General

A Year in Review (Almost)

Obviously, I have not written much in the last month. My life became…hectic. Between professional obligations and family emergencies, shooting and practice just wasn’t terribly high on my priority list. But, as it were, the year is slowly coming to an end and I thought it would be a good time to take a look back over the previous year and look at how I’ve been doing, and start thinking about my plans for the coming year.

Goal Evaluation

I started the year with three goals:

  • Starting from a standing low ready position. In fewer than 20 seconds, regardless of weather or terrain conditions, place a first round hit on any stationary eight-inch target at any range up to 200 meters from any unsupported field position using a rifle equipped with iron sights or telescopic sight, match ammunition, and a rifle sling
  • Starting from a standing low ready position. In fewer than 10 seconds, regardless of weather or terrain conditions, place a first round hit on any stationary six-inch target at any range up to 300 meters from any supported position in any weather condition using a rifle equipped with a telescopic sight and match ammunition.
  • Win at least two of the monthly rifle competitions held at my local gun club

The first major problem I ran into this year was that I had no readily available way to test the first two goals and know when I had achieved them. The range shoot at only goes up to 100 meters, and does not offer any readily available means to practice supported shooting. This has meant that I’ve spent almost all of my time shooting at reduced size targets at closer ranges. While this is certainly good practice for the fundamentals, it lets me cheat my way out of really having to establish a good BZO or dealing with windage issues.

Additionally, I never did establish a steady flow of quality ammunition. Almost all of my shooting is done with rather inexpensive 55gr 5.56 that I can buy locally in small batches. I’d like to think that getting to the level that I have using this rather inexpensive ammunition means that I would do very well with high quality match ammo. Maybe well enough to say that I’ve met my goals. But I don’t know, because I haven’t really tried it.

I also original started out wanting to gain proficiency with two rifles: Ascalon and Gungnir. My range has banned the use of any cartridge larger than 5.56 due to “safety reasons,” which means I haven’t fired a single shot of .308 all year. My desire to try and compete in an EIC match earlier this year drove me to purchase another upper, the 20” government “Musket.” The musket upper on the A5-equipped lower has quickly worked its way into becoming one of my favorite configurations to shoot. I dare say that it will probably be my favorite rifle in the coming year (more on that later on).

The third goal I started with, to win two of the monthly rifle competitions, never happened because I never made it to a match. Mostly due to poor planning on my part, the timing just never worked out and I simply didn’t care enough.

Lessons Learned

The primary driver when I started this journey was to develop a high level of proficiency using my rifles “as is” without diving further into the world of gear hoarding. Early on, for instance, I was reluctant to purchase a new sling when it became apparent that the sling I was using was not going to work well for the style of shooting I was doing. I compensated by using equipment that I already owned, but had all but forgotten about. That sling, the Turner, served me well through most of the year- especially at Appleseed.

I would say that my mentality has shifted. Now, rather than avoid purchasing new equipment, I try to understand where exactly my shortfalls are based upon my needs. In other words, I let my mission drive the gear rather than my imagination. I think this will stick with me for a long time. I don’t need to go out and purchase new stuff just for the sake of having it. Rather, I should purchase things because I have an actual need for it.

Secondly, I’ve learned that there is no one right answer for how to shoot. When I first started attempting to shoot accurately from a standing position, I was absolutely sure that the traditional NRA high power style with the hand awkwardly planted under the magazine well (or next to it) was the best way to shoot. I even went so far as to say that RS’s approach on his blog was not sufficient. I humbly submit that I ate crow on that one. I failed to account for individual styling, as well as differences in equipment. I have found that, using a sling, I shoot exactly how RS does in his post over at Art of the Rifle. The only real way to know what works for you is to go shoot and figure it out. Todd Hodnett, of Accuracy 1st, rightly said that the bullet impact doesn’t lie. People can argue with you all day that your technique is wrong, or that your equipment is inferior, but they can’t argue with where the bullet hits. Where the bullet hits is truth.

Third. Towards the latter half of the year, I became a bit over excited about my newfound love for traditional iron sights. I think I was perhaps a bit too overzealous in pushing the point. Shawn, of Loose Rounds, rightly pointed out that iron sights have their place but technology has moved past that. Good shooting with irons could mean great shooting with good optics. Good shooting, and good fundamentals, make the shooter. Adding better technology, and added capability, only improves upon that already solid base.

I made the argument that the military is attempting to use gear to substitute for training. While I still think this is true, it doesn’t mean that new gear is a bad thing.

Lastly, I’ve seen and read a lot of good stuff this year that confirms my original goal and thinking. Most people’s rifles are far more capable than the people shooting them. Jeff Cooper famously said that an outstanding shooter is able to shoot up to the ability of their equipment. I think most people who go around saying that things can only be done with stainless match barrels or super high magnification are really just making up for their own lack of practice.

Going Forward 

The caliber restrictions on my shooting range do not appear as though they will be loosened in the next year, which means shooting anything larger than my ARs is out. That means I will be sticking with Ascalon and the Musket for the coming year. In all likelihood, they will continue to share the same lower. I could easily build out a second stripped lower in order to have two complete rifles, but that would mean having to purchase a new lower here in California. Thus far I have managed to keep myself off of any “long gun” registries in the state, and I’d like to keep it that way for privacy/political reasons.

Speaking of the musket, I think it’s time to move past iron sights. Since the rifle has become one of my favorites to shoot, I feel as though it’s time to “finish it out.” I’d like to mount a Daniel Defense Omega 12 rail and get the barrel free floated (this lets me keep the current delta ring assembly in case I ever decide to go back, otherwise I’d probably be looking at a Centurion C4 or even a slick-sided rail). I will also be mounting an optic. I was all but committed to a TA11H, but the Elcan SpecterOS 4x has my attention, since it matches or betters the TA11 for all of my needs but one (I don’t like ARMS mounts). I’ve only gotten to the range with Ascalon once since I remounted the TR24 in place of the Vortex 2.5-10×32, but I think the TR24 is going to be staying for the time being. I simply don’t shoot out to the ranges I used to that made the higher magnification desirable.

In the pursuit of rifle marksmanship this year, I have neglected pistol shooting. For both personal and professional reasons, I want to spend more time on pistols next year. My Beretta 92A1 is the go-to pistol for home protection at night, so it’s only right that I maintain strong proficiency with handguns. Also, being a military officer, I believe that it’s desirable to be proficient with pistol shooting since it’s what I will most likely be issued during a deployment.

I will be working out some goals for the coming year, and will post about them soon.

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