Will O’Meara puts his training to use in his first PRS competition and learns some valuable lessons that can translate into hunting knowhow
To compete in some Precision Rifle Competitions was a goal for this year, but due to a number of factors it was almost September before I actually entered a match. Even that was a bit of a last-minute affair. I like to be well organised, prepared and practiced before a competition of any kind, but it doesn’t always work out like that.
Having said that, I have had my new Tikka CTR in 6.5 Creedmoor for over a month, and any lack of preparation has been down to me. This PRS journey is all about Iearning, improving and sharing my insights with you so you can apply the principles in practice, competition and on the hunt.
I have, however, made sure that any time spent on the rifle has been quality, and I have invested time in setting the rig up correctly. It was during this set-up phase that I learned one of these lessons for myself: scope cant, a subject I thought I knew all about. Not so!
The rationale I always understood when it came to levelling your scope was: your scope should be level when you shoulder the rifle. You may cant the rifle slightly due to individual body shape and ergonomics, so you don’t need to have the scope exactly level with the action.
The rationale to explain this was that the bullet doesn’t know what cant the barrel is at as it leaves the muzzle – it’s just spinning out of the end of a pipe. So your scope only needs to be level with ‘the world’, and this can be ensured with a bubble level.
The scientific back-up for this focused on getting correct and full elevation out of your scope as you apply correction for range – but there is another aspect at play. We cannot consider the barrel and the scope in isolation.
They are connected in a parallel manner, and you add corrections to your scope so your point of aim and point of impact coincide. OK, go and get a cup of tea, take a deep breath and focus – this is kind of hard to explain…
The most critical factor with scope alignment is that the bore of your barrel and the ‘bore’ of your scope are connected. Using the clock method to explain, you want your scope to be at 12 o’clock and bore at 6 o’clock. If this is the case then they will be in correct vertical alignment all the way to the target.
However, if your scope is not level with your rifle, then you induce cant to level the crosshair. This means that your scope could be closer to 1 o’clock and your bore 7 o’clock – you could have a level crosshair and be in a natural hold of the rifle, but your point of impact will always be off to one side at long range. In a technical sense, we are seeking a parallel bore zero and this will only work if they are in vertical parallel.
The diagram shown above will hopefully close the loop on this explanation.
Let’s get on to something a little lighter in nature. Speaking of light, this brings me to the latest addition to my PRS set-up: a PSE E-Tac 4 carbon fibre stock. The design and construction of this handmade, space-age stock is just incredible and a testament to the knowledge, creativity and workmanship of PSE Composites.
The PSE E-Tac stock weighs in at 1kg or 2.2lb; we added a little extra weight to the system by means of a 300-gram adjustable cheekpiece. The benefit of weight here is that it is in line with the bore and thus effective at managing recoil. PSE can supply these weighted cheekpieces from 80 to 500 grams. This might be particularly effective if you want to have a dual purpose rig for hunting and PRS, for example.
For me, I like the notion that this set-up is all off-the-shelf; the Tikka CTR rifle and Sako ammunition is all standard stuff, the Steiner scope and Hausken moderator are simple bolt-ons, and the PSE stock is plug-and-play and a proven match for the popular Tikka.
I mentioned that I shot my first Precision Rifle match. It was run at Midlands National Rifle Range here in Ireland this July and was well laid out, well managed and had a definite focus on safety first. The stages themselves were simple but challenging.
I added to that challenge by only having one magazine – this meant reloading during the timed stages, which of course added to my total time. On reflection, this was actually was good training for me and also highlighted room for improvement in my preparation.
If you are unfamiliar with PRS then this match is a good example of how such matches can translate into practical hunting practice. The closest target was at 190 metres, a four-inch target to be shot off a strand of wire in the kneeling and standing position.
This was my first stage of the event and I learned lots of lessons from it – the worse I do in an event, the more lessons there are. What I learned here (the realisation came on the drive home to be honest) was to listen to the instructions, think, spend time setting up well, and don’t worry about getting all your shots off – focus on getting one hit at a time.
The second stage was sitting, kneeling and standing off a post at around 300 metres. Half of the six stages were limited to the use of one bag for support. During the course of fire we saw scenarios involving bales of hay, field gates and a trailer – all props you might reasonably expect to find in the course of your hunt.
I managed to clean one stage, getting 100 per cent hits, shooting off of stacked square bales at ranges up to 790 metres. The biggest thing I focused on here was to take my time, make a good wind call and focus on my trigger.
As I got to the sixth shot, the demons started to creep in. “Don’t mess it up,” I kept telling myself (in my head it was less polite). I recognised this negative inner monologue, took a deep breath, checked the wind and focused on the process… Impact.
The walk back to the 1000-yard line was a happy one, but I quickly got into focus mode and started thinking about my checklist for this shoot. I tuned into the brief: one minute to set up, two minutes to fire 10 rounds. Rounds are placed 10 metres behind the shooter and retrieved one at a time.
As I prepared, I focused on aligning the rifle with the target, assessing the wind down-range, building a good rear rest, getting correct elevation, windage at zero, magnification at 16, lay out the ammo cleanly.
As I chambered the first round, I knew I had 91 clicks on for elevation (mRad). I gauged the wind at 5mph, held 1.2 windage, check level, breathe, trigger control… Impact.
The next three rounds were good hits too, and as I ran back with the fifth round I felt the wind was picking up… give it another 0.2… miss and again with the sixth. I made the mistake here of expecting a different result from the same input. It would have been better to give it more windage after the first miss or to maximise the target.
The last stage was three shots kneeling and three shots standing off a trailer bed and sideboard respectively. The range was 1060 yards, and although I didn’t get a strike kneeling, I was seeing my fall of shot and making good corrections. I employed this data in the standing position, and using the Spartan Sentinel Tripod I got two out of three hits – a good note to finish on.
It was an enjoyable day. I learned from the success and failures of myself and others, and enjoyed like-minded company. The kit I used for this competition worked well and I could see that the discipline-specific equipment such as bags of various sizes were of similar origin across the field, with Armageddon Gear and Practical Precision UK sharing the majority.
I was surprised that there weren’t more tripods in use, and thought that my own use of the tripod as rear support was essential to connecting with the target past 1000 yards in a crouched standing position.
In this round of the series we saw an impressive performance from Tommy Craig and John Dundee Taylor, two sound men who are deeply committed and well experienced in this discipline – reflected in them taking first and second with only one single point between them.
In summary, some of the lessons learned from myself and my observation of others is as follows: listen to the brief, make a plan, adjust the plan as needed.
Don’t just force it through – talk yourself through your actions as you go, breathe, take your time, get set up, double-check your range and your dope, know your wind and don’t expect the same input to yield a different result.
We can apply all of these lessons to the practicalities of hunting and we can lean on these experiences when faced with challenges on the hunt.
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