A complete shooter can employ a variety of techniques to make their shot and make it count. Have you zeroed your periscope rifle?
One of my business partners and I had an interesting chat the other day. Somehow the topic of self-awareness arose with regards to determining where one's weakness lies in any given type of activity. I proposed that every activity can be broken down into several sub-activities and that working on the weakest of those will yield an overall net gain in performance. Conversely, the opposite of working on one's weakness is continuing to work on one's strengths, and people do so for a variety of reasons: familiarity, routine and perhaps a lack of honesty about their overall skill levels. It stands to reason that continuing to work on what is considered to be one's strengths results in only a very slight overall gain with the sub-activity skill levels are tallied.
Check your ego at the edge of the mat
My partner offered a very recent example of this. In his limited spare time, he mentors several high-performance mixed martial arts athletes. Following a session on the mat with one of his up and coming stars, his trainee was proud of himself for nearly placing my partner into submission holds, something he hadn't been able to do previously. The self-congratulatory bubble was soon popped when my partner told him he'd been giving him his back in order to practice the requisite counter moves. When pressed as to why he would do that, my partner explained to him that checking one's ego and working on weaknesses at any skill level is the best way to overall improvement. Whether or not the young grappler learns anything from that session is entirely up to him. My partner will be watching closely to see how grapples with other club members. If he decides to make training interesting by placing himself in situations where he has to perform counter moves, he'll improve faster than if he were to continually beat lower skilled opponents.
Enough with the bench rest and prone position shooting
When it comes to sniping (you knew we were coming to that, right?) there are several sub-activities and different types of shooting. There are the basic fundamentals of shooting (we'll explore those in detail in a future article), wind calls, judging distance, moving targets, limited exposure targets, positional shooting and of course fieldcraft. For the purposes of this post, we'll leave fieldcraft alone and focus on the shooting specific items. Do any of the previously mentioned sub-activities give you pause? If so, what is it about the activity that causes a crisis in confidence? Our experience as instructors is that "trained" shooters tend to fear longer ranges due to a lack of understanding of the ballistics associated with their round and the inevitable wind effects on the bullet's flight. A combination of limited practice time and limited ammunition tends to produce an all too familiar cycle of shooting from a bench rest or prone position at short ranges (300 metres or less) to guarantee "success." At these short distances with powerful optics, good groups are possible even if one's fundamentals aren't particularly great. For others, the thought of shooting a moving or limited exposure is uncomfortable as the target, rather than the shooter, is determining when the shot will occur. A lack of experience and the necessary confidence to make those kinds of shots probably results in many freezer order going unfulfilled every hunting season.
Becoming a complete shooter requires a lot of purposeful practice, but more importantly it requires a good attitude, a willingness to learn and the ability to put one's ego in check long enough to stop "succeeding" at easier types of shooting. How accurate are you at 200 metres from a kneeling position? Can you track a moving target? At what magnification? Unless you commit time and effort to the more difficult types of shooting, your skill ceiling will remain the same. Do you know your DOPE if you have a target at 643 metres? Modern ballistic solvers can help you make that shot (and save you a lot of ammunition), but if you just cleaned your bore with some type of powerful solvent, you might need to fire several groups to get your gun back on track before taking on that kind of shot. Every gun has its own personality. Acquiring an understanding of basic ballistics and how guns are maintained requires no ammunition down range therefore, no cost. Rounds fired without purpose or understanding are referred to as "expensive noise" by my partner, and I fully concur with that labelling.
Reliance on technology
Increasingly, we see shooters using a variety of smartphone and tablet apps to help them acquire DOPE for different distances and environmental conditions. Every time we run a range someone is eager to show us their new app, and usually, after a bit of shooting, most users becomes frustrated with the app's apparent lack of performance. Now lacking confidence, they will want to go back to "flat, dumb and happy" (FDH) shooting at known distances to get their DOPE and mojo back. The OAA team learned to shoot and judge distance many years ago without lasers and software, and while purists may eschew having any type of electronic device as a guide, we're big fans of technology that makes our shooting lives easier. The obvious caution here is that any app will produce outputs relative to the quality of your inputs. Have you heard of GIGO? This acronym stands for "garbage in - garbage out," and if you lack good information to put into your app, then you shouldn't expect much in the way of accurate outputs. If you are going to use technology, make sure you understand what it needs (and why) from you to make it work. We'll explore how to obtain good data for your apps in a future article.
Make it happen
If you've performed honest self-analysis, you probably know what your shooting weaknesses are. Taking an open approach to learning something new and not caring what your target looks like after trying something new is part of the process. Challenge your shooting buddies to do the same, they'll thank you later. The groups will tighten up as you practice different positions at different distances in various environmental conditions. Practice smartly and safely while enjoying the path you've taken to becoming a complete shooter.
A group of former National Mission Unit snipers who believe there is a better way to do things.