I finally found a location to zero my rifle â€“ in fact, better than that I recalled that a friend of mine had shot full bore of some sort in the national team and was still in to rifle shooting. Henry â€˜the coachâ€™ Siggers, as he is now dubbed, was more than happy to provide some assistance on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
I turned up at his farm, and he cheerily told me that the contractors who had built his new grain barn had shifted a huge bund of earth 90 degrees, and we could now use the length of the barn as a rifle range. Superb!
After a quick brew, we entered the Aladdinâ€™s cave of rifle shooting. All his rifle kit from competition days, as well as a bit more collected since was piled up in there. We loaded up the car â€“ shooting mat, check; targets and board, check; telescope for viewing the target, check; sand bags for shooting off, check; rangefinder, check.
We discussed my new rifle. No I had never shot it, and yes I had put a brand new scope on it, and no it isnâ€™t moderated. I had boresighted it by eye, which was just as well as Henry had a big roll of different boresighting lasers but for some reason didnâ€™t include .243. He explained to Mrs Siggers that he may be a bit longer than expected under the circumstances, and grabbed the ear defenders.
I had my three good quality types of factory loaded 100 grain ammunition to work through. As well as zeroing the rifle, I was aiming to determine the most appropriate ammunition for the gun. This was going to be easy. An hour at the most.
We lined up the shooting mat at 100m, and put up the target board with a target on. It was the board used to display the table seating plan at our wedding earlier in the year. What better use for it?
Henry explained that we would start with a â€˜foulerâ€™. I had cleaned and oiled the gun, and most guns donâ€™t like being clean apparently. One shot let off at the earth bund put the rifle back in a â€˜dirtyâ€™ state.
I settled down on the mat with the sandbags. My first observation was how uncomfortable and curled up I felt when trying to hold the rifle. The moment of truth. I looked through the scope, and prepared to take the long awaited first shot with my.243. The scope looked brilliantly clear. I put three shots through it, with a bit of time between to let the barrel cool. I didnâ€™t feel confident, and I knew the shots had gone all over.
On inspection, the holes were all over the place. There could have been a foot between the group. â€˜Donâ€™t worryâ€™ said Henry. â€˜Weâ€™ll try another brandâ€™. I tried another three rounds, and again they were a long way off perfect. They werenâ€™t, however, showing a wildly badly sighted scope.
I tried this again with the third type of ammo. The Coach disliked the ammo, as it seemed to make the muzzle flip more than the others. It still wasnâ€™t great in terms of accuracy either. We mused the reasons. Would a moderator help reduce flip? Was the ammo right? Was the gun the right size and shape? And so on.
The Coach tried the RWS ammunition through my gun as a control measure. He didnâ€™t like the drop on the cheek piece, but was satisfied with the ammunition. He managed a reasonable grouping.
â€˜Right, Iâ€™m going to give you a lessonâ€™ said The Coach. â€˜Get comfortable. Take three deep breaths. On your third breath, as you exhale, your aim should be on or around the target. Donâ€™t panic if the cross hairs arenâ€™t exactly dead on, but make sure they are reasonably within the black of the target. Just as you are exhaling, start squeezing the trigger. Imagine it is an orange between your thumb and forefinger. This is how a progressive trigger responds – which means you keep squeezing and it will creep, then eventually it will let off. You need to fire between 2 and 5 seconds after the third exhale, which is when you are most steadyâ€™
He wasnâ€™t bothered about where the shots went on the target board, just the grouping. The exact point of aim could be changed later.
I lay on the mat, and following Henryâ€™s comment on the cheek piece, we decided to raise the sandbags to see if it helped. We also dug out a slip on gun extension from his cave and fitted it to the gun. This made all the difference in terms of comfort.
Next, I employed his instruction when looking through the scope. I started squeezing the trigger half way through the last exhale. The trigger really could be squeezed. The target hovered in the sites in the right place, and the shot went off before I really expected it to, meaning there was no flinch reaction.
Three shots and we went and looked at the board. I had grouped within 2 inches at 100 yards, off sandbags. I was delighted. The Coach made me repeat the process to ensure consistency, but this time explained exactly where on my finger I should be pressuring the trigger.
I fired 4 rounds. I knew I had made one wayward shot, which irritated me as I should have delayed the shot and re set the three breaths. When removing that shot from the equation, I managed a similar grouping again. All six shots were within about 2 Â½ inches.
At this point I had run out of RWS ammo, so it was time to pack up the .243. We rounded off with a few shots of Henryâ€™s .270, which is a Sako, a similar looking rifle to my Husqvarna. He has a very expensive scope on it and a moderator. We used it off a bipod this time. Other than the scope, I found very little any better with that gun than mine.
In conclusion, on an afternoon that could have been very frustrating indeed, and ended in me disliking my gun I had in fact had my first real full bore gun-doctor session. Four hours and fifty shots later, the afternoon ended with a very reasonable, deer lethal result for a new to me gun and a new scope on that gun. I felt an enormous sense of satisfaction, and know that with more practice will come a better result. Now I just need to decide whether to get the rifle screw cut for a moderator â€“ The Coach tells me we donâ€™t need it for accuracy, but I donâ€™t know….surely it canâ€™t hurt….?