September 23, 2010
How to make a shot better after it's been fired.
Shooting technique usually focuses on ways to get things working for you prior to pulling the trigger. Indeed, there should not be a trigger pull if shooting technique is not producing an acceptable sight picture. However, I have found that what one does after firing a shot can have a good deal to do with its impact location on the target.
Calling a shot is mentally identifying the exact location or orientation of the sight picture the moment the rifle ﬁred.
This fundamental must be followed on every shot fired and that means those fired (and dry-fired) offhand, each and every rapid fire round, all prone shots and even those visualized in the mind.
Calling shots is vitally important in all events, but none more so than at 600 yards or farther. Oddly enough though, this is where many shooters pay the least attention to calling their shots exactly. Understand that the precision I'm expecting from a shot call is one minute of angle or better, and it can easily be half of that.
Every shooter has a shot-call radius. This is the area on the target within which he can confirm the shot location. The amount of movement in the sight at the steadiest part of the shooter's hold defines this area. As the hold improves, the call radius gets smaller, and you'll find that trying to call the shots within a smaller area, in itself, will improve the hold. It's fundamental.
There is nothing worse than being confused on a High Power range, and calling shots is of essential importance because we need to have as much feedback as we can get, and the shot call leads the way in all decisions made on sight corrections. One reason is that it's instant feedback. The feedback from the target (spotter) is not instant; pit service takes time. The call on a 600-yard shot is the first piece of evidence we're going to use to determine what to do for the next shot. If the shot-call was a little this way or that way, then this gives additional feedback to use against the spotter disk location and against interpretation of the conditions. It's what is needed in order to analyze the shot just ﬁred and make corrections for the next. In most circumstances, I know what I'm going to do on my next 600-yard shot before the target comes back up. That is the value of the shot call. I have my shot call in mind and I've been watching conditions while the target has been down. When the target comes up, the spotter location is likely to be only a confirmation of the decision I've already made. Without a precise call, I would be behind schedule. I use the spotting disk location, my previous call, and my current assessment of conditions in combination to know what to do for the next round. But it starts with the call.
As a shooter grows more accomplished in the skill of calling shots, he can define his call radius. This, just as with the practice of calling shots, is a very important concept. The call radius is the amount of target area around the called location of the shot that he allows himself for reasonable error. Not every shot can be called perfectly, and the area of the call radius will vary, of course, with the event. My call radius for sitting and prone rapid is approximately one half minute of angle. At 600 yards it's a little less than that. Offhand it's around one half minute, and in calm conditions it's closer to a quarter minute. Certainly, the rifle can factor into this, but I know my rifle shoots within my best call radius so I don't consider its accuracy in this equation.
If someone has a rifle that groups outside his call radius, then shot-calls and shot results are not going to as closely match. When a shooter can place shots inside his call radius, that builds confidence. Things only get better from there. Strictly speaking, the call radius cannot decrease until the shots are landing inside it. As more and more shots find their way inside the call radius, the shooter demands better and finer focus from himself. The call radius then shrinks. The objective is always to funnel everything inward.
In offhand there is certainly a relationship between wobble area (the orbital zone the sight covers at the steadiest portion of a hold) and call radius. Reducing the call radius reduces the wobble area. That's automatic. Cutting the wobble area in half cuts the call radius in half, and vice versa. The desire to see or define within a smaller area is supported by restricting rifle movement to stay within a smaller area.
Followthrough is staying with the shot long enough to call it accurately. There are different degrees or levels of followthrough, but the minimum amount is seeing the front sight jump off the bullseye in recoil.
This is a very important concept.
Part of the technical value (specifically, value to the technique) of calling shots is its help in developing followthrough. Taken by itself, though, followthrough is probably most simply defined as holding on to a shot long enough to call it accurately. It is primarily a visual confirmation process in this function. Good followthrough is also a certain amount physical, and that sense is maintaining the shooting position and hold through recoil.
The minimum amount of followthrough, then, is whatever is necessary to see the sight jump in recoil. Beyond its influence on one's capacity to make a shot call, followthrough also is touted as a means for skill (results) improvement. There are a few different ways to use this aspect of followthrough. One is delaying the shooter's disengagement with the hold long enough not only to see the front sight jump off the bulls-eye, but also to see it come to a stop after it's gone wherever it's gone. This can help in analyzing position and hold consistency. If the sight movement pattern is consistent, then the shooter's influence on the rifle is also consistent.
Essentially, the decision or desire to maintain position after the shot can have a subconscious influence on the pattern or patience exercised during the shot. There is no question, for instance, that when a shooter decides that he's going to call his shots more carefully, the rifle movement pattern can change, and a commitment to extending the duration of followthrough can do the same. This is also the effect of another tactic used by some shooters of holding back the trigger well after the shot has gone. The idea, again, is that planting that assignment prior to pulling the trigger may effect a smoother trigger break, and it might help. I don't exaggerate this in my shooting (although many people do) because I want to spend my time preparing for the next shot. I experience a somewhat mor
e sustained followthrough on slow-fire shots, but it's not something I see as part of my fundamentals. In the rapids I hold on long enough to see the sight react to recoil, but bolt-gun shooters do not have the option of waiting out the complete recoil cycle; we're working the bolt.
Followthrough is not difficult to learn as long as the shooter knows what he needs from it and can experience holding delays at different amounts. After some experience and experimentation he'll know how much is necessary, and also how much more helps him. If the mind is where it should be, the shooter will be able to accurately call each shot, given only a moment's feedback (followthrough).
To learn more about David Tubb and his book Highpower Rifle, as well as read more of his articles and information materials, log on to www.davidtubb.com, or write to Superior Shooting Systems Inc., 801 N. Second St., Canadian TX 79014 or call (806) 323-9488. For published materials information or purchase, log on to the Zediker Publishing website: www.zediker.com.