I am not sure if all hunters or shooters do, but I have my favourite rifle(s) that I tend to use as my go-to for most hunts. It is not necessarily based on calibre or look, but more on years of success in the field or at the range. It is the relationship between the rifle and myself that can’t always be explained, the rifle seems to fire by itself at the exact moment required to make the perfect shot even if I wasn’t up to the task myself. I have owned countless rifles in my life, but really only a select few that I could truly consider my go-to. In fact, I would only use one rifle for almost everything, sometimes it was a little over gunned for a lot of applications, but I had the confidence in it. I never thought it would cause me any issues to have just one, until it broke.
Several years ago, I was on a hunting trip and had the trigger malfunction on my favourite gun. I had replaced the factory trigger with an upgraded, after-market model. The sear in the trigger group had broken clean off. I’m not sure why this happened, but I just assumed that the metal was over hardened in production and was brittle; nevertheless, my favourite rifle was down but not out. When I installed the aftermarket trigger, I put the original trigger into my little travelling tool/armorers kit and that was with me back at the hut. That evening back in the hut, I re-installed the factory trigger and thought that the worst was behind me.
With the rifle back operational, I was back hunting; however, it was quickly evident with a few misses that I had issues with the factory trigger. The aftermarket trigger had a much lighter and crisper trigger pull than the factory original, which was the main reason I had swapped it out years earlier. It was like using a completely new rifle for the first time; and being on a hunting trip, I didn’t have the time or ammunition with me to go to a range and become accustomed to the rifle again. I did set a target out and verified that the rifle was zeroed and the missed game was on me and not the rifle. I did bag a few more animals and finished the trip, but it really had me re-thinking my reliance on one particular rifle. I relied on this rifle so much that it was almost a detriment to my success.
Dependence on one rifle or shotgun in itself isn’t bad, but it did leave me compromised on that one trip. I was so used to where and when the rigger would break, when that small little piece of the process was changed, I was almost lost, and it greatly affected my efficiency in the field.
It was on this trip and this incident that I made the decision to train myself to be more proficient with rifles other than my own. I have been fortunate to have been able to travel the continent and take numerous firearm courses using the provided firearms. This has helped me overcome the strict muscle memory of my own firearms and be able to adapt to most rifles given to me. Of course, I (and probably most people) would be far more comfortable and efficient with a familiar firearm, I am never going to say that isn’t so!
I now find myself back at a similar crossroads. Last week I was on a hunting trip overseas when the COVID-19 situation took a very quick turn for the worse. I was in a remote camp and information was hard to come by, but with the hit-and-miss wi-fi capabilities it became abundantly clear that we needed to get home as fast as possible. In the effort to get home, flights were not only re-scheduled, but canceled and then re-booked with different airlines. Unfortunately, not all countries are firearm friendly and the decision was made to leave my rifles behind in secure storage until the pandemic is over and I can return to retrieve them. The good news is I may possibly sneak another hunt in while I am there! And yet again, I am back in that same position, without the comfort of my familiar rifle in my hands. Now this is hardly a serious issue as the world battles this virus, but a small bump in the road.
The next time you are at the range, try a firearm that you normally don’t shoot, whether it is a friend’s or another shooter at the range having an issue with his firearm. Try a friend’s shotgun on the trap range. Every time you have the opportunity to broaden your experiences firsthand, take it. It may come back as an asset one day.
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