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User Icon     Posted 3 months ago     by Jim Hook     

Perishable Skills

There is a reason why armed police officers and military personnel spend so much time on the range practicing. It's because shooting is a perishable skill. Just because you were good the last time you picked up a rifle or shotgun to go out and hunt doesn't mean you will be the next time. In fact, it's very likely that you will be far less accurate if you haven't 'kept your hand in', as they say, in the time between outings. Some people are naturally gifted, and even on a bad day, will be better than others on their best. I've got a friend like that. Shooting comes easy to him, thats probably why he was a sniper in the Royal Marines. We used to head off to the range for practice in our past lives and whilst I would be concentrating on my grouping on the Figure 11 target he would be busy trying to see how few rounds he needed to shoot the target off the stem!

Like any skill that fades with lack of use its critical to get out and practice. That might seem like a really simple thing to say, and you may be wondering why I might even state such an obvious fact, but from what we have all seem on the shooting line there are an awful lot of people who must not have considered it. Hunting, either with a rifle or shotgun, can often become an instinctive action. Practice helps develop muscle memory resulting in an upside to the time available to let the brain do its calculations and control the event. Our brains work faster than we can possibly imagine so even when we think an action was instinctive, it was in fact controlled by thought. Often the 'flash to bang' time from deciding there was a need to act and acting, was so short we assumed we acted without thinking. Thats like assuming a computer will do something it hasn't been commanded to do. It's simply impossible. Therefore, giving our thought process that tiny fraction of time, through allocating muscle memory to repeated actions, may be just enough to make our shot hit its target.

For those who have stalked deer, there is the moment before pulling the trigger when you try to 'think' about the shot. In reality you are thinking about some, or all, of your marksmanship principles. Is your position and hold firm enough to support the weapon? Are you pointing naturally at the target? Is your sight alignment correct? Is your breathing steady and will you remember to squeeze the trigger and allow the action to follow through without any other movement? The trigger control is possibly one of the hardest of these to master. In the same way as when wing shooting with a shotgun, you decide to give more lead next time, but when the time comes you give exactly the same, you can find yourself releasing the shot at a deer even though you know you weren't ready. Your impulse seems to overrule your brain. Obviously your impulse is controlled by your brain as it needs to have the command to act or it simply can't. Therefore there must be different parts of our brain competing with control of our actions. Practice, practice and more practice is the only way to ensure priority is given to the part that should have control!

Where to practice

Range 1

The UK is well equipped for training facilities for both shotgun and rifle. The Fayre Game location page has a number of clay pigeon ground locations mapped - https://fayregamepursuits.com/... - but rifle ranges are also fairly common place. Many may be associated, or belong, to local shooting clubs. A good place to start is on the NRA UK website where they list all NRA affiliated clubs - https://nra.org.uk/nra-affilia... - alternatively a careful Google search will provide some local results. For something more specialised with longer range facilities, then specialist companies such as Orion Firearms Training http://www.orionfirearmstraini... - are always worth a planned excursion.

How often should you try and get rounds down the range or shot into the sky? For me, I like to try and get to a clay range, using the high tower, crossers and skeet once a month during the closed season but then ramping up to once a week in the six weeks running up to the game season. I'm only likely to shoot fifty cartridges a visit as that tends to be about the right level for an intensive session. Rifle work is a little more challenging. If I can get out every three weeks I would count that as good going. A rifle range session will be considerably longer than a clay outing as it takes more time just to walk up and down the 100 metre distance between the shooting point and the target! Just remember, variation is the key to your practice sessions as on the day you have no idea how, or when, an animal will present itself. Good luck and straight barrels!

<p>Accuracy is not guaranteed!</p>

Accuracy is not guaranteed!

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