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Skill degredation over time

Discussion in 'Competition Shooting' started by Trent, Jul 12, 2014.

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  1. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    (I'm posting this under competition forum instead of rifle as it is more geared to answering some questions about training regimen and skill degredation)

    So life got too busy this year, and I had to cut back on range trips / practice sessions this year. I've been focusing most of my energy and time on pistol shooting this year, and only packed a rifle to the range twice - last time was in February.

    Well, here it is July now, and decided to try to chip off some rust on the old High Power "across the course" game. I took some standard targets to the range last night and ran through a pair of 80 shot courses at 200 / 300 yards (using reduced size targets for 300 yards.)

    The first course I ran through was right handed. I've been having some serious vision issues with my right eye (I think need a new eyeglass prescription), so I also ran through the high power regional course again left handed.

    The big questions I wanted to answer is "how bad am I with iron sights with my bad eye vs. good eye, and how bad will I be shooting left handed, where I've had zero practice, but better vision."

    In the past I've consistently shot expert level on good days, sharpshooter on not so good days. :)

    This practice session I did last night ... was very disconcerting though.

    I'd just built a couple AR-15's and decided to take the top one out.
    [​IMG]

    It's not really an ideal rifle for testing but I wanted to run it through it's paces since it was a fresh build, see if there were any hiccups. The rifle has a mid-weight 16" barrel, midwest industries mid length freefloat tube, and MI flip up emergency sights (I replaced the front post with an .050"). It sports a standard DPMS lower parts kit with a trigger pull coming in at about 5.5 lbs. Not exactly a match rifle, but lightweight (weighs 6.75 lbs).

    Was shooting white box Prvi Partizan 5.56 ammo. Ammo and rifle functioned flawlessly, but it's not exactly match grade ammo or handloads. I figured for positional shooting and practice it'd be "good enough." (Certainly the ammo is more accurate than I am at this point... !)

    I was not using a shooting coat, sling, or glove. (90 degrees and I don't like using shooting aids while practicing.)

    For the timed rapid fire stages I just used a stopwatch on my phone.

    Anyway that's the end of the setup ...

    First round was sitting rapid fire. Went both left and right eye.

    200 yards sitting rapid fire (right eye)
    [​IMG]

    200 yards sitting rapid fire (LEFT eye)
    [​IMG]

    Same score.... ???

    That was surprising.

    Made a 1/4 turn sight adjustment on my front sight post following these (the emergency flip up rear sight had no elevation adjustment, so I decided to zero the rifle at 200 yards and use kentucky windage for the 300 yard stage...)

    Next strings were standing 200 yards slow fire.

    Right handed 69/100
    [​IMG]

    Left handed 76/100
    [​IMG]

    Obviously a little out of practice, the scores here were disappointing. Usually without a coat I'm in the mid 80's. But what really surprised me is that I did better with my weak side than my strong side, considering I'd never even attempted shooting left handed standing before...

    Following this I did a quick eye dominance check. My right eye has been so blurry lately I had a suspicion that I'd switched, and sure enough, with my glasses ON, my left eye was dominant. With my glasses OFF, on closer objects, my right eye was dominant, while on further objects, my left eye was dominant... kind of a head scratcher, but it makes sense, my brain is using the eye that can see better in any given situation.

    Anyway moving on to 300 yards... ugh.

    Rapid fire prone 300 yards.

    [​IMG]

    Clearly there's some issue here... and it's not the gun. :)

    (Yes I know I'm supposed to use an SR-3C center here but didn't feel like wasting any, just shot the SR target unaltered at 300)

    There's 4 strings there, 2 left handed, 2 right handed, none of which I'd want to write home to Mom about (although clearly I'm ok with showing my poor shooting skills in public for the entire world to see haha).

    Averaged about 70/100 on rapid fire prone 300. My scores were so poor I didn't bother wasting ammo on the MR63 target on slowfire.

    Last week in a sporting rifle match I shot back to back prone 200 yard scores of 152/200 and 146/200 with this rifle. My eyes suck.

    The further out I go the worse it is. At 300 yards when I focus my eye on the front sight with either eye, the target doesn't just blur out, it VANISHES completely. In order to align the sight I'd have to open both eyes and focus on the 300 yard target (to see it), then have to remember that spot and switch focus to my front sight (whereas the target simply vanishes completely in a brown blur that is indistinguishable from the backstop / stand / etc).

    At 200 yards at least I have a fuzzy blob of gray to shoot at, where the bull was, when I focus on the front sight.

    I repeated the sitting and standing scores again after this, giving up on 300 yards.

    Rapid fire Sitting, right eye, 200 yards

    [​IMG]

    96/100 - that's more like it. Substantial improvement over my first string. Not cleaning the target like last year but also back up to where I need to be to hit expert scores.

    Rapid fire Sitting, left eye, 200 yards

    [​IMG]

    89/100. Not as good as I was right handed but not too far off. I think I have a cheek weld / sight alignment issue when I shoot left handed (it feels SOOOO WRONG). But I can see the target more clearly so it almost washes. :)

    I redid the standing shooting again but forgot to snap pics, as I was getting chased off the range by a pop up thunderstorm. Ended up with 86/100 right eye 200 yard standing slowfire, and 81/100 left eye.

    So ended up shooting 2 80Rc courses minus the 300 yard prone slowfire stages (which would have been pointless, given how bad I was shooting at 300 yards).

    Regional highpower championships are tomorrow.. not wasting 8 hours of driving time + ammo on them. I can't see targets at 300 yards, let alone 600 for the slowfire prone.

    So maybe next year.

    Going to get my prescription checked again and get a new set of glasses, and repeat the exercise. (with a scope, I can punch the 10 ring out of the 300 yard rapid fire and clean the target.... so it's not a technique issue...)

    Anyway I figured I'd document this process of rifle marksmanship, to answer these questions:

    * How much skill do you lose over time (degredation) with rifles?

    (Answer, quite a lot!)

    * How much skill (shooting fundamentals) automatically transfers to weak-side shooting?

    (Answer thus far, *WAY* more than I expected! I wouldn't have thought I could have hit sharpshooter scores on my first outing; also I'm finding the AR-15 easier to operate left handed for some reason.)

    * How much difference will an updated eyeglass prescription make?

    (to be determined)

    * How much difference will a sling make over my baseline skill?

    (to be determined)

    * How much difference will a shooting jacket make over my baseline skill?

    (to be determined)

    * How much difference will a lighter trigger make over the ragged stock DPMS lower parts kit I threw in there?

    (to be determined)

    * How much difference will handloads tuned to the rifle make over factory Prvi Partizan M855 ball?

    (to be determined)

    * How much difference will a proper rear sight make over the emergency flip up one I have mounted now? (It has no elevation adj.)

    (to be determined)
     
  2. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    Also to follow-up. Not having picked up a rifle in 6 months these were my Sporting Rifle scores from last weekend.

    The course was shot at 100 yards on Smallbore targets (A-25, slightly more difficult than the High Power targets).

    No sling, no coat, no glove, iron sights, same gun as I used in practice last night.

    Standing:

    47/100 string 1 (ugh)
    68/100 string 2 (ugh x2)
    73/100 string 3 (ugh x3) - note that the rust is slowly getting chipped off...

    Sitting:
    80/100 string 1 (meh)
    87/100 string 2 (better.. at least out of marksman territory)
    86/100 string 3

    Prone 200 yards on MR52 highpower target (simulates 600 yds slowfire)
    152/200 string 1
    146/200 string 2

    Will be shooting the same course of fire again Aug 17

    (By end of year last year my scores were consistently at the 90+% mark on those)

    Basically, what I'm finding here ... is a 6 month break will knock a good 20% off your scores... and it takes a couple practice days to begin inching back up to where you were.
     
  3. taliv

    taliv Moderator

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    * How much skill do you lose over time (degredation) with rifles?


    ime, for standing, kneeling and seated, quite a lot. for prone, almost none.

    * How much skill (shooting fundamentals) automatically transfers to weak-side shooting?


    a great diagnostic for a struggling shooter you suspect is having some mental issues, is to have them shoot weak hand. you will often find, regardless of discipline (e.g. rifle,pistol, HP, 3gun) they will briefly perform better weak side, and that can help get them over a hump on the strong side.

    in other words, once you're tuned up again, i would not expect you to shoot as well weak side. it's just that shooting weak side this once, forced you to focus on things you know you don't have muscle memory on. it's a mental/focus issue.

    * How much difference will an updated eyeglass prescription make?

    ime, a ton. well, not so much eyeglasses in my case as lasik

    * How much difference will a sling make over my baseline skill?


    i'll bet if you took the slings away from a group of high masters, they wouldn't even shoot expert.

    * How much difference will a shooting jacket make over my baseline skill?


    it's worth a few points for sure

    * How much difference will a lighter trigger make over the ragged stock DPMS lower parts kit I threw in there?

    service rifle minimum is 4.5 lbs.

    * How much difference will handloads tuned to the rifle make over factory Prvi Partizan M855 ball?

    holy crap, probably a lot.

    * How much difference will a proper rear sight make over the emergency flip up one I have mounted now? (It has no elevation adj.)


    uhh, it's hard to shoot 200, 300, 600 without dialing up elevation. are you shooting all of this at 100 yards now?
     
  4. BullfrogKen

    BullfrogKen Moderator Emeritus

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    You really can't compare any of those two days of shooting to your high power scores.

    What Tom said is correct. Take the slings away from a High Master and those scores plummet. Especially in the rapid fire stages.


    I'm not saying 6 months off won't have a negative effect. But if you want to see what it truly is, gear up and shoot those stages with everything you use in the matches.
     
  5. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    No, all of the shooting is at 200 / 300. Don't have access to a 600 yard range so I'm using MR63's reduced scale for 600 yard slowfire.

    You were right about shooting better left handed *temporarily*.. today left handed stayed about the same while right handed started picking back up.

    Ok today I went back out with the SCAR17, this time, affixed with a Turner sling.

    [​IMG]

    Being a glutton for punishment... I packed along Malaysian Surplus.

    That Malaysian 7.62 ammo shoots about 2.5 MOA off the bench so it's not the best stuff in the world for this; but cheap, and I have quite a lot of it, so makes for OK practice ammo.

    [​IMG]

    Wind was gusty, 10-15mph, direct crosswind from 3 o'clock.

    Just as yesterday, I shot both left and right handed. I ran through a full 80RC this time on right hand, but only shot a 600 with left (by the time I got done with slowfire prone right handed, I was wasted... 100F heat index.)

    Today I had the good fortune to have a couple random friend show up at the range. They helped with timing on rapid fire. Less clunky that way.

    Skipping the lengthy blow by blow, the scores were:

    Right handed:
    String 1 200yd sitting rapid fire: 91
    String 2 200yd sitting rapid fire: 93 (avg 92%)
    String 1 200yd standing slow fire: 87
    String 2 200yd standing slow fire: 81 (avg 84%)
    String 1 300yd Prone rapid fire: 93
    String 2 300yd Prone rapid fire: 83 (avg 88%)
    300 yd prone slowfire (MR63): 155 (77.5%) - those reduced scale targets are a pain in the ***.

    Overall 683/800 (85.37%)

    Left handed:
    String 1 200yd sitting rapid fire: 89
    String 2 200yd sitting rapid fire: 88 (avg 88.5%)
    String 1 200yd standing slow fire: 70 (ouch)
    String 2 200yd standing slow fire: 71 (ouch x2) (avg 70.5%)
    String 1 300yd Prone rapid fire: 67 (I didn't get 2 shots off in time so lost -20 there)
    String 2 300yd Prone rapid fire: 83 (avg 75%)

    468/600 (78%)


    Still not back to where I was, even with a sling, and still having vision issues at 300. Wind wasn't much fun today, but can't blame it all on the wind..... or the crappy ammo.

    I'm still disappointed that I've lost so much ground on where I was last year, but it's coming back somewhat quickly, except for the longer ranges. Prone scores suck still with irons. Give me a scope and I'd punch that 10 ring right out. :)

    At least I'm *consistently* putting up the same scores, so there's something to be said for that. :)

    I also think it's time to forego the glasses entirely and look in to Lasik.
     
  6. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    Oh, and trying to use a sling left handed about blew my mind at first. "which hand do I ..huh? what? Wait a minute... sonofa... "

    My scores also dropped as the day went on, fatigue set in. Doing two full 80RC's was a bit out of my reach; but still, doing a 1400 point practice session is grueling, with no breaks. I got done in about 4 hours.

    Overall shot sharpshooter with right hand today.

    Anyway, I *have* dropped skill quite a bit from last year (was consistently shooting Expert, with occasional master scores)

    Guess I'll keep at it. Only one way to improve... and that'll take more trigger time and dry fire.
     
  7. taliv

    taliv Moderator

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    don't waste a lot of ammo practicing for HP. dry firing is much more productive.
     
  8. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    I agree with that.... But it's a whole lot less fun. :)

    If 22 ammo wasn't still unobtainable around here I could do a caliber conversion on the AR and practice on smallbore targets at shorter ranges. Time is a premium though, so shopping takes a back seat.

    I did notice something potentially useful yesterday. If I lower the front sight down a little on the longer range targets, I *can* make out the targets with my poor vision. When I raise the front sight post back up again .. and focus on the front sight, it's gone. Target blurs to oblivion.

    Even with crappy eye sight I think I can use that with some practice to produce a framing reference to shoot at the bull. I'd still be shooting blind, but depending on how accurately I can remember the framing reference (which will take some practice / muscle memory) I should be able to lob the rounds in. I did that with the entire last string on the MR-63 target, and put down a 155/200. With a little practice I could probably improve that.

    Getting my eyes fixed is obviously the best solution but part of me is stubborn and wants to see what I can maximize what I have. (Perhaps I have?)

    Going to head back out this afternoon with the SCAR, same Malaysian surplus ammo, everything the same as yesterday; but this time I'm mounting optics. Shoot the same sitting & prone stages with sling, just to get a baseline of what me, the rifle, and ammo can do with a clearly visible target.

    I need to find out if it's my technique that is crap, or if it's simply my eyes gone from bad to worse that is causing the issue.
     
  9. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    So ... back out again today. This is going to be pic heavy.

    I had the range to myself ALL DAY. Couldn't believe no one else was out there.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately today involved a great deal of walking. Damn near got my 4x4 stuck putting up targets.

    [​IMG]

    Same ammunition (Malaysian Surplus 7.62), same rifle (SCAR17S), gear (sling), except this time a Leupold Vari-X III was added. Due to eye relief issues from the flip up rear sight taking up so much space, I was only able to use the scope on 6x magnification.

    Parallax was carefully and deliberately reset between each distance change.

    [​IMG]

    Before I started shooting / practicing, I decided to hit the bench and get a baseline of the ammunition w/ 7 shot groups.

    100 yard benchrest group (wasted 2 shots getting it back down.. down 34 clicks.. dunno where the hell that scope was zeroed when I took it off last time lol)
    [​IMG]

    200 yard benchrest group
    [​IMG]

    (2 shots didn't impact the paper)
    300 yard benchrest group
    [​IMG]

    Looking through the spotting scope at these... CLEARLY something is not right.

    I got to thinking, and I'd just put 160 dirty Malaysian surplus through it the day before without giving it a cleaning.

    As they say on Mythbusters, "Well, THERE is your problem."

    [​IMG]

    A little elbow grease with a brush and this pool of sludge came out the muzzle.

    [​IMG]

    After a LOT of scrubbing with a brush, bore mop, and patches, I finally got them running mostly clean.

    Ahh! There we go, back to the normal 2.5 MOA groups I'm used to with this ammunition.

    [​IMG]


    OK now I'm a bit rusty with my math, but with a 7" 10 ring on the SR targets, and a ~5" estimated spread on the ammo at 200 yards based on the benchrest baseline (after cleaning), I realized I'd have to be able to hold 1 MOA in order to clean a target with 100.

    Or in other words, compared to if I were using 0.5 MOA ammo, I'd have to shoot with the skill required to get a perfect 100-10x in order to get a 100 with this ammo. The absolute best scores I could hope for at 300 yards (using SR target for rapid fire prone) would be *90*, while the best I could hope for on the MR-63 reduced target would be an *80* (give or take), as the ammunition simply isn't accurate enough to score higher, even if I shot perfect.

    This is fine, I don't mind shooting with bad ammo as long as I know how it's handicapping me. :)

    I decided that switching back & forth between positions wasn't going to tell me anything new. So I decided to focus on ONE position only (sitting 200 yards rapid fire). After using up some ammo on sighters, I allocated 90 rounds of what I brought to sitting rapid fire, and the final 40 rounds to prone rapid and slow fire.

    Sitting rapid fire 200 yards SR target:

    string 1 88 (zero adjustment following, group was high 5")
    string 2 93-1x
    string 3 97-2x
    string 4 95
    string 5 94-1x
    string 6 98-2x
    string 7 94-1x
    string 8 93 (bumped windage knob when putting sling on..)
    string 9 100-1x

    BOOM! After a LOT of shooting I'd *finally* found my sweet spot and relaxed enough to let the shots hit where I wanted. (That turned out to be my big problem, BTW; relaxation.)

    As you can see by the patches.... if at first you don't succeed, kick yourself in the rear end and try.. try ... try again...

    [​IMG]

    Knowing the ammo handicap, with a good handload I should be able to go back out and clean that with a 100-10x (probably take a few tries... but at least I know I'm back in good form).

    The interesting thing about today is at 200 yards, the scope DID NOT help. The scores I was shooting yesterday with iron sights (both left and right handed) were RIGHT in line with the scores I was shooting TODAY at the beginning. So at least at the 200 yard mark, I was not handicapped by vision. (At least, not much)

    The big difference here was being out of practice.

    I went on to shoot some rather predictable 300 yard groups. With this ammo, getting an 90 or 80 respectively would have been about the best I could hope for:

    300 yard rapid fire prone
    string 1 87-1x
    string 2 89-2x
    (Theoretical best with this ammo 90)

    300 yard slow fire prone
    string 1 78
    string 2 84-1x
    (Theoretical best with this ammo 80 - got lucky on string 2 lol)

    THOSE scores are up quite a lot from yesterday, close to the theoretical best I could get shooting 2.5 MOA crap ammo. So my vision beyond 200yd still affects my ability to hit the target; shooting with the scope, I was much more proficient.

    Anyway, I can draw a lot of conclusions from this weekend. I think this answers the question pretty definitively on how much skill degredation there is over a 6 month timespan. (Sitting, quite a lot, standing, even more, and prone, not so much.)

    It also told me I need to get rid of these old things.

    [​IMG]

    Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope this helps someone some day, at least to get an idea of how much practice you need to put in to regain skills that are rusty. (In my case, about 500 rounds and three days).
     
  10. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    Also, since the range was so muddy, I also got a good day of exercise in, walking out to patch & score targets.

    4800 yards worth of walking by my count.. :)
     
  11. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    Thanks for posting. This is pretty much as I expected: The more unsupported the position, the quicker it atrophies.

    My standing scores are generally better when I don't miss dry fire sessions during the week, so it atrophies quickly, it seems. Looking at match scores, it appears standing SF can really kill your match, though. I'm hoping to shoot my first HP match next month, so that's enough to keep me motivated to regularly dry fire. ;)
     
  12. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    MrBorland;

    I was hitting "expert" scores last year, but only because of standing. My standing scores historically have been consistently mid-70's to 80's. My sitting and prone scores were (and hopefully soon again) 95+. But standing drug my score average back down enough to knock me out of the master levels.

    I've never used a shooting coat, was waiting until standing scores hit 90's before I invested in a coat to give me that last little "push." Now that I've shaken some rust off, they standing slow fire scores are finally settling back in around mid-80's. A couple more practice days and they'll be bumping off 90's consistently. So I told the wife "find the tape measure, time to get fitted for a coat." :)

    Standing is by far the hardest of the 4 positions to master. I am *finally* at the point now that even without a coat, my front sight post doesn't leave the black. Now it's just a matter of timing the break with the middle of the target. (You can never eliminate arc of movement, period).

    What has suddenly jumped my standing scores has been 99% mindset and breathing. When I'm loading the next round I take two deliberate DEEP breaths and let them out. I start taking a third DEEP breath as I begin raising the gun up. I exhale a *little* (just a puff, so I'm not over-extending my lungs) as I settle the gun down. I deliberately get the cheek weld by "dragging my face" down. I shoulder the rifle VERY high, almost to the point it's TOO high, to keep my head as straight up as possible.

    (When learning where to put this I actually bounced the charging handle off my nose a couple times... as the stock slipped up and over my shoulder on occasion.. but I finally "got it." You only do that crap ONCE with a 308, BTW. After that you will forever get the stock in the right position. That smarts.)

    I keep my feet both parallel 90 degrees from the target, rotate my hip forward as far as possible, rest my elbow on my hip.

    As I let that 3rd deep breath out, the entire world disappears except for the target. And for a FEW brief seconds, that post DOES NOT move. (Well, it moves from my heartbeat, but that's it.)

    With practice that "window" you get extends. At first, there was only about 1 second of utter stability before things started going sideways. Now I get about 4-5 seconds of stability to take the shot. If I can't get on target I lower the gun back down, take a deep breath, and start over.

    With the coat, it should help further isolate the heartbeat going through my torso and let me get to the maximum potential I can get to; as I have the technique nailed. Only the pulse through my cheek should affect the point of aim. (That's something you can never overcome even when shooting supported prone, you have to learn to time the shot to the heartbeat.)

    It takes a long time and a lot of practice to get to a level of proficiency. Dry fire only takes you so far. The rifle DOES move when you pull the trigger, under recoil, for about 1 millisecond, as that bullet is travelling down the bore. That means if you don't have an *absolutely* neutral natural point of aim, you're increasing your MOA of accuracy error.

    Getting that absolutely neutral natural point of aim is something you'll chase for your entire lifetime regardless of shooting discipline. It requires absolute relaxation and proper form so that you aren't exerting any unnatural force on the rifle in any direction, so that it recoils ONLY straight back.

    It's most profound on handguns, obviously, because of the torque involved, but lock-up time and time-of-bore traversion is very evident in accuracy errors on bad grip / trigger control fundamentals on handgun.

    But that same concept applies even to supported long range shooting with bipods and bags. The difference is only in degree.

    Difficult to master is an understatement. I'll be chasing that rainbow the rest of my natural life. :)
     
  13. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    As an afterthought; in addition to "skill deterioration over time" (which I didn't think would be an issue on rifle, as it was on handguns), is the question at what frequency of practice do you need to maintain a certain level of skill?

    I know as I approached higher ranks in martial arts, it took a LOT more effort to gain an appreciably smaller level of skill. I think most physical skills are like that; rapid gains until a certain level of proficiency is reached, then incrementally harder to improve a little. E.g. getting to 75% in High Power is a relatively quick process. Getting to 80% takes at least as much work as getting to 75%. Getting to 85% takes even more. And so on.

    Once you REACH a point it's somewhat easier the next time through; e.g. if you slide back to 75% and you *were* at 90%, it's easier to get back to 90 than it was the first time. (Also might be easier to push through and get even better after a short break, as the next ride through you might pick up on something you missed the first time that was holding you back.)

    Training and coaching, as well as watching others who are above your skill level, all help to accelerate the curve, but at the end of the day, it comes down to you and the firearm. No amount of reading or talking or thinking can replace sling time.

    Anyway. Here's to that "last 5%" ... wonder how long it'll take me, or if I'll ever be able to pull off a perfect 800 point course in my lifetime. :)
     
  14. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    Good stuff, Trent.

    Knowing the importance of a good standing SF score, I've been shooting SSF exclusively since I got my service rifle (see below) in about mid-spring. Right now, I'm averaging a 186-187/200, a personal best of 193/200. With my first match coming up next month, though, it's time to start working on my sitting and prone shooting as well, methinks.

    I'd definitely recommend a shooting coat. I didn't want to spring for a high-end one until I had a chance to evaluate them in person, so I bought a relatively basic Creedmoor coat, and I'm happy with it. It provides for a more consistent and stable placement of the gun and support elbow, and it keeps the toe of the buttstock from digging into my shoulder.

    My philosophy with regards to gear is this: If you're serious enough about shooting to start competing, don't obsess over the gear; rather, look at what's standard in the sport, then get it and start practicing your butt off.

    BTW, here's my rifle. Again, a pretty standard, but good setup: Rock River lower, Geissele NM 2-stage trigger, Keystone Accuracy upper with Krieger match barrel, Turner NM sling. Yeah, it may be overkill for a newb, but it's a standard setup that ain't holding me back or that I won't outgrow.


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2014
  15. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    Very nice. Next year I'm going to drop some coin on a White Oak service rifle upper. Until then I'm going to use what I have in Match rifle (and predictably, get my butt stomped by guys with extended length front sights on franken-AR's, etc). All of my shooting to date has been in High Power sporting rifle, where the rules are more lax, and the competition not NEARLY as serious.

    Not sure how much good a dedicated upper and good trigger will do me. In all reality, I shoot the same scores no matter what rifle I pick up (within a few points). The way I look at it, I'm not maximizing the gear I currently have. Might be good for a .1 MOA difference on a trigger. The upper might shave another .4 or .5 MOA off the size of groups. I guess combined that could mean the difference between a clean target and a mid 90's score, if conditions aren't favorable (uncertain wind, bad mirage, etc).

    Positional shooting rifles is a matter of "margin of error" - your scores are a reflection of your skill (which provides a certain baseline MOA of inaccuracy), your ammo (which adds to that uncertainty), and the quality of rifle you are shooting (which further increases that uncertainty).

    So if I'm able to shoot 1 MOA consistently with a sling in slow fire prone, and my rifle and ammunition is capable of delivering .5 MOA, and the MR-63 slowfire prone target I'm shooting at 300 yards has a 5.83" 10 ring, I *should* be able to nail perfect scores as long as I do my part (1.5 MOA *1.047 *3 = 4.7115", vs. 5.85" 10 ring.)

    In reality, all of my guns except my F-Class rig and the FNAR are 1.25 MOA or better (with good ammo), so I can't sweep that MR63. The FNAR is consistently 1 MOA but unwieldy and not really good as a match rifle. The F-Class gun shoots .210 MOA with the best load I worked up; I can clear F-Class targets with it all day. But I couldn't shoulder that bolt gun and shoot from standing to save my ass. :)

    I can get the baseline for my rifle & ammo combination by shooting groups from a benchrest at any known distance.

    Which means I can determine how accurate *I* am in any given position based on group size at any given distance with that rifle / ammo combination.

    Yesterday, I know my rifle + ammo was consistently getting 2.5" groups at 100 yards from the bench, 5.5" groups at 200 yards, and 9+" groups at 300 (started getting wider as I went further down range due to velocity inconsistency in the surplus ammo).

    Which means when I shot that perfect 100 group at 200 yards yesterday in rapid fire sitting, with a couple of shots intersecting the line between 9 and 10, I know my group size was 7" (this held out over the course of the day, I shot 9 strings in all; getting the perfect 100 point 10 shot score involved a series of scope adjustments and relaxation techniques. Groups started at about 10" and settled down to 7", centering the sights as I shot each successive group)

    So with a known 5.5" off the bench and 7.0" (on the nose) groups for the last 3 sets, leaves 1.5" of uncertainty (that's ME.) 1.5" at 200 yards = .76 MOA. So knowing what the ammo shot and having 3 consecutive 10 shot groups of the same exact diameter, the uncertainty I'm contributing while sitting is .76 MOA.

    How is this useful? First, I know I'm not shooting bench level accuracy from sitting; but pretty good. Second, I know if I make a gear change at this point, I'm going to see immediate and dramatic results (the gear change being eliminating the crappy surplus ammo I use for practice).

    From prior sessions I know that *without* a sling I can shoot 1 MOA (plus ammo plus rifle inaccuracy) all day from sitting, so the sling helps me for all of .25 MOA while sitting.

    The reason I bring all this up, is if you study your shooting you will know what gear is contributing on top of your base skill. You don't *need* the gear to shoot well, or to practice (even when I get a coat, I'm not using it to practice). Since those articles (sling, coat) are additive in reducing your existing skill's minute of angle uncertainty in aiming, once you get past the base familiarity (e.g. "how do I use this properly") it's not really required to train with it to improve your base skill.

    Just like premium ammo isn't required to practice, to determine improvement in skill, the gear isn't required to actually improve that skill.

    Kind of like training wheels. :)

    At least that's my take on it.
     
  16. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    I know that was a long and meandering post... apologies. Just wanted to put enough empirical evidence forward to justify training with "imperfect" gear / equipment.

    My point was rather simple, skill will grow regardless of what you use, when you practice, so long as you practice correctly, and make the right assumptions.

    I've seen guys beat themselves up over bad scores and throw a LOT of money chasing ghosts. ESPECIALLY in this game, where they see the "Masters" using this, that, or the other. All too often (just as in other sports, from racing to whatever), people look at that and say "oh, THAT is the reason they do so well. They have a coat. Or they have a sling. Or they're using this brand of ammo. Or they are using this barrel. Or trigger."

    I've watched guys at the rifle matches I run dump LOTS of money in and only see minor, sometimes barely noticeable, improvements. And I watch them grow frustrated and plateau out. The root problem is they are looking to gear as the answer, when they need to swallow their pride and admit "*I* am the problem, what am I doing WRONG?"

    That revelation usually comes after several thousand dollars are spent and no measurable improvement in performance occurs. Which is several thousand dollars TOO LATE.

    I was telling a friend the other night in private chat, who has plateau'd out on his High Power scores this very thing. He was about to drop a vacation worth of money on to some new gizmo to try to improve his score. He is averaging 79% scores.

    I told him don't.

    Skill wins or loses this race. Gear / equipment / gadgets / etc only helps to decide a photo finish between two equallly skilled people. Which is why until a person reaches a certain level of consistency and mastery, they should just practice shooting and try to internalize all of the marksmanship fundamentals (relaxation, natural point of aim, sight alignment, cheek weld, breath control, and so on).

    Once a person reaches a certain point of mastery, THEN the gear will make the difference between win or lose, when they are in tight competition it can help push you past that .1 MOA needed to put a competitor below you on the charts.

    Until then, you're better suited using the money on ammo for trigger time, practicing those fundamentals, learning to relax, learning to oxygenate your blood supply. At the higher levels, even learning Vagal maneuvers to "skip a heartbeat", etc. (I do that on F-class, it allows me to predictably shoot between heartbeats.)

    Anyway... dry fire only takes you so far, some lessons can only be learned with recoil therapy. And that takes ammo. And time. And proper mindset when you practice. :)

    Enough preaching, I'm off work this week and it's time to send more ammo downrange. :)
     
  17. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    Breaking down accuracy into that of the shooter and that of the rifle/ammo can be helpful, but the 2 aren't strictly additive; rather, they are related by a Root Means Squared relationship. IOW, the square of the shooter's accuracy and the square of the rifle's accuracy add to the square of the net accuracy:

    In this case:
    (shooter)^2 = (net)^2 - (rifle)^2 = (7.0)^2 - (5.5)^2 = 49 - 30.3 = 18.7

    Therefore;
    shooter = sqrt(18.7) = 4.3" @ 200 yards = 2.2 MOA, not .76 MOA

    With a rifle/ammo combo that shoots 1.5 MOA, you'd drop your 200 yard groups from 7" to 5.3". That's certainly worth some points. ;)

    FWIW, if you're registered, a HM is selling his WOP/CLE upper for a good price on the USrifleteams.com forum. Last I checked, WOP had a long waiting list, so a good used one isn't a bad option.
     
  18. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    OK you lost me on the math. :)

    White Oak is only 20 minutes from my house, going to help keep John working by buying direct. Plan on putting my order in when he gets back from Camp Perry. Maybe have it ready by the next Camp Perry. :)

    He's a real nice guy, when I started running the High Power shoots at our club, White Oak sent over a bunch of swag to give away as prizes. (NO uppers though lol, shucks)
     
  19. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    It's a good point, but I can do that while, at the same time, getting every point I shoot by using good gear. If I'm going to compete, I want both. ;)
     
  20. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    Your scores are definitely on the high end anyway, so you're at the point where gear will make a difference. I'm kind of borderline, still. Not convinced yet. :)

    It's like buying a $5,000 Les Paul guitar and thinking "I'm going to play like Stevie Ray Vaughan!"

    Umm... no. You won't!

    But fair bet that *he* could pick up a $150 walmart guitar and make some dang fine music (if he were still alive, of course).

    I used to chase this on pistols, too, years ago. Shoot, shoot, shoot, never really improve. Try different ammo. Buy different guns. Never really improve beyond a certain point.

    Took training. Took more training. Practiced good habits and broke bad ones. Now I'm a superb shot stationary, on the move, at moving targets. It was a matter of checking my ego, realizing that "gear is not the ultimate answer", and learning to actually SHOOT.

    A *very* large percentage of shooters who think about competing end up in that same boat. "Oh if I had a $2,500 custom race gun and magnetic magazine holders and a quick draw skeleton holster, I could swing with the grand masters." Umm.. no, a B shooter is still a B shooter. Spend all the money you want... it isn't going to help.

    I feel good now that my handgun skills reached a point that I can pick up ANY of the old guns I bought, production or otherwise, and punch out the X ring consistently. And I can do it with my friends guns, when they bitch about crap ammo or sights that are misaligned, to illustrate the problem might be somewhere else (betwixt the ears..). ;)

    I once had the opinion somewhat akin to "I fear the man with one gun who knows how to use it." (As I practiced exclusively with one gun for years, trying to "master it".)

    Over time my world view changed to "I fear the man who has mastered the art of marksmanship, with ANY instrument in his hands." (As I learned that to master anything I first have to master my own mind.)

    Being Buddhist, the art of marksmanship is (for all practical intents and purposes), a religious aid for me; practicing it helps me empty my mind. Studying it has become a way of life over time. I've long ago realized I can never truly master it... and in all reality I'll never be "the best"... but I can keep trying! Chasing impossible concepts is one of the things that makes humans unique.

    Anyway my path is chasing that concept of "can I do my absolute best with what is in my hands right now." (Answer being, not yet, keep trying).

    Edit to add: High Power is a diverse discipline that requires mastery of several things to score high. And since it's scored I can track my progress. Which makes it ideal for what I like to do with rifles. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2014
  21. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    I read this reasoning a lot, and have issues with it. For one thing, how anyone else performs has no bearing on me, so that's off the table in my mind.

    If someone were to make a well-grounded, honest, and mature decision to learn to play the guitar, and play it well, why not get a decent guitar right up front? You'll grow into one at some point. It might not be a $5k Les Paul, but, then again, it might, if it's the best option. Why rule it out simply because of some "I'm not worthy" feeling or perceived peer pressure? Either of those is unnecessarily self-limiting.

    It really comes down to individual motivation - do I really want to be good, or am I more in love with some image of being good. If the former, I will put in the time, so good gear is a quicker, more efficient way towards that end. There are those in the latter group, but if I'm in the 1st group, what's it matter?
     
  22. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    You're missing the point I was raising. I've seen a lot of shooters throw money at gear thinking it'll make them better overnight, find out it doesn't change anything, get discouraged, and quit. (Particularly in 'competitive' venues).

    Now in any competitive venue, shooting or otherwise, there comes a point when you simply can NOT win without the appropriate gear. This is why Smallbore is ruled by Anschutz, etc.

    But to the new shooter this creates a paradox. They feel they can't be competitive *without* the gear (properly so), but falsely believe that the gear will somehow make them a superstar.

    I saw the same phenomenon on the racetrack when I was in the Superbike scene. Young rich kid gets the fastest bike thinking it'll make him a rock star, then injures himself when he suddenly finds skill doesn't measure up. Or gets whomped by someone on a slower bike with superior skill who knows how to get through corners much faster. (Even felt that myself, when I first started it was irritating, being on a 180hp literbike, getting passed by guys on 90 hp SV650's. :) )

    Fortunately shooting is much more forgiving to the body. But it can be just as damaging to the wallet.

    Keep in mind here I'm getting beyond the "I bought it because I liked it and wanted it." If a guy can afford it, and you want it, man, this is America. Buy it!

    I'm addressing anyone reading this who is starting out in the sport, looking at the guys on the lines with the expensive gear, thinking to themselves "man I need that gear to be competitive and have fun."

    Which is why it's hard to get new people interested in the sport. When I started running a rifle match at our club, it was a casual thing. Then word got out, more guys showed up and it became an arms race (literally, lol). Watching people dump tons of money in to it, they quit having fun when their new "equipment" didn't live up to expectations.

    (It's not the equipment....)

    So. Yes, and no. You need the gear to even the playing field at some point when your skill is equivalent to the others you are shooting with; because the gear can push you over the top to win. Or hold you back and lose.

    But getting in to an arms race with others can suck the fun right out of it.

    We do this to better ourselves. If we lose sight of that and focus on gizmos and gadgets, instead of what WE bring to the table (camaraderie, fun times, and our personal best effort), then we lose focus on what we started doing it for in the first place.

    Personally, I like watching guys bring 10/22's to the smallbore match to shoot and have fun. Heck some of them are getting pretty dang competitive (much to the chagrin of the Anchutz bolt action shooters..... who have recently started LOSING matches to them!)

    (Yes, watching a 10/22 win a smallbore match over Anschutz rifles put a smile on my face, I always root for the underdog.)

    Keep in mind I'm just expressing my thoughts here, not directing this at you. Your last post made it seem like you took what I said personally. It was not intended as such. Just my thoughts to the world at large. :)
     
  23. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    No worries Trent. I didn't take anything personally. Sorry if it came off that way.

    Anyhoo...I understood your point and agree it seems some might feel the equipment is primary and run the risk of being disappointed, and outright discouraged. I come from a competitive bicycle racing background, and the equipment focus was often insane, and didn't necessarily correlate to the ability of the rider. Often, the riders with the fanciest bike & clothing were the first ones dropped.

    That said, my point is that I've arrived at a "so what?" point. "Those guys" affect my shooting as much as those dropped riders mentioned above affected my race. Yeah, maybe those riders get discouraged, and maybe it seems I should show more concern for other members of the community, but there are other, more productive ways of helping the community that by sandbagging myself during competition on their behalf. There's really nothing helpful or noble about that.

    And those who clearly understand the importance of the nut behind the trigger aren't doomed to being one of "those guys" simply by virtue of a good coat and and rifle, nor does a good coat and rifle have to mean an arms race gets started, either. Earlier, I wrote "don't obsess over the gear; rather, look at what's standard in the sport", with an implicit emphasis on "don't obsess" and "what's standard".
     
  24. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    Good points, and fair!

    A fair amount of sandbagging can be in order when you run the competitions though. My scores don't "officially count" anyway, per NRA rules they cannot be submitted; but if there's time and the crowd isn't huge, I jump on the line and join in so I'm not spending 8 hours sitting on my rear end. I have several trained RSO's that can run the line while I'm taking a break.

    Anyway ... as the person organizing the match one of my primary jobs is trying to encourage people and keep them from getting discouraged. So sandbagging has a place. I shoot to the skill level of the group shooting.

    We do this in Karate, too, with sparring partners. We don't knock the living crap out of the new guys. We hold back - a LOT - letting them score every once in awhile to build confidence. Sure, it's a false confidence, but for awhile, that is *vital* to getting the right patterns developed. (If all you ever do is fail, you soon quit, right?)

    I very consistently come in 2nd place when I jump in to play unofficially. Keep in mind I don't get sloppy. I just forget to shoot 4 or 5 shots. Or get called aside to deal with something and have to skip a full string (instant -100...).

    That is, until the side-matches or after-match grudge matches start. Then I'll put the nail down hard. One of my shooters and I have been parallel in score on F-Class now for several months, after each match the gauntlet gets tossed down hard. We're both at the point where it's won or lost on # of X's, which keeps it interesting. :)

    So keep in mind throughout our discussions, my perspective has only been from "how to keep shooters engaged and showing up month to month."

    Discussions of gear don't even enter in to that until proficiency reaches a certain point, unless their gear is so horribly wrong that it simply will not work, period. Seen that before when a guy brought an SKS to a sporting rifle match. Did it work? Yea. Did he win? No, he came in dead last, and he never came back again. (Sometimes there are no answers to issues; he simply couldn't afford a better gun, but an 8-10 MOA SKS with a crap bore isn't going to cut it...)

    Unfortunately sometimes we just can't keep people involved. But it gets more fun when the regulars stick around month, to month, to month.

    The problem is when the arms race starts, it's damn contagious, because people need to "keep up with the Jonses." When I filter in line and shoot, I do so with NO gear. If they are shooting optics, I shoot irons. I shoot with no coat, no sling, t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops (in the summertime, obviously).

    The reason I do this is so people can see "I don't need X/Y/Z to shoot good, I just need to practice". So far it's worked. We have a very consistent shooter base at the events.

    Although admittedly it DOES add to the difficulty, especially if there are shooters there who are utilizing all the gear and laying down 90%+ scores. I REALLY have to work at it. (One match in particular caught me off guard. I was out playing with the highpower sporting rifle guys with a little PS90 pea shooter when a "very serious" CMP shooter showed up. He runs matches and clinics too, so I didn't hold back at all - took him by 8 points, then a rematch, and we BOTH topped the course record that second time. I won again by only a few points. I had a PS90, no magnification, 3.5 MOA red dot, and a round that is anemic. He had a match AR-15 service rifle, coat, spotting scope on a stand, good quality hand loads, and sling. It was rough, I had to really focus.)

    Also note, it's ENTIRELY possible he was sandbagging ME. You just never know. :)

    OK now that story is behind me... eye candy.

    [​IMG]

    Next range trip I establish a baseline for load development. Have two types of match ammo to run a course with (one on 223, one on 308) to get a "match grade ammo" baseline, and some white box winchester to get a "normal factory" baseline off of (plus harvest some cases for, part of the reason I've been shooting surplus is I've exhausted my supply of good 308 brass).

    The match grade ammo is what I'll want my handloads to beat. But I have to see what these rifles are capable of with that ammo, and also see if that transfers as I expected on the course. (Or worse, if your 'squared of squared' pattern is true).

    Find out tomorrow!
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2014
  25. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

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    Remember most of my shooters have never, ever participated in a rifle match before; most have never participated in ANY type of match. I've had people show up who have *never* shot a gun in their entire *life* before. (One of my regulars brought his parents along once; another brought his wife, and yet another brought his kid).

    I don't *like* teaching brand new shooters during a competition because I already have my hands full keeping things flowing along, but usually have a spare RSO on hand to "babysit", and I set more experienced guys near them to give some coaching. One nice thing about this sport, everyone I've ever met is *super* helpful, and if you tap someone for something, they usually do it very willingly and go above and beyond what you ask of them.

    Anyway, more people getting on the line is a good thing. One guy in particular comes to mind. 70 year old retired Caterpillar guy. He first picked up a rifle last summer - the first time he'd ever picked up ANY firearm - and one I loaned him for the shoot. He showed up at the competition (we have several mutual friends who attend), and he's now a gun owner, went through my concealed carry class, and has attended *ever* shooting event except the hardcore midwinter ones.

    He's even taken home a couple of blue ribbons now. :)

    For me, that is what it is about. I do my serious shooting on my own time, and filter in to the line to help demonstrate one technique or another. Usually pick one to emphasize or focus on each match for people.
     
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