7 steps to fine tune your rifle for hunting
Posted On March 29, 2021
I used to have some bad habits when it came to preparing for hunting season. Like many hunters, I spent much more time worrying about my equipment and accessories than preparing my rifle. I’d go out the day before a hunt and fire a couple rounds down and call it good. Ready to go. I’m not saying this method doesn’t work, but it cost me a hell of a lot once, and that’s reason enough to discover another system.
It was early morning and I was freezing as hell and the money I’d been watching for months, waiting for opening day, was about to cross the property line and into my death zone. The monster we call “the big ten” flinched as my first round went over his back. Frustrated, I tormented another and let him go, I’ll never know where he went! The big dollar took off like lightning and in about two seconds it was gone, not to be seen for the rest of the season. It was a bad time to discover that two of my visor mounting screws were missing. Like that dollar. I started following these seven easy steps to fine-tune my rifle before hunting season to make sure I don’t have the same problem again.
1. Clean and inspect your rifle
Most bolt action pistols are so easy to disassemble and clean that there is no reason to jeopardize the few days you have the chance to hunt each year by carrying a firearm without field inspection. After making sure the rifle is unloaded, remove the bolt. Use a simple cleaning and lubricating product to remove dirt and debris and lubricate the bolt. You’ll want to do the same for the internals of the action. It may seem pretty basic, but it doesn’t always take a lot of dirt in the right place to prevent a latch from closing. Now, check the bolts that hold your stock in the cylinder head. There is usually at least one screw in the front of the magazine and behind the trigger guard. If these screws are loosened in the field, you will run into serious accuracy problems.
2. show your keg some love
Next, take a cleaning stick and run a patch through your barrel. If the barrel is dirty or you didn’t clean it after your last range session, I’d also run it through a brush and cleaner first. This will help remove carbon residue and copper scale that hinder accuracy and help prevent future oxidation. You can get a basic cleaning kit from Brownell’s for under $ 30, a small price to pay to ensure you get the most out of your rifle hunt for years to come. Some people use copper hole cleaners that require a hazmat suit to administer, but for the average hunter it really isn’t necessary.
3. Don’t rush the range
One thing I have to continually remind myself is that a journey to rank should not be rushed. Reserve a few hours or an afternoon, enjoy the process and take your time. Familiarize yourself once more with the nuances of your rifle, from the unique way the bolt runs to the feel of your trigger. Take the time to set up, enjoy the sun, and let your rifle get plenty of rest between shots. Slowing down not only helps you focus on proper shooting mechanics, it also makes the experience more enjoyable.
4. Believe in the bank
I’ll be the first to admit that I did my fair share of test shots from the hood of my truck, but that’s far from ideal. If you want to get the most out of your rifle and ensure that shooter error is subtracted from the equation, investing in a good bench and resting is critical. My basic setup is Caldwell’s BR Pivot Bench ($ 450), which breaks down quickly and features heavy-duty tripod legs and a wooden swivel top, and a Caldwell Lead Sled rest ($ 200) that helps mitigate recoil and ensure consistency in shooting. I was without these items for years, but to my own detriment. Check out the options at Brownell’s and get something that works for you.
5. Check your optics
As I mentioned earlier, I got the screws off of my scope mounts, so I am very strict about checking the screws on my optics. Once I have made sure the bases are tight, I will retighten the ring screws. My current rifle hunting setup is a Mossberg Patriot Bantam rifle in .308 with Leupold VX-3i scope, and with the Leupold mounting system I have to remove the scope to re-tighten the bases. At the very least, I will re-tighten the visor ring screws. Once range is secured, I’ll readjust the eye relief and score zero with a few shots at 100 yards.
6. Check your loads
I cringe when I see people shooting different charges from year to year without adjusting their range or at least checking zero. Sure, you may be shooting a deer minute, but that’s not acceptable for the sake of a shooter’s confidence or ethical hunting. Due to the physics of the barrel harmonics, different charges and different sized bullets will hit different points, sometimes with substantial variation. So if I shot a 150 grain Hornady American Whitetail in my 308 last year, I will zero check again when I switch to the new 178 grain Hornady ELD-X load for this year’s elk season. If there is a substantial difference, I will adjust my reach accordingly, and my preference will be 2 inches tall at 100 yards.
7. Target practice makes perfect
There are many different styles of paper targets, but I have used EZ2C rifle targets for several years. They’re relatively inexpensive (a 12-pack costs less than $ 5), and the 1-inch grid makes viewfinder adjustments easy.
Whatever goal you choose, the important thing is that you get out there and practice, practice and practice. Remember, you are not only making sure the rifle is on, you are also making sure it is still on! Work on your breathing, stability, and gentle trigger pressure. Fire a group of three shots, let the rifle rest, and do it again. Move around the field and try shots from shooting sticks or from field positions. Try to position yourself in a real world setting – hit a target, get into position, and fire a shot in time. Good luck!