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Give It A Rest! Equipment Choice For Long Range Tactical Competition

Whether it is shooting competitive pistols, F-Class rifles, 3-Gun, or in my case in preparation for long range tactical shooting matches, consistency is key. It is a constant effort to have consistency in everything we do from how we set up for a shot, how we hold and steady the rifle, to how we squeeze and follow through on the trigger we want to do it the same way every time. In my recreational shooting I basically only shot in two different positions either prone laying on the ground or off a shooting bench at the range, I also usually only shot at 100 yards. Shooting in this manner is great for building solid shooting fundamentals and improving as a shooter, however, in long range tactical style competitions you often find yourself shooting from barricades, old tires, makeshift roofs, and shooting from cars from just about any position you can contort your body into make an accurate shot. Obviously, I was going to need to branch out of my conventional practice technique and work on my shooting deficiencies and I was going to need some help.

In the past, I had always tried to shoot a few rounds from seated and kneeling positions, but had never really shot a lot from those positions because I never shot well from those positions. Since it would be requirement to shoot from seated or kneeling positions in competitions, my back was against the wall. Knowing I would have to shoot from my weakest positions, it forced me to look into what could help me improve my shooting technique. In my own self-evaluation, I realized what made it hard to shoot from both seated and kneeling positions was that I never seemed to be able to get comfortable and steady enough to shoot accurately. I always seemed to have a gap that was almost impossible to close between either between my rifle and my arms, or my arm to my knees. I had a friend recommend using the large shooting bag or pillow. I have since started using a large shooting bag in my practice regimen placed in my lap and basically hugging the pillow while shooting seated or placed between my knee and chest when shooting kneeling and let me say it has made a world of difference. I may not be the smartest knife in the toolbox, but I am learning.

Another shooting aid that I have had to re-examine has been my rear bags that I’ve used to rest the buttstock of my rifle when shooting. When I first got into long range shooting I bought what I thought would be the best bag I could justify spending money on. It was a heavy leather rear rest with “rabbit” ears that was packed as hard as can be that allowed the rifle to rest between these ears and provided an extremely sturdy rear base. This bag worked exceptionally well for shooting off a bench at the shooting range where I could adjust either the height of the seat or the legs of my bipod to get a virtually perfect alignment with the target. However, I found that the bag was almost impossible to adjust to in any other setting. In shooting prone, I found that I had a lot of tension in my body and especially my lower back to raise my chest high enough to get a good cheek weld on the rifle. In shooting, muscle strain is the enemy for making precise shots, I had to adapt. I loosened the purse strings and picked up a smaller rear bag that is not as heavily packed. This smaller bag has let me get my body lower to the ground and relax my body to a point where I could almost take a nap on the rifle if I wanted to. This bag is also packed lighter than my leather benchtop shooting bag, but it still has “ears” and since it is packed relatively light I’ve found it also doubles as a barricade bag when I drape the ears over the top of the barricade- letting the bag serve double duty, SCORE!

My third piece of essential training equipment has been my bipod. When I first got started in long range shooting, I often rested my rifle over my range bag and just fired away. It seemed to work well enough and since I always brought my range bag packed with all my other shooting gear, it was always with around and accessible. Nowadays, I’ve literally made it all the way to the range and realized I forgot my bipod and have to turn around to go back home to get it. It has made adjusting to whatever shooting surface I’m shooting from so convenient and stable, that it pretty much makes practicing without it not worth it. The ones I use have a swivel and a locking mechanism that allows me to shoot from uneven surfaces by tilting the rifle left to right, as well as notched legs for adjusting the height of the bipod without worrying about the legs height changing under recoil from the rifle.

Although, none of these shooting aides have instantly turned me into Carlos Hathcock, they have made the practice more comfortable and repeatable. Getting a steady rest and shooting comfortably has without a doubt had the biggest impact on me is shooting well. Again, there is no substitute for getting enough practice time in but I have found that I want to practice more now that I have been able to actually get comfortable. The use of these shooting aids such as bipods, shooting bags, and shooting mats are also allowable in tactical long range matches so I will be able to bring and use these tools along with me in my first matches this year. We as shooters are often the weak links in the accuracy chain, so if you are trying to practice and something is just not working out, maybe it’s time to step back a bit and do a little self-evaluation, change it up, or just give it a REST!