then don’t fret; it’s just the “gun gremlins.” But if your groups look like how we instructors poetically describe as “rat shit in a dresser drawer,” then that isn’t the gremlins fault. It is a failure of one or more of the four marksmanship fundamentals. Keeping a data book can go a long way toward improving your group size and placement, along with your pocketbook.

Originally published in the Casper Tribune

Jun 10, 2009

Go for the Ink

Alan Korwin, of Bloomfield Press, the "gun law guy", has this to say about Tactics That Work:

Go for the Ink — in the Letters to the Editor Column
Even if they don't run 'em, the editors have to read 'em, and they have some effect. If they're not running 'em, find out why, change your style, get better, get ink more. Try a one- or two-liner, very effective when you dream up good ones.

That first line is most poignant. I've lost track of the folks who never bother to submit letters or press releases because they believe (sometimes wrongly) that the editor is anti-gun and won't run them and nobody will read them. Balderdash, on both counts! The main reason you don't see more pro-gun content is because so few people bother to send anything in.

An excellent, common sense guide, also at Mr. Korwin's site, is an exellent read.

Jun 3, 2009

Practical Shooting with the .22 Rimfire

Appleseed's 'Official' Liberty Training Rifle (LTR/.22 sub-caliber trainer) statement

As the cost of military surplus and new-production ammunition rises, and while supplies of the same are (at best) unreliable, many Appleseed instructors and attendees have noted a need for a cost-effective means of practicing marksmanship, especially at 25 meters. To this end, we have conducted extensive research and testing of many currently available products. The following is a summarization of our findings and experiences in the development of the Ruger 10/22® Liberty Training Rifle.

The Appleseed Program promotes rifle safety and marksmanship, as well as knowledge of Revolutionary War history and grass-roots participation in the political process, especially as this relates to the preservation of the Second Amendment. Thousands of satisfied Appleseed attendees have proven that the marksmanship principles that the Appleseed Program teaches at 25m translate into accurate shooting at up to 500 yards.

Unfortunately, the rising cost of ammunition has hindered the participation of some Americans in marksmanship activities. Proficient marksmanship requires regular practice, though not necessarily at full-distance. Practice at 25 meters, fortunately, does not require a full-power centerfire battle rifle; for this distance, a .22LR rimfire rifle is all that is required. Moreover, many indoor ranges do not allow the use of full-power rifles, but .22LR rifles are permitted.

There are several accurate and durable .22LR rifles on the market today, but the Ruger 10/22 has proven one of the most successful. It is both affordable and accurate, and several aftermarket accessories have been shown to make it an ideal platform for a 25m training rifle. The components listed in this thread should not require any gunsmithing, and little mechanical aptitude is required to install them. In short, this is a true ‘do-it-yourself’ project.

This should help you build a rifle that can quickly be put into service at an Appleseed, be lent to someone at a local AQT shoot, and be used to practice at 25m (or even use in 25 & 50 yard CMP rifle competitions) - all with cheap .22LR ammunition. Also, it will give you a valuable tool to use to train new shooters, without subjecting them to the often-intimidating recoil of a full-power main battle rifle.

Disclaimer -- RWVA, its members, the Appleseed Program, and the author have no financial interest in any of the companies listed in this post. Any product endorsement is purely the result of our own satisfaction as consumers.

Why the 10/22?

One Appleseed instructor speaks of his Liberty Training Rifle. He deliberately built this rifle just to practice the Army Qualification Target at 25 Meters. He writes "It is difficult to safely load (on a firing line while sitting or prone) a tube fed rifle quickly enough to finish within the time limits.

"Yes, the 10/22 when set up correctly closely mimics the M1A/M1 rifle. It's close enough for me that I've gotten down in prone, inserted the mag., wrapped up in my hasty sling, laid my cheek on the stock, gotten my NPOA and then wasted time searching for my M1A/M1's safety with my trigger finger. Only when I raised my head up off the rifle to try to see what was wrong with the safety did I realize it was my 10/22. When I related this story on the M14 Firing Line Public Forum it got some chuckles/laughs as others have done the same thing. It's that close.

"Accessories (sights, stocks, butt extensions, magazines, bolt hold open/release, trigger/sear, etc.) are wide open for the 10/22. Not sure about the Marlin.

"As for accuracy? As bad as my up close eye sight is (can't focus on the front sight - always has a blurry look that I can't get rid of) my 10/22 will do 5/8" shot groups at 25 yds.

Before you buy do some searching on the internet for availability of the accessories you'll need to shoot the rifle (whether at Appleseeds, the rifle range or small game hunting) and pick what you feel will work best for you. Hopefully the folks that suggest the 10/22 are doing so based on their positive experience and not "something they heard/read". I think you'll find that this is a forum of shooters who talk about shooting. It's not a forum of collectors who talk about shooting. There's a difference. Hang around, attend an Appleseed and an RBC and you'll see the difference between shooters who talk and talkers who (sometimes) shoot.

Because of the popularity of the Sturm-Ruger .22 caliber rifle there are several organizations who embrace its practicality and ease of use. Another Appleseed veteran instructor writes of his choice of the rifle and recalls the Liberty Training Rifle in its beginning stages.

"The 10/22 was chosen by a member who wanted a rifle that had (or could have added to it) sights that approximated the sight picture of his M1A and M1 Garand. At the time, the 10/22 with TechSights was the only choice. TechSights has noted that they are working on a set of aperture sights for the Marlin 60, but these are not yet available. The idea really took off when somebody (Junior Birdman?) found a stock with an adjustable length of pull for the 10/22. Someone pointed out the quick-reload advantage of the 10/22 vs tube-fed rifles, and this was also a factor."

Let us quote a text from Appleseed’s founder. Fred states his response to the cost and availability of surplus and commercial ammo in the higher calibers. Here, in a post quoted from the Appleseed’s forum in Fred and this programs response.

"The Solution to the Ammo Shortage

"There's always problems. And seems a current problem is the sudden high cost of good surplus ammo. What a few months back was 15 cents is now above 50 cents a round. That's a more than 300% increase. Ouch! If you come to an Appleseed, and you go thru 300 rds in two days - or 800 rounds in six days of Boot Camp - your ammo costs have shot up from $45 to over $150 at the weekend Appleseed - and from $120 to over $400 at a Boot Camp.

"That's gotta hurt. But there's an easy solution. It's called .22 rimfire. For most of us older guys, say “.22” and you only mean one thing - the lowly .22 rimfire cartridge, billions of which are fired every year in this country.

"I say ‘lowly’ because, being boys at heart, we all gravitate toward speed and power, so the .223 and other “.22s” of recent decades tend to grab the glory, at least among “the .22s”. Yet if any of us can reach back far enough in our memories, we’re likely to find the .22 lurking way back in the past as the cartridge on which we cut our teeth as marksmen. If you soak in those memories a bit, it all starts to come back. The importance with which you approached the clerk in the country store and asked for “a box of .22s. And not just “a box of .22s” - no sir - it was a box of “longs” or “long rifles” or - if you were “poor” that day, a box of “shorts”.

"Yep, even back then power was an aphrodisiac, and, if you had the 72 cents, you went for the big ones - the Long Rifles (and if you were really flush, you bought the “Long Rifle Hollow Points" and paid the 80 cents - this country is so rich today that nearly all .22s now sold are “LR” so the glory attached to those two words has probably faded considerably with the younger set.) If you were short in the coin department, if the most loose change you had was a couple of quarters (made of silver, too!) you were stuck with “shorts”.

"Bottom line, when you opened the box, and started dropping them down the mag tube, don’t know that, excitement-wise, it made much difference. It’s no secret the power and impact that cartridge has on marksmanship. In that field, the .22 rimfire packs muscle that dwarfs 7.62 X 39, for example. Real Marksmanship Muscle.

"Some of the most accomplished marksmen are the small bore shooters.

"It’s an old truth, often told: small bore shooters make great high power rifle shooters - but the reverse is not automatically true. A center-fire marksman has to work on his skills when he starts to shoot small bore, because you have to be sharper than with centerfire. Which means .22 rimfire is a heck of a maker of rifle-shooting skills. And no slouch in the Liberty department, either.

"Back in 1940, one .22 champion shooter in England explored the possibility of using .22 rimfire on the invading Hun. He made up dummy targets - wood ‘dressed’ in a wool uniform, leather cartridge belt, etc - just like an invading Nazi would wear - and found out that, at 300 yards, the ‘lowly’ .22 would penetrate ‘uniform’ and ‘gear’ to lodge an inch or more into the wood. He concluded the basic .22 cartridge would make nasty wounds.

"He concluded, based on his research that .22 rifles were a viable option in facing the Hun. Before you laugh, imagine being on the receiving end. Without warning, sizeable lead pellets penetrate an inch or more into your body. You can’t hear them coming. There’s no muzzle report - certainly, not amid vehicular or battlefield noise - to give away the location of the shooter. They may not kill you, but you will be something the military says is even more valuable: a casualty. Requiring 2-4 men to drag you to a first-aid station, then convalescence, etc.

"There’s an article in one of the gun magazines way back in the days when there was a flap over civil defense and bomb shelters - say, sometime in the 1950s or early 60s. It was a story about a man who appeared at his local gun shop once a month, and bought a .22 single-shot and a brick of .22s. (Back then, a twenty would get you both!) When finally asked why he was buying all those rifles, he responded that, when the time came, the rifles were for his neighbors, and he expected them to use ‘em - to get a battle rifle! Shades of the generations of riflemen who have guarded this country’s liberty and heritage for so long! Now we are in a time of shortages of cheap surplus ammo.

"Those of you who had the opportunity to ‘buy it cheap and stack it deep’ acted like the grasshoppers that most Americans are and instead of planning for the winter, you danced and sang and partied... But even those with a few cases stacked away are reluctant to freely spend that now 50-cent a round ammo. But .22 is still plentiful and cheap. So herewith, we draft that cartridge back into the Cause, once more.

"Yes sir, march onto the ‘battlefield of liberty” - the 25-meter marksmanship training range - with the goal of becoming riflemen, of becoming one with the tradition. It’s actually already happening."

At Appleseeds, we already see nearly half the guys showing up with .22 rimfire rifles. In fact, at the recent New York Appleseed, BOTH Riflemen who qualified were firing .22s (one shot a 237!). Guess you could say that’s the beauty of Appleseed. That at 25m you can shift from centerfire to rimfire and the only difference you’ll notice, marksmanship-wise, is that your ammo dollar still buys a dollar’s worth of ammo. There’s really not much difference, otherwise.

Your shoulder is no sorer. You still have to ‘ride the bull’ of the Six Steps of Firing a Shot. NPOA is still mandatory. Position checkpoints? Absolutely the same, and absolutely as important. Plus, if you can master the lowly .22, you can master the big center fire.

No problem. Now, to stock up of some of that .22, before IT gets scarce!

At less than 20 bucks per thousand, it’s a deal - and a steal! And you never know when you’ll have to go ‘hunting the Hun’ - huh? Maybe the title for a future column: “Stalking the Hun with pipe and .22...” Or, “what will happen if we let this country go down the same road as England”, right? Meantime, .22 offers marksmanship training opportunities in your back yard and basement. With CB caps, you can be near as quiet as an air rifle.

Geez, I starting to not even miss centerfire!

So yes, the lowly .22 can be a lifesaver - if it allows you to acquire the marksmanship skills you need. And, as our English guy discovered (maybe to his surprise, and to the snorts of you machos out there), it may even have utility as a defender of Liberty , if and when it ever comes to that.

Buy some before everyone else finds out about it, and shortages begin to pop up...

Got some .22 already? Then come to an Appleseed! Bring your centerfire for Sunday, when we often switch to longer ranges, so you can see for yourself that what works at 25, works for 200 - or 300 - or 400. And by using .22 for 90+% of your training on the AQT, your costs to attend an Appleseed actually go down, not up.
Sweet deal.

And the same goes for the Boot Camp. By firing 2/3s of your shots with .22 rimfire - easily done - you ammo costs stay the same as when surplus ammo was cheap, but you get to shoot over 200 rounds of centerfire to polish off your training. Sweet deal!

So, in the spirit of Appleseed - adapt, improvise, overcome - and persevere - turn the current ammo shortage in your favor - and save money even more than before the shortage cropped up!

May 27, 2009

Why Hunters Can't Zero Their Rifles

As more evidence demonstrating the low levels of marksmanship skill among most gun owners is the regular inability to obtain a working zero within a few shots. A trip to any range during hunter sight-in or a perusal of videos posted on YouTube and other sites will prove my point.

Zeroing any firearm is a simple process that seems to evade far too many gun owners. The idea is to bring the line of sight (as viewed through the sighting system) in coincidence with the line of bore as to make best use of the trajectory.

A skilled rifleman with a decent rifle and sights should be capable of establishing a working zero after firing only one or two rounds and does NOT need a bench rest.

It is simple, that is, assuming you possess the following things:

  • Enough marksmanship skill to accurately fire and call a good shot.
  • Enough math skill to use angular deviation (minutes, mils) and make accurate adjustments.
  • Understanding on how the rifle and sights in question work.
  • Enough ballistics knowledge to understand the trajectory of the ammunition used
  • Enough marksmanship skill to accurately fire and call a good shot (so important, I'll list it twice.)

Sadly, most gun owners, even those military trained, have none of the above. I'll give you an example of how this is supposed to work.

The rifle was an unfired M1A. The owner brought it out to our KD (Known Distance) range with a box of M80 ball ammunition. He wanted to shoot it, but was concerned he wouldn't be able to even hit the six foot target frame, much less the E-Type silhouette on the board, as we were shooting on the 500 yard line.

I mechanically centered the sights for windage and bottomed them out for elevation. I then came up ten minutes (M14/M1A rear sights are normally 8-12 minutes up for 200 yards) and added 11 more minutes (3+4+4) as a come-up to go from 200 to 500 yards. There was a gentle breeze quartering from my left rear at around five miles per hour so I hedged my bet with two minutes left.

After adjusting the web sling to give a tight loop, double checking my natural point of aim and dry firing two good "shots" I fired my first live round. Much to my own amazement, being unused to M1A's, the shot broke clean and I was forced to call it as good. The target came back up out of the pit with a five-inch disk online with the waist and out in the white by about one disk diameter.

I put three minutes left and two minutes up on the sight, rechecked my NPA and the wind, and fired another shot. The target came back up disked in the chest just to the left of the sternum. I handed the rifle back to its owner and he was able to put his first shot on the silhouette. One click on the sights and they we all in the chest.

This doesn't take the box(es) of ammo gun owners and hunters seem to expend during sight-in day and it only takes a few minutes. If the shooter isn't ready to fire a group for confirmation after a few shots something is broken, be it equipment or skill.

May 20, 2009

Shooting Skill and Talent 3

Random gun owners often have odd opinions on shooting. Here is one example.

#>Plinker<# Likewise, just because someone chooses to compete in a particular organized event means merely that they willing to limit their shooting to a given set of parameters.

This assumes that a competitor can pursue only one discipline and that's it. Most competitors I know pursue a variety of shooting, much more then the annual deer hunter. They may focus on their personal favorite during season, but they usually attend other types of events, hunt in the fall, etc. That's just it. The person who bothers himself with competition really likes to shoot, is willing to work at it and, most important of all, knows how to improve.

Besides, what's wrong with being a specialist? Wouldn't you prefer a heart specialist operating on you during a triple bypass?

If the "given set of parameters" meet your goals, then you need to talk to that person. The Sporting Clays shooter may "limit" himself to shotguns, but if shotgunning is your goal that's the guy to talk to. The shooter "limiting" himself to HunterShooter events will know more about field shooting than your average hunter. I don't go to Sporting Clays ranges to discussHunterShooter events, and I normally don't talk about scattergunning at HunterShooter events.

May 13, 2009

Shooting Skill and Talent 2

Random gun owners often have odd opinions on shooting. Here is one example.

#>Plinker<# Just because someone has the ability to shoot X-targets in X-time in X-format confers no expertise outside that venue.

True, the concert pianist may not know how to play the trumpet. However, this knowledge of the fundamentals are solid. He already has a thorough understanding of musical theory, knows how to read/write music, and would be more knowledgeable of the instrument than some guy on the street. Furthermore, being actively involved in the field of music, he would probably know expert trumpet players and have learned some of their insights.

For all I know Kim Rhode may not be able to hit the broadside of a barn with a pistol, but her insights on the process of shooting would be valuable to any marksman.