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.