The first time the Wright brothers discovered flight could be one of the most important days in the history of mankind. What is even more amazing is the equipment they used. In order to figure out or calculate for wind speed, lift, drag, velocity or any other factor, you would think you would need computers or a NASA-level engineering team to make a successful flight. Years later, men like Chuck Yeager appeared and started taking experimental flight to the next level. Those feats involved engineers, computers, and high-level theories coming from very smart people. However, the one thing that none of those variables, equations, and bits of information can provide is guts. The Wright brothers got it right. Yeager got it right. Were there some misses along the way? Yes, of course there were, but humans wanted to see how far they could go with flight and it eventually pushed us into outer space.
That same style of science and research has gone into shooting. Since the casting of the first bullet, people find the science of how a bullet travels and why it acts the way it does both intriguing and addicting. Different calibers have huge variances in how they fly through the air. A .22 LR compared to a .338 Lapua compared to a .45 ACP will give you the same information as a Boeing 777, an F-22 Raptor and a Cessna. They all fly and all will get to an intended target on the same path, but the speed at which they get there will be different as will the amount of energy they use.
Individuals in workshops and professional ballisticians have created new cartridges and combinations offering better performance and tighter groups. I think we can all agree, our generation has by far the best and most accurate firearms and accessories. New rounds, new firearms, and new optics allow the average shooter to find superior results up close and at distances far beyond those possible by the majority even a short time ago. There are apps for your smartphone where all you have to do is provide a few bits of info and you can have the ballistic data Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam had to figure out in his head under the stress of hostile fire in combat. It’s that easy. So then, why do we still miss? The answer is the same as regarding flight—guts!
The human factor will always have the largest margin of error just as in anything else we do from driving to cooking. We know the recipes and the rules of the road, but we still mess them up somehow. Shooting is the same way and always will be.
So what about difficult shots? Shots made from a rifle in extreme conditions such as heavy rain or extreme cold? Do those external factors have more impact on the scientific side or the human side of shooting? Take rain for example. If you had to take a shot from 300 or 600 yards in heavy rain, would it cause you to miss your shot? Mentally, yes, it would, but believe it or not, the testing and science states that heavy rain will not have an impact (pun intended) on your bullet while it is traveling to its intended target.
Hard to believe, but science is science. Look it up yourself. What about hot temperatures or extreme cold? Well, Russians, Nordic countries and people living in the Northern U.S. (Alaska, Minnesota, and so on) have been shooting in extreme cold at great distances for a very long time. It usually has more effect on the shooter than it does the equipment. The same is true with heat. While temperature does affect how your bullet travels, the ability to hit the target in these environments is still the same, if you can manage the human factor such as shaking, sweat burning your eyes or being miserable mentally.
My best advice is to practice shooting in adverse conditions. Your accuracy may suffer at first, but there simply isn’t another way to learn to shoot in the wind, rain and heat than to practice to the point that it is as common as a spring day from the bench. Swallow a little pride; see what you can already do and learn which skills need improving.
Do you have an extreme shooting drill or tip? Share it in the comment section.
This article originally published on May 8, 2012.