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Old January 4, 2015, 03:32 AM   #1
Join Date: December 23, 2014
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The ins and outs of Target Shooting.

I've spent many a day shooting tin cans and mason jars with a .22, or picking holes in paper with whatever handguns, rifles, shotguns the group had accrued that particular day (the group being whomever I happened to be with).
That was always the extent of my experience. Lately I've been yearning to become a good shot. rifle, pistol, you name it. I want to be able to name my target, and hit it (for the most part). I think "target shooting" is the corner of the shooting world my interest fit's in best these days.

Assume I know nothing. I'd like to begin some actual target shooting. Starting from a bench and moving on from there. Any advice that anyone has is golden. Everything from gear, ammo, accessories. To methods and skills. The floor is all yours. I'm eager to learn.
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Old January 4, 2015, 03:33 AM   #2
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I understand that practice practice practice is key. Anything else is essentially a mystery to me.
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Old January 4, 2015, 05:59 AM   #3
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If you really want to become a good shot find a safe place to shoot with moving water. Back behind my parents place there is a deep drainage ditch 20 feet deep so you do not have to worry about ricochets. The water is in the bottom four feet and the ditch rund dry befor it goes to a culvert a half mile away wher there is a screen so you do not have to worry about clogging anything.

When the water is running I toss bottles and popcans into the ditch and practice on a moving target at distances out to 70 feet.
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Old January 4, 2015, 09:04 AM   #4
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Wow. Great post and question. I got into shooting relatively recently and late in life and still consider myself a student, so I always preface my remarks with "I'm no expert on the matter". Nonetheless, what I've done has worked well for me, so I'll pass on my thoughts & experience.

First, it's all about the fundamentals: Sight picture and trigger control. Consistently, for every shot. Those who've been shooting a while may find it boring, but spending quality time dry firing (quality dry fire) and simply shooting groups on an appropriate bullseye-type target pays big dividends. Get to the point where you can consistently shoot excellent groups before doing anything fancy, like trying to shoot fast. It'll take many thousands of rounds, so I'd advise just using a .22. A good .22 and good ammo. I spend my first 2-3 years doing nothing but this. Below is a picture of the rimfire ammo I saved during this time. One of my great advantages was that, as a new shooter, I didn't know how boring this was considered, but in retrospect, it paid huge dividends.

With a rifle, I'd recommend an accurate .22 bolt rifle (e.g. Savage or CZ), a decent scope and good ammo the rifle likes. Shoot from a bench with a good solid support (e.g. front & rear bag). Just shoot groups, focusing on sight picture and trigger control and nothing else. Some will argue you need to get off the bench, and while I agree, there's time for that later. Right now, this setup allows you to isolate your shooting to sight picture and trigger control. I'd use an NRA smallbore target, and keep track of your scores and your group size. Under these conditions, I think you should be able to eventually get all 5 rounds consistently inside the 0.9" 10-ring at 50 yards.

If a handgun is more your interest, get yourself a decent .22 and ammo it likes. Don't waste your time and money on a plinking .22. Get a decent one. A Ruger MkIII with a 5.5" bull barrel would be perfect. If you've got the money, a S&W Model 41 would be pretty sweet. And if you've got the money, consider getting a S&W 617 revolver, and shoot it in double action. Shooting a DA revolver well in DA takes a lot of practice, but it'll teach you more about sight picture and trigger control than a semi-auto, IMO. Get the DA trigger down and your transition to most everything else will be pretty easy. Can't say the same about the other direction.

For a handgun, use NRA bullseye targets. Shoot at 15 or 25 yards. You can find some printable 15-yard reduced targets online. Again, keep track of your score and group size. As far as group size, it's my personal opinion that a good (but not excellent) shooter can shoot honest and consistent 3" 5-shot groups at 25 yards with a service-sized handgun. Revolver shooters ought to be able to do this in double action. [email protected] is far and away better than anything you'll likely see at your local range, but it's not world class, yet it's very do-able with a bunch of practice.

Regarding plinking: Forget it. Remove it from your practice repertoire. Until you've mastered the fundamentals (which we never really do), it just re-inforces bad habits.

The mental game is a huge part of shooting well. Understand that now and practice that as much as your gun skills, and it'll amplify your progress greatly. Blow it off, and you'll plateau well before you reach your potential. A great book to read on the matter is Lanny Bassham's With Winning in Mind.

A word on competition: Some might advise you to start formally competing in target events, as there's nothing like competition to up your game and keep you motivated. I agree that competition's great for this, and I compete myself, but I also happen to think, based on my experience, that it's better to get the fundamentals mastered on your own before competing. Why? Because once you start competing, you begin to formulate a self-image based on your match performance. Your match performance at first won't be very good, so neither will your self-image as a shooter. Your self-image begins to solidify quickly, so you begin to subconsciously believe you're "just" a marksman, sharpshooter, etc, and that's where you'll plateau. I've seen it many, many times. Get the fundamentals down before you start competing, and you'll rise through the ranks quicker than you can solidify a negative self-image. Your self-image will, in fact, be that you're a winner, which further helps your shooting.

Anyhow, hope some of this helps.

Saved rimfire ammo from my first couple years. I started with a .22 rifle, then transitioned to a .22 revolver. I estimate there are about 40k cases in this box:

The result...

Last edited by MrBorland; January 4, 2015 at 09:10 AM.
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Old January 4, 2015, 09:44 PM   #5
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Hartcreek - That's a really neat method, I'll have to try that some day if I can find the right area with flowing water and whatnot. I can honestly say I would have never thought of anything like that but I can see how and where it would be really helpful.

Mr.Borland - First of all, all I can think of is Al Borland from Tool Time, lol.
Second, given that your post is so long, I took my time in reading it, and wow.
Thanks for the compliment, and also thanks for all the tips! I'm looking into a .22 rifle actually for a few reasons. (I know, I know, it's almost sacrilege that I don't have one already) First one of those is cost, obviously. I'm one of those guys that I would shoot all day every day if I could. Obviously because of cost of ammo, I wouldn't last very long unless I had my wife to pry me away from the bench and make me go to work. Second is because of recoil actually. I like to go for at least a few hours at a time, if not making a day trip out of it. Shooting anything larger than a .22 for that long would give me a serious beating in the shoulder, and the wallet. Everything you guy's have given me has been really helpful. I'll definitely be using it!

Some people may think the fundamentals are boring but I thoroughly enjoy putting holes in paper. Big or small. The more I can learn, and the better i can feel about myself at the end of a range day just make it all that much more enjoyable. For the most part that's why we do it, no?

By the way that box is something to be proud of. That's a hell of a lot of brass!
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Old January 5, 2015, 03:26 AM   #6
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The single addition/ change that I would make to Mr. Borland's excellent post is recommending that you do the rifle basics with iron sights. Easy enough to add a rear aperture sight to just about any gun.
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Last edited by darkgael; January 8, 2015 at 04:53 AM.
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Old January 5, 2015, 06:55 AM   #7
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An excellent choice for a .22 rifle would be the CZ 452 or 455 Military Trainer, or any of the Lux models. CZ makes a terrific rimfire rifle, has a huge fan base, and is known for accuracy. The Trainer/Lux models also have excellent irons sights if you want to start off with irons, as per darkgael's suggestion.

If you like the finer things in life and money's not much of an issue, look into the Anschutz 64 MPR. It's as close to a do-it-all rimfire rifle as you'll find.

As far as advise on the shooting itself, rather than re-type, I just pasted some links to earlier comments I made on the subject. They might be repetitive ("recording device" was my search term), but that's not a bad thing. Also, while they were written in the context of handgun shooting, they still apply to rifles.
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Old January 5, 2015, 06:58 AM   #8
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While not all inclusive, this is what I always go back to if/when my performance is faltering.
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Old January 5, 2015, 10:08 AM   #9
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Most important of all is getting good instruction, so as to know what and how to practice.
Whether it's a video or book from an accomplished instructor, or from going to a class, there is no substitute for it.
Ya' can't practice what ya' don't know.
Walt Kelly, alias Pogo, sez:
“Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent.”
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Old January 6, 2015, 06:40 PM   #10
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MrBorland knows what he is talking about, for sure. Can't add anything, other than to say that Bullseye (NRA conventional pistol) competition improved my shooting greatly.

I've had the opportunity to observe and shoot with some really fine shooters over the last 5 years, including Brian Zins. A very humbling experience, and very eye-opening to say the least - seeing what that best are capable of.
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Old January 8, 2015, 12:31 AM   #11
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I did not become a truly good pistol shot until I practiced Bullseye with a 22.
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Old January 8, 2015, 04:47 PM   #12
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MrBorlands advice is great. Just wanted to voice one thing, concerning the shooting from the bench with the rifle sandbagged or held in a rest... Use those tools to see what your gun can do, but don't get so used to using them; and avoid comparing your groups to those who arent using sandbags/rests.
Theres a lot of shooters out there who let the sandbags/rest do most of the work for them, and all they can do is pull that 2oz trigger and work the action.
Its nice to know your guns limits, but you also must learn YOUR limits. So use a sandbag on the front end of your gun, find out how well you shoot with the butt up against your shoulder, and see the crosshairs rise and fall with your heartbeat and your breathing. Find out how well you shoot without the sandbag and using only your offhand to hold the rifle up. Find out how well you shoot from standing, kneeling, prone, etc.
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accuracy , accurate , bench , benchrest , target

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