What conditions your conditions are in

I had a nice place to shoot, nice and close to home, but there’s now a house sitting on it. Someone else’s house.

I found a new spot, not too far away, but it’s only good for 30 yards and in the late afternoons the sun is in your face while shooting. Oh well. It’s better than driving 20 miles to do a little pistol shooting or whatnot.

It happened that one of my older brothers was in the area, and one of our employees at the music store wanted to try the Marlin ’94 in 44 Mag that he’d brought. Late afternoon yesterday, as it turned out, we had a chance for her to try out the lever gun.

There were already some 500ml water bottles in my pickup to use as targets, so we peeled out and went to shoot a little bit. The sun was in our faces and there was enough wind to move you around in a standing position, significantly– Not good for a beginner. Not good for anyone, even my brother who is a fairly accomplished shooter. The little bottles at 30 yards would have been easy targets for any halfway decent shooter using a carbine having a decent 100 yard zero, but neither my brother nor the poor beginner could hit much of anything with the sun in the face, and the wind.

I’d been waiting to see if he’d offer to let me try his Marlin, and eventually he did. Three shots of 44 Magnum (240 grains at around 1800ish), three exploded water bottles (it’s a pretty sight, watching the sunlight play through the droplets as they fly up and away, especially after you made it happen). I then wanted to pop off a couple of shots from my new-ish Glock 20SF. Three shots at 30 yards, factory sights, one exploded bottle– Not great, but better than the other two could do with the carbine.

Most of you who read this blog could kick my butt in a pistol shooting match, I bet, but I’ve practiced enough with the sun in my face, and in wind (and rain and snow, etc.), that it wasn’t much of a handicap at that distance. Heck, we had firm ground under us, and I wasn’t shivering cold, and the targets weren’t trying to run away, or attack, and I knew the exact distance, and I wasn’t tired, or out of breath, or hungry, or thirsty, or confused or uncertain in any way, which in my way of thinking is a whole long list of pampering and luxury.

Who’s dumb enough to, on purpose, practice in poor conditions? Anyone who wants to be effective with a gun. Shooting into the shadows at dusk is another scenario to look at. If you have black-on-black sights or black crosshairs, they’re invisible. You might be able to see your target fine, but not your sights. If you hunt, you run into crap like this that negates most of your precious range-practice time at that nicely groomed range with ideal conditions. Same would apply to self defense. In either scenario, you don’t get to choose the time, place, or conditions in which to make that one important shot.

Best think about that. Are you paying for that range time so as you can be comfortable and have the best chance of hitting your targets, or so you can become a more effective shooter? Those are mostly conflicting goals, and I never really understood the import of that fact until I’d hunted for several years.


7 thoughts on “What conditions your conditions are in

  1. Been thinking my range time conditions are too perfect and real life ain’t. Got a scope today (thanks, UPS!) with illuminated reticle. Hmm, it has just started raining and it’s dark. Unfortunately, can’t mount the scope due to hardware issues. I’m gonna run around outside with the scope up to my eye making “pew pew pew” sounds. When they come to take me away, I’m gonna tell ’em Lyle talked me into practicing under less-than-ideal conditions.

  2. Nice Kenny Rodgers reference in the title!

    Great point on the real world versus ideal. Last month at a steel match the light was such that the sights on my .22 pistol would “disappear” as I tried to shoot the stop plate which was painted black. When you are shooting five plates on the order of three to four seconds losing your sights is a big deal. After the second time it happened I would rapidly swing my gun to just to the side of the target, where I still had a brown dirt background, line up the sights just off the edge of the target, then swing the last little bit to get the now invisible sights approximate centered on the target. No more misses. It took a fraction of a second longer but it was far preferable to a “spray and pray” approach.

    The red fiber optic sight on my centerfire gun eliminated the problem entirely. Good to know.

    • Well… Maybe “Kenny Rodgers and the First Edition”. I was going to say that but the web page I found (see link) only mentioned Kenny Rodgers and I suspect he wrote it and the group made it popular.

      • It’s sort of a chicken and the egg thing. He was in FE as just FE when they wrote the song, and then he got his own fame, and to market the band it became KR & the FE.

        And the only reason I know anything about them at all is because of The Big Lebowski.

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