Hunting season is upon us and a lot of outdoorsmen will be hitting the woods in search of their own personal trophy and/or meat to fill the freezer. Most of these folks are returning to the woods for the umpteenth time but some may be venturing forth on their very first outing. Regardless of whether they're adults looking for a new hobby or children following in their elder's footsteps, they want to experience the thrill of success because they desire to create a lasting memory and possibly provide some healthy alternatives to store-bought food.
Our family looked forward to the season with great anticipation but we spent a lot of time throughout the rest of the year honing our shooting skills so that when the time came, we knew exactly where that round was going once we pulled the trigger. Hunting woodchucks through the summer months ensured that we'd be comfortable with shooting and range time guaranteed our weapons were as accurate as possible. That left our own abilities and outside factors as the only variables conspiring to put the bullet someplace other than where it was intended.
Unfortunately, we see a fair number of people heading into the woods that have never even put a round down range prior to throwing on the blaze orange or camouflage. My wife and I see this on a weekly basis at the local range when people step up to the line and proceed to expend ammunition with seemingly little knowledge or forethought as to where it will impact the paper. Holes perforate every square inch of the target more effectively than if they had fired a couple rounds of buckshot. I'll give some the benefit of the doubt when it comes to limited range time and experience, but others bring an arsenal of weapons and radiate an air of confidence and expertise, right up to the point when rounds are impacting the targets.
Guaranteed accuracy is through practice, practice, and more practice whether it's with a personal defense weapon or with a hunting implement because consistency, repetition, and muscle memory are the only way you can be sure that the next bullet sent down the barrel is going where you intended. The guns themselves are capable of a certain level of accuracy depending on their given purpose but that level of performance can only go down hill once you introduce the human element to the equation. It's a proven fact that a handgun fired mechanically from a Ransom Rest can put bullet after bullet through the same hole, but have a person raise the gun, look through iron sights or even a scope, then pull the trigger? Well all bets are off if the shooter hasn't practiced extensively and become proficient.
Consistency is absolutely key to shooting accurately regardless of the platform. Mounting the gun, grip, trigger contact, sight picture, breathing, and trigger engagement need to be performed exactly the same way time after time after time if you expect to be even remotely accurate. I recently told one person that I'd rather be able to predictably put five rounds in the same hole and make the necessary aiming corrections to hit the bulls eye, than to hit it dead center once and have the other four rounds spread willy-nilly around the target. Calling the shot and putting it where you want every time is the goal and should be practiced before hitting the field or carrying a weapon for self defense.
Choosing and shooting the same ammunition (or at least knowing how different brands and loads perform in your gun) is also quite important. It's all part of the accuracy equation because bullets of different weights or designs, and powder loads can drastically change the point of impact at a given range. Just compare the ballistic difference between a Federal Vital ShoK .270 130 gr with a Trophy Bonded tip and the same brand but loaded into the Power Shok 150 gr Round Nose. Their energy levels are different, the points of impact at various ranges are different, and their terminal performance (damage to the intended target) is different. Pick a specific ammunition and learn to shoot it to the best of your ability and the guns potential. There's no wonder why most of the true long distance experts shooting at Camp Perry hand load their own ammunition while paying extremely close attention to the details.
I recently visited the Ocala National Forest Shooting Range with my trusty old Weatherby Vanguard .270 (topped with a Leupold scope) and my new Ruger AR-556 (w/stock iron sights) so that I could do a bit of shooting beyond the distances possible at our local indoor range and let me tell you that I need to practice at those distances a bit more. The AR proved perfectly capable of satisfactory groups, being limited only by my aging eyes and open sights, while the .270 performed very well with factory ammunition when fired by someone other than myself. I'm not sure what the problem was but I couldn't get it to group well. Jeff on the other hand hit right where he wanted with very nice grouping. I'd rub in the fact that he had two fliers but his overall group with an unfamiliar gun was still better than mine. The point of this whole discussion is that the guns are accurate but shooters aren't, so consistent and purposeful practice is necessary to get the most out of any gun prior to hitting the field or relying on it for personal protection.
Practicing to achieve consistency will ultimately lead to accuracy once you know what your gun is capable of and where it puts the rounds when you perform all the actions the same way every time. So pay attention to all the little things, control them to the best of your ability and your groups will get smaller and you'll have more confidence when pulling the trigger. I'll see you at the range.
Brian "Beastman" Eastman
White River Fly Shop
Outdoor World Orlando