Getting Started in Tactical Rifle Competition

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  • 8/13/2019 Getting Started in Tactical Rifle Competition


    Getting Started In Tactical Rifle Competition(

    Getting Started In Tactical Rifle Competition

    By Ed Shell

    This article is intended to help the shooter new to precision and tactical matches get started. There are manymatches around the country with many different themes, so to begin, we need to define "tactical match" in our

    context and thus define our goals. For our purposes, "tactical rifle" would be precision rifle shooting under

    varying field conditions that would be common to military designated marksmen, police marksman and even


    The common themes to most of these matches are as follows:

    n accurate cold bore shot. !recision shooting under improvised field positions.

    !recision shooting at unknown distances #$%&, often very long distances.

    !recision shooting under induced stress conditions, such as mild exertion, timed events especially thosere'uiring movement into position&, fire on command and similar techni'ues.

    (hooting steep departure angles from buildings, towers and)or mountains.

    *ngaging moving targets.

    +ifle manipulation drills, to include rapid reloading and)or magaine changes. *ngaging multiple targets.

    -old over)hold under stages.

    arrying supplies throughout the day, including food, water, ammunition and shooting e'uipment.

    /n order to be prepared to accomplish the tasks above, we will need to examine the re'uirements for e'uipment,

    skills and physical conditioning. (ome of the things we0ll need to think about can be sub1ects of entire articles in

    themselves, so we may gloss over certain items in order not to become distracted from our overview.


    (afety is paramount, and safety haards should always be immediately reported and corrected. The 2+ +ules

    of (afe 3un -andling always apply, and are extremely important at these matches, since the firing line is very

    often movable and we don0t always have a well defined "downrange". 4e should be especially vigilant with

    regard to mule direction and treat every firearm as if it were loaded.n 5pen 6olt /ndicator "56/"& or *mpty hamber /ndicator "*/"& is often mandatory for movement

    between stages, so you might as well get a few to keep in your pack.

    3ood eye protection and ear protection are always re'uired e'uipment. *xtra earplugs are good to have, as is asmall lens cleaning kit, especially in inclement weather.

    small first aid kit is nice to have, even if it0s extremely basic, consisting of only a few band7aids, antacids,some aspirin and an eye rinse. 8oleskin can be a very valuable item for matches that re'uire a lot of movingaround, and can keep a minor hotspot from developing into an open blister.


    *'uipment needs will vary with the distances involved, and with the widely varying courses of fire. Thee'uipment discussion below is a start, and as you attend more matches and get a better idea of what works for

    you, you can develop and refine your own list.

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    5ne thing that we do 25T want to do is get too sidetracked in chasing absolute accuracy. The use of field

    positions for the ma1ority of events will level the playing field considerably. /n most competitions, if there are

    stages where a heavy target gun capable of 9) 85 accuracy provides an advantage, as with the "group"exercises, there will be other stages where the weight and)or bulk of that rifle will be a liability, such as offhand

    positions or movers.

    nother consideration that is relevant to target7style rifles and their inherently tight tolerances is that we mayneed to shoot all day without the opportunity to clean, and a match may consist of ;< rounds to more than 9 or .>

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    5ptics can also become the ob1ect of more concern than is necessary, and we can easily get caught up in too

    much magnification, weight and expense when the advantages are examined. / believe it safe to say that it is

    always sensible to buy the best glass we can afford, but beyond that we should remember that there are alwaystradeoffs.

    The first consideration when selecting a scope is going to be the reticle type, and we will almost certainly need

    either a "mil based" reticle such as traditional mil dots, 3eneration // mil dots, the 8E+ or the T8+& or an"85" based reticle. These reticles allow us to range targets, hold over or under to compensate for drop, lead

    movers and to measure corrections to hold our follow7up shots.

    n illuminated reticle is very helpful when night fire stages are anticipated. 4hile most matches do not seem to

    provide the opportunity for night fire, enough do that this feature is often worth considering.

    2ext, we will need target turrets to provide precise and convenient ad1ustments to our elevation and wind.

    -aving good target style ad1ustments and being familiar with their operation is very important to being able to

    make first round hits.

    8agnification is very sub1ective, and is greatly dependent on course of fire and shooter experience. 6areminimum magnification for shooting and ranging precision is probably [email protected]

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    %ata &oo'

    -aving accurate tra1ectory and wind data is critical to first round hits, and fast, convenient access to your data is very important.

    $eeping a data book is a good idea in any shooting discipline, because it provides us a central location to compile historic data on our

    rigs that we can refer to for our next shot. *ven more important, it is a way to log our successes and failures, in order to duplicate

    processes that work and to avoid repeating errors.

    !%s are becoming 'uite popular and many versions, such as the i!od, offer ballistic software applications. !% may replacetra1ectory tables, but cannot replace the data book for historic data and corrected figures. 4ith the ever7present possibility of battery or

    e'uipment failure, having backup tables is a good idea anyway.

    /f a !% is not carried, a compact calculator in the data book cover or in the rifle stock pack is an excellent accessory. /n addition to

    working mil formulas or cosine functions, this calculator is used to calculate tra1ectory and wind drift for shots that fall between data

    points. 5ne example is when a shot is ??@ yards and the data points are at ?@< and G

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    (ome sort of rifle support will be needed, and we would begin with a good shooting sling, as opposed to a carry strap. The basic and

    traditional 89G

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    good comfortable rucksack is needed to carry this gear, and our daily supply of ammunition, food, water, raingear, tools, lens

    cleaner and whatever else is deemed necessary. (ome matches take place near your vehicle and you won0t need to carry much, others

    will take you too far to return easily and the load grows, so your pack can be sied accordingly. /f the load is light and distances short,

    a vest can sometimes be used.

    /t is common to pack too much, so beware and give thought to each item that goes into the load you0ll be stuck with. /n all cases,

    training and personal preference will dictate what the individual feels necessary to drag along.6asic gear for a day match:

    )ecessar! S'ills

    certain level of physical conditioning is beneficial. There will often be stress7inducing activities. 4e0llusually be walking various distances, carrying rifle and gear. The better shape we0re in, the easier and less

    stressful this will be, and the better our performance. (ome matches are more geared toward simulating actual

    field conditions than others, and it pays to find out what will be re'uired.

    4e must have good basic marksmanship skills. !ractice in the basic shooting positions is suggested, and most

    field shots will be built upon these basic skills. 8any shots will be prone, many will not. 6eing able to assume

    solid shooting positions on uneven terrain and)or in unconventional surroundings will often be necessary.(hooters who do not at least become familiar with these modified positions may find themselves flustered and

    confused when forced to deviate from what is customary. /f we can practice our positions with someimagination and flexibility, we will be much better prepared for the interesting exercises the match directorsmay have planned for us.


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    6eginning with prone, we should be able to shoot as low and as close to the ground as possible, such as in the-awkins position or using our sand sock under the forend. 2ormal prone supported, such as that used on a flat

    range on level ground, will often be used, as will prone unsupported, using only a sling. 4e should also work

    on some of our higher prone positions, such as shooting rather high angles with bipod legs extended or packstood up on edge. 4e should also consider the effects of shooting over obstructions, where the shooter0s torso

    may be forced off the ground.

    *ven prone may not always be easy:

    (itting positions are often employed, and the ability to achieve a solid position is very important. 4e will

    occasionally need to modify our sitting position, to accommodate obstacles or utilie barricades. The use of ourrear bag or pack is sometimes allowed, either as support for the upper body, or behind us as a leaning support.

    To be able to find a solid sitting position at various rifle heights or angles is a definite advantage, so do not

    confine practice to flat ground and level shots.

    (itting, with support:

    The kneeling position, especially behind a barricade, is often encountered. /t can be difficult to find a good

    position with enough stability unless this position is well practiced.

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    $neeling with support:

    (tanding unsupported or standing behind a barricade or fence post may be encountered. s smoothly as a heavy

    tactical rifle shoots from prone, bear in mind that it can be surprising 1ust how heavy that rifle can be at the end

    of a standing string of 9< shots. 4ork at strengthening the upper body and)or keeping rifle weight down. Eearnto find a comfortable position behind ob1ects, such as spreading the legs to reduce torso height in lieu of

    bending at the knees or waist.

    (tanding unsupported is often encountered:

    6etween these basic positions, we will often find ourselves in a shooting position that defies description. (hots

    might be from the top of stepladders, from or across TAs, from elevated platforms or using a partner forsupport. (hooting across roof angles can be tricky, and creative use of pack, bipod and)or sand sock can make a

    difficult position relatively steady. 4hen faced with challenging positions, return to and draw upon your basic

    principles. +emember that solid support, firm stock pressure, good cheek weld, trigger control and followthrough will be needed for a good shot, and work your improvised positions accordingly.

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    (ome improvised positions one might see:

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    4e will need to be able to operate our optics. 6eing able to dial on dope and return to ero reliably, as well as

    dialing out parallax are always at the top of the list. +anging is often important, and if you need to be at a

    certain magnification to do so, practice checking that setting. nother problem often seen is the failure to returnto ero after making a shot. Try to develop good habits, such as returning your scope settings to ero before

    leaving the firing position. n index mark, such as with a felt7tip marker or paint pencil can be a huge help inthe event of any confusion.

    5pinions will vary, but most shooters prefer to dial all corrections so that the first shot is "on". 6y approaching

    it this way, we have a very clear idea of where our reticle was when the trigger breaks and can easily and

    precisely make any needed corrections, even if our first shot was a hit. !eripheral hits, while still counted ashits, should be noted and minor corrections made to our data. 2oting even minor errors allows us to constantly

    fine tune our data and to learn from our shots. This can be especially important to engaging multiple targets. 6y

    applying these minor corrections as we shoot, we can often prevent the next shot from being 1ust off the edge,even though it may only be a fraction of a minute away from our previous peripheral& hit.

    The next important skill will likely be ranging the target with our reticles. 8ost matches will have at least someunknown distance work, and some matches are almost all #$%. (ome allow lasers, but many do not and reticle

    ranging is one of the skills a rifleman should have anyway. !ractice is the only way to become proficient, and

    the use of a laser rangefinder to verify our estimates is a great help. There are many resources for learning torange with a reticle and it is not necessary to expound here, but the greater precision we can muster at this

    phase, the better our results will be as we build our calculations on this critical measurement.

    (ome matches will re'uire that shots at multiple distances be made with one sight setting. This will re'uire theuse of "hold7overs" and possibly "hold7unders". convenient way to prepare for this sort of challenge is to

    create several drop tables in our data book, based on various ero ranges. 4e then select the most appropriate

    ero range to the series of distances you will need to shoot. For example, a ero of >

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    This series of targets is an example of multiple targets that may be shot without making sight ad1ustments:

    4ind is almost always a factor. /n the case of short distances and gentle breees, it can be minimal. /n the eventof longer distances and heavier winds, it will usually make the difference between a hit and a wide miss.

    Eearning to dope the wind is a refined skill that takes much practice. pocket anemometer can be of great

    value, but always remember that it is only telling part of the story, and the winds "out there" are at least asimportant as those we feel at the firing point.

    8any matches incorporate moving targets "movers"& into the course of fire. (hooting movers re'uires that we

    lead the target anywhere from almost nothing, to several mils. Eearn how to calculate your lead based on themover0s speed and your bullet0s time of flight.


    The growing sport of shooting tactical matches encompasses 'uite a few diverse courses of fire. 8uch of your

    opportunity will depend on your location and willingness to travel.

    This article has been geared toward helping one get started, but cannot cover all aspects. 4e all have differingexperiences, and even among shooters at the same match there will be a wide range of opinions on how to shoot

    what stages and what to carry along. The very best thing one can do is find out what matches are available, read

    after action reports, look at the pictures and ask 'uestions. The first step is to simply enter and go. %o your bestand have fun, and fine tune from there.

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    6eginning with a .== at eight years old, *d (hell has been shooting nearly all his life. -e was on the local 7-

    %istrict +ifle Team in the 9G;