Summertime shooting exercises are an ideal time for experimentation, and for overall improvement as well. From changing loads and points of zero to changing whole trigger assemblies for better downrange results, the opportunities to improve future performance through practice and adjustment is always available.
There’s nothing like live ammunition practice, both from the bench and from improvised shooting positions, to simulate scenarios in the field. Along with stacking up repetitions, it’s also a chance to see what small adjustments can do. There are as many different rifle calibers as there are stars in the sky, and those who favor an obscure selection and who spend a fair amount of time shooting generally become handloaders through a combination of convenience and necessity. Handloading opens the door for experimentation, for trying out a variety of bullet weights, shapes and compositions. Thankfully, those who favor one of the more popular calibers have access to many of the same adjustable criteria. If you’ve wondered how your .270 Winchester might perform ballistically with a 150 grain soft point versus a 130 grain polymer tip bullet, local retailers and online suppliers alike offer scores of factory-loaded options priced between $30 and $65 per box of 20. Every test round fired is a repetition filed into muscle memory for the future.
Every rifle’s accuracy is limited by the skill of its operator, and there a number of advantages an after-market trigger can deliver to improve that performance. Factory triggers on even the best-made gear can leave a lot to be desired. They can be too heavy, they can have too much travel. Worst of all, they can be inconsistent. That’s where a product from Timney Triggers can make a tremendous difference. Priced between $100 and $200, a light, crisp, consistent trigger can help make anyone a better marksman.
Shooting practice from a bench is the ideal way to make sure a rifle is properly sighted in. For those whose rifle deer hunting takes placed from a fixed fortification like a shooting house, it is also perfect preparation for time in the field. When it comes to most real world hunting applications though, it’s important to spend time shooting from the sort of scenario in which you’ll be hunting. If you plan to pursue Western big game, this means you’ll need to practice shooting standing up and resting the rifle on a set of shooting sticks. This is a difficulty for which Western hunters need to be prepared, and it does take some getting used to.
The first steps to improving any rifle shooter’s technique begin with the same tenets key to good performance in archery, a world-renowned rifle builder and shooter says.
Scott and Kathleen McRee, of McRee’s Precision, have been supplying long range rifles to the most intense shooters in the free world since 2001. Both are highly accomplished competitors, and, when it comes to shooting technique, Scott credits time spent on the archery range with some of his most enlightening moments of eureka.
“For any rifle shooter, regardless of the equipment they’re using, the first thing to practice is establishing their shooting position to create a reliable, repeatable form of contact,” he said.
Just as an archer returns to the same anchor point upon full draw, so should a rifle shooter set up the same way each time. The position of the rifle’s butt against the shooter’s shoulder, the position of the shooter’s cheek along the rifle stock’s comb, the position of the non-shooting hand against the stock and the position of the shooting hand on the grip and the finger on the trigger should be identical from shot to shot and setup to setup. Sitting, standing or prone, the shooter should strive to make those elements the same every time
“Next, just as with a bow release, the shooter should place the pad of their trigger finger in the same spot on the trigger each time, and make a slow, smooth, straight squeeze,” he said. “That process is aided by creating a consistent follow through. In the same way an archer works to hold the bow sight on the target after the arrow is gone, the rifleman should have a follow through routine, squeezing the trigger all the way through the shot and holding it, watching the impact of the shot through the scope.”
Archers are taught to hold their bow sight on the target after the arrow is released as a countermeasure to avoid lowering or moving the bow too soon. If the end of the process is the shot and nothing is practiced after that, human nature will lead to the archer lowering the bow sooner and sooner until it’s actually being dropped before the arrow is gone, spoiling the shot altogether. The same holds true for rifle shooting. By practicing a follow through and watching the bullet’s impact through the scope, bad habits of flinching or raising the head too soon are negated.
Beyond hours of regular practice, McRee says the quality of a shooter’s ammunition and of his optics have the most impact on accuracy.
“Make a point to sample ammunition from lots of different makers,” McRee said. “Even with the same bullet weights, most rifles will generally like one brand of factory ammunition better than others. Finally, do enough field research, shooting, with the optics you have to understand their capabilities and limitations. Practice, trigger time, and knowing the limitations of your abilities and your equipment will make you the best shooter you can be with the gear you have.
To learn more about McRee’s rifles, visit www.mcreesprecision.net.