Things are going well. The new rifle is working and I am shooting much better. It was time to take another look at my kit.
I had made a change to the loading tripod I had been using in 2015. I upgraded to a heavier tripod and copied Mike’s setup of having the tray under the tripod head instead of on the tripod head. That gave me a bigger tray and easier access. I had also been noting what things I use during a match and removing all else. This reduced clutter and kept what I needed in easy reach. It worked very well.
The tripod now holds what I need close at hand, and also supports my spotting scope for checking the markers on the target. No need to wait at the firing point for targets to come back up to look through a ground scope, I can mark my scores using the scope at the loading tray.
On the tray, I have two containers for patches, both wet and dry, bullets, powder, and caps. The tray holds only what I need to wipe and load the rifle. No tools, gadgets, or other assorted things to roll around. If I need a different cleaning jag or tool, they are in the range bag under the tripod and easily accessible.
While the tray worked and did what I wanted, I saw some room for improvement. At Oak Ridge I found myself fumbling with dirty patches and having to be careful of how the rifle was set into the tripod. My score board seemed like an attention starved house cat, always in the way. While the rifle never fell, and never looked like it would fall, it was constantly on my mind. It was time for some changes.
I spent a few days in the workshop setting up my equipment and trying different arrangements until I thought I had a better solution. I added a cradle for the rifle so that it would be kept from sliding across the tray. My scoreboard now has a lip added to it so that I can simply hang it on the side of the tray after marking my shots.
I added a 2 inch hole drilled through the bottom and a paint ball loader sits in the hole. The paint ball loader has a spring loaded lid, sits low in the tray, and cannot blow around like a plastic bag or used coffee container. I cannot take credit for that bit of ingenuity, my youngest son and my wife both suggested that addition.
They were right, it was a good addition. At Cincinnati a few weeks later, I tested the updated tripod and it all worked splendidly. I never fumbled a dirty patch and the patches never blew away. After each relay, I simply closed the lid and threw the container into my range bag. Clean and neat. My rifle stayed safe and secure in the cradle with no fears of it falling over.
After Oak Ridge, I also reviewed my home-made shooting jacket and decided that after using it for several matches I knew what I wanted, or needed, in a shooting jacket. The padded elbows were a nice addition, and the no-slip shoulder pad almost mandatory with the polished brass buttplates of the Kerr and Whitworth rifles. What I did not like was the collar and the loose fit. It seemed I was spending a lot of time and effort just arranging the jacket to get a good position for shooting. I don’t think I was as consistent in my position as I should have been.
I have been paying close attention to what other shooters were wearing and what was available on the market. I wanted something with few frills, but the features I wanted needed to be proper and well positioned. After a few weeks of online shopping and reading far too many forum posts, I settled on the NRA jacket from Champions Choice.
The jacket is a simple entry-level high power jacket, but it has all the features I was looking for. The jacket has a well designed shoulder pad, just enough elbow padding to work, an easily accessible and large pocket, and no collar. The sleeves and shoulders fit me well, without excess material. It also has an abundance of straps that I will never use.
I practiced wearing the jacket shooting my 22 rimfire, and then with my Whitworth. I was very happy with it. While it does not improve an already good position, it certainly does make finding a good position much easier. When you have only 50 minutes to fire ten shots for sighters and record, time saved finding your position is time you have available for other things.
I used the new jacket at the Cincinnati match and it fit perfectly, and worked as I wanted. My choice of size and brand was either dumb luck for a first time buyer, or I don’t yet know what a terrible mistake I’ve made. Time will tell.
I am happy with my equipment at this point. I am certain I will make changes as I shoot more often, but they will be small and deliberate changes.