Monday, April 05, 2010


I finally got out to play with the FAL and the SUIT a bit more. It was breezy for Montana, windy for other places. Major John Plaster in the Ultimate Sniper noted: “A plinker studies trajectory tables, a master studies the wind.” I figure the wind was about 8-12 mp, as if I didn’t secure my paper plates they blew away, but the direction gave it only about quarter value.

In Wyoming, rifle ranges have unique flags to show the strength of the wind and its direction. Unlike the brightly-colored cloth flags seen at Camp Perry and such, Westerners use about a 3-foot section of 3/8-inch logging choker chain mounted to a stout wooden fence post. Most of the wussies like me leave the range when the chain starts to flap and clank in the wind. Eastern Montanans and Wyoming riflemen usually don’t pack it up until the chain is blown out to about a 45-degree angle. But even the guys from Casper give up when the chain is sticking straight out.At any rate, it was a nice day, low 30’s, scattered clouds.

When I got to my shooting area, the elk were up on the ridge again. The wind was blowing straight towards them so they got my scent. Instead of running away, they got up, walked towards me to the very edge of the ridge and milled around curiously watching me set up my shooting station and targets. Last time, I was downwind of the critters and, as much as the wolves have been decimating the herds in our area, I think they just saw a small dark dot moving towards them and with their poor eyesight they figured it best not to take chances with what it was. I got well within rifle range of them this time, around 400 yards, before they decided to amble off down the other side of the bald ridge into the timber, kind of trotting but not in any big major rush.

So, using the range-finder, I set up my pizza-box-on-a-fence-post targets out to 700 yards. To battle the wind better this time, I took along a roll of the Handyman’s Secret Weapon…duct tape. The range-finder doesn’t have the poop to range all the way; I’m lucky to get a reading around 500 yards. I usually set up a zero verification target at 300 yards, and then range 100 yards back from each progressive target. I marked in the targets with white dots on this first photo; you can’t really see them in the picture without 200%+ zoom, and then you still have to know where to look. As you can see, that last dot, 700 yards, is waaaayyyy out there past Fort Mudge.

I broke out a bandoleer of Indian surplus 7.62x51, the good stuff made in the 1970’s, not that crap made in the 90’s that’s little better than Russian Roulette for blowing up guns. I have a conspiracy theory that the Indians hired illegal alien Pakistanis to load the stuff and they deliberately sabotaged it. Anyway, the old 70’s stuff I got in bandos at a gunshow and it apparently hadn’t been kept in the original container or ammo cans. There were rust stains on the stripper clips and some of the brass had slight discoloration. No point in saving that for the War Stocks. I figured having obviously been exposed to damp or humidity, I’d have a few duds. Surprisingly, I went through all 50 rounds with no problems.

I shot a verification of zero round at 300 yards and wasn’t even on the paper. Note to self, don’t let dog knock over FAL onto hardwood floor. I finally got everything copacetic again at 300, and was once again pretty impressed with what kind of groups an “inaccurate” rifle such as a FAL can produce. Granted, I was shooting prone from off a sandbag, but still…

Each target had a white paper plate this time to give me a more precise aiming point; I was seeing what the rifle could not, not what I could. At most ranges, I used only half a pizza box, about 18 inches square. Just about the size of a man’s torso. At 400, 600, and 700 I used both halves, equating to a target 18x36. I’m 5’10”, so that measures from the top of my head to the crotch, so a bigger target than you would have under most conditions, but I wanted more cardboard to study the drop, especially at 700. I did not compensate at all for the wind, just held dead center of the paper plate.

Dang. I see I don’t have a photo of the 400 yard target. Anyway, at that range I fired three rounds with the SUIT scope set on the 300-yard short range position, which is supposed to be used for targets from 0-400 yards. Then I flipped it over to the 500-yard long-range position intended for 400-600 yards. I did this twice and the results were pretty well duplicated. In the short-range setting I had decent groups, but the group centers were 14 and 16 inches below the aiming point. On the long range setting, again good groups but both were right around 9-10 inches above the aiming point. So obviously range estimation or measurement is more important around that 400 yard mark than at other ranges.

I shot five rounds each at 500, 600, and 700 yards. Five hundred was no problem, but you could see the wind beginning to take effect.

At 600, the 500-yard setting was getting low, almost too low. It was about 16-18 inches low so, aiming center mass, you would be shooting someone’s balls off. Holding on the top of the head would put the holes center mass, right through the sternum. That last hole, middle right in the duct tape, I held on the top edge of the box instead of on the plate.

At 700 yards, you’re pretty safe, from me anyway. The one hole in the target I got by holding one foot high and one foot left of the upper left corner of the target box. The previous ones I could see kicking up dirt around the foot of the fencepost. So I figure if you held on top of a guy’s head at 700 yards with no wind, you might deliver some hits to his toes and perhaps even his shins. If you ever feel like giving me a good taunting like the French castle guards in Monty Python & the Holy Grail, all you have to do is stand past 700 yards.

All in all I was pleased with the results, especially considering the wind and the use of a standard service rifle and ball ammunition.

I do want to get and install one of those semi-gay Dragunov style stocks on my FAL so I can legally, IAW some weird regulation that for whatever reason didn’t get sun-setted with the rest of the Clinton assault rifle ban, put on a real flash suppressor. You can see why my friend Mark refers to the ban-legal “muzzle brakes” as “blast enhancers”. Fire fifty rounds prone in soft ground and you will have dug your own foxhole. This is only six rounds, during which I got showered with dirt and pebbles at each shot before I stretched the tarp out beneath the muzzle.

Regardless, it was a very fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Makes a guy wonder what he could do with a real sniper rifle, but I'll stick with my battle rifle. Next up...the M1 Garand with open sights. If it sucks, blame me not the Garand.

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