My partner commented he felt the whole group of shooters were fanatics as he watched them unload their equipment. I attended many of the shooting matches at various venues but thought to myself he was right.
If there are fanatics among shooters, it was this type of competition that draws them to the range.
I have shot skeet, trap, sporting clays and NRA handgun and, to be truthful, wasn’t all that good at any of them. My biggest problem with the shotgun competition is I can’t break the habit of aiming at the clay birds. Everyone knows you swing the shotgun and follow through.
For me, it is poke the muzzle toward the bird, aim and let the shot go.
In other words, I stink.
I was a bit better with the handgun, and if I had stayed with it, I might have become better and had potential to become a middle-of-the-road shooter. My handgun back then was a High Standard Supermatic.
I had the handgun, but lacked the time. As a young father who worked shift work, I couldn’t make all of the matches and finally gave up competing with a firearm.
There was another hobby I enjoyed and refused to stop – groundhog hunting. My enthusiasm for it often got me into trouble. Perhaps it was the groundhog hunting that led to my interest in rifle accuracy.
While many shooters might have their own definition of accuracy, it boils down to one thing – the ability of a rifle to place every shot as close to the other as possible.
The perfect group of bullet holes in the target would measure exactly the size of the bullet’s diameter, or zero from center to center of each hole in the paper. Normally, this is done at 100 or 200 yards. Incidentally, such a group has never been done at a sanctioned match, so when seeking the ultimate group, we keep searching.
Of course, the group of shooters I mentioned as fanatics at the beginning of this article were bench-rest shooters. While stand-up target shooting with a rifle or handgun are each a test of the person holding the firearm, bench rest is more a test of the firearm.
Of course, there is still the need for the shooter to do everything correctly and consistently. The rifle must rest on the sandbags in the same position and with the same pressure on both forearm and grip.
The trigger, though light, must be released without excessive movement, and most importantly, the shooter must judge the wind.
Most matches will allow for difference rifle weights but it is the heavy-barreled rifles that will shoot the smallest groups. The shooters in the lightest-rifle category, however, will still outshoot the average gun owner and do it with ease.
While there are those who say anyone can shoot from the bench, I say try to place all of your shots in the same small hole and do it not once, which can be a fluke, but often.
You almost never see a bench-rest match won with anything but a top-rated barrel and a specially designed and sleeved action. The bedding of metal to synthetic stock must be perfect with almost no flexing of the action.
I think it is safe to say all bench-rest matches are won with reloads. No group of shooters takes more care in reloading ammo than this group.
Brass is bought by the hundreds and then more often than not is sorted trying to use only those with exact internal capacity. Neil Jones, of Saegertown, an old-time bench-rest shooter and maker of tools aimed at the accuracy crowd, once told me case preparation is the most important thing when seeking an accurate load.
Only like casings will do. The other casings are set aside for casual shooting. Bullets are usually custom made and are judged by not only weight but concentricity.
Sometimes, the shooter will reload at the range using the same cases over and over.
Serious bench-rest shooters found long ago the best accuracy came with small-capacity rounds. Early matches were won with cartridges such as the 22-250 and 219 Donaldson Wasp.
There was a brief time when the .308 was popular but recoil limited its use.
The .222 was king of the hill for quite a while at matches, and this round is a personal favorite.
Today’s matches are dominated by the 6mm PPC and 6BR.
I am sure down the road some other round will come along and become the top choice of accuracy fanatics.
As for me, I am simply a duffer who is happy shooting less than ¼-inch groups with his old .222 or 6PPC and sometimes with my Remington 40X in the Swift Chambering.
Whichever rifle I use, I do know I owe a note of thanks to those who are a major reason for the accuracy we attain with our over-the-counter rifles and the quality reloading components offered to today’s shooter.
George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.