Yesterday was the first day of the precision rifle clinic at Boomershoot
. it was a very effective instructional experience - more details to follow. I was hitting targets out to 600 yards on a rifle I had only touched for the first time on Tuesday.
bear with the sparse reporting until I return; the cell phone is a pita for typing long missives.
UPDATE: A little more thorough update now that I'm home. The first day of the Precision Rifle Clinic was a mix. The instruction was everything I had hoped for; Eugene (the lead instructor) covered all the basic information about long-range shooting that I knew existed but had no practical knowledge of. He also touched on several things that I had not been aware of, some that are obvious in retrospect... and some not. To summarize the topics covered from memory:
- Safety rules
- Pre-action equipment checks (just in case)
- reading and correcting for windage, plus several rules of thumb to do so quickly when necessary.
- adjusting for distance to the target
- dialog between the shooter and spotter
- estimating distances using your scope reticle
- ballistic behavior of various cartridges
It was all great information to have and filled in the gaps in my own knowledge nicely. Even so, the biggest lesson I took home from the first day wasn't on that list: I was reminded of how important shooter position can be. I had not shot prone for quite some time (all the local ranges I know of have benches), and the berm I was shooting from is substantially right from the target line. I had set up my mat square on to the line of the berm rather than square to the targets I would be shooting at. That mistake resulted in quite a bit of not-quite-comfortable shooting all morning. Reacquiring targets at range was taking forever even with the scope dialed back to 22x.
Once I got the setup corrected, with the mats realigned and the sandbags I was using to support the stock of my rifle adjusted to keep my rifle naturally pointed at the target I was shooting at, results were a lot better. I was able to produce solid hits from the 380 yard target line.
Oh, yes, and I should talk about the conditions.
When I arrived, it was cold. Very cold. Below freezing cold. By the time the instruction started it was snowing heavily, although the snow itself wasn't sticking. The wind was blowing at about 15 mph across the line of fire, but it wasn't a steady wind; there were gusts from 10 to 20 mph. The only good thing about the weather was that with the snow falling we had an easy way to gauge where the wind was blowing our shots.
There was a lot of windage correction going on during the morning shoot, which covered up a bit of a technical problem I was having with my rifle and scope. Specifically I was needing to crank on a lot more wind than others were seeing. This didn't really become obvious until the wind and snow died down a little in the afternoon, giving me the chance to see more of the rifle's performance. Eugene shot the rifle for a bit to verify my windage zero and ended up cranking it almost all the way over to the right. This produced good results but left me little room for adjustments.
With the right zero on the rifle I was able to start reaching out to the 500 and 600 yard targets successfully. My spotter and I were learning to talk each other onto those targets, but the most effective spotting came from the instructors; it seemed like they almost always had someone behind us to help spot.
For those who haven't tried, spotting is hard to do well at range; you need to be able to see very subtle visual cues to determine where each shot went, up to and including "trace" -- which is almost literally seeing the bullet in the air. (Actually, it's seeing the air that the bullet's flight disturbed -- the supersonic shock wave). Pairing an inexperienced shooter and spotter together can make it very hard on both of them, so we got a lot of help to get things sorted out.
I end the day by shooting at three Boomers, two small and one large, and got all three of them. The first two took only two or three shots, the last one a little longer than that. Bear in mind these are 4" square targets at 380 yards -- not trivial to shoot well. I was very surprised and pleased at being able to handle them. The much reduced wind and lack of snow in the afternoon helped a lot, too. My spotter was able to take her boomers with about the same number of shots, except her last, which she bounced around 5 or 6 times without getting a detonation.