Author Topic: “Applying the skills of the rifleman to high power” By: navybowhunter / Chris  (Read 2305 times)

Offline roswell

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“Applying the skills of the rifleman to high power”
By: navybowhunter / Chris

Quick intro:
Chris Moriarty, 46, retired Navy CPO.

Started the Appleseed journey in 2014, and it took me 5 full weekend events to qualify as a Rifleman.  Why is that?  Hard headed, and I missed some significant points in the instruction, NPOA, and front sight focus being the top 2.

Once I qualified at 25M, I took an orange hat and progressed to SB.  I have qualified KD as well as UKD via the USMC's unknown distance marksmanship test.

I fell in love with 3 position shooting, and sometime in early 2015 I consulted with a Navy distinguished rifleman (Bluemax121), and got the list of gear required to participate in NRA HP and CMP Excellence in Competition matches.

My current quest is the CMP distinguished rifleman badge.  I did earn my NRA Expert card (goal accomplished) and also broke the ice towards my distinguished badge last weekend, earning a Bronze 6 point leg.  6 down, 24 to go!

I must be honest, I have not instructed at an AS event in over a year.  I planned to work several shoots last fall (after the HP season) but I badly broke my left leg last August.  I am just getting back into competitive shooting again, and do plan to work several AS events this fall. I do 7th step in the background a lot.

I am an NRA classified sharpshooter, that was putting up expert scores prior to my injury.  My goal in HP is to earn my Expert card this season.

I was asked to write an article for the AS newsletter, and a few things come to mind for an article.  I post somewhat often on the AS forum in "Skill Sets of Shooting".  Lately I have been tweaking my process of the 6 steps for firing a shot.  The same Navy distinguished rifleman that gave me my gear list, also has this saying "The difference between the novice and the master, is that the master has perfected the fundamentals".  Perfecting the fundamentals is my passion now.

So, I will break down our 6 steps into some finer points of the process I have learned and am working on.

1.  Sight Alignment:
What is that?  Equal height/Equal light with iron sights correct?  In the skill sets of shooting section on the forum, someone (Matt8531) took the time to do the math on this.  A sight alignment error of just .004" will result in a .642" point of impact shift at 100yd (.613MOA), or almost 3/16" at 25m AQT range.  That is magnified of course as the distance grows, that is why sight alignment is so important.  On the AR15 rifle, a nose to charging handle (NTCH) cheek weld will pretty much give a decent instant sight alignment, still must be checked and tweaked.  Taking the time to ensure sight alignment is perfect, will lead into a solid foundation for the next 5 steps.  What about optics?  Automatic sight alignment, correct? Well...somewhat. This is where equipment plays a big deal in sight alignment.  With an AR15 and a standard A1/A2 or even a MAGPUL UBR stock is what I will use for the example.  Scope height over bore and eye relief play a big deal.  Service rifle shooters (NRA High Masters/CMP distinguished) have found that the ideal height of the mount for the optic to be 1.300 inches.  A scope mount with a 3-inch offset is pretty much required as well for a NTCH cheek weld for crystal clear and immediate sight alignment/picture.  I call it sight alignment/picture with the scope, because it is sort of one in the same.  Ideally one wants no grey/black in the optic.  Shoulder rifle in position, and if the crosshairs in the optic are not crystal clear and immediately there (no prairie dogging the head) then you have 2 choices.  Adjust your position until it works, or... buy equipment that will allow you to use a standard NTCH cheek weld.  Parallax plays with the scopes, and if you are not addressing the rifle the same each and every time, you will have errors from parallax especially at 600 yards.

ERRORS here will negate pretty much everything below.  GOTTA get sight alignment correct and maintain it thru the subsequent steps.  We never should forget about sight alignment at all thru the following steps.

2.  Sight Picture:
Simply taking those aligned sights and placing them at some "point" on the target correct?  It is not that simple.  This is where we need to decide what type of hold on the target we will use.   I have been using a center of mass hold.  Sometimes conditions may dictate that another hold for sight picture is warranted, 6 o clock, line of white, frame hold, etc.  I have found that for me a center of mass hold is a repeatable hold and it works well for me.  So....once we have a hold point...we must bring the body and rifle to the point on the target.  Steps 1 and 2 are where I check natural point of aim.  In all 3 positions, I bring the rifle to my shoulder with my eyes closed.  Establish a good cheek weld, breath, exhale, open my eyes.  Are my aligned sights on the target?  In time with practice they will be close, but rarely will they ever be exactly at center of mass (X ring).  Now we adjust the body, and start over until it is perfect. 

3.  Respiratory pause:
Ideally, we want to break the trigger at the pause. do we break the trigger?  I will introduce my post about "grip" here.  Using the AR15 as an example.  Prior to a few months ago, I had been gripping the grip fairly lightly.  Someone compared my grip to that of someone guiding a toddle across the street.  Then she (Colonel Denise Loring) gripped my hand like she grips her A2 grip.  WOW!  A lumberjack’s grip is the best explanation.  I now grip higher on the grip and significantly tighter, especially in standing and the rapids.  The A2 grip invites a poor grip by design for the average competitor.  It has that nub...and may seem comfortable, but it is a low grip.  One shooter suggested that I put all my fingers above the nub, except for the pinkie finger.  That is awkward but surely does give a higher grip.  Another competitor suggested I try an A1 grip.  The A1 grip has no nub and is a bit wider.  It allows me to get a tight/firm grip and high. trigger finger now is significantly (seems) longer.  I am breaking my shots now on the second crease of the index finger and it seems to be working.  More on the trigger in step 5 below.  But....grip is established during step 1 (sight alignment).

Back to the respiratory pause:  I break my shots on the exhale at the same amount of exhale each time.  I cut it off in the back of my throat, and my mouth is open and tongue sort of hanging out, it must be a sight to see! But, that is what I do and what feels somewhat natural and comfortable for me.

Often, in slow fire I will inhale deeply a few times to oxygenate the eyes.  In the rapids, when I stand I do the same thing, but when breaking my shots, they are all at the pause.

4.  Front sight focus:
Self-explanatory, but often ignored/miss-understood.  The eye can only focus on one thing at a time, it is impossible to focus on the target and the front sight at the same time.  This is what I call "The leap of faith" because in the beginning that is what it felt like to me.  One must be intently focused on that front sight to make a good shot.  What happens to the average person at age 45?  Reading vision starts to deteriorate.  There are aids out there, specialty shooting glasses that are set to allow one to focus on the front sight.  Rear peep diopters that accomplish the same thing.  When the NRA and CMP made the rule change to allow scopes, nearly everyone has swapped to a scope.  The scores have risen on average with the scopes.  So, to be competitive it is almost a must now to shoot with a scope.  I can hold center of mass or 6 o clock and score very well at targets at 200 and 300 yards.  But at 600 yards something nasty was happening.  I got vertical stringing (it was not my breathing), it was my inability to find a repeatable hold point because of my eyes.  I tried 6 o clock and center of mass, and still had vertical stringing 8 ring to 8 ring.  The only hold I did not try was a frame hold (that likely would have worked), but as stated...scopes are pretty much a must to be competitive these days. 
What about front sight focus with a scope? other words what should we be doing for this step when we have a scope?  Focus on the reticle, intently!  That is what needs to happen.  I have found that I can stare at target and crosshairs at 600 yards with the scope, but...if I don't transfer my focus to the crosshairs, I will get an 8 when it should have been an X.

4a. Mind:
This is the magical part.  A simple reminder to transfer focus from target to the front sight or crosshairs.  I say it to myself when shooting in my mind...Front sight, Front Sight...or...Crosshairs, Crosshairs.

5.  Squeeze the trigger:
This is about the trigger.  Do you have a single stage trigger?  2 stage?  Does it have creep?  Where is that creep?  How does it feel when it breaks? Candy cane like, carrot like?
Got to learn the trigger.  This is done thru dry fire practice.  But what are we doing during dry fire practice?  Heck, what are we doing during live fire?

The goal is to break the trigger, without disturbing sight alignment or picture.  Sounds easy huh?  IT surely is not, but it can be perfected.  Thru dry fire.  Simply put, when dry firing, maintain sight alignment and picture throughout the squeeze.

6.  Follow thru:
After the shot goes off, what are we doing?  Holding that trigger back, right?  Good!  But there is a LOT more to this step.

Continuing to maintain everything we have put together in steps 1-5, step 6 is where the smiles come from.   Keep the eye open throughout the shot cycle.  Impossible to call the shots, if the eye closes due to a flinch or fear of the loud noise or recoil.  Immediately upon breaking the shot, ask yourself "Where was the sights when the shot broke", particularly the front sight post, or the center of the scopes reticle.  I thought people were lying when they spoke about calling the shot.  Then I witnessed it firsthand performing score keeper duties for a High Master during a match.  Every single shot he called, was on call, or within his call.  On call: called 9 at 3 o'clock, and it comes up a 9 at 3 o clock.  Inside/Within Call:  Called a 10 at 9 o clock, comes up an X at 9 o clock.  Outside call:  Called 9 at 9 o clock, comes up a 7 at 6 o clock.

Data books are where we develop this habit, recording the shot call, and comparing it to the actual.  At first one may only be able to say, "It was in the black at 3 o clock", that is fine.  As you practice you will get better.  Shots inside the call are of course the goal. HAVE to be on the front sight to be able to do this (and keep eyes open), so if you the reader are honest with yourself, and unable to accurately call your shots, it is likely you are not on your front sight, or you are flinching.  Dry firing, dime drill and ball and dummy are the cure for this.

The above is my process for 1 shot slow fire standing or prone.  For rapids, I am calling my shots, but mentally.  Follow thru is KEY in the rapids. 

Positions/Putting all the above together:

Standing @ 200 yards:
During my 2 minute pre-prep period:

I drag my cart to the firing line. 
Place standing tray on my cart, this holds a timer, and my data book
Adjust spotting scope for viewing my target in position
Put on jersey
Set ammo in coat holder, and place on tray
Place BOB Sled (single round device) on tray
Place glove on tray
Place timer (non-audible) on tray
Set position of UBR stock to position 2
Ensure sling is tight and not acting like a wind sail on rifle
Check my 200 yard zero on rifle
Apply windage call to sights if needed
Insert hearing protection
Put on sweat band to forehead (keeps sweat from dripping onto glasses)
Put on my hat
Put on shooting coat, tighten all buckles/straps
Insert ammo holder into side of coat
Put on shooting glove
With chamber flag still inserted in rifle, roughly establish NPOA on target
Rest rifle on cart

3 Minute non-firing Prep:
Remove chamber flag
Insert BOB sled
Cycle action for a dry fire shot
Staring at buttstock, put toe of stock in same spot I always do in coat
Close eyes
With trigger hand, exaggeratedly extend trigger arm out and roll shoulder.  This ensures I am addressing the grip and trigger the same way and my coat/jersey will not interfere.
Establish a FIRM grip on the trigger, with the barrel pointed up at 45ish degrees, finger straight and off the trigger.
Roll rifle into my shoulder and face keeping my head erect
Breathe deeply, and on exhale, wiggle the rifle
RELAX shoulders...FEEL them drop inside my shooting coat
When rifle settles, open eyes.
FOCUS on center of reticle
AM I on my target?  Likely not.
Remove rifle from shoulder and start over after adjusting both feet.  Small foot movements of both feet similarly to moving a refrigerator.
Start over with "Cycle action"
Repeat until I am on my target and in center of my aiming black.
Once NPOA established, as I am coming down on my target my eyes are open
As I cross the number board (if they are above target) or hit the tip of the frame of my target I take up the slack in the trigger
**The take up slack part can be dangerous if you do not know your DRY fire till you do**
As I enter the aiming black, I start my squeeze.
CALL my dry fire
**Note on trigger, if I start my squeeze and the rifle starts moving out of the black I give NONE of the squeeze back to the target, I maintain that pressure, breath again and come back down on the aiming black**
Was it on call?  Was it an X?  Was it a 6?
If call was not a 10 or better, check NPOA again
Continue the dry firing until prep ends
When live fire commences, I hit 10 minutes (or whatever the time is on a timer on my tray).
The only added step in live fire, is that I plot my shot and shot value in my data book.

I may continue dry firing during live fire, if I have the jitters or NPOA is off.   NPOA will shift during a shot string, so it is advisable to check it every few shots.  Or...if a shot comes up as a 7, may want to check it again, it likely shifted.

After the live fire string, insert chamber flag in rifle, compare my score with the scorekeeper, sign scorecard and quickly get off the firing line and prepare for the next task (scorekeeping, moving to another yard line, or moving to the pits to score).

The above is my standing process.  I try not to think about anything but the task at hand.  It is not easy, and I fail often at it, but am getting better and better.

None of what I do is invented by me.  All the above was either instructed during an AS event, or something that accomplished high power shooters have taught me that works. 

What cannot be taught, is the internal motivation one needs to improve.  To improve, we must practice.  Practice takes time and discipline.  Practice can also be done incorrectly if one has not been properly instructed on what to practice.

Some things that have helped me immensely are Lanny Bassham's book "With Winning In Mind", and Ken Roxburgs videos on you tube.  The other advice and stuff has come directly from Olympic class shooters that do this stuff a whole lot more than me.

Lastly, physical conditioning is highly suggested.  I remember how sore I was after my first 25M AQT Appleseed event.  Across the course shooting (200/300/600 yards) will demand a lot of you physically.  So, some sort of regimen should be done.  Walking, sit-ups/pushups etc.  The more comfortable you are in position, the easier it will be to focus on the 6 steps.

I remember complaining at my first KD at Ramseur with Fred and KardiakKid (Toy).  We walked to the 400 berm and back several times, and complained because we did not know we could use a truck, LOL.  Well, no trucks authorized at an NRA HP event, one must drag all their gear across the course.  In addition to exercise, drink lots of water and stay hydrated is my advice.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2017, 12:58:50 PM by Roswell »
Known Distance Re-Qualified:
Talladega, AL 12-3-16 (45/50)
Instructor Boot Camp:
Toccoa, GA 7-13, 8-15
Pelham, TN 2-14, 2-16
Columbiana, AL 2-15
Canton, GA 2-18
Shoot Boss Boot Camp and Liberty Seminar:
Toccoa, GA 8-14

Offline TT92

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Nice write up, Chief Roswell!  You and I have a similar, but backwards, background.  Also former Navy (I left the Worlds Largest Yacht Club as an 0-3 in 1998), I shot Highpower for years before Appleseed even existed.  Actually shot my first HP match in 1989.  I was classified Master and went Distinguished back in 2001, badge number 1487 (yep, back when it was "still hard" with irons  ;))

You are in a fertile ground for 7th stepping.  One of the big draws to Appleseed for me was the opportunity to fire what is basically the National Match Course, but with a .22 and only a 25 meter walk.  Rather imagine you encounter folks at every match who would be all-in to give Appleseed a whirl.

Curious to know more about the UKD qualification.  Where is a good source of info on this?

Thanks for what you do, and for what you've done, Chief.

Tom T.
I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!!

Offline roswell

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Apologies for the confusion Tom, but the real author of the piece is "navybowhunter / Chris".  I am just one of the editors for the newsletter. ;)

Having said that, UKD via the USMC's unknown distance marksmanship test is Phase 2 of the Marine Sniper course,

Phase 2: Unknown Distance and Stalking
The UKD (Unknown Distance) and Stalking portion kicks off as soon as Phase 1 is completed. During this phase students will become experts at engaging targets at unknown distances by way of range estimation and range cards.
During the unknown distance phase students will run 100-pound steel targets out to ranges between 300 and 800 yards. There are 10 targets in each course of fire, and after each course of fire, the targets are rearranged.
A student has two attempts to hit each target, a first round impact is worth 10 points and a second is worth 8. An overall average of 80% must be obtained during the 3 weeks of UKD to pass the course. **Furthermore, the portion of the course with the highest attrition rate begins, stalking.
Known Distance Re-Qualified:
Talladega, AL 12-3-16 (45/50)
Instructor Boot Camp:
Toccoa, GA 7-13, 8-15
Pelham, TN 2-14, 2-16
Columbiana, AL 2-15
Canton, GA 2-18
Shoot Boss Boot Camp and Liberty Seminar:
Toccoa, GA 8-14


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Thanks for the kind words Tom.  Here is the UKD AAR link.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 12:16:17 AM by navybowhunter »

Offline TT92

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Love it guys!   Thanks for the info on UKD.  And nice AAR, Navybowhunter!
I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!!