This is how the media SHOULD be talking about practical shooting

Take a few moments to read this story on Wired.com about a big-time “Big Buck Hunter” video game contest, and ask yourself what it would take for Wired or Stuff or some other trendy media outlet to talk about USPSA or 3 Gun with the same amount of enthusiasm.

Some select points from the article:

“It’s all patterns,” he’d say. “If you want to win, just know the patterns.”

Patterns are key. Bucks appear in specific places at specific times. Knowing the patterns requires practice. Practice requires time. Time requires money. But my friends and I are young. We can find time and money.

Sounds a lot like Steel Challenge to me…

“Andy (a gamer in the article) touches on the growing trend of players owning personal Big Buck machines. “You used to be a douchebag if you did that,” he says. “But then those people started winning championships. So.”

Waiting for the inevitable “Playing Big Buck Hunter will get you killed in the woods” comments…

“The stereotype is that most of the people who love BBH are Republican, pro-gun, NRA members. That’s true, but only to an extent.”

No comment.

“By the time I get to The Pourhouse, (the site of the championship), the atmosphere is much as I remember it from Friday. Same faces, same outfits, same rodeo energy. The emcee implores the crowd to drink Old Milwaukee, because it’s the sponsor and it’s free. A hype video introducing “Big Buck Hunter HD Wild” plays on a screen. It has lots of new animals.”

Think about how SOCIAL playing this game is, and then think about how social the average USPSA match is. Sure, the guys on the squad trash talk with each other and have fun, but when’s the last time you were at a match that a) had spectators b) had facilities for spectators or c) encouraged spectators to be social and root for their favorites.

The finals offer a three-trek format, a change that benefits Tower, who tends to be a faster shot. He pulls away early, blasting at bucks even as they materialize. He hits them all. It’s freakish, and unstoppable. He takes the match. Green and orange confetti falls from the rafters. Tower raises his arms in triumph.

I catch up with him a little later. He’s glowing with excitement and perhaps alcohol. “Only had four beers all day,” he says. I have trouble believing him. Then he says he’s the fastest Big Buck Hunter shot in the world. I have no trouble believing him. I ask if he’s got any advice.

“Aim small, hit small,” he says.

I have no idea what this means, but damned if it doesn’t sound good.

Hey, look, a competitor who can differentiate his type of performance from everyone else out there! How fresh! How exciting! How completely absent from USPSA! We call Rob Leatham “The Great One” (and he is) but WHY is he the great one? What makes his style so dominating versus Max or Eric or Jerry? How do we expect to stimulate interest in our sport if the people who shoot it aren’t interesting?

Playing a video game in a bar is exciting, social and popular. Shooting a match is exciting, and if we can figure out a way to make it social, we can make it popular.

The question is, is that what we want to do?

What are you not talking about?

First off, a moment of Zen. 

long range shooting

That’s my Savage 16 on the rifle range at Owensville Gun Club. You’ll note that I haven’t been talking much about that gun lately because I’ve been stuck in a vicious circle of suck: I haven’t been able to get a good group to verify that it’s zeroed, and I don’t want to shoot it because my targets (and what’s NOT on them) make me look like a complete loser.

The source of this loserness wasn’t easy to diagnose, either. It wasn’t something simple like a trigger jerk or a flinch, it required a two-part solution. 

  1. New scope rings. I had Extra High rings on that gun because of the large objective lens of the Millett scope, except that I have a 20 MOA base on the gun that lifts up the scope even more.
    As a result, I had set up my scope WAY above the point where I could get a consistent cheek weld and scope sight picture. 
    Whoops. 
    Changing out to a set of Weaver medium rings has made a HECK of a difference in getting consistent hits on-paper. 
  2. New ammo. I had been using M80 ball of questionable origin (I think it’s Greek surplus, but I may be wrong…) in my practice sessions, and I could get 3MOA out of it, at best. Switching to Hornady Steel Match (which apparently isn’t made anymore. Bummer.) has made a world of difference, and all of a sudden I was making 1MOA any time I wanted to, and that man-shaped piece of steel at 325 yards got rung with boring repeatability. 
    When the Steel Match runs out, I’ll switch to Prvi Partizan Match for practice and maybe even matches, at least until I get my reloading press set up again. 

I wasn’t talking about shooting long-range because I wasn’t any good at shooting long range. Instead of training hard to fill in the gap, I was avoiding the problem in front of me.

Whoops.

Not no more. Now that I’ve identified the problem, I can work on a solution.

And one thing you can’t see in that photo is the flock of wild turkeys that wandered across the range at about 400 yards. I was tempted, VERY tempted to get the main course for next month’s big dinner, but managed to hold back and shoot at the inorganic targets I had in front of me…

Well-rounded, well-armed

Armed Culture did a great little post on finding good gun advice, and I like this part in particular: 

The four factors of expertise

#1. Breadth of experience.

A guy who has one brand of wine that he drinks is not a wine expert, even if he drinks a lot of wine. Taste only comes with broad exposure. When someone tells you that a product is good, always ask, “Compared to what?”

The typical gun reviewers who lack in this area are military and competition shooters. Many servicemen have extensive experience with the weapons provided to them by the government. But they know little to nothing about the wealth of options available in the civilian world. If your dad got you into sporting clays as a kid, you might be an Olympic class shooter… but that won’t make you an authority on handguns or rifles, or even hunting shotguns.

After reading that, I realized why I was going for “a mind of many things” approach to my journey through firearms culture. I will listen to anything that Rob Leatham or Angus Hobdell have to say about USPSA, but I wouldn’t go to them for rifle advice. In the same manner, I know people who can bust clays with just their mind (and a shotgun), but know diddly about handguns. 

I want to know enough to speak rationally on most gun topics, and I want to be good enough so that when someone says “Hey, do you want to go shoot (insert name of firearms-related activity here)?”, I know I’ll be good enough to enjoy it and have some measure of success at whatever it is. 

As I’ve said before, life is too short to shoot just one gun.

Product Review: Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope

vortex_2

Advantages: Great optics, ruggedly built, low price
Disadvantages: Some cloudiness in the optics 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I got this scope to replace the ancient Bushnell I inherited from my father in law. 10 years as a commercial photographer taught me what to look for in a a piece of glass, and this scope offers excellent results at a price that won’t break the bank.

vortex_1

The controls are logically placed and have everything you want in a serious spotting scope such as a rotating tripod mount for bench or prone use and a sensitive, easy to use focusing knob. The scope is rugged built and comes with a convenient soft carry case that also doubles as a thermal cover (a nice touch)..

The Vortex Diamondback scope is easy to use in the field or on the bench and transmits colors and details to the eye cleanly with little optical aberrations such as color shifting or fringing, but there is a general cloudiness in the lens. Is there a difference in clarity at higher powers between this scope and something costing five or ten times as much? Yes. Are those other scopes five or ten times clearer and easier to see through? Oh heck no.

If you have to have the very best and are willing to spend for it, go for it and get a $2000+ scope. If you want a spotting scope to do the job day in, day out, this is the scope for you.

Hunting Show 2.0

So what would it take for me to add another hunting show to my DVR lineup?

  • Make it about something other than just hunting.
    Do hunters REALLY want me to believe that hunting is just about tramping through the woods and pulling the trigger? 
  • Embrace the localvore, organic lifestyle
    How many of the trendy restaurants these days are about locally-sourced, antibiotic-free, free-range meat? Isn’t fresh game the ultimate expression of that idea? Why is Steve Rinella the only one acknowledging that fact?
  • Assume nothing about your audience
    Don’t just go through the motions of the hunt, take the time to explain *why* you’re doing things.
  • Don’t ignore the beginner
    Let’s make a short list of all the hunting shows out there for the beginning hunter. Ready? Go. 
    There, that was fun, wasn’t it?
  • Make it accessible to city dwellers
    America is a primarily urban nation now, but you’d never know it by watching a hunting show.
  • Teach me something new with each show
    Don’t just show me what you’re doing, tell me *why* you’re doing it, and if you can’t do that, tease it and then move the instruction part on to YouTube.
  • Personalities drive television, but we’re not all hicks
    I love “Dual Survival“, and it’s the living, breathing embodiment of what I’m talking about (minus the hunting). Hunting shows could learn a lot from Cody Lundin, Bear Grylls and Les Stroud about bringing us city folk into the outdoors. 

 Ok, those are my suggestions. What are yours? 

Why I don’t watch (most) hunting shows.

Here’s 90% of most of the hunting shows on TV in one paragraph: 

“Hi, here’s the sponsor’s product. Watch me as I go to someplace you’ll never go and shoot something you’ll never shoot with the sponsor’s product. Oh, and I’m not going to let you learn anything from what I did other than the sponsor is cool and I’m cool and you’re not. See you next week.”

It always amazes me that every single hunting show on TV assumes that a) I know how to stalk b) I know how to skin and prep a kill c) all my friends know how to do this as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There are more organizations devoted to getting women introduced to the shooting sports than there are getting men who’ve never hunted into hunting. What would be perfect for urban professionals like me is something like this, but with testosterone, not estrogen.

That lack of backfilling men into hunting is going to hurt hunting in the long-term. Hunting organizations LOVE to talk about the “father to son tradition of generations of hunters”, but I can’t pass on the tradition of hunting to my sons if I don’t hunt myself.

Ok, hunting organizations, your move.