In Australia recently I was asked to give a discourse on the techniques of loading the rifle whilst still in the shoulder.
Let me state here and now, there are quite a few things to deal with and, let me also state that I experimented with the technique many years ago, with the result that in my case it was better to drop the rifle from the shoulder to perform the reloading sequence,
Some will argue that dropping the butt introduces a number of further sequences to deal with and I understand this, providing the shooters understand that reloading from the shoulder requires specific techniques. Techniques that, if not followed assiduously, will result in a number of problems that prevent accuracy and cause shot loss when there is no need!
There are a couple of attendant factors as well – relative to the type of sling in use, as well as the shooting coat.
OK, let’s examine the technique of leaving the rifle in the shoulder while you perform the loading sequence and immediately, if you look along the firing line, (particularly in fullbore circles) you will see many shooters fire the shot, then lay the whole forward position to the right in order to eject the fired case and reach the loading port with the new round held in the fingers.
This is common with 90% of shooters who load from the shoulder and even more so when you see the shooter retrieve the fired case with the fingers and place it back in the bullet block. I have seen this mistake continuously for my lifetime in shooting.
If you examine fig 1 you will see the shooter laying the rifle over to reload. This is a common fault!
Because 90 % of the time the shooter will find that the sling has slipped down the arm (even with the keeper intact) which makes a considerable difference to the techniques of subsequent shots. This is even more so the case with a double-point fullbore sling, combined with the more savage recoil of 308 match ammunition.
So many shooters reload, pay no attention to the difference in the forward position due to easier sling pressures and variation and run the risk of dropping a shot. This applies even to the times out of the vee bull in full bore!
I have also seen very high-level shooters who, when faced with the need for speed to combat wind conditions, reload by laying the rifle over and pay the price of not paying attention to the techniques. Rifle shooting is all about attention to details. Details that make an enormous difference to the results.
A few years ago, I was installed as a techniques coach for the NSW State fullbore rifle team. This was quite an honour for me and I enjoyed the experience, coping with 20 of the finest fullbore shooters in NSW. If Jim Bailey will forgive me, I will use Jim as an example, as Jim has always been a ‘shoulder loader’.
Jim is a ‘lefty’ and I considered that even with his outstanding hold and shot release capability, there was more out there for him yet. I get on well with Jim Bailey and he has always listened to our discussions. Well, at first Jim laid the rifle over to his left to reload and, when I mentioned this was a mistake in my opinion – even though he had advanced enough to use a single-point sling – he was all ears!
I explained that the mistake came from allowing his forward position to deteriorate by leaning the rifle over to reload and, if he left his forward elbow and position intact and reloaded by working the left arm and hand off the mound, reloading the rifle over the top of the position, he would do a lot better. (Mind you, Jim hit things pretty hard!)
Jim immediately concurred and did he go ahead in leaps and bounds! So much so that one club afternoon recently, he fired three 50.10v one after the other! That’s right, 150.30 for the days work!
If you look at fig 2, you will see a photograph of loading over the top of the rifle, with the forward position left intact. Nothing has changed within the forward position except the trigger-hand arm has been lifted to perform the reload. The face stays locked on the cheek piece, with the butt-plate still firm in the shoulder, whilst the forward hand is still firm in the hand-stop with the sling held under normal tension.
Many will argue they do not like to move the elbows at all when in position but, I put it to you, there are more techniques to be gained by adherence to this thought.
If you lift the elbow to perform the reloading tasks, over the top of the rifle, this makes it much easier than struggling to reach the loading port would you agree? Then, once the action is locked, the trigger-hand resumes it’s place on the pistol-grip, with attention to making it exactly the same each time. The grip pressures are applied and obviously if you held the grip with the trigger-hand, then dropped the elbow to the mound again it cannot go anywhere else but very close to where it should be! Do you agree?
If it is anywhere different, you will pick this up quite quickly and install it back into the correct position surely?
My observations of Jim Bailey, when we put this segment in place, was that he got onto this aspect very quickly and I often used him as an example for others to watch the champion shooter that he is. The repetition of his reloading process is something beautiful to watch!
So, why do I drop the rifle to reload and deem it necessary in my own techniques to restart the repositioning from the very basic place for each shot? Are there reasons for this? In my case you can bet your house on it!
I did a great deal of research on this subject and, even though I developed a method to load the rifle in the shoulder in the essence for speed that is sometimes demanded, my preference is to drop the butt and use my detailed reloading sequence in spite of the extra steps it entails. I work hard to get my position exact for each shot! I also found there were other areas that needed to be watched to gain the benefits.
I made sure that my heavily modified Kurt Thune single-point sling performed exactly the same each shot and that my custom-made shooting coat was a correct fit particularly across the back between the arm pits! This measurement needs to be exact, to prevent any instance of the sling pulling the sleeve down my forward arm. Even the attachment point of the sling keeper strap was to my design when Harald Stenvaag (Norway) made the jacket. I still have this coat and would not part with it under any circumstances.
Because of the design across the back, (see fig 3) the sling has no chance to alter the sleeve tension, and, even if I do have to fire a shoot by reloading in the shoulder, then sling performs it’s job as I reload the rifle over the top of the position with the jacket ensuring the correct tension and placement of the sling on the upper arm. I found this detail alone was a huge advantage in retaining the position even when using both reloading systems.
In the case of smallbore, the light recoil makes very little difference to the position, just requiring the shooter to be aware of even the smallest alteration, which can be adjusted immediately if need be.
In my case, reloading with the complete break of the position for each shot, I can pay a lot of attention to the details simply by restarting the process from first base.
This includes monitoring how the sling position and tensions are, plus the natural aim-point when position is reassumed. The butt is replaced exactly and the sling-tension duplicated. It works for me but, I have no qualms with reloading in the shoulder, if weather conditions demand the process and I actually trained hard to install the techniques in case I needed to shoot very quickly.
In the case of fullbore, with the savage recoil strike and you reload in the shoulder, it can be very detrimental to the results if you are not aware that the sling-tension and placement suffers. I have seen so many shooters come unstuck when the position deteriorates due to a double-point (mostly) or even a good single-point sling being pulled down the arm, or loses the correct tension, allowing a lot of difference in the recoil behaviour of the rifle. If this is not recognised immediately, you run the chances of losing several shots in the need for speed, when it is simple enough to drop the rifle out of position and reset.
The tell-tale of position deterioration is usually in the recoil, when it suddenly hurts in the shoulder, or the rifle settles top of the next-door target (even up on the number) in the follow-through, when it usually settles somewhere close to your own target. So many shooters actually belt a shot on the next door target, wondering how the hell that happened, when the fault lies in the tensions of the sling position due to lack of attention to details!
My old last line? Think about it!