As I said last time, something arose that made attending the rifle competitions, while not exactly impossible, a lot lower priority than other things I had to deal with. It was the latest of several setbacks to my shooting improvement this year that were the result of life happening in unfortunate ways.
One thing I had been very happy about was that I was able to buy a Zeiss PRF rangefinder. I had been using it often. I had been in the habit of taking it to work with me. When I had a spare moment I would pull it out, look at something in the distance, estimate its range, then use the rangefinder to check. This was going just great in getting my eye calibrated. Somehow on one of these work trips I lost it. I have no idea how, but it is GONE. It's completely unfathomable how it happened, but my hours have changed and there are some times when my mental state is such that the lights are on but no one's home.
I had gotten a really great deal on the rangefinder as well, which made the prospect of replacing it even more daunting. My wife, surprisingly, told me that I could just get another. I was ready to get one when the reason I needed it, these impending competitions, fell out from under me. All that was just an aside to show you that I'm getting to the point where I could write a good country or blues song based on personal anecdotes.
The feeling I had after finding out I would not make the Steel Challenge (a precision rifle course with the same name as the pistol match) or the Sniper's Hide Cup was that my opportunity for great learning, growth, and improvement was flushed down the toilet. Also, I had arranged to shoot the Steel Challenge with reader, commenter, and friend “SLG”, so I missed my chance to finally meet him.
Subjectively, it seems to me that I have not really improved at shooting lately, and that this was my big opportunity. Upon some reflection I realized that I did not have this feeling of stagnation prior to this year. The difference is a lack of context that the shooting fits into. Shooting on its own is like spinning wheels in the air. Without application it’s difficult to have a frame of reference to even measure, track, or drive improvement.
Before February, I had a solid role, context, and frame of reference; it was sort of an identity for my shooting. After that was gone I figured I could simply transition that into competing, and that I could actually make faster progress at shooting without having to work on ancillary field skills. That put me almost seamlessly into preparation mode, trying to fill some obvious gaps. When I found out I could not attend these competitions, it seemed as though my preparation was wasted. It really felt as though the bottom had dropped out from beneath me.
Starting the blog back in 2011 was fun, and there was always a lot to write about. For the first few months I was just conveying information I was extremely familiar with, which was easy. After that I went in some easy circles, coming back to the same topics as I gained some insights here and there.
This year I got to the point where I was tired of revisiting the same topics repeatedly. I started feeling like a bit of a fraud because I'm writing from the exact point that I'm exploring. Essentially I have no basis of authority on the information I'm presenting because it's essentially the noise from my brain as I try to figure out what I'm doing. It’s especially hard when my efforts don’t result in tangible gains.
The only thing left to do is to pick the proverbial bicycle up and get back on it. In the next few weeks I’ll be relaunching the blog at a different site. The emphasis will be on moving on from being a decent general rifle shooter to having more finely honed skills with smaller targets, and at longer ranges. While it felt as though I missed the bus to really stepping up my game, I figured out that there will be more opportunities coming along that route that I could jump on when I can.