by B.B. Pelletier

Update on Tom/B.B.: Some time today, doctors will drain Tom’s abdomen and the small amount of fluid that’s seeped into his right lung. He’ll get general anesthesia, so we may be in for some more funny stories if he goes through Sundowner’s Syndrome again.

Now, on to today’s blog which is a continuation of my experience with air rifle benchrest. This is an edited version of the article that appeared in the January 2000 Airgun Letter.

by Edith Gaylord

By the time our two-day benchrest tournament came around in September, I’d already shot a number of matches and was ready to compete against all comers. I didn’t expect to win, but I didn’t expect to be at the bottom of the heap, either.

Thinking about all the things I’d learned along the way, one of the greatest learning experiences was watching the top shooters perform. My scores increased, and I got the highest score I’d every made in BRV.

The equipment race…sort of
BRV is for .177 caliber only, and most people shoot Olympic 10-meter rifles. The distance for that class of rifle is 22 yards. Since my Barnes Ranger was not a stock Olympic 10-meter gun, I had to shoot at 30 yards. Only 8 yards difference, but it sure seemed a lot bigger at the time. When the wind’s blowing and won’t stop in time for you to get off all your shots during the allotted time, you have to shoot through the wind. And it’s infinitely easier to shoot better at 22 yards than at 30.

Watch the winners and do what they do
A technique that I believe helped me increase my scores in the final matches in September is the same one that I used to acquire a higher level of skills in both tennis and racquetball: watch the winners.

When I was a sophomore in college, I took a tennis course. If you showed unusual talent, the teacher would spend more time with you to hone your skills. She spent no time at all with me!

One day, I was in a doubles match. I was with a student on one side of the net, and my teacher and another student were on the other side. In the middle of a volley between me and the teacher, she was surprised by my sudden skill and asked what had happened. I told her I’d been watching professional tennis players on TV and in live events in town. This was probably the first time in my life that I performed well under stress. It was a good day to pick because that match was the final exam for my course. My doubles team defeated the teacher and her teammate, and I got an A. Six months later, I transferred to the University of Florida in Gainesville, and more than one person thought I was part of the school’s tennis team based on my skill on the court.

Back to benchrest. I knew who the best shooters were because I made it a point to find out who won previous tournaments and matches. The habits and manners of good shooters are the best textbook. So, I mimicked the moves, body position and actions of Dave Horner, who was the reigning BRV World Champion. Watching him was instrumental in increasing my scores. The way he held his gun, the direction of his body, feet, arms, head…everything. While I may have creeped him out, I was determined to extract every nuance that I thought would help me improve.

A final note…to field target shooters
While I’ve never seriously shot in field target matches, I’ve seen a lot of people who have. I observed that the best shooters have something in common. They’re always interested in getting better. They observe other shooters and pick up habits that will improve their scores. Shooters who are always near the bottom of the pack and rarely improve aren’t necessarily people who have the worst equipment. I knew a shooter who had some of the top guns, but he just didn’t seem to do all that well. He was intent on blaming his equipment. If he’d just watch the winners and mimic them, he might have done well with the first gun instead of buying dozens of others to try to gain a winning score.