September 09, 2013
The Need for Speed, Continued
By David E. Petzal
About a month ago, I qualified in a 600-yard rifle match which was, as they say, a learning experience. There were about 20 shooters, and all were veterans, and far better shots than I. They included at least one Distinguished Expert, a national record holder or two, a state rifle team member, and so on. I was in way over my head. But what impressed me most about these virtuosi was not only how well they shot, but how fast.
We shot three 20-shot strings for record, and for each string we had 20 minutes. However, from this 60 seconds was deducted the 15 to 18 seconds it took for our targets to be pulled, marked, and run back up. So we got about 45 seconds per shot. Just about all the competitors needed far less than that. Each relay finished in about 15 minutes, which is really cranking them off. And remember that this included cycling the action, checking the wind flags, noting where your previous shot had gone and wondering “WTF?”, aiming, and squeezing the trigger.
On the other hand, I’ve been present at many a shoot where the unskilled, the unpracticed, and the inexperienced aimed and aimed and aimed at 100-yard targets, taking three to five minutes per shot, and achieving very little in the way of results.
Jeff Cooper, who was as diligent a student of rifle shooting as I know, ranked speed just about equal with accuracy. As they teach you at Gunsite Academy, a good fast shot is better than a perfect slow shot because you’re never going to get the time for the perfect slow shot. Granted, the folks on the firing line with me were trying for perfection, but they were still quick about it.
There are a number of absolute constants in good rifle shooting and speed is one of them.