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Essential Gear for Elk Hunting

Elk hunting is a dream hunt for many of us, I am lucky enough to have had the chance over and over throughout the years. If an elk hunt is on your list of must-do hunts, here I have put together my thoughts on the gear you won’t want to be without when you go.
The Rocky Mountains are a bountiful and impressive place to hunt, whether you are after monster mulies, elk, or one of the other beautiful species herein, it can be quite a job. Today we’ll speak specifically about the elk hunting side of it, and the differences you should know between elk hunting, and smaller animals like deer.

The Bugle of a Bull
Contrary to what you see on all the hunting shows, calling elk is not as simple as it appears. Elk are most vocal during the rut, which is usually in September. If you are hunting outside of their rutting schedule, then your bugling tube and all your practice might be nearly useless. If it is a general season hunt, or any hunt where there will likely be people around adding hunting pressure, elk tend to shut up unless they are rutting. So keep in mind when your hunt is, and the kind of pressure they will be under. Elk are quite smart, and a call under the wrong circumstances may send them charging off into oblivion. Whereas during the rut, they can be hormone-driven fools, that come in fast looking for a fight.
Cow calls and other noises can be useful depending again on the general mood on the mountain you are hunting. I’ve brought in several bulls just raking the trees with a broken branch. If a big bull is what you are after, you have to play to his attitude.
Whether you are after a bull or a cow, you will want to keep an eye out for the cows. There are lots of eyes and ears in a herd of elk, and the ladies are usually the ones to bust you. Minimal sounds and calls may be all you need to find them and get into place for a shot. If you are hunting active herds, make sure you bring your A level calling game, a good bugle can bring in a monster on a string.

Boots of Hermes
Elk hunting will drive you right to edge of sanity, plodding through soft mountain soil, chasing towards a ridgeline in pouring rain or snow, your legs and feet will take punishment like never before. Having a good pair of boots is absolutely essential, or even better, have more than one pair. Sometimes you might find yourself sneaking quietly through dense forest, and other times clawing your way up a loose rock pile or chute. Having good boots and perhaps several different pairs for these differing terrains may keep you fresh. Make sure you have good comfy shoes waiting for you back at camp as well, with clean fresh socks. You’ll want to care for your feet as best as possible because they will be punished.
Lightweight is a must, but the weather can dictate the rest. If it’s cold and snowy then you will obviously want insulating boots to keep the heat in, and if it’s wet and raining, you’ll want waterproof footwear to keep from getting soggy and cold. The best practice is to have several good options, that way your feet get a pleasant change from day to day and hike to hike.

Extraction: Rope and a Plan
Until you walk up to your first downed elk, they just look like a big deer from a distance. But as soon as you lay hands on your prize, you will realize just how big they are. The realization shortly after recovery, offers quite the challenge, even with a buddy just turning a large elk around is hard enough. So one of the most important things you can have before leaving camp is a plan to extract the animal, that could be quartering it and packing it out, or hauling it away in one big piece. Whether it is horses, ATV’s, or just some good backpack frames, make sure you have everything in place beforehand.
A good extraction plan could just be a large group of friends with an affinity for intense labor, or it could be as simple as a profane and indecent amount of cordage. I’ve been party to several different types of elk recoveries, but whole is by far my favorite, and for that, you usually need enough rope to reach the animal with either a vehicle or a hypothetical team of mules. We’ve pulled elk nearly half a mile up steep canyons with enough rope, other times we have carried quarters from a pole carried by two, and the most ingenious plan ever, we built a sled from fallen trees and used it to drag an entirely butchered elk up a steep hill to the truck. There are hundreds of ways to do it, research the country you intend to hunt, and see what kind of work it will take to get your prey back to camp. Sometimes if you are lucky, you can drive an ATV or truck right up to them, of course, those stories don’t sound as adventuresome.

Bag it
As I mentioned already, elk are very large animals, handling a fallen animal the size of a horse can be a lot of work. If you are lucky enough to get it out whole, you will need to get it cooled down and skinned asap. If you end up having to pack it out, it will likely be in large pieces, and nothing beats some high-quality game bags to keep those pieces in. Typical game bags may be a bit small for an elk unless its in pieces. Make sure you have enough game bags to protect your meat from contaminants and insects, it will make it that much better to eat and butcher once you get back home.
It’s also a good idea to have a bunch of twine or paracord you can use to tie-up open ends, or to hang it from. Many times we have had to make multiple trips to pack out an elk, and sometimes overnight. Paracord is great for hanging up those pieces left behind to keep out of reach of foraging animals, it also keeps the meat clean and elevated where the air can maintain it cool and as fresh as possible.

Eternal Optimism
Elk hunting can be feast or famine, days can pass with little to no sign. One day they could be everywhere, and the next day they may have evaporated into the atmosphere. Elk hunting requires a good attitude, and if you couple that good attitude to diligence you can be successful. Study the area, know where the animals go when spooked, get a feel for their safe zone, and unless its a last-ditch effort, do not push them out of their safe zone. You’d be better off waiting for them to come back out on their own, whereas if you push them, they might run for thirty miles and never look back. In my experience, you don’t get the prize without putting in the effort, only after your hopes are broken, and your body pushed to the edge, does that magical moment happen when stars and sights align.

-CBM

Why you should try waterfowl hunting

If you weren’t lucky enough to be raised in a hunting family, getting started can be a little bit intimidating. One great way to get your feet wet, is with a little waterfowl hunting. We’ll discuss some of the progressive ways you can experience a good hunt, and by the end you’ll know what I mean by wet feet.

Ducks and geese were my first hunting addiction, it didn’t take long to get hooked on wing-shooting these high speed birds. If you like shooting shotguns at all, then shooting ducks is an incredible and fun challenge. They come in from any direction, at speeds varying from almost a hover to so fast you just hear them zip by as the wind whistles through their feathers.
Waterfowl hunting can be done all over the country, you probably are a lot closer to a marsh than you think. And though you might think it requires chest-waders and expensive equipment and outerwear, you can actually have a great time just hiding in the tall grass in earth toned clothes.

Getting started into water fowling can be done at your pace. If you have a shotgun capable of shooting non-toxic shot, your in business. Most waterfowl management areas require the use of non-toxic shot due to lead contamination in filter feeders.

Some of the best duck hunting spots are all on the water, but you can still have a great time hunting from walkable banks and shores. Decoys can help bring the birds in, but if you play your cards right you can shoot a limit by being in the right place at the right time. A good bird dog with an affinity for water could be an invaluable hunting partner in this case.
Shooting ducks and geese will turn you either into a crack shot, or a nutcase. Their aforementioned speed and agility make them a very challenging target.

I started out as a kid with a classic Remington 870 12 gauge, as have countless thousands. Hard to go wrong with something that simple and tested, but any good shotgun will do if it fits you.
Due to the typical wet and muddy conditions encountered when waterfowl hunting, it would be a good idea to use a gun with synthetic furniture like the Benelli Nova.
If goose hunting is to be part of your waterfowl adventure, then you may also want to consider a shotgun with a three or three and a half inch chamber. The added shot capacity can be helpful with bigger birds.
Whether you choose a pump shotgun, or a semi-auto like the Beretta A300 make sure you practice with it. One thing I love about shotgunning is that a lowly red-neck shooting his Grandad’s model 12 can out-shoot a millionaire with a twenty thousand dollar English double. So don’t fret if your gear doesn’t match the guys on the Duck’s Unlimited calendar.
As with most types of bird hunting, you can get into it as much or as little as you want. You might start by just walking down an irrigation canal wearing jeans and a jacket. Or you can go full Redhead with flat-bottomed boats, motorized decoys, and electronic calls. I would suggest wading into it slowly, and see what works for you. One of the best things you can do is to find a local group or club that can have you along, they can show you the tricks and nuances of your local marsh.
Keep in mind that waterfowl don’t mind the weather, and some of my absolute best days wing-shooting have been in completely miserable conditions. Wind, snow, and cold seem to produce the best hunting days in my neck of the Rockies. Hopefully you don’t have to endure the same just to try it out, but if Im going to go out, it’ll be in a winter storm.

Contrary to popular belief, ducks are edible. They can actually be done quite well if you spend the time to learn to prepare them. So you can add another feather in your cap by enjoying a meal you took from the sky into the kitchen.

Perhaps one of the best parts of waterfowl hunting is the camaraderie between friends and family. There is always plenty of time to talk, take friendly jabs at each others shooting, or tell old hunting stories.

So you might start out with a two-hundred dollar hand-me-down shotgun, and an old musty duck coat. But you could end up knee deep in muddy water with your very best friends, freezing together while discussing shot patterns, retriever breeds, and Pintail whistles, all while your clammy wet feet shiver from worn leaks in your favorite waders. If that sounds like fun to you, then you might need to try duck hunting.
-CBM

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