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March 07, 2008

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Shoot Quick For Better Groups

Years ago, I remember heading down to Jim Carmichel’s place for the very first time. I had not been editor of Outdoor Life long and the two of us wanted to get to know each other better. Jim kindly asked what I’d like to shoot. I told him I was thinking about buying a 28-gauge and would love to shoot whatever he might have. Jim was all too happy to comply and, as I recall, had 3 or 4 28-gauges cased and ready to go when we headed to the range.

Before we went to the skeet range, however, he asked if I wanted to shoot a new benchrest gun he was playing with. Now I’d shot some pretty nice varmint rifles (my old boss, Bob Petersen, had some beauties), but this was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was very heavy, bull-barreled of course and dressed in a wildly colored stock. It may have had a left-hand bolt and I know it was in some wild new cartridge Jim was experimenting with.

“Try the trigger a few times,” he said. Well, I new the trigger was going to be light. I just didn’t reckon on how light.  When I dry fired the gun for the first time it felt like the second my finger even came close to the trigger it went off. This is certainly not any news for you benchrest guys, but man it got my attention. I tried it a few times and got the impression that you could simply breathe the trigger off and the gun would fire.

Anyway, I took my place at the bench, got comfortable and began to shoot my first 5-shot group. Jim did me the courtesy of fiddling around with stuff while I carefully got my 5 shots down range. Now imagine yourself, shooting with Jim Carmichel for the first time. This guy has won practically all there is to win in the shooting game. I really wanted to impress him with a good group, so I really took my time.

When I was done Jim took a quick look downrange through the spotting scope. “Not bad,” he exclaimed. “Now let me show you how this is done.”

Jim got situated on the bench. Loaded the rifle and set 4 more cartridges within easy reach. He got on the scope, paused for a moment, and then preceded to unleash the fastest firing of 5 shots I’d ever seen. His hands literally flew across the rifle, loading and unloading as quickly as he could chamber a round. In moments he was finished.

“Take a look at that,” he said. When I looked through the spotting scope I could see my group on one target and Jim’s right next to mine on another. His group was easily half the size of mine.

As we walked out to pull our targets, Jim explained that one of the keys to firing tight groups is to get your shots down range before the conditions change. All of you benchrest guys know this, of course, but for those who may be trying to figure out how to get their groups to tighten up, getting them fired quickly (and consistently) is key. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten and it’s one trick I use today even when sighting in my deer rifles.

-Todd Smith


steve thompson

thats not exactly accurate pardon the pun. rapid fire only helps tighter groups after many rounds of slow fire / you were probably just outclassed at the time,proper sight alignment takes many hours to aquire proper form. recently i watched a group of shooters/almost half closed one eye while aiming, after explainig to them that both eyes open is preferable to betterform and depth perception scores improved immediately. theres more to proper shooting than shooting, without correct form youre just wasting ammo and making noise.6phunter