How I Improved Accuracy
A basic primer

01 April 2003
By Joel Avila, 1LT(P), EN, USAR

In February 2002, I purchased a Vertical Grip HS Precision Tactical Stock (PST-26) through the Sniper Country PX (Read the article "How I Built My Dream Rifle," June 2002). One of the reasons why I bought it was simply because of its rugged good looks; another reason was because I wanted to improve accuracy. I must say that it was a wise investment and the stock was worth every penny.

Figure 1. Remington 700 VLS chambered in 308 caliber equipped with HS Precision Vertical Grip Tactical Stock, Tasco SS10x 42M Tactical, Butler Creek scope covers, Versa Pod, and Uncle Mike's military style leather sling.

As outlined in Figure 2, precision shooting is similar to an equilateral triangle. Equipment (rifle and scope, just to name a few), ammunition (type of bullet and powder, reloading techniques) and human factor (shooting technique) are all equally essential elements.

Figure 2. Elements of Precision Shooting

Equipment

I made some minor modifications to my rifle to improve its accuracy. First, I adjusted the trigger to approximately 2 lbs of pull. (Read the article "Adjusting the Trigger on a Remington," by Pablito) Next, I replaced the firing pin with a Titanium competition pin (purchased from Midway USA for $30.00). Most importantly, the HS Precision stock drastically contributed to the overall improved performance. (Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of "before" shot groups with the old factory stock. You'll just have to take my word.)

The ergonomically designed stock makes shooting extremely comfortable. The adjustable cheek rest and the adjustable length of pull (LOP) allow the rifle to be "custom made." Think about the following analogy. The first thing you do to your vehicle after you let someone borrow it is to readjust the seat, mirrors, and sometimes the steering wheel. You would never drive your own vehicle based on someone else's "comfort configuration."

The scope is just as critical as the rifle itself. The old cliché "you get what you pay for" certainly applies. Although my scope is "just a Tasco" - as some shooters might argue - I bet that its quality is comparable to that of any top of the line brand, and for a lot less! (Read the review "Tasco SS10x42M Tactical," by Scott Powers)

Ammunition

Every shooter has his or her (hey, we live in a politically correct society) favorite caliber. Mine is .308. What I like about the 30-caliber family is the fact that there are a lot of readily available match grade bullets.

I prefer the Sierra 168 HPBT Match for my rifle. I have experimented with various loads and I discovered that the following provided excellent results:

Figures 3 & 4 show the results using Varget and Benchmark, respectively. I have also played with regular brass and nickel-plated cases and I found that I get tighter groups with nickel-plated case.

Figure 3. 5-shot group at 100 yards taken in summer 2002. Ammunition used was hand loaded Sierra 168 HPBT Match, Hodgdon Varget Powder (46 grains), nickel plated brass, and CCI Benchrest Primers. The first four shots are smaller than a dime. I may have flinched on the fifth shot.
Figure 4. 5-shot group at 100 yards taken in January 2003 in Northeast Pennsylvania where the temperature was below freezing. Ammunition used was hand loaded Sierra 168 HPBT Match, Hodgdon Benchmark Powder (42 grains), nickel plated brass, and CCI Benchrest Primers.

Human Factor

This third leg is both an art and science. The military is known for its numerous acronyms. One acronym that applies to shooting which my drill sergeants drilled into my thick skull was BRAS (Breath, Relax, Aim, Squeeze.)

Breathing and trigger pull affect the point of impact. Generally speaking, breathing affects elevation and trigger pull affects windage. Simply put, engaging the target while inhaling will cause the bullet to hit high. Conversely, engaging while you are exhaling will cause the bullet to go low. Similarly, "jerking" the trigger will cause the bullet to hit right.

How does the acronym BRAS apply? First, take a series of deep breaths. Inhale (Breath stage) then exhale halfway (Relax stage) and hold your breath for up to five seconds. Target should be engaged within this critical five second relax stage. If you lose focus, repeat Breath and Relax stages. And if you have not engaged the target after 5 seconds, DO NOT continue to hold breath and hope that you will eventually obtain a good aim. Keep repeating the first three stages properly. Lack of oxygen to the brain will cause physiological abnormalities. Just ask Ozzy Osbourne

Concentrate (Aim stage) on the target and NEVER anticipate recoil. In other words, once you are relaxed and you have the target on sight gently squeeze (final stage) the trigger USING THE TIP if you forefinger. It is important to know the difference between "jerking" and "squeezing" the trigger. Jerking is when the trigger is pulled abruptly. As mentioned, this will cause the bullet to hit right. Squeezing, on the other hand, is a much more controlled movement (like when you squeeze fruits at the supermarket).

How do you know if you are jerking or squeezing? Well, you can perform the "nickel & dime exercise" taught to our young and fine recruits at every basic training installation. Take up a good firing position and have a buddy balance a dime or a nickel on the barrel (preferably as close to the tip as possible). Squeeze the trigger (dry fire). If the coin drops you are jerking the trigger. Otherwise, the coin should remain still.

In conclusion, you can read all the articles in the world about precision shooting, but there is no substitute for hands-on training. Bottom line is practice, practice and practice. I hope you learned something from this article. Remember: have fun, always be safe, and enjoy shooting!



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