Sight in your gun well before the season

Guys – and gals – check-sight your rifle or slug gun before gun-deer season. No excuses.

I just finished another weekend as rangemaster at my shooting club’s annual charity sight-in days, which benefit a local food pantry. What I witnessed decidedly was a mixed bag from visiting shooters.

One shooter, complaining that he has been unable to hit any rabbits with his scope-equipped .22 rifle – a model well-known for better than average accuracy – proceeded to try and check-sight his rifle in unsupported standing position in front of at the 25-yard bench. I politely urged him to take a bench rest – we had oodles of sandbags, rests, and other steadying aids at hand.

The man said that his old knees wouldn’t let him scrunch down on a low bench seat. So we got him a chair from the clubhouse, while I, with his permission, reset the zero on his rifle by firing a few rounds and tweaking the scope adjustments. The shooter proceeded to lay round after round right where they should be – something he never would have known had he just waved around in unsupported standing position. The guy went home happy, with visions of rabbit stew in his head.

A threesome of shooters showed solid knowledge of having hunted and having checked-sighted before. I agreed to let them set up right at the 50-yard targets to start. The first guy was able to keep his shots in the black with a red-dot scope on his 12-gauge slug gun, this after a couple tweaks to the adjustments. His groups were not particularly tight, but probably good enough for slug-gun deer at 50 to 75 yards.

Another of the guys, shooting a 7mm Remington Magnum for long-range West Virginia hill country hunting, proceed to fire a nice tight 10-ring triangle at 50 yards; then he switched to zeroing his Ohio 12-gauge, scope-equipped slug gun. It took him a few rounds, but he finally nailed a nice group of nearly touching hits well inside the black.

His other high-power partner, shooting a bolt-action .30/06, pounded about a dozen shots mostly into the black, but his group was too low and, to me, uncomfortably dispersed for a well-known, accurate model with a fine scope. Yet he never adjusted his optics to at least zero a tight group at 50 yards. He thought what he did was good enough. Well, OK. Up to you.

Neither of the high-power boys bothered to see where his rifle was printing rounds at 100 or 200 yards ranges, as they readily could have done on our range. Note: A 50-yard zero is just a starting point for a rifle, a telltale as to where you will be close at longer range. It maybe not killing-shot close, unless you check and verify and tweak at longer ranges, from a solid bench rest.

Another shooter could not even touch the paper with his new scope-equipped 12-gauge slug gun, a reliable model. After about 8 rounds without even touching the target paper, let along the bull, I came over and asked if I could check his scope mounts. Finger-loose screws on the mounting base, and loose rings as well. It is a wonder the scope did not fall off during the heavy recoil of repeated slugs. I opened my tool box, found a big screwdriver and appropriate Allen wrench and we squared the crosshairs and tightened up the scope and mounts. But the guy had run out of ammo. He said something about using his other gun on opening day. OK, it’s your hunt.

The foregoing scenarios really happened, and they are typical. Folks, we just do not do a good enough job of sighting in, if we bother at all! Standing on your hind legs at camp on Sunday afternoon before opening morning and cutting loose with a couple slugs at 10 yards at a pie plate is next to useless. No, it’s worse than useless. It is a pathetic excuse. It is unethical.

We supposedly hunt to kill, not maim or wound. Or at least we slap ourselves endlessly on the back claiming so to the non-hunting public. Put your capability where your sentiments lie. Check-sight that rifle or slug-gun, and do it right! That is why our club, for one, offers its range and trained members every year. But you have to take the next step and do it, not pretend.

I was not able to make a 243-yard killing shot on a very nice 6X5 bull elk with my .30/06 in Colorado last month by chance. It was merely the expected result of the same deliberate training and practice than you can accomplish as well. I am not bragging about that shot. It is one I should have made, given my training and experience.

But you could make the same shot, too. I am no better than you – if you practice and zero-in you rifle or slug-gun. Get it done. There still is time. My .45/70 single-shot already is zeroed and waiting for the Ohio gun opener. I dry-fire at a deer target with a dummy round at home daily. I am confident that I will not miss the shot. I hope the same for you.

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