Sunday, March 22, 2009

Did Your Shoulder Move?

Anticipating Recoil

Hopefully, by now, you have cut-up your benchrest for firewood.

If you had, you may notice that you no longer have those cute little key holes in your targets.  The "one-holer" may have turned into a scatter gun pattern.  That is common.  Even competitive shooters have the problem.  To requote SFC Tulua, NCOIC of the 6th Army MTU, "Good shot group, Specialist (anyone).  You could cover it with a dime.  Just throw ten pennies at the target."

If your target looks like the one below, it should concern you.  Removing the "training wheels" of the benchrest forces a shooter to improve him/herself, instead of improving the arrangement of sandbags and props.

Scattergun target.  Time for some concern and attention.  (author's drawing).

The problem with a scattergun target is that there is no consistency or pattern.  ALL SHOOTING PRINCIPLES MUST BE ADDRESSED.  There are many resources designed to improve the individual shooter and elk hunter.  The National Rifle Association is the preeminent source.  The NRA has a great book for introducing new shooters to rifle shooting, as well as helping established shooters rethink and relearn their own shooting maladies--The Basics of Rifle Shooting.  Another place, that doesn't get the recognition it deserves is the Civilian Marksmanship Program (formerly Directorate of Civilian Marksmanship, DCM).  The direct link to their Coaching Resources is here.  

If you have a consistent shot group  AND NO BAD HABITS, you can analyze that shot group and address your specific needs.  I refer to bad habits as those things that are done so consistently that they form a pattern.  There are mid-level pistol shooters who have a bad trigger jerk, but it is so consistent that they simply adjust their sights and shoot, but the jerk--no matter how consistent--will keep them from reaching the top level.

Last fall one of my friends showed consistency in a bad habit.  Actually, it was somewhat sporadic, but did cause him problems.  A week before rifle season started, he brought me a target.  There were several shot groups.  He thought his scope was defective and wanted my opinion.  He had already sent the scope the manufacturer for repair.

Representation of my friends "damaged scope target."  (author's drawing)

He said that he had shot the first two shots at spot marked "1."  Then he adjusted his scope and shot the group labeled, "2."  Then he shot two more shots to confirm the zero and ended up with a group marked "3."  He then adjusted his scope and shot the group marked "4."

My friend didn't have a flinch mentioned here.  He was shooting a 7mm-300 Weatherby and had developed a problem referred to as anticipating recoil.  Anticipating recoil is similar to a flinch, but not as severe.  It may not even be noticed by you or your coach, unless you dryfire some.  To be off target, you don't need a full-blown "flinch."  Notice how little the sights need to be moved to change the point of impact from one side of a target to the other.  Anticipating recoil usually forms strung-out group to 10 o'clock or to 7 o'clock.  The reason is normally the shoulder tensing or pushing just before recoil.

My friend had shot groups one and two (and four) without the anticipation.  He didn't shrug before, or during the shot.  On shot group three he tensed and forced the shots out of the black at about 7:30.  

His scope wasn't malfunctioning.  

How to address this?

My prescription is shooting a lot of .22 rimfire.  Who is afraid of recoil from a .22?

To my friend, I said, "Take your .22 and about 100 rounds to the range.  Set up two targets; one for the .22, and one for the elk rifle.  Shoot 10, 15, 20 shots from the .22.  Then, SHOOT ONE SHOT from your elk rifle.  Return to your .22 for another batch of shots.  Then, again, SHOOT ONE SHOT from your elk rifle."

This brings up a great point for elk hunters, or any hunters.  For hunting checks, SHOOT ONE SHOT GROUPS.  Your most important shot while hunting will be the first one (or should be) out of a cold barrel.  By shooting one shot groups and practicing with a .22 while the barrel returns to normal temperature, you will be testing where your "cold barrel group" is, and reinforce good shooting techniques with the low-recoil, low-report .22.



Rick Kratzke said...

This was a good post and some good points were made. I sometimes have that recoil problem especially when I am shooting 3" rounds out of my 12 gauge turkey barrel.

hodgeman said...

Nice post Dennis. I can't agree more. I've actually got a .22 that matches my .308 in almost every way (trigger, safety, scope, etc.)

I probably shoot 100 rds of .22 for every 1 or 2 rounds of high power ammo.

Field shooting with a .22 (plinking or small game) will make you a better game shot.

Ryan said...

For 2 years I put close to 50,000 rounds through .22 It helped me tremendously with my 7mm rem mag. Great post