Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shooting Range Trip

Yesterday, my wife kicked me out of the house. OK, she didn't kick me out, just when I suggested I go shooting, she was more than happy to let me go. She had a surprise she wanted to prepare for me and it was easier to do with me gone. So I developed a plan in my mind. I had a series of things to do to work on some shooting skills.

1) Shoot hand thrown clays with the single shot 20 gauge. I shot clays for the first time over Thanksgiving and found out that my skills at "Duck Hunt" don't transfer over so well. So much for video games "honing" my killing instincts. I figured hand tossing them would be easier to get my tracking/leading skills practiced so I can impress my brothers the next time we shoot clays. Plus, I didn't want to have to reset the clay thrower each time.

2) Try out the CZ-82 that I just obtained. This was dependent on the store having Makarov ammunition.

3) Test out the bore sighter I recently purchased using the Saiga 7.62 and Highpoint 9mm Carbine.

4) Shoot the crap out of an old computer case filled with stuffed animals. The computer case is from our old computer in which I sold off all of the components and probably made 25% more than just selling the computer (Ebay is great!). The stuffed animals were once my kids. I intend to use most of them for the cannon, but after practicing with the cannon in January, one stuffed animal can survive multiple flights! So I combined these two. Computer case with stuffed animals.

So, I loaded up the car and I was off. There is lots of snow on the ground and it was just below freezing. Good day to go to the range, mainly because no one is there. The one I went to is about 25 minutes from my house and off the beaten path. There is usually not much traffic to bother you and on cold days there is usually not many others. As I drove past the rifle and pistol range towards the shotgun range, I saw no cars parked. Good sign. No one was at the shotgun range either.

Now, my first fear was getting stuck in the snow of the gravel lot. The road in had nicely packed snow which allowed me to drive comfortably at 50 mph, normally without the packed snow I can only do 35 mph. However, since the parking lot for the range had so little usage, there was only tire tracks in the 4 to 8 inch deep snow. In fact, I think I saw my tire tracks from when I was here last month. So I began by doing some donuts, peeling out quite a bit and generally clearing the area so that I would have an easier time of going forward from a stop. Then I carefully backed into a spot.

It was looking good. I opened the back door and carried my box of clays to one of the shotgun positions. All I needed now was the 20 gauge and the shells which were locked in my trunk. One thing to understand here is my car is 18 years old. The automatic trunk release did not work when I bought the car 8 years ago. In the last year or two, the trunk has remained stuck shut even when the key turns and the proper application of mechanical force needs to be applied to open it while maintaining the key in the "Open" position. So when I turned the key and it was stuck I expected this. I applied the proper force and the trunk opened.

I did have a sick feeling, and as I looked at the keys in my hand, my fear had been realized. The key had broken off in the lock. But at least the trunk was open! I did mention before on JayG's blog that I don't have a cell phone. When asked what I would do if I was stranded somewhere, I said I would walk (sort of like what they did for the last 500,000 years of human history).

I stood for a moment and had a quandry. As I mentioned before, the shooting range is rather remote and it could be a while before someone drove by (no one was going to be stopping though). I could start with my shooting plan and then flag a car down or I could start walking. I decided that it would be most responsible to do the shooting first and then worry about a ride home. After all, there were around 2-3 thousand rounds of ammunition and a half dozen firearms. So, if I was going to have to abandon the car, (I wasn't going to trek down the road with a couple of rifles and shotgun slung over my back and some pistols in my belt) it would be best to use up the ammunition so that on the unlikely chance that some miscreant did decide to wonder out into the boonies, break into my car, and steal some firearms, he'd still have to stop at WalMart to buy ammunition. Besides, I could always remove the bolts, slides, and cylinders and the firearms would be pretty useless (and that is a lot less weight to carry).

I pulled out the 20 gauge and a box of shells and headed over to the shooting station. I had decided to use the single shot, since it was very light so I could comfortably have it ready with one hand, and I bought it for $35 so if it got ruined in the snow, it is not a great loss. I may just abuse the thing one day to see what extent I can take it and it will still fire. I don't like to see guns destroyed (that is one of the saddest things to see on Mythbusters), so I don't plan on it any time soon.

I was using #7 steel shot (because that is what I had in the ammo cabinet - yes, I have an ammunition cabinet, it also happens to be the gasoline, motor oil, and any other flammable/explosive stuff cabinet that I don't want the kids to easily get their hands on). The trick with shooting clays is to line the barrel up with where the clay is going to be when they meet. Unlike what you may have learned from Hollywood, a shotgun does not throw up an impenetrable curtain of lead. A good rule of thumb is that the shot will spread about 1" for every yard. I estimate that I was throwing the clays about 10 yards in the air and out another 10 yards so depending on where I took my shot, I had a spread of 10-15".

What can make shooting clays difficult is that they are moving in three dimensions (and if you think about it, so is the shot). If the clay is still rising, you want to be pointing slightly above it, if the clay is falling you want to aim below it. Add to this a horizontal movement factor and that if as the angle the shotgun to the ground increases (i.e. pointing more upward), you need to compensate by pointing more above the target.

Mathematics wise, I can figure out the ballistics on paper, the reason why I am not competing in the Olympics is because you have to put that in practice, and you don't have to know jack about math to get into the Olympics. Practicing worked well. I was hitting about 2/3 of them and even had a string of 6 with no misses. It is very satisfying to see clays explode into dust. You definitely know when you have hit them.

While I was going through the first box of shells, a truck started coming down the road. I set the shotgun down and ran out to the road. (It is usually not a good idea, especially in rural parts of the country to run at vehicles while holding a firearm.) The man was nice enough to let me use his cell phone and my wife said she could be out there in an hour or so. We chatted briefly and he went on his way while I went back to practicing.

After a box of shells, I would go out on the range and pick up unbroken clays (no sense in leaving them out there without having served their purpose). Then start a new box. After two and a half boxes (about 65 rounds) I had made it through half of the box clays (about 45). I still had 10 rounds left and decided to try something different. I had a computer power supply with a big long strand of cords. The cords made a great handle to throw and I shot that a few times. Birdshot doesn't go through the metal case.

After finishing off all of the shotgun ammunition I had brought, I had another dilemma. I couldn't drive down to the rifle and shotgun range, and I had at least another 45 minutes until my wife got there. To wait in the car would be really boring (since there was no key to start the radio). So I made a compromise. You're not suppose to use rifles and pistols at the shotgun range (hence the name "Shotgun Range"), however, I was in dire circumstances. So I made a compromise. I decided I would only use the revolver (that way there would be no brass flying everywhere).

So I set up the computer case and started plinking away. I was using a European Arms Bounty Hunter .22 LR Single Action revolver. It has fixed sights. I was very pleased with how accurate it was (even with bulk ammunition). I was able to make a 1 inch group of six at about 7 yards.

Also, the ammunition wasn't penetrating the computer case (except after multiple hits in the same location. The baked on coating did make for a decent shoot & see target as the dark gray enamel would be chipped off, leaving a shiny dent. I went through about 150 rounds until my wife got there and was able to practice two handed (isosceles and weaver), strong hand, weak hand, point shooting, and rapid fire (which is fun with a single action). With the key from my wife, I decided to come home. I'll just have to save the computer case with plush toys for another day.

Turns out, she left the cheesecake recipe lying out which I saw as I washed my hands. When she asked after dinner and revealed her cheesecake if I was surprised, I had to admit that I saw the recipe lying out. She was mad (she has been trying so hard all of our marriage to surprise me).

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