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Shooters have perfection in their sights
Retired Army sharpshooter teaches tricks of the trade

CAVENDISH -- Hal Byrd of Kirkland, Wash., hunches over a rifle and peers through its scope at a target more than 600 yards away.

Behind him, Tom Dolan of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., stares at the same target, only through a pair of binoculars.

"Wind is three at 10 o'clock," says Dolan. "Hold to the left edge of the smudge."

Byrd steadies himself as he follows the directions.

"Spotter ready," says Dolan.

"Shooter ready," says Byrd.

He squ eezes off a shot.

Dolan tells him he missed the center of the target by about two inches to the left.

"Boy, that is pretty damn good shooting," says another man, Gene Econ, who is looking at the target through a high-powered spotting scope.

Byrd, Dolan and about 20 others shooters are attending a shooting clinic taught by Econ. The retired Special Forces major who runs a sniper course at Fort Lewis, Wash., is teaching the m to hit targets 300 to 1,000 yards away by taking a scientific approach to shooting and using teamwork.

What they learn this day will be put to the test just a few days later, when they gather to shoot at exploding targets at the annual Boomer Shoot near Cavendish.

The shooters still will need spotters to help them hit their targets at the Boomer Shoot, but they won't need to be told when their aim is on.

The targets, packed with explosives, release thunderclaps, clouds of smoke and the occasional fireball when the high-velocity bullets connect.

But for now they are content to shoot at nonexploding targets. Econ teaches them how to work as a team.

The spotter reads wind speed and direction and feeds the information to the shooter. He also watches the shot and tries to determine where bullets hit. If the shooter is off, it is the spotter's job to help him by suggesting adjustments.

After his shot at 600 yards, Byrd tries to reach out more than 900 yards to hit a target.

Dolan and Econ try to dial him in, but after several adjustments the shots are still off. Byrd checks his equipment and finds a loose screw on one of his scope mounts. He kicks himself for not meticulously going through a preshooting check list preached by Econ that would have caught the loose screw.

The clinic and Boomer Shoot attract precision shooters and gun lovers from all over the country. They say they like the sp ort because it requires attention to detail and constant adjustments.

"The thing that intrigues me is the analysis and the logic of figuring it all out," says Dolan. "It's problem solving. You prove you did the problem right by getting the bullet to hit the target."

It's a process that requires thoroughness, practice and patience.

"It's like needlepoint for guys," says Byrd.

Kim Dutoit and his 16-year- old son, Jack, drove 1,800 miles from their home in Plano, Texas, to atte nd the clinic and Boomer Shoot.

Dutoit has a popular blog on the Internet where he frequently writes about shooting and guns. He says the event attracts people of like minds for a weekend of camaraderie.

"I like being around gun guys and serious shooters," he says. "These guys are serious shooters and nice guys."

Both Dutoits are fans of older rifles. Jack is shooting a Swedish-made Mauser with iron sights and hitting targets at 600 yards.

"He shoots better with iron sites th an I do with a scope," says his father.

Precision shooting is a tool that helps the elder Dutoit relax. He says the sport demands a sense of calm and he admits he is not naturally a calm person.

"You have to slow down. It's probably the best self-calming mechanism that exists."


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