Structural Refinement: Balance in the Standing Position, Part 4

My previous article dealt with my adaptation of what I saw as the essential elements of balance and stability to my standing position with the equipment that I have to work with.  In that article, the only consideration was putting each bullet as near the center of the target as possible, and the position I ended up with reflected that.

Accuracy being the sole criteria means that there are a lot of other practical things that are ignored.  I’ve said before that in a practical context I see standing as an emergency position.  That implies that, for my needs at least, there are other considerations in addition to maximizing accuracy.  It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that some of these considerations may even outweigh the need to be as precise as possible.  These include, but are not necessarily limited to speed of getting on target, recoil control (speed of follow up shots), mobility (ease and speed of getting in and out of position from moving).

One of the reasons I originally modified my standing position in early 2012 was to increase the rapid ‘pointability’ of my position.  To that end I abandoned the “must have the support elbow under the rifle” theme and moved my support hand forward on the handguard and the elbow outboard.  I literally point my support hand index finger to my target.  It helps.

Offhand 026
From the original standing article in 2011. 

IMG_7527
As I do it now.

Having the hand forward also seems to effectively give me a wider margin for error in that pointing, like a wide sight radius would.  Moving the support hand forward robbed me of leverage in my hold.  However, reducing leverage means that my movement is translated to the rifle less than the position with better leverage.

In terms of recoil control having the buttstock lower in the shoulder is helpful.  Being a little more squared up to the target and having the support hand farther forward also help as well.  Getting the support hand high in relation to the barrel will also maximize recoil control.

To make the stance more compatible with the demands of quickly transitioning to and from movement, the less it deviates from a normal standing or walking posture the better.  In contrast with the almost 90° offset of the target oriented position, a position square to the target would be ideal from the standpoint of mobility.

There’s no way that I’m aware of to maximize every one of the above criteria simultaneously.  It’s probably always going to be a balancing act.  The nice thing is that the better I get the less I give up by conceding in one of those areas.  I hope that if I need to take a really quick shot, and maximize the speed and recoil control, the thing that sends the hard core Weaver pistoleros into isosceles when the adrenaline spikes will square me off and lower my stance.  It’s essentially the same stance, just along a different spectrum.

In comparison to the position I used in the last article, the more practical position compromises my balance to some degree and involves more muscular input.  It also gets me on target quickly without the need for adjustment, while the target position requires a rather careful checking and rechecking of my natural point of aim.  Shooting at my best, my groups in the ‘practical’ version of standing is about an MOA wider in extreme spread than the ‘target’ version.

The modifications I made to improve the accuracy of this position were to make my upper body straighter and less aggressive in posture.  I also lengthened my stance a bit.  These changes widened my base and brought my center of gravity back to a point that is more stable and sustainable, thought it still drifts forward from time to time.

 

1
What had me off balance a few weeks back.

Modified
What I did to correct my balance.

 

That pretty much covers the structural pieces of the standing position that I have examined and re-worked in the last month and a half.  The next couple articles will go into the examination of the process of shooting from standing as I have seen it in recent weeks.

 

Structural Refinement: Balance in the Standing Position, Part 3

The last article took a look at how balance in the standing position is manifested when only the goals of accuracy and precision are considered, and when the equipment is similarly tailored toward those goals.  Curious as I am as to how all that fancy competition equipment would affect my shooting performance, it would be cost prohibitive to me considering what my shooting goals are.  It was of practical necessity for me to adapt the techniques to my equipment.

I spent some time considering the points I made in the previous article when working at the most stable and balanced stance I could muster.  I tried to keep my posture simple; as close to a natural standing posture as possible.  My natural point of aim determined the width of my stance in this case, which is not the case for my ‘practical’ standing position.

I ended up moving my adjustable buttstock for this position one click adjustment shorter than I had been using before in order to bring the rifle’s center of gravity slightly nearer to my own.  It was the shortest I could maintain my correct eye relief with the scope.  It did change the rifle’s point of balance no more than approximately ¼” forward, but moved the rifle rearward approximately 5/8”, for a small net center of gravity movement closer to me.

IMG_7525
I apologize for the inauthenticity of my Mao outfit.  I am working on the proper coat and hat, then I will prioritize on the pants and shoes.  The reason I’m a bit off level is that the photographer is 8 years old (meaning the camera is actually what is off level).

You can see that my head was as straight up as I could keep it.  This meant bringing the rifle much higher than I consider practicable for any circumstances other than relaxed target shooting.  A palm rest isn’t practical for me, but a 20 round magazine is a handy place to set the rifle in my hand.  Also note how little of the stock is seated in my shoulder.  It’s just enough to have any at all.

Although you can see I have a sling on my rifle (prototype of the RS-3, which should be coming soon), it’s slack and has no discernible effect on my position.  This position is based on optimizing balance.  I’m as free of tension in my body as I can be, so adding sling tension was not on the menu today.

I tried to keep my arms as close to my center of gravity as was practicable.  The firing arm was raised to account for the grip angle and wrist comfort.  The support arm was resting on my torso, supporting most of the rifle’s weight.

I was helping my son the same day with his position.  He was also my photographer.  This was the first time I had explained standing to him.  He came rather naturally into this position, after I explained to him about us being bipeds, how we balance, that the rifle has a balance point, and how the balance points of him and the rifle needed to be brought together.  He doesn’t have to worry about recoil yet, so I skipped the part about pulling the rifle to the shoulder.  This is what a 10/22 with a chopped stock looks like with an 8 year old:

IMG_7523

He got 8 out of 10 hits on a large piece of steel at 25 yards, and 3 of 3 hits on water jugs at 7 yards, all with the excellent multi-stage 9 pound Ruger stock trigger.

Working on standing for accuracy and precision was something I should have done a long time ago.  I must have thought I was too cool to take some high fallutin’ target shootin’ stance.  It may not be of practical use to employ in a field setting, but it’s of great practical use to understand how to shoot better.  There is really no benefit to be had from a superior attitude.  The only real way to learn is to constantly be looking for a way to improve.

In the next article I will try to take all that I’ve been learning about balance and put it into my own, more practical position.  Stay tuned.

Structural Refinement: Balance in the Standing Position, Part 2

This article will outline my thoughts on balance as it relates to the standing position with the only one goal in mind: putting each bullet near the center of the target as possible.  This approach is impractical for field purposes in that it does not have a practical need to consider the requirement of speedy bullet delivery (“HOT AND FRESH BULLETS!  GET YER HOT AND FRESH BULLETS!!!).

I finally figured out that it might be important to consider accuracy and precision before making changes to accommodate competing performance demands.  That would have been a logical progression to have taken from the beginning before bringing practical considerations into the mix.  Unfortunately, choices in the real world of learning rifle shooting are seldom presented logically, and it’s usually up to the novice to choose his own path to follow.

I looked to smallbore and air rifle shooting for examples of form.  There are undoubtedly some idiosyncrasies that stem from the specialized gear used in those disciplines.  For example, I’ve never used a shooting coat, and I don’t know how it influences the technique.  I’m sure that all of the gear influences how they shoot to some degree, but I see these disciplines as the pinnacle of refinement of the standing position as optimized for precision.  Here are some points I picked up:

Head:

The head is a disproportionally heavy piece of equipment and its location at the top of the body doesn’t help make it any easier to balance.  The easiest way to balance the head is to keep it upright as with a normal standing position.  A significant part of our equilibrium is also in the ears, so keeping it upright and steady is optimal.  This is the reason that when you were taught to shoot a rifle in standing you were taught to bring the sight up to your eye instead of vice versa.  I think that adding the ‘why’ to the ‘how’ would make for a much more persuasive argument to the beginner that would likely result in better skill retention, transfer (adaptation of skill to settings different than the training environment), and future improvement.

Bringing the rifle up so that the sight is brought to the eye when using a ‘normal’ rifle (not one designed for target shooting) means that the shooter may only end up with a portion of the toe of the stock in his shoulder pocket.  Target rifles have a means of adjusting the drop at heel so the butt can be fully seated while keeping the head erect and the cheekweld at its optimum.  Another way of accomplishing nearly the same thing is what David Tubb did with his “chin gun” (a very, very high scope mount and the chin in contact with the comb), although that design also had the effect of lowering the rifle in relation to the shooter.

Emmons_Standing
U.S. shooter Matt Emmons in standing.  Note that his head is almost fully erect.  Also note the adjustment hardware on the stock, how it’s adjusted, and the amount of the butt that is in his shoulder even after all that adjustment.

Feet:

The starting point for a standing position seems to be to place the feet facing approximately 90° in relation to the target and approximately shoulder width apart.  Body types and rifles vary, so there is a likelihood that the shooter will need to vary their feet from this starting point.  I’ve found that some very proficient shooters have what seems to me to be an abnormally wide stance, but if it can work for you it’s likely to be more stable.

Length of Pull:

Altering the rifle’s length of pull changes the relationship between the shooter’s center of gravity and that of the rifle.  Shortening the length of pull reduces weight to the rear, and therefore moves the rifle’s balance point slightly forward.  When the shorter length of pull is brought to the shooter’s shoulder, it has the effect of moving the rifle’s balance point closer to the shooter, and this effect outweighs the alteration in the rifle’s balance point.  As with strength, closer being stronger and farther being weaker, getting the rifle’s balance point as close as possible will improve the shooter’s ability to balance with the rifle.

Firing Arm:

As far as balance is concerned, the closer the arms to the body the easier the balance.  The firing arm would be best tucked down, but the pistol grip will largely determine the angle of the arm.  The more vertical the grip the lower the firing arm will be.  The chicken wing (high firing side elbow) is largely a relic from the days of the musket.

Support Arm:

Keeping the support arm close to the body will make balance more sure and will maximize the strength that one has to support the rifle.  Here is where the criticisms I have gotten about my technique have merit.  I have never maximized the position of my left arm and hand in reference to balance.

The position I used early on, body erect facing nearly 90° to the target, head moderately erect, elbow under the rifle approximately a fist’s width from the body, i.e. the ‘standard’ offhand position, was maximized for form but not for function.  Learning by rote, or “by the numbers” has a way of doing that.  That position involves a lot of shoulder holding the rifle, as does my current standing position.  This, and the position I currently use, are qualitatively different than a position that maximizes balance and support of the rifle.

Any instability in the support arm will move the rifle, and by extension the center of gravity.  This will cause the rest of the body move in order to compensate for the change in balance.  Each adjustment will put movement into the rifle.  I probably don’t need to tell you that this will decrease precision of shots from the rifle.

To best position the support arm to do its assigned task (none other than for which it’s named), target rifles often use a palm rest, which adds some distance from the support hand itself to the lines of departure and sight (barrel and sight respectively).  This allows the arm to rest against the ribs, or in some cases (particularly with ladies) on the hip.  Some shooters jut their hip toward the support elbow, but any deviation from the body’s neutral posture will have some disadvantage to weight against what it does for you.  The weight of the rifle through the support hand and arm, to the body, and into the body’s weight is often perceived by shooters as a “line of support” from the rifle directly into the leading foot.

Qinan Zhu
Chinese shooter Qinan Zhu in standing.  Note the straightness of his body and the line of support from the rifle to his foot.

The Eyes:

Stand on one foot and balance for a while.  It’s not too difficult.  Now, keeping that balance, close your eyes.  It’s much more difficult.  Balancing with the rifle pointed in is one thing.  Obtaining a sight picture effectively removes some of the reference points that you’d be using for your subconscious equilibrium adjustments.  Looking through a scope will make that worse than with irons.

Due to the negative effect of taking a sight picture on the ability to maintain static equilibrium, it adds to the complexity of the firing sequence.  For me it goes something like this: balance self, balance rifle and self, sight picture, press (automatic while maintaining attention on sight picture), sight picture.  If the balance happens to go, everything goes with it, just like when my karate teacher, Mr. Miyagi, shook that damn boat and I fell into the water.  The window of time before the balance degrades and affects the hold stability seems to be three to seven seconds.  I think that will improve as I pay attention to it.

Looking at the state of the art for precision standing was fascinating to me.  It is a substantively rich topic to research if you understand the principles that they are trying to achieve.  The next article will briefly outline my attempt at realizing those principles with more standard gear.

If you’d like to learn more about standing in competition, I found an interesting and well-written blog about only that.  The following link will start you in an appropriate spot: airrifleshooting

Structural Refinement: Balance in the Standing Position, Part 1

My recent work in improving my standing position has revealed to me the importance of balance to its grouping potential.  It has also become apparent to me that balance is a major, if not primary factor in the established methods of utilizing the standing position for shooting.  I do not know if the major players in the evolution of the standing position explicitly acknowledged the importance of balance to the position that most shooters use today, but it was of extreme importance regardless.

In this article I’m going to discuss the concept of balance from a theoretical perspective.  The next article will investigate the ideal standing position from the standpoint of fulfilling only one goal: putting each bullet near the center of the target as possible.  I want to do this without making consideration for speed or the possible necessity for mobility prior to or after the need to fire a shot from standing.  This is a way for me to approach the problem from a completely different angle, which can provide a boost in one’s understanding of it.

It’s strange how the process of revelation occurs in skill acquisition.  It begins so subtly that it’s only possible to recognize in hindsight that it was there, like the voice of a spouse during a gripping TV show.  Over time and effort, the message becomes more obvious as it is repeated or is increased in magnitude, but often isn’t recognized as significant (“Quiet Honey, this is the really good part”).  Part of becoming a better learner (and more attentive spouse) is to recognize the potential for significant learning at the first whisper of revelation.

Here is how the importance of balance was revealed to me:

One of my “for fun” goals is to clean the Appleseed AQT.  I’ve maxed my points in Stage 1, the standing position, many times, but I haven’t been able to do it on demand.  I’m working to change that.  Because I’ve determined to work with one type of standing position that is oriented towards speed (support hand forward on the handguard, yada, yada, yada), rather than have a brace of different standing positions to choose from, it means that I’m at a disadvantage in terms of precision.  Ironically, that disadvantage has worked to make certain things more obvious to me.

The first whisper of the importance of balance was the increase in my visible arc of movement over the time I remained in position.  I was practicing holding exercises, which involve holding a sight picture for a period of time after the shot breaks, in this case a minute.  Not only did the movement become larger, but it was very sudden and erratic in terms of when it would occur.  The most prominent manifestation was a large and rapid dip of the sight, followed by an almost equally rapid return to the previous elevation.  The obvious culprit for movement in standing is muscle fatigue, and that is a factor, but it was not a consistent one for me.  At times I noticed from the time I got into position that I just wasn’t as steady as I normally should have been.  Other times I’ve been able to shoot rather well under fatigue.

After the passage of time and the continuation of regular practice, I noticed that at the times my movement was most erratic, my weight was too far forward in my feet.  Even with my weight centered in the balls of my feet I still feel mostly in balance, but when I noticed it going into my toes it typically required a muscular correction.

1
I drew the crude outline of feet.  The red cross indicates the center of gravity of my shooting position prior to my investigation into balance.  It’s just far forward enough to cause stability problems and frequent muscular corrections.

 

As bipeds we are constantly adjusting our bodies to maintain balance.  It’s so automatic that it can be hard to notice, but it is a constant balancing act to remain upright.  Balancing means moving body parts or simply contracting muscles to adjust the body’s center of gravity.  The body’s center of gravity is not a static place, but is dependent on the location of each part.

With only two points of support (feet), the most neutral and stable place for the center of gravity is centered directly and precisely between them in terms of distance, and directly on the imaginary line that runs from one foot to the other foot.

2

The width of the stance also affects stability.  In the direction that the feet are widened stability is increased with width.  The height of the center of gravity also affects stability, lower being more stable than higher.

The above paragraph would seem to imply that widening the feet and bending the knees to become more stable would be optimal.  Unfortunately the shooter also needs to avoid muscle fatigue like the plague.  In the traditional standing position, the width of the feet is also tied to one’s natural point of aim, so it can’t just be set arbitrarily.  Again we find ourselves balancing competing needs.  A normal standing posture with the feet about shoulder width apart is probably the best starting point to compromise those needs.

Standing steadily with the center of gravity between feet that are shoulder width apart is easy.  Holding a rifle complicates things by changing the location of the center of gravity.  A rifle’s center of gravity varies according to the attributes of a rifle, but most rifles balance near the magazine or near the front of the receiver.

3
That is the approximately location of the center of gravity of my rifle as it is configured at the moment.  The pictured rifle is the same model as mine, but I have an SWFA SS 3-9×42 on it and an Atlas bipod.

The key to integrating a rifle into a balanced standing posture is to ensure that the rifle’s center of gravity is placed so a plumb line hung from the rifle at its balance point would fall as nearly as practicable to the center of a straight line between the feet.  It is also ideal that the rifle’s center of gravity be coordinated with the shooter’s center of gravity, resulting in an advantageous total center of gravity.  This total center of gravity will likely be nearer to the shooter’s lead foot.

4
The black line represents a rifle.  The dotted red cross represents the rifle’s center of gravity.  The unbroken red cross represents the total center of gravity of the shooting position.

 

I hope this has helped you to a better fundamental understanding about balance and equilibrium, and how holding a rifle influences one’s normal standing posture.  The next article will look at practical application to accomplish only one goal: to place each bullet as near the center of the target as possible.  I hope you will join me.

Standing: Structural Reinforcement

There are a few different aspects of positional work.  The most obvious, especially externally is the structure of the technique.  That’s what I’ll be dealing with in the next few articles, this one on physical condition and the next few on positional balance.

In examining how I might realize significant, measureable improvements in my shooting performance, particularly in the standing position, one of the obvious things to come to mind was to work on my physical fitness.  You might say I’ve been in a fitness rut for the past year or so.  Rifle shooting, like other physical activity, is dependent to some degree on the physical condition of the player.

I’ve been using a standing position with my support hand far forward and high on the handguard because I see standing as an emergency position that would likely necessitate a rapid response with a need to effectively control recoil rather than a position to use for shots on difficult targets.  However, because precision is still important to me I’ve been trying to make the best of the position I use.  This position requires more muscle activation than would a standing position optimized for accuracy, such as those used by smallbore, air rifle, or even Highpower shooters.

My first thought in improving my fitness with this position in mind was to increase my shoulder strength, particularly in the anterior deltoid.  Dumbell front raises came immediately to mind.  Because I have trouble going small, this quickly turned into regular weight training after work.  What started with front raises turned into a full battery of exercises.

At first after beginning weight training, the quality of my hold in standing went to pot, especially the day after each workout.  I don’t think it was only that I was fatigued; it seemed as though I was somehow out of calibration.  After so much time and practice with a relatively static level of strength and activity, changing things up really shook up my hold.  After a few weeks of this, I think that my hold has improved quite a bit.  The post workout shakes seem to no longer be in play.

My cardio routine is not too extensive.  I’m using a kettlebell for that.  The duration is shorter, but kettlebell is intense.

Something else I considered was that I’m attempting to maintain as much steadiness as possible in a static position.  Balance, as well as core strength, are crucial to a steady standing position.  This is going to sound downright whacky to many of you manly, rifle shootin’ folk, but I thought that Yoga was worth a try.  I just started doing that two days a week before work.  It’s not easy and I think I will see some benefits to my overall fitness if not my shooting as well.

Another health related change that I made was a reduction in my caffeine intake.  I hadn’t been drinking a lot of coffee, but I would notice that if I didn’t have enough I would get a headache and feel sluggish.  I went sort of “cool turkey” and at this point probably consume the equivalent of a half cup or less of coffee in a day.  If I happen to not have a chance to get any caffeine, such as while shooting, I don’t feel any detrimental effects.

Something that’s not really strength or fitness related, but sort of, that I’ve been doing to improve my shooting is holding exercises.  I’ve been pressing off a shot, then holding everything in a hyper-exaggerated follow through for a period of time, usually a full minute.  I think of the primary purpose of the holding exercises as to improve follow through.  Second to that it exposes weaknesses or structural imperfections in stance.  Both of those things are more important in the standing position than any other.  Third, it does give the body a small bit of a workout.

Not only is all this helping my shooting at least a little bit, but I feel better as well.  I like knowing that I’m doing everything I can to maximize my shooting potential.  It’s a soothing feeling to know that I’m working hard to put that bullet right where I want it to go.

Standing Work

One of my projects lately has been to improve my precision in the standing position.  Standing is everyone’s worst position, and the least favorite to work on for most shooters, but it has to be done.  Not only does it have to be done, it’s probably one of the most valuable uses of shooting time.

Standing, being the most difficult position, is the richest in terms of potential improvements in overall shooter performance.  Unlike prone, which is forgiving of, and will mask technical deficiencies, the standing position requires the shooter to consistently apply the fundaments correctly at all times, lest a shot go wild.  With nothing to mask any error, standing is a great opportunity, maybe the best, to work on improving one’s skill.  As Mr. Simpson says in his book, “Skills in this position transfer to any other position.”

It took me a long time, but I finally figured out that frequency of practice doesn’t necessarily translate to improvement commensurate with the effort.  I had to get over the seemingly innate belief that the more difficult and elaborate the ritual, the more powerful the magic.  Effective and difficult often overlap, but I have also found that simply repeatedly hammering myself in practice on a single skill actually made me worse.

When I started the blog over three years ago, my strategy for working my featured positions of the month was to hit them hard and often so they would be at their best when it came time to take a picture of my targets.  If I had insights for improvement they were usually incidental to my practice.

What I try to do now is to break things down and troubleshoot them before I set to work.  Practice needs to be strategic.  It needs to have a plan.  I like to have points of emphasis for my practice plans.  I sometimes discover other points of emphasis to add to my plan after beginning my work.

Here are the points of the plan I’m currently working to improve my standing shooting.

  1. Grow a beard- Pretty much all the deficiencies in my shooting can be traced to the lack of a beard. Remember when you were little and the sheer force of Santa’s beard caused your bladder to empty on his lap?  And did he care?  When you have a beard like that, a little urine on your clothes isn’t really a big deal.  Remember when Chuck Norris was buried in the dirt in his Dodge and dumping cheap beer on his beard enabled his truck to bust out of its grave?  That’s what I’m going for.  What I figured out is that if I stop shaving the beard will grow.  Nothing will make me shoot better than getting my facial hair caught in an adjustable stock.
  2. Get strong- No matter how much the poorly defined term “bone support” is thrown around, standing requires more muscular input than any other standard shooting position. The standing position I use requires more strength than the target shooting varieties do.  Strength was actually only one component of my physical plan for improvement.  I’ll explain in greater detail later.
  3. Deepen my ability to apply follow through- This something that became more important after I started my work. If the rifle doesn’t stay on target through the trigger break, the quality of the hold and sight picture are meaningless.
  4. Trigger control- The need to work on trigger control is a constant. No area of study in rifle shooting is complete without examining how trigger control interacts with it.
  5. Analyze and refine balance- The importance of balance only became apparent after I began working on the position. It seems that this will be the most important and the most fruitful area of study in reference to my standing position.

I will elaborate on some of these points later in the month.

Water Grenades!!!

I thought I would pass along something that is simple and works nicely.  If you’ve ever done much with your rifle outdoors, it’s likely that you’ve had the unfortunate experience of your muzzle ending up on the ground.  Getting snow, mud, dirt, or rock up the muzzle is not only bad for the barrel, but can be dangerous.

I have seen people advocate taping the muzzle to prevent foreign objects from entering or damaging the muzzle and the crown.  I have found something that I think is a little easier and probably more effective.  It’s already a nice color too.

Water grenades are water balloons that are made to look like a pineapple grenade.  They are OD greenish.  They are the perfect size to slip over the muzzle.  I think that the gasses coming out of the barrel or the shockwave probably clear a hole for the bullet so that it never touches the balloon.

IMG_9344

I shot a 10 round group with the balloon over the muzzle:

IMG_9345

After the first shot it looked like this:

IMG_9347

I wanted to be able to isolate the cold bore and compare it to all the other shots, so I used one of the targets made for On Target TDS.  I obviously haven’t properly zeroed the Razor on the FN yet, but that’s not relevant for this discussion.  The group is below:

IMG_9354

On Target assembles the group so it can be viewed as a whole:

Balloon Prone

Shots 7 and 10 are at the bottom right of the group.  The cold bore shot is just above those.  I think that the balloon had no effect on the shot.  These balloons will degrade with exposure to the sun, so it’s necessary to replace them occasionally.  Good luck.

Monopod Prone

The idea of using a magazine for support is another one of the things I used to think was stupid.  “It’s sure to cause a malfunction,” I thought while throwing in, “The sling is undoubtedly a better shooting aid.”  Recently I realized that if people are doing it, although it could mean that they’re all morons who don’t know how to use slings, it could also mean that it works.

The idea of having built in support is attractive.  A 30 round magazine extends down quite a ways.  That’s just handy, and lighter than a bipod.  It’s quicker and less finicky than using the sling as a shooting aid.

There’s not much to the technique.  I used my support hand on the handguard to steady the rifle.  I used my firing hand to pull the stock into my shoulder, as normal.

I used my Noveske uppered Mega lower with the Geiselle SSA-E and my SWFA 3-9×42 which is borrowed from my FN for the time being until I can sell my M1A and buy a scope.  My ammo is a 55 grain load with a Hornady FMJ bullet that I mass loaded.  It’s mediocre in its precision, but I have a lot of it.  Quantity has a quality all it’s own, so there you go.

The control group was fired from bipod prone with a rear bag.

Control- Bipod Prone

The monopod prone group:

Monopod

I have no idea as to the reason for the point of impact shift.  I’m guessing that pressing on the trigger created some consistent movement due to the comparative instability in the position.  While the monopod group’s extreme spread was 0.07 MOA smaller than the bipod prone’s, I trust the mean radius number to tell me the story of the performance.  That’s still pretty good.

There’s no question that monopod prone is a quick and effective technique.  What I find disturbing is that I can beat the precision of both monopod and bipod prone with a loop sling in prone.  That should not be happening.  I have a hypothesis on that which is still not fully tested.

Modified Reverse Kneeling- Expanding the Base

David Bookstaber of Ballistipedia inspired me to explore a change in my supported reverse kneeling position.  He noted that there seemed to be lateral instability.  I thought to myself, “Duh, it’s a kneeling position.  That’s what they do,” (except I wasn’t that mean, since I’m so nice).

Then I pondered on the reason for the lateral instability.  I had always thought that kneeling had that attribute because the firing arm isn’t planted, because that’s what Cooper said.  The problem is, in reverse kneeling the firing side elbow is planted.  Then I looked at the overall position and noticed that the base of the position, knees and feet, presented a narrow footprint on the left side.

IMG_6749
The premise of the modification to my earlier version of supported reverse kneeling is that widening the base to the point of inducing a stretch of the adductors (inner thigh muscles).  I tried it briefly in dry fire and it seemed to make it steadier, but it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen in live fire.

Supported Reverse Kneeling and ModifiedSomething has happened to the weather since I tested supported reverse kneeling in September. I’m not sure I like the change. The top position is unmodified, although apparently slightly wider than my normal position. The bottom photo is my modification as I shot it earlier this month on the support in the following photo.

 

IMG_9349

I presented the rear bumper of the ol’ 4Runner at a favorable angle 105 yards from my target.  The idea wasn’t to have cover, just a handy place to plant my support hand.  I used the FN, which has the Vortex Razor instead of the SWFA 3-9×42 that is usually on, and was on for my previous battery of tests.  I don’t think the scope made a difference in my results, as the position is sufficiently coarse to make splitting hairs impractical.

Here’s what 10 rounds got me:

Reverse Kneeling Wide Base

Compare that to my previous supported reverse kneeling without the wide base modification, shot at 203 yards.

1- Supported Reverse Kneeling Slow Group

What it looks like is that the modification made the position much more reliable, as in fewer wild shots, and approximately a full minute reduction in extreme spread, but slightly less precise on average.  My working distance with my 4” target improved over the standard version slightly.  The 86% circle went from 163 to 172 yards.  My 99% circle went from 109 yards to 115 yards.  One factor to keep in mind in those numbers is that I think my fundamentals are in a little better shape now than they were then.

Instant vs. Delayed Gratification and Why it Matters for the Rifle Shooter

The subject of instant versus delayed gratification is typically explained in the context of getting a quick fix of pleasure versus adhering to a well thought out long term plan that would result in long term happiness.  I don’t think that most people have fully considered the difference between happiness, pleasure, and fun, these days, and I’m not going to cover that here and now, although it’s a rather profound distinction.  Regardless, the context for the rifle shooter is essentially no different from the general idea as stated in the first sentence of this paragraph.

This article will apply especially to newer shooters.  I thought about it while I was at the Appleseed shoot.  When it came time for courses of fire with time limits, the accuracy of the newer shooters’ performance fell apart.  Their skills were not sufficiently developed to be robust enough to withstand the challenge of the time limitations.

In that example, the shooters needed to make a choice between attempting to get all their shots off in time or making quality shots.  There was not an opportunity for both at their level of skill.  I think that the fork in the road at that point in a shooter’s development is a crucial one.  On one hand someone is telling them that they have a certain amount of time to fire a certain number of shots.  There is something seductive about succumbing to a call for rapid fire that is difficult to resist.  On the other hand, the implied message might be interpreted more accurately as, “I want you to compromise your ability to shoot well so you can do it faster than you really are capable of, and create some bad habits in the process.”

In that situation the thing to keep in mind is the timeline for actually developing the ability to perform well in the time limits.  In that case, it was not going to happen that day.  I think at that point the shooter would be prudent to ask, “What exactly am I hoping to accomplish here?”

This is where the shooter needs to have a vision of what they are working toward, in both the long and short term.  Am I simply working toward buying more ammo, or is there a purpose to this expenditure of time, energy, and federal reserve notes (I got all conspiratorial on y’all right there.  Did you see that)?

Every press of the trigger reinforces something.  That is the same as saying in life, every decision, every action, every word, and every thought reinforces something.  What is important is to evaluate whether our trigger presses reinforce where we want to go as shooters.  If not, just stop.  Seriously, stop.  Stop and re-evaluate the next step.

A friend who was also at that shoot put it this way to those shooters: “Three ‘5’s is better than five ‘3’s,” (the digits indicating points for the scoring area each round hits).  It’s true.  In the moment, there is no numerical difference between a score of 15 and a score of 15.  The latter means you got all your shots off, which seems exciting in the moment (fun and excitement).  The former means you got good hits, but it does feel like a let down not to get all the shots off in time.  In the long term though, it’s the difference between being a shooter who can place all his hits in the 5 ring (long term satisfaction and real happiness), or continuing to suck.  That is why the tortoise wins the race.