Posts Tagged ‘NRA’
by B.B. Pelletier
The 2012 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, in St. Louis.
The NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits: it runs for three days instead of four, yet it out-attracts people 2:1 over the SHOT Show. The public can’t get into the SHOT Show except on the last day by buying a $50 ticket; but if you are an NRA member, you walk into the exhibit hall of the Annual Meetings for free. If you aren’t a member, they’ll give you a one-day dispensation for a small fee. And, unlike the SHOT Show, there are things to actually buy, as well as tons of guns to win in drawings — both free and paid.
Ostensibly, the reason for the event is the annual election of a new president and board members, but the main attraction are the exhibits. They’ve been described as a mini-SHOT Show, because most of the exhibitors are the same, though their booths are just a fraction of the size of the ones they have at SHOT. This show fits into about one-fifth the space needed for the SHOT Show, meaning that most major American cities can host it because they have civic centers adequate for the task — where the SHOT Show has grown to a size that just a few cities can handle it.
And at SHOT, people always complain that they don’t get to shoot the guns — well at least those who aren’t in the press don’t. But at the NRA Show, there’s an airgun range in the same building where, for a small fee, a family can try their skills with a number of popular airguns. Pyramyd Air hosts the airgun range and helps to staff it, though a platoon of NRA-certified instructors also serve as volunteer range safety officers.
For safety, every shooter on the airgun range sat and fired off a rest. A horizontal bar limited the guns from elevating too high.
Mac always tells me the SHOT Show is great for people-watching. At the NRA show, I’m under far less pressure and can watch people a lot more. It’s interesting to see them react with the brands that are second-nature to me. I might walk past a Rock River Arms booth full of all sorts of AR-15s and not turn my head, but at the NRA show I saw people lined up three deep with each of the company’s representatives. Those poor guys and gals got no rest because the entire time the show was open customers were tag-teaming them. As soon as one would leave, two more vied to be next. The same holds true at every booth at this show, because the public isn’t jaded like those in the industry. They may not see a display like this more than once in their lives, and they intend to get as much from it as they can! Try to imagine what happens to 70,000 kids in a candy store over a three-day event like this.
Another benefit of the NRA show is that it’s a second chance to see things I didn’t see at SHOT. Or perhaps things that weren’t present at SHOT but are there for the NRA show because it comes several months later in the year. This year, the special thing was two new airguns coming from Daisy — both under the Winchester name. One is a 16-shot BB and pellet rifle styled like an M14. It’s powered by two CO2 cartridges and holds both the CO2 as well as the BB/pellet clips inside a structure that looks like an M14 magazine. Joe Murfin, Daisy’s VP of marketing, told me the rifle gets up to 700 f.p.s. with BBs. This is definitely going onto the test list!
I also got to heft the new 1911 Winchester Model 11 CO2 pistol. Now, there’s a product with an identity crisis! The last time Winchester made a handgun was in the late 1800s — when they were trying to convince Colt to quit building lever-action rifles! It worked then, but I doubt that anyone even cares today. This new BB pistol is all-metal, heavy and features blowback action that shooters are going to love. And, like the 1911A1 firearm, it’s single-action only. This will be another one to test this year.
At the Umarex booth, I was surprised to learn that the beautiful new P38 Walther BB pistol is single-action, only. The P38 firearm was noteworthy for carrying a round in the chamber and being fired double-action for the first shot. After that, the blowback of the slide turned it into a single-action shooter with a much lighter trigger. But the new air pistol is going to be single-action, only. It’s certainly gorgeous to look at and is a heavy chunk in the hand. I suppose people will be willing to do without the double-action feature. I’ll probably test one to see how it does in the accuracy department.
One of the coolest sections of the whole show is the collectors’ row. Dozens of the finest collector clubs from around the country vie to amaze the public with some of the finest vintage firearms ever seen in one place. Some of these clubs are legendary — like the club from Ohio that actually invented the modern gun show 80 years ago. I’ve seen collectibles that are never seen outside of a museum, and no one museum can come close to the variety of models on display at the NRA show!
This Winchester 1873 One of One-Thousand is one of the five best examples known. It is worth at least in the high six figures, if not over a million dollars.
There were several glass cases filled with exquisite miniature arms such this 2mm pinfire revolver. The box it’s in is the size of a book of matches. Tools all have ivory handles. Made around 1860!
I stumbled on a kindred lover of old Ballard rifles in the collector’s section. We exchanged stories and information for half an hour, though he did most of the talking. I got some good pointers from him that I’ll soon try on my Ballard, and he steered me to Swiss black powder, for which I finally found a source in Texas! Soon, my old girl will be puffing the great blue clouds she was brought up on, and hopefully the groups will shrink accordingly.
Besides the collectors’ section, some of the older firms such as Colt displayed the guns of their past right in their booths. These are guns that they once made on a daily basis, but which have long since entered the history books. Imagine what it feels like to stand next to a real Gatling gun worth six figures and see the Colt name on its plaque — right where it has been since the indian wars!
A real 19th century Gatling gun by Colt — and you could walk right up to it!
Besides the exhibits, there were live musical performances, celebrities galore, workshops and seminars on everything having to do with the shooting sports — and bunches more. When you look at the crowd that attends these meetings, you realize that today’s NRA is heavily weighted toward successful people who make their own way in life. It’s no wonder both political parties regard the organization with respect; they’re the heart and soul of this nation.
I suspect this show broke the record for attendance, as the aisles were too crowded to walk most of the time. And the people were enthusiastic about being there. It was a real supercharged event that sapped me of my strength each day.
The show ended on Sunday, and we all returned to our workaday lives, enriched by the experience of the long weekend. I was never more tired than when I left the last time; but if everything goes right, I’ll return next year when it’s practically in my back yard — in Houston.
by B.B. Pelletier
In Part 2, we learned that the peep sight has been around for a very long time. But following the American Civil War, the entire world became intensely interested in shooting for about 60 years, and target shooting was at the top of the list. World-champion target shooters were regarded like NASCAR drivers are today.
Because of all this interest, the common peep sights that were already at least 50 years old, and perhaps as old as a full century, started to change. By 1870, designers were innovating again. One of the most famous innovators, and the man whose designs are still impacting battle rifles 125 years later, was Col. Buffington of the Springfield Armory. In 1884, Springfield selected his sight for the U.S. .45-caliber, single-shot military rifle — the gun we call the Trapdoor.
The Buffington rear sight is both a peep and several different open notches. It sits 10-12 inches from the eye, yet is easily used with practice. Adjustable for both windage and elevation, it increases the accuracy potential by sharpening the sight picture.
As far as I know, the Buffington sight is the first use of a peep sight on a rifle that was intended for all combat troops. It worked so well at ranges of 500 yards and beyond that the American Army used it on all versions of the Krag and the M1903 Springfield, as well. Even though the peephole is located 10-12 inches away from your eye, it still works with precision.
The U.S. Army was so satisfied with the peep sight that they put it on the O3A3 Springfield of WWII, the M1 Carbine, the Garand, the M14 and all models of the M16/M4. It’s an easier sight to learn and far more precise than an open notch. Only in recent years have our Army and Marine Corps begun to experiment with optical sights, with the declination of the peep sight.
The refinement of the peep sight
But it wasn’t the Buffington sight that brought peep sights to their highest level. It was a challenge in 1873 that came from the champion Irish rifle team to any team of riflemen the Americans could put together for the championship of the world. No one, including the Americans, thought the Irish would lose the match; but just shooting against them was such an honor that we put a team together, built a thousand-yard rifle range and two firearms companies — Sharps and Remington — each built long-range target rifles for the team members to shoot.
The Irish shot Rigby muzzleloaders that were considered the most accurate in the world. No one thought a breechloader had a chance against them. And Rigby, himself, was part of the Irish team!
Until the year of the match (1874), there were no peep sights with vernier scales in the U.S. The best anyone could do was adjust their sights by 1/200 of an inch. At close ranges out to a maximum of 300 yards, that’s good enough; but when the distance is 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, the sight has to adjust in the thousandths of an inch. The way to do that was to add a vernier scale to the sight. So, both Sharps and Remington did exactly that.
A vernier scale is a scale of numbers that aligns with an index, making it possible for the naked eye to see measurements as small as one ten-thousandth of an inch, even though our eyes cannot actually see things that small. The vernier scale magnifies the final measurement for us through an ingenious scale of lines that are 10 times or 100 times larger than the measurement it’s measuring.
This closeup shows the Ballard rear peep sight from 1876. This is a common short-range (up to 300 yards) rear sight that’s adjustable to 1/100 of an inch, with care. There’s no vernier scale on this sight, so it has to be read directly. There’s a lot of interpolation required, and I have to use a jeweler’s loupe to read it that close.
This is a vernier scale on a peep sight. The offset index marks on the small scale align with the sight index marks, but only one of them is aligned perfectly. This allows you to “see” measurements as small as 1/1000 of an inch.
This Ballard front sight from 1876 uses an aperture! It was hand-filed to the correct size for the 20-rod (220 yard) bullseye target. It also works perfectly for a smaller 100-yard bull.
The results of the first international match at Creedmoor was a win for the U.S. team; but the score was extremely close, and the Irish team had fired one shot at the wrong target — losing the score. As far as the world was concerned, the match proved nothing about the superiority of muzzleloaders or breechloaders. However, the next year the U.S. won again in England, and this time the score was more conclusive. The breechloader had finally arrived on the target scene, and peep sights were accepted, though most shooters were using scopes if the rules allowed it. And the day of the precision peep sight with a vernier scale had finally arrived.
The American shooters positioned their rear sights on the heel of the butt, giving them the maximum separation of the front and rear sight, but requiring the shooter to lay down with his feet toward the target and balance the muzzle on his shoes. This odd position was given the name Creedmoor — after the range — and has every since defined that style of prone shooting.
Not every nation adopted the peep sight, and some who were as well-regarded as the Americans (namely the Swiss), shot very well with the older post and notch. They used it right on up through the 1960s. The US, Canada and the UK stayed with the peep sight on their battle rifles because it was quicker to learn, faster to use in battle and more precise.
Notice, also, that target shooters were using front aperture sight elements in the 1870s! Until a few years ago, I thought front apertures were an invention of the 1970s, but they’re at least a full century older. They came about because of changes from square targets to round targets around the mid-1870s.
by B.B. Pelletier
Leslie Foran (aka Desertdweller) took this winning photo of his grandson Nicky Crocker shooting a Daisy 856.
Today, we’ll look at peep sights. Do you think a peep sight is a modern invention? Wrong! Despite what Wikipedia says, peep sights date from at least as far back as the 1840s and perhaps even a half-century earlier. There were sights enclosed in tubes during the American Revolution (1775-1783), but those had not yet reached the full development of the sights I will discuss today. By 1840, peep sights were being offered by a great many rifle makers.
The first peep sight consisted of a round, flat plate with a hole drilled through its center. It was mounted on a threaded stalk; and when turned, it could be screwed up and down for vertical adjustment. One-half turn was all that was required, because the plate was the same on both sides. It was located on the tang of a rifle and was used in conjunction with a very fine front bead sight that was mounted atop a tall thin post. This early peep sight has been called a lollipop sight for more than a century because of the resemblance to that candy.
This lollipop sight is from a later schuetzen rifle, but it’s very similar to ones made before the American Civil War.
The front sight was so thin as to be fragile, and so was enclosed in a steel tube — or what we now call a globe. The earliest type of front bead was made from pig bristles that were touched on their tips by a red-hot iron. The heat caused the bristle to melt into a tiny ball that became the bead. The other end of the bristle was stuck in a small piece of soft pine and covered with shellac to hold it in place. The piece of wood was then attached inside the front tube, completing the sight. Later front posts were filed from steel, but they could never be as thin as the ones made from pig’s bristle.
This steel front post and bead is many times thicker than the pig’s bristle front sight mentioned in this report.
Using the peep sight
To use the peep sight, the shooter looked through the hole in the plate (the peephole) and focused on the front bead. The bead was then held either in the center of the target or just under the center, depending on the type of targets being used. An early target was a wooden shingle blackened by fire and scraped white in the center. This white spot was called the mark, and early target shooting was called “Shooting at a mark.”
You’ll notice that I didn’t discuss where the front bead is supposed to be positioned relative to the peephole. That’s because it doesn’t work that way! If you look through a peephole and keep both eyes open, your brain will automatically center the bead in the center of the peephole, because that’s the source of the brightest light.
From the shooter’s perspective, all he does is look through the peephole and put the front bead on the target. His eyes do the rest. That’s why the peep sight is so much more precise than sporting types of open sights.
When the front sight is a square post, it works the same; but you have to estimate the location of the middle of the peephole. On some sights with large peepholes, that can be difficult. It’s still many times faster than a post-and-notch sight set and at least as prercise.
This is what a square-post front sight looks like through a peep. The aim point is 6 o’clock on the bull.
The front aperture
Around 1874, a new type of front sight came into widespread use. It was an aperture atop a post, and the reason it took until 1874 to come into use was because most targets weren’t round until then. Most shooters shot at targets that were squares, so a round aperture wasn’t of much use. But when the American Standard target came into accepted use (the National Rifle Association lobbied for it), it brought the front aperture with it.
To use this type of front sight with the rear peep sight, you look through the peep and focus on the front aperture. Center the black bull in the aperture, and you’re done. As long as your front aperture is very close to the same size as the black bull downrange, all you have to do is align a series of concentric circles.
This is what you see through the peep sight when the front sight is an aperture and the bull is round.
Keep both eyes open!
It isn’t just a good idea to keep both eyes open when using a peep sight — it’s absolutely essential to their proper operation. I did a blog on this back in 2009 that gave you a quick experiment to conduct. If you do so, you will discover why you must keep both eyes open to use peep sights!
In what era do you place the movie Quigley Down Under? Be careful, because the rear sight on his rifle had not been used on an American rifle before 1874. That was the year the UK champion Irish Rifle Team challenged the US team to a match to decide the world championship. The US had no team at the time of the challenge, nor did we have any standard rifles that were up to shooting the 800-, 900- and 1000-yard distances involved. Even the rifle range known as Creedmoor was specially built for this challenge match.
To help the American team, both Sharps and Remington made special Creedmoor match rifles fitted with the very first vernier rear peep sights ever used in this country. They also had wind-gauge front sights to adjust for the drift and winds on the range.
When I return with the next section of this report, I’ll show you what an advancement this really was.
by B.B. Pelletier
Shao Lin wins this week’s Big Shot of the Week.
The more I read the old books about shooting and guns written by men who were born in the 19th century, the more I realize how much alike we all are — and I don’t just mean shooters, now. I mean people, in general!
Let’s begin with nicknames or handles. We have some clever ones here on this blog. But are you aware that back in the late 1800s, shooters who posted letters in their favorite shooting publications — which at that time were mostly newspapers — did the same thing?
Names like Medicus and Iron Ramrod shout out from the late 19th century with their concerns that the younger shooters who are getting used to cartridge-loading breechloaders simply do not know the rudiments of shooting like the “real shooters” who grew up with black powder! The new crop of shooters (I’m speaking of late 19th-century shooters, now) have forgotten how to measure a group with string and they want to measure the distance to their targets in yards instead of rods like real shooters do.
Then, there are the experiments they performed. Dr. Mann was the great one for this, and he kept a very compliant Harry Pope busy fashioning the testbeds for his various forays into the arcane world of ballistics. Things like the cylindrical rifle action that allowed Dr. Mann to rotate the action by degrees in a complete revolution, all while the gun was safely snugged down in his 3,000-lb. “Shooting Gibralter” vise. Or the barrel he convinced Pope to rifle after drilling and tapping eight holes through the side of the barrel near the muzzle so Mann could test the effects of releasing gas to the side so it didn’t exit the muzzle with the bullet. Pope had to lay out that rifling job so those pre-drilled and threaded holes ended up in the grooves of his gain-twist rifling and did not cut through any of the eight lands!
I got a call the other day from Dennis Quackenbush, who follows my column in Shotgun News. He became interested in my comments on the rifling twist rate of airgun barrels as it relates to stabilizing those solid pellets that I call bullets. They don’t shoot very well in most airgun barrels because the twist rate of one turn in 16 inches of barrel isn’t fast enough to stabilize them once they exit the muzzle. So, he offered to make me two test barrels — one rifled 1 in 22″ and the other rifled 1 in 13″ — to test what effects the twist rate has on pellet stabilization. I’m going to accept his offer, and we’ll have yet another look at one of the big drivers of accuracy. I’ll also test velocity using the exact same power settings, so we will have a good look at how twist rates affect velocity.
Years ago, Dennis allowed me to cut off one of his smallbore CO2 rifle barrels an inch at a time so I could chronograph the pellets coming out of many different barrel lengths. I reported those results in The Airgun Letter after completing the test, which is why I now have some sense of how long a CO2 barrel needs to be to get maximum velocity.
Then, there’s the famous Cardew experiment from their book, The Airgun From Trigger to Target, where the authors fired a spring-piston rifle in an inert gas environment that didn’t support combustion — all so they could test the power level of a spring-piston rifle that was denied the possibility of dieseling. The fact that they did the experiment was good enough. We learned that all air rifles that shoot above a certain velocity diesel with every shot. But what was really cool was how they did it — by shooting inside plastic bags!
When I worked at AirForce, we had a customer who purchased a .22-caliber Condor, then proceeded to adapt the rifle’s reservoir to a large helium tank. He could then sit at a bench and fire the rifle on pure helium. He claimed to get over 1,500 f.p.s. from his modified rifle. It was useless for anything else, but he didn’t want to do anything other than see how fast it could shoot.
Even my semi-sane buddy Mac bought a 26-inch Weihrauch barrel in .177 just so he could adapt it to his son’s Condor. He was looking for a flat-shooting air rifle and I guess he got it, because his son is now supposed to be able to keep all his shots on the round end of a soda can at 80 yards.
Let us never forget the great pogostick repeating airgun! That one is now in Vince’s protective care, awaiting his verdict on whether or not it can be made operable.
Here’s a problem many shooters have. Their dominant eye is on the other side of their body from the side that dominates the motor skills. The most common is a right-handed person whose has a dominant or master left eye. This can be overcome in a number of ways — including tinkering! Back when Edith was shooting BRV, she discovered that she is left-eye dominant; but Gary Barnes, who made the rifle she competed with, made her an outrigger scope mount that put the scope in line with her left eye. The mount had to be boresighted for just one range; because like the pellet drop, the gun also shot to the left from the shooter’s perspective. No problem in BRV, though, because it was all shot at one distance.
Edith’s outrigger scope mount helped her sight with her left eye while shooting right-handed.
But Edith is far from the first shooter to have this problem. Take a look at the lengths a shotgun maker will go to satisfy his client.
A friend owns this shotgun with a crossover stock. It was made to aid a right-handed shooter who is left-eye dominant.
A couple months ago, I bought an unusual Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911 rifle at a gun show. This one has been carefully transformed into a fine target rifle. I could spend a whole blog on just this one rifle, but here are some highlights. The military stock has been completely reshaped into a target style with a deeply curved pistol grip. The bolt handle that used to be two cones of red plastic (yes, I said plastic — though they may be almost any synthetic, since this is a 1911 rifle) now has a steel ball for a pull. It looks odd but it works. And the front sight is a thing of beauty. A man has taken the time to hand-make a target globe front sight with replaceable inserts. I got only the one insert that’s in the sight now, which is two brass wires arranged like scope reticles. They look crude up close; but last week at the range I put four cast lead bullets in one inch at 100 yards, and that was the first time I ever loaded for this rifle.
Someone converted this Swiss Schmidt-Rubin model 1911 rifle into a target rifle. The stock is fashioned from the original military stock.
He replaced the conventional red synthetic bolt knobs with a steel ball, which he welded to the bolt handle.
The amount of time and care that someone put into making this target sight is amazing! This is where enthusiasts will take the sport when they have the time, motivation and skills.
I remember attending an airgun breakfast sponsored by the NRA at the Annual Meetings in Kansas City. Dennis Quackenbush and I sat on either side of the man who was the CEO of Crosman Corporation at that time. We got onto the subject of all the people who modify Crosman airguns, and the executive said he was surprised that shooters would spend time and money on a $39 airgun. Dennis told him, “Oh, but they do. You sell them the gun for $39 and I sell them $125 worth of accessories. Your guns are keeping me in business!”
From the look on the man’s face, I don’t think he believed us. And from his perspective, maybe he was right. He might sell 50,000 SSP air pistols in a year and Dennis might sell the parts to modify 500 of them in various ways. So, each man had an entirely different perspective on the situation.
As a writer, though, my eye is always on what people are doing, or what they say they want to do. I can’t be interested in a buyer who responds to a point of sale promotion at a discount store, because he may lose interest tomorrow. It’s when he finds his way to this blog through the tanglefoot of the internet and asks that first question that tells me we’re about to gain another potential member in out growing ranks. It’s at that point that my mantra becomes one of flypaper.
Almost anything can be interesting if it’s presented in the right way. And with airguns, one of the right ways is to wow the audience. Make them say to themselves, “I didn’t know that!” If you can do that, we’ll gain a lot of new shooters who are interested in learning.
Another way to attract new people is to help them through the minefield of hype and hyperbolae. The marketing people are doing all they can to attract people to the hobby, but it’s us veterans who will make things inviting enough that they’ll want to stay. And that is what I want, more than anything.
Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 6
by B.B. Pelletier
Well, today mom is going to start the kids shooting actual pellet guns. We did that in Part 4, but in Part 5 we got back to the schoolroom training again, so I’m going to pretend that the kids haven’t touched off a shot yet.
She decided on the Daisy 953 for her boys and each boy has his own rifle, so the sights can be left set where he needs them. She bought the separate Daisy 5899 receiver sight for each rifle, figuring that if the boys wanted to go farther with this she could always upgrade.
Since mom is by herself, she will let one boy at a time shoot, while the other boy stands behind the line and helps her. This will make the sessions last longer, but the benefit will be a more rapid development of responsibility in both boys. That’s because the non-shooting boy will have to learn to subordinate his thoughts and desires (and his talking) while his brother shoots. If mom can’t get cooperation like that, she can always end the session early.
These are seven-year-old boys (referring back to Part 1), which is a little young for this, but each parent will have to decide that for themselves. Children mature at different rates, and I can’t set an absolute limit; however, we’re on the young side of formal training. That’s not to say a parent can’t have a lot of fun with kids much younger than this; but in that case, the parent is in complete control all the time. In the formal teaching scenario, we start putting trust in the children.
Since these boys are so young, we’ll let them rest their rifles on a rest while they shoot. Maybe next year, they’ll be able to try some prone shots, but right now everything is off a rest. Mom will probably have to pump the rifle for them. That 20 lbs. of single-stroke pumping effort is a bit much for kids this young to handle.
Step one for each boy in turn will be to sight in his rifle. We will have them take three shots at the top sighter bull of an NRA-sanctioned AR 5/10 12-bull target. (They can also use the Birchwood Casey sight-in target.) Then, we’ll call a cold line and mom and both boys will go downrange to look at the target. They’ll decide where the center of the three-shot group is, then return to the firing line; and the shooter, once permission is given by mom, will adjust the rear sight to move the group to the center of the bull. Mom will call the range hot again, and the shooter will fire three more shots at the same bull. Next, she’ll call the range cold, and once, again, all three people will go downrange to the target.
If the sight corrections were applied correctly (i.e., moving the rear sight in the direction we want the center of the group to move), the second group should be closer to the center of the bull. If it isn’t, the sights may have some slack that needs to be taken up. In other words, the sight needs to be adjusted farther than indicated by how much the group needs to move. The shooter should be recording this in a small notebook that he keeps with his rifle.
If the group has moved in the wrong direction, the shooter will record that and write instructions in front of his notebook on how to adjust the rear sight to move the shot group correctly. With 7-year-old shooters, mom will probably have to help a lot with this. The other boy is watching everything his brother is doing, so when it’s his turn he won’t have to learn all this again. Then, the line goes hot and three more shots.
This is kept up until the group seems centered on the 10-ring, which (on this target) is a tiny dot about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. If the top bull gets shot up, shift to the lower sight-in bull and continue until the rifle is sighted in. Then the shooters will switch and the other boy will sight in his rifle in the same way. Sighting in two rifles this way will probably take at least an hour. When the second rifle is done, the session will end. Hopefully, both boys will have some impression of the trigger by the time they’ve fired 12-20 shots through their rifles.
The next time they have a training session, the first thing each shooter will do is confirm their zero with the top sighting bull. If mom wants to speed the session along, she can put a telescope or a pair of binoculars at the firing line so the shooter can see his target without going forward. In competition, each shooter will have a spotting scope at his or her position and will adjust it every time they change shooting positions. For now, we don’t need to be that formal.
by B.B. Pelletier
Despite the title of this report, it’s actually written for anyone who’s trying to teach a new shooter, child or adult how to shoot. The age of the shooter is unimportant. The first four parts of this report have dealt with setting up the range, class discipline and how to conduct a shooting class. Today, we’ll get to the actual teaching.
The triangulation system
When I was a youngster, my mother enrolled me in an NRA-run course that taught me how to shoot. This was in the late 1950s, and the techniques used to teach us back then were those that had been popular both before and during World War II. I’ve researched both the modern U.S. Army and Marine Corps marksmanship syllabi and find that what I’m about to show you is, unfortunately, no longer taught — but it should be! Today’s lesson could turn out to be the most valuable teaching technique for training new shooters that you ever learn.
We’re going to teach the new shooter how to use sights through a method called triangulation. Although we’ll be using aperture sights, which are the easiest to learn and the most precise to use, any type of non-optical sight may be taught by this method. Read the entire report before asking any questions. This method will immediately reveal whether a student understands how to use sights, plus it will show the student’s level of skill in sighting — all without the use of a rifle.
Making a triangulation sighting bar
You can make a simple training aid to teach the student how to use the sights. It consists of a straight bar with open “sights” on each end. An 18″ strip of wood will suffice for the bar, and you can fashion the “sights” from paper index cards. If you’re the coach of a shooting club and plan to teach a lot of kids, it might be worth the effort to mount real sights to the bar, though that isn’t necessary. Simple card-stock sights taped to the bar as shown in the drawings will work great. If you cannot find a piece of wood to use for the bar, a long ruler works well as a substitute. The dimensions of this training aid are not precise and critical, as long as it’s made reasonably close to what’s described here.
Poke a small hole through the rear “sight” for the student to peer through. The front “sight” is just a square post. Fasten both front and rear sights so they cannot move during the exercise, as repeatability is important. Place the sighting bar on a box so the student can use the sights without touching or moving them.
The instructor stands or sits 33 feet away and holds a black bullseye target against a large white piece of paper that’s attached to a wall or a large box. In the center of the black bullseye, a small hole has been made for a lead pencil to poke through to mark on the white background paper.
Conduct of the exercise
The student looks through the sighting bar and tells the instructor how to move the bullseye target until it’s positioned perfectly against his sights for a 6 o’clock hold. It’s important that the sighting bar does not move during the exercise — only the target, as adjusted by the instructor. When the sight picture looks right, the student tells the instructor to mark the target and the instructor makes a mark on the white background paper by pressing his pencil through the hole in the center of the target.
Repeat this exercise three times and there will be three pencil marks on the white background paper. The closer these marks are to each other, the better the student has adjusted his sights. This gives both the student and the instructor an excellent idea of how well the student understands the sight picture.
The results you want
What you are looking for is three dots on the background paper in the form of a triangle. A good result is if the dots are all within one inch of each other. Don’t be surprised if they are within one-half-inch of each other. The closer they are, the better and more precise the student is seeing the sight picture.
But if the dots are several inches apart, the student is not yet seeing the sight picture correctly. They may not understand all that is required of them in the exercise, or they may not appreciate the precision they are expected to achieve. Also, this could be an indication of a vision problem. Once you determine the problem(s), you can run the exercise again until they get it right. When the student can place three dots close to each other, they will instinctively know how the rifle sights should look, and you can rule that out as a problem area.
A simpler, faster way to begin
You can avoid making the sighting bar if you want to by simply using the rifle itself. Simply rest it so the student can see through the sights without touching or moving the rifle. This will be more difficult because of the stock, which is why the bar was created, but it is possible. However, many people don’t like the idea of being downrange with a rifle pointed at them, and the sighting bar makes it unnecessary. I think the sighting bar is a much better training aid that takes only a few minutes to create.
Style of the sights doesn’t matter
Don’t worry if your rifle’s sights don’t look like the sights I’ve shown here. You can make them any kind of style you desire. Just cut them out of card stock and color them black to help the student define the sight picture. If you plan to use open sights with a rear notch, be sure to allow enough room behind the rear sight so it appears reasonably sharp to the student when aligned with the front sight. And remember to tell the student that the front sight is what they must focus on. Both the rear sight and the target will appear slightly out of focus when they sight correctly.
I have wanted to share this technique with my readers for years, but I always held back because I felt it might be too difficult to follow. I hope this report has made it clear and that this exercise helps your students learn how to use open sights as it once helped me. One week after completing this exercise successfully, I was shooting five-shot, dime-sized groups at 50 feet from the prone position, which was the first position the NRA taught.
by B.B. Pelletier
As we begin today’s report, remember that I’m doing this for a single mom with two young boys to teach. Everything I write is from that perspective.
Okay, you’ve had enough time to get everything together from the list I gave you in part 3. And I assume that you have chosen a safe place to shoot. That would be a place where the cat and dog cannot suddenly pop up downrange without your knowing about it, or a place that has no door downrange that can’t be locked so people don’t suddenly walk into the line of fire.
Your first session
Remember, this is supposed to be fun. So, enter it with that mindset. The first step is to get the pupils to pay attention. You talk to them about it and explain that on a firing range everyone listens to the rangemaster (range officer or whatever). Tell them you will be testing them on this from now on.
Safety is the first briefing. No one touches a gun once it is on the line until the rangemaster instructs you to. Since these are children, “the line” is going to be special initially. Let me describe it now. The line is a table with rolled blankets (or whatever you can find) on which you can rest a single rifle. There’s a chair behind the table where the shooters are to sit.
No air pistols for initial training — they’re too dangerous for untrained people to handle. Since we’re teaching children and there’s only one of you, there will be only one rifle on the line at any time. That means one shooter, only, at any time. You can control the actions of one person, but not two. The rifle is oriented on its rest so that it is aimed downrange at a pellet trap.
There must be a command at which all students know to stop talking and start listening. In the Boy Scouts, the leader used to raise his hand with the three-fingered Boy Scout salute. The word quickly spread through the troop, “Sign’s up!” and everyone knew to go quiet and turn to watch the leader. You have to have the same control on your firing line because you’re teaching discipline. The rangemaster is important, the student is not. This is one of the hardest things to teach, and with some children it’s impossible. I have been involved with youth shooting programs. If we had a problem with certain children after working with them as long as we felt we could, they were discharged from the team for that year. They were welcome to return the next year to see if they had learned to calm down.
A single parent cannot discharge her children, but she certainly can stop a training session and explain the reason to both pupils. The next session she holds should (hopefully) show improvement. But do not proceed if you don’t have 100 percent control of all shooters. This is a sport with potential danger, and we’re working to cancel as much of it as possible.
Since everyone learns the few simple rules, anyone can call a “cease fire” any time the range is hot and they see a safety violation. “Hot” means that active shooting is happening. A cold range is a safe range, and the rangemaster calls the range both hot and cold. I will tell you how to do that in the next installment. It’s important that the conduct of your home range follows an established pattern, because some day your children will be on other ranges and they need to learn the universal procedures of range conduct. But the point I’m making here is that everyone involved should feel bound by the same safety rules and know what to do when they’re violated. So, every shooter is a deputy rangemaster.
- No one goes forward of the firing line when the range is hot.
- When the range is cold, guns may be touched if the rangemaster allows it.
- No one touches a gun when there are people downrange (on a cold range).
- Guns on the line are opened with safeties on (if possible — some guns won’t permit it), so the rangemaster can see they are not loaded (i.e., bolts open).
- Shooters do not approach the firing line until told to do so by the rangemaster.
- Guns are brought to the line and removed on the command of the rangemaster.
- Behind the firing line there should be no handling of guns unless commanded by the rangemaster.
- When off the line, guns are bolts open and safeties on (if possible — some guns won’t permit it).
- During breaks, no one handles rifles unless accompanied by the rangemaster.
- The muzzle of the rifle on line is always pointed downrange. No one ever gets any part of their body in front of the muzzle of the gun on line.
It’s impossible to write every rule for a firing line, so common sense must be employed. So, everyone needs to keep this in mind and act on it. Any unsafe act is a safety violation. If the range is hot, a cease fire must be called and the violation pointed out and corrected.
Mom teaches these rules and requires the shooters to memorize them. Hint: if you begin with the basic safety concept, the rules are easier to remember. A verbal test (for younger children) is given, to verify they understand the basic safety requirements.
Here’s the rapid training part: Mom intentionally violates a rule while instructing to encourage the shooters to draw her attention to it. Once they get the hang of doing this, you’ll have the safe range you desire. Keep this up occasionally to keep the shooters sharp.
Next time, I’ll cover the range commands and teaching the shooters how to sight a rifle.