Field-Shooting Positions with Sticks that Expands your Hunting Limits
Story by Caylen Wojcik
Notice the contact point between the shooter’s right elbow and the right knee. This is essential to supporting the upper body and the spine in a seated position. (MACKENZIE CRAWFORD)
The ominous and almost haunting realization that it’s the last day of the season hangs over your head as you make one last hike up to your glassing perch with hopes of catching a glimpse of the animals that have been so elusive in the preceding days. Hours pass, and in the fading light you glass across the sage into the glare of the sun. Catching some movement your eyes focus on an ear flick; low and behold it’s a shooter buck. He’s far, but your heart is soaring with the hopes of success as you range him before he feeds out of view into the dark timber just a couple dozen yards away. At 460 yards, your .300 WSM is more than capable, but you can’t lay down in the high sage, and the only shooting support you have is your pack and a set of Stoney Point sticks that you’ve used only once or twice. You know you can shoot that far, but only from a bench or prone. That elated feeling quickly drains as your gut tells you “No, you can’t make that shot,” and you watch what you thought was your buck walk away.
Students use barricades and tripods to engage targets out to 1,200 yards. (JAKE BLICK – MAGPUL CORE)
I know some of you are thinking, “460 yards off of sticks is too far, anyways; you shouldn’t take that shot even if you feel good about it.” How far is too far? The truth is range is just a number for a shooter who practices regularly. It’s as simple as “range, dial, hold for wind, and press” for someone who is confident with their rifle and, most importantly, their ability to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship in field conditions.
I routinely see students successfully and consistently hit targets at greater distances than the above scenario with a little bit of instruction and training. Now, let’s be clear; there is a big difference between training on steel targets that are stationary and a living, breathing animal.
It’s OK to miss steel, but as hunters, our quarry deserves the utmost respect with a quick and humane expiration from a well-placed shot.
With animals we play for keeps, and staying inside of your limits with a rifle afield should be our primary concern. So, how can we extend our comfort zone? How can we push those limits with confidence so we don’t have to see those bucks walk away? It’s going to take dedication and lots of time on the range. Here are some pointers on how to do it effectively:
Mann receives instruction on the use of trekking poles as support in a kneeling position. Note the position of the sling on the shooter’s right arm. This assists with keeping the rifle butt firmly in the pocket of the shoulder. (MACKENZIE CRAWFORD)
The first thing we should identify right off the bat is what our rifle can do under ideal conditions. Spend a day with your rifle shooting it at distance and record your data. If you’re using hold-overs, that’s fine, make sure you write down the range to the targets and the hold you used to get center hits. If you’re dialing your turrets, record the turret settings it required to hit center. Ideally, you should do this from the prone position to remove as much shooter error as possible. This raw data you’re gathering is what you’re going to use to make your drop chart. It’s also going to build your confidence with the rifle, knowing that it’s going to do what you tell it to do, under ideal conditions. If you have the space available, this is also a great opportunity to push the limits of distance. You can do this safely knowing that misses are only going to result in creating a little bit of self motivation and not a wounded animal.
Wojcik demonstrates the use of bipods to build a stable shooting platform from an unusual structure. (JAKE BLICK – MAGPUL CORE)
The Backcountry Hunter Course in the Washington Cascades is the perfect location to work on angles and an odd range of positions. (JAKE BLICK – MAGPUL CORE)
Once we know that the rifle is doing what we want it to do in a general sense and we’ve established that confidence, it’s time to get ourselves out of the prone and into field-shooting positions, and I mean a lot of different positions. We want to focus on the fundamentals of marksmanship, and accept nothing less than perfection.
The fundamentals in a nutshell are: creating a solid body position relying on either bone or artificial support, aligning our sights and aiming, proper breathing, getting a natural point of aim, trigger control and follow-through. It’s a lot to remember, but if you go about it in a systematic way by applying all those items in that order, your shooting will improve drastically.
Magpul CORE students demonstrating the versatility of the bipod while shooting from fence slats. Note the straight legs, locked out knees and a forward center of gravity. This is used to create bone support and relieve muscular tension. (MACKENZIE CRAWFORD)
The main thingto really focus on in field-shooting scenarios is establishing a natural point of aim. This is where the rifle wants to go in any given shooting position while the shooter is relaxed. Relaxation is key; we can’t relax without bone or artificial support, so make sure you’re honest with yourself when you build your shooting position. If you close your eyes, breathe and relax, the cross hairs should be right where you left them before you closed your eyes. If they’re not in the same place then you don’t have a natural point of aim, and you need to adjust your body to get the rifle to go where you want it to go. It takes lots and lots of practice.
A student uses a cable reel on an angle to simulate using a downed log as a support. Notice the use of the bipods to create a more stable platform on the curved and sloped surface of the reel. Also, the shooter is using his nonshooting hand to grab a handful of shirt material to further enhance stability. (MACKENZIE CRAWFORD)
When you head out to practice, focus on the tools you’re taking afield first, such as your shooting sticks or a tripod. Shoot from them in as many different positions as you can think of so you can identify your weaknesses and your strengths. Once that’s comfortable, move on to shooting off of weird things that could mimic field scenarios, like stumps, logs, branches and fence slats. You’ll be surprised at how effective you are after a little focused practice. You don’t need long ranges or steel either. If your range only has 100 yards, that’s fine, just shrink your target size. Start with 6-inch rounds or squares, then reduce the size as you gain confidence and proficiency. A good standard is a 3-inch target from 100 yards. If you can consistently place shots into that size target, you’re in good shape and are applying the fundamentals.
A student using his trekking poles as field-expedient shooting sticks in a fairly severe declined angle shot during the Backcountry Hunter Course. (JAKE BLICK – MAGPUL CORE)
Putting everything together and building confidence in your rifle will translate into building confidence in yourself. It’s a great feeling going afield knowing that you’re prepared for a wide variety of conditions. Something else to consider is looking for outside instruction from a reputable and professional organization. Having a second set of eyes watching you and offering constructive criticism will pay off in a big way when you head off on your own. You’d be surprised what a couple days of instruction will do for your shooting. Training for field-shooting positions is easy and a fun challenge. Use your imagination and be creative. Bottom line: enjoy yourself! ASJ
Caylen Wojcik uses a 55-gallon drum as a support during the 2015 Sniper’s Hide Cup. Notice the points of contact on the shooting elbow, the chest and bipods – that’s solid contact. (JOSEPHAT OROZCO)
Here’s more from National Shooting Sports Foundation | NSSF
[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”0″]ExclusiveInterview: Frank Green Of Bartlein Barrels[/su_heading]
INTERVIEW BY STEVE JOSEPH • PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRANK GREEN
If you have ever thought of getting involved in precision shooting, or are already immersed in the Precision Riﬂe Series competition, Bartlein Barrels is an industry name to know. Frank Green, Tracy Bartlein and Andy Kihn, who all previously worked for Kreiger Barrels, founded Bartlein Barrels and built it into what many are familiar with today – and for good reason.
Green sat down and gave us the ins and outs (pun intended) of their process and concepts of what makes them one of the best in the industry.
American Shooting JournalWho are the people behind Bartlein Barrels?
Frank Green We are experienced shooters, reloaders and hunters who have been working in the ﬁrearms industry collectively for over 30 years.
ASJ What is your title and tell us more about your background?
FG My title depends on which hat I’m wearing at the time. For the most part, I would say sales and technical service manager. I also do research and development for gun manufacturers, and riﬂe testing.
The process of single point cut rifling is the most stress-free way to rifle a barrel. The twist is exact.
ASJ How did Bartlein get involved in the PRS?
FG Well, GA Precision-built riﬂes are used in the PRS more than any other builder, and GAP is one of our top customers. Also, other customers like Wade Stuteville at Stuteville Precision, who used to be one of the lead guys at Surgeon Riﬂes, Surgeon Riﬂes, Accuracy International, Dave Tooley, Marc Soulie at Spartan Riﬂes, Mark Gordon at Short Action Customs and several other makers use our barrels, and not just in PRS. You can ﬁnd our barrels in short- and long-range benchrest, F-Class and Palma matches, high-power riﬂe matches and many others. A lot of people say that we are the go-to barrel maker. Becoming involved in the PRS just happened naturally.
ASJ Why would someone choose your barrels over another maker in the industry?
FG The uniformity in our barrels and bore ﬁnishes are second to none. Our riﬂing machines are so accurate that we can carry the twist rate to the fourth decimal point (example: 11.3642). The process of single-point cut riﬂing is the most stress-free way to riﬂe a barrel. The twist is exact. Other forms of riﬂing can have variances due to the process they use. Also, the bore and groove dimensions are more uniform.
We pre-lap (a smoothing process) our barrels before riﬂing and ﬁnish-lap the barrel after riﬂing. There is no need to ﬁre-lap or conduct any other sort of bore polishing to the barrel. Contrary to what others say, a lapped barrel will not wear out earlier versus an unlapped one. In our experience, our barrels will typically last longer than a button barrel. Our desire is to make the best and be the best.
Wade Stuteville of Stuteville Precision competes in the Precision Rifle Series and only uses Bartlein barrels.
ASJ What types of barrels do you oﬀer?
FG We oﬀer chrome-moly steel (CM 4140) and stainless steel (SS 416R).
ASJ Which steel do you think is better?
FGNeither, from what we can see. If we had to pick one, we would lean towards the chrome-moly, possibly because it lasts longer, but how long a barrel lasts is subject to many variables: type of powder being used; how it is being shot and cleaned; types of bullets being shot, etc.
ASJ People often ask what “T-style” riﬂing is. Can you explain that?
FG We call it transitional riﬂing, but some refer to it as either gain twist, progressive twist or incremental twist. We can cut virtually any twist into a barrel, subject to tooling, of course, and we can start the twist at 1 in 14 and end up at 1 in 7, and have it uniformly increase from the breech to muzzle. We can also increase it very slowly, say, from 1 in 7.5 at the breech to a 1 in 7 at the muzzle.
“A cut barrel, even with a straight twist, is more uniform and consistent than a button barrel”
ASJ What are the beneﬁts of the transition-style riﬂing?
FG I’ll quote a great bygone-era barrel maker named Pope:
“The advantages of the gain twist are three: A) A lower twist rate at the breech gives less friction to the bullet, causing it to start easier and quicker, giving the powder less time to burn in front of the chamber, therefore less fouling than in a barrel with a uniform twist at the same muzzle pitch; B) The slight change in riﬂing angle, in connection with choke bore, eﬀectively shuts oﬀ any gas escaping and prevents gas cutting, which is another cause of imperfect delivery; C) It holds a muzzle-loaded bullet in position much better than a uniform twist.
I will add some more to this. First, I feel this applies more to a lead-bullet shooter than a jacketed-bullet shooter, but some of the why and why-nots do overlap. With a transition-style barrel the bullet cannot go to sleep. The riﬂing is always putting a fresh bite on the bullet as it goes down the bore of the barrel. This is why I always go back to a cut barrel being better than a button barrel.
A cut barrel, even with a straight twist, is more uniform and consistent than a button barrel. With button riﬂing, the button can hit a hard or soft spot in the steel, and it will slow the button down. The button could speed back up and complete its twist, but either way you end up with a non-uniform twist. This and a twist that keeps getting slower towards the muzzle are accuracy killers and consistently lead to problems such as ﬂiers. Even a slight gain in twist will help accuracy and not hurt a jacketed bullet. What has been conveyed to us – and this goes back to Pope’s ﬁrst point – is that shooters have noticed that they can run a slightly heavier powder charge versus a shooter with a straight twist barrel.
“More damage is done from cleaning than physically shooting the gun”
ASJ There are a lot of diﬀerent schools of thought on cleaners, and what types to use. What do you recommend?
FG We do not recommend things like Iosso bore paste. The paste cleaners get imbedded into the bore, so the next rounds ﬁred through the barrel will damage the bore. There is no way to be sure you have removed it completely from the barrel after cleaning, and some shooters have claimed that their barrel starts fouling right after use. We feel so strongly about this that we will not warranty any barrel cleaned with it. If you want to use a paste-type cleaner, we recommend Remington bore cleaner or JB.
Meet the Bartlein team: (back row) Louie, Ray, Kyle, Jim, John, Todd and Donny; (center row) Joe, Andrew, Kim, Scotty, Ron, Brad, Jeff and Steve; (front row) Justin, Frank Green (founder), Bill, Tracy (founder) and Andy (founder). Other team members include Brian, DJ, Tony, Mike, Tom, Mark, Jesse and Dave, who were hiding around the bundles of steel in the background.
ASJ What about cleaning brushes, do you recommend using them?
FG We only recommend using cleaning patches and solvent. If a shooter insists on using a brush, then we recommend one caliber smaller or an old worn-out one. Wrap a patch around the brush and push it breech to muzzle, unscrew the brush before pulling the cleaning rod back through the bore or over the crown. More damage is done from cleaning than physically shooting the gun.
ASJ Many shooters don’t even clean their riﬂes, and swear by this. What do you think?
FG I shoot them, I clean them, and the biggest reason is carbon fouling. The carbon fouling will keep building up and can cause pressure issues. Also, as the barrel wears over time, it won’t hold accuracy as long between strings of ﬁring. So you have to clean the barrel. I do not recommend not cleaning at all.
ASJ Frank, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Your knowledge and expertise are greatly appreciated.
4D Reamer Rentals Ltd. is a premium supplier of Savage pre-fit barrels to the shooting public. They offer barrels from multiple makers: Green Mountain, McGowen and Criterion. Fred Zeglin of 4D Reamer Rentals LTD said, “There are many companies that sell Savage pre-fit barrels, but we have a huge advantage because we stock nearly 800 chamber reamers. This means that we offer a larger variety of chambers than any other company I know of. We buy blanks directly from the manufacturer, turn and thread them in the CNC shop and then handle the chambering and crown in house to ensure accuracy.”
Savage pre-fit’s are a very popular accessory these days, and shooters have discovered that they can buy a Savage, Stevens or Marlin Axis bolt-action rifle and simply change out the barrel for any new caliber they want to try out.
This interchangeable barrel system makes for a very attractive set up for wildcatters and shooters in general who don’t feel the need to buy a gun for every caliber they shoot. Consequently, these shooter save a ton of money and try out new calibers for ballistics and accuracy almost at will.
4-dproducts announced today that they have added nearly 100 reamers to their inventory this month. Increasing their ability to handle rental volume and are adding over a dozen new calibers to the possible list of chamberings for your Savage pre-fit barrel.
Zeglin went on to say, “We keep a small inventory of Green Mountain blanks in the most popular calibers. Special orders range from 5 weeks on up for delivery time. The length of the barrel and the twist rate are the main factors in delivery time from the barrel makers. We can normally tell you when you order just how long the barrel will take to manufacture.”
For more information about the wide range of tapers and twist rates that 4D offers visit them at 4-dproducts.com.