How to recover from dropped shots – Andy McLachlan advises

Andy McLachlan can’t stand dropped shots that can ruin a match card, so he comes up with some pointers to help claw back the points

Shot 15 didn’t even land in the scoring zone, but in the wilds of what Andy and his friends are now referring to as outer Mongolia!

Long droppers? I don’t mean the result of worn-out underwear elastic, rather the unwanted appearance of a low pellet impact upon our target cards, or for that matter a long-range knockover target in a Field Target outdoor competition.

Regular readers will be well aware of some of us in the Northwest of England setting up an indoor unsupported (at the rear) set of rules at which to shoot out to 55 yards. 

Regardless of the skillset of the shooter, this is a long way to try to attain accuracy at the 6mm bull that will result in the scoring of 10 points upon our target cards.

What most, if not all, of us have discovered during the past year or so following the introduction of a proper set of formalised rules, is that we all get pellet strikes described by my friend Dave and I as “Mongolia” shots, where the pellet happens to drop beyond even the outer area of the target, usually represented by a thick black or blue outer ring. 

For some shooters, pellet prep is everything, while Ian Jones has a slightly more humorous take on this sometimes controversial subject

The resultant Mongolia shots are usually the ones that represent the destruction of what could be a match-winning score and is usually followed by the pulling of an unpleasant face, a loud swear word or usually both.

With 25-yard benchrest scoring, any shot managing not to result in a 10X score, whereby the centre of the bull is completely obliterated, is considered a poor shot. 

But for those of us who prefer to shoot at long range, we try to average out at around nine points per target if we are to approach the figure of 230 that represents a really good card. 

Although a few of us have been close in our monthly competitions with a score of 229, the achievement of such a result and the winning of a sticker representing the feat from the competition organiser, Ian Jones, at present remains a pipe dream.

If we manage to record a score with all of our shots and don’t have any droppers/Mongolias, you stand a chance of scoring reasonably well with a half-decent score that can be counted towards the inter-club scoring, whereby the top shooters from each club have their scores totalled, with the winning club obviously scoring the highest number of points for the victory.

So if we are to avoid the dreaded dropping shot and the resultant damage to what could have been a high-scoring card, what are we to do to try to eradicate this damaging occurrence? 

Well, we reckon we have been through all the likely culprits, and I will try and summarise many of the obvious candidates and some of the “iffier” theories that some of us have regarding why some individual shots do their absolute best to fall well outside of the target area.

First of course we need to make sure that our pellets are as perfect as they can be prior to their long-distance journey. 

This involves the careful weighing, checking of individual head sizes and sometimes sizing to ensure that they are all as uniform as possible. 

Basically, those shooters who shoot “straight out of the tin” are in my opinion at a disadvantage if they don’t remove those rogue heavy pellets out of the equation.

However, some shooters just can’t be bothered to do this and either don’t understand how important the correct batch of pellets can be to their own guns’ individual performance, or more usually, just give us the usual “mine are straight out of the tin and shoot just as well as when weighed” rubbish. 

Our friend Mr Jones, thoroughly amused at seeing a few of us prepare pellets at our club recently, arrived last week armed with some bags of pellets that he had given individual names to as he reckons we go over the top in attempting to reduce the event of a dropping shot.

The next item on the agenda is our hardware. Obviously, if we intend to achieve ultimate accuracy from our combination, scope and front support devices we will need to ensure that they are all functioning properly and that they are correctly attached to the gun. All of us have our own preferences regarding how we manage the gun and position it when at the shooting position.

Paul Holt of Bolton Gun Club’s air section shoots his beautiful ISP Airstream at the Leigh indoor range at 53 yards

This is why multi-adjustable stocks and triggers are important to the serious target rifle shooter; they allow us to move the position of each item. Also, having the ability to parallax in the target greatly assists us to reduce parallax aiming errors, with the better scopes giving us an obvious advantage regarding image clarity and choice of reticles. 

My Leupold fixed 45x competition scope serves me well, but I would like to try an illuminated target dot optic. 

The front support in my own, and now many other shooters’, opinion is best achieved via the superbly made and ultra-steady Accu-Tac bipod assembly. 

Poor gun fit may be to blame for dropped shots, so to eliminate that possibility Andy’s fitted a PRS butt plate to his Walther LG400

Unlike some of the fantastic bespoke bipod assemblies engineered by the likes of our friend Jimmy O’Neill, these items are available over the counter. I have written about Accu-Tac bipods previously and remain of the firm opinion that they are second to none regarding solid, unmoving and reliable front-of-gun support.

Remember, we cannot support the rear of the gun and must rely upon the butt of the stock in our shoulders for this purpose. 

With this in mind, Dave and myself purchased the fantastic PRS adjustable butt pad to our Walthers with the claws at each end and multi-adjustability, again allowing us to fit the stock into our shoulders for maximum, comfortable support.

We are yet to consider what we can do to our guns in order to maintain the maximum in shot repeatability, but rather than mention things briefly here, I intend to look at this more deeply in a future article as it really requires serious contemplation.

We must not forget the thing that pulls the trigger and the fact that what we eat and drink can and does have an influence on how we are able to maintain concentration without jumping about like a rabid dog. 

I would strongly suggest that we dump the drinking of either caffeinated tea, coffee, or even full-sugar Coke if we wish to maintain as much stability as possible. 

My 45x magnification scope reminds me of just how easy it is to allow my pulse the opportunity to rapidly pull me off target should I not consider fluid intake properly before a competition.

Although of course I am now old, fat and no doubt in need of a full-time trainer to try and improve my levels of fitness, I must be honest with you, and state that just like those shooters who go ahead and shoot straight from the tin, I really could not be bothered with all the hassle.

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