Getting Started In Tactical Rifle Competition
Having accurate trajectory and wind data is critical to first round hits, and fast, convenient access to your data is very important. Keeping a data book is a good idea in any shooting discipline, because it provides us a central location to compile historic data on our rigs that we can refer to for our next shot. Even more important, it is a way to log our successes and failures, in order to duplicate processes that work and to avoid repeating errors.
PDAs are becoming quite popular and many versions, such as the iPod, offer ballistic software applications. A PDA may replace trajectory tables, but cannot replace the data book for historic data and corrected figures. With the ever-present possibility of battery or equipment failure, having backup tables is a good idea anyway.
If a PDA is not carried, a compact calculator in the data book cover or in the rifle stock pack is an excellent accessory. In addition to working mil formulas or cosine functions, this calculator is used to calculate trajectory and wind drift for shots that fall between data points. One example is when a shot is 885 yards and the data points are at 850 and 900.
Another excellent addition to the data book system is a Mildot Master. This slide rule device is able to directly convert target size and reticle subtensions into distances and so saves the manual calculations required to convert milled targets into distances. It can be used under certain circumstances to figure holdovers, and is also usable as a protractor to find departure angles for shots that are not level.
The long shots required for many tactical style matches will place added emphasis on two aspects of rifle shooting, rifle cant and the shot's departure angle. There are worthwhile accessories that will make dealing with these issues much simpler, especially while we are distracted with other circumstances.
Long shots over uneven terrain are sometimes needed:
A rail or scope mounted level is extremely useful, especially in rough terrain where it is often difficult to find a truly horizontal or vertical reference. With the shooter on a slope, the rifle on an angle and the target on yet another slope, it can be surprising how far off one can be and still look level. Having the rifle-mounted level removes doubt and minimizes the horizontal dispersion that accompanies canting the rifle.
The departure angle is important when we encounter a combination of long distances and steep departure angles. Steep departure angles directly affect trajectory, but if ranges are short, the influence can often be discounted as too small to make a practical difference and overlooked. When bullet drop increases with increasing distances, departure angle becomes extremely critical. A rail mounted angle cosine indicator is quite convenient and an excellent way to solve this problem. A Mildot Master can also be used, but requires somewhat cumbersome manipulation and additional math steps.
Angle fire opportunities can be down or up:
Some sort of rifle support will be needed, and we would begin with a good shooting sling, as opposed to a carry strap. The basic and traditional M1907 sling is the essence of the concept, where the sling is used to provide support in various shooting positions, and there are several good sling designs available that are modernized variations of this theme. With proper deployment, using the shooting sling is very steady and will be necessary in stages that require sitting, kneeling or prone unsupported positions. It is also handy to carry the rifle, but this is a function secondary to providing shooting support.
Unless we plan to make all of our shots slung, some sort of forend support will be needed. Many shooters use a rucksack; many others use a bipod. There is much to be said for either approach and there are times when one method or the other will present an advantage. If a bipod is used, probably the most versatile style will be a 6"-9" swivel, notched leg model, which can be propped up on the ruck if a little more elevation is needed.
Shooting sticks are also very practical for some circumstances, especially when we shoot from higher positions and the use of support is permitted. The use of sticks when sitting, kneeling or standing can make an incredible amount of difference. Sticks are also very good when shooting high departure angles, such as steep uphill shots.
A rear bag, emulating the traditional sand sock, is a great asset and probably well worth carrying. In the prone position, with the rifle on a bipod and sand sock, it is possible to achieve excellent accuracy. The bag can also be used as a forward rest when a bipod or rock is too high. There are certain situations where a bag can be used over a rock, barricade, fence post or other improvised support. When sitting, the bag can be used to provide support under a leg or behind the shooter to reduce muscle strain.
Weather is often a concern, and the further we move afield, the more prepared we should be for weather changes. An additional layer or two of light clothing that is easily put on and taken off can make a big difference in comfort, and often in shooting ability. Lightweight packable raingear is good to have for everything from morning dew to a windbreaker to afternoon thundershowers.
Knee and/or elbow pads can be a burden, a luxury or critically important, depending upon terrain and what shooting or movement drills we will perform. See what courses of fire are expected and go from there.
A good comfortable rucksack is needed to carry this gear, and our daily supply of ammunition, food, water, raingear, tools, lens cleaner and whatever else is deemed necessary. Some matches take place near your vehicle and you won't need to carry much, others will take you too far to return easily and the load grows, so your pack can be sized accordingly. If the load is light and distances short, a vest can sometimes be used.
It is common to pack too much, so beware and give thought to each item that goes into the load you'll be stuck with. In all cases, training and personal preference will dictate what the individual feels necessary to drag along.
Basic gear for a day match:
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