Thursday 9 March 2017

Loading or You Move Around A Lot

Very few rifles I've used have had the capacity to hold more than one round at a time. As far as rifles and their accuracy is concerned the more moving parts they have, the less accurate they are likely to be. Similarly, the more parts of you that move about the less accurate you are going to be.

Apart from muzzle loading equipment, break barrel air rifles are likely to cause the greatest disruption to your position between shots than any other type of firearm. To load while in the prone position you need to bring the rifle towards you to reach the muzzle so you can break it open in order to cock it, this compresses the main spring. This requires some effort and I found jamming the butt underneath my chest provided the necessary purchase for me to pull down the barrel until it clicked to being cocked.

With the breach open and the barrel free from the main spring's pressure, my child sized fingers could pick up a tiny pellet to insert without the barrel springing back shut. The breach was not easily visible so developing a good feel for what you were doing was essential to avoid dropping the pellet or inserting it off centre (another reason for preferring .22). Once the pellet was properly in the breech the barrel could be flipped back shut and the rifle be one with you again before releasing the shot. Ultimately, being able to do this blindfolded is the aim.

I remember one day of shooting in our front garden next door to the boarding house, for which my dad was one of the masters, I had been out there for some time and was being watched by a couple of lads who were boarders. I was very conscious of their presence although they were behind me. I was thinking of every movement I was making while operating my rifle. Shot after shot after shot I fired and I wanted them to be fluid, slick and good. Party popper after party popper was knocked down with each and every strike. I heard one of them say "I bet he thinks he's training for the army". I doubt they had watched Carry on Sergeant, unlike me, because I knew you needed 'two of everything you should have and you're in'.  I'd already given up that dream because of my eye and I only ever wanted to play with tanks anyway. I have no wish to be shot at!

The loading process is repeated over and over as you work out the best way to do it and becomes more and more streamlined. It is essential to find a way where you cause the least disturbance possible to your position. Or, you develop a way that enables you to reconstruct the position easily and accurately. Practice does not make perfect, especially if you don't know what you're doing. Practice makes permanent. This is another reason why play is crucial. If you're playing you are happy to mess about, try something different, experiment with other ways, find out what's best. When you get precious about something you lose your flexibility. However, don't try fixing something that isn't broken.

If you keep your loading process smooth, compact and gentle you are less likely to cause disturbance to your position. Your original position is generally the best. From then on it's likely to get worse with each and every movement. You will eventually reach a critical point when your position, and this is my own special technical term, craps out. When you reach that point it's game over, get up, have a rest and shake it off, then start again.

Shooting freehand and with something like a break barrel rifle uses a process that creates shed loads of movement but with that a great deal of positional reconstruction. In target rifle when you're using a lot more kit for support and a bolt action rifle it is more about maintaining your optimum position through a perfected loading process. I always found it hilarious when a shooter would spend a few minutes shuffling their legs and other parts of their body around to compensate for changes in alignment that didn't happen having only moved their trigger arm to load. They then wonder why that shot missed having unwittingly crapped out a perfectly sound position.

I have to admit that the novelty of firing a rifle left me many moons ago. I do not imagine myself as John Rambo, I no longer imagine being charged at by a hoard of Zulus. I do not load and fire in a crazy manner as if my life depended on it. Many beginners do, especially if they're a CoD fan, and it's a very difficult thing to talk them out of doing. They can be bollocked out of it though, especially if the reload is unsafe breaking range rules or they damage the bolt, action or the ammo in the process. Remember that rule? Don't be a d***? Well, don't be.

Be aware of yourself, be sensitive to what you're doing. Every action you make does something, somewhere. You do not function in a bubble. Ultimately, you are connected, and in this instance, to a rifle. Understanding what you are connected to and realising how you can minimise negative consequences in the outcome makes you a better shooter. Things that are forced, break. Things that are rushed, go wrong. A lack of care, makes a mess. Try not to create disturbance. Find your flow and let it happen. There is peace in oneness.

Saturday 4 March 2017

The Sight Picture or What You See

The sight picture is less important than you might think. Firstly, your eyes aren't supporting the rifle and, secondly, only a fool trusts everything they see. Reality is only so real.

I've always preferred open sights, I'm not a fan of telescopic sights. Yes, they magnify the image but they also magnify the wobble. Yes, they have cross hairs but that's a limitation in itself and nor do I play Call of Duty...Quick Scope my fanny!

So you have a foresight and a rearsight, the first near the end of the barrel and the other near the breech closer to your eye. You look through the rear one and centralise the front one. To do that most effectively you focus on the foresight. The distance between the two sights is known as the sight base and the longer the distance the more accurately you can line up the barrel. There is no sight base as such with a telescopic sight making it more difficult to ascertain the rifles alignment.

My air rifles had beautifully basic blade and V sights. The rearsight was a V shaped notch in which you align the blade  centrally at the bottom of the V and level with the top of it. You don't want to obscure what you're aiming at with the sights so the target should sit above the blade. I used to have a confusing time wondering whether it was best to have a clear image of the rear sight, foresight or target. All I could tell you is I certainly couldn't focus on all three.

One of my favourite games was to fill a 2 litre pop bottle with water and fire as many shots as I could from top to bottom in a vertical line to have as many holes as possible spewing water before the water ran out. Within the whole process of firing one shot the sight picture was pretty unimportant, there was barely time for it.

The kind of shots you'd often miss were exactly those you tried the hardest not to. The longer you hold the rifle or stare through the sights the more effort you impart and naturally you get tired. Target rifle is always moving because of the sight picture and so it's as much a game of releasing the shot at the right moment just like clay pigeon. The movement is a lot less but the scoring zone is significantly smaller. That moment may be fractions of a second and I often say as soon as your conscious mind has told you it's a good sight picture, you have already missed.

We are beings preoccupied with the world outside of us. We are easily distracted and forget the truths found within us. Shooting is the same. You will not find answers to your true alignment through your sights. You must breathe, relax, feel and think about what your body is saying. Do not rely on the implement in your hands to tell you how you are doing. You are responsible for it, and it is inanimate.

So, essentially all the sights do is confirm visually where you are pointing the rifle. If you're supporting it incorrectly they won't do much to help you.