Thursday, May 12, 2011

Back to the Basics of Shooting!

For years I have talked about custom stocks, custom barrels, and good triggers.  A shooter can spend thousands of dollars trying to make their rifle shoot better, but what about making ourselves better shooters.  There are times when a shooter just has to get back to the basics.  I make a living building and shooting rifles and handguns, and I am a very good shot, but it never hurts to take a lesson or just spend some time talking with a professional.  My friend, Bob McKown, shoots more rifles in a month than most of us do in a lifetime.  Bob makes a living working up custom loads for shooters who are looking for that last little edge to make themselves a better shot.  Bob shoots from six to fifteen rifles a week and will shoot at least 20 rounds through each one.  That could add up to 300 shots fired each week. 

I asked Bob about some of the basic techniques a shooter can do to make them a better shot.  Bob let me know some of the more important items to look for before and during your shooting session.  “There a several things I do before I ever pull the trigger on a rifle.  First, the barrel and chamber must be clean.  Shooting with a dirty barrel is a waste of time.  Second, I check to make sure the scope is square.  If you ever hope to hit a target at long range, the scope has to be square with the action.  I know that hunters will hold a rifle different when shooting off hand, but how often do we really shoot off hand?  Third, make sure the scope rings screws and base screws are tight.  Fourth and final, check the scope for parallax.”  Some of the best scopes in the world will have parallax.  If you are trying to see what a rifle is capable of shooting and not what the scope is capable of shooting, then having a parallax free scope or a PA adjustable scope is the only way to shoot.

When you get to the range make sure you have a good solid rest.  This is the most important item you can have while shooing. “ I don’t use a lead sled or any of the bench type vises.  A shooter can’t use them in the field or in competition, so why use them when checking a rifle for accuracy.  I like to shoot a rifle loose where it can have free recoil.  If I am trying to control a rifle from recoiling then I will have different shot to shot groups when compared to free recoil or shooting in the field!  The rifle starts to recoil before the bullet has left the barrel, so if the gun recoils different every time then the bullet will leave the barrel differently each time.”  Make sure the sling stud doesn’t hit anything while the gun is coming back. If the stud snags on the rest or front bag, it will throw the bullet off.  Some benchrest shooters will use baby powder so the rifle can slide easier.  Good trigger control is very important! “ I can shoot a rifle with a bad trigger, but it takes a tremendous amount of concentration.  Most shooters will pull off to the right if the trigger is too hard and I find the same is true for me, so I pull the same each time so the bullet will be the same each time.”  Having a trigger too light can have the same problems.  If you are shooting a benchrest trigger, like a 4 ounce trigger, you really have to get comfortable with it or you will have movement problems every time you shoot.  The key is exact repetition, to do the same thing every time!  To try to hold the rifle the same each time and use the same breathing technique each time takes a lot of practice.  Practice makes perfect is the truth!  I have shot so much; my routine has become an automatic reflex.  I just let my muscles take over; it’s what I call muscle memory.

If I have to shoot a big rifle like a 375 H&H, this is a different story.  First, You shoot all the big guns last.  If I shoot a 375 before I shoot a 308 or a 7mm mag., then the smaller rifles will suffer because I am thinking about the recoil from the 375.  You have to hold big guns tight!  You can’t allow them to free recoil.  If you ever get bit by a big gun, it can mess up your shooting for weeks.  Really big guns like the .500 or .577 Nitro’s, I shoot standing up.  The recoil is so fierce on a rifle like this it can literally hurt you or even break something.  Last let me say I like muzzle brakes.  I thing most shooters can shoot better with a brake than without one.  I hate the extra noise they make, but that is what they make ear plugs for.  You should use ear plugs anyway with big game rifles.

I have watched Bob shoot and it is amazing how he can shoot rifle after rifle at the range and get great groups out of nearly every one.  If you follow these basic tips then you too can become a good shooter! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A One Gun Owner

I had a customer come in the shop last week to pick up his old Remington 700, which I had rebarreled for him.  He told me that he had bought the rifle new 40 years ago.  It was the only rifle he owned and had shot everything from Pronghorn Antelope to Elk and even a Moose.  The rifle was chambered in 270 Winchester, and the customer has shot the rifle enough to know the gun very well.  He said “it was like a part of him.” “I just hope it shoots as well now as it did before.”  It’s not often that a hunter will shoot a rifle enough to wear out the barrel, but he did!  I thought to myself, “didn’t he know that he needed a bigger caliber for hunting Elk and Moose?”  Wouldn’t a smaller caliber like a 25-06 or a 257 Weatherby work better for the long range shots needed for hunting Pronghorn Antelope?  Well, I thought about it some and decided the customer with the 270 was right.  Yes, a .338 might hold a small advantage for shooting larger Elk and Moose.  Or a .257 Weatherby would shoot a little flatter for long range shooting which is needed for the open plains.  But (and now comes the big but) there is no replacement for putting the bullet in the right place.  I would much prefer to have a shooter know how to shoot his rifle and be able to place the bullet where it needs to be, than a shooter who carries a rifle that is too big for him to shoot well.  A 270 Winchester has plenty of foot pounds of energy to kill an Elk at 200 yards.  The 270 caliber will also shoot flat enough to handle long 400 or even 500 yard shots.  If you use one of the new breed of bullets from Barnes, Swift or Nosler, the 270 Winchester will act like a much bigger or flatter shooting round than it really is.  If you hand-load a bullet like the Swift Scirocco, you can make a 270 shoot 2 or 3 inches flatter at 300 yards than you could with a Remington Core-Lock.  The Scirocco Bullet is longer than a normal bullet so the ballistic coefficient is way up there when compared to a standard hunting bullet.  What all this means is that the Scirocco bullet will cut the air and buck the wind better so it shoots flatter.  On the other end, a Barnes Triple Shock will act like a much bigger bullet.  The Barnes TSB bullet will expand larger and hold its weight better than any bullet I have ever tested.  If a normal bullet in a 270 expands to a 30 caliber and retains 60 % of its weight, it is considered to be a good bullet.  Most Barnes TSB bullets will expand to more than twice their original size and will retain 100 % of the original bullet weight. 

The other advantage a one rifle shooter has is that he knows his rifle.  The trigger pull is the same all the time.  The scope is the same and the stock fits right every time.  It’s like driving the same pick-up truck, or being married to the same girl for ten years.  You know all the good points and all the bad points, and how to make them all work to your advantage.  Sure it is fun to have all the new toys and in most cases a shooter needs three rifles to cover all the different types of hunting there is. I know both Bill and Harold are great fans of the 30-06 and I agree with them that this is a wonderful caliber, but I also know that they both have 22-250’s for hunting the little critters and Harold uses a 375 H&H or a 45-70 for the real big animals that can bite or stomp you.  But if both of these hunters could only use their 30-06, they would not be under gunned for any type of hunting they are likely to do.  The customer who shoots the 270 also does one other thing that I agree with; he only shoots one bullet, a 130 grain Nosler Partition.  He could shoot 110 grain bullets for lighter game and 150 grain bullets for heavy game, but he uses the 130 grain bullet and just makes sure that he puts the bullet in the right place and it does the job just fine.