Hey All! Today’s article is going to discuss the topic of the Rifle-Shooter System. When we talk about the Rifle-Shooter System it’s a way of combining a number of different elements that come together for you to engage a target at distance. We talk a lot about gear, what trigger breaks cleanly, what scope tracks well, what barrel offers good accuracy. However, one large element of the Rifle-Shooter System, is the shooter! You can take a six thousand dollar rifle capable of 1/4 MOA accuracy, and in the hands of a novice, not be able to get hits at all. Likewise you can take a cheap, factory rifle, and in capable hands still have great success engaging targets at distance. The Rifle and the Shooter are equally important, but how they interact and cooperate is something of a sliding scale. That’s the concept we want to discuss!
The Rifle-Shooter System
As I said, both the rifle and the shooter are equally important components of the Rifle-Shooter System. I would honestly attribute 50% of the accuracy to the rifle, and 50% of the accuracy to the shooter. The real question, when diagnosing an accuracy problem, is just where along the scale do the different components lay? Are you an excellent shooter hampered by a rifle only living up to half of it’s potential? Or is the rifle more capable than the shooter? I see a lot of questions about accuracy problems from newer shooters and I do my best to assist them in finding an answer. You can imagine the challenge from my perspective, though!
Is the reason this shooter is having trouble because of his equipment, or because of his level of skill? Maybe it’s both! This is why you’ll often see people suggest allowing a different shooter to try a potentially problematic rifle. It helps isolate the shooter side of the Rifle-Shooter System. The idea there, is to take a known quantity, somebody that shoots often and is regarded as a skilled shooter, and let them try the problem rifle. If a skilled shooter can’t get a rifle to shoot, there’s likely a shortcoming with the equipment. Conversely, if the skilled shooter takes over and shoots the rifle like he’s ringing a bell…maybe it’s the owner that needs some work, and not the gun!
The problem with long range precision shooting is typically in the expectations of the folks interested in getting involved in the sport. They watch cool guy movies about hitting soup cans at a mile and expect one hole groups from a factory rifle they bought for less than a grand. That isn’t realistic. Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of factory rifles capable of producing ragged “one hole” groups. However, they typically cost more than the novice is willing to invest in a new sport. Even if the rifle is capable of sub half minute or even quarter minute accuracy, the novice typically is not. So that’s where a lot of the “why won’t this gun shoot?” questions and discussions come from. The expectations aren’t matching up with reality.
So what’s the solution? I would say it’s a two pronged solution at it’s basic level. First, you need to have realistic expectations. If you don’t expect the unlikely, you’re less apt to be disappointed by reality. Next, try to eliminate variables to avoid the stacking of tolerances as your budget permits. A factory Remington 700 these days can be hit or miss with accuracy. If you get a good barrel, sub minute of angle shooting is easily possible. However, the factory trigger leaves a lot to be desired. So even if you had a decent barrel out of the box, the trigger may hamper your ability to get a consistent and crisp trigger press. If the barrel is a dud, and the trigger leaves a lot to be desired, that’s the stacking of tolerances. Multiple negatives can compound the difficulty level in achieving the level of accuracy you desire.
This Is Not A Cheap Sport
The reason precision shooting costs so much, is because quality gear commands a higher price. This doesn’t mean you can’t get into the sport with a $650 dollar Remington 700 rifle. You absolutely can do it and people do it all the time. Just be realistic about what you hope to achieve with the rifle. As your budget allows, try to eliminate some possible sources of inconsistency. Upgrade the trigger so you can achieve a smooth and consistent trigger press. If you’re still having issues try having a match grade barrel added to the receiver. Just be cognizant of the fact that as you eliminate possible issues with the gear, your list of excuses for poor accuracy grows shorter. Eventually you will have a very nice rifle in front of you. Or maybe you make really good money and bought an Accuracy International rifle from the get go. If that’s the case, and you’re still having accuracy problems, it’s probably not the gun. It’s the shooter.
Think of it this way. How would you describe a man who’s willing to spend thousands of dollars on a rifle but is unwilling to spend money on training or experience? A Goof, that’s how! Keep in mind training and experience come in many forms. You can train very effectively by yourself at your home range if you push yourself to achieve more difficult shots all the time. You don’t have to spend a grand on a precision rifle class, but it certainly won’t hurt! You would be surprised how much you learn by competing. You’ll find out very quickly what works and what doesn’t! You also have the benefit of watching people more skilled than you address the same challenges. If you want to achieve better accuracy potential from your Rifle-Shooter System, don’t neglect putting some time, money, and effort, into the shooter!
Remember the Rifle-Shooter System is something of a sliding scale. You can have a rifle that outperforms it’s owner by a mile and I’ve seen plenty of guys with cheaper rifles outshooting guys with much more expensive gear. The higher your expectations, the more finely tuned both elements of the Rifle-Shooter System have to be. I’ve won, built, purchased, and upgraded several rifles in my years shooting precision rifle. If one of them acts up, I almost always suspect the issue lies with myself before I blame the rifle. If the rifles are known quantities and perform to my expectations, and suddenly they aren’t, I have to look at what’s changed. Is something loose or worn out? Or is it maybe because illness has kept me off the range and I’m rusty? Consider all possibilities! Neglect nothing! Remember, the more money you spend on gear, the more likely the issue is the “loose nut behind the trigger!” Have something to add to the article? Drop it in the comments below!