Rifles and Me

With a tiny number of exceptions (and no decent training, and in hindsight the people I shot with before were not competent), I didn’t start shooting until about 1978. Then I started with handguns, and the people who started me then were competent and gave me an excellent introduction to safety and shooting skills. (I probably wasn’t competent to have that opinion until last year; but now that I’m an NRA certified instructor in several areas including pistol, I think I have a decent idea of what a good introduction looks like.) Before this last year, I don’t think I’d fired more than 5 rounds from rifles — some .22, and I think one round from a .223.

But last year and this year I’ve suddenly broaded my experience tremendously. I haven’t taken up competitive rifle shooting, and I haven’t gotten particularly good at it; but I’ve now fired a decent array of rifles (from .17 to .50), and I’m more threat to the target than to the rifle. And I no longer consider 25 yards an unrealistically long range not suitable for practice. (For defensive pistol, it is.)

I have one physical problem with rifles. I’m left-eyed, but right-handed. And I wear reading glasses. I’ve found that with iron sights I’m best off without my glasses. With a scope too, probably, but it’s not as clear-cut. Mostly I’ve been shooting right-handed and right-eyed. Some semi-autos and all bolt-action rifles I’ve examined aren’t too friendly to left-handed use.

My Ruger Mini-14, bought (along with a bunch of magazines) shortly before the soon-to-expire assault weapons ban passed, finally got sighted in decently yesterday. (Yeah, I know, the Mini-14 wasn’t banned. However, the big magazines were.) The sights were really badly off in both dimensions, it turns out, and working at outdoor ranges with fairly small targets it’s hard to get it coached onto the paper so you can proceed systematically. Especially on a 100-yard range. I’d fired it for reliability testing before, and made two previous attempts to get it sighted in but with insufficient help and time never made it.

This time we did.

used target another used target These are at 100 yards, with the stock “iron” sights (the rear is a peep-hole; seems to me to be a fairly big one). 10 rounds fired at each target (there’s one hole missing from the second one). I think what these establish is that I can no longer blame things on the sight alignment; the fault from now on is my own.

Well, I suppose if I work hard I can again reach a state where I can blame the rifle; a Mini-14 is not a competitive marksmanship rifle.

So that was fun, and pretty satisfactory.

.50 target I also got to shoot Greg’s Serbu BFG-50 again. I didn’t totally suck at that, either. (It has a scope on it, I think a 4-15x zoom.) At least according to the manufacturer it’s capable of sub-MOA accuracy. I was firing it from a bench, with a bipod and sandbags, and a scope on it, at 100 yards. I think we can tell, again, where the problem lies here. But it was fun.

I guess I can now conclude that I’m not particluarly recoil-phobic. The recoil of this is a pussy-cat; it’s the blast that gets me every time. I have yet to manage to keep from blinking when watching somebody shoot it. And you do not want to stand anywhere close beside it when it’s fired (very effective muzzle brake). One guy at the range yesterday was interested, but turned down the chance to shoot it; don’t know why, but it seemed like being a bit afraid of it. Seems strange to me. Yes, it would certainly do immense damage if you hit the wrong thing, but on a bench with a bipod you’re not going to miss the backstop fer cryin’ out loud; so the only fear that makes sense to me is fear of the recoil. My shoulder isn’t sore today, and I fired at least 10 rounds through the .50 in addition to the hundred or so .223. I don’t imagine it would be pleasant if you forgot to snug it into your shoulder well, though. Greg compares the recoil of this to a 12-gauge; but I’ve never fired one of those. I do think it had more recoil than the .30-06, the most powerful round I’d previously fired.

So I guess I can’t pretend to be a complete stranger to rifles any more. It’s nice to be able to consider a target 100 yards away completely reachable — at least if it’s not too small. And it’s something that I’m bad enough at that I should improve pretty quickly for a while, which is always pleasant.

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