The Precision Rifle I Course is three days jam packed with learning and shooting and I loved every minute of it, even when I was so tired I could barely hit the target.
All-in-all, we spent about 6 hours over three days in the class room learning about everything from the care and feeding of a precision rifle, to estimating range and windage. And a whole lot of math - a necessary evil in this game because you need to be able to do the math to figure out what kind of adjustments you need to make to your scope.
On the afternoon of Day 1, we all shot across a chronograph so that Rob could print out our estimated bullet drop adjustments. These sheets became really important on Day 3 when we were shooting 200 - 600 yds. The rest of the day was spent going over zeros at various distances and making scope adjustments, then repeating until we were all shooting acceptable groups.
The fun started on Day 2. After a very short classroom session, we went back to the line to check our cold bore zero and to re-verify our zero. Some people (like me) had made some adjustments the night before (I had to reposition my scope to get better eye relief) so it took longer than it might have otherwise.
A word here about the schedule. Pat is better about adjusting the schedule to suit the needs of the students than almost any instructor I've worked with. There are some things that must get done, but the rest is extremely flexible. Pat is very careful to try and never leave anyone behind - he is a Marine after all. I really value this and it keeps me coming back because I've seen too many cases where the agenda trumps all. Of course, that sometimes means that a few people have to wait on others once in a while. But it always seems that "what goes around, comes around" because sooner or later everyone needs that little bit of extra attention.
Over the rest of the day, and the first half of Day 3, we shot at big and small targets from 100 to 225 yds, from prone, sitting, kneeling, standing, around barricades, over the infamous step wall, and over a car at a moving steel plate. This is when a lot of people found out that punching little bug holes in paper while lying down is not everything there is. This is also where I got a chance to get a little ego boost because I've got more experience, thanks to the Tac Rifle course and my pistol shooting, with this kind of shooting. In particular, I've learned how to shoot a lateral mover with a rifle and while the others thought themselves lucky to hit 3 out of 5 shots, I managed to hit 5 out of 5 shots - which prompted a round a of applause and a couple suspicious looks and questions.
We also had a chance to shoot under compressed time and under stress. In one exercise, we did a shuttle run (pick up one bullet, run up to the gun and fire, run back and pickup another bullet, repeat for 5 shots). In another exercise, we had decreasing time (from 6 down to 2) seconds to fire a shot. We did some shooting on command (five, four, three - everyone fires). Lastly we did a series of shooting drills with increasing rounds and decreasing time that constitute the FBI qualification course (one of which was to shoot 2 shots after running for 4 minutes). To pass, you had to score 9 out of 10 shots (I got all 10).
The afternoon of Day 3 took us out to a rock quarry called Snowflake. We spent a couple hours down in one of the pits shooting 200 and 300 yd targets. This should have been fairly easy but it was over 90° and precision was not quite as good as it might have been. Still several people were shooting 1 minute groups (a minute is 1" at 100yd, 2" at 200yd, etc). Then we hiked back up the trail to a spot that overlooked the pit we had just been in. From there, we shot 400, 500, and 600yd targets. All-in-all, the group did well. Several people were able to keep their groups down to 1 minute and some even managed half-minute groups. Two people even shot a half-minute group at 600yds - very impressive.
Unfortunately, in the later afternoon it was up to 93° and I was worn out and by the time we got to 600yds, my concentration was gone and my prior victory was left far behind. Nevertheless, I still found that my time was well spent - for one thing, I learned that I need a better butt pad - and I have the bruised shoulder to prove it.
Many thanks to Pat for a well run class, and to Rob for all the hard work he put in setting everything up (I don't think I ever saw him stop to eat). Also thanks to Bart who came out to Snowflake on Sunday to help with the setup. And thanks to all my fellow students from whom I picked up some valuable tips.
This post was made by Rob Tackett and includes some good tips:
A few of things that I would mention in addition to what Graham has already stated.
Don't go cheap on precision gear, but don't go so big that you can't handle the gun and kit. The current trend is to go big and heavy to get the best accuracy that you can. But in doing so you get so heavy that the gun is no longer field expedient. I've talked to a lot of people that go to precision rifle classes and I've been to a few myself ( ) and nowhere else do you run, jump, shoot asymmetrical positions or maintain your slung weapon wherever you go on the range for extended periods of time. Moving a 18 pound rifle off the shoulder and to the target line without loosing your rifles balance is hard to do if you don't have perfect gunhandling skills and awareness.
If you want to lay behind the gun and shoot tiny little groups for a week then PFT is not where you want to train. If you want to learn what it takes to use a precision rifle under REAL WORLD FIELD CONDITIONS then come to PFT and train with us.
Keep it simple: Folks there are a ton of do-dads out there and you can over-complicate your life and fall off the learning curve very fast with too much gear. Guys keep it simple and to standards. Grow into your gear. Add things as you determine they are needed not because you read about it on a forum or saw it in a magazine.
Ammo: Stay far away from Hornandy Ammo! We continue to see problems with it. In the last 18 months we have had several guns lock up due to blown primers and stuck cases. All of it Hornandy ammo. This weekend we had a high end rifle lock up to the point that we had to beat the bolt open with a hammer because of a blown primer. One of six that happened out of 200 rounds of Hornandy Match ammo.
Cleaning Gear: Don't skimp. Dewey is the way to go and I find no exceptions. Shooters Choice and FP-10 are really all you need to clean a rifle along with the proper bore guides, optics cleaners, and tools to check screw tensions. Also needed is a bolt disassembly tool to properly clean the firing pin channel and lube properly.
Classes: If you are a shooter invest in quality. The reason we spend over 100 bucks in shooting classes is because they provide clear optical quality throughout the lenses not just the center. If you have a prescription get a pair of athletic glasses that share this trait.
All in all this was a very good class with very little in the form of problems.
I have more to follow but time constraints are pressing in on me right now.
Thanks to all the shooters who attended and stayed safe and open to learning our way of doing things.