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Canipe Correspondence – Perishable Skills

Recently, I decided to get back into shooting my long guns. They’re just sitting in the vault, I’m not gonna get rid of them, and they cost too damn much to let them sit there. When I didn’t have to keep data on three guns at a time any more, I was a little burned out on the ass-pain of long range shooting. I loved it, but to do it right was a huge commitment. Your sniper rifles are like kids, they require constant attention or they’re not gonna turn out right. I was a little rusty to say the least, I had forgotten some steps in terms of maintaining the system as well as developing firing solutions to record for future use. Just a few short years ago, all of that stuff was second nature. Not so much any more, as I’m learning. A lot has happened since I stopped being behind the gun every day, and there are a couple of things I’ve lost that aren’t an easy thing to catch back up on.

The first one is re-learning the basics. When you let a skill go unattended for too long, the foundation all your hard work was built on has crumbled. It comes back, sure enough, but I never would have though I’d have to break out the SOTIC manual to remember some of the basic firing formulas and ballistics information. When I rebuilt my guns, I had to reference the torque values for all the screws that I used to know by heart. It’s pretty annoying to have to re-learn old stuff instead of learning the new stuff (more on that later). This isn’t exclusive to long-range shooting, although that is an exceptionally technical skill set. Maintenance of those skills is something I’m really wishing I had kept up right about now, and it wouldn’t have been that hard to put a little time into retaining those skills. Fortunately factory loaded ammo is pretty good today or the big Dillon press would have to be re-assembled. At least I haven’t had to fight that fight again yet…

Secondly, I have found out how far behind I am in new technology and employment techniques. The advances in reticles, night vision systems, new optimized calibers and bullet designs, suppressors, and operating systems are keeping me pretty busy right now. So, not only had I lost the base I did have, I got left behind on all the new stuff over the last few years…and there has been a lot of it. In terms of buying new equipment I’m trying to sort through all the new stuff and I’m fortunate enough to work with a true expert on this stuff so I can call him for advice. Still, walking around the USASOC Sniper Comp vendor tent last week, I was a little intimidated by how far state-of-the-art has progressed. Apart from the equipment, the skills and techniques have made a lot of progress in the last couple of years. As I reach out to buddies who are still active snipers, I’ve lost a lot of relevance by not staying current with TTPs used in current operations. So as I am taking the time to re-learn the stuff I knew, I am also trying to play catch-up on all the stuff that’s happened since my priorities shifted. That’s what your constant attention to your skills buys you, a degree of relevance that you won’t have to play catch-up on later.

My situation is kind of specific, but I think the concept applies to everything we might need and let go for some reason. We all see the fat guy in the gym who “really let himself go”. Right now, I’m that guy, but with a sniper rifle, and I really wish I hadn’t let myself go this much. The moral of the story is, all of our skills are perishable. They take the time and effort to maintain and further develop, and they’re never as good as they used to be once you pick them back up and knock the dust off without significant effort.


3 Responses to “Canipe Correspondence – Perishable Skills”

  1. Dan says:

    You’re situation’s not that specific. More rust has accumulated than I’m willing to admit; mil relation theory has given way to finals week. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one trying to jump back in the saddle.

  2. Jason says:

    Great article! I agree, it’s not too specific–you can apply this to lots of things. Academics, shooting, work related skills. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

  3. Zues says:

    I shoot F-Class which are .308 shot at 1000yrds. The skill I find that needs the most practice to stay fluent is case prep and loading. I’ve never shot a mil-dot reticle but I believe that before people start shooting these distances they get overwhelmed by the math. It’s not that hard. The most important component; the ammunition. You will not be competitive with off the shelf ammo. Another thing that can really help after an extended break are good notes on load and atmospheric conditions. If you’ve kept good records you can read the weather report and know immediately how much powder. Another skill I see the “tactical” guys neglect is load work up. You can not use the same load any two days in a row past 800yrds. Also that AR15 that been sniperized is useless past 500yrds. I use a 45×45 luepold with an 1/8 minute dot for thousand yard.