Thomas Gonzalez VERTICAL TIPS by Speedy Gonzalez

  1. A lot of rifles are muzzle heavy. Some rifles have too heavy a barrel and this causes vertical problems, especially those who shoot free recoil
  2. Firing pin coming out of hole in the bolt while in the cocked position. This will cause poor ignition. Take the bolt out of the rifle and look in firing pin hole. If you cannot see entire end of firing pin it has come out of the hole.
  3. Firing pin dragging in bolt or shroud or firing pin spring dragging in the bolt body. Listen to the sound when you dry fire. If not, the same sound each shot something is wrong.
  4. Trigger sear return spring is too strong. Hold the trigger back in the fired position and push down on sear with your thumb. If it is hard to push down, this will cause vertical problems.
  5. Firing pin spring too weak or too strong. This will cause vertical problems due to poor or no ignition.  If too heavy and will cause you to throw shots up high because you are disturbing the gun in the bags too much when cocking and lifting the bolt handle in the bolt opening process. If you think this is the problem, change springs and see what happens.
  6. Tightening front sandbag too tight on stock. When you try to pull rifle back by hand and rifle feels like it is stuck in the bag it is too tight. The rifle should move in sandbags freely and evenly, not jerk or chatter when pulling back by hand. Note: Often time painters or gunsmiths inadvertently sand a forward or reverse taper on the forearm causing the rifle to bind or get very loose in the bags as it recoils.
  7. Action not level with the top of stock causing the barrel to run downhill at the muzzle end. The rifle will recoil up at butt end causing vertical. It is best to be a level or even better slightly uphill driving the rifle into the rear bag for better tracking and follow through.
  8. The load that you are shooting can too light or heavy and can cause vertical problems. Very often shooter associates a flat shooting rifle as being “In Tune” and holding “Water Line” when it is actually out of tune and being very wind sensitive.
  9. Bench or prone technique not same every shot. One example, head down against the stock for one shot and not the next. One should video themselves shooting to critique their approach to shooting a string to visually become aware of some of their shortcomings.
  10. Bad primers and primers with too hard a cup. If you cannot remove vertical while tuning, try other primers. (Also See #3)
  11. Bad scope. If your experiencing vertical and suspect the scope may be at fault, change up your load and vertical goes away it is not your scope. Also check your rings, and bases to ensure all is torqued up to spec.
  12. Rifle not balanced properly. Too muzzle heavy or too much lead/tungsten in butt in order to make the proper rifle weight. It will not recoil properly, too much weight in the butt will cause it to jump in bags. This can also be a sign of the rifle going out of tune called “BUCKING”, when a rifle that was shooting well begins to demonstrate more recoil or jump in the bags is showing potential signs of going out of tune. This “BUCKING” will typically show up on target by shots either moving more in the wind or by spitting random shots out of the group or scoring ring.
  13. Stocks being too flexible. This can cause vertical. This is overcome by carefully pre-loading them correctly when bedding or rebedding one that demonstrates symptoms of the swimming pool diving board effect.
  14. Front sandbag too hard. I personally have never had a rifle that will shoot consistent with a rock hard front sandbag, it must be able to absorb the initial shock-wave from the process of firing a round through the rifle. It will always cause vertical or other unexplained shots.
  15. Changing light conditions cause vertical. The old rule “Lights up shots up, lights down shots down” should be seriously looked at and tested in practice by shooters. I have observed clouds coming over a range and shooters dropping shots out the bottom as the cloud began to shade their target and then hear, ”Where did that come from?”.

Other Tips:

  1. Head on front rest left loose. A lot of rests have movement even when you tighten them as much as you can. This can cause unexplained shots.
  2. Some 30 & 34 mm scope rings are not getting tight enough to hold the scope in place under recoil. Causes: Scope slipping in rings under recoil. This will cause the point of aim movement. The easy cure is to properly bed scope into rings. (Most benchrest shooters do this, I see few long-range shooters do this if they are even aware of it. Bedding also supports the scope tubes when trying to keep it in place.)
  3. Keep shell holders clean, in press and priming tool. I have seen so much dirt in shell holders that cases are sized crooked on the body.
  4. Over-sized or heavy cup primers can cause cutting or shaving of brass down as you seat the primer causing poor ignition.
  5. Whenever possible, for benchrest shooters who load at the range, set up so that you can reload and watch conditions on the range as you load your ammo. That will keep you aware of any changes taking place in conditions since your last group and you will be mentally prepared for a potential new condition you may have to shoot in. For those who preload their ammo, set your equipment down by your firing point and stand back and observe what conditions those shooting are using and how long they are holding to give you the longest possible condition to shoot in. Listen to what the shooters are saying to each other as they get off the line as to what the condition were like when they were shooting. Watch the condition and flags, visit with your buddies after the match.
  6. Learn to look at the whole field of flags, not just the row in front of you. A lot of times conditions change away from you will cause shot to go out of group or scoring rings before the change in condition shows up in front of your target.
  7. When you chamfer the inside of your case necks make sure they are smooth enough that they don’t peel jacket material off when you seat the bullet. A 14 or 28-degree carbide chamfer tool is best and will do the least damage to bullets.
  8. I often see benchrest shooters walking around with case necks turned up in the loading block. A lot of the time there is condensation dropping from the roof of your loading area. If one drop of water gets in case, you are in trouble on the shot. How many times have you had a bad low shot when it has been raining and you have been walking around with your cases turned up in your block?
  9. Learn to keep your head down and follow through when you are shooting each shot.
  10. I hear a lot of discussion about shooter’s last shot going low in their group or on their score target making an X into a 10 and losing them the match. A good idea when shooting one’s last shot is to hold slightly higher on the target to minimize the anticipation on that last shot and keeping it in the group or in the higher value scoring ring.
  11. Ocular or rear eyepiece lock rings on scopes that are left loose. This can potentially cause vertical and random shot displacement.
  12. When you realize that the wind is your friend you will become a much better overall shooter.
  13. Practice in wind, and all climate changes not in ideal conditions. Ideal conditions are for proving components, tough conditions are for good practice and proving loads are ready for tough conditions.
  14. Pay attention to angle changes on flags. Even though you see the same color angle changes make a big difference in your groups or scores.
  15. The longer you wait between shots when a condition is changing the more the condition change will affect your bullet.
  16. If you do not know how to read wind flags or have never seen a wind flag try to shoot your group or score with the flags all going in one direction.
  17. Equipment at the bench or one’s position has to work flawlessly. If it doesn’t get it fixed or get rid of it. On match day we need all our attention on shooting and conditions, gunsmithing and load work is over.
  18. Learn to shoot with both eyes open so you can see more of the conditions.
  19. Free recoil shooters should make sure their rifle recoils squarely on their shoulder, not on edge of shoulder or muscle of arm, this causes poor follow through or anticipation of the recoil and potential vertical because the shooter tries slightly to shoulder the rifle.
  20. The shooter should have your own adjustable stool to sit their bench comfortably behind the rifle or their own mat tailored to suit their prone position (many rear bags placed on mats rock under recoil and cause vertical.
  21. Hunting rifle barrels – do not get cleaned enough. If you keep the barrel clean it will shoot better for you. You should clean barrel well after every 10 to 12 shots.
  22. Most hunting rifles will not put first shot after cleaning with rest of shots. So after cleaning if you have a rifle that won’t group first shot shoot one fouling shot before going hunting or before you shoot for group size.
  23. When working up a load for your hunting rifle take your time and do not let the barrel get hot on you.

Keep’em in the X-Ring