Train to succeed with Will O’Meara

Will O’Meara considers what we get out of training with one’s rifle and finds the time to check out a new custom PRS rig

I’m squeezing in practice for some Precision Rifle type competitions that are being run this summer, and as I look deeper into this type of shooting I am learning lots of little bits along the way.

A good buddy of mine is also jumping neck-deep into the world of PRS and I was keen to test out his new rig recently. So in this article I’d like to do a couple of things: have a look at a custom PRS rifle, and go through some basic training techniques for this game.

We’ll do the training first. The most productive training sessions I walk away from usually follow a logical format, and that format looks something like this: Identify some key outcomes you want to get from the training; plan the training session; highlight the key components of each shoot; dry fire; pick a shoot; rehearse; execute; analyse; practise weak spots; implement improvement; rerun the shoot; take note.

So what does that actually look like? Let’s talk through a practical example. The purpose or key desired outcome of the example shoot is to practise multiple target engagement from alternate positions.

This means I will need to use the following skills: ranging targets, judging wind, applying elevation and windage, building a kneeling position off a barricade, loading, reloading, mag change, applying correction, and timing my shots to ensure maximum use of available time.

Many of these skills can be practised without ever firing a shot – in fact some of the most useful training is done before you burn any powder. I have often jumped feet-first into a shoot, having only thought about the round count and target engagement sequence, and the result is usually the same: if I had made a plan and rehearsed, I could have done it quicker. When I get to the range, I am as keen to start shooting as the next person, but the best days training are when I force myself to have the discipline to plan and rehearse.

Skills such as timing are easily practised by dry firing and are also well practised with a rimfire. Being slick with your rangefinder can be practised anywhere within reason, and you don’t need to launch projectiles to mil targets. (Milling targets is where you use your scope reticle to measure a target of a known size in order to work out the distance to that target – we will cover that more fully in a future article).

Before each stage or shoot, the competitors are given a brief. It may go something like this: “This stage is a known distance stage. There are two reactive targets, the first one at 510 yards and the other at 580 yards. You have 10 rounds in two magazines – max of five per mag and 90 seconds to engage the targets.

The V1 Bipod from Spartan Precision is purpose built for PRS and Tactical applications

“You must alternate targets for each shot.” In preparation for such a shoot, you could practise building a kneeling position and dry firing. You could practise your round count and mag change. You could write down your windage and elevations on a wrist-coach or on your rifle.

“You could rehearse your tempo over the 90 seconds. There are also some decisions to make: Will you range the target for yourself or take their word for the ranges given? Will you hold or dial your elevation and windage? What aids will you use to build your position? Each situation will be different.

For this one I’d range the targets for my own peace of mind. I’d call out what target I’m engaging first and I’d definitely dial elevation for the 510-yard target, then I’d just hold a half mil high of centre for the second. This means I have no dialling to do as I alternate targets and I only have one holdover to think about.

I’ll also be thinking about wind before I start, for example: using the likes of the 6.5 Creedmoor 136gn Sako ammo, if I judge the wind at 10mph left to right for the 510-yard target, hold 1 mil and get a centre hit on the 10-inch-wide plate, the temptation might be to apply the same wind hold for the 580-yard plate.

“It’s not that much farther really… but I’d be wrong! I’d be better off holding 1.2, or if I only have mil dots, I’d hold inside left edge with my mil dot to make the most of the target. I find it helps if I mentally rehearse these in a mantra style to drill them in.

If I run the shoot and find I’m sloppy on the mag change, I’ll invest some time in practising that. If I’m not steady, I’ll work on building a better position and on my natural alignment with the target.

Because in this case I have two targets to line up with, I will have to figure out what’s best to do – this will depend on how far I have to traverse and whether I am left- or right-handed. I am right-handed, so I naturally find it easier to traverse left.

There’s more to training sessions than just burning through ammo

Let’s say this is a situation where I am switching targets every shot and have a lot of time pressure. If the first target is on my left and there is a big traverse right to the second target, it might be easy to get caught out.

Ideally I’d like natural alignment for each shot but if it is not going to be possible to shimmy left and right, I would set up on the right-hand target with natural alignment and pan left from there.

This is all of course situation-dependent but it gives you an idea of the depth of consideration and rehearsal that you can go into. You will yield the best results from your practice if you note what you learned, let that sink in and reinforce the positive outcomes from the session. 

As I mentioned at the beginning, a good friend of mine just built a PRS rig. The calibre is 6.5 Creedmoor and for two reasons I was keen to shoot that calibre. First, I have only shot 6.5 Creedmoor in a semi-auto gas gun, never in a bolt action, and secondly John Lambert tells me there is a Tikka in 6.5 Creedmoor winging its way from GMK to JL Firearms with my name on it – but more on that in the future. For now I am looking forward to seeing how this custom rig shoots.

So let’s lay out the spec of the purpose built machine. She’s (I think it’s a she because in the picture he sent me, the rifle was on his bed, but I could be wrong…) a Remington Short Action, blueprinted and trued, mated to a Hawk Hill 26in stainless barrel, and there’s a Little Bastard self-timing muzzle brake on the pointy end to remind you to put on your hearing protection. You’ll only forget once!

The trigger is a Trigger Tech Special set to 2lb. This barrelled action sits neatly in a Rainier Arms chassis, which helps add a few pounds and helps the management of recoil. I was also keen to shoot some more off the Spartan Precision V1 bipod that is attached afore. 

After much admiring of this John Greene build, we laid it on the scales, which told us she was almost 16lb. So with the formalities out of the way, a fresh box of Sako 139gn ammo was cracked open and the testing began. The trigger was crisp, the recoil smooth and with the 25x power of the Mark 5 Leupold, we could see nice little groups printing down-range.

This brings me to the scope that gives this rifle some of its identity. The Mark 5 is an ideal scope for this PRS-style rifle and the H59 Horus reticle is well suited to this application. If you haven’t ‘shot the grid’ that is the Horus reticle then you are missing out on an experience.

Granted, it’s not for everyone, but if you are willing to put in the time, you will reap the benefits. Many look at these reticles and say “too busy for me” but if you’ve ever tried to hold for windage and elevation without any definite point of aim, you’ll appreciate the concept.

There are many advantages to the Horus. You can choose to dial or hold; there is no mechanical aspect to go wrong; shot correction is very quick if you see your strike; wind holds are very precise and it is nice for milling targets.

The Leupold Mk5 that encapsulates the H59 reticle is a serious piece of engineering. It is light for a 25x tactical scope, tipping the scales at 30oz (850g). This 15in long tactical tool has very tidy locking turrets that include a tactile indicator for the second and third rotation that max out at a generous 34.9mRad – I like it.

The balance with a PRS rifle is weight versus manipulation, and at 16lb this 6.5 is probably on the lighter end of the scale for such purpose-built tack drivers. Having said that, it shoots smoothly and is nice to handle. 

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