“Marksmanship – the practice of putting a projectile, on a target, within a given group size, at a given range… consistently.”
When putting a projectile on an intended target, there are a few considerations to be taken into account:
- The rifle.
- The ammunition.
- The sights or scope.
- The shooter.
While “All Of The Above” are a factor, the most important factor is the shooter.
In the past, a truly accurate rifle would cost thousands of dollars from the manufacturer, or require a custom build by a gunsmith. As of the past decade or so, accurate MOA or even sub-MOA rifles have come down in cost – even below the thousand dollar price point. I have an FNH Patrol Bolt Rifle I bought back in 2008. It shoots sub-MOA with match ammo if I do my part. The cost was $800.
Match-grade ammunition has become more widely available at lower costs. Although during the Great Ammunition Shortage of 2020-21 (2022??), finding ammunition of any caliber was as rare as hens’ teeth, with the exception of some really obscure calibers, availability has come back in recent months. Quality hand loads are another option.
Scopes still remain expensive, but there are imports at a lower price out there. Some are questionable in quality, while others have been surprisingly good. Removing features you may not use can bring down the price while maintaining quality.
While I have variable-powered scopes, I do nearly all my shooting at the max power. I have used the illuminated reticule feature once. So, I bought a fixed power 20×42, non-illuminated scope, with a reticule that I liked, for $250. The glass is very good, and it tracks very well (i.e., The Box Test).
That brings us down to the shooter.
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How do we rate one’s marksmanship?
According to the late, great Col Jeff Cooper,
- “A marksman is one who can make his weapon do what it was designed to do.”
- “An expert marksman is one who can hit anything he can see, under appropriate circumstances.“
- “A master marksman is one who can shoot up to his rifle.”
Uncle Billy-Bob making a head shot on an 8-point buck at 150yrds, standing off-hand, after having consumed 8 PBRs before he got out into the field at 0-Dark Thirty, is a one-off.
Granted, if Uncle Billy-Bob can make that shot every time, then he is a good shot.
I have argued with others in the past, shooting sitting on a concrete bench, rifle in a gun vice, at a target at 100yrds, a 3 round MOA or even smaller group and claiming to be a great marksman is not quite . . . accurate (see what I did there?).
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Regular competition shooting can be a good indicator of a marksman.
Olympic style three position in air rifle or small-bore, NRA High Power Rifle, Precision Rifle Series (centerfire or rimfire), and Civilian Marksman Program to name just a few, are a few of the competitions that true marksmen enter.
If you do not have access to those kinds of programs, or facilities, how do you measure your rifle?
Your ammunition? Sights? Yourself?
The 5 For 5 Dime Challenge
What is it?
5, 5 shot strings, all measuring in dime-sized groups using a bolt action rifle, bi-pod, and shooting mat.
Why 5 For 5?
IMHO the 5 For 5 Dime Challenge measures “All Of The Above.”
Using a bolt action rifle, from the prone position, the shooter has to get out of the shooting position to run the bolt, then back into the shooting position, practice the fundamentals of Marksmanship (I am not going to address the fundamentals of marksmanship as that would be a small book in itself, but I do recommend this one.) every time to get that dime-sized 5 round group. And do it five times, in 5 different strings. Depending on the rifle, one or more magazine changes may be required. Then the rifle, ammunition, sights, and the shooter are all put to the test.
The 5 For 5 Dime Challenge in different platforms.
You can do the 5 For 5 in something as close as 25yrds with a .177 air rifle. .22 air rifle at 35yrds. 50yrds with a .22LR. 100yrds with a .223/5.56/.308WIN/7.65NATO (for .30cal and above diameters, make it a Quarter), etc.
With some of the more match-grade rifles (be they air, rimfire, or centerfire) those distances can be increased to prove the rifle, ammunition, sights, and shooter’s ability at range.
Do not limit yourself. Push yourself.
Here is one of my recent 5 For 5 Dime Challenges with a .22 caliber air rifle, 18.13grn JSB pellets, 900fps, at 35 yards:
Note, I got four out of five. The group in the middle, what happened there? I applied all the fundamentals. Just a bad shot?
No. I miss-read the wind.
That day, the wind was blowing zero to enough to move small tree branches, or 0-15mph, according to the Beaufort Wind Scale. And it was variable, from my right to left, to in my face. Using a ballistic app (Chairgun), a ten mph wind will move the pellet 1.7 inches at that range. A 15mph wind will move it 2.5 inches.
Elevation for a given round, adding clicks, can be printed out and taped to the side of the buttstock.
The distance can be determined using a Laser Range Finder (LRF). Or with practice, using a range estimation reticule.
Reading a variable wind that changes direction, or knowing when to hold and when to take the shot, takes practice and experience.
This was shot with a mass-produced .22 Benjamin Armada PCP air rifle for about $500, requiring three magazine changes. There are other rifles out there costing two or even three times as much. Sometimes, it is not the equipment but the shooter who makes the shot.
Then . . . Change! It! Up!
We have to crawl before we walk, walk before we run. The point of using a bolt action rifle, bi-pod, and shooting mat is to establish a baseline of your Marksmanship.
Then take away the bi-pod.
Go full-on sling supported prone (Shooting glove, shooting jacket, shooting mat optional). Set up some reactive targets downrange. Take five shots, then exercise 10 well-executed push-ups, and then shoot five rapid fire shots as small as you can get them in 20 seconds.
If you have the facilities, extend the range even farther.
The point is how to test yourself (and equipment) to be a better shot. Is this kind of shooting likely in a post-SHTF situation? Maybe in a hunting situation, you need to put meat on the table. But we civilians do not have the DoD logistical supply chain as the military does.
What ammunition you have on hand is what you have on hand. Every shot will count, making a slow hit all that much more important than a fast miss, as with each shot taken, your rifle becomes that much closer to becoming a club.
How do you test your equipment? Yourself?
Let’s hear it in the comments below.
1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.
He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.