Author Topic: Inclimate training - what do you do?  (Read 1257 times)

Offline Hoover

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Inclimate training - what do you do?
« on: January 30, 2010, 03:18:57 PM »
I thought I'd start this thread not to just post some of my observations, but to also solicit others' findings.

I admit to not shooting outside as much as I should or would like to this winter.  Some of the last range visits were notably warmer (e.g., 40 degrees) and didn't really count as being trying.  And, I was growing tired of lots of dry-fire w/o any down-range feedback to cause me to refocus.  So, I was looking forward to today when I knew it should be not so warm.  The current weather just before leaving was 18 degrees with a wind chill of 4 degrees.

Approaching the club house, I noticed that the flag was flying fully horizontal with movement--meaning a stiff "breeze" with gusts.  The nice thing about less than ideal conditions is that I had the range to myself.  My real interest was to see how cold weather and especially wind chill would affect my shooting.  I don't have a very scientific way of measuring wind speed other than the number of staples required to prevent the wind from ripping them off the target stands.  Today required one in each corner twice.

I reminded myself that I should always have a goal in mind for each outing.  Today it was to fire at least 100 rounds, slow-fire prone.  Now, ordinarily it would have been to shoot a better AQT score or something a bit more qualitative than simply firing 100 rounds downrange.  But, I knew it was cold and shooting at five square targets was going to also be a bit mind numbing.  There were a few times early on when I though I should have been less ambitious and that a lower round count would have been "smarter".

I simply can't use gloves and shoot reasonably.  I do use a hand muffler with a large, chemical hand warmer in it to warm up my hands after shooting a string and then after loading a magazine.

Now to the observations:

1) Loading a magazine with rounds was by far the worst part.   A couple of times I almost had to stop and rewarm my hands before continuing.  It wasn't just the cold feeling, but my fingers would have trouble feeding the rounds when they got numb and this lead to frustration which could lead to a lack of attention when shooting.

2) I started shooting Winchester high velocity and finished with my normal CCI mini-mags.  The CCI mini-mag rounds seem to be notably more "slick" or polished than the Winchester.  This made loading them into the magazine much, much easier with semi-numb fingers.  It's really surprising how something simple like this makes a huge difference when it gets cold.

3) I would start shivering once standing and loading a magazine due to the wind chill.  Although the ground was frozen stiff, it was notably warmer while prone because of reduced wind chill.  Maybe it's more than this, though.  I was also focusing a lot while shooting (and lying prone) whereas there was more time for my mind to wander while walking to the target or loading.  I found a consistent theme that the biggest "battle" in the cold was mental.

4) I was shooting 5 and 5 in each 1" square.  The very first mag of shots was horrible and I was glad there were no extra witnesses.  Yet, despite my continuing to get colder and colder, my groups started improving.  I found it surprising that the inclimate conditions actually caused me to have a heightened attention to down range feedback.  This was more so than other range visits that were notably warmer.

5) The last five shots (a different square) were *always* better than the first.  I think that there are a couple of reasons: a) my shivering started to subside after getting more focused (implying that some of "felt cold" is mental and not purely physical) and b) I tended to not fuss the shots as much (and occasionally wishing that it would just be over as the tips of my fingers were going numb).

6) Breath control leading to vertical stringing was by far the biggest culprit to group sizes.  I wasn't surprised by this as the cold can cause you to breath differently.  But, the down-range feedback really helped to begin focusing.  The last 40 rounds no longer suffered bad vertical strings as a result--despite my becoming colder.

7) Consistent cheek weld must be learned and maintained through normal (better) weather conditions.  I couldn't feel my cheeks after half-way through the session and had no idea whether I was consistent except for the feeling of platform stability and consistent sight picture.  To a certain degree, that was also true of my trigger finger and trigger squeeze.

8) I was able to gain control over the "shivers" by really focusing strongly on the front sight and watching it move against the target stand while breathing.  I would do this for more times that would be typical to confirm NPOA.  In addition, I really had to watch proper NPOA confirmation as the cold wanted to keep my muscles tense.

I personally felt like I learned a lot and am looking forward to another session of cold, snow and/or freezing rain.  For me, I felt that I gained a lot more insight into shooting habits as a result of training in less than perfect conditions that I can apply--especially during my warm, dry-fire sessions (i.e., breath control).  In addition, I felt like this sort of training really forces concentration that might otherwise not be had in nicer conditions.

How about others' experiences?

EDIT: Since writing the above, I've worked through a technique that works well for me to avoid having my hands exposed while loading a .22 magazine.  As noted above, this requires the most finger dexterity as well largest exposure to wind.  By avoid the exposure, I decrease the time required to re-warm hands after shooting a string.  The technique works like this:

a) Ensure that all .22 ammo is in the type of packaging that is 20x5 across and uses a plastic sliding lid to expose the rounds.  For each stage or course of fire that requires ten rounds, simply slide the lid back--exposing ten rounds.  For course of fire that require fewer rounds, I do the same and simply dump the remaining rounds into a ziplock baggy to be put back into the ammo carrier at a later, more convenient time.

b) Dump the rounds either directly in your hand; or, in my case, I dump them into a small collapsible dog bowl (made of nylon; and, no--they won't be drinking from it anymore).  I don't like the idea of dumping directly into my hand as there is some possibility of they're bounding off and more importantly, I have to keep track of the round count.  If they're in the bowl, then I take the number out that I need (start with 2 then grab the rest for the second mag).

c) If the course of fire is to load 2 and then 8, I start with by grabbing two rounds in my right hand and the magazine in my left and shove both into the warm hand muff.  If it's 10, then the entire contents go into my hand.  The process of sliding back the ammo lid, dumping into the bowl and then retrieving the rounds along with mag is very quick and doesn't expose your hands very long.

d) It didn't take much practice to realize that I can load a magazine without looking.  And, my hand muff was large enough to not be too restrictive.  Also, I do two things to help with magazines... 1) I've applied 1/2" x 1/2" squares of "skateboard tape" (sandpaper w/ adhesive on the back) to the mid and bottom of my Marlin 795 mags and 2) I marked the slot in the mag w/ a sharpie with the length designating whether it's for a 2 round or a 8 round load.  Adding the friction tape not only increase dexterity with grabbing these slick magazines, but it also helps index the mag while holding it inside the hand muff.  The visible line indicating round count is useful to remind me what mag holds what round count and to confirm the appropriate one to grab and load while lying on the shooting mat.

e) After loading the first, then I move the loaded mag to an easy to reach pocket and begin on the next mag.  It's best to keep the mags either in the hand muff or a warm pocket since holding onto a cold mag doesn't help the hand warming process.  Usually, my hands have completely warmed by the second mag and I'm ready to go.

I should note that the above is only necessary for me during what I regard as extreme cold and bare hands.  But, others with cold sensitivity may find that it works well for lessor extremes.  It also means that you don't degrade your dexterity by wearing gloves that may get caught while manipulating mags, ammo and rifle.   I should also mention that this is most useful for loading .22 rounds vice center fire rounds as the ammo is sufficiently small to make dexterity more of an issue.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 08:03:00 PM by gliming »

Offline SamD

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Re: Inclimate training - what do you do?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2010, 04:37:56 PM »
when conditions are difficult, be they weather, a less than satisfactory rifle, or anything else, the best thing is to fall back on the fundamentals (from now on the word is fundamentals, say basics and get whacked with the clown bat &) ).

The fundamentals will save you in a bad time. As you bring each one consciously to mind, the environment and the bad rifle go away as you push them outside of your "bubble". Once they are outside of the bubble, they just don't matter.

As you focused on the steps the issues were slowly but surely pushed from your bubble and became non issues.
If you are really, really looking for that fly turd on top of your front sight, you don't notice the cold (or the bum trigger or the too long/short stock or that last shot that went over yonder).
   Don't ask me, I'm ineffective!
"If you don't write it down, it never happened"
"Fancy schmancy tools have never been a suitable replacement for hard won skill, just a crutch for the motivationally challenged"

Offline Hoover

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Re: Inclimate training - what do you do?
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2010, 10:57:43 PM »
Yes--I found everything you say to have been lived.  In hindsight, this wisdom should have been obvious.  Perhaps winter rust had corroded reason and I felt the need for a proper reminder.  If anything, the experience felt like a magnifying lens--amplifying the fundamentals that require renewed diligence on my part.

Offline techres

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Re: Inclimate training - what do you do?
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2010, 11:18:27 PM »
Great report!  And keep it up.

My new years resolution from last October (started then) was to shoot every week.  So now I go out for 2-3 hours one weekend morning every week to shoot.  Rain, cold, whatever, just go and shoot.  Snow?  Just means I will be alone at the range and have full control over when I can swap out targets.  Bored? Not likely, but I have mixed it up with all sorts of range activities in addition to AQT's (ask me how I went through 100 hard drives last month in 2 hours - literally through). 

My BP is reduced, my work week now has an additional light at the end of the tunnel - 2 hours or more in the rifleman's bubble.  No greater moment of rest.

Ammo expensive?  Go .22.  Running out of .22?  Do 4 full AQT's with your son's cricket rifle! 

Need a Challenge?  Do some AQT's with a 10" AK and see if you can still score rifleman! 

Tomorrow I am heading out yet again.  Gonna test some steel for KD.  But really, the actual target does not matter.  It is the bubble moment and the fundamentals that bring it all together.

And lastly, I too always go with a purpose and plan in mind.  I record how it went, and then look at the results and write up a range report.  Always.  It is the best way for me to learn and also to share with others.

Thanks for your post.
Appleseed: Bringing the Past into the Present to save our Future.

Offline SamD

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Re: Inclimate training - what do you do?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2010, 01:30:18 AM »
For me it's 15 minutes of dry fire.
Roll out the mat
Put on the eyes and ears
Put on the shooting jacket
Reduced target down the hallway
Sling up and do 10, just 10 perfect "shots" then go to bed

10 minutes in the O0 bubble
   Don't ask me, I'm ineffective!
"If you don't write it down, it never happened"
"Fancy schmancy tools have never been a suitable replacement for hard won skill, just a crutch for the motivationally challenged"

Offline MOGromit

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Re: Inclimate training - what do you do?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2010, 10:25:16 PM »
Here in AZ it's the opposite opportunity that we have the privilege and honor of taking advantage of.

3 pm on the range in July, with 120 degrees on the thermometer, you have the range to yourself and the admiration (or shaking of the head) of the range's RSOs.

Heat mirage, sweat in the eyes, sweat in the magazines, sweat on the hands trying to not slip on the rifle.  Covering the rifle every second you're not actually shooting if the firing line is in the sun so you don't burn patches of skin off when you pick it up. 

As you say though, once you're in the Rifleman's Bubble, the small things tend to become not so noticeable.


Of course, the Appleseed yesterday and today in Buckeye, AZ, enjoyed 70 degrees both days.



I'll tell you more in 6 months.   ;D

AZG

Offline desertrat144

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Re: Inclimate training - what do you do?
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2010, 12:36:37 AM »
Hey everyone, check out the newly posted EDIT.
Gliming worked out a new method of cold weather reloading!  O0 O0 O0 O0
"Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond it's limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves." - President Ronald Wilson Reagan