Saturday, October 02, 2010

Precision, Part II: Where Do You Draw the Line?

I mentioned silhouette shooting in my previous post, a discipline in which I was a AAA shooter. There was one rank above that, International Master, and the difference was that while I could usually hit 38/40, and now and again a 39 or a 40, the top guys shot 40 more often than not. A miss was unusual, in the braced position. One shot per target, left to right, and you had to hit it solidly enough to knock it over. Summer, we painted 'em black, winter, white, for visibility.

What was the difference between the Masters and me?

We shot the same categories of guns: revolver, semi-auto pistol, or production single-shots, either bolt-action or like the Contender. You could shoot standing or lying down, with the gun propped on your knee. Or prone -- but nobody I knew did that. 

For those of you wondering, revolvers are the least accurate; then semi-autos; then single-shots. And that has to do with a soft lead bullet and how it chambers, or how the chambers line up. Shave a bit off at the breech, it affects the flight. Handloading singles into the breech is the least damaging to the round. 

Standing silhouette is much harder. I never knew anybody who got a perfect score standing. I don't think it's been done in competition at all, though it's been a while since I checked.

Here's an idea of how much target you have, (and only iron sights allowed): Take a dinner plate and prop it up on the goal line of an American football field. Truck down to the other goal line and turn around. Using your handgun, hit the plate, one shot. 

Then do it nine more times.

Aside from natural talent, several things the top guys did that I didn't. 

First, they practiced more than I. At my best, I was going to the club once or twice a week and putting a couple boxes of ammo downrange each session. I was using practice targets, that were the same size as the match versions -- chicken, pig, turkey, ram, at the proper distance.

The top guys shot three or four times a week.

Second, attention to detail. The ammo didn't really matter, as long as it was a good grade, you could adjust your sights for the power. I used Winchester T-22, a standard velocity round, and a lot of guys did that. But there were shooters who did fine with CCI Minimags. 

What you are looking for in a precision load is consistency. You want all the rounds to be the same.

And I was enough into it that I weighed my rounds. What that means is, I took each one from a box and put it on a scale. If, for example, thirty shells in a fifty-round box weighed 51-grams each, and ten weighed 48-grams, and ten were lower or higher than either, then the 51-gram was the match load. I went through a few boxes, separated out the 51's until I had enough.

Solid noses are more accurate than hollow-points, by the way.

But the top shooters not only weighed them, they had bullet-outline gauges. This was a cutout into which one would slide the round, and if there were gaps or the bullet was too big? Those went into the plinking box. 

What they wound up with was a cartridge that was as uniform as they could manage. The idea there is that each would in theory shoot to the same place, or at least closely enough not to matter, given the target size.

The serious guys would lift dumbbells and hold them in shooting position to develop the muscles used for that. Some of them had glasses that were ground to give a perfect sight picture. Some of them wouldn't drink coffee because it made them jittery, or raised their heartbeat. They were into it.

I wasn't that into it. I decided how much time and energy and money I had to spend, and those became my limits. I had fun, enjoyed it, and was always shooting against myself rather than the other shooters. But like in anything, there are people who are willing to go the extra distance and do whatever it takes to stand at front of the line. You have to decide how important that is to you. That's the way to mastery. 


J.D. Ray said...

I have a friend that was into hand loading several years back, and got into competition target shooting. He insisted that the way to get REALLY accurate rounds was to buy factory rounds, use them in your iron, then hand load the brass yourself. Theory went (as he explained it to me, the naive onlooker) that the brass expanded in the chamber, and was then "custom fit" to said chamber. Hand loading allowed you to closely control the amount of powder and grain of each bullet. Not sure how much of it was B.S., but it sure sounded good.

Steve Perry said...

Handloads, sure, that's the way to go -- but centerfire -- nobody reloads .22 rimfire.


Better at 6:59

Ed said...

Getting good at standing Silhouette - that would be something! I think the coke icee's or slurpee's might not help me. I want to try the Steel Challenge shoots sometime....after a lot of practice.