Sunday, November 27, 2016

2017: California “Bullet Button” Gunowner’s Checklist

New laws taking effect in January 1, 2017 in the State of California will eliminate the “bullet button” feature the firearms sales landscape.  As it has been since 1989 when the original Roberti-Roos Assault Weapon Law was passed, a window of registration, conversion or removal begins that will affect California gun owners.  The new laws include not just the popular AR-15 but all other semiautomatic rifles also incorporating the bullet button feature.

1. Do you presently own a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bullet button?
a. Yes, proceed to question 2.
b. No, skip to question 9.

2. Does your bullet button equipped firearm have any other features that would cause it to be affected by the new laws?  These include, muzzle devices, collapsible stocks, pistol grips, forward grips or any other cosmetic features enumerated by California laws.
a. Yes, your firearm is affected.  Proceed to question 3.
b. No, your firearm is not affected the new law.  In fact, why is there even a bullet button on your gun at all?  It was not required even under previous laws.

3. Do you wish to retain the other features of your firearm?
a. Yes, go to question 5.
b. No, go to question 4.

4. The 2017 California law continues to provide for what are known as “featureless” semiautomatic rifles.   The most common legacy featureless rifles include firearms such as the M-1 Garand, M-1 Carbine, Springfield M1A series and Ruger Mini-14 series rifles.  These rifles have fixed stocks, no pistol grips and plain muzzles; plain meaning not a flash hider or a 22 mm NATO specification grenade launcher spigot. You can modify your bullet button gun to this configuration by removing and/or replacing parts.  Once reconfigured, the rifle is legal in California.   As a bonus, you can remove the bullet button from the gun and replace it with a regular magazine catch.  This actually makes the rifle even safer to use because you can once again execute stoppage clearing drills the way these rifles were designed to be operated in the first place.  Do you want to convert your gun into a “featureless” rifle?
a. Yes, congratulations.  Once you complete your conversion, you will have a California legal rifle.  There is no need to further register it as the additional registration only affects firearms with features.
b. No, proceed to question 5.

5. OK. So the additional features on your gun are necessary or desirable to you.  Let’s start right in. For your type of shooting, do you need to perform magazine changes?   This is a necessity in certain forms of competition such as CMP/NRA high-power target competition or the rifle phases of 3-gun action shooting.   Collapsible butt stocks have utility for managing length of pull to adapt to differing shooting positions. Some muzzle devices improve a rifle's shot-to-shot stability and are important in both the action and precision competition disciplines. Many of these features also improve the operational handling for defensive use firearms.  Do you plan to use your rifle for any of these applications?
a. Yes, go to question 7.
b. No, go to question 6.

6. The California 2017 laws only affect feature equipped firearms is the magazine can be detached with or without the use of a tool without requiring the physical disassembly of the rifle.  For instance, disassembly in the case of an AR-15 is to open the action also known as cracking the action open. “Cracker” or “Top Loader” action AR’s first appeared in California in the early 2000’s.  They were awkward machines and were particularly problematic when double feed jams occurred – it happens – as the bolt carriers would be stuck in a rearward position preventing the action from swinging open. Remedying a malfunction required popping both action pins to completely separate the lower from the upper with live rounds in the gun. Not really ideal as the solution is more armorer skill level than operator, but not unworkable.  In 2017, modified magazine catches will be marketed to consumers that will prevent the magazine from being released unless the action is cracked open.  Are you interested in this option?
a. Yes, congratulations.  Once you complete your modification, you will have a California legal rifle.  There is no need to register it.  Bear in mind that this option is limited only to rifles that can be modified in this fashion; probably only mil-spec AR-15’s at the outset.
b. No, consider returning to question 4 for a “featureless” conversion or proceed to question 7.

7. From this point on, we enter territory that will require registering your rifle as a California statutory assault weapon.  We begin with the question of who the users of your rifle will be.  California’s assault weapon laws are specific. A person under the age of 21 is not allowed to possess, handle or operate a statutory assault weapon registered with the California Department of Justice. The gun must remain under the supervision and control of the registered owner at all times when in use. So the first question is will do you anticipate that a person under 21 years of age will use the rifle?   This includes your own children and/or participants in a junior training program.
a. Yes minors will use the rifle.  Sorry, the registration option is not open to you.  You should return to question 4 and consider the “featureless” conversion or return to question 6 to consider the “cracker” conversion depending on you anticipated use.  Unfortunately, after January 1, 2017, your only other option if you do not wish to do either of these conversions is to dispose it outside the State of California.  You can no longer legally sell your gun within the state. You may wish to register your current rifle and obtain an additional featureless rifle in 2017, see question 9.
b. No only adults over 21 will use the rifle. The registration option is available to you.  Proceed to question 8.

8. UPDATED Jan 16, 2017: Now comes the personal  politics question.  Do you want to register your rifle with the State of California?   The 2017 laws provide for a registration mechanism to enable owners of bullet button guns to register their property with the state as California statutory assault weapons.  Once registered, the rifle receives legal treatment under the same provisions that CA AW’s have received since 1989.  You can keep all features intact.  Theoretically, under equal treatment under the law principles, you should be able to remove the bullet button and replace it with a normal magazine catch that will make the rifle safer to operate.  However, CA-DOJ decided to write their draft of the rules specifically preventing gun owners from changing out their magazine releases to regular ones.  This may or may not hold true in the final regulations, see note 1.   In the meantime, unless you convert the gun into featureless rifle (see question 4), you should keep your rifle in bullet button configuration until you have registered it with the State of California and received your AW letter from CA DOJ.  Do you wish to do this?
a. Yes, congratulations. You are on your way to owning a California legal statutory assault weapon. These windows of new registration have opened repeatedly every few years since the original 1989 Roberti-Roos Act was passed. You are part of a continuing legacy of a quirky balance in the State of California that has incrementally restricted access to firearms by Californians but that has more often than not served to create explosions of demand in what is one of America’s largest and most vibrant regional firearms markets.
b. No, your options are now quite limited.  There is no provision in the new 2017 laws for Californians who wish to just leave their bullet button guns the way they are to legally retain them without interference. This is a definite flaw in the way the laws were structured and likely needs a new law written to address the gap. It’s one thing to restrict the future sale of future bullet button guns but as presently written, the new laws impose a de facto tax to register their rifles or shoulder the cost of converting their rifles to avoid registration.

9. This is the clean up question if you presently do not own a bullet button gun and think you might want a rifle in the future.   California is one of the largest regional markets for firearms in the United States; so large that despite the many quirks of its laws, manufacturers still find profitability in designing specific firearms models for California consumers.  If you look closely at the model numbers of new firearms sold in the state, they are suffixed “-CA” to indicate it’s a California law specific model.   Such will be the case with the post-bullet button era semiautomatic rifle market as well.  There will be “featureless” AR-15’s and other firearms models on dealers shelves.  The cycle that has repeated itself since 1989 begins anew.

Note 1: I'm still not convinced that CA-DOJ is actually authorized by the letter of the law to impose a requirement on gun owners registering bullet button guns to not be able to change to a magazine catch once their rifles are recorded as statutory AW's. My gut says CA-DOJ is pulling a fast one stretching their words beyond the letter of the laws as passed. Lawsuits will result from their stretching and their case is weak because so-called featureless rifles can have normal magazine catches. It's quite arbitrary, punitive and kind of hostile. Time will tell.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

First Time at Camp Perry

The beginning of Day 2 of the NRA National Championship Match at Camp Perry, Ohio.
Dawn breaks over Rodriguez Range.  It's the second day of the NRA 2400 point aggregate. Another 80 shot match will begin squad roll call after the Camp Perry cannon goes off and the colors are honored as the national anthem is played.  I'm on relay two which means I'll be shooting in the pair shooting my twenty-two shots of 200 yard offhand first then go to the pits to pull targets.

I've been here for two weeks now having driven from Los Angeles, California to Port Clinton, Ohio.  The drive out following Interstate 40 was a wonderful journey seeing the United States of America from ground level.  It's much better than flying over it.  I-40 replaced the old historic Route 66 many years ago but there are sections of it preserved in business districts along the way.  It's part of the adventure to get off and explore them.  The diners are delightful; the people even more so.  You'll find breakfast out of "Happy Days", lunch in holes in the wall serving French cuisine and Belgian pastries, and dine at family restaurants where the au jus is so rich you dip your sandwich in and it comes out stew.   Part of the journey is desert, most of it is cornfields.  It's vast and you begin to realize just how much food we grow in America.  In highway terms, days of it.

Preparing for this journey has taken months.  From the time I committed to go to Camp Perry as a member of the California contingent of adults and juniors, I've shot local and state matches and expended a couple of thousands rounds of match ammunition in practice.  This included training in the 103 degree heat of Coalinga, California where the official California State Championships are held; hence the adult team being from the Coalinga Rifle Club.  The junior contingent from the state have their own organization, the California Grizzlies, which I have proudly financially supported for years.  This is a gaggle of hard holders.  It's fun to shoot with them.  It's also a well organized machine that arranges lodging in on base "huts", feeds people in an evening chow line, and provides laundry service every few days. As a shooting team, we organized ourselves into individual competition days, team competition days, and designated coaching days.  That team organization turned out to be vital to making my Camp Perry experience even more than I ever imagined possible. It means you get to do things that you would not get to do if one just went there alone.

The team of the State of California at the 2016 U.S. National Matches.
I arrived at Camp Perry a day ahead of the rest of the California team.  The ever helpful staff of the U.S. Civilian Marksmanship Program helped me out by arranging for one night of base housing in the BOQ.  Safely in my little closet sized room for the night, I met up with friend Johnny Fisher and we drove into town for my introduction to the critical landmarks of Port Clinton.   The Walmart and Kroger to buy supplies, the restaurants, the coffee shop, and Andy's Party Mart, where you get your daily ration of "baby head" ice cream.  It got that name from one of the Air Force team members who described the serving scoops being so large they were as big as a baby's head.  The name stuck.  The regular serving is too large after eating dinner, or even having a couple of crackers.  Get the kid size in a cup.  I promptly became addicted to raspberry chocolate.

"Baby Head" ice cream from Andy's Party Mart.  Because a serving is as big as a baby's head.
Navigational beacons in place but team not yet arrived, I helped the CMP with their preparations for a ribbon cutting of their new electronic range facility on Petrarca Range.  This is a new pistol and rifle practice range that the CMP installed with the same Kornsburg electronic target systems as the much larger CMP range in Talladega.  I used it to get some offhand practice; the immediate feedback of the electronic targets meant being able to maximize your time concentrating on technique.  Other people used the range to do function checks, position tuning with new equipment, getting 100 yard zeroes - that's better than no zero for a match at Nationals.   The CMP provided lunch as thanks for helping and I got checked in picking up my competitor packet which included my squadding assignments.

By late afternoon, the lead elements of the California team began to arrive and I got the keys to my hut.   These are modernized versions of old prisoner of war huts from World War II with built in air conditioning.  As summer camp accommodations go, a life of luxury.

The huts at Camp Perry, Ohio.
Life is four to a hut.  You get a bed and a locker.  You go to Walmart to buy a liner, sheets and a pillow. You keep the a/c on at all times.  It prevents the bugs from coming into the hut.  I had the place to myself for a couple of days until the rest of the boys arrived.  The main hardship of my alone time?  No coffee grinder and fresh beans yet.  Runs into Port Clinton to get iced lattes would have to suffice.  Yeah, yeah.  I'm from California.

Summer camp accommodations  :).


One's first visit to Camp Perry is a series of baptismal rites.  I shall now enumerate them.

Walk the base.  Do not drive around.  Get used to walking.  Walk from your hut to everything.  Walk to the administration buildings.  Walk to the ranges.  Walk to commercial row.  Walk to the CMP North Store.  Walk to the CMP or Army trailer to have the triggers of your rifles(s) weighed.  Walk.  This is your primary mode of transportation while on base for the next couple of weeks.

Go shopping.  It's called Commerical Row.  It is the best shopping mall for competitive shooters ever. The sale prices here are Black Friday quality. You stock up on supplies. You can buy elusive powders lin quantity with the same lot number.  Same with bullets and primers.  Everything you need to keep making your pet loads. Oddly, not cases. This is a service rifle tournament.  Pretty much everyone is using LC or WCC cases. The military guys shoot new ammo handed to their teams by the case, mostly 77 grain Mk262 Mod 0/1.  My short line loads are nearly identical 77 grain Sierra Match Kings in one fired Lake City '98 headstamp cases.  Other people's ammo runs from 69 grain to 82 grain bullets.  Everything can drive into the X ring with a good hard holder at the controls.  I stocked up.  Then I began politely watching my expected cubic feet and gross weight capacity for the drive home as other people asked if I could take stuff back for them instead of shipping their loot.

Learn about the perils of Perry.   One, evacuate the range.  It rains at Camp Perry.  Sometimes that rain comes with lightning.  When that happens range controls issues an evacuation order.   Depending on where you are and how much time you have, you either grab your stuff and make for a sheltered structure or leave your stuff under whatever rain cover you have and leave it there until the storm cell passes.   This happened on squadded practice day.  There was no squadded practice.   There was learning to make a better rain cover for the next two weeks because it'd probably happened again.   I was particularly proud of my final design which involved a very large tarp and many bungee cords.  Modern art to be sure.  I received many compliments.

Peril two.  Cease fire, boat in the impact area.  One has not truly been to Camp Perry until your shooting string is put on hold while range control sends someone out to tell an errant yacht or jet ski that it's not a good idea to go into that area with all the bouys with the signs on them that say, Danger. Live Fire. Keep Out.   Camp Perry has this procedure down to a science and it doesn't take too long.  One is delighted by the novelty of it the first time.   Several times later, not so much.

More walking. Final squadding each day takes place at the 200 yard line. One Rodriguez Range that means you walk from the parking lot 400 yards to the assembly line. On Viale Range, it means you walk 800 yards to the assembly line.  You do this the first couple of times and then you wise up and take the very nice people mover.  I love the Camp Perry people mover.  It's like "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyland with your AR-15.

Colors.  This is a truly moving part of shooting at Camp Perry.  At 0700h, a cannon fires.   Everyone on the base turns to where the flagpoles are.  We stand at attention and honor the flag of the United States of America as our national anthem is played.  For CMP week this year, that anthem was played live by a trumpet.   There are thousands of people here.  And we all pause and remember how lucky we are to be free and realize that so many before us shared a uniting thought, "For this nation, I would give my life."  If you do nothing else when you come to the U.S. National Matches, this is your bucket list item.

Port Clinton.  The town of Port Clinton is lovely.  It's actually a resort town full of yachts.  Quite pretty.   The culinary must do is to sample the local perch and walleye.   Check.

Dining by the harbor in Port Clinton, Ohio.
And finally Pokemon. Do not ask too many questions or expect cogent explanation. Suffice it to say that I was reliably informed that both Camp Perry and Port Clinton are full of Pokemon locations. That is all.

Shooting Gear

I brought two rifles with me to Camp Perry.  The first was my iron sights configured AR-15.  Being my very first trip to the Nationals, I wanted to check off a bucket list item to shoot irons at a national match.   The gun has a Geiselle trigger and an upper I assembled from White Oak Armament parts. The barrel is a Krieger that had 3,800 rounds arriving at Perry.  The sights are pinned 1/4x1/4's.  I run 77 SMK's short line and 80 SMK's seated 15/1000th's off the lands long line with it.   The zeros for the dope card were calibrated at 680 ft above sea level in Coalinga, Californa; roughly the same altitude as Camp Perry.

The other rifle I brought was for NRA week.   It's a 2016 rule Service Rifle, Optic.  It has a collapsible UBR stock and a Geiselle Mk VII quad rail.   There's a weight in the rear compartment of the UBR - not the big blister one - and half a weight in the float tube.   The barrel is an older DPMS .223 that was cryo treated back in the day.  Round count on arrival at nationals was around 1,800. Same ammunition combination.  The chamber on this barrel has a shorter throat so I brought a Lee Hand Press with an RCBS competition seater die to set the 80's back to proper jump come NRA week.  The sighting system for this gun was one of the very new Nightforce 4.5X Competition SR's with the CMP R223 reticle.  Parallax is set to 200 yards.  It's mounted using Nightforce's superbly engineered AR-15 service rifle Unimount. I received the optic a week and a half before leaving for Ohio and had basic zeros for it at 100, 200, 300 yards plus a center hold and 12 o'clock hold basic zero for it at 600 yards recorded at the Burbank Rifle and Revolver Club in Castaic, Californa at an altitude of 2,600 feet. This would be the first time the rifle ever fired in any match.  Well if one has to shoot Minuteman style come as you are and do your best, why not at the NRA National 2400 Aggregate as a baptism of fire.   Good to go!  So glad there are sighters at NRA week.

The M-16A2 type Service Rifle (top) and the 2016 Rule Scoped Service Rifle (bottom).
CMP Week

The Civilian Marksmanship Program National Matches are among the most prestigious high powered rifle competitions on earth.  For the individual rifleman, The President's Hundred (P100) and the National Trophy Individual (NTI) matches are the pinnacle of service rifle competition.   You go toe to toe with eleven hundred other people spread out over two ranges spanning roughly eighty firing points each running six relays per range.   It's a race to be the best.  You are on your own with whatever skill and experience you brought with you.

It starts with the President's Hundred.  P100 is thirty shots.  You need to make ten good offhand shots, make one solid wind call and hold like there's no tomorrow at 300 yards, and surf the wind ten times at 600 yards. That's it. Short and sweet. If you finish in the top 20 out of 1,400 you get to go to a shoot off.  Ideally, you get one squadded practice window to check your zero and sniff the wind at 300 yards.  No such ideal in 2016.  Squadded practice was cancelled due to lightning.   Everybody goes to P100 naked.  It's a fair fight.

The sum total of my experience shooting this range started at zero. My first record shot at 200 yards offhand began a very steep climb up my learning curve.  I began with my Coalinga no wind zero. The shoot broke good.  It came up elevation good but it went right.  Ok, that must have been me.  Check your NPA, settle down and do it again.  Comes up same place. I need to dial a minute and a half of wind?  Since when do you need to put wind on at 200 yards?   Well apparently at Camp Perry on the big end with the wind coming in from the left at near full value, maybe you do.  But my head's still murky thinking I must just not be breaking them clean and it's my nerves being the first time on Viale.  So I do it again.  Fine.  I'll dial wind.  Things get a little better on paper and I'm going, "Ok, I can do this. It's my first time. This is all about learning new things and not finishing dead last."

Next comes one rapid fire string at 300 yards. I feel more confident. I've called wind and centered up before.   I check my wind meter.   Estimate my dial.   Build my position.  Stand up and put my concentration on the target.   The string goes off.  I land a nice group out the right side at the border between the 9/8 ring.   Apparently, I did not dial enough.   So we go out to the pits and I chat with the guys that have done this before.  I tell them what happened.  They all smile and say "Welcome to Perry" this is one of the few ranges where the wind has the same velocity pushing on your bullet from your firing point to the target.  Most everywhere else, trees or terrain weaken the wind pattern.   Here, dial aggressive.  I find out just how aggressive at 600 where I again underestimate how powerful the breeze is and pop an 8 out the right for my first shot, double my dial, and then start to learn how to surf the shifts for the remainder of the string.

The end result of my first P100.  Offhand 85-1, Rapid Prone 86-0, Slow Prone 90-1 for total of 261-2X putting me in 595th place out of 1,139.  Middle of the pack.  Not my best day ever but I notice that everyone is congratulating me on joining the club of people that have shot at Camp Perry.  I feel suddenly so at home among a thousand strangers who've become my family.

The next day is the NTI.  This is the mother of all Excellence In Competition matches.  Fifty shots.  It's a cloudy day and the wind is coming from the right, opposite of yesterday.   Dial aggressively at Perry burns inside my mind.  I shoot my offhand string and deliver an 84-1, about the same as yesterday.  NTI has rapid sitting so I get to this for the first time at Camp Perry.  I set up my position and snuggle deep into the rear aperture to see the target in the overcast.  The shot plan yields me a 90-0, well below my average.   Next comes another bout with rapid prone at 300 yards.  Dial aggressive at Perry.  I got this one.  Maybe not.  Today I've over dialed and I place my group in almost the same spot on the right side of the bull as yesterday.  91-0.  This range has now shattered my confidence and I am a convinced I am a wind calling dunderhead.  Fortunately the clouds clear up and my mood brightens with it and when we get back to 600 yards I finally do something right popping a 189-5 at the slow prone stage.   Total for the day is a paltry 456-6 good for a deep back seat 490th place out of 1,074.

At dinner later in the week I relate that this range is kicking me hard. I tell people about how hard I was pushing my eye into my aperture.  They smile that welcome to Camp Perry smile again.  They ask what sights I'm shooting on my A2 and I tell them I've got an 0.050" front and 0.038" rear to maximize depth of field.  They smile more broadly and tell me my problem is that I'm from the Western provinces where the sun is bright and the ground is devoid of flora.   Lot's of light.  It's green here and we have clouds I'm told.  Not nearly the same ambient lighting.  You have the wrong sights my son.  Where there's green grass you want a big fat 0.072" front the size of an aircraft carrier deck and a huge (they said "yuge" because the RNC convention was just in Cleveland) 0.046" hole in the morning and maybe close it down to an 0.042" rear aperture later if the sun comes out.  But that desert glare sight system of yours will lose you about 5-8 points in these parts.   Well there you go. Learn something every day.

To tell you the truth, I'm glad I learned these lessons the hard way.  It's more meaningful this way.  It enriched my first tour of Camp Perry and left me hungry to put this learning to use in the future.  I checked off one of the most important bucket list goals of my shooting career, I shot the P100 and NTI with iron sights.  My irons gun earned its "Hell I was there!" sticker.

My A2 iron gun last 4-digit serial number 3010 earned the right to wear the 2016 Nation Matches sticker on its stock.
The remainder of CMP week for me was about teamwork.  I shot the four man NTT team match with the California adult team. It was a learning experience shooting with a 4-person team I'd never shot with before.  The pair firing went fine as we'd practiced that at Coalinga.  The rapid coaching was different from other teams I've shot with in the past. I felt a bit out of my comfort zone that day still reeling from the shock of days 1 & 2.  I felt like I let the guys down and really should have got my head back in the hunt.  I resolved to get out of whatever funk I was feeling.  This was Nationals. Breathe it in and live it already. It's what I came for.  I would find out talking to people later that this sensory shock effect that Camp Perry has on first timers is universal.   Everyone goes through it.  It's part of the baptism.

Hanging with the California team.
The next day I coached one of the California teams in the NTIT Rattle Battle match.  This was the day I finally felt I began to be comfortable at Camp Perry.   Walking up and down the field first as a verifier and then as a coach, I felt back in the game.  At team matches you get to confer with your teammates comparing wind calls and observing the effects of their calls as the shooting members of their squads send rounds downrange.  You watch the traces of bullets arcing in the air going left or right of the bull's center depending whether or not the call was right.  This process was cathartic.  I began to remember that I really can read a range once I get the hang of it.

Life in the pits. The people you meet. The friends you make.
The family you realize shares your love of the game.
Team day three was all about being in the pits; specifically, pulling pits for the National Trophy Junior Team (NTJT) match.  You pack food and a lawn chair and hang out in the pits.  I was paired with a very nice lady from New Jersey whose daughter was shooting on that state's team.  It was a great day of bantering and getting to know people from all over the country.

NRA Whistler Boy Junior Match

The first match of NRA week was a very special coaching day for me.  I got to coach one of the California Grizzly junior teams in their two-man Whistler Boy match.   I've been a financial supporter of the California Grizzlies since the day they were founded.   I've helped coach young shooters and seen them go off to Camp Perry and do amazing things.  Finally, I got to coach two of these fine young people in an actual match at the Nationals.  It was cool.  My team consisted of two bright young men, Tanner Hines and Matthew Nelson.   Both Marksmen, the boys managed a team score of 871-10 shooting well above their classification into the Sharpshooter league.  My team shared a firing point with the team of Sharpshooters Katherine Conley and Reilly Sutton from the state of Washington who shot a team score of 898-15.  It was a great day doing one of the things that I have always enjoyed most about this sport; giving back to the next generation so that one day they will do the same for the next.

The top teams from the Whistler Boy Match being recognized on stage.
My NRA Week

The centerpiece of the NRA portion of the U.S. National is a 2400 point Aggregate championship consisting of three days of 80-shot matches with sighters.   Each match consists of 20 shots each in standing and rapid siting both at 200 yards, rapid prone at 300 yards and slow prone at 600 yards. You get two sighting shots per stage so at the end of the game you'll have fired at least 264 rounds of ammunition; more if you have to shoot an alibi or re-fire string.  Like the P100 and NTI, these are individual matches.  It's you against everyone again.   There are fewer people at NRA week; 297 entries for across the course.  Another 92 are on the other range shooting the Mid-Range Nationals. The huts are a ghost town compared to CMP week.  Everyone there is hunting for awards and there are plenty to be earned.  The NRA Championship match is packed with commemorative cups, one for each firing stage of the tournament series.  There are additional cups for each 80-shot XTC and championship awards for overall high-power winner and one just for sevice rifle shooters.  There are additional NRA awards for the various skill level classifications consisting of high master, master, expert, sharpshooter and marksman classes.

Squadding for NRA Week.

On the change over day between CMP and NRA week, I changed guns.  It was time for the iron sighted A2 to go back in its case and the scope equipped AR to make its debut.   I took the rifle over to the CMP's Petrarca electronic range and spent some time sending some rounds downrange.  This gun is almost identical to the rifles being used by the top shooters at Camp Perry this year.  The NightForce 4.5X SR on it is so new only the military teams had them.  The one on my gun was a Test and Evaluation unit that the company Fedex'd me specifically to test at Nationals.

Getting basic zeroes for the scoped gun in California a week before going to Ohio.
A scope brings several advantages and one very big change to the shot plan for service rifle shooting. The big advantage is seeing better.  With irons, you play a balancing act changing front and rear sight pieces to compensate for light conditions.  As your eyes get older, you fight floaters crisscrossing your sight picture and trying to manage your eye comfort so it lasts the entire string of fire.   No such problem exists with an optic.  There's always enough light and there's always good focus.  Indeed, you can maintain a far more comfortable focus on a properly set up reticle than a front post.  At 4.5X, the target is huge and you can easily see into the X ring as you aim.  Do not bother to turn the magnification down.  That wobble you see was always there.  Now it's visible and you can work on improving your hold to shrink it.  It changes and improves your technique.

The big change in shot plan with as scope is that you build your position around the scope. This is different from an iron sighted rifle where you build your position around the stock dimensions. One is far more concerned with being perfectly and consistently behind the scope when shooting an optic. In this regard, the collapsible butt stock shows its worth.   The one I had was a Magpul UBR with a weight insert to help balance the gun's center of gravity better.  Being able to collapse the stock to A1 or less lengths for offhand and sitting vastly improves ease of positioning the eye begin the glass. Same with extending it to greater than A2 length to optimize head placement and shoulder tension in prone.   Basically, it's almost a match rifle; better because you don't need an allen wrench to change the settings.

Critical notation, the scope dials the opposite direction from the A2's sights.   A2 windage knobs turn like a car's steering wheel to move the impact left or right.   An optic turns like a bottle cap, open the cap to go right, screw it in to go left.  I dwell on this for a reason.  It's easy to make the error of turning the scope the wrong direction after you've been driving an A2 for a week.  I did for my first string of offhand. I did the dufus move dialing myself all the way to a miss before I slapped myself.  I learned that the Midrange and Long Range guys have a trick for this.  They typically shoot one day irons and one day scopes in their regionals.  In addition to writing the number of their firing point on their hand, they draw an arrow to remind them which direction turns right each day.  Good idea.  I learned this after I made my error; as every teachable moment should be at Camp Perry.

Still, the zen of the game for the NRA Championship is "shoot your average".  This is the culmination of a year's worth of preparation.  Everyone has worked hard to be here.  It's time to execute, to do what you know and do it the way you know how today.  Where you wind up in this field of amazingly stellar talent is a calibration of your investment in this craft.  Enjoy being part of the orchestra.  There is no other like it.  Shake each error off and move on to the next shot.

Here's my tale of my tape for the 2016 NRA 2400-point National Championship,

Match Name Score
441 Day 1 OF 154.01
442 Day 1 RS 191.02
443 Day 1 RP 195.06
446 Day 1 SP 188.06
414 Day 1 728.15
444 Day 2 OF 188.01
445 Day 2 RS 192.04
448 Day 2 RP 192.05
449 Day 2 SP 194.03
415 Day 2 766.13
450 Day 3 OF 181.04
447 Day 3 RS 197.04
451 Day 3 RP 194.04
452 Day 3 SP 186.01
416 Day 3 758.13
400 Total 2252.41

In the end, not the greatest score and not the worst.  I shot my average 93.8% even with a dufus-dial move at my day one offhand.  This is not bad using a gun I'd never shot in a match before.  My show up and shoot effort says it really doesn't matter what gun I have in my hands, I'm going to shoot my average.  Color me happy.  And there's a bonus. On Day 2, the day of the photo at the very beginning of this article, I did well enough in Expert class to take home my very first NRA Award Points.  Now there's a nice souvenir.

The best souvenir from my trip.

I ended my time at Camp Perry attending the awards ceremony for the NRA Championship matches. Another drive through America's heartland this time via Interstate 70 would take me home from what will always be one of the most special vacations of my life. The things I saw, the things I got to do, the new things I learned, the people who's company I enjoyed. So many stories. So many moments. These will be the lasting memories of my first time at the U.S. Nationals.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Trying out for Rattle Battle 2016: Not Quite Good Enough


This was the kit I brought to team practice to try out for the Coalinga Rifle Club rattle battle team.  Two teams are picked to shoot the National Team Infantry Trophy (NTIT) match at the U.S. Nationals at Camp Perry, Ohio.  The teams must shoot in synchrony so that coaches can drive them like an orchestra in the wind.  "All guns left or right half-a-minute of angle" is the difference between winning and having a jolly walk.

Until this year, the gun of guns for this was the match modified M-16A2/AR-15 with 1/4x1/4 moa sights that clicked with the precision of a micrometer.  The arrival of scoped service rifles in 2016 changed the game.  Scopes offer several advantages.  My aimpoint with the scope was the head of the silhouettes with impacts offset into center mass offering the potential for very precise grouping, nice clusters.  

I brought one of these scoped guns with a Pride-Fowler 1.25-4X optic to team practice.  It's a very good scope that drives well.  It drove like a dream during zeroing exercises delivering said "nice clusters".  But the wind calls were off, as in left or right of the target off at times.   At the 100-yard tests I'd done prior to heading to Coalinga, the system drove well enough.  Elevation come up checks on steel were good too.  And the turrets dialed repeatably coming back to baseline zero again and again.   But at team practice, a call for two minutes of change at 600 had me zig-zagging to either side of the target.

The question was asked, "Is that thing tracking?"  So I took the thing to the 100 yard range and shot a box test starting with centering the scope into the bull then running a constant aimpoint box turning the knobs 12 clicks = 6 moa nominal between each shot to build up a pattern.  This is not your benchrester's test; this is how you test a scope for knuckle dragging.

Next, take the target and spend some time in the hotel room with a ruler graphing and measuring.  Data is data.  In this case, the data said this particular scope tracks well in elevation but exhibits a widening of windage per click as elevation rises.   It's a perfect 1/2 moa per click at 100 yards but progressively grows to 1 moa per click by the time you get to 600 yards.  I'd been observing this anecdotally and having the numbers in front of me confirmed the sinking feeling in my stomach about the scope.

You cannot have a scope in rattle battle that cannot follow the coach's wind calls and 1 moa per click is just not tight enough for NTIT at the nationals level when your gun up against guys with 1/4 moa A2's that track to perfection.

I verified it the next day by making independent clicks to translate a 2 moa move call into a 2 click turret dial.  The 1 moa per click on what should have been 1/2 moa turrets tracked right on to my calculations.  Perfect correction on paper, confirmation that the scope won't work for rattle battle.  It is what it is.  I chose poorly.  I'm coaching one of the NTIT teams this year.  Shooting member will have to wait until next year.

On the plus side, it frees up my gun to swap in one of the new NighForce SR 's that's supposed to be coming my way to test for Camp Perry so I'll be able to get some data with it before going into the 2400 Aggregate during NRA week.  The guys using NF's were getting good tracking at practice an I expect the NF will not disappoint.  The rest of CMP week is no biggie, I'm shooting my old reliable White Oak A2.  Still my king of the hill.

None of this is to say that there's anything wrong with the PFI.  It's still a well thought out optic.  The turrets are perfectly repeatable and the built in ranging reticle makes this scope head and shoulders better than an ACOG by a lot.  It's an ideal hunting scope and day combat optic concept.  It just didn't have the 1/2 moa tracking precision across the course that you have to have to shoot nationals.   I'm going to put this scope on an M-4 type carbine and use it for 200-yard CMP Modern Military Rifle matches.  It'll clean plenty good enough.

Some other things I learned,

1. You need at least a 2 pound "wall" on your trigger for rattle battle.  Less than that and it's hard to feel the second stage as you reset from holding the trigger back between shots.  I was wasting shots by discharging while resetting; you're just moving more roughly with the hyperventilating and tighter sling tension to lay into the gun.  The Geissele typically comes with less than that from the factory.  Use a trigger gauge and turn the second stage up.  It doesn't matter what the total weight is; all you'll feel is the reset click and second stage wall.

2. The adjustable butt stock is the coolest thing ever for service rifle.  I'd say even cooler than being able to use an optic.  Being able to match the length of pull to the position is the best.  It just gets your eye where it needs to be and your center of gravity in a better place.

3.  I'm not totally sold on the bolt hold open levers.  Most of the time they're fine.  Sometimes they're not and the bolt won't stay open particularly when you pull the prep mag out.  I find myself saving, "Might be better to just reach over the scope to close this sucker."


I did inform Pride-Fowler about the anomaly. The pulled several 1.25-4x scopes from their inventory antd tested them on a collimator.  They reported all of them tracked 1/2 moa per click over the elevation range and suspect this may be an issue specific to my scope.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Armed Crime Deterrence in Metropolitan America: Making the Patchwork More Transparent

This is not an article about the 2nd Amendment.  This is not an article about gun control.  This is an article about what we've lost track of because we've lost our perspective.

I’ve grown tired of positional arguments about guns.  I understand the emotional passions that surround them but I do not agree that satisfying those emotions has much bearing or merit on what’s right for making sound public policy when it comes to how firearms figure into managing public safety and crime deterrence in the United States.

At the core of the animus laden political debate about guns is how they affect crime deterrence in metropolitan America.  Yes there a hunters who live in metropolitan American.  They drive hours out of their way to target practice and hunt.  Outside of a firing range with a backstop built to withstand the pummeling of ammunition hitting at well over 1,500 foot-pounds of force, most pistol bullets have one-third that energy level, one does not discharge a high powered rifle within the city limits nor stalk deer browsing on the decorative plantings on your lawn, if you have a lawn.  Nope, the primary purpose of firearms in the metropolitan America is as a tool to deter, dissuade or thwart criminals on the one hand, and as a tool to commit crimes on the other.  Guns, being intimate objects don’t care on which side of the equation they are used.  Humans, being sentient beings, do care and do bear responsibilities to understand how these tools are part of their environment they live in regardless of whether they like them or not.

So once again, I step back and start to ask questions.  What factors should a police chief, a sheriff, a mayor, a city council member, a county supervisor, a state assembly person, a state senator, an attorney general, a governor, a U.S. Representative or a U.S. Senator really be taking into account when contemplating public policy about the cost-benefit economics of the role of firearms in metropolitan public safety?  What level of competence in looking at the issue objectively should the voting public expect and demand these officials demonstrate and explain cogently to them?   Certainly the people don't want civic leader that are bought and paid for drones of lobbyists whose agendas pivot on dividing communities into favored and despised camps.  No, that's not the kind of answer that's in the national interest.

The next logical question then becomes do public officials have any clue as to what the matrix of guns in in their area and how they fit into the crime deterrence equations really works in their respective jurisdictions?   Probably not.   Crime analysts certainly know that 98% to 99% of law enforcement in the United States happens because of voluntary compliance by people who view the laws they follow as reasonable.  Crime analysts also know that of a the small fraction of a population that does no obey the law only a tiny fraction of these, 1% to3%, demonstrate a dangerous propensity to violence that may necessitate the threat of lethal force to dissuade them or the use of lethal force to interdict them.  And don’t kid yourself with placebos and substitutes, the best technology we have at this time to do that at the moment a threat emerges is a gun.  Crime analysts also know that as metropolitan population density increases and we pack more people into the same square mile of living space, the probability of encountering someone with violent intent increases.  You can measure this stuff.  You can test it against crime statistics databases.  It bears out as what math people call highly correlated indicators; meaning, it’s probably true.

What public officials understand even less is what the actual firearms equipped resources within a community to deter, dissuade or interdict violent crime are.  In today's superficial America, governing objectivity has become obscured by the political dialog of lightning rod terms like “cold dead hands” or “ammosexuals” – we’ve all suffered the barrage of memes, tweets and anonymous comments that are the “gift(?)” of the Internet.

Getting back to reality, public officials know about some of the crime fighting resources.  For others, they are quite frankly oblivious to them.  This is not good.  What happens because of this imperfect assessment is that public policy – like most imperfect things – then over relies on what it knows and fails to use what is doesn’t see.

So that begs the question, “What specific items should public officials see as being part of their real hand of cards to play to manage public safety?   Having convinced myself that I was not satisfied with the status quo; naturally, I made a list.

The top of the list is of course the police force.  More specifically, the portion of the police force that is out on the street patrolling and looking for crime to stop.  When you look into it further, you find that only about one-third of the total number of sworn officers are on duty at a given time, an artifact of the job being a 24/7 shift work process.  Of the ones on duty, less than half are “in the field” doing things like patrol and traffic enforcement; the number of effective units gets cut even more if patrol deploys a fraction of their units in what are called Adam or 2-person units; a single officer car is called a Lincoln, as in lone officer, unit.   And that’s for police departments.  The fraction gets cut further for a sheriff’s department where portions of the staff are assigned to jail or court duties; it can be about half of the daily workload of a sheriff’s office.  There’s a reason it’s called a thin blue line.

That’s about where political analytics about armed intervention in crime management ends most of the time.

In my own surveys of U.S. cities, the purest model for reliance of a police force for public security is the City of New York where 34,000+ sworn officers protect and serve – some would belabor that description – a population of 8 million occupying 304 square miles.  This is the densest major metropolitan police per capita concentration in America.

In contrast, the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago have police forces one-third that size.   The latter two are more in line with the force to population ratios found in municipalities in most of America. This sizing equation may be cultural but is more likely an economically supportable capacity limit for most of urban America.

The New York exception case has always fascinated me because it’s also a city where the use of a firearm by almost anyone else to defend against violent crime is likely to cause more legal trouble for the defender than the perpetrator.  Many a borough resident I’ve met marvels at the thought that it’s legal for most of America to even touch a handgun without getting arrested west of the Hudson River. Their fascination about firearms is exceeded only by the Japanese I’ve met that visit California ranges by the tour bus load for the novelty chance to touch and fire a gun.  In New York, gun permits are few and far between.  They are the province of the connected; those elite enough to be worthy.   It’s very much an all-in faith in government crime management strategy.

Being as student of global stability, I've also studied how hard it is to change human behavior patterns that are shaped by past catastrophes – a sort of cultural PTSD if you will.  This aspect of regional behavior is crucial to understanding the interaction of warring parties in other parts of the world, I’ve often wondered if New York policing has evolved similarly.  In this case, I look back to how the British garrisoned New York during the Revolutionary War.  As the war turned into a siege, the British piled soldiers into the city carrying on a 18th century version of "stop and frisk" effectively turning the garrison into a open prison to quell dissent.  At the time, troops took their liberties with the populace; a form of terror meant to reinforce control.  The occupiers also handed out favors; another form of power reinforcing control that goes back to ancient times.  In the end, the King’s forces withdrew.  But this model of governance in force seems to echo on.  To be fair, the approach does work and the City of New York is a far safer place today than in was in the 1990’s when they brilliantly papered over the city’s problems with bumper stickers and commercials designed to instill more cultural pride.  But a legion of officers is a costly 1% policing solution.  Economically, too costly for 99% of the rest of America that shares neither the history living under an all-in governance model, and in fact is mostly repelled by such notions, nor the ability to spend up for such a model.

It used to be hard to argue that there were viable alternatives to the New York model.  What you mostly found were cities where the economics of big policing did not work lamenting that their departments were woefully too small.  And then of course, they were hit with the reality that there are competing municipal priorities like keeping pot holes filled, power, water and sewage systems running, and business, building and zoning permits managed.  One is quickly reminded that there is no free lunch in America, even if you are the government.

Then alternative models began to emerge.  First in the form of the “Every Home has a Gun” press coverage phenomenon legislated by a municipality called Kennesaw in Georgia.  Don’t get too hot under the collar about that one if you don’t like guns; just remember that even without such "encouragement" laws, 34% of U.S. households have at least one firearm in them.  Google it or ask Siri if you don't believe me.

Then came the “Stand Your Ground” movement emphasizing self-defense outside the home.  This movement’s been around enough now to collect information to show that it does have deterrent, dissuasion and interdiction properties and violent crime generally does decrease in metropolitan zones where it is implemented.  Don’t whine about it.  Learn to use the internet like your children do and use it to read up on the FBI crime statistics.  See for yourself there’s a growing body of evidence to demonstrate a negative correlation effect; that means more CCW’s results in lower violent crime rates.

So much for the political footballs.  There's more.

All along, and strangely ignored by government planners, there were also contributions by armed security guard forces.  These are organized in both limited scope uncoordinated law enforcement resources like campus police, metro police, et al.  There are also separately licensed and certified paid armed security guards used for things from commercial building protection to guarding armored cars.

Finally, for some reasons not on anyone's radar are owner defended businesses.  Things like shopkeepers (fixed point defenses) and cab drivers (mobile location defenses) keeping guns tucked away but ready to use.  If you scour media reports, it turns out they do a fair share of the real world encounters entering into armed combat with criminals.

That’s a lot more guns in circulation for defense in metropolitan America than simplistic low information propaganda will tell you.   From a public safety policy management perspective, this totality of arms kept and borne in circulation in a metropolitan community is not something to ignore selectively, it’s something to measure in totality and leverage upon.

Objectively, it’s important that public policy planners look at these components of the so-called “good guys” equation without tainting their analysis by dismissing what may be some of the most cost effective means to increase both the perception and reality of crime deterrence by the use of credible countermeasures in their communities.

No silly dilly, “kumbaya” is not a credible deterrent to that minuscule slice of miscreants in our midst who are already prohibited class individuals in illegal possession of a firearm with violent intent that know “their money” is in your purse or home that are on the prowl to see if you are today’s easy mark.  Statistically, you will come within 100 feet of at least one of them once each day every day in a metropolitan area.  Wake up and smell some coffee.  Get your nose out of that cell phone and pivot your head around and be aware of your surroundings so they pick someone else to accost; that’s the deter and dissuade part of self-defense.  Use it.

So how to leverage the totality of a community?  Is there a way to quantify the net effect of all these armed force elements into come cohesive picture Is there a tool public officials can use to bring together the data and see what the numbers say?  I believe there is and I’m building one.  Like I once built a model to expose which small banks were safe and sound to make the banking financial crisis more transparent for ordinary Americans – you may remember it as “Move Your Money” – I’m building another model that does what strategic analysts call a “net assessment” – bringing all the known and previously ignored factors together into an overall measurement.

From there, maybe real “common sense” can emerge.  Stay tuned.

Update 4/22/2016:
This is more than just an article, Click Here to explore my "Armed Crime Deterrence" computer model.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Making a Fixed Parallax Scope Work for CMP/NRA Highpower

Updated:  23-March-2016

The CMP's 2016 Rule 6.1.1 allows for the use of optically sighted M-16/AR-15 rifles in service rifle competition.  The optics used must be commercially manufactured not exceeding 4.5X magnification.  While this specification allows for future improvements to equipment designs by the industry, early adopting competitors are limited in their choices.

Utopia vs. Reality

The ideal scope for the game per the 2016 rule would be a 1-4.5X scope with impeccably repeatable and exactly tracking 1/4 MOA turrets coupled with objective parallax adjustment and a Euro-style finger adjustable fine focus at the ocular that can stand up to thousands of rounds per year of firing cycles.  At present, only one commercially manufactured scope meets these criteria; it also costs more than the rifle.  All remaining commercially manufactured scopes are fixed parallax articles.  Within the fixed parallax field, some -but not all - higher priced commercial models provide the desired level of turret repeatability; that is, equal to the utterly solid performance of a competition 1/4x1/4 pinned A2 rear sight.  At the lowest price points, robustness becomes an issue.  Most of these name or store branded scopes are actually manufactured by wholesaler OEM's.  They were designed around light recreational use engineering specifications; a universe vastly different from the pounding competitors place on their equipment.  What may work for the shooter coming out to shoot half a dozen CMP 200-yard Games matches a year may not last through the early-season work up for someone pursuing distinguished or more.

My assessment of the present imperfection in available commercially manufactured optics options is that it is likely to persist.  When I was at the 2016 SHOT Show, I made a special effort to visit the scope makers - as did others - inquiring about currently available scope models and, more importantly, their appetite to invest in new models to address the highpower competition market.   The answers were discouraging.  Firstly, the highpower market is a small specialized use case, make that minuscule in terms of the return on investment mathematics; the scaling potential just isn't there for convincing companies to allocate precious research dollars.  Second, the engineering required to package an idealized scope is not trivial.  Most 1-4x optics on the market have 1/2 MOA or 2/10th's MIL click steps.  The reason is because the fineness of the threads necessary to accomplish the precision tracking to 1/4 MOA in a 4X and lower magnification optic delves into new areas of aerospace class micromachining technology.  The tech exists to be sure but getting it to the firing line is what the MBA in me would call a non-trivial capital investment decision. Third, the 2016 CMP Rule capping maximum magnification at 4.5X runs counter to where the much larger 3-gun and military trends in day optical requirements are headed.  As 3-gun matches continue to increase the degree of difficulty to keep pace with the skills exhibited by top competitors, some of whom also shoot in precision rifle matches, the desired maximum magnification range in these optics shifts to the 6 to 8 power range.  Similarly, more emphasis on engagement at distance by the military, extending soldier systems into the 600-800 meter range, also pushes answers to a 6 to 8 power range optical solution. Given these factors, my belief is that highpower competitors will have to cope with existing commercial offerings for some time.

So be it; so the equipment isn't perfect; it's still usable.  The mission becomes to figure out how to drive what we have to get the most out of it.

Regardless, I believe that for bringing in shooters new to highpower, a scoped service rifle is the new fastest path to an NRA Expert classification card.  At the club level, bring that 3-gun "tacticool" looking machine with its muzzle brake or that 16-inch 1-9 twist AR whatever carbine you bought in the last gun control panic with the cheapie optic you got with it. Any optic will work.  Every shooter will benefit.  Shoot 100-yd Reduced NRA matches until you earn Expert.  You'll learn loads about improving your marksmanship fundamentals that will pay off in confidence and competitiveness in whatever other discipline you shoot.  Most people skip over this fundamental building block when first getting into shooting.  The CMP's 2016 rule innovation, with reasonable leeway by club match directors, opens the door for many, many people to pick up this essential building block without having to invest in any new equipment.  I'd encourage the entire shooting community to take a crack at it.

With that, here are my personal driving notes so far on using scopes on top of a service rifle,

Slow Fire Offhand 

Really, really, really trust your wobble.  Don't bother to dial your optic down to 1 power for offhand.  For all intents and purposes, a fixed 4X scope is probably just as good for this game.  After some experimenting, I found that keeping the scope at 4X and focusing on the reticle is what works for me.  The target will wiggle around as you wobble.  That wobble was always there even with iron sights; you just could not see it before and it's plain as day to see now.  It's like having one of those really expensive SCATT trainers the smallbore/Olympic guys use to train to reduce their wobble except, there it is, giggling at you in offhand.  Don't let the fact that you can see it now phase you.  Just focus on the reticle, relax into minimal movement as you let your NPA (natural point of aim) do the work of centering things up, squeeze with the best trigger discipline you can muster and crack it when your "chi" says TEN!  The results are delightful when it comes together and instructive when they don't.  Tickle yourself with this, an X in a highpower SR target is like hitting the letter A embossed in the A zone one or two football fields away ... standing.

Rapid Fire Sitting and Prone

This is where these scope truly shine in my opinion.  The full distances of 200 and 300 yards are well within the envelope of the factory pre-set parallax of most - if not all - scopes on the market regardless of price.  Turret movement to go from 200 to 300, if you choose to dial for it is 2 to 3 minutes - 4 to 6 clicks with a 1/2 MOA scope - at most depending on what ammo you are using so there are no issues with tracking accuracy.  Again, focus on the reticle not the target.  This actually requires mental discipline particularly with higher grade optics because the target looks so pretty in the image.  Ignore it.  This is instrument flying.  Keep your eye on the gauges.  There are some advantages with an optic.  You are impervious to light changes on the target; just hold center.  You can see coming to center as you breathe between shots better too.  With 4X magnification, if you had the discipline, you could shade for wind driving the reticle within the target's center; but if you have good repeatable turrets, dial the wind at 300 the same way you would your A2 sights. Just remember that those scope turrets turn opposite to how all U.S. service rifle sight knobs turn.  Irons drive like steering wheels; turn left to move left, right to move right.  Scopes are like bottle caps; screw in to move left, unscrew to move right.   Please remember to laugh at yourself every time you turn the wrong way at a match until you get the hang of it.  It's part of the apprenticeship process to fire a perfect tight group into the 7 ring because you dialed the wrong way.  Welcome to highpower!

600 Yards

Yeah, parallax is a problem.  The scope makers can talk about the minimal effects of optical specifications all they want but the fact of the matter is that shooter variables such as head position behind the eye box of a scope with an objective lens 500 yards out of alignment means a shooter has a lot more to get right every shot than an iron sights gunner at 600 yards.  Where the A2 shooter has the advantage of a two point of reference sighting system to manage sight alignment  - remember that being one of the axioms of making a good shot in the "litany of fear" drilled into all of us? - the scope shooter has only the single plane of the optic.  This is why parallax adjustment is so important as any smallbore, midrange or long range shooter knows.  You need to get the parallax matched to the distance to make the ocular eye box more tolerant of eye placement errors behind the optic.  If the parralax setting is off, get the position ever so slightly wrong and even the best shooters on the planet will fire corner pocket 7's and 8's at 600.

Sight Alignment

But, there are no reasonably priced 1-4X tubes with objective parallax on the market.  What to do?  The answer might be to create a sight alignment method for fixed parallax optics.  Huh?  This flies in the face of how you want to set up a "combat" optic on a gun for speed and ease of use but bear with me and ponder this.

Consider mounting the optic not at full eye relief to see a perfectly clear picture when mounting the scope but a little closer to your eye so that in prone there will be a shadow that forms if you are not perfectly centered behind the optic.  Center up to manage the shadow kind of the same way you'd keep rings of white with an aperture sight.  Voila!  Sight alignment!

Note that 600 yards slow prone is the only position you "need" this for.  Your head will be tilted a little bit more forward in prone than in standing or sitting.  If you have a collapsible butt stock, using one of the shorter length of pull notches might do the trick to get you in the zone if the standard A2 rear stock doesn't suffice.  The MagPul UBR has screw in pre-sets; might be handy for this.  You can get more rear weight in the A2 butt though and that may or may not be a consideration to you now that the 11.5 pound weight limit thing is no more.

If you use the same rifle for 3-gun, you want - make that need - a full eye relief placement of the optic when you mount the gun rapidly in that discipline.  A quick detaching base where you can reposition the scope a notch or two back for highpower shooting may be your salvation to create a dual-purpose "crossover" gun.  The best ones on the market go on and off quite well.  Probably best to use a zero degree mount so you don't induce angular shifts when moving fore and aft on the receiver rail.  Remember you are still working within the very short baseline of sight axis to bore axis and tiny changes mean boatloads down range.  Less is more.

Is this a perfect engineering solution?  No, it's coping with what we've got.  But if it works for you ... hammer it!  Nothing says we cannot use innovations in technique to overcome equipment limitations until something better comes along.  We're Americans; that's what we do.

Update on 23-March-2016

Reports are beginning to come back that the "sight alignment" trick works with fixed parallax scopes to get the gear to work at 600 yards slow prone.  People are moving both closer to and further away from the scope eyepieces to create the shadow that they are using to create their alignment halos.  Observing people on the line, it looks to me to be around 1/2" of movement different from where they say they normally place their heads on an A2.

All the people I have personally observed so far move their heads.  One person I talked to told me they intended to keep their body in the same spot and move the scope base forward of backward on the picatinny rail.  I suspect more people will to this later on after they become comfortable with how they want to shoot the halo.  One late addition to the sight alignment came in on the morning of the 24th.  This shooter says he drilled a 1/8th inch hole in the scope cap.  I hadn't thought of that one.

This finding is significant.  It means that any scope that has decent glass and repeatable turrets can be made to work for highpower service rifle competition.  This opens up a much broader selection of optics that can get people on the line.  This finding is also significant in that it verifies that a scope with objective parallax adjustment will indeed be much more forgiving of head position movement.  This will probably be an equipment separator in the future that could make a difference in what works easiest to win.


This article is a work in progress.  The incorporation of any new technology into a competitive environment always takes learning curves in unanticipated directions.  When I first heard of this pending rule in 2015, what intrigued me most was to see where it would go.  As I learn more, I'll continue to chronicle.  This story to me is the next chapter in a long book of service rifles that comes after the one headlined, "'Matty Mattel' Pop Gun Displaces Thundering Herd of NM M-1's and M-14's".