More lessons from Hunter’s Sight-In Day: bad equipment equals bad results. Don’t be a cheapskate.

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For some background, read my last  post.

Today’s lession: you can shoot no better than your gear.  This is interesting both for what happened, and the frequency with which it happened.

The three of us (me, and my friends Georges and Maurice) were working sight-in days at our gun club. Since we’re all instructors of some experience, we were given the job of overseeing the benches reserved for “problems”: those shooters and guns needing more experienced and knowledgeable assistance than the regular coaches could deliver. Our customers always came to us with a “referral” from another coach, who would tell us the difficulties being encountered. We, in turn, would try to remedy the situation. We often had to resort to a 25 yard target – the only such ones on the entire line were in front of our benches – to see where shots were going.

At last year’s event Maurice got a customer toting a 7mm Magnum topped with a really cheap scope. The fellow sat down and Maurice had him start at the 25. Even at that short distance, his shots were all over the place. Judging any kind of a center was well-nigh impossible.

(This is not uncommon, sadly. From our collective experience, the vast majority of people carrying Magnum rifles into the woods can’t place their bullets with what we would consider “precision”. This particular customer, however, was worse than the norm.)

Maurice coached the fellow in the basics – breathing, trigger control – and it really appeared that he was doing everything right. The groups opened up with every string, and Maurice finally sent him to the gunsmith shack to check the mounts and have the scope boresighted.

On return, the problem was no better. In fact, it may have even been worse.

It was at this point that Maurice decided to take the unusual step of shooting the rifle himself to identify the source of the problem. Maurice, who is an eerily consistent shooter, sat down with the rifle and shot a 100-yard group that was, perhaps, six inches. Maurice is used to shooting groups that are less than 1/6 of that size, which pretty much told us where the problem was.

The rifle was handed back to the fellow with the admonishment that he have the (apparently) broken scope and cheesy mounts replaced before venturing into the field. (Could it have been the rifle? Perhaps, but it was a better bet that the scope was the culprit. The rifle was of decent quality – a Weatherby, if memory serves – and looking at the weak link is the rational course. In this case, it was likely the scope and mounts.)

Fast-forward; a year had gone by and another sight-in event was upon us. As usual, Georges, Maurice and I took our positions at the “problem” benches. At one point a coach brought down a fellow who had a 7mm Magnum; the coach told me that he was having trouble getting the scope zeroed and that the shots were going “all over the paper.”

I sat the guy down and told him to shoot three rounds at the 25-yard target while I observed through the spotting scope. His three rounds all landed in wildly divergent places. I coached him on breathing and trigger control, and had him fire three more rounds. If anything they were worse.

At that point Maurice pulled me aside and said “I think this is the guy from last year!” We talked about it, and I couldn’t believe that this could be the same guy with the same broken scope and crappy rings. He didn’t go out after game last year, did he?

Apparently so, because I sat down behind his gun and proceeded to shoot the most beautiful six inch group I’d seen since…last year, when Maurice did the same thing with the same gun!

While the old taunt of “it’s a poor workman who blames his tools” has some truth, it’s also true that there has to be a base level of quality to allow any work to be done. Beyond that is the realm of “nice”, but below that good results are impossible. Putting a cheap scope in thin aluminum rings on a hard-kicking rifle is almost a guarantee of substandard performance.

Frugal is one thing; cheap is another entirely.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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