The secret to shooting in the wind Well some of the secret anyway
So we all know that the wind is variable, so how can there be a secret to it?
If you ask the top shots how they manage to figure out the wind they'll usually tell you it's a matter of experience, and to a large extent they're right, but there's more to it than that.
Some of it comes down to experience, but there are elements of the wind that are just ballistics and accuracy.
So if you could split the problem into two parts and remove the variable wind and the whole experience part, how well would you fare on an FT course if it just came down to ballistics and accuracy?
Experience will help you to judge the wind strength and wind direction and spot when something changes, but you're still left with the ballistics and accuracy part of the equation after that. Now I can't help with the experience part, but... I've written a little fun game you can play that will help out with the ballistics and accuracy part and might help you to gain experience a bit faster than having to shoot FT competitions for 20 years. It might not, but it's quite a fun game to play anyway
There's some lengthy explanation coming up, and if you can't be bothered to read it all (I wouldn't blame you) then just scroll to the end of the post for a link to the Windeeze game
If you like the game and want to make some suggestions - please take the time to read the lengthy explanation bit, because it explains the point of the game.
The lengthy explanation bit........
I've built in the same ballistics calculations into this game as used by Chairgun, so you can tweak things to mirror your actual rig, and also play some what if scenarios so you can see what different muzzle velocities, ballistic coefficients, scope heights etc will do for you when it comes to getting the ballistics right.
So what do you need to know? Ok so for example, you're on the zero range and you know that the wind is blowing directly across at a 90 degree angle to the target board and at 45 yards you're getting a pretty consistent 1 mildot of wind.
How much allowance for wind will you need to make at 55 yards? Will you still give it 1 mildot?
Now you're shooting the course and the wind strength seems to be about the same, but this time it's not coming across at 90 degrees, the angle has halved to 45 degrees. Do you still give it 1 mildot of wind? If the angle has halved from 90 to 45, do you halve the amount of wind you need to give it?
The answer to those questions its just ballistics - if you don't know the answer, then learning the answer will help you to remove the ballistics part of the problem of knowing where to aim.
You could sit down with some ballistics software and try to learn the answers, you could even print out a spreadsheet with the answers on it.. but a better way is to learn it by practice - that's something my little game (Windeeze) will help you with.
Here's a question for you.. have you ever come to a target where there was clear indication that the wind is blowing from left to right, so you've given it outside left edge of kill and the pellet has landed smack on your crosshair? I know I have and I bet it's happened to you too.
Have a listen to shooters as you wander round a course waiting for your session to start and I bet you'll hear this at least once "I don't believe it!!.. it went straight!" and that's what you tend to think when you see something like that happen. It looked like there was wind, you gave it wind and the pellet landed smack on your crosshair - so it must have been that you got the wind wrong?
Well... not necessarily.
Think about it like this.. you're shooting groups on a bit of paper at 55 yards - how often does the pellet land smack on your crosshairs? For me, if I can group sub 1 inch at 55 yards, I'm happy enough with that - but that means that for every shot I take, the pellet could effectively land upto half an inch away from my crosshairs in any direction - left, right, up, down. Why do we totally forget about our average group size when we're shooting in a competition? So an alternative answer to "why did that shot go straight when there was clearly wind" is this...
It didn't go straight at all - you just put the pellet inside your average group size and that just happened to make it look like it went straight.
Another thing to think about in terms of accuracy is - how accurate are your clicks and how accurate is your range finding?
If you have clicks for every yard and your range finding is perfect - then you have a 40mm disc to land you pellet in, so you've got 40mm of leeway for getting the wind wrong.
If you can be say plus or minus a yard on your rangefinding, then you no longer have 40mm of leeway, because if your pellet lands high or low, the width of the kill is no longer 40mm.
If you combine this with your average group size (where a pellet could land anywhere inside say a 25mm circle) then you have even less leeway for getting the wind wrong.
You can do a calculation to figure out what the leeway is.. but here's a couple of examples..
If your average group size is 20mm at 55 yards and your range finding/clicks are accurate to plus or minus say half a yard. then your leeway for getting the wind wrong isn't 40mm, it's about 18mm - effectively, you have to take a good shot and you still have to guess the wind strength to within 18mm to knock the target over without luck playing a part.
Now let's up the values a bit.. suppose your average group size is 30mm at 55 yards and your range finding / clicks can be out by plus or minus a yard. A situation that's common to most of us mere mortals.
Your leeway for getting the wind wrong is now less than 1mm - that means you have to gauge the wind strength and direction absolutely perfectly to take the target down without luck playing a part.
Now ask yourself this... the shooters who seem to be awesome at shooting in the wind - what else do they have in common? - They're all bloody good shots too, and also bloody good at range finding and setting their guns up.
The difference between someone who can shoot really tight groups at 55 yards and can range find accurately - is, they get an extra 18mm of leeway for getting the wind wrong. It's not that they've sold their souls to the devil and are able to read the wind perfectly, they get extra leeway for getting it wrong because they're more accurate in terms of shooting and range finding.
All the calculations used are the same as Chairgun's which should be close enough to real life to give you a pretty good idea.
You can enter your own accuracy settings into the game - try to be honest and also maybe add 5mm to your average group size to allow for the pressure of shooting a competition. You can also experiment with different scope heights to see if that will help you by not having such a large vertical error if you get the range wrong.
There's an indicator in the bottom left of the screen - telling you wind speed in mph and a pointer showing the direction for the target you're shooting.
I know you don't get this in real life - but that's not the point of the game.. the point is this... if you did know those things, would you still be able to hit the target?
I'd recommend spending a bit of time in the Zero range part of the game to get a feel for the effects of wind and accuracy at the different ranges before you go on to shoot the course.
I've mapped 2 real courses into the game (Thanks to Andras for mapping out the Inter regionals course at Redfearns for me).
Oh I should also mention that the scope magnification is fixed at about 16x mag, because that's the mag I shoot on and the maths for getting the faceplate sizes working for variable magnification scopes was too hard. I might revisit that, but for the moment welcome to Brian's world of shooting FT on 16x mag
If you like the game and would like to help out there's a couple of things you can do...
Firstly, click on a google add on the front screen - you don't have to buy anything, but every click drops a couple of pence in my pocket, I'm not going to get rich from it, but it might help to buy me a tin of pellets and it'll give me a warm feeling that you've enjoyed playing my game.
Another thing you can do is Map a course that I can add to the game - wouldn't it be cool if you could practice a GP course without having to leave the comfort of your sofa? What I need to know for mapping a course is the bearing of the zero range and the bearings and distances for the targets on the course as well as a little note if a particular target was more or less exposed to the wind.
If you don't know about bearings, just draw a rough map on a bit of paper and take a photo of it for me.
(You're probably going to need a mouse to play this and you'll need a modern browser too - Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE 10+ etc)