Scope Dope Blues - MDT Field Report

Posted by Aaron Martin on 2024 Apr 17th

Scope Dope Blues - MDT Field Report

Editor's Note: MDT FIELD REPORTS are stories highlighting TEAM MDT, user-submitted stories, or insights from professionals using MDT gear. Today, we have a guest post from Aaron Martin, an Industry Professional, Precision Rifle Instructor, and a former US Marine Corps Scout-Sniper and Reconnaissance Marine.

The sky met the horizon in nearly every direction, an expanse of grass and leafy brush without a cloud to diminish the sun. Wind, of course, was the uninvited guest. Announcing its presence at the least opportune time with gusts up to thirty miles per hour. I was on the clock, my second stage of the day at this year's NRL Hunter Match in Grandfield, OK. A simple prone position – a four-target array of steel coyotes. My eyes quickly found the first two targets at approximately three hundred and fifty yards. Only a cursory search with ten power binoculars was needed to yield the remainder.

With location and range, I sighted in on the first target and used my best judgment in wind speed and direction. "Impact!" the R.O. exclaimed as I transitioned to the next target. I let out a breath as I focused on the wind hold in my reticle - my crosshairs steadied on the second coyote. The grasslands of southern Oklahoma are more like a sea. Featureless at first glance, but under inspection, a labyrinth of cuts and ditches scar the land. This same grass makes picking up near misses on targets exceedingly difficult. Bullets simply vanish into the deep green moving texture as they fold with vectors of wind. My rifle barked as I received the recoil and settled back on target. Nothing. “Re Engage!” came the RO’s call. I held a quarter of a milliradian more for a possible increase in wind speed I may have missed during my transition and sent the bullet. "Next target!" was the R.O.'s command. The following targets repeated the pattern of the second target. I walked away from the stage with two total points and more than a few questions.

The next stage presented two prairie dog targets inside two hundred and fifty yards from two shooting positions. I took my time here. Miss after miss, I attempted to triage the system. I finally dialed my elevation turret back to zero and aimed at the final target. This time, I saw the splash of the round impacting a thin spit of red dirt, approximately one milliradian over my point of aim. Something was wrong.

Travis Ishida, the founder of the National Rifle League, was assisting the R.O. at this stage. I decided to plead my case and request an opportunity to check my zero. The R.O. confirmed what I had seen. My suspicion was confirmed after putting rounds on a paper target at one hundred yards. The group was nearly one and a half milliradians high at one hundred yards and spread left to right more than half a milliradian. This led me to check my scope mounts. I found two screws on the mount were loose. Utilizing the very handy Fix-It Sticks tool kit, I addressed the mounts and applied the proper torque. I then reset my turret to remove the elevation error and settled in to shoot another five-shot group. I was presented with a problem. Dialing out the error did not remove it completely. I was still a half-milliradian high despite removing one and a half. I reset the turret again and checked my action screws for good measure. This time, the five-shot group was a tight sub-minute of angle stack resembling the clover leaf shapes this rifle had printed during the training rounds leading up to the match. My only problem now was I didn't trust my turret.

Aaron Martin shooting an NRL Hunter Match.

Many hunters lament when presented with a "busy" reticle and relegate the technology to competition shooters. I understand this. I too want as little obstruction in seeing game in my scope, especially in the fading light. While on a horseback Mule deer hunt some years back, my rifle sustained a fall directly onto the turret. The turret happened to be set for two hundred yards.

When I confirmed my zero after this fall, my groups were still set to the two-hundred-yard elevation. The problem was that I couldn't dial the turret as the mechanism was bent. Using the subtended reticle was my only chance for success. I decided on the one-hundred-yard range to trust my reticle for the rest of the match. Hunter matches rarely see targets past nine hundred yards. In any event, I could still attempt the hold at a lower power – the scope having a first focal plane. I returned to the match.

I want to say that I rallied back to win the day, having faced adversity, but I was undoubtedly rattled. In the next stages, I struggled to get into a groove. Between stages, my mind stewed over and over on this problem. I completed the day with a very average performance but a few more repetitions under my belt on using the graduated reticle for elevation and wind simultaneously.

I awoke before sunrise on the second day more confident after a night's rest and ready to attack the nine remaining stages. I felt like myself again. My thought process was simple. Find it – kill it. There was no second guessing. I was smiling. I was having fun again. With more hits than misses, I ended the day pleased with my performance. I had experienced a setback and came back roaring. I didn't quite dig myself out of the hole of day one from a points perspective, but I left the match having a restored confidence in my equipment and ability. Murphy's law dictates that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Given enough time and pressure, even the best equipment will fail. I am grateful this happened on steel targets rather than a mountain hunt, and I think I am more prepared now to meet the day when that happens.

Here is a great video from Aaron's YouTube Channel!


Aaron is a former US Marine Corps Scout-Sniper and Reconnaissance Marine, having served multiple tours. He has gone on to instruct hunters and military service members on precision rifle skills at FTW Ranch and is an engineering and design consultant in the firearms industry. He is currently competing in the NRL Hunter Series on Team Ruger. When not instructing in Texas, Aaron resides in Southern Indiana with his family. At home, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and working on the farm alongside his wife and daughter. Aaron can be reached via Instagram @TENSECONDPRECISION.


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