Saturday, November 24, 2018

Training - Precision Rifle - How the heck am I doing

It was a great day today . . . mid-40s, clear, sun, little wind after lunch . . . what to do, what to do??

Range trip, of course!  A small handful of other guys had the same idea.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time of late with my Ruger Precision 22LR so I though I’d bring out the bigger guys – my backup AR configured for long range work and my Ruger Precision .308.  I brought 60 rounds per rifle.  Typically I’ve been keeping rifle trips to 50 rounds each.  I have a rifle instructor target I use for my students that has 5ea, 3-inch targets on it.  This lets me shoot 5 rounds groups, chuck out the flyer and see how my 80% group looks.  I like this process.  And, the 50 round limit is typically a good stopping point from a focus/concentration POV as well.  I obviously pushed it today with two different rifles, but the difference between the two is great enough that it really helped me to re-focus when I moved from the .223 to the .308.  Regardless, it’s how I laid out the trip.

I began with the .223 backup AR.  I have a Nikon Prostaf 5 mounted on it and a Timney 4lb, single stage trigger installed with a bipod.  Nothing tricky.  Honestly though, I have a hard time shooting this rifle well.  On my first 5-target, target – my average group size was 1.9 inches.  My second was 2.25 inches.  Initially the zero was nearly 4 inches high.  Admittedly I don’t baby this rifle with special, padded case but even after adjusting zero the groups feel a bit open.  The other piece of the puzzle is the ammo I’m using – PMC Bronze .223 55gr.  The only other group size test I found, the best the shooter could do was 5.1-inch group.  And, being a cheap bastard, I’m not about to buy match grade for this particular rifle . . . so I take comfort in having an average group size for 10 targets of 2.075 inches rather than 5 inches.  So, why does this even matter??  How can I evaluate my group size given the purpose of the rifle?  Let’s chat about that before moving on to the .308.

My POV for virtually all my range work is the defense of myself, my family or folks in my charge.  It’s also to work my way through crap sessions, poor performance, a variety of rifles . . . and find ways to get better so I can become a better instructor for everyone I work with from Boy Scouts to local LEOs.  If I can’t find ways to improve, to evaluate my mistakes, to find and smooth the sticky points for myself, how the heck can I help folks I help train??

From a defensive POV, if I can engage a threat with “combat effective hits” – hits that will affect their ability to do me harm, I’m headed in the right direction.  A 2-inch group at 100yards becomes a 4-inch group at 200 yards, a 6-inch group at 300 yards, an 8-inch group at 400 yards and a 10-inch group at 500 yards.  Given that most “real work” in defensive situations is conducted at 200 yards or less, a 4-inch group placed “high center mass” will significantly degrade a threat’s ability to do me and mine harm.   That said, there is certainly a bunch of room for improvement while still providing confirmation that I am well prepared to engage a threat within that 200-yard range.

The Ruger Precision Rifle in .308 performed as I expected.  There was no need to adjust the zero though we’ll talk a bit about that on the “aggregate” target (a compilation of all 50 rounds plotted on a single target).  The average group size here dropped to 1.85 inches for 10 targets.  I may well need to adjust the zero down and left about an inch each, but not until my group size consistently drops to the 1MOA range.  With this rifle my “sticky” points are proper use of the bipod and rear bag to create a rock-solid sight picture each and every time.  And, recoil mitigation though I must say the RPR shoots much softer than other .308s I’ve used. 

Again, if I look to the reason I put this rifle in my “line-up” – defense of myself, my family and folks in my charge, I’m confident I can place combat effective rounds on a threat within the typical 200-yard range and get hits out to 500 yards should the need arise. 

Past that, Precision Rifle Shooting has really taken off in our area thanks largely to the efforts of Jim See.  This rifle, with a good scope, is a great entry level gun for right at $3,000.  I took Jim’s precision rifle course with my AP4 which I sold to help with the purchase of the RPR.  He runs a great course and I strongly recommend it when he comes to your area if PRS is an area of interest for you.

The engineer in me also had to come out and play a bit.  I found an interesting site on “Group Size Analysis”.  One of the areas they looked at was a simulation of rounds on a target and how the number for rounds shot affected the group size.  More rounds, the larger the over all group size.  Anyway I integrated this in my evaluation of my range trip by plotting all 50 rounds for the .308 on a single target.  The overall group size for this target was 3-1/8th inches.  As you can see, there is strong evidence for moving 3/10ths down and 3/10ths left (MILS) but I’m going to wait a bit yet to make sure it’s not entirely me.  But, I found the plot interesting.  One particular value I think most shooters would find in doing this once in awhile is that, as you plot each round, it leads you to think about what the heck happened there?  I know you can sense and see a “flyer” but this will take you back to that instant.  It will give you one more chance to ask “what the hell???” and give you something more to work on when you hit the range the next time.

Bottom line, please don’t just go and make holes.  Document your trip.  Take some time to review it, think about it, see where you need improvement, see what’s working OK, continually evaluate your position, trigger press, how you mount the rifle, what your follow through is like, your breath management . . . all the little things that you need to master to become the shooter you want to be.

Now . . . go hit the range!  Enjoy!!