One of the skills that separates the serious marksman from the casual hobbyist is the importance of a first round hit.
In theory, a first round hit is fairly simple. Just get the distance to target, atmospheric conditions, and consult your ballistic tables, dial in the shot and pull the trigger. In reality, the theory is often hard to translate.
Once at a match I accidentally added ten minutes of elevation above what I should have. At 600 yards, that’s 60 inches, five whole feet high. I wasted that spotting round, and the next, trying to get back down to the “12” mark on my scope rather than the “22” mark on my scope. Embarrassing, but once dialed in I did fairly well that stage, eventually even got a third place medal in the mail from the CMP for that match. After that match, I went home, printed out my come ups for each range, and taped them to the stock of my rifle for my 200/300 load and my 600 yard load.
At a different match, I realized I was having a bit of a struggle with the 200 standing, before I realized that I’d left the magnification on my optic dialed down to 1x, rather than up to the 4x that it should have been. The Crossfire II 1-4×24 with illuminated center dot has just the right size dot to fit well inside the aiming black at any given range when maxed out to 4 power. A quick turn of the power ring up to 4 and everything clicked into place. It was an easy mistake to make as I turn the power down to 1x for dry fire practice, doing my holds against a thumbtack or scaled target indoors, and I hadn’t reset my rifle to “match ready” before the match.
I share these rather embarrassing stories in the hope that someone reading will go, “hey, we all make bonehead mistakes every once in a while!” and be inspired to go out and compete. Because it is competition where your training shines, and your first round hits matter for score.
The other arena where first round hits matter is hunting. I’m not a fan of long range hunting as I believe that you should never risk a bad shot on an animal, but there are those who do it and it’s still mostly a free country. Having known many a gentlemen get a serious case of “buck fever” it is very much like my boneheaded match mistakes. Suffice to say, in the sporting field, first round hits are an ethical obligation.
So…. I don’t always get first round hits. But I will continue to work towards that, so that my shots that don’t land where I want them to get fewer and further between.