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Common Shooting Problems and How to Fix Them

July 22, 2015
By Ralph Scherder - Pennsylvania Field Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

I enjoy shooting all types of weapons, from handguns and rifles to compound bows and crossbows. For the most part, I consider myself efficient with all of them. Sometimes I'm more than efficient. There are days when it seems like every shot is a bull's-eye. Likewise, there are days when I struggle mightily. One thing I've learned, though, is that when I struggle, there's usually a reason why. Here are a few of the problems that I've faced, and how I've fixed them.

1) Gaining efficiency with any weapon requires practice. Lots of practice. However, sometimes the amount that we practice can be detrimental. Too much practice can lead to physical fatigue, and when the body begins shutting down, our mind soon follows and vice versa.

Continuing to practice even though you're fatigued can lead to the formation of bad habits, not to mention shooting slumps that can carry over into your actual hunting.

Article Photos

Gaining efficiency with any weapon requires practice. Lots of practice. However, sometimes the amount that we practice can be detrimental.
Photo by Ralph Scherder

Have you ever taken a dozen shots or so and had all of them hit right on target only to find that another dozen shots later they begin hitting in a totally different place? I know I sure have. It doesn't seem possible, but it happens. The more consecutive shots you take, the more your mind loses focus and body tires. To compensate, your body modifies its movements.

Yes, every shot may now be hitting the same spot six inches to the right, but that's simply because your body is performing the same poor shooting habits with each shot in an attempt to convince you that it's not tired.

If you've been practicing for a lengthy period of time and suddenly find that you're getting flyers, don't move those sights quite yet. Take a break and clear your mind. Eat or drink something to replenish your body. Maybe even wait until tomorrow and come back at it fresh again.

If you find that your arrows still aren't hitting where you want them to the next day, then you can begin making adjustments. More often than not, though, you'll find that you're back to hitting exactly where you should be hitting. Everyone has a bad shooting day now and then.

2) No matter which brand of arrows you decide to hunt with this fall, it's a good idea to test each arrow for accuracy before you place it in your quiver. The testing is done, quite simply, by shooting them.

When coming home with a brand new batch of arrows, it's easy to believe that all of them will shoot equally well. However, minor discrepancies from arrow to arrow often cause them fly slightly different.

Sometimes it's a matter of arrow weight. Machines are not always perfect and some arrows may weigh several grains heavier or lighter than others. Some of the arrows could have slightly thicker or thinner walls or microscopic flaws that set them apart. I highly recommend using a fine scale to weigh all arrows and see how they compare.

Be sure to shoot every arrow, even the ones in your quiver that you plan to hunt with. Check thatespecially the ones you plan to hunt with.

Shoot one group of three arrows every 15 minutes. The 15 minute break will give your body proper recovery time to avoid shooting fatigue. This little break is vital to the testing of any shooting product because you want to be sure that you're giving the product a fair shake and not influencing the results through your own fatigue.

From each three-shot group, select the two best arrows. These arrows should have flown straighter (with no "kick") and hit as close as possible to the bull's-eye. After shooting all 12 arrows, you should have eight remaining. Once again, take a break from shooting.

Shoot two groups of four arrows and select the best three from each group. You now have six arrows that shoot the best out of the original dozen. They will be the most accurate and reliable of the bunch. With a quiver-full of finely tuned arrows and razor sharp broadheads, you'll be ready to answer when opportunity knocks.

3) Sometimes when I'm bench shooting my rifle, I'll shoot a really tight group and then that group will inexplicable open up. All of a sudden the rifle will be shooting all over the place. When that happens, I take a break, and if it's still happening after I start again, I start looking at the rifle.

The most obvious, and yet easy to over look, parts are the stock screws on the underside of the forearm. Between the stock and barrel of most factory rifles, you'll notice a pillar or cradle that the barrel rests on. The pillar is part of the stock, actually, and if the stock screw is too loose or too tight it can cause the barrel to either vibrate or bind. Both can cause problems.

Vibration means moving parts, which means the barrel might not be resting in the exact same position prior to every shot. Binding can cause the same problem too. Ideally, I tighten the screws as far they will go and then back them off a quarter or half turn just enough so that they're snug. I do the same with my crossbow.

4) Sometimes scopes and sights just need to lock in, and it can take several shots before they do. If I'm making considerable adjustments to my scope or sights, I always give them a light tap before taking another shot. If the sights haven't been adjusted for a long time, they can have a memory and start creaking back toward their former position, especially with older model scopes. The light tap helps erase that memory, so to speak. But if your first shot after adjustment isn't where you want it to be, take another shot before deciding whether or not to adjust it again.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when shooting. The most important thing to remember is that, when something goes wrong, avoid making lots of changes all at once. Correcting errant shots is a matter of troubleshooting one thing at a time until you find the problem, and then you'll know exactly what, if anything, needs fixed.



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