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Triumph Favors the Prepared

I consider myself quite lucky when it comes to hunting, not only am I blessed to hunt frequently, but I’ve managed to become mildly proficient at it. This past season was a tough one when compared to the preceding decade, but perseverance and healthy bit of luck kept a special surprise for me waiting at the end.
I say it was a tough season, but to be more accurate, it was a season void of mule deer bucks. This came as surprise to most of us as it had been a wet year, with plenty of feed. And there seemed to be as many deer around as there always had been.

I spent several weeks scouting my traditional spots, trying to get a pattern established with them. But I was astonished with how few deer I saw, and nearly none of them were bucks, much less a good buck. So as October arrived, and friends, family and I began hunting, the outlook wasn’t too good.

Days passed before we even aimed a rifle at a buck, and even then it was nothing big enough to write home about. Everybody I spoke to both on and off the mountains described a very quiet and inactive hunt. Dad and I were lucky enough to get on to a small buck that found his way into the bed of the truck, but even after five days hunting, I could count every buck we’d seen on one hand. And not one of them was more than a fork.

On the last day of the season, we had another patch of good luck. A very cold wind had brought in a snow flurried storm, dusting the entire mountain with a white coating. I know from experience that when the weather turns off bad, the hunting gets better. The tops of the mountains were enveloped in clouds, making it almost impossible to see more than a hundred yards or so. I determined that the foothills would be a better place to try, at least there we could see for half a mile or so, depending on the snowfall. As the early-morning darkness slowly turned to light, I found myself glassing everywhere I could make out through the falling snow. And before it was even quite shooting light, I spotted three deer feeding their way up through a grassy open area on the edge of a deep river ravine. Their dark bodies contrasted greatly with the all-white surrounding, I could tell immediately that one of them was a good buck.
The deer were eight hundred and fifty yards or so away, they were feeding quietly, so I decided to close the distance to somewhere that at least had a better place to shoot from than my current position. Anybody who has hunted Mule Deer knows how tricky they can be, and this guy was no exception. He must have either sensed our closing presence or perhaps caught sight of us as we snuck through the brush. When we reached the spot I had hoped to ambush him, they had gone into the deep river draw with its thickly wooded sides. I knew that the buck was likely to have either gone down the river towards the safety of civilization, a place I surely could not shoot at him. Or he went up the river, towards the safety of the brush-covered canyons that expand for hundreds of miles. I took a gamble, expecting that if he’s gone down, he’s likely already gone and we missed our chance. So we went up, towards the top of the ravine, slowly and quietly glassing the whole way. The snow continued to fall, and the wind picked up carrying wisps of snow from the trees where it had accumulated. I prepped for the shot I hoped was coming, though I had no idea where it would be.
The flying snow made my rangefinder almost useless, still I estimated the distances to various locations where the buck might come out. I laid flat on the snowy ground, hoping to avoid further detection by either the deer, or a large group of wild turkeys that foraged about sixty-yards uphill from us. I brushed the snow off the lens of my scope, knowing that any second I would need to see through it clearly.
As I laid glassing above the opposite side of the draw my eyes caught through the fog the unmistakeable image of a white deer butt, with a broad face beside it looking back directly at me. I knew it was him, and I immediately dropped my binoculars, and shouldered my rifle, I could see him through the falling snow. He was only a step or two away from disappearing into the brush permanently, he made his last mistake by looking back to see if I was there.
I knew that there was only seconds to shoot or lose him forever, I had estimated that treeline to be about 400 yds, and with no time to dial, I held four MOA just inside his right shoulder, hoping to cross his vitals diagonally. I pressed the trigger, and the shot broke.
Everything felt right, despite my rushed shot. Steady hold on him, good clean trigger pull, and I held a good hand, full of Blackjacks. My 25 Creedmoor is quite possibly the most predictable and flat shooting rifle I own, and I had a warm feeling that the buck had succumbed like many others, to the 131 Grain Ace.
After a grueling hike across that miserable little creek canyon, I closed in on the spot where I’d last seen him. The snow continued to fall as I quietly poked into the trees, prepared for another shot, I carried my rifle at the low ready. But the tension evaporated into excitement as my eyes picked out antlers just a few yards away, already built up with a white snowy coating.

The buck was the biggest deer I or anyone I know even saw during the whole hunt

The buck had only made it a leap or two before he collapsed, the shot had hit him perfectly. It entered at the back of his rib cage on his right side, it traversed him diagonally and exited left of the side of his neck. The Ace had cut his lung in half, and detached most of its pulmonary plumbing.

I was amazed at how quickly this season had turned from bust into bounty. The sun was just coming up, though you’d never see it through all the snowy storm clouds. We could get this buck back down to town, and be home for breakfast.
It was mostly luck, but triumph favors the prepared. Turning off during the hunt just isn’t an option for me, eyes, ears, and nose are always going. Familiarity and training with my gear all year long have paid off over and over, so that one chance you might get doesn’t go to waste. Be prepared, and embrace the high speed tunnel vision that is the mind of a predator within you, it’s there for a reason…

-CBM

How to Spec Out Your Dream Rifle Build

I receive questions almost daily from people who are in the process of putting a custom rifle together, its usually a question about chambers, barrel lengths, different manufacturers or some other specific part. Many times during the discussion, it comes out that maybe one or more of the options aren’t ideal for the intended purpose of the rifle, and that inevitably ends up causing a change in strategy. In the interest of not wasting valuable time, money and other resources, I figured I would put down a good process so that anyone who is interested in a custom rifle build can follow along in the hopes of avoiding that waste. And perhaps the details that follow can get you on the range sooner.

Whether you are rebuilding a rifle or starting from scratch, there are a few very important criteria that should be considered every step of the way. There may be others, but the main two I will focus on, and the rest are based upon are; the intended purpose of the rifle, and the budget you have to spend on it.

The intended purpose of the rifle is very important, it will dictate many of the rifles aspects such as caliber, weight, quality, etc. If your intended purpose is a hunting rifle, then a twenty-plus pound rifle would not be a good starting point. Just as if you are building a match rifle for PRS style competition, a 338 Lapua Magnum may not be the ideal cartridge to choose. So it is very important to evaluate what you intend to do with this rifle when you’re done with it. Many people start with the idea of a do-all rifle when building a custom, in my experience, custom rifles are an addiction and if you build one, you will likely follow it with more. So don’t be too afraid to get fairly specific with your purpose.

The budget you have to spend on a rifle has just as much influence as the intended purpose because many of us are not rich, and the dollars we have available to spend are limited. You should make sure that your choices are made with that in mind. If you blow your entire budget on a receiver and barrel, you may not have enough left to spend on a good scope. With so many great options available to you today, there are components that will meet most every custom rifle build budget.

Moving forward, here is the order in which I typically choose my components. Afterward, I will discuss them individually:

  • Intended Purpose
  • Project Budget
  • Accuracy Required
  • Distances intended to shoot
  • Weight Limit
  • Bore Diameter
  • Bullet intended to shoot
  • Velocity required
  • Barrel Twist
  • Cartridge Selection
  • Barrel Length
  • Receiver Selection
  • Barrel selection
  • Capacity needed (magazine)
  • Chassis or Stock Choice
  • Trigger
  • Scope & Mounts
  • Accessories
  • The distances you intend to shoot are very important. If it is a match gun for thousand-yard benchrest, then you probably want to shoot something 6mm or larger. If you plan on dangerous game in Africa, then you probably want something .375 or bigger. It’s pretty easy to decide on this subject, if in doubt, just look at what most others are using to do the same. The important part is to match the distance and bore-size to the job at hand. Hitting targets at 1000 yards don’t require huge amounts of energy, whereas hitting a buffalo at 100 yards does. And it’s especially important if you plan on shooting animals at any significant distance, you need to know what kind of energy and accuracy you need before moving to the bullet.

    Selecting a bullet you’ll notice is almost at the top of the list, which may seem like putting the cart before the horse but you’ll soon see why. The only reason we shoot rifles is that we want to hit what we’re aiming at, accuracy then must be one of our top priorities. So once you figure out your available budget, and what you plan to do with the rifle, you should have a pretty good idea about the level of accuracy that will be necessary. Most of the time we want as good of accuracy as can possibly be achieved, so it goes almost without saying that we want a precise shooting rifle capable of sub-MOA (minute of angle) accuracy, and preferably better than half MOA.
    So the next step is choosing the bullet you intend on shooting. The reason this is so important and at the beginning of the list is because so much of the rest depends on it. You should pick a bullet that meets the criteria of your budget and purpose, personally, I try and use the most inexpensive and readily available bullet I can, but one that is heavy for caliber, and has the highest Ballistic Coefficient (BC) as possible. For example;
    If I am planning on shooting a 6.5 for competition, I would probably find something that is 140 grains or more, preferably with a high .290 or better BC, and available readily and in bulk packages to save money. Just how high a BC is up to you, there are plenty of inexpensive options like the Barnes Bullets Match Burner, or you could spend quite a bit more on something like a Berger Bullets 156 EOL.
    Another example; If you are building a hunting rifle and only anticipate shots inside of two hundred yards on whitetail sized game, then you probably don’t need to spend a fortune on specialty or high BC bullets. A simple and inexpensive soft pointed bullet would do the trick just fine. There are pros and cons to either, so pick a bullet that fits your budget and availability, I say bullet but it could be multiple bullets if you must. I prefer and suggest to others to stick to one bullet, if you dont know why, then you should read this when your done.

    Once you have decided on a bullet or perhaps bullets, then you know what kind of barrel twist is required by that manufacturer in order to shoot it well. So mark that down on your build list right next to the bullet. I like fast twist barrels, they are better for shooting the typically heavier bullets that have the higher BC’s. And with technology going the way it is, there are more and longer and heavier bullets headed our way. So favoring a faster twist may leave the door open to shooting better bullets in the future. I have at least one barrel that is an 8.5 twist and I wish it was an 8 or a 7.5, but that’s life in the fast lane.

    If your goal is to hunt big game animals at long range, then you will definitely need as much energy as possible, that can be achieved by higher velocity. A 308 and 300WM can both shoot a 180-grain bullet, but the 300WM can shoot it much faster and therefore carry more energy. The 300WM then would be the better choice of the two for long-range hunting. That is the simple way to choose a cartridge, you can make it as simple or as hard as you want. Just keep in mind the two governing factors we spoke of at the top, what fits both my purpose and budget. It might be a 300WM or it might be a 30 Nosler or PRC, one has more energy, one is cheaper, pick your poison.

    Now that you know your bullet and cartridge combination, you need to decide on a barrel length. How much barrel do you need to get your selected bullet up to speed for the job you’ve tasked it to? Bigger cases with lots of powder usually need a long barrel to burn it all, and that’s what gives those big cartridges their speed. So if you chose the 300WM with a twenty-two-inch barrel, you’ll be slower than had you chosen a twenty-six inch. With as much data as there is available today, this is a very simple calculation to find. Just figure what muzzle velocity you need to stay above the minimum required velocity and energy at the distance you have determined at the outset of the project. Today’s ballistic solvers are an extremely valuable tool for doing this, there are many available, I prefer Trasol.
    There are many fantastic barrel manufacturers, some cost more than others, and some have features and services others don’t. You may want a less expensive button-rifled barrel, or perhaps a cut rifle barrel. You may want flutes cut in the barrel to reduce weight, or maybe a carbon fiber wrapped barrel. Each has its pros and cons again, look into as many options as you can, so you don’t regret it after your rifle is done.

    With barrel details, and the cartridge now written down on your build sheet, its time to pick a receiver to house all this excitement. If you are building a short action cartridge like a 6.5 Creedmoor, then you can pick from a plethora of high-quality short action receivers. Whether it’s a simple Remington 700, or something real fancy like the Badger Ordnance 2013 Action, it once again comes back to your budget and purpose. There are too many manufacturers to list nowadays, making short, long, and XL actions. You can get them in the very common Remington 700 footprint, to use the huge aftermarket support of that pattern, or try one of the many others. Just make sure that when choosing a receiver, you make sure your components are compatible (chassis/stock, bottom metal, etc.).
    Keep in mind that some of these receiver options come with built-in canted scope bases, or available scope bases with various cant options. Do yourself a favor and research those options before buying to make sure it matches your intended purpose.

    The purpose of your rifle will also determine what kind of round capacity you will need. Whether its three, or twelve, you can feed your rifle through a magazine. Most hunting rifles use a blind box mag, and if that meets your requirements then you needn’t look any further. But if you want a larger capacity, then you may consider a detachable box magazine. If your not sure, you can always choose a DBM setup, and run five round mags, ten rounders, or whatever fits your needs. Just keep in mind that additional weight for your end goal.

    Another big choice you will need to decide on is what kind of chassis or stock you plan on using. But since you now know what action, barrel & contour, magazine or DBM, and of course what the purpose of the rifle is, it just comes down to choice and what you can fit in the budget. Keep in mind features between chassis, such as construction and accessories. A carbon fiber stock is much lighter than a fiberglass stock, but maybe you want a heavy chassis instead, with adjustable weights on it.

    Almost any rifle receiver worth having has a good trigger available. Again, do your research and see what you can get that fits your taste, your rifle, and your budget. I am a very big fan of Trigger Tech triggers, but there are many others as well. One thing on triggers, make dang sure you are getting the right model for your build, and ensure safeties, bolt stops, and releases are compatible before you order one. The last thing you want is to get everything put together only to find out your bolt release won’t work or some damn thing.

    The scope and mounting system are incredibly important, so don’t skimp on them. It can be very hard to know what heigh rings to get, or what base to mount them to if you don’t have the components in hands. Many of us order these parts online, so you cant really dry fit them until they arrive. Unfortunately, the best you can do is estimate from your best measurements, and see how it turns out.
    Your scope and base choice are critically dependent on your ballistic data (determined by numbers we figured out already above). You may need a 20, 30, or 40 MOA scope base in order to reach your distance goal, particularly if the scope you choose has inadequate internal travel. Whereas if you are building a short-range rifle or a super flat shooting rifle, you may not need any additional cant.
    Your scope magnification depends greatly on preference and your eyes. But choose one that will allow you to see targets within your intended range, and has the range of magnification you will need. Optics are very subjective because we all have different eyes, so you cant always take others’ opinions for granted, not even mine. Ideally, you should try out your prospective scopes beforehand, but if that isn’t an option, then you may just have to base your choice on other people’s reviews.

    The last thing to cover is accessories, things like bipods, slings, suppressors etc. Now that you have all of your other bases covered, it should be pretty easy to pick out accessories. A stockpack perhaps that fits the stock you already selected or a support bag that attaches directly to the chassis you picked out. With all the minutia of your build nailed down, you can select all the accessories that will fit it.

    Hopefully this has been a helpful walkthrough on how to put your dream rifle together, these steps can be followed or applied to additional build aspects. If you’ve done it right, you should basically have a build sheet with everything you need to aquire. The end goal is to have a rifle you are pleased with, functions as designed, and brings a smile to your face. But dont be too satisfied with it, as it won’t be long till the build bug bites you again and the whole process starts over again. And when it does, come back and read this again.

    -CBM

    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

    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

    What is Windage and Why/When to adjust for it

    Anyone who has shot in the wide-open spaces of the plains states knows what wind is. It’s an old nemesis for marksmen and one that has likely ruined more than a few shots over the years. But could a better understanding of this gusty adversary put more hits on your scorecard?
    Wind deflection is the physical effect of air currents that your bullet is forced to combat as it travels towards your targets. Wind can come from any direction, and the effect it has on your bullet can vary greatly depending on air density, humidity, temperature, and other atmospheric conditions. In this article we’ll address those effects, and what you can do to counter them.

    Windage corrections align your point of aim and your (altered by wind) point of impact.

    What is windage:
    Windage is the correction for the effect of the wind. Your rifle should be zeroed to the center of your point of aim (POA), and the wind is that obnoxious character that blows your bullets away from that point of aim. You adjust your windage according to how far away from your point of aim it pushes the bullet. If the wind blows your bullet three inches right of POA, then you can aim three inches left of where you want to hit.
    Shooting in the wind can be intimidating, but as with most other disciplines, it is simply a matter of familiarity. Instead of fair weather shooting, you’d be better off forcing yourself to get out there in the breeze and learn from it.
    The effects of wind and other air currents are exacerbated with more exposure time, the longer your bullet is flying in the wind, the more the wind will affect it. A simple way to look at that is the further distance your bullet travels, the longer time the wind will have to affect its trajectory. It’s important to note then that bullets traveling faster will be less affected than a slower one all else being equal.
    Regardless of velocity, the further away from your target, the more you will have to account for the wind.
    Bullets drift with the air they are flying through. If the wind is blowing from your nine o’clock your bullet will impact right from your point of aim and so on. Your job as a marksman is to know how much that deviation will be at whatever given distance or angle you may be shooting.

    A wind meter such as this Kestrel can be a valuable tool when shooting in wind.

    There are many ways to calculate or estimate those offsets, and you are probably looking at one of the easiest ones as you read this. Ballistic computing apps that you can download to your phone do a great job of predicting how far you need to correct for wind in most scenarios. You will need to have input data to get what you want from it, which could require additional hardware such as a wind-meter like a Kestrel.
    There are also plenty of wind charts you can research that will give you good estimates for particular bullets in a given set of conditions. Keep in mind they are estimates, and your results may vary some.

    There are a couple of ways to correct windage, the first and probably more common is to hold for it. If the wind is blowing from your right to your left, then you hold your aim right of the target, and the wind will carry it into the target. The other common way to correct is to dial a wind offset into your riflescope. If the wind blows you a foot left of the target, then you dial the equivalent of a foot to the right, and then you can aim dead on.

    Much the same way you have to lead a shot on a bird when you shoot a shotgun, you must aim your shot into the wind if your target is in a cross-wind.

    When to adjust your windage:
    With an understanding then of what windage is, when do we need to apply it to our shooting?
    In my opinion, windage should be taken into account in almost every shot you take. I say almost because a slight breeze will barely affect most center-fire rifles inside one hundred yards, so in that case, you are probably safe to disregard the breeze. But if you are shooting a 22LR, even a light breeze can blow your shot off the target sometimes. Distant shots are especially subject to the wind as I mentioned above, even a slight breeze can blow your magnum rifle off the point of aim at significant distances.

    Before you shoot, you can take a good look at the conditions downrange. If you see signs of wind, such as blowing grass, or by reading the mirage on the ground, it is good practice to analyze it before shooting. This would be when you pull out your wind meter and ballistic app to determine how much windage you will have to correct. Or if you are an old hand at it, you might just lick your finger, or toss a pinch of dust into the breeze.

    Know your Wind:

    An important thing to keep in mind is not just the speed of the wind, but the direction. A wind coming at 90 degrees will have a greater wind deflection on your bullet than one that comes at a 45-degree angle. A wind coming from straight behind you will actually cause your shot to hit high, and one coming head-on will cause it to hit low. When you compound the effects by the wind coming from strange angles, it can get a little tricky, and to be honest the best way to get better at it is to just shoot and see. You will soon realize that some shots require both a windage and elevation (up & down) corrections.

    Another thing to watch for is multiple wind affects. The wind blowing from your shooting position might be different than one downrange. The wind up close could be blowing right to left, whereas four hundred yards away it may be blowing left to right, and both of them at different speeds. Again, sometimes the only way to know for sure is to take your best estimation and shoot. Then be ready for a quick followup that includes a better wind correction.

    Wind holds VS. Dialing:
    Some people like to hold wind corrections using the reticle in their scope, while others like to dial the wind correction into the turrets of their scope. I am more of a wind holder myself, and I’ll tell you why. The wind is fickle, and always changing, even between shots there can be significant switches in the wind. Using a good reticle with wind offset marks, allows you to hold a precise value into the wind. Should that wind slow down, or change, you can adjust your hold on the fly by simply holding a different point on your reticle. Whereas if you dial the wind into the scope turret, you will have to redial every time you see a shift. I find it a little simpler to just hold for what the wind currently is.

    Whether you holdover, or dial, whether you dope the wind with dirt and grass, or use the tech gadgets, get out in the wind and let it teach you something. Keep your brain turned on and pay attention if you miss a shot and don’t know why, you are wasting time and ammo. Pay attention to the conditions and learn from every shot, hit or miss.

    -CBM