First of all I need to start off with who I am and what I am not. I’m just a guy like you. I am not Carlos Hathcock. I am not on the US Palma Team. I have no, “across the course” records. No foreign militaries know who I am. No enemy combatants whisper about me in hushed tones. And I have never been given a cool war-moniker like “White Feather” or “Purple Squirrel”.
I’m just a guy like many of you.
I was recently asked about precision rifle shooting and data collection. The young man wanted some suggestions on methods, data books, or tips and tricks I might suggest? It was obvious the precision rifle / sniper logs seem overly complicated to him. I happen to agree. Here is my experience.
In my life, I have purchased a data book from one of the big-name outfits that sell such things. Spiral bound. Almost an inch thick. It has different sections. The first few pages are rifle specs and info. Some load data. Dope grid out to 2000 yards. And then it goes into different target types which is presented as one page per range trip or event.
It’s got data at the top: environmental, bullet specs, distances, impact locations. Point of AIM locations. And Called POI fields. Etc, etc, etc, etc. I used one religiously for 2 years. Bought that t-shirt. Wore it out. Stopped using it.
My advice young man? Skip the big data-book. Disagree? Fine. My advice is worth what you paid for it.
But let me explain how I got to where I am now. After some time, what started to happen was I would grab the waterproof pocket-notebook that came WITH the data-book and just write my environmentals down there. My honest intention was to fill out, “the book” later. Then I was 2 range sessions behind. Then 5. Then 8 range sessions and a rifle training cycle in the hole. Finally I figured out I didn’t need the big book anymore. Or even want it.
Cue precision rifle / sniper expert who will tell you everything I just said is wrong. And it is. I won’t even try to defend it.
But I’m just a guy like you. And like many of you, I suspect a workaround might be of interest. Here is how I build my rifle data. Once rifle is setup and zeroed I work though various loads at 100 yards. Once settled on a load, I chronograph the speed. I then take that information, along with the bullet type and weight and barrel length and run a ballistic computer check for hypothetical dope out to max range.
I then physically shoot the rifle out to those ranges for confirmed data. I either true the data to match my calculations or if I can’t get it to match, I document what the REAL POA/POI is and create my CONFIRMED dope. Thus forgetting the computer guesstimate. I go through the same process for very cold weather such as zero to -10 degrees. And I do it for hot weather such as 90 degrees.
With me so far? Good.
All of those then goes into a master file FOR THAT RIFLE. In my case, I have switched to an app on my iPhone. It’s backed up in numerous places and I even print a dope list that can be taped to the rifle. So ideally, here is everything I keep recorded in my phone:
- Ballistic data for various temps / density altitudes. Figure 3 sets.
- Barrel length.
- Load data down to OAL and powder to the grain. Even if I have to break apart factory ammo to get that info.
- Scope over bore height.
- Maximum Point Blank Range for that load / caliber / zero.
- Round counts.
- Cold bore shot data and tendencies at various temps. Along with how soon that changes, if it changes.
- Service history. I don’t record cleanings. But I record breakages, repairs, or issues.
- Any peccadilloes the rifle displays that may make THIS rifle just a little different from one just like it. This may or may not be needed.
In summation. I have the notebooks from a particular shoot should I need it later. Not a single session or event has ever taken more than both sides of a single sheet. Filling up one side is VERY rare. It’s all environmental data anyway. And the replacement books are super-cheap and easy to carry. That big data book doesn’t do you much good if it’s back at home.
I didn’t intentionally stop using the cool-guy gun logs. It just kinda happened. So if you find all those books a bit overwhelming, I agree. Get your zero. Confirm dope as far as you can. Document cold-bore shot differences and you are 90% done for MOST applications. Keep backups. Also note I am not saying depend on the electronics. Don’t. Know your dope off the top of your head. But you have detailed data incase you NEED it right now.
Another option if you don’t like the app-log idea would be collect confirmed dope out to max yards, then clear-tape that page to the inside of the notebook cover. Keep whatever else you want in the notebook. Viola! Instant shooter log! Not hard at all.
“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”
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