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A collection of comments and articles on the many aspects of bullet casting by various cast bullet shooters
Cast Bullets For Beginner And Expert
SECOND EDITION, 2007 - Joe Brennan
Chapter 7.1 How To Shoot Offhand

The following is by H.M. Pope. Harry Melville Pope lived from 1860 to 1950. He was a famous offhand shot, maker of arguably the best rifle barrels of his time, and a noted and respected authority on rifles and rifle shooting. 

"This is written with the hope that it will help riflemen generally to make better offhand scores; it is based upon many years' association with the best offhand shooters that this country has ever produced, as well as my long experience in rifle making, and may help others to ultimate victory.

     The offhand position, this will vary somewhat with individuals, but it must be perfectly natural, easy and free from muscular strain. The weight should be evenly distributed on both legs; they should be straight and not too far apart. Legs spread too far means muscular strain, while in a proper position the bones should carry the weight. As the writer stands, the feet are at an angle of about 60 degrees, the left foot about 50 degrees with the line of fire, the right a little back or square to the line of fire, the heels 7 inches apart. Don't straddle.

In getting into shooting position, it is extremely important that one gets so set that a natural, easy position directs the rifle at the bull's‑eye; there­fore in aiming, let the rifle come to its natural position; then if, looking over the sights, it is right or left, rock backward, letting the left leg hang, swing the body so the rifle will point at the bull, then rock forward, letting the right leg hang down naturally, and you will now find that the rifle points itself at the bull merely by assuming a perfectly easy position without muscular strain. If not properly set, of course, one can direct the rifle to a considerable angle at either side, but when the nerves relax, control of the strained muscles to the slightest degree the muscles assume a natural position and the rifle swings off. A little practice lets one get set at the proper angle, so very little of this setting is usually necessary.

Aiming and pulling. In a match of considerable length one should never try to pull every shot dead center. It can't be done, and to try to do so only results in fatigue and wild shooting. No matter how expert one practically never holds perfectly still; there is always a swing or tremor. Don't out-hold your wind. Try to pull the first time the sights swing slowly into a position that you can pull cleanly, to score slightly above your average score. In doing this you will avoid wild shots, and many times you get off practically on center.

A good score is not made by a large number of perfect shots, but by the absence of poor ones. It does not pay to try to pull centers, unless nothing else will do in a tight place; then be careful. If the sights will not settle before you begin to feel short of breath, put the rifle down, swallow your guts and try again. Be sure you pull on a slow swing and with a perfectly clean pull.

The trigger should not be extremely light, but should be perfectly clean and without kick to the finger when it lets go. The trigger guard or lever should bring the trigger finger into such a position that a long forward reach is not necessary. The thumb should be along the side of the stock ­not over it: in fact, it should form a gauge to keep the trigger finger in such a position that it comes naturally onto the trigger. This position you must learn to shoot well; the finger cannot be away from the trigger when you want to fire, but must be in contact with it. The best way when aiming is to keep squeezing the trigger with the finger, then when the sights swing deep into the bull, a little harder touch lets it off. The object of doing this is to avoid sympathetic movements of the other fingers. It is very hard to make a quick movement of one finger without also moving the adjacent fingers more or less, which movements disturbs the aim.

In aiming the rifle (NRA. standing position), the left arm should be along the side, the elbow resting on the hip bone if you are so built; if not, then along the side on the short ribs ‑ not in front over the heart and stomach, which cramps the breathing and heart action. Regardless of position, N.R.A. or Army, the right arm should have the elbow well up, not against the side; this pulls the chest open and gives the lungs more capacity; it also allows a straighter stock, and a rifle with a straight stock shoots more uniformly than one with much drop.

     Breathing: It is extremely important that you pay careful attention to this. One should breathe slowly and deeply. Do not allow yourself to breathe fast, as that tends to make the pulse rapid, which in turn affects the aim. If one is shooting continuous scores with fixed ammunition, one is apt to get short of breath before the score is finished and the pulse goes up. This is because the blood is robbed of the necessary oxygen when holding the breath. We compensate for this by deep, slow breathing, making the whole surface of the lungs work instead of the small portion in ordinary use. As I raise my rifle to aim, I lift it high and fill my lungs fully; as I begin to settle I breathe nearly empty, then as the aim begins to settle I breathe about half full and hold the breath till I fire; then at once begin breathing again slowly and deeply.

     Weight of Rifle: For the finest offhand shooting the rifle must be muzzle heavy. This is not, as most shooters suppose, wholly in the weight of the rifle, but is in the disposition of the weight. As much as possible should be in the barrel. Weight in the stock and butt plate is useless except in absorbing the recoil. The use of a heavy butt plate is to be condemned. While it tends to balance the rifle when the same is carried free, its weight is entirely on the right shoulder in shooting and does not in any way change the weight supported on the left hand. In fact, the rifle at the shoulder is a second‑class lever in which the power is the weight of the rifle concentrated at its center of gravity, which should be well beyond the left hand. The fulcrum is the shoulder, and the work is the weight held in the left hand. If the center of gravity is in front of the left hand, then the weight held in the left hand is greater than the rifle. If the center of gravity is behind the left hand, the weight will be less than that of the rifle.

It is necessary to hold a reasonable amount of weight on the left hand in order that the swing of the rifle may be slow and give one time to pull. If the weight resting on the left hand be the same, no matter what the actual weight of the rifle itself, the effort to move it will be the same. It is possible to build a rifle to weigh 12 or 20 pounds and have it hold exactly the same. In other words, except to absorb recoil, the shooting weight of a rifle is not how heavy the rifle actually is but how that weight is distributed. Anyone can prove these facts for themselves, as I have done for many years for my customers, by simply holding the rifle by the butt plate so it will not overturn on a small platform scale, first weighing the rifle itself, then by supporting it at various places to see what the left hand actually holds, and not forgetting before you finish to tic a couple of points or so onto the butt plate in order to convince yourself that has absolutely no effect on the weight held in the left hand, and therefore has no effect on the shooting balance of the rifle and no influence in slow­ing the movement of the muzzle in aiming.

     Stock: This should be as straight as possible to conform with comfort. The cheek-piece should be high enough so that when the eye is in line with the sights it presses firmly against the cheek, as this materially helps steady the rifle. The cheek-piece if hollowed should have no projection in front, but a straight run, for the rifle recoils an appreciable amount before the bullet leaves the muzzle, and any projection rolls the rifle back and disturbs the aim, and this drive‑back direction also varies and you get shots where you did not expect them. It is very important that the butt stock should be tight. A loose butt stock will scatter the shots badly.

     Telescope: This absolutely must be focused at the distance at which you intend to shoot. The eye lens should be focused first by looking at a blank sheet of paper or the clear sky so the cross hairs are dead black and distinct. This is never changed unless your eyesight changes. Focusing for distance is done with the object lens or intermediate lens only. Use plain paper or clear sky so there is no object seen to confuse you. It is probable that different people will require different eye adjustments as they would spectacles. Set the telescope, on or off the rifle, on something so it will point at the target and not move easily. Then look through it and move the eye around quickly in every direction as far as you can see clearly, and notice whether the cross hairs appear to be stationary on the target; they should not appear to move at all. If they do, the telescope must be focused by loosening the front lens or the intermediate lens, moving it very slightly in or out until repeated trials show that the cross hairs do not appear to move, then tighten it carefully and look again to be sure you did not move it in tightening. This is the only position that will give correct shooting. It also should be the position of clearest vision, but it matters really very little whether the vision is perfectly distinct or not, the cross hairs must be still.

In putting the glass onto the rifle, be sure the tube is wiped clean where it bears on the sides and slightly greased. Be very sure that the mounts and blocks are absolutely clean where they come together and that they are carefully tightened; I use a dime for a screwdriver. This makes them sufficiently tight without strain.

Keep a careful record of the readings of your telescope on different ranges and on different guns; you will then have no trouble in shifting from one range or gun to another. Once in a while test your telescope and mounts to see that everything is secure. Place the gun on something solid so you can see through the telescope which is supposed to be properly tightened on it, look through the telescope and at the same time tap on the tube with a lead pencil; you will see the cross hairs jump at each tap, but they should come back each time to absolutely the same place. If they do not something is loose, either with the mounts, or inside the scope. This happens, and any decent shooting is then simply impossible and a good gun and ammunition gets blamed instead of a faulty scope or mounts.

After each shot return your telescope to its proper position from which the recoil has jarred it. To do this never take hold of the rear end and pull it back, but place the left forefinger on the barrel ahead of the telescope and slide the finger gently to place. The telescope will then come back to its proper place.

     The palm rest: While not much used today, this is by no means the contemptible toy that most shooters imagine, but to most men a very useful article an equalizer of men's physical peculiarities and differences. The proper position of the palm rest is important. It should neither be too close to the receiver nor too far away. If too close, the left hand has to support too much weight; also movements of the holding arm move the muzzle too rapidly. In other words, the control is bad; also the excessive weight tires one sooner. It must not be forgotten that the weight the left hand is holding is generally considerably in excess of the rifle itself, due to the center of gravity of the rifle being outside of the support.

You may think a big fellow like you can hold as long as you like, but you can't do it. I am a little fellow, but I can shoot rings around most large shooters. It is not size and strength that count, but nerve and judgment. With these instructions and a lot of careful practice you can attain in a short time what it took me years to learn. Study these methods. Shoot all you can. Carefully note everything that you do and you will find your work improving. Pay attention to details.

Good luck be with you.



Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading and bullet casting, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned.

Always consult recognized reloading manuals.


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