I have always held a fascination with firearms. Everything about them from their engineering, unconventional beauty, historical uses, and inherent power have always held sway over my imagination. As a boy, I enjoyed reading about the exploits of great shooters. As I learned about history, I appreciated the independence and freedom of destiny that came with the ownership and proficiency with arms.
In high school, I got into computer games and always loved shooters. In fact, the first pistol my family ever bought, a H&K USP 9 compact, was purchased on my insistence because it was the starting pistol of the “CT” team in Counter-Strike. I went on my first trip to an actual shooting range midway through high school. My best friend’s father, a humble old veteran, taught us the basics of gun safety and rudimentary marksmanship. Once I got the hang of shooting the little 10/22, he put me behind a Springfield 1903 without warning me about the significant difference in recoil forces. Upon squeezing the trigger, the rifle lurched back and bounced off my shoulder, giving me a good crack across the jaw. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Once I started buying guns myself, I was sucked into the bottomless pit that is gear acquisition syndrome (GAS). There was always some new gizmo to buy, or a new niche that needed filling by a new gun. I built my first AR-15 in 2010 after deciding that I didn’t want to carry around my M1A. Once it was complete, I decided that I “needed” a second KISS “light weight” one for my wife. Once that one was done, I found another “hole” in the collection that needed filling. This continued for some time. I realized, of course, that I should have been out actually shooting and learning the ins and outs of these weapons. But I was having too much fun dreaming up whatever the next purchase would be.
I always considered myself a pretty good shot, better than my friends at least. I looked at the competition scene with the guys using specialized equipment, stiff leather shooting jackets, crazy sighting systems, and decided that wasn’t for me. I saw the “tactical” crowd obsessing over their plate carriers and super fast 1-5 drill times. That always seemed too “wannabee” to me, so I didn’t pursue that either. Certainly, as a member of the military, I could justify participating in those groups more reasonably than the guys “prepping” for the downfall of society, but that was a whole new level of GAS that I simply couldn’t afford.
The idea to really buckle down and focus on my own basic skill set came after reading a story on looserounds.com, where a skilled shooter took a rack grade M16A2 and made relatively consistent hit on a target at 1000 yards using issued ammunition. This changed my perspective. Just as I thought about match shooters, I had always assumed you needed stainless match barrels and custom work done to make an AR-15 perform in such a manner. While this shooter was particularly gifted to accomplish this feat, who said it couldn’t be done at 600 or 700 yards by any other practiced shooter. If that shooter could accomplish that, then what could they do with all that other specialized equipment?
Thus was born the idea for The Everyday Marksman. I’m not interested in whizbangs and gizmos to squeeze that last 1/8 MOA out of a rifle to win an NRA high power match. I’m not interesting in being another Walter Mitty preparing for the end of the world. But I do want to pick up a rifle and make it “sing.” Our country is full of stories about great and storied marksmen, people who were called upon at a moment’s notice to accomplish something that lived on forever. Daniel Morgan’s riflemen in the Revolutionary War, Davy Crockett, Alvin York, Carlos Hathcock, and many others were all renowned for their skill with the rifle, and they didn’t need stiff leather jackets and heavy shooting gloves.
In The Art of the Rifle, the late Jeff Cooper laid out a workable definition for a marksman. A marksman can make a rifle do what it was designed to do. He can safely point it in a direction, and place a round somewhere on the target. Great for your average hunter or line grunt, but not really great for precision. This is where I believe I am now.
According to Cooper, an expert marksman is one who can hit anything he can see. This is where I want to achieve within this year. I want to be able to pick a target at a reasonable known or unknown range, in any weather or terrain condition, and place a first round hit on that target.
The level of Master Marksman will be reserved for a shooter whose abilities are greater than the rifle. Perhaps some day I will achieve this, but for now I want to focus on becoming an expert.
So let the journey begin.