The quality of your practice will never exceed the quality of what you put into it. To start with, never fire practice with anything but match-grade ammunition—military or commercial—or you're just wasting your time. You should occasionally fire ball and tracer ammo, but that's for familiarization, not for serious practice firing.
If you keep some ammo loose for alert purposes or return from the field with loose ammo, these are the rounds you fire in practice. This way you rotate your operational ammo and keep it fresh. Of course, both practice and operational ammo are from the same lot.
Focus yourself mentally and physically on just one shot at a time, a concept I call "this is the first shot of the rest of my life." Later we'll cover techniques for developing a focus on these one-shot kills. Related to this, make an effort to call each shot, estimate where it impacted, and log it in your record book even before your spotter announces the exact point of impact.
That record book will do wonders in helping you understand your rifle, your scope, your ammo, and how you perform with them under varying conditions. Maintain the book stead-
practice at least monthly to maintain an acceptable level of shooting skill, which is a good minimum. If you can fire more frequentiy, by all means do so. I have never known a competitive rifleman who had a decline in performance from too much practice.
Once you've learned the fundamentals, you won't need to fire more than about 20 rounds per practice session. Fire it slow and make each shot count—just as you would in real life. Never allow yourself to slide into mindless banging away.
Spend half your range time on actual marksmanship practice on a known-distance range, firing at bull's-eye targets. The second half of each shooting practice session is devoted to drills that—along with accurate shooting— challenge a sniper's patience, judgment, and self-discipline. You must never be allowed more than one shot at a target in these shooting drills.
The box on pages 228-229 details recommendations for many categories of shooting practice, such as day and night, various body positions, types of targets, and so forth. These are not the final word on practice fire but illustrate the detailed thinking required for a true training program.
Even if your scope has an excellent BDC, you still should occasionally use holds to compensate for distance. This is because it's much faster to engage multiple targets at various ranges using holds rather than constantly changing the BDC setting. Military scopes that have a mil dot reticle allow excellent hold compensation, but since these also have BDCs, this feature is seldom, if ever, exercised. The ballistic tables in this book show the exact holds required for a host of popular sniping rounds, including .223, .308, and .300 Winchester Magnum.
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