The Goal

The Goal

Thursday, 16 February 2017

What have shooting jackets ever done for us?

A member of the UK Fullbore Facebook Page recently asked a superb question, which I paraphrase below:

Isn't the shooting jacket just a convenient place to attach your sling?

Personally,  I really hope not, otherwise I have wasted a serious amount of cash over the years which could have been better spent on bullets or beer; however the questioner has actually got a bit of a point. What do jackets actually do for us and quite why do we spend so much money on them? First, an experiment...

SCATT Practice in the garage. Hard to see from this angle, but the jacket is completely undone.

If you're a regular reader, it cannot have escaped your attention that I like experimental evidence because it tells us the way the world really works, and not how people believe that it should work. In this case, I wanted to see what effect completely undoing my jacket would have on SCATT as some smallbore shooters are known to do in the prone position. As an experiment to see what effect this has on support and stability*, this was done completely on a whim so I don't pretend that it is statistically valid, but it is at least interesting.

While the group was slightly larger, the vital numbers are essentially no different, even taking account of the odd third shot in the second string, as the screen captures of the SCATT sessions below demonstrate.

Ignore shot 3 in the second string. Probably interference.

 Qualitatively, the hold did not feel as secure without the jacket done up, and certainly when not on final aim it did seem to wave about quite a bit. Additionally, the butt of the rifle was harder to place in the shoulder and I don't feel that it would have behaved quite the same under recoil; however this is essentially conjecture without a trial. In conclusion, despite the results from SCATT being essentially indistinguishable I won't be shooting with my jacket undone any time soon!

So, what have shooting jackets ever done for us?

In addition to being an excellent place to attach your sling and make sure that it stays roughly in the same place relative to your musculo-skeletal system, your jacket fulfils a number of other functions in fullbore rifle shooting: it provides support and allows you to maintain the proper position for longer and more consistently as a result; the rubber on the elbows and in the shoulder prevent you from slipping between shots or while in the aim; the stiffness and thickness of the material helps soak up a little bit of the recoil, which reduces fatigue, and it helps to isolate the rifle from your heartbeat; and finally it gives you some protection from the elements that we have to endure when shooting outdoors.

It is possible to shoot decent scores without using a full shooting jacket; I remember forgetting my jacket many years ago, improvising with a greatcoat and a belt as slingkeeper and shooting a 35.5 at 300 yards; AP of Australia won the Corporation of the City of London match at 1000 yards with a score of 50.9 (dropping his last shot to a cooking bull, no less) in 2016 using a harness-like arrangement sold by a well-known UK shooting tailor. Despite this, I would suggest that your scores are going to be more consistent using a well-fitting jacket of roughly conventional design.

* Yes, before you all shout at me, I know that a lot of the stability for the sling position in particular comes from the fit across the shoulders and upper arms.


  1. Intetesting read. However, I would argue that the qualitative element can be an excuse for 'poor scoring' i.e. without a tightly fitting jacket, groups open out resulting in lower scores, particularly at longer distances. In that regard, combined with better equipment, tighter groups are achieved therefore necessitating reduced size scoring rings. Perhaps shooting with jackets open will identidy better those shooters who are more accurate and consistent in their setups. Maybe a better perspective would be to review the H&S of the jacket for shooters to try and justify its use when done up?

  2. Charles Dickenson17 February 2017 at 01:45

    My first leather jacket (from Andrew Tucker) was a wedding present from my wife, so it was over 20 years before I summoned up the courage (and money) to replace it. By this time it was so soft and floppy that it was little more than a place to attach a sling. The replacement (also from Andrew Tucker) was so stiff that it took several weeks of gradual wearing in before I could use it for a full shoot, but when I did the results were dramatic - it held me in position so well that I could hardly miss the bull without effort and my group sizes shrank dramatically. I can't quantify it (it's over 10 years ago now), but it certainly made a very large difference.

  3. You need top quality earmuffs to drown out the laughter when people see me in the "harness"!

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