Shooting the Mossberg Patriot 450 Bushmaster Rifle
Two weeks ago, I spent a rainy afternoon at Wilbur Wright Fish & Wildlife Area trying to figure out how to shoot high recoil rifles and to sight-in my Mossberg, bolt-action Patriot .450 Bushmaster rifle. I would never have bought a bored gun this large a caliber, but I won it and added a muzzle-break to reduce the recoil. That $80 addition didn’t help much.
I had it shooting good enough to kill two deer last season with a couple of flaws. The elevation reticle had been adjusted up as far as it would go. I was aiming four-inches high at 50-yards to hit the bullseye. Actually, I was not hitting the bullseye consistently. In one week I would expect to put three bullets within two-inches of dead center to qualify for a nature preserve hunt. I doubted that I could do it and would have to drive 112-miles just to try.
The next day, I paid a visit to the Gunslingers Gun Shop. My timing was perfect. There were several customers and employees at the basement shooting range. One fellow took a look at my scope problem. He put some muscle on it and the adjustment knob must have clicked 10 times. I hoped that this adjustment would put it in the bullseye.
A young man named Jordan Caulk came along. “What a neat rifle,” he said. I asked, “If you like it so well how about shooting it.” He grabbed the Mossberg and I handed him a box of 450 bushmaster ammo.
This lad was going to shoot this high recoil 450 bushmaster rifle free-hand. To top that he was putting up a six-inch square target. I suggested he put a larger backing behind it. Caulk fired three times with each bullet hole touching the other at 25-yards. I didn’t think he would get on paper.
I was shocked. The “X factor” in this equation was me.
I queried Caulk on how he shoots high recoil rifles. He holds the butt of the rifle firmly to his shoulder just above the armpit. Instead of squeezing the trigger on exhale, Caulk pulls the trigger at the end of exhaling his breath at the pause.
This high recoil rifle had ruled me for two years. In anticipation of the high recoil, I was slapping or jerking the trigger. Another suggestion, I took from Caulk is to relax your thumb on the stock least you cause the gun to cant.
I needed someone else to show me how good the patriot 450 bushmaster can shoot and next, I needed to show myself that I could shoot this high recoil rifle accurately.
I had to wait three days for the Wilbur Wright range to open again. The range is closed on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I asked legendary whitetail hunter Larry Lawson to go along. I’ve seen how good he shoots when it counts.
When we got my rifle dialed-in, I was shooting pretty well, but would it be good enough?
Last Saturday, I drove to Panther Ridge Gun Range, near Solsberry, Indiana located about 25-miles south of Spencer. Some 25 hunters had already shot, I would be in the last group. A couple of these guys in my group of five failed on their first try. The preserve gave the shooters a second chance to hit the target with acceptable consistency.
Shooters were allowed a front rest. Mine was one of the best, a Caldwell Tack Driver.
As I sat down on the shooting bench, Coordinator Ryan Rodts asked, “Are you a southpaw? He asked. “Yes. I am right-handed but shoot with my left hand.”
The other men got in their shots a little quicker than I did. Each time, I held the gun firmly and squeezed the trigger at the end of exhaling.
As I approached my target, I could only see two holes. I noticed, as I got closer that one of the holes was a little oblong and realized I had put three bullets in the one-inch circle. They told me, “You’re good to go.” Twelve of 42 shooters failed to qualify.
“Why did this happen,” I asked myself. For answers, I went to my daughter Jourdan who is a licensed therapist (LMFT) in Nashville, Tenn. She explained that I, and many of you, set ceilings for ourselves to make not reaching the optimum outcome palatable. Jourdan told me that it’s a “Fixed mindset” a capacity we are at is fixed and cannot be changed. This is the ultimate protection of fear or failure,” Without realizing it, we often sabotage ourselves by flinching at a high recoil we know is coming.”
She explained that once I saw another shooter consistently hit the mark, with my gun, I changed to a “Growth mindset.” “This makes failure exciting and vulnerable while trying to reach new levels of expertise,” Jourdan explained.
Is the flinching over and all the bad habits that go with it? I believe so and I learned another lesson on this trip to the range. Don’t shoot alone. Shooting with a friend or two will not embarrass you, but rather make you better.
The Mossberg 450 Bushmaster is a high recoil rifle. However, shooting the rifle will help you gain confidence. With range time the Bushmaster 450 can be shot comfortably and consistently hit the mark. Besides when have you ever worried about a high recoil rifle when the animal you are hunting steps out? Get to the range and shoot the 450 Bushmaster to get familiar with its recoil and use these tips to help you become a better shooter with high recoil rifles.