Like most sports the majority of recreational participants are “fair weather” shooters. I don’t blame them to be honest! No one enjoys getting wet/cold/blown over.. If you compete at shooting events you will know that you simply have to deal with whatever conditions occur. Bearing that in mind, a group of us decided to head to the welsh valleys in January for a days sport. I spent the week before said shoot getting the 4×4 serviced and prepped as forecasts were looking slightly ominous! I figured vehicle reliability would be rather important. And it was..
The Subaru getting tested!
If I am making a long trip the the first priority is to ensure me and my kit arrive safely. The “It will probably be ok” type attitude is just inviting Mr Sod and his perverse law to step in. The second priority is to ensure I am warm, fed and capable during my time at the range. I spent a few minutes every day during the week leading up to the trip checking forecasts. In went waterproofs and layers for warmth along with all the usual shutzpah I like to pack. If you are driving into the middle of knowhere then it is better to have to much stuff than to little!
All rifles got a good dose of frog lube the night before leaving. Frog lube is an excellent non toxic anti corrosive and lubricant. If applied properly (the parts are warmed up with a hair drier before application) then it does a fantastic job of keeping everything slick and rust free. Ammo was packed into waterproof containers…. The bottom line is prepare for the worst case and with luck you may not need everything..
Getting to the range
The trip up was straightforward but long and tiring. For that reason we always head up the night before our planned shoot and stay at a B+B. It is much easier to shoot consistently after a good nights sleep and a warm hearty breakfast. It had snowed during the night which I must say looked absolutely magical as we drove down twisting B road.
New shooter Tom posing in front of Rafs Landy which proved more than capable.
Orion is located way off the road and accessed by a gravel track. The nearest village is touted as the highest in Wales at 1000ft. The gravel track has some steep inclines and takes you up a little higher still. Raf and his companions were in Land Rovers which as expected coped very well.
I was in my Subaru Forester with Tom (also a Forester owner) and we had no traction issues. It felt amazing driving up into virgin snow atop rugged, barren Welsh peaks. That alone made the trip worthwhile.
Driving to the range in snow. http://youtu.be/89XYgsNi5yI
Once we reached the range hut it was time to get some dramatic photos and make some hot coffee. Our instructor was a gracious host as always and while he made the drinks we got busy with the cameras.
Keep warm and shoot straight!
The landys looking epic.
The rifles among our merry group were numerous and varied –
Southern Gun Company AR
Desert Tactical Arms SRS
Revo Tac 8 shot 12g pump
The only problem I witnessed all day in terms of adverse weather effecting the guns was with the Lyvale sporter 12g cartridges. We had several that did not go off. On inspection the primers had been hit well. It seems they suffered from water ingress. When I selected shells from a fresh (dry) box they ran without issue. The S+B solid slugs had no such problems and fired even after being plucked out of the snow. The rifle ammunition had no issues either. The ammo on the day was a mix of GGG milsurp, PPU, and handloads. Some of my rounds had to be wiped before chambering in the bolt action when single loaded as they had accumulated snow. I had no issues with them at all. Using wet ammunition can be dangerous for two reasons. 1. It can cause hangfires which require proper procedure to clear and make safe. 2. Water in the chamber can cause dangerous over pressure situations leading to possible catastrophic failure of the gun. That is why I always have a dry rag handy on wet shoots.
The Remington/Manners/Badger combo complete with Vortex optics Viper PST performed superbly. Notice the ammunition getting wet!
To give you an idea of performance, shooters were ringing steel fairly consistently out to 1000yds. I managed some 5″ clay disks at 800yds with the AR from SGC and the Remington 700 was capable and consistent at all ranges out to 1000. Rafs Enfield made shots to 1000 as he has proven many times over (and now in the snow). We were all incredibly happy in terms of kit reliability.
Rafs scoped Enfield proving the oldies can still party!
Of course changes in weather must be accounted for when making adjustments to your scope (or aiming off using the reticle). The trajectory of your bullet in flight changes due to many variables – wind, external temperature, powder temperature, chamber and barrel temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, altitude… The list goes on. If the weather you shoot in differs from the weather you zeroed your rifle in then you are going to have problems unless you account for those differences. This is where technology can come in very handy. It would be quite a task to calculate with pen and paper the trajectory of your bullet, especially if you are wet and cold. Luckily we have ballistics programmes! I use Strelok for Android phones but there are multiple good options out there. Kestrel offer a wind meter with a built in ballistics programme now, which looks very good, though I have yet to try it. This allowed me and my trusty thermometer to calculate elevation and windage quickly and easily. Calculations were good as they all placed me on or within inches of each target. Electronic gadgets are only good when they work. Luckily my phone did not mind the cold but you cannot completely rely on that. It is always useful to print out some drop charts based on forecasts and maps the day before you shoot. That way if your phone/meter fails you have a hard copy which will be near enough to get you near or on target.
Having access to digital and paper data ensured I was able to hit targets with consistency at mixed ranges.
Looking after yourself
It is easy to get lost in the moment when you are having fun. When you are focused on hitting targets your mind becomes singular. I find it very meditative… Zen if you will but that has a downside as well. You might not notice how cold you are getting. Hypothermia should never be overlooked. It is not just Arctic explorers at risk. In fact ambulance staff deal with hundreds of cases of hypothermia each year. Many of the victims were simply shopping or going for a walk. The consequences can be fatal.
Take some nuts and chocolates out with you. Being cold burns a huge amount of calories make sure you replace them.
Take a flask of hot tea or coffee
Don’t be a hero. If you begin to feel weak and tired seek shelter and warm up. Better to do that than play tough and end up in A&E.
Wear Multiple layers and ensure the outer layer is waterproof. Wear a hat and gloves.
Use a waterproof mat or groundsheet to shoot from.
Coffee break and a warm up, Tom wears a waterproof jacket and leggings on top of multiple layers. He stayed warm and dry…
except his toes which he took action over during coffee break
My gloves and fur hat were essential items as regards hitting the target. The hat kept me toasty warm and able to concentrate. The gloves allowed me to feel the trigger. Do I care that I looked like a tool!? No, i just care my clothing does what is needed. In this case that was dry and warm.
the hat looked silly but who cares if you have warm ears!
I haven’t really mentioned the wind much. Why? Because wind is always present and ever changing. It is also the only variable that is virtually impossible to measure and account for. We can read the wind using a kestrel for example but that is only at one point. It doesn’t take account of all wind acting on the bullets as they fly downrange. I continue to advise that the best way to “read wind” is to shoot in it as often as possible.
doing some wind estimates, never easy!
If I had to sum up shooting in adverse conditions in one word it would be preparation. None of the above is rocket science (well maybe the ballistic calcs are..) so just think ahead for likely weather problems and ensure you have the kit to deal with them.
Huge thanks to:
Orion Firearms training http://www.orionfirearmstraining.co.uk/
Raf, Tom and guests.
Our wonderful instructor (provided by Orion)
Carlos at Bellacath Autos, West Sussex
All the readers who have left positive messages on the IG and FB groups.