Boomer Shoot Clinic
Boomer Shoot 2002
Clinic After Action Review
Sorry not to have gotten this out sooner to all of you who went through the clinic. John Blackstock and I just finished up a five-week program of instruction for selected NCOs of an Infantry Brigade and it just took every minute of the day, to include weekends. Now that this is done, I can go over some things I wrote down after the Boomer Shoot Clinic.
General: This year’s Boomer Shoot Clinic was focused on two major issues. The first was marksmanship and the second was to obtain solid zeros for the various impact areas where Joe put his explosive targets. I think this venue was a good one but will do some changes for next year to accommodate skill levels of shooters. We had a good crowd of shooters for the clinic and this made life easier all around. I was particularly impressed with the safe firearms handling – an indicator that the shooters are professional riflemen.
Fortunately, we had some decent weather for the clinic. Almost ideal in terms of winds with a five to eight MPH wind of half to full value. This is an excellent wind condition for gaining experience in wind doping. The clouds didn’t help in reading mirage but I would rather have clouds and no rain than clouds and pouring rain as we had last year.
We started the clinic with formal instruction on the major issues that confront Boomer Shooters of a variety of marksmanship abilities. We discussed the issues of mechanical accuracy potential, shooter error, shooter / observer dialogue, coaching, and wind doping.
For the older shooters who have been through a clinic of mine, you will find that how you view marksmanship has changed since last year. You are in an ideal position to make some decisions as to your individual marksmanship goals and equipment.
For the new shooters, I may suggest you really analyze how well you performed with your rifle and ammunition. Make a priority listing of those marksmanship skills you want to perfect and have the discipline to practice throughout the year. If you are still questioning your equipment I advise you to formally evaluate its accuracy potential on a firing range in a very scientific and statistical manner. Only when you have determined beyond any shadow of a doubt that your equipment is not up to par do I suggest you spend more money on gear. An advantage of testing and evaluating your gear is that it gives you a clear picture of its consistency so when something inconsistent happens repeatedly, you have the information a good gunsmith needs for him to do his job.
Equipment: I mention this from a positive aspect as this year everyone could assess the performance of their equipment in winds. I am sure that even if you used a hunting rifle with your favorite hunting loads that you learned some good lessons about your equipment. The bottom line of the Boomer Shoot is that it requires a pretty good rifle / optic / and ammunition combination. Combine this with a decent marksman and there will be decent results. Combine a poor choice of rifle / optic / and ammunition and not even a good marksman can get success. I don’t think there was much question about this after the weekend.
Marksmanship Performance: I was extremely impressed with the marksmanship performance of the clinic shooters this year. We zeroed at 100 yards and I saw some exceptional groups from shooters who last year had difficulty in holding a foot size group at 100 yards. Being able to execute the fundamentals of marksmanship consistently allows you as a shooter to get the full benefit from the types of clinics that I usually plan and John Blackstock and I both appreciate the efforts you all took during the year to improve your marksmanship skills.
Optics Issues: A good lesson learned concerns knowing how to use the optic. In the Boomer Shoot write up from 2001, Mike Haugen wrote a very good guide to purchasing an optic so I won’t get into types or features. It serves you well to read the owners guide for any scope you may buy and then to take the optic to a range and practice adjusting the various features on the scope to see how they best work for you.
Know the Knobs: Learn how many MOA one complete revolution of the elevation scale gives and then take a look at the scale to see how it is marked so you can come back to a known zero easily. The better scopes give 15 MOA per one full revolution of the elevation and windage knobs. This is convenient as 15 MOA is usually enough to take you from 200 to 600 yards in range with most types of ammunition. Also, we ‘slipped’ the elevation and windage knobs to ‘zero’ or a known index mark at 100 yards. Knowing how to slip scales and doing so when you find a load you like is an efficient way to ensure that you have a known point you can go to when needed. We slipped windage to zero after being convinced we had a good ‘no wind’ zero. This is very useful to have when you get involved in severe wind conditions and are adjusting the windage instead of using hold offs. It is very easy to lose track of windage changes, and knowing where your best ‘no wind zero’ is on your scope lets you start over if you are having problems in remembering how much wind you put on the optic. I rarely index windage on the optic unless the wind is consistent. I normally use holds or put a windage on the optic that is average for the wind conditions then use holds from that setting.
Parallax or Focus: The best scales I have found for parallax adjustments are on the Leupold military scopes. This is because they are not numbered but rather have dots of various sizes and an infinity symbol. Some optics have a parallax adjustment on the objective lens and these are usually scaled in feet or yards. The scaling in feet or yards confuses the shooters over the real purpose for such an adjustment. You are adjusting it to correct for your vision – nothing more. Point your optic at the target and then adjust the parallax until the target is clear in your vision. The scale probably won’t show the same range you are shooting at so don’t worry about what the scale reads. As long as the target is as clear as you can get, you have taken out the parallax pretty well. As a sanity check on this, with the scope still on the target move your head around the ocular lens looking at the cross hairs. If the cross hairs stay on the target no matter where your eye is positioned then you have truly taken out the parallax.
Ballistic Drop Compensators: BDCs are an elevation dial marked in hundreds of yards or meters for a specific type of ammunition. Normally, such elevation dials also have minutes of angle marked on them and the scope has felt and audible ‘clicks’ which are in minutes of angle or a fraction of a minute of angle depending on the scope. BDCs are intended to give an elevation suitable enough for a shot into a target the size of the upper torso of a six-foot tall man. They are a fast way to get entry-level military snipers on to a target at unknown distances and that is about all they are good for. Obviously, they are insufficient for the small targets found at the Boomer Shoot. For those who have BDCs on their optics, I suggest you go to a Known Distance Range and see precisely how well they hold. You won’t find much variance between ammunition types to 300 yards but past 300 yards, you will see that they aren’t particularly exact.
Ammunition and Winds: I believe everyone has a much better understanding of how well their particular ammunition performed in winds. No doubt the winds changed some opinions on the choice of bullets, if not calibers. This is a hard issue to understand without some knowledge of ballistics and physics. I won’t get into the details of this issue but I will say that for any caliber, there is an ideal bullet weight and velocity that allows for the most efficient flight through the air. Go heavier in bullet weight and the velocity has to be lower or the rifle will blow up. Go lighter in bullet weight and it gets to the point where one has to be unsafe in velocity in order for the lighter bullet to equal the ballistic efficiency of the heavier bullet. Of course rifling twist must be commensurate with the bullet length. Here is what I would recommend for the Boomer Shoot in terms of the cartridges and bullets for both accuracy and wind ability. One note is that heavier bullets give an edge in winds but they don’t give a quantum leap in terms of wind ability.
.308: 175 Grain Sierra Match King @ 2600 – 2620 fps. 1 turn in 12 or 10 inches will be fine. This is generally the Federal Match load with the 175 Sierra Match King. If you want to hand load for the .308, I suggest the 155 Palma Match bullet with about 46 grains of Varget or Reloader 15 in a Winchester or Lapua case. You will see better wind ability and ballistic performance from this hand load than you will get from a factory loaded 175.
30-06: This will be a handloading proposition. I recommend a 185-grain Lapua Match bullet over about 49 grains of Varget or Reloader 15 with the Federal 210 Match primer. I suggest that the cases be inspected for uniformity, the primer pockets reamed, and the cases trimmed to the same length. Also, be precise in measuring the powder. I suggest a 1 turn in 10 twist.
300 Magnum: I have never had much luck with the .300 Magnum in terms of accuracy, as it requires a very well built match grade rifle and usually custom bullets to see consistent performance suitable for the small boomers. However, the most standard bullet weight for efficiency remains in the 185 – 200 grain weight. There is absolutely no sense in burning up 60 to 70 grains of powder for a bullet lighter than 185 in this cartridge as a 30-06 will do just as well if not better with less recoil. I have found 300 Magnum brass to be extremely inconsistent in volume so measuring and weighing the brass is almost a necessity for accuracy. Also, if you intend to fire more than five or ten shots in a day, your rifle needs to be quite heavy and well designed or you will get abused. That’s why the 300s used in match firing are all custom jobs made specifically for a single type of shooting – mostly 1000 yard competition. For the 190 – 200 grain bullets, a 1 turn in 10 twist is fine. I do not suggest anyone buy a 300 magnum for the Boomer Shoot or 1000 yard competition for that matter as the 6.5mm’s give the same or better ballistics and accuracy at about a third the recoil and blast.
6.5’s: We had a couple of 6.5 X 55s and I used a 6.5 / 06 to good effect. I was going to bring my 6.5 / 08 but it is not fitted to accept and optic. The 6.5 / 06 is a bit overkill for the Boomer Shoot Ranges and I think a 6.5 X 55 or a 6.5 / 08 (260 Remington) is probably ideal for the Boomer Shoot if fired with the heavier 140 or 142 grain Sierra Match Kings. Safe handloading can get these very long and heavy bullets moving at a respectable 2700 – 2750 fps range and I compare the 142 Sierra Match King to a 200 grain .30 caliber at the same velocities. The recoil is extremely light which reduces shooter fatigue. I believe a 1 turn in 8 twist is about ideal for the 142 Sierras.
.223’s: Not much to say about the .223s. The 75 grain Match bullets being made are probably the ideal balance between heavy and light and I believe they equal the 175 grain .308 loads in terms of ballistics and accuracy – using half the powder and producing about ¼ the recoil. If I were to shoot an AR at the Boomer Shoot, I would use a 75-grain bullet loading.
Zero’s: Aside from marksmanship, we focused on obtaining and recording zero’s for the impact areas where Joe located the Boomers. Most everyone was able to get some good dope to those ranges and recorded their zeros for future use. We learned how to slip scales to record zero then to read the scales on the optics so that we could effectively move from one range to the next without wasting ammunition. Finally we shot at the twelve-inch round poppers I bought for the shoot. I hope everyone kept the zeros they recorded as you can learn quite a bit about ballistics from these zeros. Take a look at your zeros and you will note a few things that bring ballistics into perspective. I am assuming you all know what a ‘Minute of Angle’ means in terms of sights.
How Many MOA Between Hundred Yards: One MOA is 1/60th of one degree or arc. One MOA equals one inch per hundred yards of distance. For shooting, most sights are micrometers with graduations in minutes of angle or some fraction of a minute of angle. Most Boomer Shooters use optics with ¼ MOA increments. Look at your zero records and you will find that you didn’t have to use too much elevation to move incrementally through Joe’s impact areas. For example, many of you may find only a four-minute of angle elevation change between 550 and 650 yards. Each MOA then equates to a range change of 25 yards between 550 and 650. In this situation, each ¼ MOA change equals about six yards between 550 and 650 yards. The impact areas Joe set up at the longer ranges were only about ten yards in diameter. A few things become apparent relating to zeros. First is that for the longer ranges, if you have a solid zero to begin with, elevation changes from that zero will only be about ¼ to ½ MOA to remain in that impact area. Second, unless circumstance gives you a boomer right on any zero, you will have to hold off for elevation to get a hit. The key to getting a deliberate hit in this situation is the ability of your observer to read trace and your ability to give him a good call from which you two can determine the best hold.
Determining Your Ballistic Coefficient: Granted, our zero’s aren’t based on surveyed firing positions and targets but the results of obtaining zeros as we did during the clinic is that you can plug the elevation changes between ranges into a ballistics program and let the program give you the Ballistic Coefficient of the ammunition you are firing. Remember that we were firing at 3000 feet and the BC will be different than if you were firing at sea level. Although not perfect, the BC you get from the data you took off the range will be closer than what you find in reloading manuals as it is based off of actual firing.
Position Development: I want to reiterate the importance of establishing a firing position that fits you and points the barrel at the target. There isn’t much sense buying a $200.00 rifle rest that adjusts for elevation and windage then not using these adjustments. Or to buy a $100.00 bipod yet not extend or retract the legs to get the barrel pointing at your target from a prone position that fits your body. Think about it then practice using the equipment you own to its best advantage. You don’t really have to change your position when working any single impact area Joe has set up but it pays to adjust your equipment to get your rifle into that impact area without you having to muscle it around. Once set in a comfortable position with your hardware doing the pointing, you can easily shift around and work one impact area without having to readjust the position. When shifting fire into another impact area, it pays to stand up and move around then go back to your firing point and re-establish a position for the new impact area you want to fire in.
Rests: I don’t have much faith in those “Varminter” style rests that lock the rifle into position at the forend and stock as they are narrow and lack lateral stability. Also, due to the locking device on the stock, the shooter has problems getting a natural head position behind the optic. The shooter will have problems with these rests and I may suggest that if a shooter wants a good rest that he spend the $175.00 on a wide based tripod bench rest that adjusts for elevation and windage using simple wheels and locking devices. In the North West, Russ Haydon (Russ Haydon’s Shooter Supply) carries a variety of these bench rests. I do not advise taking the cheap way out of one of these. Plastic rests won’t hold up and are hard to lock into place. I have had my old Lyman rest for twenty years but it isn’t wide enough at the base and lacks a user-friendly way of making adjustments. A sand bag for the toe of the stock is also a good idea.
Fatigue and Second Guessing: I have a simple rule of thumb concerning ammunition consumption and mental focus for most shooters. I view 80 rounds of ammunition fired in a day as being about the maximum quantity a shooter can fire precisely before fatigue erodes his ability to execute the marksmanship fundamentals. For shooters who are relatively inexperienced in terms of conditioning their minds and bodies for precision shooting, I find the first twenty rounds of eighty fired shows a rapid improvement in performance. From round twenty to about sixty I seem to get the best performance from a new shooter, and from sixty to eighty shots fired I see a decrease in performance. Past about 80 rounds in a shooting session and a new shooter shows poor performance that in turn leads to him questioning his equipment or his ability to be a good marksman. Here is an ‘out’ for those who need one. Restrict your ammunition supply to no more than about 80 rounds for a day’s worth of Boomers. For the Boomers, I suggest you use the first twenty rounds at the 320 yard berm so you can get an idea of the winds and get used to the noise and how much effort you will put into your concentration. From about 20 to 40 rounds you will be most able to deal with the longer targets at 550 and 650 if you have the equipment that assures enough accuracy for a hit on the milk cartons at those ranges (generally about ¾ Minutes of Angle accuracy). If you aren’t on a target in five or six rounds, shift to another target but ensure you can see the whole target before firing at it. From about round 40 to 60, I suggest you shift to the 320 and 440 yard impact areas as fatigue will start taking its toll on you as you have been firing for well over an hour by now. For shots 60 – 80, I suggest you take out the two targets Joe puts in at 200 yards specifically for you. In this manner you are maximizing your ability to concentrate when you are most able to do so and are finishing the shoot with two solid explosions. My last shot of seventy rounds fired was a solid explosion of a 320-yard target and there is no better way to end an excellent weekend.
Next year I intend on assessing the ability of the clinic shooters at 100 yards in terms of marksmanship and then dividing the clinic into two sections for the clinic. One section will work on marksmanship and the other will work on more advanced skills such as shooter / observer dialogue and wind doping. We will still shoot on steel and Boomers in order to get zeros for the impact areas.
Thank you again for the excellent effort everyone put into the clinic. It was a great day and I am looking forward to spending more with you all.
Last modified: December 14, 2003