Precision, Practice and Training
Gary Chillingworth brings us a controversial trigger technique that will rock the establishment
Ihave spent most of my life involved in one sport or another. I started off with sailing, then went to badminton, Crown Green bowls, Tae Kwon-Do, and finally, like a lot of us, when my body became old and broken and not capable of jumping around like a spring lamb anymore, I took up shooting.
The thing is, though, all of these disciplines require three things; precision, practice and training, and it is true that practice and training will lead to precision, but there is a very good reason that I put it first. In the world of shooting, precision has to be the number one thing on your mind.
When you see a target that’s 40 yards away, with a big 40mm kill, what do you look at? Do you look at the kill, or at a point within the kill? There is a saying, ‘aim small, miss small’.
So, how do we get precision in shooting? Well, first of all you have to know your gun. If you are new to shooting, then the most important thing is to set up a paper target at 25 yards, with a good backstop, and shoot, and shoot, and shoot. When you can consistently put a pellet through the same ragged hole at 25 yards, move the target to 30, then 35, and so on. A single, ragged-hole group, is where all pellet holes are touching, or if you can place a 5p piece over the top of your 10-shot group and completely cover it up.
Once you have reached the point where you can pick up your gun and shoot it accurately and consistently, it is then time to learn about trajectory. In the world of HFT, this is one of the most important things you can do, and time on the range is far more important than time on the course.
Some of my favourite things to shoot are cereal boxes filled with Argos catalogues; the box will hold the catalogue upright – you may have to fill the base with soil or sand – and it’s easy to attach an A4 piece of paper to the front of the box. A word of warning, though – make sure that the top of the target is 2” below the top of the catalogue; this way, if you hit the target, the pellet will always go into the catalogue and not through the box and into the next door neighbour’s new car.
Draw a mark on the paper and place it at 20 yards, then place your crosshairs on this mark and fire. Depending on the zero you have – I use 40 yards – the pellet should hit about ½ of a mil- dot above the crosshairs. Then in 2-yard increments, keep moving the box away from you. Always place the crosshairs on the same mark.
At the top
You will then get to a point, probably at about 33 yards, where the pellet strikes
have now gone as high on the paper as they will go. The next shots will start dropping back toward your zero. This high point, is known as ‘the top of your trajectory’, so in competition, unless there is wind or elevation, you know that no pellet will never hit above this point. For instance, let’s say that the top of your trajectory is at 33 yards and it’s .6 of a mil-dot above your crosshairs. If you have a mid-range target, place this aim point in the top of the kill zone and you have not only covered the 33 yards, but depending on the size of the kill, you also have aim points in the kill from 17 to 40 yards.
You can then repeat this procedure with closer targets and learn the bottom of your trajectory. For me, I know that the lowest my pellets will drop is 2 mil- dots at 8 yards for the short ones, and for the long targets, I know that the pellets will only drop 0.3 of a mil- dot below cross hairs at 45 yards. So, if I have long targets, I place this point in the kill zone and I can get all my aim points from 22 to 45 yards on a 35mm target. All I have to do is worry about then is the wind.
It’s important to shoot paper rather than metal targets. I like to put out a box with a simple line across it and I then shoot the line. I work from left to right, and the plan is to cut the line with every shot. This builds accuracy into the way you shoot. It may be laborious, but it will pay dividends when you are in competition, or out hunting.
I have always been in awe of shooters like Larisa Sykes, Larisa is a 10m rifle shooter who has competed at the Commonwealth Games. Larissa can hold her gun steady and hit targets to the millimetre; the problem is, unlike Larissa who is young and fit, I’m old, a bit fat, and I also have a dodgy back, so holding a 12lb rifle steady in a free-standing position is almost impossible so this is when we use muscle memory and a bit of instinct, and accuracy has to take a back seat.
Again, take your trusty cereal box, draw a 35mm circle in the centre of it and fire 10 shots whilst trying to hold the gun steady, and see how well you do. Then place a fresh target on the box, and this time draw a red mark in the centre of circle. Get yourself into position and only pull the trigger when
your cross hairs are over this mark. Don’t worry about missing, but always be aware of where you pellet is going. What you are trying to develop is a twitch in your trigger finger. Don’t think about a smooth pull and a break of the trigger, just twitch your finger when the red mark disappears beneath your cross hair.
You will be surprised at how well you do, and the more you do it, the better you become. I’m getting to the point when it is becoming instinctive. You may not win a gold for accuracy, but you will knock a few targets down. Incidentally, please do not use the technique for hunting.
This tip was given to me by Pete Sparkes, and no one has had more clearances or outright wins then Peter, so it has some provenance. I have not fully developed it yet, but since I have been trying it, I have killed more unsupported targets then I have missed, so it seems to be working.
If you can, you need to treat these techniques as drills; just like a Karate class will stand in a line punching and kicking, we need to get on the range and shoot the line, twitch the trigger and practise our supported and unsupported kneelers. Shoot paper because paper will show you where you are missing and how big your groups are, whereas a metal target does not really give feedback unless it’s been freshly painted.
To make an analogy; once you have painted the fence, sanded the floor and waxed on waxed off – Karate Kid reference for those who haven’t seen the film – then you can take your skills on to the HFT course. Remember that if you aim small, you will miss small. The final tip and trick is to practise on an HFT course whenever you can. We you are lucky to have a club like Maldon and District (M. A.D) because they have a practice course out 365 days a year, and if you shoot a competition on a Sunday, once the comp is finished, you are welcome to shoot it again.
So, with permission, get a laser rangefinder, and laser the targets. If you know the range and you have set your gun up correctly, you should come in with a perfect 60, if you shoot all the targets prone. If you are still missing, then you need to work on either technique, or your ability to read the wind. Knowing the ranges and shooting a course is brilliant training because it shows up all our faults, and I can’t recommend it enough.
These ramblings are how I have trained myself over the years, and to some they may seem excessive so if you just want to go out and shoot and have fun, then please ignore everything I have written, but these techniques work and they will help you to improve.
“the problem is, unlike Larissa who is young and fit, I’m old, a bit fat, and I also have a dodgy back”
If you have any ideas, or if there is anything you want me to look at, please drop me a line at garychilling[email protected]
Larissa is a top-level 10m shooter and shoots to the nearest millimetre
A laser rangefinder can be a great aid for training
Unlike Larissa, I can’t use youth and ability, I have to try something else
Repainting the targets lets me see exactly where my pellet strikes
Shoot the line, this shows that my rifle is accurate and I am shooting well and consistently
Here you can see the arc of my pellet flight, TX200HC