Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Learning to Shoot and getting a PAL


 
First time shooting a .22LR.

In 1996 we camped our way to Saskatchewan and back as a family with grandparents on my father's side. At some point on that trip my Grandpa took me out into the woods with a little break action air rifle. After he passed away in 1999, no one knew what happened to that air rifle, but needless to say I wanted it. It has still never turned up, but anyways, that was a very special time with my Grandpa. I felt like I was doing something my parents didn't really approve of, and it was just me and Grandpa, out in the woods, shooting at a pop can and a paper plate. I love it.

Fast forward to 2012 and when camping with friends, we went to some crown land with a friend who had recently got his PAL. He gave us the whole ACTS and PROVE lesson and we each took turns with his .22LR and his .22 WMR. It was a pile of fun. I asked him all kinds of questions about getting licensed and he gave me the whole rundown.

By the summer of 2013 I had never fired anything but pellet guns and rimfires. I decided randomly in the summer to go by myself after work to DVC ventures, the indoor range, which was conveniently on my way home. I had no idea what I was doing with handguns, and I told them so. They patiently and without being condescending gave me a safety lesson and also had a good process of working up to firing multiple shots. They started me off with an empty firearm and let me shown them that I could pick it up, dry fire it, and then put it down safely. Afterwards, they put one round into the magazine and let me pick up the firearm, load it, fire the round, and then put it down. Finally they loaded full magazines let me at it. I blew through a few boxes of 9mm and .45 ACP and really fell in love with the 1911. Lastly we tried the shotgun with 1oz slugs. After checking my stance and how I was shouldering the firearm I squeezed off a round. Holy shit! That was a kick. That was my first real experience with recoil and it was awe inspiring. At that point I was certain that I would get my PAL (Possession and Acquisition License).

I got my PAL that fall of 2013. I decided since it was only a slight nominal amount more month and time that I would also get my restricted license as well (sometimes called RPAL). At the time I thought that was just for handguns, but really it was for a wide variety of other firearms as well. The course was very good and over a couple days we learned all about safe handling and basic techniques and history. At that point you send in your application along with your test results. Then the waiting starts.

First there is a 45 day minimum waiting period before they process your application. Then, because I applied for the restricted license as well, they contacted my references who had to be non-family friends who had known me for a specific period of time or greater. After that, there was the background checks and then finally my license was mailed.

After a ton of research and handling rifles at various stores around the lower mainland bought my first rifle, a Browning X-Bolt Stainless Stalker with a Fluted Barrel in .30-06 with a Zeiss Terra 3-9x 42mm scope. However, that wasn’t my most valuable purchase. I am so glad I bought a membership at the Port Coquitlam & District Hunting & Fishing Club. I went to the range 1-2 times a month and spent the entire day there, emptying box after box of federal blue box 180 gr into targets out to 200m until I was confident I could reliably get at or under 1 MOA off a bipod with ideal shooting conditions. I only shot using the bipod since that is what I would have in the field if I ever got into hunting. I tried standing, kneeling, and sitting, but wasn’t very happy with the results unless I was shooting off the bipod. I kept my all of my brass and, now that I reload, I am so happy I did.

This is where I found my first major old-wives’ tale. I hope I don’t get flamed about this, but I believe breaking in a bolt action rifle is a myth. I read a ton on the internet and talked to everyone from my PAL instructor to colleagues of mine who are avid shooters. It seems split 50/50, however, the 50% of people who believe in breaking in a bolt action rifle with the clean, fire a shot, clean, repeat etc. break-in procedure are older and typically just shoot when they are hunting while the avid target shooters and bench rest people who shoot far more often seemed to mostly say it is a myth. So I went with that. My rifle shoots just as well as the day I bought it and my round count is in the thousands. The best argument I heard for why the breaking in a bolt action rifle is a myth is because if it was required then it would be in the owner's manual like you find for semi-auto rifles which have cycling break-in procedures.

Two other important things I learnt was how to clean the gun properly as well as the fact that it is absolutely random what ammo your gun likes and that every type of ammo shoots completely differently out of every gun. I bought one of every box of .30-06 I could get my hand on to compare them with 4 shot groups. I did my ammo tests over 4 different trips to the range and randomized the order of the groups to control for fatigue. I made sure my gun cooled down between groups as well. I found Federal Blue box in 180gr and Barnes Vor-TX in 168gr, and 180gr gave me 1 to sub MOA groups reliably. My gun hates every kind of Hornady factory round at 2-3 MOA, but most of all hates the very expensive Winchester XP3s with 3-4 MOA. Core-lokt and Fusion were reasonable at around 1-1.5 MOA. I can’t explain why. This is just the way it is for my rifle.

It took several months to learn the basics of shooting. I am no expert at all, so I won't pretend that I am. All I will say is that I learned everything I know about shooting from the internet. Have a stable natural platform, control your breathing, at the bottom of a breath increase pressure on the trigger until the break surprises you, follow through and repeat. Consistency is key for me. I feel like a lot of people blame the equipment. For me it has always been the user. I am the cause of my fliers and shitty groups, that is until I came upon an incorrectly bedded barrel and excessive copper fouling. Those two things do really affect accuracy. But more on those later.

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