Targets and Scopes
By Ed Harmon
Did a thought ever occur to you, while shooting on paper, that your target was not quite right? If you had that thought, join the crowd of about 90% of scope shooters in the world. Most paper targets are simply not designed for serious scope shooting. The targets look like they should work OK, but in actual practice; they do not work that well at all. The diamond is not right, nor is the bull’s eye circle. The crosshairs printed on paper is not correct either, nor is any combination of the above target designs.
I ran a range for over 20 years. During that time I observed shooters dragging all manner of targets to the range. I finally decided to put that experience and over 20 years of competitive shooting into harness. So, several years ago, I set about designing a target just for crosshairs and red dots, not one but two very different targets. I also ran tests with various power scopes to determine the best power setting for very accurate shooting on paper at 100 yards. The intent was to develop a target that gave the shooter confidence in the results of three shot and five shot groups, primarily for load development. The idea was to also have a good idea about the group size looking through a spotting scope.
I think I shot on just about every target design printed both for sale and in books. None of the designs worked that well. It was always difficult to tell with clarity, one shot from the next, exactly where your crosshairs were positioned in relation to the exact aim point. The group size, estimated from 100 yards away, was a pure guess, mostly wrong.
What I first designed was a 1-inch square, with heavy lines for sides. The idea was to shoot the corners using the vertical and horizontal sides to position the crosshairs on the corners of the square. That was Ok, but when you tried to focus on one set of lines, the crosshairs, the lines became difficult to acquire and maintain focus upon. Next I increased the lines of the square in width. The result was better but still not quite right. Then I created a solid black square, walah, it worked like magic. Next the size of the square was worked on. It was found that a 2-inch square was perfect. The idea is to hold the crosshairs just off the corner so as to create a very narrow white line between the crosshairs and the sides of the square, vertical and horizontal, corner to corner. You duplicate the line, shot after shot. The scope is always kept on the vertical and horizontal plane in relation to the square itself. You eliminate the effects of the great scope bug-a-boo, canting.
How to improve the square, well I created a grid that is comprised of 1-inch squares with the 2-inch black square super imposed in the middle. When printed together and shot upon you can immediately tell the approximate group size. You can also tell over, under or horizontal adjustment. The grid permits you to get sighted in with just two adjustments and no walking. The shooting square upon square is attached, life size for copying. The square on a square target was created using Microsoft Word. You can convert the target back to word using Adobe Acrobat or you simply print the target on your printer.
Next we attacked the real problem and the one that there simply are no targets for, the red dot sight.
I experimented with a fellow in the 80s on circle sights, front and rear. The idea is to create concentric circles of the sights with the target in the middle. Your eye aligns the circles and the point of impact is the center. The sight system works real well, it just takes a bit of time to align the sights from shot to shot, for real accuracy. We worked on this project for about a year and a half after work.
The reason I have gone into the explanation is so that you have an idea about the source of the inspiration for the red dot target. The target is a black circle of such size that a red dot fits into the circle with a white ring around the dot, between the red and the black. The effect is three circles that your eye will align, shot after shot. This allows load development with a red dot sight at 50 yards, without any magnification. Does it work? We have used the target shown to shoot .100-inch groups at 50 yards. The target attached is designed for a 4-minute dot at 50 yards. The circle can be created and enlarged with most word processors. The dot target itself was created with Microsoft Word and converted to a photo file. If you have Adobe Acrobat you can reverse the process and create a word document from the jpg file.
A secret to sighting in dot sights is to turn the power down as low as possible to still be able to see the dot. The outside of the dot becomes clear which allows for good definition between the black circle and red dot. If you turn the power up to far on a red dot sight, the edge of the dot gets furry or blurred.
Scope power for shooting paper at 100 yards should be a minimum of 12x in order to achieve the very best groups. Groups can be shot with less power, however the process is a strain once you try a 12 or more power scope.
Last but far from least, while you are on the paper you should also test your windage and elevation adjustment to see what they actually are. Rarely will an advertised ¼ minute adjustment actually produce ¼ inch adjustment. Many ballistics programs today will allow a click adjustment print out to be run, based on your actual velocity and bullet BC. I keep a small font print out on all of my scope bells from 200 to 600 yards in 50-yard increments for the bullet and load I am shooting.