Part four of a four-part series looking at ways to minimize cost (both time and money) to not only maintain skills, but further proficiency in certain technical and even fundamental skill sets
Training Efficiency Part 4 of 4:
Although airsoft is an excellent training tool for close up work, it is very limited in its ability to reach out past 30 yards with any practical level of accuracy. The limitation of long range accuracy makes airsoft a less than effective medium for precision rifle training. What then, for the practitioners of this vastly superior shooting discipline?
Allow me take you back to a time when I was a newly minted civilian and a poor college student. I spent every extra cent I had on acquiring precision rifle specific gear and ammo to feed my addiction. My pursuit brought me to the absolute limit of my exceedingly small budget, but somehow I was able to make it work. As is typical while in college, I made a number of friends who were also attending school or were just recently graduated and holding entry level jobs. Many of my friends showed interest in practical precision rifle shooting but didn’t have the resources (or wifely permission) to afford a proper centerfire setup with the limited available options in the early 2000s.
So I began to think: what could I do to get my friends involved in precision rifle shooting without their having to make an inordinate financial sacrifice? At that time .22lr ammunition was in plentiful supply and cheap, even match ammo, so I thought, “Why not put on a practical precision .22lr match?” After a bit of homework, I came across an article on 6mmBR.com that described exactly that. A range in southern California had been holding rim fire tactical precision rifle matches on a regular basis with great success. Being in California for Christmas that year, I decided to stop by the range and get specifics on how they were conducting their matches. These rim fire matches were able to be held at a much smaller venue and faced far fewer, more quickly resolved, logistical issues than those faced by centerfire matches. With the new information I headed back to Utah with a format, venue and date for the first match.
The first match went well as did every match thereafter. Soon it wasn’t simply a bunch of poor college students shooting a mini match, but shooters from every walk of life, including LE professionals and established centerfire precision rifle match shooters looking to cheaply sharpen their skills. I eventually handed the mantle of match director to another gentleman much more qualified for the position than myself, as the number of shooters had been growing considerably each match. The match has since been exceptionally successful and the current MD runs a morning and evening match in order to accommodate the large volume of shooters.
There were a number of positives brought about by rim fire match shooting: it developed larger precision rifle shooting community, shooters could transition into centerfire matches with an idea of what it’s about as well as a firsthand knowledge of what gear they prefer, and it added training value because of the scaled similarities to centerfire rifle shooting. The rim fire matches became a bridge between the new and more experienced shooters allowing tribal precision shooting knowledge to be more easily passed on.
Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “That’s great that a .22lr precision match became popular but what does that have to do with training efficiency?” Please allow me to elaborate. Most of you know that a .22lr rifle can be exceptionally accurate with the ability to consistently shoot about one MOA or better at 100 yards. Since match targets are usually 1-3 MOA depending on position and distance, a .22lr rifle can be more than accurate enough for training. Obviously there is a sizable difference in trajectory between a round-nose flat-base bullet exiting a barrel at 1050 fps and a boat tail hollow point flying at 2780 fps, but both trajectories are parabolic in nature, and more importantly, predictable. Let’s compare the trajectories and see what we can learn:
6.5 Creedmoor Match .22lr
As you can see from the above tables, the 6.5 Creedmoor and subsonic match .22lr have remarkably similar trajectories when observed on a 1:5 scale. Shooting my 6.5 Creedmoor match rifle at 1,000 yards will give me almost identical drop and drift as a .22lr at 200 yards. There are a number of fantastically efficient derivations (in the mathematical sense) to be made from the above data, but I will only focus on a few and leave the rest for you enjoy discovering: first, you can very effectively simulate not simply stages and positions from centerfire matches but a match in its entirety. If you take good notes on targets sizes, distances, stage time limits and positions, you can work out nearly every issue you had in previous matches at likely a much closer and more easily accessed range. Second, monetary costs are considerably lower. Even if you factor in the acquisition of a training rifle (I purchased my Savage FVSR for around $230), you can very quickly see a substantial ROI after only a handful of shooting sessions. Third, and finally, barrel life. A 6.5mm match barrel will typically see a life of around 2,500 rounds before there is a serious loss of accuracy. Any use of a .22lr trainer as a substitute for my match rifle when practicing wind calls, position transitions or working out my issues with my cheek weld from a low sitting position extends the life of my barrel. How long you can extend a barrel’s life is up to how often and effective your.22lr training is, but I don’t think it would be outside of reason to say one could double their barrel’s life.
To conclude this article and series, I would like to leave you with a few thoughts. I know that dry fire, airsoft, and a .22lr training aren’t perfect substitutes for training with live ammo on your centerfire guns, but they do offer tremendous benefits in their ease of access, employment, and cost savings or, in other words, training efficiency. We can all become better shooters and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to do so.