Good eggs

By Black Sheep Straight Shooter and Greg Hamilton
May 23, 2024


7 min read

It had been quite a long time since I had competed in shooting competition, but a friend asked me to come along for an egg shoot, 100y, 200y, 300y with .22LR rifle on a full-bore range. My 22 was sighted in and trajectory validated at my local range so I thought I’d go along. I was a bit apprehensive at the time commitment for a fun shoot but he sold the idea by inviting me to a small bonfire with camping at the range the night before.

The Army took the fun out of camping for me and even when I go hunting I usually don’t light a fire or even heat food. I don’t own a camp chair and I don’t drink. Out hunting, I am usually walking out into the bush well before first light and coming back well after last light. I was swayed to go by the idea of quiet time and socializing. I worked 7.30am to 5.30pm that Friday which already included 5 hours of driving. I ate curry for dinner at home the wife had cooked, helped with cleanup, bath and story time with the kids and put my gear in the car. I then drove three hours to the range in the dark and hung out by the fire with my friends until about 10pm. I rolled out the swag under the awning of the rifle range club rooms and slept surprisingly well.

I woke at 6am which is typical for me, procrastinated in the warm swag for another 15 minutes and then went through my morning routine which included some left-over curry for breakfast. My friends had got the fire going again and the light drizzle rain didn’t put too much of a dampener on things just yet. But there was just under four hours until the shoot was supposed to start at 10am. Not a great use of time. The match director arrived about 9am and we offered to help but he had things under control. We paid our shooting fee then waited until about 10am for the briefing. I have heard many range and shoot briefs in the past but it was thorough enough that new shooters would feel comfortable and it explained the scoring. There were about 6 new shooters who were sharing gear which was good to see. I personally like talking to new shooters and feed off their new kid energy.

We finally drove down to the 100y mound to start the competition and then the rain started. The match director told everyone to go back to the clubrooms and wait for the rain to pass. If I wasn’t invited and had bad manners, I would have asked for my money back and left just then. I work a lot and my time is very precious on the weekends. I kept thinking that with only another hours drive and I could have been in state forest public land hunting deer. I’d say we waited around for at least 45 minutes then the sun came out. I kept telling myself I was an invited guest and to just follow the bouncing ball and try enjoy the shoot. It was a long time since I had been involved in competition after all.

I was in the first detail and took a little longer than normal to get myself sorted. That’s because I made some important observations right from the start. Firstly, the plastic chook eggs were placed on golf tees on a timber board just at the base of the mantlet before the normal target gallery. That meant that the distance was a lot less than 100y. The competitor mindset came out and after I used my laser range finder I only shared the true distance with my friend. I also took the time to get my kestrel weather meter out and put good data into the Strelok Pro app to get a good firing solution. Accurate distance measurement and good atmospherics input makes a noticeable difference at longer range with rimfire shooting. Also I picked up very early that the ‘first graze’ / splash area would provide very little feedback on misses as just behind the eggs was weedy and grassy which the little 40 grain bullet at subsonic speeds would not disturb very much and be hard to see at distance. So, judging where you miss and by how much would prove very difficult. Kindly, other competitors put high-contrast shoot and see targets on the drums that held up the target timber. Because I had been well prepared before the range was opened, after getting permission I got onto one of these targets within 10 seconds, had a wind hold and was ready to go for my first scoring shots. Then the targetry fell down. The rifles were cleared by the range officer, and the targetry made more stable. Now my known wind hold was old news. I spoke to my spotter about which egg I was going to start on – so he was just as ready as I was. Not having your spotter and scorer ready to go takes away all momentum when you want to crack on. Reducing all this dialogue ahead of time means for better focus. I chose the egg with best contrast and silhouette against the splash area. I backed myself on the same wind hold but there was almost no feedback to correct with. I indicated that I would just keep shooting one shot per egg and continue left to right. After the first 10 shots I got up and looked through my decent spotting scope for hits on eggs. Not many hits and almost no feedback from the shot. Clearly, what I was doing wasn’t working so a re-think was in order.

I have shot 100m at my local range on a 5 inch very animated proper bisalloy gong a lot. I know that my rifle and ammo combo will hold a two inch waterline off the bench at 100m no worries. Worst case is a palm sized group at 100m. Occasionally a shot will be a touch higher or lower of that at 100m, as to be expected with high velocity hollow point hunting ammunition. I also know that my rifle and ammo will take about five shots to settle after a bore snake (I use a .204 calibre bore snake as my CZ has a tightish chamber that the lead and lubricant sometimes hangs up the pull through – I very rarely use a cleaning rod and bore solvent in rimfires) This settling, I am certain is to do with the copper wash bullet lubricant re-coating the barrel which helps keep muzzle velocity more constant once fouled. I have done a test cold bore clean bore at 100m whilst recording the fall of shot via a phone skope attachment on the spotting scope so I could later watch the recording and evaluate. I put a freshly line marking painted gong slightly up the berm at 100m. The first shot falls about 10m short and looks about two feet low on a flat range off the bench. The second looks about a foot low, third about 6 inches low and the fourth and fifth quite close. Only then will I start to pay attention to how the fall of shot is behaving. My rifle and ammo combo accuracy also starts to fall off after about 200 shots, again only noticeable at distance. Test don’t guess. I usually clean after a practice session then foul the bore with five shots before putting away. Then I can back myself first shot hunting at distance. Yes, the copper wash lubricant in a chrome moly barrel can induce galvanic corrosion from the dissimilar metals and some moisture in the air of the safe. Wax and synthetic rimfire lubricants can allow for very little cleaning. Just shooting 50m at zero range, none of this rifle accuracy or cold bore clean bore shift is evident. I have dismissed some well shooting ammo because it won’t shoot well cold bore at distance, clean or dirty. The point I’m trying to make is know your gear, so you can have very high confidence in your performance, thus marksmanship fundamentals being the only main contributing factor. There is also such a thing as cold shooter and human error and noticeable or not fatigue. When shooting my compound bow, I know I am fatigued when my dominant eye twitches occasionally. This is the tell for me to have a rest, regardless of other muscle fatigue. It shows on target despite whatever self-appraisal of my mental alertness.

Coming back to the egg shooting competition and not getting many hits due to very little feedback I’d need to change tact. I know my elevation would maintain say two inches of egg height and that the wind coming from 12 to 1 o-clock would only change that waterline height a slight amount. Whatever that slight change is, my wind reading and attentiveness to it, I would not be able to keep up with anyway. I could have high confidence in the elevation being close enough. Aiming off high or low would be pointless with almost no feedback anyway. Now, the wind. From experience and seeing results on painted gongs in the past to reflect on, I know a slight wind variation would mean a slight point of impact change. Again, my exact holds and ability to keep up with exact wind differences is not sharp or quick enough to warrant being ultra selective about a particular individual shot wind hold. I needed to choose a wind hold off, commit to well fired shots quickly and just back myself that with no feedback – this was going to be the best option. For my next 10 shot string I hit the first egg then eight others. The miss was inconsequential in context of accuracy capability. More on this later. The way the scoring worked, if I had got these 9 hits first up it would have won me the match, but in the second string these hits were worth only a tenth the value.

I then swapped with my spotter and the dialogue and precedent had been set so we were speaking a similar language. Once he was done, I walked back to the 200 yard mound and ranged the same targets and got a firing solution, ready for when the whole group moved back. This little bit of proactiveness has served me very well in the past and takes a huge amount of stress away by simply being prepared. As another benefit, the tiny bit of familiarity settles the nerves.

At the 200 yard mound I chose to fire my sighters at a rock on a dirt patch on the mantlet above the eggs for sake of getting good feedback. I was just missing and very close. On the scoring eggs amongst the bracken, there was zero feedback. I went back to the same technique I used at 100 but struggled.

A BBQ lunch around midday was another hour-long delay.

At 300 yards it was raining and a definite struggle to see feedback, even with the spotting scope. I got to shoot another competitors rifle at the end of the competition with top shelf ammo and it performed slightly better than my own, but feedback on fall of shot was just as bad. Then prizes and thanks were given.

The shoot was seventy shots, individually totalling about eight minutes of actual shooting. For me the time commitment was a full 24hours. Was that time well spent? For me it was good to perform under some artificial competition pressure and go through the thinking processes of competition shooting again after so long. I was happy with my performance. I deliberately did not look at my scores or how I stacked up. I’m very mindful these days to not be sucked into outcome and ego-based results, because this is something I got caught up with in the past.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed the quiet of the fire on a rural rifle range with a mate or getting good hits with near zero feedback more.