I don’t know what it is about men and their targets, but shooting at targets is quite boring to me. Okay, so it is a slight challenge to get the sites zeroed, but it’s really not that hard. A rifle is even easier to site in (especially with optics) due to their longer sight radius. Estimate the distance, have a second person with binoculars or a spotting scope, waste some ammo, adjust the scope, done. At common distances of a hundred yards or less, with any weapon that I’m familiar with, I can hit close to the bullseye nine out of ten times. Boring. The worst part, now I have to clean the darned rifle. Makes me not want to shoot much.
Then one day I walked out to my greenhouse only to discover that all my strawberries had been eaten on the red ripe side, and the green side left alone. I was quite upset as I had waited almost two years for those darned strawberries. I had to know who the culprit was. So one Saturday morning I opened up the greenhouse like usual, then hid behind the woodpile on a lawn chair and watched. No sooner had the place gotten quiet that I saw the first chipmunk running for the greenhouse. No, I thought, not chipmunks.
I watched closely as the entire family of chipmunks, great aunts and uncles, along with half brothers and sisters included; the whole family helped themselves to everything I would normally want to eat. And yes, they checked the strawberries for more redness. I was furious to put it mildly.
I immediately grabbed our have-a-heart traps and set them out with delicious and enticing bait. No go, the chipmunks were too smart. They figured out how to get the food through the bars and not enter. I then set out bucket traps filled with water and sunflower seeds, and while that was slightly successful, only two out of about 20 drowned. Not enough. Out of desperation I asked my husband, what can I do?
He broke the news gently: “You’ve always wanted to know why we have a 22 LR rifle, now you know. You’re just going to have to go hunting.” He got the .22 LR rifle ready, handed me ear plugs, and said if I needed support, to just let him know. I looked at the rifle and laughed. “I’ve got you now little buggers” I thought. I considered myself a pretty good shot. Like I said, at least nine out of ten target shots were on the bullseye. I figured I would shoot them all and be bored in no time.
I didn’t think much of my first miss, but when the misses continued, I started to worry that maybe the scope wasn’t sited in correctly, maybe it got bumped or something happened. I took some practice shots at close range only to debunk that thought. It can’t be me I thought, I can shoot well. Then I realized that I’ve never shot at moving targets before, especially ones so small. I also realized the terrain wasn’t perfect, I was shooting uphill and downhill, not just straight on.
I took a deep breath and considered my situation as I was reloading the magazine. I then considered the cost of ammo, and lack of availability of ammo, and thought “my gosh, if this were TEOTWAWKI I would have just wasted an entire (small) box of ammo on wildlife that not even my dogs got to benefit from.” I had to get serious. I now regretted all the times I tuned out the boring lectures on shooting techniques that my husband was trying to teach me when shooting at boring targets. I decided to take a break and get some quick training lessons from my husband, whom I was now mad at since I felt he cheated me out of training by having me shoot at still targets in perfect conditions. I also did some online research on my own as well, which I’ll share the sites I found to be most helpful shortly.
There is something to be said about the training benefit of shooting at live moving targets, at various distances, and up and down hills. It is not the same as target shooting. I saw a new challenge before me. First, I had to learn how to adjust my sites (scope) for downhill shooting, then again for uphill shooting. I had to learn that holding a rifle while shooting uphill is harder than it may seem. I also learned that there is a certain amount of bullet drop compensation to be considered for distances longer or shorter than for what the scope is zeroed. My frustration of missing these darned chipmunks certainly kept me from getting bored. Not only was I frustrated from constantly missing, I knew these little buggers would come back to eat more of my strawberries that they thought I had grown for them. I had to get better.
I brought out a lawn chair and a small table. I placed the rifle on a bi-pod on the table, and sat in the chair as I waited for the little chipmunks to come out of their hiding places. It wasn’t long. There were so many of those well fed little buggers that I continued to take deep breaths to keep from getting angry. The bi-pod helped to keep my rifle stable as my arm was beyond tired at this point. I took deep breaths and waited patiently for the right moment. Then I would hold my breath briefly when I would take a shot – to minimize movement that would affect my point of aim.
My first kill was extremely exciting. I had completely disregarded the idea of protecting wildlife and admiring nature. These critters were eating the very food I intended to survive on. It was me or them, and at this point, I had one confirmed. With my second one, the excitement grew even wilder. Yes, that was two out of the gene pool, woohoo!
After what seemed like hours, as the sun was now getting hot, and I had come out unprepared with no hat for protection, no water, and no food. I felt the burning on my face, but I still had many chipmunks to go. I waited patiently, quietly, and as they went running for their breakfast, I aimed, and fired. I was already getting better at aiming thanks to the bi-pod, but had a long ways to go to get to my 100% that I was used to on still targets. Then all of a sudden, a brave little four legged chipmunk popped its head up only about 10 feet in front of me. No way was I going to miss. I could see through the scope as he stared at me with a smirk, somehow he knew I was going to miss. So I aimed carefully, took in a deep breath, and pulled the trigger. All I heard this time was a “click”. I was out of ammo. Yet another lesson learned, as I was completely unprepared and the little chipmunk I am sure laughed at me as he ran towards the greenhouse.
Now you know what I do every Saturday and Sunday morning as most normal people go about normal life. I shoot little wild buggers that think they can eat my garden. While this may not be the most efficient way to eliminate them, it does serve a duel purpose as a great aid to training. As a result, I’ve lost count of my confirmed kills, but I have learned some important lessons. A moving target is a lot different than one standing still. A rifle is much heavier after carrying it for a few hours. The scope is only zeroed to a certain degree, you must compensate for distance (bullet drop), incline/decline/elevation (uphill/downhill) and wind. And you must practice in real life scenarios.
I found a great pdf file on compensating for elevation here.
And here is another informative article on elevation.
Here is a good article on reading the wind and compensating for it, and here is a second good one.
Additionally, here is an outstanding summary article on compensating your shots for distance/bullet drop, and windage. Note that while the title of the article is about choosing a scope, it provides a comprehensive explanation about these other topics as well. It also explains how the type of scope you choose will affect the way you must use it.
Finally, here is a good article which provides a summary of useful tools for precision shooting, including how altitude can affect the bullet’s point of impact.
Ammo goes quick unless you are careful with your shots, and reloading is not quick and easy when you’re in a hurry and about to lose your target. Most importantly, shooting a moving target is a lot more fun than shooting a stationary one, but it’s also much tougher. You don’t get to shoot when you’re ready, but when you have a shot.
I have learned the hard way, though fortunately it wasn’t a life and death situation yet, only little chipmunks. Make your shooting training more realistic. In a real TEOTWEAKI situation, you don’t get to shoot when you’re most ready for that perfect shot; you shoot when you have your target in your site and you know you can make the shot. You also likely won’t get to have a table and bi-pod with you and may have to either improvise one with what you find in nature, or learn to shoot without. In a real life future scenario, you won’t get to go back inside your home for a glass of water and rest while reloading, you keep going no matter the weather conditions and no matter how tired you are.
Don’t just go shooting at targets that are standing still, and rest in between while your friends are shooting. Instead, set up life like scenarios where you are constantly moving and not sitting in between. Set up scenarios where you have to be patient and wait for what seems like forever for your target to come out. Set up scenarios where you have to re-load in a matter of seconds to keep going. Set up your scenario where you have to run up hill, down hill, hide behind cover or concealment (and know the difference), and where you have to judge your distance without a tape measure. Here’s a great video that gives an example of a drill that can help you think through possible scenarios.
Notice the added challenge of leaving the shooter with tools the condition of which is not immediately known, thus preparing for other issues such as jams. Another good example of real life drills is any of the “Trench Warfare” “run and gun” type drills demonstrated in several of the videos found here.
And don’t forget those safety measures as well. Watch where you’re pointing at all times, and know what’s behind your targets. Most importantly, know who is with you and train how you would keep from shooting at each other (known as “fratercide”) in a real situation of armed bandits trying to take over your homestead/camp.
Challenge yourself even more by going out to shoot on days you don’t feel well. SHTF doesn’t care if you don’t feel well, things will still happen. Challenge yourself by going out to practice in bad weather, in cold windy weather, make it real. When TEOTWEAKI comes, it will not care that it’s snowing outside, or that there is a fire in the next town and you have to breathe in the smoke. WROL doesn’t care that you sprained your ankle, or that your arm is tired, or that you didn’t have time to eat breakfast, or get a cup of coffee. Challenge yourself with these situations, and if you can hit your targets 9 out of 10 times in these scenarios, then find new scenarios with which to challenge yourself and your family.
I certainly can’t say that target shooting is boring now, and I enjoy cleaning my rifle knowing that I’m protecting my crops from little buggers that think they can freeload off of my hard work. Amazing how the mind will find a boring event fun when a real life scenario is applied to it.