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.

May 6, 2009

Shooting Skill and Talent 1

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

#>Plinker<# Talent does not necessarily translate into any particular knowledge.

Let's think about this statement. Reworded, it says that a person who can consistently demonstrate a high level of expertise in front of others (i.e., they have talent) somehow doesn't possess any knowledge on the their particular subject. To use an analogy, the brilliant concert pianist doesn't necessarily possess "any particular knowledge" of the piano.

Sorry, but I don't agree with that.