The best and most expensive rifle will not make a poor shooter a better shooter, but even a mediocre rifle in the hands of a person who knows and understands his or her rifle can produce amazing results. The next step to becoming a marksman requires you to do your homework, go to your local store, get some range time and avoid the urge to hasten the process. You bought your rifle because you liked it, now you must find out what your rifle likes. First I must clear this up, this post is intended for hunting rifles and not the modern sporting rifles, you know the ones that are often referred to as “assault rifles”. They are not assault rifles they are modern sporting rifles, most of the blame for the misnomer is the fault of the manufacturers, but I digress. As stated before I am a hunter and I can not eat it if I miss it.
To find out what your rifle likes you will need the following:
1. Ammunition with different bullet (projectile) weights but take only one weight with you.
2. Targets, good sturdy targets mounted on a backing board, I avoid the use of “bleeding” targets as they tend to cause the shooter to adjust the point of aim.
3. one inch stick-on dots.
4. A magnifying glass.
5. Notebook and pen, not a pencil.
6. A ruler.
7. A timer.
The first issue to address is the clean cold bore (ccb). The first shot from a rifle is considered to be a throw away shot by some but not by me. If I know where the bullet will impact I will know where to aim to achieve the desired result, you may only have one chance. There is no clean bore, some are cleaner than others but it should be cold. Run a clean lint free patch or two through the barrel to remove dust and any remaining oil and solvent used in cleaning, this will lessen the effects of a clean cold bore on the first shot.
Target placement and set-up. The first target placed no further than 50 yards away, I start at 25 yards. On the first place 2 one inch stick on dots, I use orange, one in the center of the target and one-off center half way between the outer edge and center. The reason for two dots is simple, it is to find out how the clean cold bore effects the flight of the projectile on the first shot. The off-center dot should be your point of aim for the first shot only. The center dot should be the point of aim for the remaining shots. Keep your point of aim the same, sight alignment and sight picture. There should be no less than 30 seconds between shots, but not enough time to allow the barrel to cool completely. If the shots are fired to close together the barrel will heat and have an effect on bullet trajectory. Retrieve your target and mark it with the weight of the projectile and which hand you used right of left. Place another target at the same yardage and use the other hand, remember you should be able to use both effectively. If enough time has elapsed for the barrel to cool repeat the process with two dots, run a patch or two through the barrel to remove loose fouling. Time permitting and if you choose try different distances, I prefer to take it one step at a time, but continue using bullets of the same weight. At the completion of this stage the work really begins. You can do the following steps at home or while still at the range, remember other shooters as this is very time-consuming. Now is where you will need the ruler, the magnifying glass, notebook and pen. First measure the distance from the point of aim to the point of impact of the clean cold bore shot, then measure the remaining impact points to determine the minute of angle, look for anything 2 inches or less. Using the magnifying glass look at each hole in the target to determine if the bullet was climbing or descending on impact, the tears in the paper will tell you what the bullet was doing. Record all of this in the notebook.
On the next trip to the range use the same weight bullet at a different distance and repeat the entire process. As I stated this is a time consuming process but the results are well worth the investment in time and money.
You will notice that no mention was made about adjusting anything, that is because this is not the time to adjust anything, not sights and certainly not a scope if one is mounted. It might just be that your rifle does not like that weight bullet.
On subsequent trips to the range try a different weight bullet and repeat the above process. Note any differences in feeding and extracting as they may help identifying what your rifle likes. Once you have found the weight bullet your rifle prefers that is the time to make any needed adjustments for accuracy. But what to do with the left over ammunition of the weight your rifle liked least? Save them for a rainy day, you already have notes on how they will perform. Practice with the same weight as your hunt with.
Good hunting, shoot straight, kill clean.