Anyway, on to the subject of this week's post.
Before I moved to New Zealand to live, I had only been here in summer and no bugger thought to tell me how much it rains in Auckland. It probably doesn't help that we live out in Waitakere at the edge of what is essentally temperate rainforest by a huge harbour within 10 miles of the sea, but the sheer volume of it is spectacular. Maybe it has just been a particularly wet year; however it seems like a good idea to brush up on how to shoot in the rain.
The most critical issue when shooting in the wet is to keep your ammunition, chamber and bore free of droplets of water. If these get significantly wet then it is very likely that you will suffer an unpredictable but severe elevation change. Additionally, you are likely to want to keep your scorebook at least reasonably moisture free. As a final consideration, you may wish to keep yourself dry also; although this is by no means a necessity.
It doesn't matter that much if the outside of your rifle gets a bit wet, provided that you take it out of the bedding and dry it off at the end of the day (do NOT put a damp rifle away, as that is a recipe for rust) but you must keep the inside of the action, chamber and bore as absolutely dry as possible before and during the shoot. A few spots of rain probably won't do you much damage, but a few big droplets on your boltface or in the chamber are very likely to stuff you.
To manage the amount of water getting into these critical areas I do the following things:
- Get the rifle into the shoulder quickly, without elevating the bore too much. It is possible for water to enter the bore that way. Certainly don't rest with the butt on the ground and the bore in the air while it's raining. Apocryphally, at least one first stage of Her Majesty the Queen's Prize has been lost this way.
- After you have fired your shot, take the rifle out of the shoulder and wipe the area around the loading port with a beer towel before unlocking the bolt. Leave the action and loading port covered until it's time to get into the aim again.
In the season when lenses in the foresight were first made legal in the UK, I remember the first stage of the St. George's being absolutely sodden with the result that a huge number of people had their scores wiped out when their brand spanking new Eagle eyes got sodden. It is pretty inevitable that your lens is going to get wet when it rains, but there are a number of steps you can take to avoid this kind of clusterf***ery:
- As with stopping water getting in the bore, don't hang around when getting the rifle in the shoulder.
- Treat your lens with RainEx or another hydrophobic coating which will make the water bead up and not smear the lens. It is worth checking that the stuff you're going to use won't degrade the material your lens is made of before doing this.
- Always have a small packet of absolutely dry tissues with you when you shoot in the rain to dry the lens if you have to. It is worth practising how to do this without ruining your position. Do not use a damp tissue as this will just smear the water about the lens, which is almost certainly going to be worse than just having a few droplets on it.
- Under no circumstances should you use canned air to dry your lens in the rain, as this is very likely to cause serious condensation.
If you wear shooting glasses, much of the stuff written above also applies to them. Wear a big hat. Don't look up any more than is necessary to keep a good eye on the flags. Have some clean, dry tissues or lint-free cloth handy.
Scorebook, ammunition etc...
Keeping your scorebook, pens etc... is worthwhile but it is imperative that you keep your ammo dry.
The patent on weatherwriters is due to expire sometime soon (really, they are/were under patent) and the ludicrous price should come down when a bunch of generic versions come on the market in the next few years. Buy yourself one of these for your scorebook. If you get a really big one you coulld probably put your scorecards and ammo box in there also. Put your ammo in a box with a lid and put a beer towel over it.
You, the shooter
Different people have different philosophies on this one**, but my personal view is that you should shoot in all conditions wearing and using as close to the same kit as is possible. When I talked about shooting in the heat I said much the same thing; however what I didn't say that I probably should have done, and was reminded to by my good friend Bob is this: "Think cool." Similarly, mindset is critical to shooting in the wet if you're going to adopt my philosophy because I don't wear any additional wet weather gear.
For the less hair-shirted and/or bloody-minded amongst you, a good pair of waterproof trousers may help. Unfortunately, I've never tried shooting in a cape or any kind of waterproof over my jacket, so I can't help you beyond suggesting that you give them a try and find out what works for you.
Alternatively, at least one shooter I know swears that in bad weather less is more. He frequently wears shorts and flipflops in all weathers on the grounds that the less you wear, the less there is to get wet. Your mileage may vary.
On a final note, like much in shooting, shooting in the rain is an acquired skill. Don't skip practices in the rain because you think you know how to do it already, or don't want to get wet. GBRT has lost at least one major match I can think of for precisely this reason. Be positive about shooting in the rain and think thoughts like "I'm going to shoot at least as well as I normally do; the rain often damps down the wind; other shooters don't keep their standards up in the rain; it's a good opportunity to pick up some places in the Grand."
* The universal gas laws tell us that by expanding when they exit the spray, the gases in the canned air are doing work against the surrounding atmosphere so they cool down. When their temperature gets below the dew point, then they will cause condensation in damp air.
** As Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the famous 16th Century Japanese author and proto-rifle shooting blogger wrote in his respected tome Hagakure "There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. Running under eaves of houses you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning you will not be perplexed; although you get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything."