Sunday, June 08, 2008

The wind is sweeping down the plain like

God turned on the sandblaster. Again. Even for Oklahoma, these last few days have been kind of nasty.

How nasty? I was mowing the other day and stepped on a pine cone. There are no pine trees visible on this street. So there is no telling how far it blew from. Likewise the mimosa branch in the front yard, though I think it only had to move a block or so.

Normally I prefer shooting outside when I can, but days like this are a pain for rifles. Especially small bore rifles and teeny little targets like the current postal match. Which I've been thinking about.

Shooting offhand at small targets. I like shooting offhand(just not usually at targets that small): it’s good practice, I enjoy it, and it’s good for focus. You have to synchronize breathing, hold, trigger pull with your body motion. And unless you have the most perfect muscle control ever known, your body WILL be moving.

That means that, far more than off some kind of rest, part of hitting means timing your shot to when the sights move onto the aiming point. Couple of years ago some show, I think on PBS, was talking about how using computers and motion studies have changed sports: that by finding slight ‘flaws’ or wasted motions in some athletes’ form, they’ve caused running and swimming times to go down, javelin throws to go further and so forth. One segment was with a guy on the Olympic Shooting Team. They placed a bunch of monitors for heart and breathing on him(can’t remember if wired for EKG), and a laser on the rifle, and studied how his body functions and shooting interacted. The found that in the last moments before he fired, his heart rate slowed down a bit, allowing him more of a window in which to shoot between beats, and went back to normal after the shot. Every time. You could see the laser shifting on the target, then during that window it steadied. He’d developed enough control of his heart rate to make that change at the critical point.

If you’ve never looked at this, take a rifle(unloaded), take aim and pay attention to what happens as your heart beats. Everybody knows about breathing, but it can be surprising how much your heartbeat affects things; it’s more noticeable with a scope, but shows with iron sights, too.

Lots of people do develop the ability to alter their heart rate, but if you’re not one you can develop your timing, aligning the sights and squeezing off between beats. Like a lot of shooting skills, you can work on this with dry-firing practice(having, of course, checked the arm at least twice to make damn sure the chamber is empty or has only a snap cap. If you want the weight of a loaded magazine, use training dummies or snap caps and make DAMN SURE no live cartridges were slipped in by Murphy, the sneaky bastard) For that matter, a BB or pellet gun works very well for this, too.

The Revolutionary War Veterans Association has a forum in their Project Appleseed site that has a very good primer on riflery. Basic sight alignment, breathing, and finding your 'natural point of aim'. Their links on attaching and using the Model 1907 sling are gone, but you can see this here and here at the Fulton Armory site. I've become a firm believer in using the sling whenever you can; oddly, with some rifles I can actually get better groups at a bench with the sling that with a set of sandbags.

As a side note, after you sight in off a solid benchrest take a few shots with the kind of rest you'd use in the field, or with the sling: you might be surprised. Some rifles have a very different point of impact from a rest on bags than with a sling or field rest. I was shooting my Model 94 Winchester and found that the difference at 100 yards was a good 3" vertically. Same size groups, but with a very different center.


Ritchie said...

When I was working at a company that made pulse monitors, I discovered that altering my breathing made significant differences in my pulse characteristics. These monitors would track blood pressure through the complete pulse cycle, showing minute changes. Just another vote for fooling with the gear before magagement show up.

Sailorcurt said...

Using a sling (properly) tends to amplify the effects of your pulse on aim stability. The sling is tightly wrapped around your arm, which contains relatively large arteries and veins. The pulse is directly transmitted through the sling.

That's one reason for wearing heavy clothing or a shooting jacket, not only does it make for more comfort, but it also dampens the effects of the pulse transmitted through the sling.

zeeke42 said...

"That means that, far more than off some kind of rest, part of hitting means timing your shot to when the sights move onto the aiming point."

That is the exact opposite of what I've been taught and what I've learned through (admittedly brief) experience. If you try to break the shot when the sights cross the target, you're going to move the gun in the process and miss. I've been taught to hold the sights on target as stable as you can and add pressure until the shot surprises you. I learned at an Appleseed event that NPOA is key to achieving maximum stability.

Firehand said...

Zeke, that's how it works out for me on rifles at any distance. As the thing always moves, I add a little pressure each time it moves onto the target until it breaks.

I may have worded that badly. Or I may be doing it wrong.