Who has two thumbs and a big smile on his face? This guy!
It just doesn’t seem to matter what I feed this rifle. It’s only ever made 1 group over an inch and the rest have been closer to half an inch. This isn’t just 3-shot groups. It’s 10-shot groups rapid fire or slow fire and 5-shot groups and 3-shot groups. It’s just a laser beam. Just look at these groups. Those are all 10-shot groups!
Left to right 43.5, 44, 44.5, 45.5, then down one for the 45 grain load. The few flyers were all called and were the shooter’s fault.
The barrel came from Columbia River Arms, formerly Black Hole Weaponry and it’s a gem. It’s a 26 inch 8 twist on an MTU contour. The chamber is quite tight netting necks that are exactly .243″ inside diameter after firing, meaning that my brass doesn’t grow much and working of the necks is minimal. I set it up for zero headspace too so the brass should last a good long time with the Ackley case’s propensity for not stretching (especially not stretching like a .243Win is prone to doing.) If you want a drop in that’s just a laser beam, you need to call up Columbia River arms and have them cut you a barrel based on their .243AI reamer. I’ve never seen anything like this in a drop in barrel. Carl Caudle has a bunch more reamers that are equally nice. All it takes is a phone call and a credit card.
I got my Ackley loads dialed in. Started with .080 jump on the 108 grain ELD-M bullets. Started with a 43.5 grain charge of RL-23 and moved up in half-grain increments to 45.5 grains. Never showed any pressure signs and the velocities were just slightly above where I’d set as a goal. The big deal was a definite signal that the case likes to be full. SD’s were up around 35fps at the bottom but at 45.5 grains everything trimmed out and I landed with 5fps SD’s across a 10 round string with a group .6″ across done rapid fire. Velocities are right at 3170fps and temperature seemed to have little effect on them from 60F to 90F so it’s a match ready load.
I’ve got a match next weekend and I’m going to use the .243Ackley. Look for a pretty high score this time. Yes, I shot the .223 as well but that’s another story. Loads need more work. Popping primers is not competition ready.
The single best way to measure and subsequently be able to develop your shooting skills is not going to the range with some friends and plinking. No amount of burning hundreds or thousands of rounds is going to make you a better shooter. The problem is when you’re out horsing around blowing up jugs filled with colored water you’re not keeping score or even paying attention to how and why you make certain shots. The most powerful tool to make you a better shooter is to keep score. The absolute best way way to keep score is to have someone else do it.
“What about the fact that I might suck?” or “They’re going to laugh.” or “I’m going to feel like an idiot.” or any of a hundred other excuses are just that excuses. They’re excuses (and shitty ones at that) made by those that foolishly believe that the opinions of others are formed by the ratio of hits to misses of those they observe. It’s based on the attitudes of others. Not how good or bad they are.
My very first metallic silhouette match was the state championships. I was horrified about how badly I was doing. I ended up tying for last with someone, we’ll call him Chuck, that has been doing the game for many years and is well known by the competitors in the region. He just had a terrible shooting day that day and I had a relatively good one which was still bad by any normal measure. Not a single person said, “Chuck, you suck. Why do you even bother?” In fact, the only things said to Chuck were supportive and friendly. No chiding his running of every stage with clean misses. Not even good-natured ribbing.
I had the same score as Chuck by end of day and I was simply horrified at my performance. I was convinced the trash talking would start eventually but it never did. What did happen was pretty early on a girl came up and gave me some advice on stance and hold. Then the next round a guy that she seemed to know did the same thing. By the end of the day I was able to start making some hits because every time someone would see me doing it wrong they’d very gently point me in the right direction.
My first F-Class match I didn’t have anything like proper equipment. I brought a hunting rifle and a hunting bipod and hunting ammo and nobody gave me a hard time. What they did do was tell me what the complications were going to be and how to make the best of what I had brought. I didn’t make a single hit inside the 8 ring but every time I did manage to put metal on paper I got positive feedback.
My first IDPA pistol competition I didn’t have a holster, which was required. I also didn’t have even a belt. At the time I didn’t own one of either. Nobody chided me. The match director didn’t even sigh before he asked into the group collected around the signup table for a spare. He did ask if it was my first match and I said, “yeah”. One of the guys in the crowd handed me a holster and mag pouch and said he’d collect it at the end of the match. I didn’t even really see who gave it to me until he asked for it back at the end of the day. The match director told me to hang out with his son and they’d show me the ropes.
The more unprepared it seemed that I’d arrived the more the assorted match directors both didn’t seem to care and wanted to help. The worse I’ve done in any match the more helpful and supportive the other competitors. It’s been the same with Trap shooting, sporting clays, PRS, and long range tactical precision. Every time I go out to do a match I’ve never done before, or didn’t do enough research on, or have no gun or ammo or basic equipment for etc… It’s never been an issue.
So we can now be certain that nobody will laugh or point or snigger at you. Your pride will not be assaulted and you won’t be treated as an outsider. There’s an easy reason for all of these people going so far out of their way to help newbies out. It’s rewarding courage. Plain and simple. Nobody will ever say that out loud but the people at a match share the pride that they nutted up and showed up even though score was being kept and would be visible to everyone. Nobody is ashamed of their results after a bad score at a match. They’re disappointed very often but that’s derived from one’s expectations of their own performance. Shame/blame/etc… are externally applied but you won’t find that happening, not at a match. Guys and Gals at a match are there in the spirit of the truest fellowship.
If you want to try a match in your area, jump on a forum and ask where to find one, then show up and watch or shoot or help with range officer duty. You don’t have to shoot your first time. You just have to show up.
I was recently asked to create a Density Altitude version of BallisticXLR for those that like DA over absolute air density. Ok, fine. Done. It took quite a number of hours to port it over but it’s there now and it works. This new system is meant for shooters that need extremely rapid ballistics data that is easy to read under time pressure and that can deal with atmospheric changes extremely rapidly.
And here it is!
The inputs page is a very close match to the original BallisticXLR inputs page but unlike BallisticXLR does not require any atmospheric data inputs. BallisticPRS also differs from BallisticXLR in that it does not have the Primary or Secondary Functions tabs and a number of other tabs that are not relevant for DA applications. It does come with the reloading cost calculator, projectile database, reticle subtend tab, and sniper range cards.
BallisticPRS is meant for the experienced shooter while still being easy enough to use that beginners will not find it stammeringly confusing. As seen below the data tables are noted in meters or yards with data in 10yrd/m increments from 100 to 2490. Data for Drop, Wind, Movers, H-Cor, V-Cor and Spin are listed in a single row making for very fast info uptake.
There’s an included DA tab (which is experimental) that will allow the user to identify a correct DA with a non-standard temperature and a pressure altitude reading. This handy feature will assist the shooter as temperatures change throughout the day in their FFP.
This latest product is free for download and; just like with BallisticXLR, I provide free email based support. Just like BallisticXLR, BallisticPRS requires genuine Microsoft Excel for correct function. I’ll be adding a new BADEDS and B-FEDS kit with the DA tables shortly. Because of the much larger page count these kits will be modestly more expensive.
I’m very excited about this new product and I think you will be too!
P.S. – Being that it’s Memorial Day as I post this, I thought I’d leave this here. The price of freedom for some is said to be the blood of patriots and tyrants. It could also be termed the blood of our children and our parents. Dead and living soldiers bought this day off for us.
May 5th 2016 marks the official launch of BallisticPRS. BallisticPRS is my new Density Altitude based ballistics spreadsheet. Just like its sister product, BallisticXLR, it uses the Pejsa model in the back end to do the calculations. Unlike BallisticXLR it’s meant very much for experienced shooters, particular those doing PRS shooting, that want field expedient printed data and a super simple system to create them.
BallisticPRS is implemented using Microsoft Excel (only genuine Excel is supported) and is massively simple to use. It provides drop, wind, movers, horizontal and vertical coriolis and spin drift data in 10m or 10yrds increments for every 500ft of Density Altitude between -4,000ft and +11,000ft. Data for each DA zone is contained on a single 8.5×11 size page and each page comes with a handy angle cosine table, compass rosette with cosines, conversion formulae and a mil-dot reticle subtend chart (there are dozens of other reticles already stored for easy update from companies like S&B, USO, Khales, Vortex, SWFA, Leupold and more).
As always, the download is free and I provide free email based support.
The match format is something like PRS meets IDPA meets metallic silhouette. You have a gnarly trail you have to hike to each of eight stages. Each stage has an obstacle you can choose to shoot from and an area for prone shooting. No shooting mats or spotting scopes (handheld are ok) allowed. You have 5-7 targets per stage and 10 minutes to engage them all from the time your rifle touches the ground. You get one shot per target and if one is damaged you can shoot the next closer target.
Foothills in California look all mellow and appear to gently roll, lolling along casually and encouraging you to take a leisurely stroll along their voluptuous ridge lines. The truth of the matter is that they try to maintain as steep an angle as they can and be as treacherous as possible while presenting the illusion that they’re anything but fiendishly difficult to walk on, shoot on, do construction work on or anything else one might foolishly consider doing. One can be sure that where the land is anything but relatively flat in appearance (and even then it’s actually hillier than you might suspect until you walk on it a bit) it’s not meant for walking, specially crafted boots or no. The hills are the ones doing the walking all over the people. Not the other way around.
The day before the match, my coach and I built a nifty little rooftop simulator for people who haven’t had a hard enough time already to shoot from. We designed it to be nearly impossible to achieve natural point of aim on and it did a stellar job of proving that point to many a taker. Of course building such a thing means pre-fabricating much of it, then lugging those now super heavy sections, along with tools and additional lumber and supplies, over these particularly rugged hills and then installing it. All in one day. That included having to start the day before the sun had cleared the hills by hiking the thing to make sure of what we actually needed in the way of supplies and components.
This thing accomplished I was beat bad. Exhausted since exhausted and still needing to zero my rifle, chronograph the new load I’d tossed together for the occasion, verify click values and add all that data to KAC BulletFlight. Then, I got to do the same for my coaches gun. Finally after all that we could eat and drink some beers and try to get a decent nights sleep.
Couldn’t be done. It was quite cold and the dew point hit and the tent was dripping on us periodically through the night. Apart from that, I can’t stand having things touch my feet when I’m asleep which made the whole sleeping bag thing something akin to waterboarding. I had to deal the whole night with the sensation that the walls were closing in and they were doing it to near my feet first.
When the morning came; as it always does, we awoke still pretty beat from the previous day. I started it off with a blistering hot shower which did much to revive my spirits. Right up until the hot water stopped being at all hot and because it did that rather suddenly. The ensuing seconds of ice cold water delivered a shock which was very much the equivalent of taking a bracing stroll across one of the more barren parts of Antarctica while naked.
After recovering from my abortive attempt to soothe my aching muscles with non-chemical means I dropped a couple Motrin and soldiered on. After about 30 minutes of hurriedly collecting and assembling our gear we were off with our squads.
The shooting was extremely challenging regardless of the conditions. Targets are better than 1MOA true but, that’s a lot smaller than you might think when the distance grows to several hundred meters. A few, very few, were on the other hand mightily generous and I happened to miss almost all of those. Most of that was on stage 1 and happened by me having misread my range card and skipped forward one target for each of 4 consecutive shots. After I figured out what I was doing, things cleared up on that stage but the damage to my score was done and combined with the CHS (see below) that happened there my score on the long gongs suffered. That’s for me especially galling because I usually own that stage. I spend enough time on it screwing around. It should have been second nature but competition has a way of scattering nerves.
By the end of the day I’d hit as many as I thought I might. The ammo I was using was hastily assembled and wasn’t up to snuff. My rifle shoots vastly better with the bullets jammed into the lands but because I wanted to load from a magazine and not single feed I elected to load to mag length. That meant a long jump to the lands and resulting flyers and a large SD and ES.
For my part, when I hit the bang switch the crosshairs were always were I needed, or at least thought I needed, them to be. My gun was not feeding especially smoothly but that wasn’t a problem. There was plenty of time to take my shots. My new Timney trigger was more manageable than the Jard when my heart rate was over 120 and had just a bit more comfortable trigger feel overall.
The MidwayUSA rifle pack/drag bag proved its worth once again and made the day much easier than a sling would have.
Next time I’m using my regular load and saying hang the magazine. Those print .7″ or better and will definitely help bump my score. I’m hoping to beat the course record for .223 shooters (which is 37 of 50) in the next couple months.
I came in 11th out of 17 in the Tactical Rifle class (.308 & .223 limited gun).
I came in 29th out of 38 overall.
Not my best performance ever. I and the gun are capable (demonstrably) of much better. My only consolation is it’s been a long time and the whole thing I approached kinda haphazardly so I achieved actually exactly what I expected which was a score somewhere near the middle of the pack. Buggery ammo, heart rate in orbit, massively difficult wind situation (shifting from 0-30, 3-5 changes inside any particular shot, canyons galore, etc…) and straight up fatigue from having built and lugged up to station 2 the rooftop obstacle.
We were squadded in teams of 5 or 6. Each team was started at one of eight stages, one to a stage. So we hike up from the parking lot to stage 1 and those that get to start on later stages continue to hike out to them. Once you finish your first stage you move on to the next one. In the case of starting beyond stage one, stage 7 for instance, you have to go to stage 8 then back to 1 and up to 6 then back to 1 and into the parking lot, all on the trail, to finish without a DQ. It also means that if you start on the farther end you get to walk the whole bloody thing back and forth, twice.
Interesting stuff that happened:
I was started on stage 7 which is almost as bad as you can start out. About a half mile into the walk to our first station I realize my earmuffs didn’t make it into my pack and my squad can’t start shooting till all of us are at the station. Luckily one of my squad mates had a set of seriously uncomfortable foam plugs. Disaster averted at least.
On my 15th shot I suffered a case head separation. Half of the case was left in the chamber and the back half came out. One of the guys grabbed a 20ga bore brush and spun it onto a section of cleaning rod and handed it to me, I ripped my bolt out and jammed that brush into the chamber till I felt it get tight, pulled it out and bang, stuck case removed. The case that separated did so very cleanly in a nice ring. I didn’t see any sign of ICHS during the brass processing. The case did have probably 10-15 loads on it and most of them over book. No surprise. However, next time I’m bringing a 20ga bore brush and a length of cleaning rod.
The team in front of us seemed to peter out a bit after their 4th stage and they were constantly 10 minutes longer than we were at any stage so we got a little rest occasionally if the trip from one pit to the next wasn’t too long. When it was long we arrived out of breath and were almost immediately on deck.
I cranked out a little video for y’all’s entertainment. Enjoy!
The first Sunday of every month there’s a 200m high power metallic silhouette match that my coach and I try to make it to as part of the normal circuit in our area. Normal full scale metallic silhouette is done at 200, 300, 385 & 500m. This was a partially scaled course with the animals other than the chickens all down-scaled to maintain 2-3MOA at 200m. Weather was ok with periodic swirling strong gusty wind and cool temps that weren’t cold at all. The wind spent most of the day just toying with our emotions and not affecting shots much. When it did affect them it was full value 20MPH wind which requires holding off the animal to hit it.
During the state match last weekend I managed somehow to tear a tendon in my hip which makes any position other than standing horrendously painful. Walking is a bit of a challenge too but standing is fine other than hurting quite a bit.
I found a glitch with my form during the match by watching another shooter and I fixed that glitch which caused me to pick up another 4 animals over what I might normally do at that range and really dialed in my aim-small-miss-small ability especially when there’s wind pushing on me. That was a major gain for me and I went up about 15% in hit percentage overall and around 500% specifically on my turkey average which I normally have quite a bit of trouble with. I’ll usually hit 1 or maybe 2 out of 10 turkeys unless the day is particularly sparkly or if I’m using a rimfire gun. This time I’d already fixed my form and natural point of aim was easier by far to establish and maintain and target transitions were cleaner and I ended up swatting 7 out of 10 turkeys despite the issue with the tendon in my hip.
In metallic silhouette all shots are taken off-hand, no slings, palm rests, shooting jackets or shooting gloves. In addition to those gear restrictions there are restrictions on rifle configuration (no AR’s basically) and weight. Targets are 2-3MOA steel silhouettes and weigh between 5 and 15lbs for a scaled match like this one. In a full scale match the targets can get up to 50-80lbs on the rams. One of the competitors ended up popping the head off of one of the chickens with a .308. A .308 is kind of a bit much for this game at 200m but is fully accceptible. Breaks happen. I use a 7mm BR which is about as powerful as a .30-30 but with better bullets and range and it’ll never break a piece off unless the target is already seriously damaged.
I shot first place in my class by a LONG way and ended up putting a leg into the next higher class with a score of 20 of 40. One more breakout and I’ll get bumped which is all happening just as I expected time wise. The other winning scores were 24,25,26 with 26 taking the overall match win. My coach shot a 19 which is horrid performance for him. Being only 7 targets from overall match winner is giving me some impetus to work out harder and practice more and to replace the trigger on my match rifle since it’s about 5lbs and gritty as 2 miles of gravel road. The reason I haven’t replaced it yet is I figure if I can do well with a cr4p trigger, imagine what I’ll do with a good one. So I got to be a decent standing shot with first with a bad trigger.
Enjoy the video below. It’s a quick compilation of largely unedited footage.
Thanks to my PRS spotter The Disco Tripper for taking the video through a spotting scope on an iPhone. That was a lot of hard work for him to keep the video shooting during a fast moving match. He had to move the spotting scope from station to station and set up in the 45 seconds they give us to get up to the line and get ready. Not a lot of time and he did well collecting almost 4GB of media. Also thanks to my coach and silhouette spotter Seargent Schulz. His coaching helped me pull in 2-3 hits that I otherwise might not have had without such a good spotter.
A tip for long range shooters: Remember that your spotter tells you where to break the shot and you obey his orders strictly. You are part of the weapon but he is the weapon system commander. Never second guess your spotter or you’ll never work properly together. If he needs second guessing then the wrong member of your team is the spotter. The spotter should be the best shot. The shooter should be the weaker spotter.
Almost exactly a year ago I took my first swim in metallic silhouette shooting by competing in the state championships for my state. I tied for absolutely last place and was really happy to have done that well. We’re talking about standing up and shooting at steel targets shaped and sized like real critters from what I could easily call ridiculous distances. For instance, the closest targets are the chickens which are life size and set at 200m. Consider this, you’re out deer hunting and one of your buddies sees a grouse on the rocks 220 yards away and you decide to take a shot at it and see if you can score dinner. This isn’t shooting a deer at 200m, it’s shooting a chicken which is much smaller. Small to the point that when I was told about metallic silhouette shooting I was in a bit of disbelief.
I’d been a competitive shooter in other disciplines, things where paper targets with unreasonably small X rings are used. A shooter that can hit anything they point at laying on their belly suddenly turns into a hack when they stand up and it gets worse if you eliminate the option to use a sling or shooting glove or shooting jacket like we do in metallic silhouette. My coach described the game and I thought, “…well if he can do it then it’s possible so let’s try it out.”
I went to my first match with a .308win tactical rifle wearing a 10x US Optics ST-10 with a busy-ish mil-scale MPR reticle and ammo that I hurriedly slapped together that was only capable of 2MOA groups. This match I went into with a rifle I bought from another competitor which is built specifically for the sport and chambered in 7mm BR with a 24x Weaver T-24 on it. With my loads the match rifle is a steady half-MOA gun. I’ve also invested in brass and huge quantities of bullets and powder and primers are now constantly in stock. Before I would keep a couple hundred rounds worth of each thing I used and that was it. Now I keep closer to a couple thousand rounds worth and reload in vast quantities (like 600 rounds at a time).
This past weekend we had the state championships for the current year and I was there to compete. We knew going in it was going to be rough sleddin’ and it was. Over 2 days we were continuously subjected to high winds, cold air and rain. Temperatures only managed to clear 50F after we were done shooting and were more centered a little lower. The second day was substantially colder than the first as well which gave something of a boost to the rate that morale degraded but everyone stuck it out so we could at least get a winner and have a good fair match that wasn’t too short or too long. That’s important because most of the competitors are in fact middle-age, chubby and white and our old bodies just don’t take punishment like they did 20-30 years ago. Most of them are in that demographic but not all of them by a big stretch. We usually have a few ladies and juniors shooting as well as well as non-whites.
This year the only lady shooter was Inez and she opened a cubic hogshead of whoopass on the entire field. I started shooting in the same class as Inez and she’s been consistent about improving her skills and her coach is providing consistently high quality teaching so I frequently measure my performance against hers to see if I’m keeping up or need to work harder. This time, I needed to have worked massively harder and prepared massively more. In the end she shot so far above our rated class that her score got bumped into the next higher class and she still crushed the scores in her new higher class by a landslide. In the process she and the huge majority of the other shooters were jovial and friendly, even to the point of verbalizing that they’re not here to win, they’re here to do their best. You can’t even invite these people to beat you at a game. How infuriating is that. You try to egg someone on and tell them to whip you good today and they reply, “I’m just going to try to do my best.” Arghh. See what I mean.
So about the conditions, winds were constantly high with even higher gusts. I measured 15-22 on day one and 15-35 on day two. The rain wasn’t so bad or heavy on day one but it was bucketing down on day two. That actually helped as we were able to read the wind much easier by watching the rain than by trying to figure out how the geography and fluid dynamics were going to work today. Our range is notorious for having very difficult to read winds. The flags and the air seem to not have much to do with each other. The second day was so cold and rainy and the shooting line was such a river of mud that we called the 2nd day’s match at what was going to be the half way point and nobody even remotely bitched. Shooter wind (wind affecting the shooter) and downrange winds were combining to add huge challenge to keeping anywhere near the target and light crisp triggers were the only way to make it through the 2nd day. The wind drift for me on one stage at 300m was much as 6MOA in addition to the into-the-wind lead I was holding so the wind would blow my crosshairs into the target.
At the end of both days I had won my class in Standard Gun and taken 2nd in Hunter Gun. My coach took first place for Hunter Gun in his class and 5th for Standard Gun. Inez would have smashed my score like a M1 tank rolling through a mirror factory if the rules weren’t so awesome and even if she got bumped up a ranking, she smashed that classes 2nd place score like the fist of an angry God. Another pal of ours DeadEyeKye won the overall winner for the match and we all got some nifty trophies. Hart barrels were raffled off and somehow went to shooters that could actually do some good with them. We also raffled off some other minor prizes but those weren’t the thing people wanted. We were shooting for the trophies, against both ourselves and the conditions.
In one year I have quadrupled the percentage of targets that I hit, I’ve taken 2 first places at the state championship level and 2 second places in addition to winning 8 other times in my class between rimfire and centerfire versions of the sport. It’s been a wild and expensive ride but the best thing I ever did for my shooting proficiency was to get off my belly and onto my feet. I’m now certain of what shots I might ever take on game due to evidence of my performance under pressure where hits ARE being tracked as much as misses, rather than just having too high of an opinion arbitrarily. As well, I didn’t give up prone shooting. I’m actually hugely better at that now than I was before. My trigger control, sight picture, NPOA, and wind reading have all advanced considerably. The thing that was most wrong with my shooting a year ago was I had too high of an opinion of it. The problem with my shooting now is, I have too critical a view on it. I’m hoping that in the next year I’ll be able to rationalize those two and come to some sort of defensible mid-point.
Dunning-Kruger suggests that the less you know about something the more likely you are to think you know more about it than you do as well as the opposite. What it doesn’t make much room for is rational observation. Just like with computers and cosmology and diesel engine repair, the more you know about it the more you realize how much more there is to know and you never really stop to give yourself any legitimately deserved credit. So now, I’ll do just that.
I got up on my feet. I put in the effort and time and money. I started out as a pretty darned good shot with almost any firearm or airgun. I’m now a hell of a lot better at it and I earned that. I’d like to thank my coach, CRPA, and some really great people. Specifically I’d like to thank: Charlie, Jarred, Al, Inez, Steve, Edo, Ken, Bobby, Kyler, Scott, Tammy, Ray, Mary, Luis, Landen and Mark and the other Mark for their friendship, kindness, advice and commiseration. These specific people along with my coach made the whole unbelievable effort and the achievement into its own reward.