Range Work Saves Disappointment in the Field


West Virginia hunters who haven’t been to the range this year will probably be making their way this weekend or next.    Cranking off a few rounds with your deer rifle just makes good sense before heading into the woods for buck season.

Steve Cale is a top-notched gunsmith in Putnam County.   Cale says good accuracy actually starts with properly mounting of the scope.  Cale has a careful process he uses on customers rifles where the scope is seated low to the action and then permanently fixed in position with a Perma-Tex sealant.  

The next step, according to Cale, is bore-sighting using the naked eye.

"On a good solid rest we look down the barrel and line up with the target, then look up through the scope and adjust it to the same point of impact where the bore is going to be.  That’s true ‘bore sighting.’" said Cale.

Bore sighting is useful only as a tool to get you close to the target, it’s not the endgame of sighting.   

"A lot of people believe you can buy those mechanical boresighters, put them in the gun and adjust them to the bore site and go hunting," said Cale.  "That’s not true.  It basically gets you on a 12" x 12" piece of paper. Don’t ever trust a gun that’s been bore-sighted to hunt. It’s not true accuracy."

Using a solid rest take a few shots.   Cale recommends three shot groups before making any scope adjustments.

"You can’t always trust just one shot," said Cale. "You can end up chasing your shots all over the paper doing that." 

Cale says after three shots–use the center of the three as your adjustment point and move toward the target accordingly.  

Typically deer hunting in West Virginia‘s hills rarely allows for a shot beyond 100-yards, unless you’re hunting a wide open field.    Cale recommends getting your gun to shoot about 1.5" high at 100-yards. 

"At 300-yards your bullet is going to drop as much as 10 to 12 inches," explained Cale. "So if you’re high at 100, you’re not going to drop as much at 300.  So you’re point blank range is flatter and you can hold on the animal and shoot out to 300 yards."

While sighting-in high at 100-yards may give you confidence at 300, a closer shot may be equally tricky if you’re unaware of what the gun and scope capabilities.

"Actually, you’re going to shoot low," said Cale. "The scope sits up high off the barrel, so remember at 50-yards you’re going to be close.  A lot of times guys will skin the hide off a deer at 25 to 50 yards and not realize why.  You’re going to shoot low if you’re real close."

Use different brands of ammo to determine which is best for your hunting rifle

The choice of ammo makes a difference, not necessarily in the performance at the terminal end, but every cartridge has a different personality based on the manufacturer.     Cale suggest taking three shots with several different brands, then select the one that groups best in your three shot test and use it to site in your rifle.   He adds ALWAYS hunt with the ammo you used at the range.

"We tested shells from three different manufacturers and we had three different points of impact.  It can vary as much as three inches," Cale explained after a day of shooting at the range. "The bullet actually exits the barrel at a different harmonic spot from one manufacturer to the other.  They may have a different powder charge and different velocity from maker to maker."

The final recommendation from Cale is to properly clean your rifle, especially if you’ve been hunting in inclement weather. 

"Take the time to clean the gun.  Don’t let rust get in the bore or in the chamber," Cale said. "That one thing creates me more (gunsmith) business than any other thing.  Moisture can cause for rust internally and it’s going to ruin your accuracy."




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