I was talking with a friend the other day and they were telling me how frustrating their recent shooting outing was. We’ve all had the not so successful day at the range where that latest build didn’t work as anticipated or that new load recipe wasn’t as accurate as we hoped. Those failures are productive though. My friend however had a different kind of bad range day (if there is such a thing) that is 100% avoidable every time. His problem is he went out with one agenda that didn’t match his shooting buddies’ or the location.
In order to have a “productive” day at the range you need to set a goal. Just like with almost everything else in life, if you plan ahead you will greatly increase the chances of success. Now I want to stop here and point out that when I say goal, I do not mean MOA size, or standard deviation amount in a batch of loaded ammo. I simply mean setting an expectation for YOUR time at the range. I know I have lost count of the number of times I have experienced results besides the ones I hoped for at the range, but still count them as productive/good days. For example trying a new load for my AR15 which results in 6 inch MOA groups is frustrating because I have to go back and try a new recipe, but it is still productive because I learned what did not work. Some times I can only get out to an indoor 25 yard range so why would I try to dial in a 6.5mm Creedmoor AR? Sometimes I go to the range just to be around the noise of gun fire and practice not flinching when the guy next to me is lighting off .45-70 govt rounds. The point is you can still have a good day at the range if you set the correct expectations for the trip.
Going back to my friend who felt he had a disappointing trip, he set the wrong expectations for the day. His goal was to drive out to some BLM land in the mountains with some guys from work/friends and dial in his AR15 that he hadn’t shot in over a year to see how tight he could make his groups at 150 yards. The other guys in the group just wanted to have fun and see how fast they could do mag dumps. Care to guess who did what they wanted to do?
In a group setting like that being able to setup and dial in precision shots requires buy in from all. Furthermore when you try to do it at an ad-hoc, un-managed shooting area like BLM land then you really need everyone to be on the same page. What my friend was trying to accomplish is something you rarely can accomplish outside of a well maintained, managed, and marked range. This is what brings me to my point. If my friend had set his expectations to such that he was just going to go out and have fun, then his day would have probably been awesome. Instead he tried to do something very technical with people who get out to shoot once every couple of years and probably didn’t have the patience/understanding to allow someone the opportunity to perform the tedious task of zeroing a scoped rifle.