Rimfire pistols with optical sights (RFPO) and rimfire rifles with optical sights (RFRO), have played a major role in the recent growth of Steel Challenge. In fact, at the 2018 World Championship there were over 220 shooters in those two divisions.
It’s a fun, and relatively inexpensive, way to play the game. But for those shooters who have yet to try a red dot sight on a rifle or pistol, there can be a learning curve.
Centerfire pistol shooters who have transitioned to the dot know that they will start from the holster; making a proper draw stroke and presentation critical. Rimfire shooters, whether rifle or pistol, do things differently. They will start from the Low Ready position. At the start signal they simply raise the gun to the first target.
Many handgun shooters find that that a more forward sight position gives them a positive shooting wrist lock.
The quickest way for rimfire shooters to get that red dot on target is to adopt the “Three L Technique”―Look, Lock and Look. (View the gallery at the top of this article for visual aids.)
When a RFPO shooter gets ready to make their run they will assume a firing grip and point the muzzle downward at about a 45-degree angle to center on the downrange sign or cone that marks the Low Ready hold point.
At this time the shooter “Looks” through the sight to center the dot. Then they “Lock” their wrists to hold the dot right in the center of the sight window. Next, they raise their head and “Look” at the first target they will engage. At the BEEP, it’s just a matter of raising the arms to bring the gun and dot right to where the eyes are already focused. When done properly, it can be quick―much quicker than a draw from the holster.
The key, however, is the “Lock.”
If the wrist “Lock” is broken as the gun comes to the first target, and starts flopping around the dot can be lost. This often results in a spirited (and sometimes frantic) game of “Where’s Waldo?” That’s not something a shooter can afford when Steel Challenge score times are measured in fractions of a second.
The locked wrists are critical. And, they have to be more than just locked wrists to center the dot at the start. They need to be locked into a proper shooting grip position that will carry the shooter smoothly through the remaining four plates. Getting a solid wrist lock for the first shot is useless if the shooter has to change it (Where’s Waldo?) for the remaining targets.
The grips on the handgun certainly play a role. But, maybe more so, is the position of the reflex sight on the mounting rail. It can make a big difference when it comes to achieving a proper locked-wrist shooting grip.
Nothing says the red dot has to be mounted back where the rear iron sight used to be. Many shooters find that experimenting with more forward mounting positions (even forward of the ejection port) will give them the best “Look and Lock.” It’s worth the time to play with the mounting position.
Rimfire rifle shooters (RFRO) will also start from the same Low Ready position, and will benefit from the “Three L Technique.” But the “Lock” is done differently.
Rifle shooters can achieve a “shotgun-like fit” by experimenting with comb height and sight position, to automatically put the dot on the target when the gun is mounted.
A proper grip is important with a rifle. But wrist locking isn’t needed. Once the shooter mounts the rifle to their shoulder, drops the muzzle to the Low Ready, and confirms the dot on the first “Look,” and then takes the second “Look” at the target―the head comes off the stock.
When the rifle is snapped up to the first target the head has to hit the stock in the proper position to center the dot. If the gun mount doesn’t put the eye on the dot it can lead to another rousing game of “Where’s Waldo?”
Sporting Clays shooters (who start with the gun butt on their hip and can’t move the gun until the target clay appears) know that a proper gun fit is critical. Hit the gun mount quickly, and the bead (sights) have to be on. That requires a gun that is properly fit to the shooter. Shooters differ in stature and one size doesn’t fit all. RFRO shooters are no different. But, there is no reason a RFRO shooter can't slap the gun up to the first target and have the same dead-on gun fit.
Getting that fit can sometimes be as simple as experimenting with the sight mounting position on the rail. Or it may require adjusting the height of the comb to center the eye on the dot. Some shooters opt for custom stocks with an adjustable comb height to allow that fit. Another less expensive option is the add-on cheek pieces available to clay target shooters. Companies like Accu-riser, Beartooth Products, Meadow Industries, and others provide inexpensive “slip-on” comb pads that can adjust the comb height to center the dot for RFRO shooters.
A simple practice drill to master the “Three Ls” with rifle or pistol doesn’t require a range. Tape a 6-inch square of white paper onto a far wall in the house as the target. Triple-check to make certain the gun is empty, and then practice the “Look, Lock and Look” and presentation sequence. Start facing the target. Then shift for additional presentations to put it 30-45 degrees to right or left (as will be needed in different Steel Challenge stages). That will get the gun presentation dialed in.
It’s not hard to master rimfire reflex sights, and the “Three L Technique” will make for a quick learning curve.