Wind: Another Four Letter Word

by Hap Rocketto

I don’t play golf but it seems to me that it is a game that, in many respects, is very much like shooting. They both have long history filled tradition, are practiced on similar outdoor venues, have participants from all strata of society, are a gadget lover’s dream, membership in a private club is important, and they both can eat up large amounts of time and treasure.

There are a lot more casual target shooters and golfers than there are serious practitioners of either art and there are precious few who do both well with a passion. Two of the latter are my old shooting mentors Dick Scheller and Roger McQuiggan. Roger is a better golfer than Dick while Dick is a better rifleman that Roger, but they both are pretty good at both. Certainly Roger has faced a 200 yard tee shot with less trepidation than he did when shooting off hand at the same distance. As a matter of fact, I swear that one day at a local match he pulled out a driver and ball and blasted a ball down range to relieve his tensions before he unlimbered his M14 for the offhand stage. Both are Distinguished and members of the Presidents Hundred, Dick having once won the prestigious match-taking home the trophy rifle and a letter signed by President Carter. The mantles of their living rooms are laden with National Record certificates and trophies and medals won at Camp Perry, Fort Benning, Camp Robinson, and a hundred placed in between.

Dick and Roger tell me the games are very similar. They are both contested internally against the competitor’s envelope of comfort and externally against the range and course layout and weather conditions. Equipment plays into the equation but because the best of equipment is readily available to competitors in both sports and that make the playing field pretty level. Shooters and golfer both visualize and maintain a proper amount of physical fitness to help them succeed.

Because both sports are best when played out of doors dealing with the elements become, well, a key element in winning. When it rains it rains on all pretty equally. Those of us who wear glasses can be a slight disadvantage but the rain eliminates mirage and can be a pretty good wind indicator.

Extremes in hot or cold certainly make both games a bit tougher. Heat and sun can drain your energy, but drinking plenty of water will help reduce the effects of high temperature. Sweat running down your face and in the eyes is uncomfortable and a real distraction but a good headband can help solve that problem. The most innovative method to avoid the stinging in the eyes was once told to my brother by Jerry Kozuch, a Marine shooter, who rubbed anti-perspirant onto his forehead to keep it dry. When it gets cold you just have to work at keeping your body limber and your hands warm enough so you can feel the trigger. As long as you have a good position the effects of heat and cold can be dealt with and should have little impact on your performance. Dealing with the weather is pretty much a mental battle.

However, on the other hand there is the wind, which we all know will affect the flight of both golf balls and ball ammunition. I once read, in a source long forgotten, that human physiology reacts to wind, causing the metabolic rate to increase, blood vessels to dilate, and pupils to widen. A study of general blood vessel disorders found that fully half of all myocardial infarctions and strokes occurred when the wind was blowing. I can attest to the truth of that statement for when an eight showed up on my 100 yard target at one year at Camp Perry I broke into a cold sweat, felt a shortness of breath, my left arm and hand grew numb, and a tightness developed in my chest. Fortunately the symptoms disappeared when I returned to the sighter bull and confirmed a nasty wind shift.

When all is said some of us are very sensitive to the wind and if there is an evolutionary advantage to such sensitivity, perhaps is that windy days are inherently more dangerous, in all ways making the world less predictable. And yet for some, wind seems to increase the powers of concentration.

While the wind blows on all equally it still makes every shot an adventure. As consistent as a condition may be there are subtle differences in the ebb and flow of the air and it is different for each shot. That is why a 400-40X, any 1600 or 3200, and a National Record all require the perfect combination of skill, rifle and ammunition, and luck. You can be the best in the world and have a rifle and ammo combination that shoots ten shots into a 3/8th inch group at 100 yards time after time but if you squeeze the trigger just as a condition decides to either pick up or drop off you are going to be staring down your spotting scope at a nine.

When it comes to shooting in the wind I am reminded of Napoleon. One characteristic of a successful shooter is a generous is a slice of good fortune. Naturally, this must be served up at precisely the right moment. Napoleon was poised to go into a major battle and his aides recommended a particular general. The general seemed to be an ideal candidate for he was a military genius, personally brave and tactically inspired. “But is he lucky?” asked the Emperor. Good luck, as Napoleon knew, is crucial for victory be it in a battle or shooting match. But then again, isn’t good luck simply the residue of good preparation?

About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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