Multi-Gun Training Day: Long (ish) Range Rifle Practice

On the way back from a Colorado Multigun match at Weld County Range, I was chatting with my shooting buddies Ben W, Bill and Nate about how I have been shooting so many matches that I haven’t had time to practice and that we never get the opportunity to shoot a stage multiple times to see if we can improve on our time and score.  From that conversation we came up with the idea to pitch a club-sponsored event at my local range that would focus on drills and practice rather than a competition.  I came up with an event description, a safety brief and went to the club’s Board of Directors.  The Board was receptive and voted unanimously to approve the event.  That was the genesis of Multi-Gun Training Day.

Saturday was the first event and I reserved the 200/300 yard range.  It was a great day to be out on the range for some mid-range distance practice with our rifles and carbines. We had a small-ish group and the entire range to ourselves which allowed us to get a lot of shooting in.

We set up a full size IPSC steel target at the 300 yard and 200 yard backstops and a 2/3-ish IPSC steel target at the 100 yard backstop.  Our warmup drill was pretty easy and shot from prone without any time; get three hits on each steel taking as long as you need.

MGTD Target Map

 

The rest of the drills we ran and the results:

Standing at low ready, at start signal go prone and engage steel with one hit.

The next round of drills required our VTAC wall, shown here with the designators that I gave each position:

Standing with heels on concrete pad (approx 4 ft from wall), at start signal engage steel with one shot from each position, S4, H5, H7.

Standing with heels on concrete pad (approx 4 ft from wall), at start signal engage steel with one shot from each position, S3, H4, H8.

Unlike the matches we usually shoot, the results are for informational purposes only. We are keeping metrics of the drills we shoot to compare them when we shoot those same drills at a later date. The goal is to improve and beat yourself, not each other.

Bill engaging:

Even with the rifle and the shooter rolled over all of us to g0t our shots at 200 and 300 yards after a little discussion of where to hold on the target.

Yours truly grabbing sight pictures:

In the picture below I am supporting on the wrong knee, I always want to get down like I’m just kneeling rather than using my strong-side knee for a barrier support.  I need to work on fixing that bad habit.

Initially we were a little concerned that the forecasted wind may make for a bad day of chasing rounds all over but I think the wind ended up helping us in the end. I know that I learned my shots are not affected nearly as much as I thought by what seemed to be a pretty stiff wind. I also confirmed that I am in love with the 200 yard zero on my 1X magnification Aimpoint Comp M2. I was able to zing the IPSC Steel at 100, 200 by just aiming center mass and nail the 300 target by holding just at the line between B and C zones. Bill and Ben had it even easier with their 4x scopes making those teeny little targets out at 300 look like they were up close and personal. I got the opportunity to check out Bill’s Burris XTR or Tac 30 (I believe) and can say that the glass is super-clear and that Bullet Drop reticule is almost like cheating. I estimate that a determined marksman could get solid hits on the IPSC steel at 300 from kneeling with little trouble and possibly off-hand with a bit of practice.

One of the big benefits of making those hits in unconventional positions, at distance and in the wind on Saturday is that each of us has now been there/done that. The experience we gained in hitting targets during practice in those types of conditions prove that in can be done and will give us the confidence to attack a stage and make those hits under the clock when faced with a similar situation at a match. Awesome!  Next time smaller targets…

I was very excited and encouraged by the discussions of physics and technique that came about during our shoot. This type of open, collaborative dialog is exactly what I had in mind for MGTD and would love to see more of it going forward. Each of us has a wealth of knowledge and a diverse point of view on shooting topics and I hope that we can all use each other as a resource to get those tips and that feedback to help us become better 3-Gunners. Along those same lines I would like to keep the drills we do open to community choice as well so if there is something you read/heard about or saw in a match that you suggest I work on, comment or email me and we will work it in.

 

Guest Gear Review: Burris MTAC 1-4x Scope

 

Burris MTAC and P.E.P.R. Mount

Burris MTAC and P.E.P.R. Mount

This is a guest post by my good friend Herk.  He is a tactical shooter and dabbles in Multi-Gun competitions.  Herk and I have discussed different 1-4x carbine optics at length as we have both been looking to strengthen the effectiveness of our AR-15’s at distance.  Herk recently picked up a new optic and wrote a top-notch review which I have have posted here with his permission.  Enjoy!  -Dave

Well, I went and got the Burris MTAC 1-4x scope from Jensen’s in Loveland a few weeks back. I’ve taken it out shooting twice so far. I paid about $375 after taxes (IIRC). Here are my impressions in no particular order:

Fit and finish:
Insofar as I care about such things (which is not very much) it is well done. The finish is a matte black (anodizing?) with the markings done unobtrusively in a light gray. These colors match the Burris PEPR mount which I have mine mounted in perfectly.

Weight and size:
Length is about 11.5″ and weight added is about 1.5lbs, including the PEPR mount. Objective tube diameter is 1.18″ (LOTS of room between it and the handguard) and ocular bell diameter is 1.64″, both measured with calipers. The ocular bell accepts the size 16 Butler Creek ocular flip-open cover and the objective lens takes the size 03A flip open objective cover. I needed to look up the former but had the latter memorized; it would appear that 1-4x30mm scopes have gotten so popular that the Butler Creek objective lens covers for them are sold out everywhere. I managed to memorize the required size by asking around for it so much before finally finding one online for sale. The PEPR mount leaves plenty of room for my folded ARMS #71 back-up sight beneath the ocular bell, even with the Butler Creek cover installed.

The weight is noticible but somehow seems more “bearable” than the weight that my Eotech 553 added. After looking up the weight of the Eotech online, I found it to be about 3/4 of a pound. Either Eotech is padding this number or perhaps amount of benefit that I perceived myself to be getting for the weight I was adding was just a lot lower with the Eotech than with the Burris. Another possibility is that I was putting the Eotech as far forward as possible (thus making the overall balance of the rifle poorer) wheras I mounted the Burris a bit farther back.

Eye-relief and magnification:
I mounted my scope rather far back, with the ocular lens being roughly even with the gap between the lower reciever and the castle nut. The eye relief, according to the Burris website is 3.5-4″. I think that Burris is being rather coy about this figure: I am able to get my nose about an inch from the charging handle before the cursed black ring appears and I can open my Vltor EMOD stock all the way and get a cheek weld at the rear of the stock before the ring begins to return on 1x. The effect on eye-relief at 4x is to make the outer range of clarity a little closer (cheekweld at front of EMOD when fully open) but the inner range of clarity unaffected from what I can see.

I have tested this scope in such “jackass” positions as supine, rollover prone, urban prone, and “laying-on-my-back-with-my-head-facing-the-target-and-somehow-making-sighted-shots-at-it”…uh…prone. With the MTAC on 1x it is quite possible to get a decent sight picture but you must expect that dastardly little black ring to start appearing in such positions as supine. With the reticule illuminated the Bindon Aiming Concept can be employed to further simplify sighted fire from these awkward positions at closer ranges. Naturally, these positions are more difficult to shoot from at higher magnification levels but this is an issue that is integral to adding magnification into the equation in general, not something that the MTAC in specific can be blamed for.

Using the MTAC as a CQB optic on 1x seems to work quite well; since visual focus need not be shifted from the target to the front sight, it seems to be a little faster than irons for me in spite of my much greater experience with irons than with optics of any kind and the MTAC in particular. The “1x” mode is not truly 1x since there is a minute amount of magnification from the scope even at this level. These optics are often referred to as “1.1x” because of this but I don’t believe the difference is even 10% between the “1x” setting and the naked eye. The transition, to me, is very natural.

I would be a little out of my lane comparing the MTAC on 1x to RDS sights such as the Aimpoint or Eotech or similar since my experience with them is so miniscule. In the time that I owned an Eotech I found myself not bothering to turn it on and just looking through the Eotech to see my irons more often than not. I was unable to make friends with the Eotech: I have shot my carbine out to 500yds and made hits with the BUIS but I could rarely hit out to (much less past) 50m with the Eotech. I know others who have hit out to many hundreds of yards with their RDS sights of all types so I don’t blame the Eotech for my failings. That said, these problems didn’t seem to surface with irons so that’s what I continued to run until I bought the MTAC. One objective thing that could be said about the MTAC vs. RDS sights is that the MTAC reticle would still be present even if it’s battery were to die (the MTAC reticle depends on the battery only for illumination). This could be seen as an advantage for the MTAC vs. RDS options out there.

At 1x there is a definate “tube effect” from the MTAC as one might expect from an optic that is nearly a foot long. The front sight post is also clearly visible though not too distracting (if it does bother you then the plethora of folding front sights on the market could be the answer to this problem). The challenge for me is to keep both eyes open when using the MTAC on 1x. My mind keeps thinking “it’s a scope, close your left eye!”, a natural tendency that I have to fight. I’m sure that with practice I could make it quite natural to treat the 1x MTAC as a two-eyes-open optic.

Reticle and illumination:

Image

The MTAC reticle is a large, bold circle which houses a series of four dots, strung vertically, and a trio of ‘T’-shaped bars that appear surrounding the top-most dot (which is centered in the large circle) on the dot’s two sides and directly above it. The Ts serve to draw the eye’s attention to the top/center dot for quicker in-close aiming and also for range estimation at greater distances. The bottom of the large circle has a circular “hole” in it at the bottom which forms a fifth dot in the string. The top/center dot is to be zeroed for POA/POI at 100yds/m. The dots are laid out to provide bullet drop compensation for the 5.56mm/.223 Remington FMJ ammo that is common on the commercial market and used by military and LE forces around the world. Trajectories for the M193 55gr FMJ and the M855 62gr FMJ are similar enough for this reticle to work interchangibly with both loadings. A helpful chart is printed in the small instruction booklet that is included with the scope for the minor differences in trajectory with other common loadings such as Hornady’s 45gr V-Max, Winchester’s 64gr PSP (used by USBP & ICE, IIRC), Mk262Mod1 77gr OTM, and even a chart for 7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester M80 147gr FMJ. The POI differences are close enough for this scope to get hits on man-sized targets with all of the above loadings with minimal work on the shooter’s part.

The reticle is zeroed with run-of-the-mill windage and elevation turrets located on the right side and top of the scope respectively. These are covered with screw-on caps which are featureless except for grooves milled into them for ease of gripping. One of the few issues I’ve had with this scope has been the caps. The threads are difficult to get started correctly and numerous tries were required before the threads would mate together and the cap could be installed. Not a huge deal since zeroing is the only time when this shortcoming Elevation & Windage Adjustmentwould surface. Adjustments are made in 1/2MOA clicks which are just right for this type of scope: precise “enough” to get on target but course enough to get the job done quickly and with minimal mental arithmetic. On top of the dials they are clearly marked “1 CLICK = 1/2MOA” along with bold arrows pointing counter-clockwise with the word “UP” or “RIGHT”, such as the case may be. “POINT OF IMPACT” is also marked in the center of the dial, in case you get confused about what it is you are trying to achieve. Around the circumference of the dials are hash marks for every 1/2 MOA, starting with “0” and going all the way up to “28” (only even numbers are marked but the odd numbers and 1/2 MOA intervals are not hard to keep track of). There is a white dot on the body of the scope, concealed by the turret cap when it is in place but facing the shooter when removed. The dot makes figuring out what number the scope is currently at an easy task.

The illumination turret is located on the left side of the scope and angled at an upward angle ever so slightly. Like the turret caps the illumination dial is grooved for ease of operation with wet, cold, or gloved fingers. There is a knurled inner portion of the illumination dial which serves as the removable cover for the battery compartment. The MTAC is powered by one CR2032 watch battery. These are cheap, reliable, and ubiquitous. I have not run my MTAC enough to weaken the battery so I don’t know how long it should last. I found an interwebs forum containing this post:

DTtuner wrote:
It’s not found anywhere, but a call to Burris revealed that the scope uses a CR2032 battery, and should provide a “Constant-On” battery life of 5000+ hours, with a shelf life of 5 years.
Also apparently has an auto-shutoff after 2 hours.
None of this can be found online for whatever reason. Hope it’s true.

5000 hours sounds great to me. I too “hope it’s true”. We shall see; in the mean time I’ll be buying one or two spare CR2032s and stashing them in the little compartment in my EMOD buttstock.

One feature of the MTAC’s illumination dial that I really liked and never before encountered is that there are twenty positions but only ten brightness settings. This is because every other position on the dial is an “off” position! One could simply get the reticle brightness where they like it and then turn the dial one ‘click’ in either direction to turn the scope off. By simply turning the dial one click in either direction you would either have the brightness just where you want it or, assuming that you turn the dial in the wrong direction, one brightness setting off from where you like it. The exception to this would be if your preferred setting was 1 and you mistakenly turned it to 10 (or vice versa). If I could be a little picky, I would say that I would have liked to see Burris include a stop in the illumination dial to prevent it from inadvertently being turned ‘too far’ in either direction. That said, there might be others out there who see the ability to turn brightness from the lowest setting to the highest (or, again, vice versa) as an asset so perhaps Burris did the right thing by designing the illumination dial without a stop. Also, this has yet to cause me a problem and other than this one theoretically beef, the illumination dial is very well thought out.

Illuminations settings, as stated above, run on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the brightest. Those used to RDS sights might find all of the MTAC’s brightness settings to be rather dim but the “tube effect” from the scope seems to provide ‘shade’ for the reticle and allows the dimmer settings to be of use even in bright sun. The lowest setting is of little use in a brightly-lit environment (nor is it needed) but is not blinding in total darkness either (tested in the dark indoors with no ambient light). The brightest setting in total darkenss just begins to wash out but then again, one is only two clicks away from the lowest setting from the brightest position so perhaps this isn’t a very big deal.

Regardless of illumination level, the reticle never “flares” on me when I shoot without my perscription lenses in. The same cannot be said about RDS sights. This is a personal issue that many others won’t be affected by but for those of us who wear glasses or contacts the lack of “flaring” is a very positive thing, especially if the MTAC is to be mounted on a “serious use” rifle.

 

 

Mistakes are Costly – SHFC Summer Three-Gun Match, 2012.09.28

Summer Three Gun matches at my local range are awesome for guys that really want to improve their performance.  The first match of the month is a “drills day” where the Match Director, Walter T, has us run through a brief course of fire that is designed to work on one specific skill.  The second match of the month has us practicing that specific skill in a real stage under the clock with all the other usual things that shooters have to worry about during their run.

You may remember that the first match of September was a drills day where we practiced shooting on the move.  The second match we put all that practice to work and even got the opportunity to shoot the awesome disappearing mover that Walter has been working on.

I have been going to Physical Therapy for my ankle sprain and I am improving quite a bit.  The pain is nearly gone and I am getting a lot of mobility and confidence back as shown in the rifle and pistol stage movement.  That is a very positive thing for my stage performance.

TAKEAWAYS

Mistakes are costly.  Big time.  On the rifle stage I completely forgot to engage the swinger giving me a “Failure To Engage” and 30 penalty points on that stage.  My raw time was faster than everyone but the FTE put me in nearly last place.  On the shotgun stage I thought I would be clever and walk down the hill toward the second array while loading.  Turns out there was an imaginary wall there (I forgot this) and I incurred a penalty.  Couple that with a missed clay target, the steel I engaged while out of the shooting box and I dropped to 5th place.  I really didn’t shoot fast enough to be unhappy with that time so it looks like I need some more shotgun practice in my future.  The highlight of the day was my pistol performance.  I absolutely killed that stage.  But consistency is what wins the match and not even my performance on that stage could pull me out of the hole I dug on the rifle and shotgun stages.

The Match of Malfunctions, Colorado Multi Gun, September 2012

 

Saturday the 22nd of September was the monthly Colorado Multi Gun shoot at Weld Country Fish and Wildlife Range.  Coming off of a #5 class finish and some good progress on my ankle rehab I was excited to get back out and compete in this match.  I headed out bright and early with my regular match buddies Bill L. and Ben W. along with a new shooter, Nate.

SHOTGUN/PISTOL

We started the match on the shotgun pistol stage again and I had a dang good run.  Of course I have no proof as I forgot to give Ben W. my camera before the run.  Dang!  The course was pretty similar to last time with some key changes.  Again, we started in a box and engaged a full size IPSC target with two slugs (I had one Miss, need to get a rear sight for my JM Pro 930).  From there we were free to engage eight poppers on the right and eight poppers on the left as they became available with the caveat that we needed to fire one shot from each of four ports, two on right, two on left.  I did pretty decent on the poppers, but had two misses there too.  And I forgot my reloading scheme and actually went to slidelock once.  But I ended with an empty shotgun and did not have to burn any rounds before abandoning in the mandated condition.

I quickly drew my pistol and began engaging a whole mess of steel targets, 32 ish rounds for record if I remember correctly.  I had some stupid misses but shot the course fairly well.  One problem I had that is becoming more bothersome is that I ran two mags dry and the slide on my Glock 17 did not lock back.  This caused two dry-fires under the timer which are killer!

RIFLE

The rifle stage was very similar to last time, engage four steel targets ranging from a 12″ steel square to a 6″ x 8″ plate from five different positions at 100 yards.  The first position was a shooter’s box (had to have any part of shooter or rifle inside), second was a rickety wooden table frame (had to touch any part with shooter or rifle), third was through a cinder block (flash hider must be through one port), fourth was through a barrel (must shoot through) and fifth was another shooter’s box (had to have any part of shooter or rifle inside).

I chose to engage in the first box offhand and did fairly well.  Second I braced on the table which I should have either gone prone or taken a knee as it was just too unstable.  Third position I went prone and shoved my muzzle, sight and forend through, taking rested prone shots.  Fourth I backed up so my muzzle was behind the barrel but I was still shooting through it to avoid the blast.  Fifth and final position I began shooting offhand but had so many misses that I ended up taking a knee.  I need to know myself better and realize that the fifth position should have been either from a knee or prone from the start as my heart rate and breathing would have been up super high after shooting and moving.

RIFLE HOSER

The third stage for us (4th in the match) was a rifle hoser stage similar to the pistol stage we shot last time; first shot must be taken in uprange box, last shot must be taken in downrange box..  I thought I had a pretty decent strategy and had plenty of time to run through it many times dry.  I was going to engage all the targets I could see from the uprange box save for the two on the left which I was going to hit while shooting on the move.  I’d move up to the corner, engage the two targets obscured by no-shoots and then engage the one turned target on the move and finish in the downrange box.  Then I had malfs…

My rifle had a failure to extract on my first round.  I had to go to the next bay and clear it out with a cleaning rod.  I fired 4 test rounds and went back to wait for a do-over (local match).  I got up and the damn rifle extracted the first round but would not eject it.  Instead it shoved it up between the upper receiver and the gas tube.  Luckily Bill L. grabbed his rifle for me to use.  Bill as a sweet rifle no doubt but it has a few things on it that I was unfamiliar with, specifically the Magpul BAD lever, and I ended up screwing up my reload by not completely seating the magazine, wasting a ton of time trying to figure out the BAD lever and lock the bolt back.  I totally hosed that hoser stage up bad.

RIFLE/PISTOL

Continuing on to our last stage, Stage 1, Bill L. again let me use his rifle and I did alright on the close-range head shots but when I transitioned to pistol I cleaned up pretty darn well.  It is hard saying that you did well on a stage when you are shooting with guys like Drew Boldt (#2 overall in match) and they make your clean and fast run look like you’re out for your first match.  🙂

VIDEO

RESULTS

Tactical Class Results

Overall Results

TAKEAWAYS

If it doesn’t go bang every time it does not deserve to be in competition.  And if I am going to run in Tactical Optics, I need some magnification.  Getting placed in with the guys that have 1-4x scopes to my 1x Aimpoint kills me on the long range stuff.  The carbine gas system and mil-spec trigger kills me on the short stuff.  Basically what I’m saying is that my skill level has reached the point where my rifle setup is holding me back.  Unfortunately I don’t have the cash right now to go out and pick up a new Larue, JP, Noveske or even a Stag so I am going to have to do some lower-cost tweaks to get the most out of my current setup.  In the mean time I have a new bolt coming from Brownell’s and my old bolt is being sent back to the manufacturer for inspection.

SHFC Practical Pistol Match, USPSA Practice – 2012.09.14

One of the coolest things about being a member of my local range is that I get the opportunity to shoot in three Practical Pistol Matches each week.  Each match is run by a different Match Director and each Director has his own distinct match style.

The Friday Practical Pistol Match Director is Ben G.  Ben G. is a USPSA shooter and is definitely serious about it.  Each Friday Ben has a USPSA qualifier and two USPSA approved stages for us to run.  Ben has been preparing to compete in the 2012 Mile High Showdown and last Friday we switched it up and set three stages from the MHS packet.

STAGES

THE GAME FILM

TAKEAWAYS

My ankle was tweaky today and still slowing me down quite a bit.  I have more than a few weeks of physical therapy in front of me and then all winter to get my speed and direction transitions back up and running.

Penalties are killers!  Striving for speed and accuracy are very important and picking up a penalty for hitting a no-shoot is an absolute killer.  In my rush to finish the 3rd stage strong I didn’t lean out far enough and blasted the very edge of a no-shoot from just a few inches away while attempting to shoot the target that it was obscuring.  This was a dumb mistake.

This was the best I’ve ever shot at a Friday Practical Pistol Match.  I am sure the shooting on the move practice that we did earlier in the day helped out with that quite a bit.  I wasn’t going into each stage “cold”, I had plenty of warmup earlier in the day.  That makes me think that I need to so some dry-fire practice the night before or the morning of a match to get myself warmed up and primed for success.  Or I could go all-out like Ben G. and actually set up the stages from the match and shoot them the day before…  Brilliant!