If you read my last post, you know I have been sneaking up on possible causes for my less than stellar scores. After much experimentation, I can say I think we have found the problem.
We began going through my position carefully and we thought we had identified the issue. The rifle butt, under recoil, was moving my shoulder down and to the right. It was not much, but it doesn’t take much to miss the target. Shooting my rimfire rifle, I paid close attention to where the butt was positioned in my shoulder pocket and the relationship of my shoulder to the buttplate itself. When I found the solution, I started putting three, four, five rounds into one hole. There were two issues at play here, different problems that played upon each other.
First: The wonderful new shooting jacket I have started using was allowing the buttplate to move. The ‘no-slip’ surface was not much more than a piece of rough out leather. While it might be fine for a checkered buttplate, it was not up to the task of controlling the movement of a polished brass buttplate. That problem was solved by gluing pieces of compressed rubber matting over the leather pad high up on the shoulder.
Second: My shoulder was slightly off of perpendicular to the recoil of the rifle. The rifle was recoiling straight back, but my shoulder was allowing the rifle to move right because my shoulder was moving to the rear. A picture here will be worth a thousand words.
Looking at the above image, the lines represent my shoulder angle (red) and the direction of recoil with the rifle (green). You can see how the rifle’s recoil is not square to my shoulder in the left diagram. What that does is cause my shoulder to move when the rifle recoils. This happens because my shoulder is not transmitting all the recoil force to the rest of my body. My shoulder is a loose platform for the buttplate. What I need is the diagram on the right. To do that, I have to adjust my body to be more in alignment with the rifle. That brings my shoulder square to the buttplate and allows my whole body to absorb the recoil.
Lets look at some pictures of me in each position. I am wearing only a shirt so the pictures will more clearly show my shoulder in relation to the rifle. Pay attention to the line of my body represented by the red line, to the line of the rifle. Also, notice the difference in how the butt is placed in my shoulder.
See the difference? The shirt hides some the shoulder position but you can feel the difference. Notice also that the rifle now recoils more into my body, where previously it was pushing my shoulder away. When under recoil, my wife can see the difference in how the rifle muzzle behaves. My targets were showing me the difference all along.
You may be wondering, did it work? Well, we again completed the exercise of shooting first from the bench, then from my old position, then from a modified position. Yes, it worked. My shots were more centered and more consistent. I was feeling good about what we discovered and confident that improvement would be found.
Last weekend, we again traveled to the beautiful Miami Rifle and Pistol Club for Joe’s monthly midrange match. The weather was comfortable, but a strong headwind that turned on and off like a light switch did little to provide a good test environment. Just when I thought I had a good shot lined up, holding high for the headwind, I would touch the trigger and the wind would stop. Instantly. A shot intended to travel 600 yards through a strong headwind instead went sailing through 600 yards of still air. I could not call it back. The wind change was enough to throw the bullet from the center, to the top of the bull.
I did not let the wind aggravate me. I instead took it as a chance to watch the effect a strong and perfect headwind had on my bullets. I was starting to call where the shots would land based on my sight picture and the wind on the range. It was fun.
Overall, I think the weekend was a success for me. I found myself returning to my old and comfortable position more than once if I did not concentrate though, and that cost me many points. I will dryfire, shoot the rimfire rifle, and practice until my new position becomes my comfortable position.
I can only get better, right?