Long Range Precision Rifle Practical Field Shooting: Day 1 - a review of the Thunderbeast Arms Practical Field Shooting Workshop.
In April 2015 I attended Thunderbeast Arms 3 day course #206 - Practical Field Shooting Workshop. This workshop was primarily focused on Long Range Precision Rifle Practical Field Shooting. It was a very educational course taught by Brian Whalen who was a great instructor. There were four students in the course, and the environment included shooting from a variety of positions in the field and in mud, rain, sleet, snow, sun and cold (normal for Spring in Wyoming).
As the title describes, the course is for long range precision rifle, practical field shooting. This was something I have been looking forward to since most of my shooting had previously been on square ranges from a flat shooing position (prone, sitting, standing and from the bench). The workshop was taught on the Steel Safari course in Douglas Wyoming - and it was on a beautiful ranch that was around 5000 acres - so plenty of diverse shooting in a variety of terrain (hilly, rocky flat and angled). Targets were from 100 yards through 1300 yards.
The instruction was paced based on the students attending which was great to see - so your experience if you take the course could vary.
Day 1 we reviewed prone and sitting shooting at 100 yard targets using the instructor's .22 rifles setup with Schmidt & Bender and Steiner optics with adjustable stocks. We covered the basics of setting up the rifle for our bodies and using slings vs unslung prone positional shooting. We also shot prone using a pack for supported shooting and slung with a pack. We did what is called the sling appreciation drill where we tried to shoot some nice groups without a sling from a number of positions - which as you can imagine was not nearly as easy as shooting with a sling.
On day 1 we also did some bipod supported shooting from prone as the instructors rifles all had Harris bipods.
A note on the slings attached to the instructor's rifles. These slings were created by Brian, and were a bit different from the normal USGI style slings I was used to shooting with for positional shooting. These slings had the ability to make a loop, just like a USGI sling taught in Appleseed, but they had a different fast tensioner - to adjust length instead of the USGI style clamp. Otherwise, the slings were pretty similar to a USGI sling (just much faster to adjust). The other point I would make is that we covered prone slung and sitting slung - but not hasty, hasty hasty nor standing positions. Also, the slings were most often used in a AR style two point sling, when not shooting prone. This means the sling was attached to a QD on the outside of the stock - not the bottom of the stock like Appleseed teaches. This was done to help pull the but-stock of the rifle into the shoulder pocket of the shooter in the various unusual positions we would be attempting.
One thing Brian kept having to remind the students to do was to grip the rifle stock fully - using either a thumb around the stock - or a high thumb. Most preferred the thumb circling the stock as above. Also, notice the front bag support under the hand. This was really the first course I have taken which focused a lot on the proper use of bags both front and rear for support.
Here is the instructor showing a correct sitting position using the two point sling.
One of the other positions we learned is called reverse kneeling. This differs from the slung kneeling position taught in High Power and in Appleseed. The Kneeling position in High Power and Appleseed is used when you only have a sling to stabilize your position. Because of this - you use the sling on your support arm and use the knee to support that slung arm (the knee takes the place of the ground. This however leaves the trigger elbow high since there is nothing there to support that arm (that knee is on the ground). If you have some other support - say a tree branch, fence post or barricade, you can use the reverse kneeling position which uses the object to provide the support for the rifle forend, and use your trigger side knee to support your trigger arm. This gives you a better support than just kneeling.
Note above the bags used under the ankle to "fill the void". This idea of filling the voids in our position would be a continuing thread for all the positions we would be learning. The effect this has is to provide some additional stability to the position but increasing the surface area of contact and reduce the points that may move when shooting.
Using the reverse kneeling position led us to using other forward supports like large bipods (shooting sticks) and tripods to provide the front support still shooting slung, and trying other ways of supporting the rear of the position - like our pack, or shooting bags.
You can see in the above picture (if you look really hard) that the shooters foot is on the ground, but the pack is over the foot and supporting the shooters but. If I remember correctly there are also small shooting bags under his ankle.
Using these tricks really add an amazing amount of support to the positions - we tried shooting them with and without the support and found a huge difference.
Here is a better picture of using the bags to support the ankle.
We found that small bags like the ones above from TAB Gear are SUPER useful as rear bags and for quite a variety of positions. This Multi-Cam small lightweight Pollak shooting mat from TAB Gear is also very useful (keeps the rain off as well).
Here is Brian demonstrating sitting with shooting sticks using a rucksack (or backpack) for sitting support.
That winds up Day1 - stay tuned for Day 2 !