Introduction to Highpower

This is a highly edited version of: Introduction to Highpower: Part 1© 2002, Peter Lessler and includes attachments of various articles from the Civilian Marksmanship Programs on-line publication “The First Shot” with articles by various members of the US Army’s Marksmanship unit.

John Wiles, 2008

What is a Highpower rifle match?

It is a four-stage, three-distance, three-position target rifle shooting competition. Rifles are categorized as either a "match rifle" or a "service rifle:" Rifles are equipped with only iron sights, no optical or optics. These can be complex precision instruments in the case of match rifles, or more primitive but still highly effective competition versions of the original military sights in the case of service rifles. Highpower matches tend to start around 7:30 or 8 a.m. so they can finish before 3 p.m. There is no lunch break; you eat while you can when you not firing.

Positions and distances are: phase 1, standing slow-fire at 200 yards; phase 2, sitting or kneeling rapid-fire at 200 yards; phase 3, prone rapid-fire at 300 yards; and phase 4, prone slow-fire at 600 yards. Matches are fired on either a full distance range with firing lines at 200, 300 and 600 yards; or on reduced distance ranges as short as 100 yards. These reduced matches are often referred to as Walk and Paste Matches.

Shooters are assigned a firing point number and a relay number. Relays are groups of shooters who will be in the same place at the same time, doing the same thing. Relay duty changes are made at appropriate times to get everyone through everything they have to do. Relays usually are staffed by skill level; relay 1 generally has the highest skill and relay 3 has the lowest. Thus, each relay will have a similar level of skill amongst its members.

The course of fire is either 58 shots (50 for record plus two sighters per stage, otherwise known as the National Match course) or 88 shots (80 for record plus the same 2 sighters per stage, known as the regional course). The only difference between the 50 and 80 record shot matches are that 10 more shots are fired on stages 1, 2 and 3 in the 80-shot match; the courses of fire are otherwise identical.

Before each stage, the proper relay will be called to the line by the match director or line officer: "Relay one; you may move your equipment to the line for Stage One. Your prep time begins in XXX minutes." This gives you a chance to move your equipment up to the line and begin to set up your gear. Then, "Prep time" is announced.

You now have three minutes to finish setting up your mat, stool, spotting scope and ammo, put on your jacket, adjust your sling, try to get in some dry fire snaps and do anything else you need to get ready to shoot the stage. You will be informed that the prep period is over and (sometimes) asked if anyone needs more time. If no extra time is required, the stage description is announced and the ready commands are given; "Ready on the right? Ready on the left? All ready on the firing line." Then the command to commence the stage is given, depending upon the stage. For slow-fire stages, the line officer generally announces "You may load and commence firing. Your time begins now." For rapid-fire, the usual instruction is "You may fire when your targets appear." (If no instruction is provided, the targets will appear within five seconds after "All ready on the firing line" is given, signaling you to get moving.)

Stage Descriptions

Stage 1 is standing, slow-fire in which you load one round at a time, with a time allotment of one minute per shot. There are two sighters and 10 record shots in 12 minutes (50-shot match) or two sighters and 20 record shots in 22 minutes (80-shot match). Using the sling is not allowed. (It must be attached to the rifle, but it cannot be used as a shooting aid.) The pit crew will pull the target each shot and mark its score and placement. The proper range is 200 yards.

Stage 2 is kneeling or sitting rapid-fire at 200 yards. Almost no one uses kneeling due to its inherent instability, unless personal physical limitations render sitting impossible. This stage is begun with two slow-fire sighters in two minutes, marked individually as per the standing stage, fired from the position the shooter will use for the rapid-fire string. When the sighters are finished, the targets will be pulled to half-mast, the shooters will be ordered to stand, and then load. Service rifle shooters normally load with two rounds and reload with eight (a holdover from the days of the 8-shot M1 Garand clip) while match rifle shooters will load with five and reload with five. Sling use is allowed. For this stage, bolts for all rifles except M-1 Garands must be open.

When the line is pronounced ready by the line officer, the pit boss will order the targets fully raised. The target pullers then stand back from the target and allow all shots to be fired without the target being pulled for marking. From the time the last target reaches the full-up position, shooters will have 60 seconds to go from standing to the position of their choice and fire a total of ten rounds, including a reload of the rifle. At the end of 60 seconds, the targets will be pulled down. Any shots not fired by the competitor count as misses. The target pullers first will check all targets for 10 holes. If the correct number is found, they put shot markers in the target, mark the score on a chalkboard that hangs on the target, and run up the target for the scorer and shooter to see. In a 50-shot match you fire only one string; in an 80-shot match you repeat the 10-shot string after the first one has been scored and recorded. This target is the same as that used for Stage 1.

Stage 3 is prone rapid-fire at 300 yards and is very similar to Stage 2. First, two slow-fire sighters are fired in a two minute time limit. Then, shooters stand and load, just as in Stage 2. Sling use is allowed. When the line is declared ready, the targets will appear and shooters will have 70 seconds to assume prone, fire their first load of two or five rounds, reload, and fire the balance of their ten shots. At the end of the 70 seconds, the targets are pulled down and scored as described for Stage 2. For an 80-shot match, the string is fired again. This target is identical to the one used at 200 yards in Stages 1 and 2 except that the 3-inch-wide white 8 ring is blackened to increase the diameter of the aiming black to about 18 inches, which keeps the size of the aiming black proportional to what was seen at 200 yards.

Stage 4 is prone, slow-fire, 22 shots in 22 minutes, at 600 yards. That is slightly over a third of a mile, using iron sights. This is a very challenging stage that requires the shooter to perform to his or her limits of skill. Due to the distance involved, even the slightest error on the part of the shooter regarding position, trigger technique, sight alignment, or failure to compensate for changing light and wind conditions is translated into off-center impacts on the target. The shooter must tolerate the uncomfortable prone position and broiling sun (or rain) while keeping a sharp eye on the ever-changing wind conditions and cloud shadows. A moderate wind can blow the bullet as much as three feet or more sideways over the 600 yards, while shifts of light from sun to shadow on the target can make the bullseye appear larger (sun) or smaller (shadow), and cause a vertical aim error of as much as a foot at the target.

Getting Started

Experienced highpower competitors carry a bunch of gear around with them. Among this gear are: a heavy padded shooting jacket for body support in offhand and comfort in other positions; a padded glove or mitt for the support hand; a spotting scope with a height-adjustable stand so you can observe your own hits and score the hits of another shooter; a shooting mat to keep you off of the dirt; a folding stool or cart with a built-in equipment bag that holds ammo, clips or magazines, hat, hearing and eye protection, tools, spare parts, record book, and items. And let’s not forget the rifle. All these items are used somewhere along the line.

Along with the rifle and ammo, the beginner can get away with some simple type of pad for a mat or often borrow one, binoculars of 8-10 power, a padded leather work glove or ski glove, some form of sweatshirt or padded jacket, eye and ear protection, and a backpack for various small items. A cloth for wiping the sweat from your eyes is especially useful.

One important accessory is a good adjustable shooting sling – as opposed to a carrying strap – on your rifle. The easiest to use is the standard US military leather shooting sling. The green cotton web sling issued with M1 rifles also is usable if you install it correctly. If you're uncertain as to how to install and use either of these types, get someone to help you, preferably before you attend your first match. Go watch a match and after it's all done, ask someone to explain and demonstrate for you. Trying to shoot highpower without a proper shooting sling will be the source of intense frustration and poor results.

Establishing a base zero for your rifle

The purpose of the following section is to get you to the line in your first match with your sights set as close to where they need to be, and to allow you to change your sights for each subsequent stage with confidence that you’re dialing in the correct settings. This is the first step to understanding the function of sight settings and zero.

The second step is to realize that the settings you used to start the stage may not be the same as the ones with which you finish. Assuming that you found you had to make corrections after firing your sighters and possibly also during the record shot string itself in order to get good hits, it is important that when you finish the stage, you count your elevation clicks down to bottom and write them down, as well as the windage scale position. If you finished the stage with good hits on this setting, then this becomes your starting sight position for the next time you shoot this stage. Check your sights before each stage and make sure you have the correct sight settings. This experience-determined zero for each stage helps you shoot your sighters closer to the X for each stage, which helps you get a more confident zero with the two shots allowed than if you were way off to start with. Try to keep track of what you’re doing to your rear sight for every stage. With only two sighters allowed, you have little room for gross errors.

In discussing sights and corrections, the usual terms are "clicks" and "minutes." A click is just that – turning the rear sight knobs one "click." The distance the sight actually moves is expressed in "minutes." This is a "minute-of-angle" (MOA), which is one-sixtieth of one degree of angle (as in 360 degrees in a circle). A click may be a quarter-minute, a half-minute, or a full minute it depends on how your rifle was set up. A minute is about 1.05 inch at 100 yards. It increases proportionately with distance, so one minute at 300 yards is 3.15 inches, at 600 yards it is 6.30 inches, and so on. The trick to becoming comfortable with sight adjustments in highpower is to learn to think in minutes-of-angle. Study the dimensions of the target scoring rings and translate them into the correct number of sight click adjustments. It’s really quite easy.

 You must know and trust your rifle's zero. There are three elevation zeros you will be using, one for each distance. If you get a highpower score book, it will have a sight position section for each stage. Write down your proven zero there every stage, so you can go right to it the next time you shoot that particular stage. If you don’t happen to have a highpower scorebook, use a notebook or even an index card. The important thing is that you keep track of your stage-by-stage zeros and have the reference handy at the range. Scorebooks can be purchased from target shooter’s supply houses such as Mo Defina’s Competitor Plus or Creedmoor Sports. For service rifles, the elevation setting is regarded as the number of clicks upwards from the dead bottom position. Windage is the number of clicks right or left of the center line on the windage scale etched onto the rear face of the sight base. For the 200-yd stage, assuming you are using the six o’clock hold, you will be aiming at the lower edge of a 12.5" black bull and hitting center, from both offhand and sitting positions. This zero is obviously best achieved by doing exactly that. If you do not have access to a 200 yard or further range, you can establish a preliminary zero by using a 6-o’clock hold on a 6-inch diameter bull at 100 yards. Your shots should hit roughly at the top dead center edge of the bull (12 o’clock). At 200 yards, this translates to roughly about the same divergence of 6 inches. This 100-yd method is not perfect but will work to get you very close. If you use it, you may find you'll have to make a correction of a click or two while shooting your sighters at a match. This final setting of number of elevation clicks above bottom and windage change from center is what you want to write down. Try to adjust your windage so zero is at the mechanical center of the rear sight travel. This can often be accomplished by moving the front sight left or right. Remember you need to move the front sight toward the current bullets strikes to make the impacts move the other way.

Once you get a preliminary zero off the bench, you should test it in offhand, sitting, and prone position. Your shooting position affects your zero; your standing zero may not necessarily be the same as your sitting zero. Changes in head position on the stock, the sling tension plus the greater resistance of your body to recoil in sitting or prone may cause your zero to change. So, starting with the preliminary elevation and windage zero gained from a solid benchrest, try shooting in standing, sitting, and prone (in that order) and see what you get as a result. You should follow that order because that is how the match progresses. Once you get a real standing zero, you need to learn what changes to make from that zero to reach your sitting zero. Then you learn what changes to make from the sitting zero to get your proper prone zero. Keep in mind this test does not include the elevation changes necessary as you change distances. When switching from the 200-yard line to the 300, you will need to raise the sight three minutes. When going from 300 to 600, come up 11 to12 minutes.

By having your zeros known for every stage, you can always go back to a "known" position after you have added and subtracted numerous clicks for wind, had your sight drop, forgot whether you raised it for the next range, or threw your rifle into the water hazard in disgust. Remember, you only get two sighters in each stage.

Fundamental Shooting Techniques:

Breathing, Sight Picture, Trigger Control, Natural Point-of-Aim, and the Sling

Breathing

Proper breathing is especially important in the offhand stage; not only to be steady for the shot, but to calm yourself. This usually is the first stage of the match, and if you have a case of the jitters it comes during the most unsteady position. Different people have different methods, but in slow-fire offhand, try to breathe slowly and deeply two or three times before the final firing breath. In through the nose for a five count, hold for a five count and then out through the mouth for a five count. Feel your stomach expand, not your chest or shoulders (deep vs. shallow breathing). When you are lying on your back, this is how you breathe; your stomach goes up and down at your belt buckle area. This is the deepest and most efficient way of breathing. Inhale while raising the rifle, exhale while letting it start to settle, then one more inhalation (not too deep), then exhale about halfway while continuing to let the rifle settle for the shot while holding your breath. Remember that after about eight seconds, you will get the shakes and lose visual acuity. At this point, there will be an urge to "yank" the shot just so you can breathe, don’t do it. Just put the rifle down, release your breath, and start over. Knowing when not to pull the trigger is just as important as pulling it at just the right time; Patience is the best friend you can have in highpower. You can always stop the process, grab another breath and try a given shot again. For rapid-fire, you simply speed up the process, you have to remember to hold your breath during the trigger squeeze and breathe between shots.  

Sight Picture

Shooting aperture sights correctly requires knowledge of certain techniques. First, try to shoot with both eyes open to reduce eyestrain. If this is difficult, place frosted tape over the weak-eye lens of your shooting glasses or buy a handy flip-up shade which clips over one side of your glasses. This is particularly helpful during the two slow-fire stages. Secondly, the front sight tip must be centered in the aperture and your eye must be centered behind the aperture, focusing on the front sight. To properly align your front and rear sights when using a peep (aperture) rear sight, you need a consistent anchor point for your face on the stock. This means in having your face pressed against the stock at one particular place, depending upon the shooting position you're in. Small variations in face position will mean lost points at 600 yards, with your shots varying from the center by up to a foot or more. Even at 300 yards, this can change your group's point of impact. So, when you do your slow-fire sighters for 200 and 300, and then when you get into your position for the rapid-fire string, and again when you break face/stock contact when you reload, you must be able to consistently re-create the same stock/face contact. You must not only find this position, but replicate it exactly every time you assume that position, and for every shot you fire from that position. This is called the "stock weld."

Another trick is to use some part of the front sight or rifle barrel to align with the rear sight aperture at its 6-o’clock edge. That is, get a proper alignment with the top surface of the front sight as near centered in the aperture as you can, then see where the lower edge of the aperture "cuts off" the view of the front sight or top of the barrel. Memorize this relationship and make sure it looks exactly the same for every shot. And before you fire, don't forget to transfer focus to the front sight

This is the main thing: Watch the Front Sight. Keep your focus there, not on the bullseye. There is a tendency among untrained shooters to watch the target. This will cause your shots to wander. Let the target blur slightly and keep your front sight sharp. If your shots are wandering high-low-right-left without any cause you can detect (no wind changes, your hold looked good, etc.), you might be focusing on the target instead of the front sight. This also may be the case if your shots seem to form two distinct groups (especially in rapid-fire). One group is formed when properly focusing on your sight, the other from improperly focusing on the bull. Also, this two-group effect is often the result of not replacing the butt in your shoulder in the same position after you reload. The reason you focus on the front sight is that if the target is blurry, the possible aim error from trying to hold the tip of the front sight against the blurry edge of the target will only be as big as the blurred edge appears – a quite small distance actually. But, if the front sight is blurry, you will not notice small misalignments of the sight, which, due to the geometry differences between where your eye is looking and where the sight/barrel is looking, translate into enormous errors at the target. If you keep your eye on the front sight and achieve a proper trigger release, you should know where the sight was when you fired. Where the sight goes, the shot goes, and you can "call" its probable point of impact based on your seeing where your front sight was in relation to the target at the instant of firing. There is more on calling your shots, below. You absolutely need to learn how to do this because it is about the only thing that allows self-analysis and self-correction. If you knew that you threw a shot in a given direction, then you can help tell the difference between a shot that went wide due to your aim error, and one that went wide for some other reason. If you don't know when you pulled one, you can't even determine which problem you need to solve. 

There are three main ways you can hold the front sight against the bullseye. The first is the 6-o’clock hold. The top of the post is just under the bottom center edge of the target. You may just touch the black, or leave a thin line of white between the top of the post and the black. 

The second is the "flat tire" hold. The tip of the post intrudes upward about one-quarter of the way into the bull. 

The last is the center-of-mass hold. The top surface of the post comes up to the center of the target. 

I prefer the 6-o’clock hold because it gives me a clear contrast between the front sight and the white part of the target, and a clear contrast between the edge of the sight and the edge of the bull. Holding into the black can get tricky, because you now see black-against-black without a clear dividing reference and it becomes hard to make sure your sight is in exactly the same place from shot to shot. The main requirements are to have that reproducible, consistent face/eye placement every shot, and to focus on the front sight. 

Trigger control

 The primary requirement is to release the shot without disturbing your aim. The great enemy of this is the flinch. If you have a tendency to flinch with anticipated recoil, you can cure this by developing the "surprise break." This is a gradual increase of pressure until the discharge happens without your knowledge of the exact instant it will happen. The flinch is a result of a trigger press which is fast enough to fire almost immediately as it is applied. Therefore, your brain knows that as soon as it directs the trigger finger to start pressing, there will be an immediate recoil pulse, so your subconscious throws in the flinch reflex in the instant between your brain saying "pull the trigger" and the shot actually firing. The surprise break is a way of fooling your brain so that it can't exactly anticipate when the discharge occurs due to the extended time interval of gradual trigger pressure buildup. Therefore, your subconscious is frustrated in directing a flinch to your body, because it just plain doesn't know exactly when to do it; the shot release is a surprise. If you are concentrating on your front sight as you should be, you actually may see the flame of the muzzle blast or catch a glimpse of the expended shell being ejected with your peripheral vision and you will be able to call your shot because you will know exactly where the front sight was pointed as the bullet left the muzzle. If you flinched, on the other hand, an eye blink is included, so you won't see anything but the inside of your own eyelid when you fire (which doesn't help you call your shot). If someone asks you where you think it went, and you say "I dunno," and they ask you where your front sight was at the instant you fired and you say "I dunno" because you didn't see it because you blinked, You Flinched. The flinch also is a physical motion which causes the rifle to jerk off target. A shooter once had a problem in the slow-fire prone stage, where you shoot 22 shots at 600 yards. At least one or two rounds would always go to 10 or 11 o’clock out in the 7 or 8 ring. This drove him nuts because he couldn't figure out why. They finally showed their score book (with its record of hits on target) to an experienced shooter who said, "Aha! That's a shoulder flinch! It pushes forward on the butt and throws your muzzle left and up if you're right-handed!" Aha, indeed. This is just one example of why you need a record book, and how to use it. I also have noticed an upward jerk of the left (supporting) hand in anticipation of recoil, with the same high-left result.

Careful dry-fire practice, in full equipment, helps train in the surprise break, while also helping to eliminate flinching. Dry Fire Practice is something you can do on your living room floor any evening if is probably the single best thing you can do to improve your scores. The neat thing about this technique is that it is not physical, it is mental – a perception. How fast does it take to have a thought? This technique is used extensively by practical (combat) pistol shooters who don't exactly shoot slowly. The way they make it work is by developing the surprise slowly, with gradual pressure, over several seconds. Then, once the surprise break is working, they gradually speed up the process so that the interval, which still exists and can be recognized by the brain, is only a fraction of a second. Your brain can accelerate its perception (making reality seem to slow down) and you can train it with repetitions to do this with the trigger pull interval perception. In effect, you can shoot just as fast or faster than the other guy who is just mashing the trigger (and flinching), but your brain can still perceive that tiny interval, thereby preserving that grain of mental uncertainty which prevents the flinch. I don’t know the originator but it is a very clever and useful technique. Although this compressed technique has little value in slow-fire rifle, it can come in handy during the rapid-fire stage where there is a tendency to yank off the shots under time pressure (especially if you've bobbled your reload and lost time).

 Natural Point-of-Aim (NPA) 

Natural point-of-aim (NPA) may be the most important fundamental principle of position shooting for gaining good, consistent hits. It is getting your body into a shooting position that naturally points your front sight right on target while you stay as relaxed as possible. If you have to use muscle to point the rifle at your target, and relaxation tends to make the rifle point higher, lower, right or left of your target, you are not in a correct position to let you take advantage of natural point-of-aim. The idea is to use a natural relaxed position that aims the rifle for you, while avoiding muscling the rifle onto your desired point of aim through brute strength. 

When you assume a shooting position, the position of your body will naturally result in pointing the muzzle someplace. That "someplace" is your natural point-of-aim for that position. The trick is to make that "someplace" be exactly where you need to aim. This is done primarily by properly positioning the part of your body which is in contact with the ground. For instance, if in offhand your NPA is pointing right, move your back foot to the right which will rotate your whole body, including the rifle to the left, rather than using muscle tension to shove the rifle over to where you want it. Using muscle leads to muscle fatigue, which makes you shake, which ruins your aim. Using natural positioning lets you relax as many muscles as possible and will help the front sight "want" to stay on your target. Again using offhand as an example, a proper natural position actually will cause the rifle to point at your target and to want to "hang" there. 

Contrast this to an unnatural position where you keep trying to shove the sight onto the target and it keeps trying to swing away, or where you keep waiting in vain for the sight to swing itself where you want it. Both of these situations force you to shoot with an uncontrolled, moving front sight. This will lead to very bad hits. A controlled motion of the front sight will work if you can control it in a consistent fashion and if your natural point of aim coincides with the perfect sight picture. This is the offhand technique favored by multi-time national champion David Tubb and described in his excellent book. Keep in mind, however, that techniques which work for David Tubb do not necessarily work for those of us with lesser skill levels. Each shooter must try different things and then stick with what works. 

Natural point-of-aim is a key to rapid-fire success. With it, the rifle will come down from recoil all by itself right onto a near-perfect hold on your target. This allows you to concentrate only on firing the next shot. An unnatural position in rapid-fire results in the rifle coming back from recoil pointed halfway down the firing line and requires you to muscle it back into position for every shot. It is a slow, sloppy, frustrating process resulting in poor scores. Poor NPA also may lead to cross-firing on an adjacent target if the rifle happens to recover pointed there without your noticing it. 

Test your "naturalness" by assuming position, closing your eyes, relaxing without consciously trying to point the rifle any place in particular, then opening your eyes and seeing where the front sight put itself. This is your natural point-of-aim. It also can be evaluated while you are shooting by letting the rifle find its own position after recoil and seeing where the front sight wants to go. This post-shooting process is called "follow through". This is useful in rapid-fire because it helps tell you if your NPA is right. If you detect a problem in your first shots before reloading, you can attempt to correct it after reloading. 

If your natural point-of-aim is not where you would squeeze off a shot, you must adjust it. Generally, this involves rotation of the whole body relative to the ground for windage, and various limb position changes for elevation. This is another thing you can practice in your living room, so make sure you put some time into it. It will do wonders for your score, make you consistent from match to match, and cure a lot of those "what the F--k" shots. The goal is a relaxed natural position yielding as perfect a sight picture as you can get. If you have to push the rifle onto the target, your position is wrong. Shift your body until your NPA coincides with a perfect sight picture. Experiment with your positions, and pick the one that gives the best combination of steadiness, recoil resistance, aiming ability, and comfort (with comfort being least important). You may find that with a little development, practice, and proper sling use, a good sitting position is almost as steady as a benchrest and your prone position will be as steady as shooting from a rest.

 Purpose of Sling Use

Except during Stage 1 offhand, you will use the sling. It supports the weight of the rifle, taking over from your bicep muscle, and allows you to relax into your position, thus freeing your muscles of the strain of holding up the rifle and recovering it on target every shot.

 With proper use of the sling and the proper position, you essentially can fall asleep on the line and your front sight will not waver off the target. The sling does this by forming a loop which wraps around the back of your upper support arm (the higher the better) and the front of your wrist. This makes a tight strap which pulls against the back of your arm and prevents your support wrist from moving forward where the weight of the rifle wants to push it. Geometrically, you have a triangle with three rigid sides. The sling immobilizes the elbow joint. So, you can sit there all day in a relaxed state without actually holding the rifle up with your arm or shoulder (if your elbow is solidly rested on something). An important effect of this is to allow you to naturally fall back into your relaxed position after the rifle recoils. If, in the relaxed state, you have a correct natural position pointed right at your target, you should return to the same position after recoil, all automatically and without any conscious effort by you. Obviously, this is far superior to having to wrestle the rifle back on target every shot. 

The sling, combined with Natural Point-of-Aim, are two keys to rapid-fire success.

Two things have to be done for this combination to work: First, put your support elbow as directly under the rifle as possible. Avoid positions where that elbow is well to one side of the rifle. The reason is that the sling only works to hold up the rifle if gravity pulls the rifle in a direction that would cause the opening of your elbow joint angle (what the sling loop prevents). This is what happens when your elbow is under the rifle. If it's off to the side, gravity does not work directly against your elbow. Instead, there is a tendency for the rifle to fall sideways away from your support arm toward the trigger hand side. This produces a sideways pivot of your support arm over the elbow, flexing from the shoulder, identical to the motion you try to make in arm-wrestling. In essence, your support arm tilts over sideways with the elbow joint angle remaining unchanged.  The sling has no control over this type of motion. Thus, the rifle will tend to fall sideways (rightwards for a right-hander) and also forward off of your shoulder, especially after recoil. This works exactly the same way in prone (both rapid- and slow-fire), so make sure you understand this principle and apply it to all sling use where the elbow is rested on something solid. This may cause some pain in the muscles behind your shoulder until they get used to being stretched that far. Just ignore those people who claim the sling is an infernal torture instrument designed by evil sadists. 

Watch how your front sight moves as you breathe. If it moves straight up and down, chances are your position is good. If, on the other hand, it moves at a slant, you probably need to refine your position. 

Second, adjust your natural position correctly as described above. Also, for sitting, keep your butt pushed far enough to the rear that your upper body wants to lie forward of its own weight, supporting itself by elbows resting near the knees. Avoid having the point of your elbow on the point of your knee; it wobbles too much. If you have a tendency to roll backwards when you relax and have to hold yourself upright with stomach muscle tension, push your butt further back. You know you are doing it right when you can close your eyes, relax completely, sag forward into the buttstock (which tightens up the sling), open your eyes while still relaxed, and see your front sight sitting exactly where you would have it to fire. When you get this right, your front sight will seem to find the target all by itself, your position will magically reproduce itself after recoil, and it will seem like you are just along for the ride. 

This general principle of the correct position doing the work for you applies to all positions. Strive to perfect this for rapid-fire especially. The good part is that you can figure out all of the above, including recoil recovery, on your living room floor with dry-fire sessions. It’s the only way to learn and remember the best position for you.

 Using the Military Loop Sling

 With your sling properly installed, you will notice that the forward part is a loop, with the ends hooked together by the metal prong (the frog ). Two leather loop rings (keepers) should ride on the main loop, one on each side of the frog. The rear part of the sling is a separate strap that attaches to the front loop via a shared brass rectangular hoop and attaches to the rear swivel by going through and hooking back to itself via another frog. The rear strap converts the shooting sling into a carry sling and has no use in shooting. Ignore it (some shooters detach it from the rear swivel and let it hang free). 

You use only the front loop part of the sling for shooting. Your arm will go through the rear-most end of the front loop with the leather up as close to your armpit as possible, so that both keepers and the frog are between your bicep and the front swivel. You’ll use the keepers to jam against the frog and keep the loop from loosening. 

The length of the loop is determined by where the frog hooks back onto the strap. The loop length is a critical adjustment. Too long, and your support forearm sags too far forward, lowering the muzzle too much. Too short, and your forearm cannot move forward enough to let the buttstock into your shoulder. If it's troublesome to get the butt into your shoulder with the sling on your arm, the loop's too short. The butt should go snugly in your shoulder with just a little bit of effort. Find your own most comfortable setting and mark it. Set the loop length for your own build and arm length. You will probably use different settings for sitting versus prone. 

Just before putting your arm through the loop, first twist the loop a half turn (clockwise looking down from the perspective of the forward swivel when the rifle is muzzle-up vertical for a right handed shooter) so the strap wraps smoothly around your wrist when you wrap your forearm through. If the edge of the sling bites into your wrist as it wraps around, you forgot the half-twist or did it in the wrong direction. This can get painful. Once you put your arm through the loop, and before you wrap your arm around and through again, you need to properly lock the loop around your upper arm. The back keeper should be pulled down against your arm, tightening the loop. The frog should be forward of the rear keeper, with the second keeper ahead of it. What you want to do is lock the loop around your arm tight so it will not loosen up and allow the loop to slide down your arm. 

Before you tighten the back keeper against your arm, roll the whole forward part of the sling loop so that the frog pulls downward against the lower keeper. You do this by grabbing each side of the straps of the forward part of the sling and pulling one and pushing the other, rolling it like a tank tread through the front swivel and around the back of your arm. Photograph 2a shows the shooter’s left hand pulling the outer strap upwards in the direction his left thumb is pointing; the right hand is doing the opposite.

 Pull the frog downwards against the lower keeper, which will be what tightens the loop around your arm. The lower keeper should NOT be loose enough to pass over the frog, so the frog acts like a lock to prevent the keeper from sliding forward (which it wants to do). If it did, it would allow the loop around your arm to loosen, which would allow the sling to slide down your arm, lowering the rifle into the dirt. When you have this adjusted, take the upper or forward keeper and slide this down against the frog for a triple-lock of the sling loop to keep everything from coming apart, as shown it photograph 2b.

Note that this works only on slings where the excess end with the holes will pass through the lower keeper. If you have one of the thick Turner slings with tight keepers, the keeper won't slide over three thicknesses of strap. You have to use a different method to achieve a lock, which is graciously provided by Turner in the form of a diagram that comes with their sling. Conversely, if your keepers are so loose that they slide right over the frog, you also can't use the above loop-lock method. You need to find a different way to lock the loop (or replace the keepers or the sling). 

Now, wrap your hand around the sling and back between the rifle stock and both straps of the loop. Ram it up against the front swivel, with the sling strap running across the back of your hand from the "Y" between your thumb and forefinger, with the hand relaxed. Do not grip the fore-end. This wedged position of the hand is why you need a padded glove or mitt. The end result of proper sling use is pain, grumbling, arm numbness due to cut-off circulation, and a rock solid position allowing complete relaxation, zero muscle effort, little or no fatigue over long firing strings, and a position which magically and immediately resumes itself after recoil. The result is definitely worth the initial annoyance. The hardest part is finding just the right sling loop length for sitting and prone. Once you have everything figured out, it's routine. The sling is extremely important in highpower shooting. 

At the Match: How to Shoot It, Stage by Stage

Keep all your gear organized and know your relay and target number. Keep your ears peeled for range commands so you know what's going on, where you're supposed to be, what you're supposed to be doing and how much time you have to do it.

Before each stage: Slow deep breathing, clear your mind of clutter and your body of tension, think about the things you are about to do. Not everything, just the first thing. When that's clear, think about the second thing, then the third. Getting going smoothly prevents confusion-induced jitters. At least that's what they tell me; I haven't yet progressed beyond confusion.

 

Stage 1, Offhand:

First: breathe and relax. Place your ammo so it’s accessible without moving your feet from your natural position. Breathe and relax some more. Check your rear sight settings for the proper stage value. Find your natural position during the three-minute prep period and your sighter shots. Once found, don’t disturb it (your feet should be set in concrete until the string is complete). Try to keep your supporting forearm as vertical as possible. This prevents using the bicep muscle to hold up the rifle, which will lead to muscle fatigue and the shakes. Try to rest your elbow on your side above your hip. Better yet is to bring your support elbow across the front of your body slightly. This provides a nice contact of the back of your arm against your ribs, and makes for a more natural position of the rifle and a better support angle for the forearm. It actually may lean back slightly towards your shoulder, putting your arm and shoulder joint at their maximum limit of travel and providing a very stable and steady position which can be held with total relaxation. This allows your rib cage to bear the total weight of your rifle and support arm. The idea is to use your skeleton, not your muscles, to hold up the rifle. If your support arm rests relaxed and folded against your body, while holding the rifle on target, with the weight of the rifle being transferred to your torso, you are pretty much doing it right.

Test this by settling into what feels like a natural relaxed position, closing your eyes and letting your body do what it wants to do. Open your eyes and see where your sight is pointed. If it's not pointed at your target, adjust your stance to achieve a correct natural position.

Check your target number before every shot! This may sound silly, but I've seen master-class shooters cross-fire in offhand.

Keep a totally clear, empty mind during shooting even if the shot is bad. You are shooting one shot at a time, once fired it is gone and there is nothing you can do about it, go on to the next. Your next one could be an X, but not if you're upset over your last shot. Be patient, VERY Patient. Don't rush or jerk the shot. Wait for the rifle to settle, if it keeps settling in the wrong place, see if the wrong place is the same place every time and adjust your position accordingly. If you are in a good natural position, the front sight will wobble evenly around the bull with the wobbles getting smaller and zeroing in until the front sight seems to settle on whatever hold you are using ... for about one and a half seconds. If you have about half the pull weight already on the trigger, you can get the shot off without a jerk.

If you find yourself running out of breath (or patience) stop the process and start over! You will find yourself tempted to yank the trigger when the sight wobbles anywhere near the target at this point. You always can try again, but once you put a hole way out there in the 6 ring (or worse), you're stuck with it. Know when not to shoot.

Remember to be just a little aware of outside things like sudden wind changes, the range officer calling cease fire, people throwing rocks at you, etc. Don't tune too far out. And keep that relaxing breathing going.

When you are finished, unload and make the rifle safe (safety on, magazine out and empty chamber indicator inserted). Then immediately record your final sight setting in the appropriate spot in your score book, notebook, or index card. This will be your starting zero for the next time you shoot offhand (assuming you're confident that it was correct). Start preparing for your next stage. Set your sling for the sitting position and set your zero for sitting, if necessary.

Stage 2, Rapid-fire Sitting:

Breathe deep and slow again and clear any jitters. Think about the first couple of steps. When you are in three-minute prep, you should be organized well-enough to have taken care of all the little stuff ahead of time and be able to try your position with emphasis on sitting down into it without falling over Make sure your clips or magazines are properly loaded and within easy reach. When you are shooting your sighters, pay attention to the "feel" of the position of your arms, elbows, knees, butt, the buttstock in your shoulder, cheek weld, etc. Your zero will reflect this exact position; not necessarily the one you will get into when you do it for real. Wipe away the sweat while doing the breathing thing. Clips or magazines should be set where you want them. Have an extra loaded clip handy for each string in case you fumble one out of reach during reloading. When the ready command is given and the targets come up, keep the breathing slow and deep to keep the heart rate down during this time. Get into position carefully and thoughtfully and it will be faster than flopping and squirming. Do the breathing thing at the same time. You should take two or three slow, deep ones to get settled in. This translates to 12 to 15 seconds between targets-up and your first shot. Don't forget to do the "close eyes-relax-open eyes" drill to check the naturalness of your position, to make sure you are on your target and not on an adjacent target. This only takes two seconds. Work this into your dry-fire training. Check your target number before each shot! It is possible to become so focused on your front sight that you recover from recoil pointed at the next guy's target and cut loose without realizing it. This is called a cross-fire and counts as a miss. This is real easy to do when your natural position is off a bit to the side from your own target. After shooting, follow through. Watch where the front sight settles after recoil to judge the correctness of your position. Make a mental note of any change necessary and make it after you’ve reloaded. When reloading, try not to disturb the left elbow/ knee relationship.

More breathing as you reload and settle back into position. If you think you need to adjust your position, do it now. Make sure the butt goes into your shoulder, and your face goes onto the stock, exactly the same way as before you lowered the rifle to reload. If you change this position, you will have a different point-of-impact for subsequent rounds than you did with the rounds fired before you broke position. And you won't be able to detect any difference in your sight picture. If you have "made haste slowly" in acquiring position, firing your first two shots and reloading, you should have between 25 and 35 seconds to get off your next eight shots, so don't go to "rock ‘n’ roll" mode. Remember to check your target number, control your breathing, and don't yank the trigger. Use the above timing parameters in dry and live fire practice sessions to learn how to pace yourself. Twelve to 15 seconds to the first shot, four more for the second, five seconds to reload and get the butt back into your shoulder, and a couple of seconds to adjust your NPA if necessary. That should leave you with at least four seconds per shot for your final eight. This is plenty of time if your position is solid with a tight sling and a correct NPA. Remember: every rapid-fire shot is the exact same thing as a slow-fire shot. Don't leave anything out or add anything, just do it in less time.

If at an 80-shot match, get ready to do it again. Observe your target. If your group was off center, you need to decide if a zero adjustment is warranted. You will have to decide whether your rapid-fire position changed from the position used in sighters or whether your zero really is off. Good luck. My guess is that if you are going to do a second string, it will be very much like your first string, so you might want to adjust sights if your first string group was off-center. But you never know ... If you stick with it long enough, you’ll eventually recognize just what it was that put your zero off, and deal with it. Usually it’s a change in your position.

When finished: Put on your new zero for the 300 stage, if applicable, and set your sling for the prone position. Make a firm mental note of whether or not you raised your sight so you won't be wondering if you did it when you are at 300 yards. Also, remember what you did to the sight during sighters. Record the final elevation and windage settings in your score book or cheat-sheet, if you had a nice centered group.

Stage 3, Rapid-fire Prone:

This is very similar to stage 2. Make sure your support elbow is as far under the rifle as your body allows. A good way to ensure this is to hit the ground on your support side (roll yourself slightly that way) and then stick your left elbow over to the right (if you're right-handed) as far as it will go. Then, roll to the right onto your chest and the rifle ought to be directly over your left elbow. Keep your head consistently placed on the stock (cheek or stock weld) the same as it was during sighters. When you reload, make sure the butt goes back to the exact same position in your shoulder. The commonly accepted position is with the strongside knee drawn up a little to raise your torso, with your body straighter behind the rifle than the older, more angled position. Adjust for NPA by pulling your trigger-side elbow in to lower your front sight, or out to the side to raise your sight. Remember you have 70 seconds for prone, 10 more than for sitting. Don't forget to check your target number before each shot and follow through afterwards.

At 300 yards, wind becomes a definite factor, even with the .30-06. So, realize that you may have to compensate for it with your sighters and that you should pay attention to any wind condition changes that occur between sighters and your first string, and between the first and second strings. Keep track of your sight changes during sighters. You will want to think about where the rifle shot during slow-fire sighters (not necessarily the rapid strings) and figure that that probably will work (windage-wise) for 600 unless there is a serious breeze, in which case you have to factor in extra compensation for the increased distance.

Stage 4, Slow-fire Prone.

If you are shooting at 600 (and not a reduced range), recheck your sight setting to make sure you brought it up from the 300 yard setting. Keep one eye on the range flags at 300 (if any) and one eye through the spotting scope for mirage. The big challenge of 600 yard shooting is doping the wind.

Learning to read mirage for wind correction is an art. You might as well start learning now. Basically, the air distortions that rise up from heat (the "wiggles") will not rise straight up if there's a breeze, but rather will move up at an angle. The stronger the wind, the sharper the angle and the faster it appears to be flowing. With a 5 to10 mile per hour wind, the mirage will be flowing sideways like a river, moving, of course, downwind. With no wind, or a wind that is going straight up or down range, the mirage appears to "boil." Set your scope for a focus of 300 yards and you'll be looking at the mirage in the middle of the range, right along the bullet’s path. This makes mirage a more reliable indicator of your wind challenge than the range flags. I have seen the four flags at 300 and 600 blowing in four separate directions at the same time. I'm not kidding. This is where a good quality spotting scope helps. High magnification is unnecessary; in fact it will hurt you by so reducing the field of view that it makes it difficult to spot a good background against which to see mirage moving. 20-power is about perfect. Remember you only have to see a white 3-inch spotter disk against a black background, not the bullet hole itself (if you're having a bad day, you'll be looking at a black disk against a white background). Mirage is only visible in sunlight; in deep shadow it disappears completely, leaving you to play a noisy, long-distance game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. One other thing to realize is that a wind moving at a 45 degree angle to the bullet’s path has virtually the same effect as a wind perpendicular to that path. Get your hands on some wind drift tables for the bullet you’re using. Almost all reloading manuals have this information in them.

Try to develop the concentration necessary to clearly identify the wind conditions for a given shot, then remember them after the shot is fired and scored. When you are studying the placement of this shot, you will see whether or not you made the right adjustment for that particular wind condition. If you did, study the current wind condition for the next shot and compare it to the remembered condition of your last shot. If the wind didn't change and you shot a 10, shoot again with the same sight setting. If you didn't make the right wind call for your last shot and the conditions haven't changed, apply the correction and fire your next shot.

If you didn't make the right wind adjustment for your last shot and conditions have changed, you have to do a bit of thinking about what to do next because you now are out-of-synch with the wind. If you over-corrected for the wind on your last shot and it has picked up speed for your next shot, you might be able to fire it without any correction, as the wind has changed towards where your sight was set. If you under-corrected and the wind picked up, you have to make up your under-correction plus the amount the wind has increased. If you don't make up the under-correction, you'll still be behind the curve. You have to figure out how much you were wrong in which direction, and factor that into any new change in direction or speed of the wind. Fun, eh? You will be amazed at just how far out your bullet will veer when you fail to note a complete reversal of the wind.

Keep your position and face placement absolutely identical from shot to shot. A good trick is to see what part of the rifle barrel or front sight shows through the rear peep at its 6-o’clock edge when you are "on." Use that for consistent alignment. I have experienced hitting center, then suddenly shot 7's and 8's at 12 o’clock, so I adjusted and got on center again, then next thing I knew I was shooting 7's and 8's at 6 o’clock. So I'd adjust again and be back on center like I was in the first place, only 10 to 12 points poorer, because my face and eye had drifted up and down a miniscule amount without my being able to detect it. This trick helps to prevent this.

If you lower the butt from your shoulder to reload, make sure it goes right back into the same spot when you reshoulder the rifle. Tiny changes in butt placement will result in a misalignment you can't see in the sights but which will create a one or even two MOA displacement of the shot, usually high or low. Remember to keep your focus firmly on the front sight when starting your trigger pull. If you had a good string of hits going and suddenly you’re all over the place in both elevation and windage, chances are you are bull-gazing. Remember that even the most miniscule alignment error in your sights at 600 yards can put you from the 10 into the 7 ring without you being able to detect it. Proper habits performed consistently will help prevent this. Or, you might have hit some eye fatigue. If you have time, close your eyes for a moment.

Try to maintain a good rhythm. After you squeeze off the shot, you'll see the target get pulled as you settle down from recoil. Think about where you called it, and exactly what the wind condition seemed to be at the instant of the shot, and how many clicks windage you had on the sight to compensate. While doing this, wipe sweat, roll another round into the magazine and hold your pen poised over your scorebook. While waiting for the target to reappear, check the flags and the mirage. How has the wind changed since you fired? When the target comes up, look through the spotting scope and record the shot placement in your scorebook. Think about placement versus your call versus wind condition. Did you put it where you called it? If it's off, was it a wind-induced error? Go through the wind/shot analysis described above, make any necessary correction sight carefully and take your next shot.

From the time you decide upon your wind adjustment, try to get the shot off within eight seconds or less. The faster you can shoot after your decision, the less are the chances of being caught by a condition change you won't notice because you are focusing only on your front sight. Even high masters have taken so long on their sight picture that they failed to note a complete reversal of the wind that blew the shot out into the white 6-ring. This holds true in the larger sense too; the faster you finish all 22 shots, the less total wind changes you will experience.

One more thing to spice up the recipe – shifting light. The saying is "light low, sights low," meaning that if a cloud shadow rolls over the target, it makes it appear smaller and harder to see, which causes you – if you are using a 6-o'clock hold – to hold closer, which makes you hold and hit high. Thus, when the light drops, you need to knock a click or two off the elevation. Ideally, you are in the cloud shadow all the time and the target is in the sun all the time, keeping you nice and cool. Be advised this never happens in reality, unless the cloud above you happens to be raining. What generally happens is you get settled in and zeroed on a sunny target and then a shadow goes over the target while you roast in the sun for the whole time. The worst is constant changing of shadow and sun on and off your sight and target in random combination. You can adjust to any condition, but it's missing a change that gets you. I know I’ve had some high and low hits in the 8 ring because I forgot to apply the above rule of thumb. Get some sight black spray and hit your front blade before the match to reduce any shine or glare from it.

Essentially, sight alignment, holding (sight picture), consistent buttstock position and cheek weld, and wind-reading will make you or break you (well, okay, just break you) at 600. Most of this you won't see at 200 reduced or even 300 reduced; it takes the full distance to make things exciting.

 

Advanced Things:

Once you’ve started at highpower, you probably want to improve your skills and scores. If you purchased a good rifle to start with, it will shoot better than you can for several years. Highpower can also get very expensive very quickly. Often you can get good used equipment from people who are upgrading or have outgrown things. Don’t just go out and buy everything to start, instead work your way into the sport until you are sure you want to continue and your skills are beginning to improve. Also try to find a mentor to work with you to improve your skills, usually there are more advanced shooters who are more than willing to work with you. Two things you have to do to get better is dry fire and practice. Don’t be afraid to travel to matches held at other clubs, the highpower community is a friendly lot for the most part and want others to enjoy the sport they have found. If you have friends that like to shoot, encourage them to come out and give it a try.

What you feed that rifle will impact on your scores. Ballistics is a deep and often misunderstood science by many shooters. Suffice it to say you need a basic understanding to shoot well. Bullets are affected by a number of things when they leave the barrel; wind, the shape of the bullet itself and how it cuts through the air, air density and gravity. There is a lot of good information in reloading manuals. Ask one of the other shooters who reloads, they probably have an old reloading manual they will lend you to read over.

Reloading: Now that you’ve started no doubt you have discovered that ammunition can get expensive quick. Reloading is a safe and cost effective way to have quality ammo at a reasonable price to improve you skills. Most experienced highpower shooters reload and the way to start is to talk to one of the shooters you respect and ask for their advice. Many will probably be willing to show you how and may even help you get started or allow you to use spare equipment they may have. The process is fairly simple and straightforward if you are even slightly mechanically inclined.

 

References and information sites:

http://www.shootersjournal.com/

http://www.shootersjournal.com/Features/introductiontohighpower.htm

http://www.shootersjournal.com/RifleArticles.htm

http://www.odcmp.com/

http://www.odcmp.org/1007/default.asp

 

 

 


 

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What Sight Picture Is Best For You?

By SSG Tobie Tomlinson, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

Which is correct? There are a myriad of sight picture options that shooters have used to great effect over the years. The sight picture that allows you to consistently shoot the smallest group, with a minimal shift in zeros, is the correct one. In the next few paragraphs we will explore a few of the more commonly used sight picture options. Remember, for any shooter to be successful, consistent sight picture must be complemented by front sight focus and sight alignment.


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Center Hold

Center Hold – With a center hold the front sight placed directly in the center of the target. A center hold is great in different light conditions. On a bright day the target appears small. On a dark day the target appears large. In these different light conditions the center of the target is always in the center. A shooter who has problems with elevation shots in various light conditions may benefit from a center hold.


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6 O'clock Hold

6 O’clock – With the 6 O’clock hold the front sight is placed at the bottom of the aiming black. For many shooters, this hold allows precision placement of the front sight. The ability to accurately call your shots will come with time and experience. Light changes, which alter the appearance of the target, may affect shooters who utilize the 6 O’clock hold.

 



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Sub 6 Hold

Sub 6 – The sub 6 is just like the 6 O’clock hold, only there is a small line of white between the front sight and the aiming black. Many shooters have a problem determining the exact 6 O’clock position with their front sight, but by using a sub 6 or line of white they may be able to better estimate their hold.


 

 

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Frame Hold

Frame Hold – With the frame hold, just like with the other holds, the front sight is in the center of the rear sight. The front sight can then be placed at the 6 or 12 O’clock position on the frame when there is no visible aiming point. This hold is typically reserved for foul weather and poor light conditions. By placing the front sight at the top or bottom of the frame, a shooter may hold better when there is little target to see. It can be difficult to hold a tight group this way, but it may add more hits in bad conditions. This technique is normally applied when shooting longer ranges such 600 or 1000 yards.

Along with the sight picture options described above, here are some general aiming guidelines for effective shooting:

  1. With all holds you must be able to see the front sight, the crisp top-edge of the front sight. The target image is second. Most people want to see the target clearly. If they do see the target clearly they probably cannot see the front sight well. You only need to see down range well enough to see your number board to eliminate the possibility of crossfiring.
  2. Sight clarity can be improved with front sight size changes. A wide front sight works well with most shooters. Your vision is drawn to a wider sight and away from the target. Rear sight size changes can add to the clarity by allowing more or less light in.

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  1. Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the rear sight. Your eye relief is different in each position. Any changes in sight sizes must be tried in all positions. Your eye relief from shot to shot must be consistent to fire small groups.
  2. You should not over hold. If you aim too long you will fatigue your eyes. Use your first sight picture. Whenever you stare at a bright object, such as a target on a sunny day, the image is being burnt temporally into your eye. Try staring at a bright object for approximately 10 seconds and then close your eyes.
  3. To improve sight pictures, you may need corrected vision. The most common vision corrections are glasses, contact lenses, and eye surgery. You may also use corrective lenses in your rear sight. I have had great success with this.
  4. A way to increase your concentration on the sight is to use a blinder. By relaxing the non-firing eye and lowering the light from sides, your firing eye will be more relaxed. Besides who wants to see the guy moving around next to them? Also, wear a hat.
  5. You must be able to accurately call your shots. This skill can be enhanced by focusing on the front sight and paying careful attention to your sight alignment.

Whichever sight picture you use, consistency is the key. Good luck, and good shooting

 


 

Sight Adjustment and Minute of Angle (MOA)

By SSG Daniel M. Pettry, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

People who shoot for sport, hunting, or even military or law enforcement applications have many convictions, theories and myths about what can be done to improve their ability to hit where they aim and increase the effectiveness of their choice in firearms. There is one conviction, however, where all shooters agree. Every shooter’s objective is for their bullets to impact where their rifle is aimed. This sounds simple enough and, if performed correctly, the bullet should always strike where it is aimed. Although this sounds good in theory, the truth is that many shots do not strike where they are aimed. One thing we can do to increase our chances of success is to learn how our sights work. They can then be adjusted so that when the perfect shot is fired, the bullet will land exactly where it is aimed. This article covers what we need to know as shooters to make sight adjustments that will keep our shots hitting where they are aimed.

Sights on a target rifle are adjustable in units of measurement called minutes of angle or MOA. A minute of angle is equal to 1/60 of a degree (there are 360 degrees in a circle). The easiest and most important thing to remember is that one MOA is equal to one inch at 100 yards. As you move farther away from the target, 1/60th of an angular degree or one MOA equals two inches at 200 yards, three inches at 300 yards and six inches at 600 yards. If you know your firing distance in hundreds of yards, you will know exactly how far a sight adjustment calibrated in MOA will move the strike of the bullet. That knowledge combined with knowing how far you want to move the strike of the bullet on the target enables you to know exactly how many MOA to move your sights.

In order to make the proper sight adjustments, shooters need to know their equipment. First and foremost they need to know how many MOA each click on their sights is worth. Different rifles come with sights that adjust in different increments such as ¼ MOA, ½ MOA or 1 MOA. By knowing your sights, you can figure out the amount of adjustment that is needed at any given distance. For example, with a ¼ MOA sight (quarter minute sight), each click is worth ¼ inch at 100 yards, ½ inch at 200 yards, ¾ inch at 300 yards, etc. The smaller the MOA increment is for each click on a sight the more precise your adjustments with that sight can be. Competitive marksmen use ¼ MOA sights because anything greater than that does not allow them make sufficiently precise adjustments in zeroing and making wind adjustments.

When zeroing the AR-15, you may have to make elevation adjustments that are so bold that you have to adjust the front sight. Each notch on the base of the front sight post is worth 1 1/4 MOA. This makes one full rotation of the front sight post worth 5 MOA.

Once you understand how your sights work, and how far each adjustment will move the strike of the bullet, you need to know when and why adjustments are made. Each shooter must establish a baseline zero first. This task shouldn’t be difficult once you know how your sights work. However, in precision shooting, zeros can change on a daily basis, depending on weather and light conditions. It is very important for you always know what your standard zero is so you can make those small sight adjustments when necessary.


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On rifles such as the AR-15 where the sights have no real markings on them, it is recommended that you mark your sight with a paint pen or marker so you can always tell if you zero is on your rifle. This is particularly important on a rifle’s windage knob because if it is adjusted for the current wind condition, you can easily return to your zero to minimize the risk of losing track of how many clicks you moved. With practice, you can actually learn to refer to the wind by saying what it is worth in MOA instead of MPH.

Just like in any other sport or hobby, it all becomes easier with practice. Understanding your sights and how they work in relation to your rifle will become easier with time and practice. Every time a shot is fired, you increase your knowledge and experience base, which for all experienced shooters ultimately results in making sight adjustments second nature. A marksman’s goal at the range is to spend as much time as possible working on fundamentals and as little time as possible trying to figure out their equipment. Good luck, and good shooting!

 

 

Crossed-Ankle Sitting Position

By SFC Grant Singley, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

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There are two primary variations of the sitting position that are used during Highpower competitions. The variations are crossed-ankled and crossed-legged. This article covers the crossed-ankled sitting position. You may want to try the crossed-ankled position if you have excessive pulse in the crossed-legged position and/or your body type prevents you from getting into the crossed-legged position. I would also like to say that all the cool people to include myself shoot the crossed-ankled position. Note: This article is written from a right-handed shooter’s perspective.

First, the crossed-ankled position is not for everyone. Many people find that their legs are too flexible to keep their knees up off the ground. A quick test is to sit down on the ground, extend your legs and cross your ankles (left over right). Lean forward and place your elbows on your knees as if you were actually holding the rifle. Your knees need to be able to stay up off the ground in order to have enough elevation in your position.

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If you find that you are “inflexible” enough to shoot in the crossed-ankled position, I will now walk you through the process.

  1. Put on your shooting coat, grab your rifle and sit down on the ground facing the “target”. Try to set up the position so that your feet and body are pointing straight down range. You may pivot your feet and body slightly to the right if desired.
  2. Your left elbow may be placed somewhere forward of the left knee so that the lower part of your tricep is resting across the knee.
  3. Your right elbow may be placed in the bend of the right knee.
  4. Your non-firing hand and butt-stock placement will vary according to your size/height.
  5. You are now at the point where you must fine-tune the position. Vary the placement of your non-firing hand, butt-stock, elbows and legs until you are steady and comfortable. This may take some time. You can condition your body by getting into this position for 10-15 minutes at a time while watching TV.
  6. To adjust your natural point of aim: Leave your feet in place and slide the seat of your pants left, right, forward or backward as needed.

Once you have dry-fired and feel comfortable in the position, it is time to go to the range and impress your buddies with your new found ability to shoot sitting rapid-fire. You may have to adjust your position to accommodate for the effects of recoil. Your wobble area should be mid-ring 10 or better. Again, this may take some time and experimentation.

A rock solid position will not guarantee a “10X clean” on every string you fire if you do not apply proper sight alignment and trigger control. It is easy during a rapid-fire string to get excited and break shots that are less than perfect. How can I fix that, you ask? My answer may sound simplistic and sarcastic, but here we go……. DON’T BREAK A SHOT UNLESS IT IS SITTING IN THE MIDDLE!!!! The secret is now out and DeMille’s record will fall soon. Seriously, you have plenty of time during a rapid-fire string to let the rifle settle in the middle before pulling the trigger. Work on becoming highly efficient in your shot process so that you can spend the most time possible actually focusing on the front sight and moving the trigger smoothly to the rear. If the rifle does not settle back in the center after a shot, there is nothing stopping you from physically moving the rifle back into the center and then breaking a shot. A slight amount of muscle tension with the non-firing hand and arm is acceptable and may be necessary to keep the sights in the middle after recoil.

I have not mentioned the use of a shooting mat yet. The use of a mat is totally decided by personal preference. I usually sit on the mat with my feet on the ground in front of it. If the firing point has thick green grass on it, you may not want to use a mat, but if the point is hard and rocky, the mat may help stabilize the position.

 

Wind (Part 1, Rapid Fire)

By SSG Emil Praslick, USAMU

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SSG Emil Praslick (r.) instructs another shooter in a service rifle clinic during the 2005 Western CMP Games and Creedmoor Cup Matches.

The term, “Reading the Wind” is misleading. A more apt title might be “The tactical negotiation of varying wind conditions and the limitation of their negative effects on the flight of your bullet.” In this article we will discuss some tactics and techniques that will enhance your abilities to negotiate the wind and (hopefully) add a few points to your score. This article will be divided into two sections: part one will cover the 200 and 300 yard stages. The second part (forthcoming) will be devoted to the 600 yard stage.

There are as many dimensions to “wind reading” as there are stages to High Power competition. Your tactical mindset, or philosophy, must be different for the 200 and 300 yard rapid-fire stages than it would be for the 600 yard slow-fire. In the slow-fire stages you have the ability to adjust windage from shot to shot, utilizing the location of the previous shot as an indicator. Additionally, a change to the existing conditions can be identified and adjusted for prior to shooting the next shot.

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  1. Once you have moved your equipment to the ready line, begin to observe the conditions. Do not wait until the command, “All ready on the firing line!” to make a decision about the wind.
  2. Assess the direction, value, and the speed of the wind. There are a myriad of wind charts and formulas available to determine the amount of windage required to offset the wind’s effect on the flight of your bullet. Your best estimate should be checked against that of your fellow competitors. One of your best tools is the knowledge (and the results on the target) of your peers.


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  1. An often neglected and misunderstood tool is the use of range/wind flags. Immediately prior to assuming the sitting or prone position (while standing) you will not be able to use your spotting scope to check the mirage; you will, however, be able to see the wind flags. It is important to correlate what you can see in the mirage with the behavior of the flags. Alternate between looking at the mirage of a known condition, and observing the flags. Concentrate on the details. Pay close attention to the very end, or tip of the flag. A subtle increase in the speed of the wind will not change the height and angle of the flag, but it will affect action at the tip.
  2. Once you have identified a condition, both in the mirage and flags, observe its duration. Because you must fire the majority of your string without making a wind change, you must know what might result from any variance to the predominant condition. This is what we call determining a bracket.
  3. Sighters, when available, should be used to determine the bracket of the wind condition. One technique is to stagger the interval of your sighting shots: fire your first shot as you would normally, and then wait until the conditions change-or just prior to the expiration of time to fire your second sighter. This will aid you in identifying the condition closest to your actual string of fire.
  4. If there is the likelihood of a change to the condition, the windage you place on the rifle might need to be a compromise between a perfectly centered group and the damage a change might cause. One technique that experienced shooters employ in a changing condition is to identify the “safe side” of the 10-ring. For example, if the observed condition is one minute of wind from the right, gusting to two minutes, a savvy competitor might center his group on the right side of the X/10 ring. In the event of a pick up, the wind gust would simply move the group to the center of the target or to the other side of the 10-ring. Obviously, the effectiveness of this technique is determined by your ability to shoot a small group. This should be an incentive to train!
  5. The width of the 10-ring in highpower rifle is two minutes of angle. Theoretically, a wind estimate within one minute of the correct value should result in a “clean.” In practice, the quality of the estimate must be much higher. An individual’s ability to maintain sight alignment, sight picture, and a steady position (along with the accuracy of the rifle) will determine the amount of error available to you in your wind estimate. Once again, this fact alone should be a powerful incentive to train!
  6. The risk of making a windage correction during the magazine change often outweighs the benefits, especially with beginning shooters. A good performance and the ability to shoot a tight group is the origin of the shooter axiom: “A good hold is worth a minute.” As a rule, unless you can clearly see your group outside the 10-ring in your spotting scope, do not adjust your sights during the magazine change. There have been many disasters wrought from a shooter mistaking a paster; tear in the paper, or insect for a bullet hole.

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Finally, although wind reading is an important shooter skill, your ability to master the fundamentals is the most important factor in shooting high scores. By trusting in your ability, talking to your fellow shooters, and concentrating on your performance, your scores will improve. In the next installment, we will discuss the different techniques required to read the wind during the slow fire stages of the National Match Course.

Reading the Wind (Part 2, 600 Yard Firing) iring)

By SSG Emil Praslick, USAMU

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In the previous article, “Reading the Wind (Part 1)” we discussed the tactics and strategy needed to negotiate the wind during rapid fire (primarily 300 yards). The goal during rapid fire is to center your group in the 10 and X-ring. Your windage setting must therefore be a compromise between what the wind is doing at the beginning of firing time and what you believe it will be at the end of firing time. The 600 yard slow fire stage needs a slightly different approach and skill set to maximize one’s performance. The ability to “read” the conditions, coupled with feedback from your last shot, make this stage one of the most intellectually challenging in highpower competition.

The basics of reading the wind still apply at the 600 yard line. Shortly after arriving at the ready line, you should determine the speed, direction and value of the wind. The first task, determining wind speed, has seen competitors arrive at the firing line toting the latest in meteorological marvels. I submit that the human eye and well-trained powers of observation are the equal of any overpriced anemometer (a fancy word for a “wind meter”). The following list of the effects of the wind and their corresponding velocity can be found in the 1931 Service Rifle Pamphlet produced by the US Army Infantry Team. The information is as relevant now as it was then.

  • 0-3 mph Wind hardly felt, but smoke drifts
  • 3-5 mph Wind felt lightly on the face
  • 5-8 mph Leaves are kept in constant movement
  • 8-12 mph Raises dust and loose paper
  • 12-15 mph Causes small trees to sway

The direction must next be determined. Flags are a useful utility in determining wind direction and value. When discussing the wind, we use the “clock system”. The direction of fire is always “12 o’clock”. The following picture illustrates the direction of the wind and its Value relative to your direction of fire.

The Value of the wind is as important as its speed when deciding the proper windage to place on the rifle. A 10 MPH wind from “12 o-clock” has No Value, hence it will not effect the flight of the bullet. A 10 MPH wind from “3 o’clock”, however, would be classified as Full Value. Failure to correct for a Full Value wind will surely result in a less than desirable result.

The first question you must ask yourself is, “how much is the wind worth?” The effect of the wind on your bullet is a result of a combination of factors, such as: the caliber and weight of the bullet, its ballistic efficiency and the time of flight. I recommend the following, simple method. This method relies on knowing how much the wind will move the strike of your round at 600 yards, given a velocity of 1 MPH, at Full Value.

For example, a 1 MPH Full Value wind will move AMU’s 600 yard ammunition approximately 3 inches at 600 yards. At 600 yards, 3 inches equates to ½ Minute of Angle (MOA). We will refer to this as our 1 MPH Constant. If you know the wind’s speed and Value, your initial estimate will be both quick and accurate. Furthermore, if the condition changes while you are shooting, you will be able to formulate a correction without stopping to consult your ballistic program and portable abacus.

Let’s go through this example. As you approach the firing line, the flags are blowing from left to right, indicating a left wind. The wind is a Full Value wind from “9 o’clock.” You estimate the speed at 8 MPH. Our 1 MPH Constant is ½ MOA. Multiplying 8 times ½, gives us a wind correction of 4 MOA. If the wind were Half Value, our correction would be 2 MOA.

An initial wind correction is only that, what the correction is at the start of firing. During the 20 minutes allotted to firing the 600-yard stage of the National Match Course, conditions can vary greatly. Keep the following factors in mind when analyzing the conditions and formulating your strategy.

  1. The Importance of a No-Wind Zero. This is the sight setting required to hit the center of the target in a “no-wind” condition. This zero is best determined at close range, on a calm day.
  2. Determination of the predominant condition. Wind will usually manifest a predominant condition with some variations. This condition and its strength (remember the 1 MPH Constant) are best observed prior to firing.
  3. The value of the strength of the extremes. When wind is switching direction during a string of fire, the strength of the extremes must be known. Again, this is best determined prior to firing.
  4. Distinguish the indicators available to you. Identify the upwind and downwind side of the range. The upwind flags are more important during firing, especially when attempting to discover an imminent change.
  5. Determine the accuracy of the mirage. Mirage is the reflection of light through layers of air that have different temperatures than the ground. These layers are blown by the wind and can be monitored to detect wind direction and speed.
  6. Focus your scope midway between yourself and the target, this will make mirage appear more prominent. I must emphasize the importance of experience when using mirage as a wind-reading tool. The best way to become proficient in the use of mirage is to correlate its appearance to a known condition. Using this as a baseline, changes in mirage can be equated to changes in the value of the wind. Above all, you must practice this skill!
  7. Always know, with absolute certainty, how much wind adjustment you have on the rifle. If there is a pick-up in the velocity of the wind, attempt to think of its new value in Minutes, not with the mindset “that it’s a minute more than the last shot.” This will allow you to think of the wind condition in terms of its actual strength in Minutes of Angle. Critical thinking will result in a rapid improvement in your ability to read the wind.

The last piece of advice has more to do with sportsmanship than the technical skills of wind reading. You must maintain your composure and sense of humor at all times. Learn from your mistakes, and those of others. Your attitude on the firing line is directly proportionate to your ability to react positively to adversity.

Good luck and good shooting!

Rifle Cleaning and Maintenance >Rifle Cleaning and Maintenance

By SSG William T. Pace, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

This article will cover one of the many reliable techniques to clean your rifle. The two main reasons we clean our rifles are to maintain consistency in accuracy and to help prevent any possible malfunctions. The cleaning of your rifle can be broken down into four steps: cleaning the barrel, cleaning the chamber, cleaning the bolt, and cleaning the lower receiver.

Cleaning the Barrel
The first thing to consider before cleaning your barrel is your cleaning rod. It is best to use a one piece, coated rod. If you have a sectional rod, I would advise you to get rid of it, as it may scratch the bore. Always use a bore guide when you clean your barrel. This is crucial because it provides proper alignment for the rod and allows you to clean the barrel from the chamber end out, rather than from the muzzle end. It also provides protection for the chamber, throat, rifling and crown.

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Members of the USAMU Service Rifle Team clean their rifles to maintain consistency in accuracy and to help prevent any possible malfunctions.

Start by soaking a patch with a good carbon cutter. (In this article I’m going to use Hoppes #9 as my example. While product names are used, other products are available and the Army is not a compensated endorser of any of the stated products.) Once you have soaked the patch, run it through the barrel and repeat that process three times. All of us on the Army Service Rifle Team use a pointed jag with Pro Shot patches; it’s a very good combination. Brushing the barrel is the next step. Use a copper or nylon brush; do not use a steel brush because it will scratch the barrel. Brush the barrel 10-12 times. Then run two wet patches followed by one dry patch down the barrel.

Now move to a copper removal solvent (In this article I’m going to use Sweets as my example.) Soak a patch with Sweets and run it through the barrel, let it soak for 3-5 minutes. If you are using Sweets, do not let it soak for more than ten minutes! After you have let it soak you can either continue to run wet patches down the barrel until the patches come out fairly clean or brush the barrel with the Sweets. If you do decide to brush the barrel with Sweets, be sure to use a nylon brush. Sweets will eat the copper bristles off of a copper brush rendering it worthless after one cleaning. Which ever method you choose, you need to neutralize the Sweets. You can do this by rodding your barrel with a patch wet with Hoppes, followed by a dry patch. Continue that process until the patches come out clean. Cleaning the crown is the final part of cleaning the barrel. To clean the crown, use a Q-tip soaked in Hoppes followed by a dry one. Repeat that sequence until the crown appears clean.

Cleaning the Chamber
Begin cleaning the chamber using a chamber rod and chamber brush. Take a 30 cal or 7.62 patch and tightly wrap it around the chamber brush. Soak the patch with Hoppes and run it into the chamber, repeating that process three times. Next, dry it out using two dry patches. If you have a lug recess cleaning head, use it after the two dry patches on the chamber brush. Apply the same technique of one Hoppes soaked cotton swab, followed by one dry cotton swab, and repeat that twice. If you do not have a lug recess cleaning head, the 30 cal. patch wrapped around the chamber brush works fine. Once the chamber is clean and dried out, use a rag and a little Hoppes to wipe out the inside of the upper receiver. With the inside of the upper receiver and chamber clean, insert the bore guide and run one more dry patch through the barrel. The reason for this is that some of the solvent may leak into the rifling while cleaning the chamber.

Cleaning the Bolt
Cleaning the bolt is the easiest process. A rag and a little Hoppes works fine for cleaning the outside of the bolt carrier. Clean the inside of the bolt carrier applying the same technique used to clean the chamber. With the bolt disassembled, clean the inside of the bolt body, using Hoppes and Q-tips. Be sure to dry it out once it is clean. The outside of the bolt can be cleaned with a rag and some Hoppes. If there is significant amounts of carbon build up on the outside of the bolt near the rings, you can use a razor blade or small knife as a scrapping tool to break it loose. Another option is to take an old chamber brush or an old bore brush soaked in Hoppes and brush it over the carbon build up to break it loose. Once the carbon is broken free, simply use a rag to wipe it clean. If you seem to have a lot of carbon build up after firing a match, you might consider either using a different lubricant or lubricating your bolt more frequently. If you use a good lubricant and re-lubricate your bolt every 20-30 shots during the match, it will help the rifle function correctly and make cleaning a lot easier.

Cleaning the Lower Receiver
The lower receiver is also a very simple process. Use a rag to wipe off everything that you can and use Q-tips for the hard to reach spots. You can also use Gun Scrubber, Does It All, or any one of these types of aerosol cleaning agents for the lower receiver and trigger mechanism. It is not necessary, however, to use these products for every cleaning. Some prefer to use it only after every 500 rounds or so. If you do use these products to clean the trigger, be sure to re-grease and lubricate the trigger mechanism after each application.

I hope that you are now familiar with the tools and techniques used to clean your barrel, chamber, bolt and lower receiver. Whether you follow the exact process outlined in this article, or you create your own routine, it is very important that you clean your rifle the same way, every time. Cleaning the rifle with a consistent technique will help you to be aware of any changes in your rifle and to insure that none of these steps is neglected.

   

Developing a Training Plan an"'>Developing a Training Plan

By SFC Lance Dement, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

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A data book should be part of your training plan. Record and chart your match and training scores; then plot the scores to identify the areas you need to improve the most. the most.

The first thing I do when preparing my training plan is to take a good hard look at where I am right now. I look at my data book and chart my match and training scores for the last year. I break them down by position and 10-shot string averages. After plotting my scores, I can identify the areas that need the most improvement. Why train 90% of the time sitting rapid-fire when you lose 70% of your points in the offhand position? I then assess my guns, ammunition and equipment. I also look at my physical training level and identify strengths and weaknesses there.

Arguably the most important step you will take when preparing your training plan, is to set realistic goals. I like to set both performance and score oriented goals. An example of a performance-oriented goal would be “I will follow through on my shots offhand.” I track this in my data book; regardless of the value of the shot. If my follow through was good, then the goal was met. A score oriented goal would be “I will shoot a 95 or better on all offhand strings”. Adding the “or better” to this goal will insure the goal will not limit my performance. I like my goals to be positive and avoid using words such as don’t, never, must, need, etc. When you set your goals, be honest and set goals that are challenging to you, but with some effort are attainable.

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SFC Lance Dement, USA, won the 2006 President's Rifle Match with a 296-9X.

I feel it is also helpful to include a calendar in my training plan. On my calendar I fill in all major match dates, training match dates and range training days. I will also block out dates when training is not an option, such as vacation days or holidays. Some other things that go in my calendar are times to load and test ammo, dry firing, equipment maintenance and travel time. It is also important to include a physical training program. You accomplish two things by writing these items into your calendar. This helps you analyze whether you have a realistic amount of time to accomplish the training you are planning. It also helps you implement a system that you are more likely to follow. If your plans are written into your calendar, you can more easily hold yourself accountable for them.

Goals are not always met and a good training plan must be flexible. Your plan will inevitably run into some problems that you cannot control, such as a rained out match, a broken rifle or family commitments. Review your plan often and make the necessary changes to get it back on track. A good training plan will allow you to use your time more effectively and be one of the shooters expecting to win rather than one who is just emptying brass.


No-Wind Zero and Marking Your Sights Sights

By SFC Jason St. John, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

There is no question about it, to consistently hit the X-ring you need accurate elevation and windage zeros. These zeros change as you increase distance, and may possibly change as you gain experience. These changes are apparent in a well kept Data Book. To calculate your zeros, starting points are needed. You can establish starting points for your service rifle sights by marking them to give you a reference point for calculating your zeros.


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After you establish your elevation zero, mark your elevation wheel. You will then be ready to zero your rifle for any given distance.

The first point you need to establish is your elevation zero. When marking your elevation starting point, bottom out your elevation wheel and count up 2 ½ Minutes of Angle (MOA). Coming up 2 ½ MOA allows room to adjust your zero. You do not want your zero to be at the bottom of the elevation wheel. Distinctively mark your elevation wheel using finger nail polish, a paint pen or something similar so this mark will not easily rub off. After your sights are marked you will be ready to zero your rifle for any given distance.

When establishing your elevation zero, make initial elevation adjustments using the front sight post. Once your shots are in the black, fine tune your zero with your elevation wheel. Once you have determined your zero, count the clicks back to the mark on your elevation wheel, and record this number in your Data Book. This will serve as your first yard line zero.

The next mark you should make on your sights is on the windage knob. Begin by centering your rear aperture. Do this by counting how many clicks it takes to move your sights completely from the left to right. Once you have this number move the sights to the center by counting halfway back. You may also be able to center your sights by using the tick marks that are on the sight and rear aperture. It is recommended that you do the latter, if possible. When you are centered, mark the center point on your windage knob and the rear sight housing as you did for elevation. This will give you a starting point to return to.


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Now that you have a windage starting point you need to establish a no-wind zero that will keep shots consistently in the middle of the target. A no-wind zero is a sight setting that allows you to hit the center of the target in a no-wind condition, and is best determined at close range. Once you are confident you have a no-wind zero, count the clicks back to your windage starting point and record this information in your Data Book. If you do not have an accurate no-wind zero, your windage corrections will be off. With a correct no-wind zero you can be ready for any wind conditions.

When shooting in a windy condition you must determine the distance that the bullet would be blown, and zero the rifle by applying this difference to the rifle sight. For example, if you determine the wind will move the bullet three minutes to the right then the zero needs to be offset three minutes to the right.

By having zero starting points and refined zeros you should be able to significantly improve your scores. Through practice where you constantly strive to move your groups to the center you will be able to achieve the consistency in keeping your shot groups centered that is needed to be a champion. Good shooting and good luck!

It’s Just a Sling

By SFC Lance Dement, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

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2006 President’s Rifle Match winner SFC Lance Dement says that only the rifle and ammo are more important items of equipment to a rifle shooter than the sling.

I feel there are only two things more important to a rifle shooter than a sling; these are the gun and ammo! The service rifle sling is often underrated or even misused. If you are reading this article you have probably used a service rifle sling in one way or another. The best way to learn how to correctly put a sling on a rifle is to talk to experienced shooters. Then try their various methods to see which one or perhaps a combination of methods will work best for you. There is no one absolute right way, but I will give you some things to consider in helping you use your sling more effectively.

The first and, probably most important, thing is to mark your sling. I prefer my sling to be numbered rather than marking it for each position. Numbering your sling will allow for changes in the future. For example as your sling gets older it may stretch, or a younger shooter may grow and have to move their sling setting. I have also learned on some ranges the angle to the target or the slope of the firing line will cause me to take up or let out one notch on my sling. I frequently see new shooters using half of their prep time relearning their sling settings. However, marking your sling won’t do you any good if you don’t record the settings you use for each position.


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SFC Lance Dement, USA, was the 2006 President's Rifle Match Winner with a score of 296-9X. He is shown here in standing where the sling is kept in the “parade position” with the sling is tight on the right side of the magazine well.

I have seen some shooters use very elaborate methods of rigging their slings for the offhand position. They will inevitably use a lot of their sitting prep time to remove and reset their slings. I like to keep things simple, for standing I use a parade sling (the sling is tight on the right or left side of the magazine well.) As soon as I fire my last shot standing I put in my ECI, and remove my magazine. Before I move off the line I adjust the length of the sling for the sitting position. I unhook the bottom part of my sling and remove it from the rear sling swivel and hook it on to itself. I do this to keep the unused part of the sling out of my way. Some shooters leave this end attached to the butt of the gun or wrapped around their upper arm. Both methods are fine; they can just take more time or make movement with the rifle more difficult. By making these adjustments after my last shot standing, I do not use up my sitting prep time messing with the sling.


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2006 NTI Winner, SGT Brandon Green, USA, is shown here in the prone position with the sling properly adjusted to support his position.

The last thing I would like to cover is maintenance of your sling. Keeping your sling in good working condition is easy and requires only minimum time and effort. I have used the same sling for nine years. It has been rained on and snowed on; it has been in hot and humid conditions and has also seen the high desert. I inspect my sling on a regular basis, usually in the morning when I am prepping my rifle to go down range. I check for cracks in the leather, which are most often found near the front sling swivel. I then check the sling keepers, paying close attention to the stitching, here you need to check for dry rot, or if the stitching itself is coming undone. I use a leather conditioner on my sling every three to four months or after the sling is exposed to rain or snow. When the sling itself is getting thin or showing excessive stretch it is time for a new one. I also carry a back up sling with me. My back up sling is not brand new; it is one I have used before during practice or for dry firing. Brand new slings tend to be hard to adjust and feel very different when in position. They may stretch excessively during the first month or two of usage. It is good to check your back up sling against your primary sling to ensure the markings are the same or if not, make note of the difference.

Shooters who are familiar with their sling, know how it works and have it properly marked will have greater consistency from day to day whether in training or in matches. The few extra minutes it takes to ensure that your sling is in working order may be the difference between your best day on the range and a wasted trip.

 

The Importance of the Data Book

By SFC Jason St John, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

 

As a competitor and observer of many rifle matches, the one thing I notice shooters forgetting to do on a regular basis is updating their data book. A data book is a valuable tool for the shooter. It allows you to have a daily journal of your shooting performance. This journal can and should be referenced every time a shooter steps on the range. When reviewing your data book you will be able to compare the conditions you face today with your previous performances in similar conditions.

When you look at a data book, you will notice that there are many different sections. Each section is important to fill out, however some are more important than others. For example, the date, target number and relay number are important to you as a reminder, but not important as a performance measure. The real meat and potatoes of the data book lies in the environmental, no wind and corrected zero, called and plotted shots, and performance notes section.


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The environmental sections include places to record wind direction and speed, temperature and light direction and condition; some may have a place to record humidity.


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USAMU team member uses a wind meter to record the wind during the National Matches at Camp Perry.

WIND: Wind direction and speed play important roles in the placement of shot groups. Therefore it is important to annotate the conditions that you shoot in. Then, if you encounter the same conditions the following day or a couple of days later, you can see how that condition affected your performance.

Our team records the wind speed in MPH. You can estimate this by feel or use a wind meter. Generally a close estimation will be precise enough. We record the direction of the wind with a simple arrow. The direction of the wind is observed by the range flags or by simple feel. You could also record the value of the wind, that is as full value, half value, no value, or something in between.

LIGHT: Changes in light conditions and direction can affect your ability to place your shot group in the center of the target. The direction that a range faces and where the sun is in relation to you can alter your perception of both the sights and the target. By keeping an accurate record in your data book you will see how light affects your performance.

Light conditions are kept in generalized terms such as: Cloudy, bright, partly cloudy, dark, hazy, clear, and whatever else you can use to describe the day that you are encountering. You may also note the light conditions of the target. This may help you in deciding which hold you are going to use for that day.

Show the direction with an arrow. Simply orient the data book down range and stand your pen up, similar to a sundial, and mark where the shadow lies. You may also wish to keep track of where the sun is. If it is early morning or close to evening, the sun may also affect you.


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USAMU team member records data in his databook during the match.

TEMPERATURE: Temperature and humidity affect the elevation setting required to hit the center of the target. Use this section to record the temperature and humidity when you are shooting to see how this affects you. You can record it in general terms such as: Hot, cool, mild, warm, muggy, humid, dry, etc. You can also be more precise by using a thermometer. You can also get this info from the newspaper or internet reports.

The performance section of your data book should include sections for: No wind and corrected zeroes, called and plotted shots, sight picture, and performance notes.

ZEROES: For obvious reasons, you must keep track of your zeros. However, as you travel to other ranges you may have shifts in your zeroes. Most of these shifts occur because of the aforementioned environmental changes, but they can also occur because of the layout of the range. For example, if the targets are higher or lower than the firing line of your home range, you zero for that range may be different.

You should track your no wind zero. A no wind zero is a sight setting that allows you to hit the center of your target in a no wind condition. It is the zero that you are going to put on your gun to start with. A no wind zero includes elevation and windage zeroes.

When you are done with shooting, you should immediately count off your zeroes and annotate any changes that you had. Do not be afraid to change your zeroes during your sighting period or between strings. Make sure you record your new zeroes and start with those the next day.


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A highpower competitor plots his shots during the President's Rifle Match.

SHOTS: Keeping track of your plotted shots in comparison with your called shots will allow you to see trends or patterns in your groups. This will allow you to make the appropriate corrections to keep your groups centered.

By observing where your front sight post is the moment that the shot breaks, you will be able to call your shot. A called shot is where you think that shot will be on the target. After the target is marked you will be able to tell if you are "on call". If you are on call then all is well. However, if you are not on call then some sort of sight adjustment must be made. Keeping track of called shots may help indicate necessary adjustments. A mistake that I see shooters’ making is recording the score or value of their shots in the spaces provided.

Plotting your shots is simply marking them in your data book where the shots come up when the target is marked. During your performance you may see that you are "building" on one side of the target. This should tell you that some sight adjustment is needed. If you notice at the end of your performance that you were on one side of the target make sure that you move your zeroes to the center After taking the wind into account, you will be able to make this your no wind zero.

Your data book should also have a place to record the wind that you either have on the gun or the wind that you used for the string of firing. Be sure to record the wind that you have on the gun as you go so you do not get "lost:. You should always know how much wind is on your gun.

PERFORMANCE NOTES: Our data book has a section dedicated to the lessons of the day. Included in this section should be anything that affected your shooting, positive or negative. This section is not for excuses, but instead is for recording lessons that can help you the next time. Generally try to describe the positive things you accomplished that day. If you figured something out, use this section as a reminder of what you learned and how to apply it again.

You can also use this section to record your sight picture. It is important to remember what you used and how it affected your zero. From day to day a line of white, or any other hold, may look a little different. If you keep track of what you were seeing, then you will be able to use that hold on similar days.

Your data book is a valuable tool that is often overlooked. If you do not have a data book, then invest in one. You can even make your own. By reviewing your performances and utilizing the history that the data book provides, your performances should improve.

 

Thinking Your Way to Success

By SSG Emil Praslick, USAMU Service Rifle Team Coach

 

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SSG Emil Praslick (r.) instructs another shooter in a service rifle clinic during the 2005 Western CMP Games and Creedmoor Cup Matches.

Why does it seem that the same small group of shooters wins the majority of the matches? Within the Army Marksmanship Unit’s Service Rifle Team, the same effect applies. On a team filled with uncommonly talented shooters, the same two or three are consistently at the top of the final results bulletin. What is the difference among shooters who are technically equal? Confidence. A confident shooter is free to execute his shots without the fear of failure, i.e. shooting a poor shot. Negative thoughts (can’t, won’t be able to, etc.) will destroy a skilled performance. The mind’s focus will not be on executing the task, but on projecting fear and self-doubt. Fear is the enemy, confidence is the cure.

How does a shooter on the eve of an important match (the President’s or NTI, for example) attain the confidence needed to perform up to his potential? A pre-competition mental plan can assist in acquiring that positive mental state. The plan can be broken down into a few phases.

  1. Build a feeling of preparedness. Developing and executing a plan to organize your equipment and pre-match routine will aid you in feeling prepared on match day.
  2. Avoid negative and stressful thoughts. Focusing on “winning” the match or shooting for a specific score (like making the “cut” or making the President’s 100) can cause undue stress. Good shooters focus on aspects that are within their control: their sight picture, their sight alignment, their position. Each shot should be treated as an individual event.
  3. Train stage-specific tasks during your practice sessions. Instead of shooting matches or practice matches only, include some drills that focus on your problem areas. Training in this manner will assist your level of confidence.
  4. As part of your pre-match routine, imagine yourself shooting perfect shots. Visualize getting into the perfect position, acquiring a perfect sight picture, and perfect trigger control.
  5. Let a feeling of calm and well-being wash over you. Spend a few minutes alone thinking positive thoughts. Many shooters use their favorite music to help build the mood.

Once you develop your pre-competition mental plan, stick with it. Through your training you will develop the physical skills to shoot higher scores. The confidence you will need to apply them in match conditions will grow as you develop into a complete shooter; both physically and mentally.

 

Bare Necessities for Highpower Rifle Competition

By SPC Nathan J. Verbickas, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member

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Whether you watched someone compete in a Highpower Match, or have just heard conversation about it, it's clear that something has peaked your interest in the sport. Being interested in something is great, but without information, it won't get you very far. We have heard new shooters ask people on the range what they need to do to get into Highpower and the responses that a lot of people give are scary! The next thing you know, you are in the store spending a few thousand dollars without even knowing why. In an attempt to avoid this situation, lets sit down and talk about some of the essentials, and more important information associated with the sport of Highpower Rifle Competition.

In most cases, it is entirely possible to compete in a match without buying anything. We will go over the few things that you do need to have to compete, which usually all can be found by just asking around. Does it make more sense to try the sport and make sure that it is something you want to pursue fully before spending a good amount of money? I have been in gun shops in the past and witnessed people trying to return a lot of very expensive shooting equipment because they just did not end up enjoying the sport. Yes, it happens.

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The first thing that all new shooters need to understand is that they are entering a sport that is already established. As with any other sport, there are rules and regulations which can be confusing at times. You will also be competing shoulder to shoulder with people of all different classifications and experience levels. This includes shooters who may be in contention to win whatever match it is that you have decided to enter. With that being said, one of the first things that you should track down is the most up to date versions of the NRA Highpower Rifle Rules booklet and the CMP Competition Rules. These can be found easily on-line or by contacting each organization. Believe me when I say that your firm knowledge of these rules will make for a far less painful day wherever you may be competing.

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Section 6.0 of your CMP Rulebook and Section 3 of your NRA Rulebook defines authorized equipment. Obviously, you will need a rifle. Pay close attention to the types of rifles described in these sections as authorized. More often than not, people are surprised to find that they already own or know someone who owns an authorized Highpower Rifle. Most clubs and associations that support a Highpower program at their range will have service rifles for new shooters to use in their competitions. There may be a raised match entry fee for this service. If you have no luck after checking these resources, it may be necessary to purchase a rifle. Another call to the CMP can usually help with this. Be sure when you do find a rifle, that you have a minimum of two clips or magazines for that specific system. The other obvious requirement to compete would be ammunition, which is defined in CMP Rule 6.6 or NRA Rule 3.17.

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Now we will take a look at some of the less obvious requirements defined in these rules. Contrary to popular belief, a sling is required in service rifle competition. It is listed in CMP Rule 6.1.1 and NRA Rules 3.1, 3.1.1, and 3.1.2 as a characteristic of the rifle itself. The sling may be used for support in the Prone, Sitting, and Kneeling positions, but not the Standing position. During Standing, the sling must be attached to both the front and rear sling swivels (CMP Rule 8.1.3(1) and NRA Rule 5.12b). Don't let this worry you. If you haven't found a sling in the same place that you found your rifle, a simple M-1 web sling can be purchased for about ten dollars. Sling features are defined in CMP Rule 6.1.1 (3) and NRA Rule 3.13. Another required item is the Empty Chamber Indicator (ECI), according to CMP Rule 5.5.1 and NRA Rule 3.21. This is a crucial part of Highpower Safety. The ECI is to be in the chamber of your rifle at all times other than your preparation period, while actually firing, and when cased. An ECI can be purchased from the NRA for one dollar. The final thing that is required for competition is Responsibility. This includes Safety, Discipline, and Etiquette. And yes it is required, by the rules in CMP Section 5.0 and NRA Section 18, and your own common sense. As a part of your responsibility, you need to realize that this sport is not just about your shooting. It is about everyone’s shooting. This is why you are responsible for pit pulling and scoring duties (CMP Rule 5.3 and NRA Sections 10 and 14 respectively) as well. These duties are just as important as your firing. Always strive to give better pit and scoring service than you receive.

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With your understanding of the importance of scoring and pit pulling during a match, we will discuss some things that are not required, but strongly encouraged. In order to properly perform your scoring duties, you should have a few pens, a stool or chair, a Ziploc bag (in case of rain), and some type of optics. Keep in mind; you will be firing out to 600 yards in most courses of fire. At this distance, you will probably not be able to see the scoring disks, or even the chalkboards during rapid fires. Again, don't be concerned. These are all things that you more than likely already have. You do not need an expensive spotting scope. A pair of binoculars would be sufficient. Something else that is inexpensive and genuinely advised in the sport is eye and ear protection. Highpower matches are not exactly short. It is a long process that takes a large portion of the day. You need to take this into account before leaving for the range. A small cooler of snacks and plenty of water is something that you will never regret bringing.

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That about does it for the necessities. Right now, you are at the bare minimum of what you need to complete a match. There is some other equipment that is nice to have, and can be substituted to save money. It is a matter of personal choice if and when you want to use any of the following. You will be shooting outdoors, and at times, in adverse conditions. Rain gear is usually helpful in this situation. The classic garbage bag poncho is a cheap alternative, though it doesn't breathe very well. If you decide to only bring out one set of rain gear, do the right thing and give it to your rifle. A rifle case is a helpful addition, for transportation purposes, but should still be covered in the rain. Also bring a small bottle of lubrication, and use it; especially if your rifle does get wet. If you don't like lying on the wet ground, a mat, piece of carpet, or even a poncho could be used as long as it does not create artificial support. You do not need a $300 shooting coat, but something to pad your shoulder from recoil and your arm from the sling, is useful. Many people use a simple issue field jacket, or a sweatshirt. Any kind of a glove that might cut down on the pinching of the sling on your hand, as well. If you own them, try to wear your boots instead of your shoes. It will provide you more support for shooting, and just in general over the day. You may want to bring a towel to wipe away annoying sweat while shooting. Be sure to keep yourself organized. A small backpack can make your life much easier on the range.

Well, that is what to bring to the range. But when? A brand new shooter does not want to fire their first competition at the National Matches. Find that local gun club that supports a Highpower Program and ask questions. A list of CMP Affiliated Rifle Matches can be found at
http://clubs.odcmp.com/cgi-bin/matchUpcomingSearch.cgi?designation=EICRIFLE. The more information you have, the better off you will be. Get a copy of their match schedule, and make a plan. Find out the course of fire for the match you will be firing and ensure that you have enough ammunition for your record shots, sighters, and possible alibis. Learn the stages of fire and range commands for the course of fire you will be shooting. All of this information can be found in your CMP and NRA Rulebooks. This information will seriously cut back on confusion throughout the day. You should have your rifle zeroed and ready to go before you try to compete. You do not need to be a member of the NRA to enter in NRA Approved Matches. If you are not already a member, you can still shoot in competition, although membership is not a bad idea.

I hope that you do enjoy the sport, and stick with it. As you shoot more, your knowledge of the sport will progress, and with knowledge will come the skill. With the skill, will come an excuse to start buying stuff. Safe and Happy Shooting!

 

Straight to the Rear

By SPC Tyrel Cooper

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Trigger control is one of the two main principles of shooting that we teach. You can have the best position in the world with perfect sight alignment, but if you have bad trigger control, you have wasted all that effort that you put into your position and sight alignment.

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A firm grip is essential for effective trigger control.

Good trigger control begins with a good firing hand position. If you are right handed that would be your right hand, and if you are left handed your left hand. Place your firing hand high on the pistol grip, with a good firm grip. Grip tension should be like giving someone a hand shake or holding a child’s hand while walking across a street. The first reason for a good firm grip is to give you control over the rifle and to pull it into your shoulder. The second reason is so you can move your trigger finger without moving your other fingers. Try this, hold out your firing hand with fingers extended; now try moving your trigger finger to the rear as if you were pulling the trigger. Unless you concentrate very hard on moving just your trigger finger, other fingers will move. Now make a fist as if you were grabbing a pistol grip, now you can move your trigger finger freely without introducing movement in the other fingers.

Placement of your trigger finger on the trigger is just as important. I'm sure you have heard advice to place the tip or the pad of your finger on the trigger. This is true if you have short stubby fingers and that’s where the index finger naturally rests, but if you have long fingers like myself you want more of your finger around the trigger, I place the trigger between my first and second knuckle. By placing your finger where it naturally rests on the trigger you are ensuring that you are pulling the trigger straight to the rear, and this also allows you to get more leverage on the trigger. It is harder to pull the trigger straight to the rear with the tip of your finger because of the loss of leverage. Shooting is all about being as comfortable and smooth as possible.

Speaking of smooth, this brings us to the process of trigger control! At the Army Marksmanship Unit we describe trigger control with the word smooth. You can be smooth fast and you can be smooth slow, but you always want to be smooth.

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In the standing position, use a fast and smooth trigger control.

When you are shooting standing have you noticed that the rifle never really stops moving? Well, this is where you would want fast and smooth trigger control. While shooting standing you want to be aggressive on the trigger, take it when it's there. I have found that when I’m not aggressive, I’m outside of call and behind the trigger. When I am aggressive, I am on or inside of call. What I mean when I say "behind the trigger" is simply this--I see what I want to see in my sight picture, but I hesitate for a split second that is long enough for me to shoot a 9 when I saw a 10. When I come down and start settling on the target, I take up the first stage of the trigger. Once I’m getting to the end of my firing process and the movement has slowed down, I manipulate the trigger fast, but smooth, to the rear when I see what I want to see in my sight picture. Over time, this will become a subconscious act; when your brain sees the sight picture, it will automatically tell your trigger finger to move instead of you having to tell yourself there it is, take it. Lots and lots of dry firing will help this process.

To repeat, you want to be fast and smooth! This is not to be confused with slap, jerk, pull, snatch, command detonate, yank, squeeze and surprise break. If you are squeezing the trigger waiting for a surprise break, the only surprise you’re going to have is that it wasn't in the black when it went off.

Trigger control for the rapid fire stage is different than it is for standing. You can actually take a little bit more time to break your shots in rapid fire because of the steadiness of a supported position. A good rapid fire shot process is: 1) drop down into position, 2) get your natural point of aim, 3) take up the first stage on your first shot, 4) break that shot smoothly and hold the trigger all the way to the rear through recoil, 4) once recoil has ceased, let the trigger out only far enough to reset the trigger (you should hear a metallic click of the trigger resetting) and continue by firing your second and succeeding shots.

By doing this, you already have most of the weight of the trigger taken up so the next shot is ready to go without having to take up all the weight of the trigger every single shot. One thing you will see shooters do is pull the trigger and immediately release it all the way out. This means you have to take up the full weight of the trigger again. Another reason you want to hold the trigger to the rear after every shot whether you are shooting standing or rapid fire is because you can still disturb the bullet while it is moving down the barrel. During your firing process, you want to produce little or no additional movement when breaking your shot.

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During slow fire prone, use a slow and smooth trigger control.

During the slow fire prone stage, you have even more time to break your shots, so you would use the slow--smooth method. You should have little or no hold movement at all, thus allowing you to acquire good sight alignment, a good sight picture and break the shot using slow and smooth trigger control. Again you want to hold that trigger all the way to the rear until recoil has ceased so you do not disturb the rifle, no matter what position you are shooting.

You don’t have to shoot matches all the time to practice good trigger control. I recommend dry firing a lot, this way you can see what you are doing, right or wrong, without recoil. Practicing proper trigger control while dry firing enforces good habits that will become muscle memory in time, allowing your trigger control to become natural instead of your having to think about it on every shot.

I will leave you with a good drill to practice shooting standing called live fire--dry fire. You need some dummy rounds to perform this drill. When practicing standing, have someone load your rifle for you, mixing up live rounds with dummy rounds in no specific order. This way the shooter has no clue what they are shooting. This forces them to react the same every time. I used to react differently with a live round in the chamber, I would dry fire a good shot, but get jumpy with a live round. This drill forces you to create a mental process to practice good trigger control whether it is a live or dummy round. I hope to see you on the range, good luck and good shooting!