After Action Review
Now that I have recovered from the eight-hour drive back to Olympia, I want to write down some comments about the Boomershoot Clinic that Mike Haugen and I ran.
General Comments: I gave three hand outs that covered what I wanted to do in training for the clinic. The topics were “Troubleshooting Performance”, “Shooter / Observer Dialogue”, and “Wind Doping”. I thought that these would probably be the most critical subjects to drill on in order to fire in the Boomershoot itself. I think that these three subjects remain valid for any future clinic so I intend on keeping them. My suggestion to you all is to read again my “Troubleshooting Performance” and apply what you understand to your shooting performance. If you are happy with what you have – you have just learned another way of looking at things. If you are not happy with your performance or that of your gear – you may use this guide to make some very rational decisions in terms of your training or your equipment. If you look at this physical act called shooting – you point a tube, see it is pointed where you want it, then move your finger.
Some Mechanical Ties to the Human Factor: Read again – you point a tube, see it is pointed to the degree of precision you require, and move your finger without pointing the tube somewhere else. A few mechanical comments for those who may want a new rifle.
Stocks: Guess what a stock does mechanically? They align the sights with the eye and give you a natural position of your trigger hand and finger. They are specialty type of items for the professional shooters where there is no such thing as “one size fits all”. If you shoot prone, a stock with no drop and a straight pistol grip fits the human laying in the prone. Hunting stocks have drop in the stock and the grip is angled backwards as this fits the average human that is firing from the standing off hand position. Compromises in design like High Power Match Rifle stocks generally favor the prone position because half the competitive match is fired from the prone and prone is the steadiest position. They favor the prone but are a compromise. Bottom line is that you buy a stock to fit the position you will be using and all they do is give you an edge in consistently aligning the sights with the eye and moving your finger.
Sights: All a sighting system does is duplicate the axis of the barrel. It is as if you had two barrels – one that the bullet comes out of and one that you use to see where the barrel is pointed. Sights come in all shapes and sizes depending on the degree of precision you want to achieve in terms of your seeing where your barrel is pointing. Due to the Boomer target size, an optic is all I know of that can let you see the damn target at all so we use optics. There are compromises to be made with optics as well and there is no way anyone will convince me that for the Boomershoot, anyone needs to spend more than three or four hundred dollars on a decent optic.
Mil Dots: No need for mil dots as you know the ranges and the 3-inch milk carton is too small to “mil” or even laze past 100 yards. The Mil Dot reticle or any other military ranging reticle is intended to be used on targets around one yard in length or width – not something three inches. Besides, you have seen that you use the bracketing technique on the boomershoot – shoot then correct – so just knowing general ranges to within thirty or fifty yards is good enough for you to get a shot close to the target the first time. Mil dots are expensive and require you to train your eye to see 1/10th of a mil pretty well for them to be of value at the ranges military shooters want to fire from – 500 – 700 yards against upper torso size targets.
Magnification: Your target size is three inches square – pretty small – so your magnification will have to be pretty decent or you will lose your target. Frankly, I think 10X is too small a magnification for those small milk cartons and I found my 16X to be OK but would rather have used a 20 – 24X. Here is your trade off. Higher magnification also magnifies your human movement behind the rifle and many shooters find this overwhelming if they start going over 10X. I think I would rather use an optic that would not freak me out as opposed to using one that visually shows huge amounts of movement while shooting. It took me a couple of years of practice to get used to a 20X optic for 1000 yard shooting but you can train yourself to get used to such power as well. In fact, such movement lets you troubleshoot your position very well.
Ocular Lens: This gets into the magnification issue as both are tied together. Many optics companies tout their huge ocular lenses and they charge for them. For our needs they are unnecessary and probably detrimental to your seeing where the barrel is pointed. It relates to the pupil in the eye. The pupil can only open so far to let in light. I think that it maxes out at six or seven millimeters for the average human in a total darkness. That is it – it won’t open more so it cannot let in more light. Conversely, the pupil closes down on bright days to let in less light. The relation to an optic is as follows. Divide the diameter of the ocular lens by the magnification and see if the result is under 6 (mm of your pupil). If you buy some 70 MM Objective that only goes to 10X you see that the combination lets in more light than your eye will ever accept (7) so the excess in objective lens size is of no value. All this shit is marketing towards wannabe snipers who think they will be taking shots on pitch black nights without any type of electronic aids.
My suggestion? Get a normal optic with an objective lens of 30 – 40 mm or so and a magnification that leaves you in the factor range of 1.5 – 3 when you divide things out. My 16X Leupold has an objective of about 45MM as it is a military optic but when you factor it out you come up with a factor of about 3 which will take me through almost any dusk or dawn shooting and requires a heavy sun shade for any bright conditions. My 20X Lyman Target has a 30mm objective and the factor is 1.5, which is very comfortable on my eye when shooting in daylight.
Elevation and Windage Turrets: I recommend ¼ MOA adjustments with target turrets that are easy for you to read – both in terms of number graduations and in terms of which way to turn the damn thing to send the bullets in the direction you want. Thus you are looking at a pretty tall set of turrets that you can easily work while in your position. Look at the scales and you determine if you can both read them and use them. If you can’t figure them out – don’t buy the damn thing.
Parallax (Focus): Almost every quality optic will have some sort of Parallax adjustment on them. What this does is move a lens backwards or forwards so you can focus in on your target. There is no such thing as “Parallax Free”, no matter what range it is, and having an optic that lets you focus in on a target is better than one that is one size fits all. Some optics have this feature on the objective lens with graduations in yards. Ignore the graduations as they are for guys with perfect vision. You take out parallax to fit your vision and not something written on an optic. Reaching for the objective lens while in position does not work, so I would opt for a parallax adjustable knob on the side of the optic – mostly the left side. You can easily reach up while looking at your target and focus in on the target.
Optic Recommendations: Sorry guys – won’t do it for you. You know enough from this AAR to determine what you need as opposed to what you may be “sold” by some propaganda. Please don’t spend a thousand dollars on an optic you either do not need or simply cannot use! Burris, Tasco, Redfield – all make very solid “Target” scopes that will last a lifetime of target shooting during the daytime for around $500.00 max. You can probably get an exceptional one for $300.00.
Rifle / Ammo Quality: Lets face it, if you have a three minute of angle rifle / ammo combination – do not expect to blow up many Boomers past 100 yards as those milk cartons are barely over three minutes of angle at 100 yards. The bottom line is to come to the shoot with the gear that will match the shoot and this is determined by the size of the targets and their range.
Few rifles and ammo combinations can hold a four-inch milk carton at 600 yards. Just to hold that size target the rifle and ammo must hold less than ¾ MOA which is pretty good. Ideally, it better hold under ½ MOA to get any consistency. Therefore, even with outstandingly accurate rifles fired by outstanding shooters – it becomes a statistical probability to hit a four-inch target at ranges generally past about five hundred yards. Less than four hundred yards and things change for the better.
I certainly cannot tell you what types of rifle or calibers to use for such a shoot. I had very good luck with my 6.5 / 06 to 350 but at the far targets I wasn’t able to hold well enough and I doubt that my loads were adequate for such a small target. Yes, I hit a carton or two at the far ranges but the bullet burned the carton and didn’t get a solid hit. Here are some thoughts on this in terms of rifles / ammunition.
I definitely recommend a very good bolt-action rifle for the shoot. Simply put, they are easier to make very accurate and you don’t have a gas system to give you fits. What is good? Probably a match grade rifle made by a reputable gunsmith. Exceptional attention must be paid to the barrel to ensure it is as perfect as possible. A reputable gunsmith will tune a bolt gun to the barrel and can do wonders with trigger pulls.
A after market match grade barrel made by a reputable company is the way to go over a factory barrel in most cases. Twist rates depend on the bullet length you are shooting with standard .30 cal twists going from 1 turn in 12 inches to 1 turn in 10 inches. The 1/12 twists are generally for bullets up to the 175 grains with an ideal bullet being the 155 Palma Match bullet. 1/10 twists generally favor bullets in the 175 to 190 grain and are almost ideal for the 185 grain bullets I make. A 1/10 will overstabalize the lighter bullets and cause some problems but these are very minimal. Better to overstabalize than understabalize a bullet.
Barrel length is another subject that has various opinions. High Power guys use lengths from 26 to 28 inches. I think mine are all 28 inches. There are two reasons why guys go to long barrels. The first is that they do get some more velocity from a load – to a point. Past 30 inches and you get no benefit except for a heavier barrel that is hard to hold. The second reason is to give the High Power shooter more of a sight radius when using iron sights. Yes, an extra inch of barrel can reduce human error in seeing that the sights are aligned with the eye and that the system is pointed at the target. When using an optic – the need for longer than normal barrels is no longer of value unless you want a few more feet per second from the cartridge. You are buying an edge with a longer barrel – not much of an edge but an edge none the less and since you are using artificial support for the Boomershoot, you don’t have to worry about holding up the extra weight caused by this edge.
Barrel diameter or taper is another issue. Most Match Rifles have a 8 or 9 taper to them and are pretty heavy. The weight has its advantages as it dampens the vibrations caused by the bullet traveling down the barrel, dissipates heat more evenly, is stiffer, and holds steadier due to its weight. Thin, hunting type barrels have a-lot of problems for the Boomershoot or even precision rifle fire as they whip too much, are too light to hold steady, are not rigid, and heat up way to fast for repeat firing to be accurate.
Fit the ammo to the target size and effects you want. The targets are about four inches square and you have to really whack them solidly to get the explosives to blow up. Joe gives some advice and the normal 168 grain .308 traveling at 2600 fps from the barrel seems insufficient to decisively set the boomers off past 300 yards. Not much of a problem as most factory rifles with factory match ammo have problems holding the milk cartons past 300 yards anyway. What this leads to is a cartridge decision and hand loading. Factory .308 ammo comes in either the 168 or 175 grain bullet. Both are probably loaded down in velocity due to liability reasons but both are quite respectable in terms of accuracy if not their ability to set off the boomers. Given a choice in terms of commercial .308 match ammo – I would opt for the 175 as it will retain more energy down range and is less effected by winds than the 168’s. Given hand loading for the .308 – I would probably use the 155 grain Sierra Palma Match bullet and really smoke it out of the barrel in the neighborhood of 2900 fps. IMHO – the Sierra 155 Palma Match bullet is superior to the 168 or 175 Sierra Match King for the .308. For the 30-06, I would use my 185’s and push these out the barrel at from 2650 – 2700 fps. For a 300 mag – I would use my 185’s and push them out the barrel at 2900 – 3000 fps.
Shooting Positions: After a review of our clinic, I have decided to include a block of instruction on Shooting Positions, as some of the positions were not ideal for allowing you to point your rifle without effort. Here are a couple of position issues for you to consider.
A position points your barrel at your target without you having to use muscular effort.
A position allows the sights to be aligned with the eye without muscular effort.
A position allows you to pull the trigger without moving the barrel.
Here is a simple process to get into a prone bipod supported position.
Get into the prone without the rifle and lay there as if you had the rifle in your hands.
Have someone put the rifle down with the bipod and place it into your position. Do not adapt to the rifle or optic – force it to adapt to you. You can always extend bipod legs or move an optic around in its mount so it fits you. You can also adjust anything else on the rifle that is adjustable until that tool fits you and not you contorting around to fit it. If you need sand bags under the toe of the stock – put them there. If you want to use a sling and bipod – use them. You must dominate the rifle and never let it get the best of you.
Align the sights with the eyes. Never contort your head to align your eyes with the sights. Make the tool fit you.
Once you have aligned the sights with the eye, relax, close your eyes and breathe a couple of times then open your eyes and do the following.
See if the sights are aligned with your eyes? If not – align them with your eyes.
Is that barrel pointed where you want it pointed? If not – shift your body and rifle in order to point that system where you want it pointed. The rifle and your body must be considered as one item – not two. You want to move that barrel – you then move your body and the barrel will follow.
Once your system is pointed where you want it to the degree of precision you want, move your finger without pointing the barrel somewhere else.
Thank you: That is about all I can consider to be of any value to you folks and I want to thank you for doing business with me. As you can see, I am very particular on the training I may do for people and unlike formal shooting schools that must follow a very strict training plan and schedule – I can easily tailor any training I give to meet individual needs. I remain open to travel to you for any type of clinic or long term training you may want to do and hope to see you all again at the next boomershoot.
Econ Training and Consulting