It would seem like a contradiction of what would be normal, but sometimes we have more meaningful discussions (or at least ones of great importance) at Coco's, after the event, than we do at the event itself. Perhaps it is because, between war stories and the actual participation in the event, not everyone is in the same place at the same time long enough to get serious talk going. At any rate, I wish to recount and expand on a discussion we had after the event, while we ate at that right-wing militant's restaurant-of-choice, Coco's.
Having figured out the ranking right after the shoot, and since almost everyone had a chance to look over the score sheets, we all had an idea how we all did that day. Once again, Bill Johnson turned in a good performance. I am always happy to see my friends do well. In my shoot report, I claimed that Bill was a typical example of a good shooter overcoming a bad tool. I truly believe that the man is more important than the tool. The tool, the weapon, will only help if the shooter is up to the task of making the system work. I don't shoot "mouse guns" often, but I have done well with them when I've shot them in the past.
Just as I did back in the days of the AUG craze in the SCTC program, when some people thought an AUG would allow a shooter to shoot better (sounds like something to tell your wife, to justify the purchase), I still think the shooter is the key element. Even an SSG won't make you shoot better, if you can't shoot well in the first place. However, if I were to have to shoot in competitions like SOF again, where the AUG and its optical sight is allowed, I might use one if I really thought it would function well for me -- with cash money on the line, and only the cardboard targets or knock-down steel to face me. I think it's primarily a competition weapon because, for its caliber and just like the AK series and the HK93, it is just too heavy. The CAR-15 and Mini-14 are lighter and more compact.
So, what did we talk about at Coco's? We talked about spreading ourselves too thin over too many firearms! This subject has been kicked around before, but it keeps coming back up. Why? It must be because it is an ongoing situation that we all face from time to time. Does the old phrase, "beware of the man who shoots only one rifle -- he may know how to shoot it," mean anything to you? This will be the thrust of my column this time. Read on.
To a certain extent, this last concept easily explains why Bill does well with his mouse gun: because he works with it most of the time, and he has that familiarity with his weapon that breeds confidence. He shoots his car gun (a Mauser .308 bolt-action) occasionally, and every once in awhile he shoots his SSG bolt-action rifle. And speaking of his SSG, I may in fact shoot Bill's SSG better than he does, because that SSG rifle used to belong to me and I probably have more real shooting time on that rifle than Bill does. Bill has a steady job and could afford to buy too many firearms, and he even may have done so, but in his training efforts to improve his skill level and keep up with his first-line weapons, he has not spread himself too thin. I know he has other weapons because I've seen them, but he doesn't drag them all out to shoot every month. It seems as if he has a "game plan," to become proficient with certain weapons that he has chosen. We are all tempted to use everything we own, because we like firearms, and that is at the heart of the matter of spreading yourself too thin.
Remember the phrase I just said, "that familiarity with his weapon that breeds confidence." Confidence is, maybe, the strongest but probably the least understood aspect of shooting. It is easy to see the nice wood, the "trick" features, the size of the magazine, and the power of the scope, but it is not so easy to see how all of this breeds confidence in the shooter, and how it might help him to shoot better with any weapon.
I counted on my developed confidence with my old #1 rifle to carry me through this just-past Walking/Running Man because I couldn't get my new "M1/H" rifle (actually, a rifle that I am getting set up for a student) ready in time. I went out and tried to refine the zero and, in the process, I moved the scope post (an extremely critical adjustment on an offset scope) the wrong way. It was also raining, and they shut down the range on me. There was just no time to do the zeroing right, in the time remaining before the event.
Therefore, I fell back to my old #1 rifle (the M1/H "engineering mule") that I have shot for years. I know where it shoots, so all I did is take it out of the case and run a wet patch through the bore. I knew that if I did my job of holding and squeezing, and held the right lead, the rifle would deliver the hits for me. It did just fine.
Why did it do so well? Was it because it was a Garand? Maybe. Was it because it was a 30-caliber weapon? That might have helped some. But don't you think it shot well because the shooter behind it had confidence in it? I may have more faith in weapons in 30 caliber, and I am partial to M1 Garands, but I have also shot that particular M1 Garand enough to have the confidence that if I feed it good ammo, hold it on target, and manage the trigger well, that, by Odin and Thor, it will hit whatever I want it to!
What Have We "Brung" to Shoot, Today?
It seems that in our program, over the years -- not just recently, but for quite a while back -- you could always be sure that certain people would bring a different weapon every time. Others would bring the same old weapon almost every time. Uncle Charlie used to see what ammo he had in stock, and let that determine which rifle he'd shoot. I switched around quite a bit, some years ago, but I always tried to have on hand a "number one" rifle that (in my blissful ignorance) I thought was ready to go-to-war, while I was in the process of experimenting with other weapons.
The real trouble with that idea, which I discovered as I went along, was that your go-to-war, #1 field rifle isn't being tested on a regular basis! I say that you are going to have to shoot a rifle often if you are going to build any real confidence with it. At least, that has been my experience. If you just shoot a weapon once or twice and then put it away, how deep is your confidence in that weapon, if and when the chips are down for real blood and thunder?
We are all adults amd until the evil and corrupt politicians hault us away to the re-education camps, we may do as we please -- unless they just make us all outlaws first. If someone wants to bring a different weapons out each time, that's just fine. I'm sure some people feel that they really need to be familiar with a variety of weapons, and if they feel that way, they should do it. However, I wouldn't recommend switching rifles around for every event to a new shooter. You need to have developed a good skill level before you start switching things around too much. If you didn't stick to a weapon long enough to work the bugs out of it, I just don't know how much confidence you could have in that weapon later, if you had to grab it and head for the hills.
Part of the explanation for this, as we all discussed it, was that we have so much leisure time and buying power today, as opposed to the Dark Ages or even the turn of the 20th century. It is now easy to obtain many more weapons, in many different calibers, than any of us can really master. Think about it. How many shoulder weapons do you own, and how much time do you spend with each one?
We also had a lengthy discussion about shotguns and, of course, their ammo. First of all, does anyone really need a shotgun? A rifle and a pistol will do almost anything you need to do with hand-held weapons, won't it? But golly gee whiz, ain't all the different types of ammo that is available for the shotgun interesting? You have slugs, heavy buckshot, light buckshot, birdshot in so very many sizes, flares, flechettes, tear gas, rubber balls, flame-thrower rounds, and who knows what else is on the market -- maybe a shotgun-launched, nuclear-tipped cruise missile!
You get the point. It's so tempting to think that you could tailor the shotgun load to the exact situation that you might be facing. But it also falls into the common trap of having too many different systems (in this case, different loads of ammo). Do you really think that you will have just the right one in place when you need it, or that you'll have the time to change to the perfectload for the situation, just as the balloon goes up?
I Feel Guilt, Too!
I have a particular madness (maybe even a psychosis) about rifle ammo, in my case .30-06. I just cannot bear to shoot a 168-grain Sierra match bullet (that costs me 12 to 15 cents each, plus the matchcase and primer, and plus the time it takes me to weigh each powder charge) at 100 or 200 yards, if I have any kind of a choice in the matter. I suppose in my case it is based on creeping poverty, but I also read a story that Arnold Palmer, even at the peak of his earnings, worried about the banks taking away his house and properties. It seems that as a poor young lad, the bank had done that to his family and, in spite of his wealth, he still felt uneasy about hanging on to real estate. So I guess even if I win the lottery, I will still not shoot Lake City Match ammo or 168-grain Sierra Match Kings at close range if I can help it.
I wish I had the proper mind-set of Michael Horne, because he loads 168s and shoots them for everything -- as do several other decent shooters I know. I also hate to shoot ball ammo (G.I. 150-grain) because it is mediocre in performance and I hate to lose once-fired brass in the weeds. I use my "assorted brass" (of questionable ancestry) for loading my ball-duplicate rounds. These use a 125-grain soft-point Sierra hunting bullet that is fairly accurate out to 300 or 400 yards, even with questionable cases and as-thrown powder charges. What more could I ask?
In the context of this discussion, perhaps using different loads (varying bullet weights, cases, and primers) in the same rifle is only a minor infraction of sanity, compared to using entirely different weapons with dissimilar actions, sights, and trajectories. I know why I'm doing it: to obtain cheaper ammo that has less of my time and effort in it. However, if I am shooting in a surprise shoot (read: "practice war") I generally just load my first-line, 168-grain, reloaded, war-quality loads and leave it at that.
Medicare Status Report
I feel a little better this week, but on shoot-Saturday my knees, lower back, feet, and ankles were so sore I had a lot of trouble getting up and down from prone. Someone asked what I would do if the bad guys were chasing me, and I replied, "I can't run, so I guess I'd have to stay right here and kill them!" It's hell to be getting old, so if you are slowing a step or two you had better be able to shoot. And you young whippersnappers out there had better understand why some of us old people are so cranky -- when you hurt all over and have a lot of trouble doing the things you used to do easily, you feel like shooting the first person who gives you any crap on that day. You youngsters have been warned.
Well, a great deal was learned at the event and, as it happens with like-minded individuals, we learned even more in our informal discussions after the shoot was over. I really like that, because that's the way it's supposed to be. Think, think, think! Remember, our minds are our best weapons!