Tips for better marksmanship

Marksmanship is all about hitting your target, in this piece I’d like to discuss the foundational points of good rifle marksmanship. If you can get these basics together, the rest comes down to simple practice and experience. It’s not just about equipment either, you can only buy your way into marksmanship to a degree. You will also have to work on your skills, and maybe even get some training by professionals.

Two different but very comparable rifles, TOP: is a Remington 700 6.5Creedmoor in a Graham Brothers Rifleworks chassis. BOTTOM: A Tikka T3 in 25 Creedmoor mounted in a KRG Bravo chassis.

-The right platform
With so many great rifles being manufactured today, the right platform could come from almost anywhere. The right platform is a rifle that fits you the shooter, and has the requisite features and accuracy for your intended purpose.
Be it for hunting, target, or competition, it is important to have the proper length of pull, cheek weld, etc. so that you can handle and control it accurately. The rifle should be configured to give you proper sight alignment so you can get a proper sight picture as well.
The right platform might be up-gradable for aftermarket accessories, this is something to keep in mind when you are shopping for your next gun. Obviously, for accurate shooting you want a rifle with a good barrel, that will shoot accurately. Accuracy is typically measured in group sizes (or patterns) at a given distance, the smaller the pattern of your shots, the more consistent you and the rifle are at aiming them.
The length, caliber, and weight of the rifle depend on your activities. If you will be shooting from standing, you may want a light-weight rifle, same if you plan on carrying the rifle through the mountains on a hunt. Whereas if you plan on competition shooting like benchrest, a heavier gun may be an advantage.

The right platform is one that is comfortable, shoots accurately, and allows you to aim and focus on the target and especially your job as the triggerman.
Which leads us to the next point.

TriggerTech is one of many aftermarket trigger manufacturers that make outstanding triggers. Seen here is a flat-shoe Diamond, my preferred trigger.

-A good trigger
Most quality rifles sold today have a decent trigger available. Even if it doesn’t come with one, there is likely an aftermarket manufacturer that offers an improved replacement option.
A good trigger is one that breaks clean, and consistently. A good marksman isn’t surprised by the break of the trigger, it is a deliberate movement at precisely the right time. For that you need a trigger that is predictable.
Whether it is a single stage, two stage, a light or a heavier trigger, your ability to trip the sear without affecting the positioning of the rifle is what will make you a better shot.
You want to be able to pull the trigger without it affecting your sight picture. This sometimes just requires additional practice, other times, a better trigger is needed. Dry firing is a good practice that will get you familiar with your trigger and when it breaks.

Whether you replace your trigger, adjust it to a more comfortable setting, or learn to use the trigger as is, make sure you are well practiced and familiar with how it feels, and when it breaks.

-Ammunition
A rifle is no better than the ammunition it is fed, so ammunition is of particular importance.
Some rifles are pickier than others, and some are downright fussy. Not all munitions are equal, and even the same ammunition can vary from lot to lot. Some people forego this issue by handloading all their own ammo, while others stick to specific lines or brands.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you are shooting for better marksmanship is; consistency is accuracy. The only reason accurate shooters can hit their targets is by using equipment that produces consistent performance. Ammunition is key to this.
When selecting ammunition for your rifle, I like to start with two or three options. You can choose more obviously to get a better idea of what your gun likes, but the key comes after you find what ammo you and your gun shoot best.
Practice makes perfect right? Practice using the same ammunition you intend to hunt or compete with. And its probably a good idea to stock up on said ammunition so that in a pinch, you aren’t forced to use something else.

Choose the best shooting ammunition that fits the application and budget, and then stick to it. Both you and your rifle will become accustomed to it, and like riding your bike it will become second nature. You will know what to expect from your shots, how they perform in the wind, at distance, on animals, etc.

-A Good Rifle Sight
A very large portion of modern rifles use optical sights, such as telescopic sights, or Red Dot’s, and some still use the traditional iron sights. Whichever of the type you intend on using will need more of the consistency I have already spoken about.
Iron sights are mostly used for shorter distance shooting such as pistols and carbines. These sights while much simpler and less costly than optical sights, still require precision to be effective to a marksman.

All types of sights require precise adjustments, repeat-ability, and hold their position once set.
A cheap scope may not hold zero, and the internals could shift under recoil or other force. Open sights that are not secured properly could flex or even come off. Either scenario is not going to allow you to make your best shot, so it is paramount to ensure that you have the best possible option.
Optics in my experience are particularly beholden to the old adage “you get what you pay for”. While there are many new and less expensive options available today, make sure that you get something that will do the job you need it to do. Whether that is to hold a zero on a heavy magnum, or repeatable elevation adjustments on a long-range scope.
Don’t skimp on the scope is a motto I learned long ago, a good scope often costs two to three times the rifle it is destined for. And take the time to learn the proper way to use it.

Whatever sight you put on your rifle, should be the best you can afford to use. It should be installed properly with robust mounts that are adequate for the recoil and duty, and much like the rifle, it should fit you. With proper eye relief and focus for your eyes.


-Training
All the right equipment won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to properly use them. From the very basics of shooting such as eye dominance, breathing control, and a good clean trigger pull, you need to make sure you are not creating a problem in your shooting routine.
A good rifle needs to be “driven” properly, the way it is held without inducing torque or other uneven forces that can cause it to recoil differently from shot to shot. And recoil management that will keep you on target for followup shots should also be a part of it.
Trigger control using the pad of your finger vs. the joint, breathing properly to induce the least amount of movement as the trigger is broken.
Learning the proper use of your scope perhaps, adjusting for come ups or estimating wind values and their requisite holds.
It always amazes me how much better people can do after some very simple instruction from a professional, it could be as easy as a few tips and some constructive criticism. It is well worth your time to get this kind of help, a lot of competitive circles even employ after-event workshops or clinics to help marksmen learn about what they did wrong.
The most satisfying part of all is when you gain the confidence that you can hit what you choose to hit when your rifle is fully understood and is simply an extension of you. The shooting sports industry offers many different training opportunities that can help you better your skills, and employ them in your quest for marksmanship.

Apply yourself to learn those basics of marksmanship, and make sure your equipment fits both you and the task at hand, you’ll soon find yourself making better shots. Keep practicing and learn from every shot whether hit or a miss.

_CBM

PVA Cayuga Solid Copper Hunting Bullets

The good folks at Patriot Valley Arms helped get me started down this road, what seems like a very long time ago. Good people and good products are the norm for PVA.

The 123 Grain Cayuga loaded into Petersen brass

I was given the opportunity to test drive PVA’s new 6.5 line of solid hunting bullets. Hunting is my bread and butter, so I was excited to put these lathe turned solids into action.

The 123 grain Cayuga bullets are turned from solid copper bar stock, using the same alloy of copper that jacketed bullets use. Turning them on a CNC lathe gives precise control to bullet geometry, it is this precision cut construction that gives the Cayuga its uniformity.

The bullets are solid copper, with a hollow point cut into the tip. They have a tapered boat-tail, and a driving band around the middle. The gentle taper of the ogive makes these bullets very generous when it comes to seating depth sensitivity.

I cautiously loaded these bullets into some 6.5 Creedmoor brass from Petersen, with a goodly charge of H4350, and took them to the range. Initial groups were easily sub MOA, and with little adjustments, I had them shooting around half an inch.

It was time to hit the track on this test drive, a Rocky Mountain Elk hunt. Some might think that a 6.5 Creedmoor is a bit light for elk, which it may be. But I’d hunted with similar setups plenty of times in the past, so I wasn’t worried.

The first elk to fall to the Cayuga, hit at 475 yards

The first engagement we had with an elk took place at 475 yards, a young cow stood quartering away. The bullet hit her at the top of the left side rib-cage, on a slightly down angle. It passed through the ribs, passed through her lungs leaving quite a mess, and exited the front of her chest just to the right of her neck. She dropped immediately, and slid down the snowy slope. Damage was exactly what I expected to see from such an acute injury. Broken bones, spalling through tissue, leaving mayhem in organs which could no longer sustain life.

The Cayuga plowed through these ribs leaving a clear path of destruction
These lungs stood no chance, ripped open by the passing bullet

The second Cayuga fired at a big game animal was a mature cow elk, chewing away at the brush bark on a cold winter storm blown mountain. She was 520 yards away this time, completely unaware of the heated copper cutlass headed her way. It again impacted in the ribs and shoulder, breaking both the shoulder blade, several ribs, as well as one of her vertebrae as it passed by. She instantly dropped, and bled out as quickly as one would expect.

Entrance wound on the second elk, after passing through the shoulder blade
Again the lungs were damaged beyond function, both animals quickly succumbed to their injuries

The damage done on both animals was very proportionate to the size of the expanded Cayuga, unfortunately both of them blew right through the animals so I was unable to see their final dimensions. Never the less they did a perfect job, and I couldn’t have asked for more.

If you are in need of an all copper hunting bullet, or if you want a hunting bullet with an extremely high ballistic coefficient, then give these Cayuga bullets a good look. When the shots count the most, send something that brings it all.

-CBM

The 2019 Late Season for Elk

Video at the bottom of article

Every winter, after the cold snow starts to build up in these Rocky Mountains, I get a bit of fever going. Not the kind of fever that normally comes with the cold season, this fever is far more profound. Its a fever born not from germs or microorganisms, but rather comes from my DNA. Like many of you I was born to hunt, and the knowledge that hunting season is around the corner fills me with excitement and a feverish desire to get after it. The late-season elk hunts in our state of Utah give a much-needed extension to this natural high, and its one we all seek out ever year. This year was certainly no exception.

My herd of elk is a small one, it consists mainly of cows and their offspring. There is usually a few yearling cows, and spikes as well, and even more infrequent are the occasional mature bulls that follow them onto the winter range. Every year they come back the same pass they did the year before, and miles away, hunched behind a spotting scope gnawing on a cheese stick you will find me. Usually, I have all my gear ready by the time they show up, and this year it was only a matter of hours before we were on them.

Both friends and family participate in this yearly ritual, and today it was me and a good friend who we’ll call “Russ”. We had seen part of the herd heading in the right direction the evening before, and this morning we returned to our glassing post to see if they were still there. I say the right direction meaning a place where we knew we could get a downed elk out without extreme difficulty, we made our way towards the small group as they fed through the snow.

A cold cloudy day for all of us

At seven thousand feet the air is thin and cold, and the fifteen to twenty mile an hour winds were not making it any better. We continued our stalk through the cold wind, knowing at least that it would cover both our sound and scent. We closed the distance to five hundred and twenty yards, any closer we would lose them with the rise of the hill. So we planted ourselves and set up our equipment, Russ was shooting a custom-built .260 Remington Ackley improved, on the end he had a Delta P Design 6.5 suppressor, and a Bushnell Elite Tactical scope mounted on top. In the magazine were a handful of Hornady 140 grain ELD-m handloads. Russ pushed his rifle up a snowy embankment pointing towards the elk herd, and I slid up to another spot, with my Desert Tech SRS A2 sitting in the saddle of my Precision Rifle Solutions tripod. I had been using the twenty-four inch 6.5 Creedmoor barrel in my rifle, and had very recently installed a new optic, the Riton Optics RT-S Mod 7 4-32 riflescope. I was shooting a new experimental lathe-turned solid bullet from Patriot Valley Arms, it is a 123 grain copper solid hollow point. Both of our rifles were shooting very close ballistic patterns, in fact, at the five-hundred and twenty yards we both dialed 2.2 MRAD of elevation, and with the wind blowing at a slight angle, we both held about .2 MRAD left wind. A wind call we would later rejoice over.

As we lay there freezing in the snow, we had to wait for a good shot. The low angle against the ridge made interference from brush and branches an issue, so we waited as the wind carried snow over our rifles and faces. The plan was to execute a command fire, both of us shooting in near unison to hit both animals before the rifle report ever reached them. Sounds easy enough, unless your trigger finger is freezing into a stiff hook while you wait. After a few long and shivery moments, we had two cows that offered us an acceptable shot. After loudly whispering back and forth about who was shooting at what, we counted down, fingers on triggers. In my mind, I decided it would be better to just shoot upon hearing the report of Russ’ rifle, so that’s what I did.
I was already pressing the trigger shoe on my SRS when I heard the rip of his 260 go off, so I finished my pull and sent the second round uphill towards the unsuspecting elk. Russ’ bullet found its mark perfectly, hitting just behind the left shoulder. She immediately lurched forward from the startling impact, while a few yards behind her, the second cow chewed bark from some of the brush. She may have seen the other cow leap forward, but it was too late. My bullet also impacted just behind her shoulder passing through her lungs and tapping her vertebrae as it passed by. This impact dropped her in her tracks, and she rolled down the steep and slippery slope. The first cow had just made it perhaps forty or fifty yards, both of us still trained on her with our rifles. And we watched as she stumbled, and tipped over, leaving a bright red blood trail through the pure white snow. It was over so fast, and yet my trigger finger was nearly frozen. I stowed it between my cheek and gum for a few minutes to bring back sensation.

Fresh lung blood blown across the brush

We stood up in the breeze and watched as the remainder of the small herd slowly worked away from us. High fives were exchanged, and even a hug from the excitement. The work, however, had just begun, I doubted we would be getting too much aid in our elk extraction. So we left everything we wouldn’t need and carried only the bare essentials like knives, warm clothes, some rope and a few snacks. The steep mountain and snow-covered ground made the going slow, but an hour or so later, we stood over one of the two elk. After investigating her injuries and condition, we triangulated the other elk’s location based off the tracks leaving the first. The other cow lay exactly where expected, and left us a good trail to find her with.

As we began the decent with our two prizes, the morning had given way to a beautiful and sunny midday. We took our time, rolling and sliding these two ladies down the hill, taking breaks as needed.

As the afternoon went on however the clouds came back in, and threatened to freeze over the whole mountain. As we sat reposed in the snow, I watched as Russ’ dark pants steamed in the sunlight. But as the clouds came over us, it was like an icy blanket, and we both watched as the steam from his pants quickly turned to frost before our eyes. It was time to move.

After another four or so hours, we made it back to the truck, where we were met by other good friends who helped load our prize. An incredible blessing to have good friends to help after such a labor intensive day.

We have shot several other elk this winter, the most common factor is good friends and solid relationships. Elk hunting seems to forge relationships between like minded hunters, the intensity of labor, and overwhelming obstacles seem to sort fair-weather friends from what I consider to be the finest group of dear friends. I consider myself lucky to have them.

-CBM


Exploring The Shooting Positions

For those of us who enjoy recreational and competitive shooting, positional shooting is part of everyday life. But becoming proficient at shooting from multiple positions will make you a better shot overall, so instead of avoiding those compromised shooting positions, you’d do far better to embrace them.
Not every shot can be taken from prone (the most stable shooting position), sometimes a shot requires getting off your belly, and finding another way to support your rifle.

Coldboremiracle Junior shooting the Desert Tech SRS A2 using the US Optics B25 scope

Standing-
Standing is probably the most difficult shooting position for most, this is because being upright requires constant use of muscles to balance, as well as overcome any wind that might be pushing you around. If you include your own shaky stature it turns out to be quite unstable. There are a few things you can do to help solidify your shooting position when standing, one of the easiest is to add a sling. A sling allows you to create a rigid structure out of your upper body, by tightening your arms and shoulders against the sling. This Ridgid arch-like structure makes a more solid launch-pad for your shot.
Another way to improve your shooting from the standing position is to stop trying to hold still. While some folks can stand perfectly still, and make a shot, most of us (myself included) cannot. So instead of trying to stay completely still, you might be better off to embrace the movement. Many competition shooters use a pattern of movement instead of trying to remain still, they actually move their rifle on purpose, either in a circle or figure-eight pattern while aiming. By purposefully moving their rifle, they can absorb the unwanted movement caused by shudders and other influences, and the resulting pattern of movement is at least predictable. And predictability is where accuracy comes from.

Precision Rifle Solutions Tripod under my Desert Tech SRS A1 in 300Blk

Sitting-
Sitting is a common way to shoot when there is too much ground interference to take a prone shot. Sitting gives added stability, by bringing your center of gravity closer to the ground. This requires fewer muscles to maintain a steady position, and for many of us can be more comfortable as well. Sitting also gives us the advantage of using our legs for additional support, such as crossing one leg to use as a support for our rifle. This is one of the greatest advantages of all positions besides standing, the ability to use bone structure to support our rifle. Straight lines and triangles are what make a sound structure, so if we can build those structures with our arms and legs, and then fortify them with aids like a sling, we can actually get quite steady.

My Tikka T3 in 25 Creedmoor in a KRG Bravo chassis rested across the knee

Kneeling-
Like sitting, the kneeling position brings us closer to the ground, requiring less muscle movement to steady our shot, it does however still involve a fair amount of balance. Kneeling shots are typically used when a sitting position is either too low or when a shot needs to be made quickly. As with other shooting positions, the most stable kneeling position is achieved when you create a rigid structure of bone. If you can, put one knee in the dirt, and one knee up. This will allow you some additional support for holding your rifle steady, the knee you raise may depend on terrain or just timing. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s the other knee that gives better support, so practice for each scenario to give you your best shooting platform.

My Desert Tech MDR with the ES Tactical 6.5Creedmoor barrel

Prone-
The prone position, or laying down is by far the most steady shooting position. This is because it requires no muscle movement,  a rug can lie still on the ground even in a brisk wind.
Shooting prone allows the shooter to completely relax, and focus all his/her attention on aiming, trigger control, and breathing. I mention breathing because when laid flat against the ground, the rise and fall of our chest can adversely affect our shooting. Both breathing and even sometimes the beat of your heart can register in the scope, both of these can be mitigated by rolling slightly to one side or the other. Another benefit of prone shooting is the ease in which we can use support aids like a backpack, or bipod. These kinds of support can greatly enhance your ability to steady your aim and make a better shot.

My MDR again this time with the 308 Winchester barrel, resting in the Field Optics Research tripod

Support-
Since we mentioned bipods and packs, it would be a good idea to discuss how to use such support aids in our positional shooting. There are countless devices available to us today to help us support our shots, shooting sticks, bipods, tripods, bags, etc. They can greatly increase your steadiness when shooting. A tripod can make all the difference in the world when trying to steady a difficult shot from a sitting/kneeling position, and when you properly use your backpack for rear support when doing so it is ten-fold. Bipods and rear support bags can make prone shooting seem almost too easy, so easy in fact that many competitions try to limit the amount of shooting done from such a position.
Shooting from the standing position is immensely improved by adding the right height shooting sticks, as I mentioned earlier, it helps create straight lines and triangles which add stability. Depending on the shot scenario, even a rigid stick or tree branch can be used to stabilize your rifle prior to the shot. Do yourself a big favor, and research all of these options, and definitely try several of them out when practicing. You may find that getting off your belly was the best improvement your shooting ever received.

-CBM

Sig Sauer Tango Series Electro Optic

When a company like Sig Sauer jumps into the optics market, paying attention is a must. I was more than happy to get my hands on a couple specimens early on, and I was very happy with my purchase.
The Sig Sauer Tango line of optics is marketed towards precision shooters, long-range shooters, and hunters, as well as tactical marksmen in the LE/MIL community. I’ve been exposed to quite a few good optics in that realm, so I wanted to see how Sig stacked up.

For the purpose of this article, I will be comparing two of the Tango series of riflescopes. One is the Tango 4 which is a 4-16X44, the other is a Tango 6 5-30X56. The comparison will simply be an evaluation as these scopes are peers of different levels and price points.

The Tango 6 seen on my Desert Tech MDR 6.5 Creedmoor

Features
For starters, let’s look at the features they share, then we will look at them individually.
All Tango series scopes feature Sig’s HDX coated lenses for optimal light transfer, waterproofing, Lock-Down turrets, and one free laser-etched turret that is matched to your custom load data and atmospheric conditions.
Both the T4 and T6 are Front Focal Plane (FFP) optics, which means the reticle is placed after the magnifier inside the scope. This means the reticle will grow and shrink with the magnification setting. I prefer this configuration as it makes reticle usage more uniform, regardless of the power ring setting.
Both scopes are available with the MRAD/Moa milling reticle, or the Mrad/Moa DEV-L reticle, for those that prefer one system over the other.
The T4 and T6 also have the available MOTAC™ (Motion Activated Illumination) that initiates when motion is detected and shuts off when motionless.

The differences between the two scope are probably where most people are going to make a choice. The T4 is a 4X scope, and the T6 is a 6X, the T6 allows a wider choice of magnification from 5X all the way up to 30X. The T6 also has a larger diameter tube, it’s 34MM tube allows the T6 a greater internal adjustment range. To this larger tube is owed the 12 MRAD (30 MOA) per revolution of the turret. The slightly smaller T4 has a 10 MRAD (25 MOA) of adjustment per revolution of the turret. The 4X magnification on the T4 also gives it a shorter magnification range of 4-14, depending on your application these two different ranges of adjustment could make your choice for you.

The Tango 4 mounted to my Tikka T3 25 Creedmoor

The T6 that I purchased, also features Sig’s Level-Plex anti-cant system. It is a digital system that uses internal sensors to tell you when the scope is level or not. When engaged (by pushing the outer end of the parallax turret) there are two small illuminated arrows visible through the reticle. You simply adjust the cant of your rifle following the indicators, and when the rifle is level the indicators go dark, showing that the rifle is level. It is a simple and very quick to use system.

On the Range

Turret and other control detail on the Tango 6

Shooting the Tango 4 and 6 made me like them even more. The overall clarity of both scopes was very good, and the bright images made target acquisition and spotting hits and misses a piece of cake. Whether in the bright midday sun or in the waning light of evening, I found the scopes presented more than a satisfactory image.
I did find that for shooting groups that I really appreciated the 30 power magnification of the T6, and the DEV-L reticle provided very precise measurements for both corrections and wind holds. The simpler MRAD Milling reticle in the T4 was also very useful for those who might want a reticle that isn’t so busy. And the lower magnification of the T4 made it a great option for my hunting rifle. Lighter, smaller, and easier to quickly bring onto target.
The process of zeroing the scopes, and setting the zero stop was simple, quick, and effective. In no time I had them zeroed, and was dialing them up and down for distant shots. The Level-Plex system on the T6 proved to be very handy in the field, a simple push of a button engages it, and I never had to take my eye off the target. And it turns itself off after a few minutes. I also like the locking turrets on the scopes, raising them unlocks the turret for smooth rotation, and once set, you can push them back down to lock them in place and avoid accidental adjustments.
If I had to say I didn’t like anything about the scopes, it would probably be regarding the sliding up and down of the turret. I have no basis to prove this theory other than feel, but it seems that when the turret is raised it is not as firmly supported. It feels as if you were to knock it against something hard in the up/unlocked position it could be easily broken. Again, I have no evidence to prove that, it is just a simple observation. To be fair it feels rock-solid when it is down in the locked position.
Perhaps the only other gripe I have is likely a simple defect that is easily repaired. The two fiber optic illuminators that indicate the setting on the power ring seemed to be poorly mounted on my T6. One of them came out and was lost, not a big deal, but something worth noting. I usually don’t focus too hard on the actual setting of the magnification ring anyways, I just adjust it till it looks right to my eye, and shoot.

Conclusion

I think that both of these Sig Sauer optics are fantastic scopes, they definitely come in at two different price points so you can pick one the one that best fits your budget. The T4 at its $719.99 MSRP is a great competitor for the sub $1000 FFP Milling reticle scope market, I think it would compete very well against any scope in that group. The larger and much more expensive T6 MSRP $3,119.99 (as tested) is in another group altogether. I would say pending a few more hard trips into the rugged mountains, and it surviving the beating therein, I would put it against any scope in the 2k to 3k dollar range. The quality is there for sure, the only concern I have yet is with durability over time, but so far I have no reason to think it won’t
clear that hurdle as well. It is quite clear that the engineers at Sig Sauer Electro-Optics took great care in every little feature, whether it is the griping surfaces of adjustment knobs, or something as simple as aesthetic angles and accessories. And with an unlimited lifetime warranty, you can confidently put one of these scopes to work today.

-CBM