Shooting in hot weather
PUBLISHED: 11:08 04 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:40 11 August 2020
How does hot weather affect our shooting? How can we stay hydrated and shoot well in the heat? Gary Chillingworth answers these questions and more
We’re coming into the hottest part of the year, so it’s a good idea to look at how heat and dehydration can affect the body and affect the way we shoot. As we all learned at school, the human body is mainly made up from water, with a bit of carbon, calcium, hydrogen and nitrogen thrown in for good measure, although when I spoke to my doctor last week, he said is was also about 4% Spam and apparently, this is a bit too high.
When it gets very hot and we are walking around the woods in boots and camo, carrying a heavy rifle and bag, the body starts to dehydrate. The brain has a series of signals that it sends out and the first of these is a dry mouth, this is then followed by headaches and cramp. However, one of the very first things to happen to the human body is the shutting down of the tear ducts when you are getting dehydrated, and this leads to a condition called ‘dry eye’. Tears are used to lubricate the eyes and this helps the eye to focus properly and with the help of the brain enables us to judge distance.
Without the full amount of optical lubrication (calibre humour) the eyes will get tired, and eye strain will massively affect your ability to see your targets and rangefind them accurately – if you have ever had to blink a few times to focus on a target, you are becoming dehydrated.
I spoke to a local optician and was told that everyone should keep themselves hydrated and it’s important not to wait until you get thirsty before you drink. In warm weather drink at least one 500ml bottle of water every 90 min. The second recommendation is a saline eye drop available from any pharmacy. These drops will help a shooter to lubricate their eyes, and if you have driven a long way to a shoot, it will also help with the strain of motorway driving.
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The other main issue apart from fluid, is salts. As we sweat, we lose large amounts of the body’s salts (electrolytes) and this can also have a negative effect on the muscles, including those in the eyes. There are two simple solutions to this, the first is eat a banana, either halfway round the course, or about 60 minutes after you start shooting. Banana’s are full of potassium and are the perfect food for people who need to keep the salt level up.
The second option is an electrolyte drink. I have started to use a drink called ‘High5 zero’, which costs about £4 for a tube of 20 tablets. Add one to a bottle of water and you get a perfect electrolyte drink that tastes of pink grapefruit. I split the bottle into four sections and every seven targets, I drink a quarter and to top it up, I carry a bottle of water as well. This is why you see tennis players take a drink from one bottle and then from another.
Also, we must think about diet. Now, we all love a bacon sandwich before we shoot, but there is a very high salt content in bacon, which can also help to dehydrate the body. It is well known that tea and coffee are diuretics and this can also have an effect on dehydration, but we are not Olympians and if I have to forego my tea and coffee and a bacon sandwich, then I will give up shooting and take up Scrabble. The thing is though, if you are a big tea or coffee drinker and you are used to a mid-morning cuppa, then missing this out could also affect the way you shoot. Caffeine is addictive and if you miss your fix, you can develop headaches and irritability.
As you move around the course, it’s a good idea to have a snack in your bag; small packets of nuts and raisins are good, muesli bars can be great, but can be high in sugar and can make you a bit hyper and that is not always a good thing at a shooting event.
Finally, we must also think about what we wear in the summer. Dark and heavy clothing will absorb the heat, so wear trousers and shirts that are light, made from cotton and aren’t too tight. Always wear a hat because this will keep the sun off your head, and if you can get one, I strongly recommended a cooling neck wrap. This is a piece of kit that is used by the British Army; you soak it in cold water and then wrap it round your neck. The material keeps cool for hours and some have gel inside which absorbs the cold water and this cooling affect on the carotid artery in the neck helps your body to regulate heat. I have used one for years and they are great.
Basically, drink water, eat little and often and keep the sun of your head – do these three things and on sunny days you will enjoy your shooting much more. ■