Today marks a watershed in my American shooting adventure. Today, for the first time since arriving in the USA, I fired a real gun. I didn’t fire it well, but at least I fired it. The last time I shot sporting clays was in April and I had a pretty good day, but that was six months ago.
I drove off at lunchtime in a very Glaswegian rain shower, heading for the Metro Gun Club just north of Minneapolis. I actually had to go to the next exit past the one I wanted as I had to go to Fleet Farm to pick up some elasticated bandages for Amanda, she twisted her ankle last night. The bandages are actually meant for horses, but they do the same job for a fraction of the price they would be in a pharmacy.
With four bandages bought (two white, one pink and one yellow), I headed back down the road to go to the range. It looked fairly busy, but I think most of the shooting was going on in the indoor pistol range.
I have been looking at the website for a while and had determined that it would cost me $13 for a round of 25 clay targets. In Scotland I was in the habit of shooting 50 clays in a round so I paid up for two rounds of 25. The staff are very pleasant and the place is a larger concern than I am used to. It has a shop and a large area with tables and chairs; I should have spent some time exploring but I was rather keen to be shooting now that the opportunity was at hand. The girl took my money and told me I would be on field #5 and someone would be out shortly to keep score and release the clays for me.
I got my bits together, loaded my pockets with 50 shells (for 50 targets, as I was used to doing), and picked up the guns. I had brought my Beretta double and the new Weatherby pump I recently acquired, which I hoped to try out. I wandered over toward the field. It looked much like all the others in sight, five shooting stands arrayed in a semicircle with a small shed behind, flanked by two buildings, with a tower behind and a small construction about 15 yards in front. This was not what I am used to seeing. At the range I used in Glasgow there would be five stands that looked like bus shelters arrayed along a path though a scrubby woodland, in each of which I would shoot five identical pairs of clays before moving on to the next. I stood feeling slightly perplexed waiting for my scorer to arrive.
After a few minutes a girl came up, took my score sheet and entered the small shed. She explained that I should start in the left most stand where I would shoot at five targets and then move to the next stand in line to the right and so on. I asked and she confirmed that I would get a chance to see where the targets went before I shot, but instead of the single pair I was expecting, I saw six or so targets coming from all angles, one at a time. Still thinking in pairs despite knowing that five does not divide by two I decided to carry on and see what happens.
So taking up my version of the stance, flat cap angled to keep the misty rain off my glasses, I give the word. “Pull”…a target appears, I fire, I miss, I wait, expecting a second while the unblemished first sinks to the floor unharmed. The girl calls over “you can take two shots at each target”….and I realise I didn’t bring enough ammo.
Nevertheless, I persevere. The system it seems is a series of single targets at each of which you are allowed two shots. The targets can come from any position. Each round therefore requiring up to a maximum of 50 shells. I didn’t always fire two shots, sometimes I hit with the first, other times I didn’t bother wasting a second, more often I missed with both.
At the beginning of the second round, after I had run back to the truck to get the extra box of shells I had brought and ditched my jacket, I decided to try out the Weatherby. It is a longer gun and the pump handle forces the left hand further forward than I am used to. I hit the first target, then two more of the next four. At first I keep forgetting that I need to pump to reload, then I remember too late, and the new position is making my arm ache. I miss all the targets at the second stand and decide to revert to the Beretta for the remaining 15 targets. My pockets are getting light and a slight confusion caused by switching to a pump-action then back to a double barrel means I keep tugging on the forend in an attempt to reload before the second shot. I run out of ammo with three targets to go and only having hit two more targets with the Beretta.
Room to improve, but at least I have broken my fast, and despite my score I had a great day.