Data Book in Highpower Rifle Competition
(Kunz 15 June 04)
Some highpower rifle competitors
keep a data book, but many do not. There are significant advantages to using a data book as an aid to improving performance,
but like everything else, there is an optimum approach to utilizing the tool. Many suppliers and competitors refer to the
data book as a score book which implies just a book for recording scores, but it really is much more and is more correctly
called a data book. One year I enrolled juniors in the Marine Corps Highpower Rifle Clinic at the National Matches at Camp Perry.
The clinic consisted of classroom instruction as well as live fire instruction. It was excellent training and one subject
covered was the use of the data book. The instructor, Sgt Roxsborough, stressed that it was a “data book”, not
a score book. I will describe the use of and the advantages of the data book as it applies to highpower rifle competition.
There are probably ways to adapt this information to other shooting disciplines.
Be sure to record and plot every round
fired and enter all the data indicated in the data book; temperature, light conditions, light direction, wind direction, wind
speed, etc. If you record all the data, you will have the opportunity to analyze the data after the match or practice firing
and convert the data into useful information. For example, does you data indicate a change in you elevation zero for different
light conditions or light direction? We have all heard “light up, sights up: light down, sights down.” But, light
does not affect all shooters the same. Let the data provide the information as to how light changes affect you, if at all.
You can learn a lot by the analysis of your group size, location, shape, outliers, etc. You can detect breathing errors, improper
focus, poor trigger control, sight misalignment, dragging wood, anticipating recoil and more. Even if you are not experienced
enough to analyze the data, if you record it, you can get help from a coach or experienced shooter who can. Record the information from analysis of the data from the data book in the shooting diary. Then you can
plan a course of action to deal with any problems you detect. The data book and the shooting diary work together. I have described
the shooting diary and how to use it in another write-up. The data book and the
shooting diary are companion tools; they work together and support each other.
A significant benefit to keeping a data
book is the establishment of no wind zeros for each stage of fire. Having a good estimate of your no wind zero is critical
to keeping your groups centered on the target. Plotting your shots and recording sight settings in the data book allows you
to obtain an estimate of your no wind zero. The more data you have, the better
that estimate will be. Estimating your no wind zero is a three step process; first, record the zero you will use to shoot
your slow fire stage or rapid fire string, second, after you have fired your stage or string, look at the actual location
of the center of the group and write down the sight setting that would have centered your group, and third, subtract your
estimate of the value of the wind while you were shooting from the zero that would have centered your group. This gives you
an estimate of your no wind zero for that stage. Put these three zeroes in a specific location, each time, on each page of
your data book. This procedure will provide you with an estimate of your no wind zero each time you shoot a slow fire stage
or rapid fire string. Then it is easy to look back and see what you have judged your no wind zero for that stage to be for
some historical period of time. Do not expect your estimates of you no wind zero to be exactly the same each time, but you
will be developing historical data and will be able to average this data and after a few data points, you will be very close. This is a tremendous advantage, and in fact is a must for matches that do not allow
sighters. For matches without sighters (i.e. leg matches) you must do two things right to get a well centered group; have
a good no wind zero, and accurately estimate the value of the wind.
Plotting your shots during slow fire will
alert you if your shots are forming a group that is not centered. This will allow you to recognize that your shots are building
up in an area that is not centered and will give you an opportunity to make a sight correction during the stage and save points.
Many shooters will not take the time to plot their shots during slow fire; they think that if they use the time to plot their
shots, they will be rushed to fire all their record shots within the allotted time. This will not be a concern if you learn
to use the “shot behind” method for plotting shots in your data book. The “shot behind” procedure
is as follows: when your target comes up with your shot value and location spotted, do not enter it in your data book at that
time. Put that shot value and location “in your head”, and then shoot your next shot. While your target is in
the pits, plot the previous shot that is “in your head”. Also, enter any sigh changes you made for the previous
shot. Then get ready for your next shot. Look thru the scope, check the wind for any changes and watch for your target to
come up. When the target comes up, put the new shot “in your head” replacing the previous one, make any necessary
sight changes, then proceed to shoot the next shot. This way you are making entries in the data book while your target is
in the pits and you are prepared to shoot your next shot as soon as your target comes up. An aid to putting the shot “in
your head” is to actually “call out” the shot value and location to yourself. This is one of those things
that sound more difficult than it is; try it a couple of times and you will be surprised at how easy it is to learn.
For rapid fire, write the sight setting
down in the data book that you used for both sighters before you shoot the string. Many
people do not shoot their sighters in the same location as their rapid fire string, so recording the history of the sight
settings for your sighters will allow you to understand how to make adjustments for rapid fire from your sighters. For many
competitors, this means using sighters for wind adjustment but not elevation. Again, as in slow fire, you should record three
zeros for each rapid fire string; the zero you actually shot the string with, the zero that would have centered your group
and your estimate of your no wind zero based on that string. While firing the string, make a mental note of any shots that
are called outside of the group and immediately after firing the string, plot these erratic calls while the targets are in
the pits. When the target comes up with scores and groups plotted, plot all visible hits and enter the score. Analyze the
results, considering any erratic calls, and make any necessary changes for the second string.
Fill out the data book as much as possible
before going to the range. Look over the historical data and determine your best estimate of your no wind zero for each stage
of fire and write it on the page you will be using in the match. This will allow you to determine the no wind sight setting
you will use when you are not rushed, and there are no distractions, rather than making a hasty decision at the match. With
this critical step accomplished ahead of time, the only decision you have to make at the match, relative to your sight setting,
is to decide what the wind is worth. Then add your estimate of the value of the wind to the no wind zero you have recorded
in the book and put it on the gun. Also, enter any other specific information you will want to refer to such as sling position,
hand position, the sight picture you plan to use, etc. Enter the date, location of match, ammo, and any other information
that you know prior to the match. Time is at a premium during competition, so any thing you can do before you go to the range
will help with time management. You will also be making critical decisions when
you are not rushed and distracted. Many people wait until their preparation time and rush these critical decisions. Do all
of this before the preparation time begins so you can use the preparation time for getting your natural point of aim and dry
firing; proper use of the data book can help you make the best use of your preparation time.
The data book does not have a lot of room
for notes. That is ok since you do not have a lot of time to write notes in the data book during the match, anyway. You can,
and should, write down a word or phrase that will remind you of something you need to remember for future reference. This
will help you expand and add details and make an entry into your shooting diary when time permits. Remember, the data book
and shooting diary are companion tools that work together.
The data book is a good place to keep your
“gun log.” A gun log is a record of the number of rounds fired, maintenance
records, configuration changes, etc. Keep a separate data book with a gun log for each rifle you shoot in competition. Start
a new book each time you have a rifle re-barreled. This will let you keep up with how many rounds you have fired thru the
barrel and let you know when to have a new barrel installed before your groups tell you. Your data book gun log will allow
you to keep up with how many rounds since you last cleaned you gas system or disassembled and cleaned the gun. I keep this
data on the inside of the data book cover page. Some data books have pre-printed pages for the gun log.
The Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU)
training manual states that “instruction in the use of the [data book] must be given prior to firing any rounds in zeroing,
practice or competition” and that “…the use of the [data book] is a vital part of the training of the competitive
shooter.” The manual further states, “The most competent rifleman would not be able to consistently hit the center
of the target if he were unable to analyze his performance, or if he had no record of his performance or of the conditions
that affect his firing.” The AMU and the Marine Rifle Team members are some of the most competent marksmen in the world,
so I think we can all appreciate their opinion that the proper use of the data book is essential to achieving completive proficiency
in highpower rifle competition. A data book will help expedite the new shooter to move from the marksman class to the sharpshooter
class and on to the expert class. Many master and high master class shooters do not use a data book, with their shooting experience
they think they have most of the data in their head, but I believe even the higher class shooters would benefit from the discipline
of using the data book in conjunction with a shooting diary.
(Kunz June 14, 2004)
Competitors participating in the competitive
shooting sports are continually trying to improve their performance in competition. For the most part, this consists of practice
sessions and participation in competition. Many competitors supplement their live fire training with non-firing practice sessions,
reading articles, manuals and books on their shooting sport as well as discussing the sport with other competitors. This can
be a lifetime pursuit of continuous improvement that results in periods of improvements but there are also plateaus or regression
in performance at other times. The shooting diary is a tool that will enhance the periods of improvement as well as provide
help in overcoming the plateaus and minimizing regression. The shooting diary is an excellent tool that will help the competitive
shooter achieve continuous improvement and achieve his shooting goals. Just as a scientist must keep written records of his
laboratory experiments, the completive shooter will benefit from keeping written records of his efforts. I will provide some
general description of the use of this tool that anyone in the competitive shooting sports can utilize to improve performance.
The diary concept can also be adapted to other activities such as hunting, fishing, golf, etc.
A shooting diary does not have to be anything
fancy. Any small note book that can be kept handy that is quick and easy to use will work fine. I use a surveys field manual.
It is rugged, compact and does not take up a lot of room with my shooting gear.
Competitive shooters learn every time they
go to the range. The challenge is to take advantage of what is learned and any new ideas for improvement from each shooting
experience and include them in future shooting activities. The most effective method is to write things down so that they
can be referred to and acted on later. If experience and ideas are not written
down, many times they are forgotten or lost from our memory. This may result in our repeating the same mistakes in the future
or a lost opportunity to improve. As with many things in life, if it is not documented, it did not happen.
In most competitive shooting events, management
of time and concentration on performance does not leave a lot of time to write down experience and thoughts, but this is when
our experience and ideas are fresh and sharp in out mind. As soon as possible, after the shooting experience, write down things
that went well and also those things that did not go well. Try to understand both, where performance is improving as well
as where it is not improving, and why. Write down what things you should do and what you should do different the next time
you practice or compete. Document the position, technique or equipment changes that need to be made for the next shooting
event while it is fresh on your mind. Be complete and specific. The sooner you do this after the shooting event the better.
Any time you think of something you want to remember and act on, you should write it down and the sooner the better.
Many competitors keep what is referred
to as a “score book” or “data book” where they record scores, plot shots or groups and enter other
important data (sight settings, ammo or reload, weather conditions, etc.).The data book too is a very beneficial aid to improving
performance. The data book and the shooting diary work together. The data book and the shooting diary are companion tools;
they work together and support each other. I have described the use of the data book in another write up. The data book has
limited space for notes and information. If you use a data book, enter as much data as you have time and space for. Just a
key word or phrase is sometimes enough to serve as a reminder that can be expanded into a more complete record in the diary
as soon as time will permit.
act of writing in the diary, similar to discussions with others, increases the shooters awareness and concentration on performance
and recording it makes it permanent for future reference. Be sure to include the date and other pertinent information. Notes
taken on the range during the match may be brief by necessity, but can be expanded on later. But, do it as soon as possible
to avoid forgetting the important details. The shooting diary is also a convenient place to write down other information you
would like to save (names of new competitors you meet, directions to the range, special range features that influence conditions,
motels, restaurants, etc.).
The shooting diary should establish a baseline
with detailed descriptions of positions, equipment and techniques from which controlled experiments can be conducted; a change
is tried and compared against the baseline and evaluated. If the change is judged to be an improvement in performance, it
is adopted into the baseline (that is, the baseline is revised to include the change) and a new baseline with improved performance
results. If the change is judged not to improve performance, it is discarded and the baseline is not changed. Just as important,
the change is documented as having been tried and rejected and time is not wasted trying the same thing in the future (because
we may forget that we have already tried it). Make and evaluate one change at a time, this is a key element of the proven
procedure of scientific investigation call the scientific method.
Occasionally, review the information you
have recorded in the diary over a period of time to see if there are any repeats or patterns (lessons learned) that you can
take advantage of. One year at Camp Perry
it seemed like my groups were low compared to my historical zeros. I entered this observation in my diary and the next year
I was able to compensate based on this information and it helped me pick up a few points that otherwise I would have lost.
So, if you are not using a shooting diary
to help with your continuous improvement in your shooting discipline, start today. Both new shooters as well as experienced
competitors will benefit from keeping a shooting diary. If you are not a competitive shooter, but enjoy one of the many other
shooting activities; consider adapting and tailoring the shooting diary concept to your activity to improve performance. If
you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.