Hey, my name is Cal Zant and I’m the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. As I started getting into long-range rifle shooting, I was trying to learn as much as I could and quickly noticed that the collective knowledge of the shooting community was primarily contained in forums threads spread across the internet. There are a lot of great things inherent to this approach, one being that it is naturally peer-reviewed. This is powerful, because if someone says something that isn’t right … he is quickly corrected. But there are a few downsides as well:
- Info is very fragmented, with each thread being narrowly focused on one particular topic. There might be a lot of info out there on a narrow topic, but it is spread over hundreds of forum threads and websites.
- Rarely is there a comprehensive, organized overview/intro to any particular topic that helps tie multiple concepts together and help people understand how they relate. Often times a minor aspect of a topic may get a lot of focus on a particular thread, with no mention of another more critical aspects of the same topic.
- Filled with unexplained acronyms and jargon that make it hard for a beginner/novice to follow or understand.
- Facts and strong opinions are evenly mixed and often hard to distinguish between. Empirical results or definitive sources can be quickly outweighed if they stand in contrast to popular belief of the majority. Original studies and whitepapers are rarely referenced. Sometimes gut-driven, instead of data-driven.
- Some topics never discussed at all. It would amaze me when I couldn’t find anything at all on a particular topic, but it happens occasionally.
Some forums are way better at these things than others, and the extent can vary significantly based on the community of people involved.
My theory is that people who are good shooters are typically not the people who have a blog. They either don’t have the time, motivation or technical skills to share the immense amount of knowledge in their head online. They may actively participate in a forum, but won’t create more in-depth content than what can be expressed in 1-2 paragraphs.
What I Have to Offer
I believe what I have to offer is not as much expertise or credentials in long-range shooting, as my unique approach and skillset.
My not-so-impressive list of credentials:
- Shooting rifles since 1993, precision reloading since 2003, shooting long-range (500+ yards) since 2009, competitive long-range shooting since 2010
- When I’m new to any subject, I try to read a stack of books to learn from the experts. Here is a few I’ve read on relevant topics:
- Applied Ballistics For Long-Range Shooting by Bryan Litz (Read twice)
- Accuracy and Precision for Long Range Shooting: A Practical Guide for Riflemen by Bryan Litz (Read twice)
- Precision Shooting at 1,000 Yards, edited by Dave Brennan
- Precision Shooting Reloading Guide, edited by Dave Brennan
- The Art of Precision Rifle DVD Set by Magpul with Todd Hodnett
- Berger Bullets Reloading Manual by Eric Stecker, Walt Berger, Bryan Litz & John Barsness
- The Gun Digest Book of Long-Range Shooting by L.P. Brezny
- Rifle Accuracy Facts by Harold R. Vaughn
- Took a 1,000 yard shooting class offered by Aaron Royal
- Shot in 30+ regional long-range rifle competitions, and won a few of them (format is very similar to the Sporting Rifle Match held at the NRA Whittington Center)
- Shot in the 2013 Steel Safari (one of the premier true field long-range practical shooting matches in the country) and placed 24th out of 60+ expert competitors. This was my rookie year and I had a big learning curve, but after getting a feel for how it worked after day 1 … I had over 50% hits on day 2 & 3, which Zak Smith (the guy who puts it on) will tell you is good shooting for that match. I did manage to edge out at least one sponsored shooter and an Army Ranger, but more importantly placed high enough to win $600 in prizes. I then placed 18th in the 2014 Steel Safari.
- Placed 10th (out of 60) in the Sept 2013 Sporting Rifle Match at the NRA Whittington Center
- Wrote my own ballistics engine software based on Bryan Litz’s formulas. Also wrote a custom cartridge/ballistics comparison app that is really, really cool because it compares 20+ aspects of various cartridges dynamically. I hope to publish this online for others to use in the future.
- President of a local shooting club that has a private range with targets out to 2,000 yards. This allows me to regularly shoot out to 1 mile in some of the toughest wind conditions imaginable (in a canyon in windy West Texas, shown below).
I realize those credentials aren’t anything compared to a lot of guys out there, but I feel my unique background, skillset, and approach is what can bring value here.
- I’m an engineer, which causes me to have a very scientific, data-driven, logical approach. I have the natural ability to break down a complex problem or topic to the most critical pieces. I try to question everything, and am very deliberate about staying objective and unbiased. I may occasionally state my opinion or recommendation, but I try to always make a clear distinction between facts and opinion, and really limit the later.
- I have a very heavy technology background. This allows me to do a lot of things very easily (e.g. custom software, databases, Photoshop graphics, CAD drawings) that most people would struggle with. I’ve been the lead software developer on some very high-profile websites (50,000+ concurrent users on the 1st day), so the technical side of this is simple for me.
- I have formal training and professional experience in technical writing. I’ve had several people tell me that I have an uncanny ability to explain a complex concept in a way that is easy to understand. I like the quote “If you can’t explain something to an 8 year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” I have the ability to organize/edit content and represent complex info in a way that makes it easy to take in, whether that is through words, diagrams, examples, videos, etc. I’m also a vigorous editor of my own content. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” – William Strunk Jr.
- I’m a good researcher & organizer. As an IT guy, I’ve become a black-belt Googler. Also in the technology world you have to be able to sort through piles of information to find what you are looking for and then organize that information to make it easy to take in or do side-by-side comparison. I place high importance on original sources that are backed by empirical data, and can quickly sort through multiple sources of content to find the ones that are the most trustworthy or definitive.
- I’m still fairly new. I can still see things with fresh eyes, and recognize when I need to explain an acronym or the idea behind a particular concept. I try to avoid jargon when I can, or explain it at the very least. Starting the blog as I’m learning helps me document the process, and take time to explain core concepts or ideas as I learn them and fill in gaps where I couldn’t find good resources online to help others coming behind me. This also means I will cover topics that are more basic, and as I gain experience I’ll naturally start to include more advanced topics.
- Life-long learner – I’m constantly learning and trying to improve. I learn through reading, but also think you can learn something from just about anyone … so I’m just always open to hear what someone has to say. I’m never satisfied with the status quo, and put a lot of effort into staying up with the latest information. That means I’ll regularly post about different topics I’m learning about or researching.
- Servant heart & Freely Giving of Info – Ultimately I really do just want to help other people that are trying to learn this stuff too. That is what gives me the underlying drive and discipline to put all the time into this stuff. I know firsthand it can be frustrating and time consuming trying to figure out which way is up on some of this stuff, and I’m striving to make it simpler for the next guy that comes along. I think giving information away for free is something new with the generation of people I’m part of that have had the internet since high school. I simply want to publish what I’ve learned as a service to people in the shooting community. If it helps someone … that’s great with me.
Another thing that helps me with this blog is that I have 3 close friends that are accomplished shooters, and all of us have different equipment. This gives me insight and experience I wouldn’t have if I was just one guy or if everyone I shot with did it the same way.
And the last thing that I think helps this blog is that I’ve enabled comments for peer review/correction, and a chance for more experienced/expert shooters to chime in. This ultimately means I’m willing to put myself out there for criticism. I certainly appreciate constructive criticism, but care so much about helping others that I’ll even tolerate the destructive kind too (I’ve already experienced a lot of that). If you feel like I’ve posted bad information, or confused the facts … then by all means, please enlighten me and in the end we’ll all get better.
Ultimately if blog is just a place where I just save and organize all my notes so I can easily reference back to them later … that is enough for me. But if others find it useful too, all the better.