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I had finished my Practical Rifle course with a distinguished graduate (DG) rating earlier this year. A DG rating in Practical Rifle is necessary in order to register for Precision Rifle 1 (PR1). While I was already scheduled to take Advanced Tactical Shotgun the week before Christmas, I opted to squeeze in a PR1 course during the beginning of December. I had enough vacation stored up to cover both courses so that was not an issue. There was no guarantee that I could schedule work/vacation around the next PR1 course in 2012 so I took advantage of the course offering that was available now.
Precision Rifle 1 is a 4 day large caliber rifle
course that could also be called Sniper 101. PR1 is the more politically
correct name for the course. Front Sight (FS) describes the course as: "A
four day course for those students who want to learn the skills required to make
first round hits out to 1000 meters." One thing was for sure....we all
wanted to "learn the skills required" but as for me, it is going to take some
more practice before I'm making one round hits out to 1000 meters. It is
all about reading the wind, the mirage, etc.....and until you have that down
cold, making one round hits at 1000 meters is probably not going to happen.
The PR1 classroom is located some distance from the main Front
Sight campus. I guess you could say we were out there a ways.....out in
the middle of nowhere. We spent little time in the classroom....perhaps 4
hours or so over the entire 4 day period. The rest of the time was spent
on the range.
PR1 was held on the 600 yard range. The range was previously a 500 yard range but at some point, the 550 and 600 yard markers were added. This photo was taken from the 600 yard line. Along the left side of this photo, you'll notice a small three foot tall berm. Follow it down along the open, graded area in the center of the photo. Where that long open area ends, that is the line of targets (about 20 target stands) with a 20 foot berm behind it. For a guy that had not shot past 200 yds on a range, 3 times that distance was a real long haul.
Operations, at least for me, was conducted out of the back of Ford Ranger. Temps ranged from the 34F to 57F while we were shooting. It was usually about 30F when we got to the range and had cooled back down into the 40s by the time we called it a day.
The first morning was split between a lecture and a fair amount of time on the range acquiring a 100 yard zero for our rifles. We had 15 students in the course and unless I am mistaken everybody except for one was shooting a bolt action rifle chambered for .308 Win. I do not recall seeing any semi-auto rifles at the line. The expectation is that you and your rifle will be able to shoot at least 1 MOA @ 100 yds. If you, your ammo, and your rifle can't manage this, you will be having a tough time keeping your shots where they need to be.
After lunch, we kicked things off with a cold bore shot @ 100 yds. Front Sight supplies a data book and we recorded everything we shot in the book. FS has an agreement with Storm Tactical and uses a variation of their data book that FS prints in house. After we were satisfied with our 100 yard zero, we recorded the mechanical zeros of our scopes. This is done by first counting the number of clicks it takes to bottom out the elevation turret and then returning it to its previous setting. Next, the number of clicks to take the windage turret to max left is counted and then the turret is returned to its zero setting. When both elevation and windage mechanical zeros are noted, these values were put recorded in our data book. The last step was verifying the scope at been properly returned to zero by again checking zero @ 100 yards. Why was this done? It is easy to "get lost" as to where your turret is set when dialing in various elevation and windage adjustments. If this happens, take your turrets max left and down, then count the number of clicks you recorded in the data book....now you are back to your known 100 yard zero and ready to go again.
Most of remainder of the first day's afternoon was spent on
the firing line gathering data at 100 yards. We stopped early (we
usually shot right up until sundown) and Ken Gillett (range master) shot our
rifles over his chronograph. He fired three shots and noted the average on
a 3x5 card we had all filled out with other pertinent information, such as
caliber, bullet weight, height of scope centerline above bore centerline, etc.
That evening Ken ran the data through an exterior ballistics program and
presented each of us with a data sheet for our rifle the following morning.
We now had "approximate" data for elevation and 10 MPH full value wind.
This trip to Front Sight was the first time I shot my .308 Savage 10 FCP HS-Precision at anything past 200 yards. I still have a ways to go....well....OK....a LONG ways to go. But there were times during the course when I remembered all of those things that one must do well in order to put the shots where you want them. The above photo was taken during our last practice session on day #4 prior to shooting the PR1 skills test just before lunch. Those un-taped holes were shot at 400 yards. Most of the time my groups were not that tight. However, I managed a fair number of MOA or better groups between 100 to 500 yards. (note I didn't say anything about 600 yards....grin)
We also gathered firing data for both clean cold
bore and cold bore shots. I'm happy to say that my Savage has virtually no
shift in regards to cold, clean, cold & clean, or dirty bore shots. Any
variation is well under what can be compensated for by making the smallest scope