Getting back into the habit

Since the end of the 2016 hunting season I have been making an effort to shoot more regularly. Fortunately there is a winter high-power league, and a regular small bore practice events happening on alternate weekends, so I have been taking advantage. When I first moved to the USA I bought a “brick” of 500 rounds of .22LR match ammunition, and to my shame it took me until the end of last year to use up. When I was regularly shooting in Scotland I would probably go through at least that much in a couple of months, so I have some catching up to do. Last year however I bought two new bricks of SK match, and with all the shooting I have been doing I have already got though one: things are looking up. My scores have also been improving, and although I am shooting on the NRA 50m target, not the international (which is somewhat more challenging), I have been pleased with my groups and scores.

Here are a few examples of recent targets. They are not my best targets, but they are representative.

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On the high-power side of things, I have also seen some improvements. My offhand (standing) scores have steadily improved, and the last few weekends I have managed to get all my 10 shots onto the scoring area (5 ring or better), and occasionally even into the 10. My best score was an 88/100 a few weeks ago.

My sitting rapid is going well, mostly because I can now get into position without feeling like I will break, and this last weekend I shot a decent group. It would also have been a decent score if it was centered on the bull. It wasn’t though, but I take what victories I can.

Prone rapid is going okay, and although I haven’t managed to recreate my early successes (several 100/100) I came pretty close this weekend with a 99/100. Here is a picture of the group.

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There were actually 12 shots recorded rather than 10, since I forgot to switch the system into match mode after my two sighters. The high 9 was one of the sighters (honest).

In an effort to get better at offhand, easily my worst position, I have built a small 10 meter air rifle range in my basement. In truth is it probably only 9 meters, because that’s the furthest I can go between the foundations, but for practicing my technique it works great. I am borrowing a junior CO2 powered air rifle for that, and I built a target box with a steel back plate to keep the ricochets down.

Here’s me in action:

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The air rifle weighs considerably less than my high-power rifle, which I will try to correct at some point, but I hope the practice will be worthwhile anyway. The state championship is happening at the end of the month, and since I plan to enter the 3P event I will try to spend as much time in the basement as I can before then.

 

1000yds on Stickledown

A friend posted a link to this video on Facebook and I enjoyed it enough that I thought I should share it here.

I did a little of this kind of team shooting before I left Scotland, once even on Stickledown with the Scottish rifle team (only for practice though).

It is a very pure shooting experience, almost like indoor smallbore where you just forget about the world and focus on the job of releasing shots exactly the same way each time. No distractiopns from the wind flags, just you, the rifle, and the target (and the hand that slides past your face to adjust your sights, and the voice telling you when you can shoot). There is a great satisfaction in the process of firing a shot then reloading and getting on target as quickly as possible so you are able to fire as soon as the coach gives you the word. The faster you can shoot after getting the go ahead the less time the wind has to change, and I got to a point during some shoots that I was releasing the shot within seconds of hearing “go on”.

I really enjoyed it and this video brought it back for me.

Everyone is doing it..

After finding out that I had ordered a new rifle, my friend Niall reported to me that he had invested in a new rifle also.

He has for a long time used a Carl Gustav that was originally built for biathlon (when biathlon was shot with a full-bore rifle), and which, though lovely, has a limited ability beyond 600yds. Below are photos of his new rifle.

It’s a Musgrave in .308Win with a Border 1:13 stainless barrel which is 300 rounds old. The sights are Fulton’s 18mm ladder foresight and an AJ Parker T.Z. rearsight.

 

Niall's new Musgrave

Niall’s new Musgrave

 

Niall's new Musgrave 2

Niall’s new Musgrave 2

 

Below is Niall’s account of his first long range shoot with the Musgrave.

 

"Interesting day. Good shooting conditions with an irritating variable 
wind from 1 o'clockish.

Got help from an F class shooter (big telescope on gun) to set zero at 
900yds. 9 shots later he hadn't seen the fall of shot once and I'd 
tried everything -, over the bullet catcher, into the mantlet, still no 
joy. Stopped and waited ages 'til Mike was free. Mike saw 
the first shot and brought the elevation up in stages to 50.5mins from 
34.5. Got on target and had 18 shots, a bit hurried, only 4 in the 
inner so fairly happy with that. Better than I could do with the Charlie G.

Back to 1000yds and the plot is attached. For the first time I had 
shot at that distance not too bad an effort. I got caught by a wind 
change on shot 6&7, fairly stupid shot on 16 cause unknown and 19 and 20 
were from a different batch of ammunition. (Learning point - always 
ensure one has more than enough rounds from the same batch). 
Elevation now at 55.5 and seems reasonably reliable.

Now need to think about the sights; also need to scribe a new line on 
the foresight as there is a mismatch from the fixed to variable sides.

Rifle performed well. A fairly tight chamber I think with one instance 
of a bit of effort needed to close the bolt. Will need to watch 
re-sizing of cases as there is not as much slack as with the Charlie 
G. Trigger is still a bit stiff after the light Timney in the CG."

Niall’s 1000yd scorecard

Thanks for the update, and congrats on the new rifle Niall.

Clay pigeons and real pheasants.

Two weekends ago we were lucky enough to have Amanda’s sister and her partner stay with us for a few days. I always enjoy spending time with Michelle and Curt, plus Curt is always enthusiastic to do a bit of shooting. I took the opportunity and invited him to join me shooting clays.

Flashback – In January of this year, before Amanda and I started packing for our American adventure, Michelle and Curt made the trip across the pond and visited us in Glasgow. While they were with us we decided to give them a flying tour of the UK, destinations included the Falkirk Wheel, Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, and Bank Farm to see my parents.

Amanda, Michelle, and Curt at Stonehenge.

Amanda, Michelle, and Curt at Stonehenge.

I had been intending for a while to have a go at some pheasants at Bank Farm, and with that in mind had bought and carried south some appropriate ammunition to use in my dad’s (now mine) shotgun.

Curt was eager to go and made no complaint when I suggested an early start, so early one morning we got up and wandered out into the cold fields. I have almost no experience going after pheasants, and so after an hour of wandering around the fields and a dozen rounds fired ineffectively at all sorts of winged beasts including wood pigeon, we had nothing but a ringing in our ears to show for our efforts so far.

I decide to hand the gun off to Curt and change tactics.

This time, instead of the quiet efforts we had made so far, I decided to make as much noise as possible. Curt wandered along one side of a thick hedgerow, I jumped around on the other side throwing sticks and stones around, and out pops a pheasant. Curt duly fires off a couple of shots and the deed was done. It transpires that Curt didn’t have that much experience with shotguns, but his two shots were 100% more effective than my previous twelve so I won’t say any more about that.

Curt with his pheasant. Jan 2012

Curt with his pheasant. Jan 2012

When we got back to Glasgow I extracted the meat and Curt worked his culinary magic and the result was delicious.

Back to the present time – So Curt and I went shooting Clays at the Metro Gun Club on the 28th October. Given the choice he chose to use my Beretta over & under, so I decided to get a bit more practice with my new Weatherby pump-action.

Things went much the same as the last time I went, but this time I figured out some things. We only had 25 clays each, and I discovered that although the clays come from eight directions, it turns out that it is not random. There is a board in front of each stand which tells you where the clays will come from. I could have used that information the last time.

Curt started out strong getting his first three in a row, it took me a little longer to get up to speed. We ended with Curt getting 8/25, and I got 14/25. On the last stand I got the first four without taking a second shot and I really felt like I was finding my groove. Curt had a good time and hopefully he will be able to join me again soon.

This weekend I hope to go again with some people from my course. It should be fun.

Scorecard 28th October

Scorecard 28th October

Lochboisedale 2012

One of the shooting events that I most looked forward to when I was in Scotland was the Lochboisdale, shot at Glen Tilt on the last weekend in September. It is usually contested between the West of Scotland Rifle Club, and the West Atholl Rifle Club. In the past Bearsden Rifle Club had attempted to field a team with varying outcomes, we mostly ended up being seconded to either of the two main teams to make up numbers.

This year my friend Niall attended and afterwards he wrote me to let me know how he got on.  I have included the whole of his email.

(To see the West Atoll Results page and a nice picture of the winning team, go here.)

************************************

Will,

You’ll like this one.

We shot this today at Glen Tilt. After a three line whip from West,
10 of us turned up for an 8 man team. West Atholl only had 4 but it
was agreed to “lend” them 3 so both sides could have 7 man teams with
the best 6 to count.

It was a good day, sunny periods, good light and a typical Tilt wind
fishtailing from behind. For me the morning practice was not very
good as I had not shot for some time and I could just not get
comfortable – so 64 with 2 V’s. All over the target and trouble
with the wind – no wind coach.

Lunch time and I’m one of the three “relegated” to the West Atholl
team as most of the others were around 70.

Come the afternoon competition shoot and one of the West Atholl chaps
comes to wind coach. He turns the terminal so that I can’t see it
and off we go. After the two sighters he makes a small correction
and off with the first to count. “Good” he says and so we continue
with only a few minor corrections. His only comments throughout the
shoot were “Good” or “Fine” until I fire the last round. Two
seconds later –
“YOU PILLOCK! YOU ABSOLUTE TIT!” It was a 4.8 and every other
round was a bull or a V so I just missed out a possible – 74 with 12 Vs.

However given the 4 good West Atholl marksmen plus Mike Barton (also
relegated) with a solid performance we managed to beat West of
Scotland and so I’ve now got a Lochboisdale medal.

The cherry on the cake was that I was best of the day beating John
Potter by one V bull.

It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

Love to you both.

Regards,

Niall

PS Liked the iambic pentameters.

********************************************

Congratulations Niall, I wish I had been there to see it.

No shooting, just (web) surfing.

Things are much the same. I have still not done any shooting, although I am starting to perceive of a time in the near-ish future when I will. I have submitted my claim for the damaged items in my shipping, but have yet to hear anything about that, fingers remain crossed.

Although I am busy with the rapidly approaching start of my Masters degree I have begun thinking about replacing all the ammunition that I was forced to leave behind when I left Scotland. On the whole I think ammunition is cheaper here. The components for reloading certainly are cheaper, although not necessarily the brands I was using before, namely Lapua.

With cases it is possible to get some very cheap stuff, but I doubt it would all perform, and it is not immediately obvious what the direct alternatives to Lapua are at the match level of quality. So I cannot determine what the options are. That said the Lapua cases are only a bit more expensive than some of the stuff I am seeing (which may imply that those are the alternatives) and with the consideration of case volume variation between brands it may just pay to buy what I know.

Bullet heads are a little different. Here the Lapua Scenar I am used to is significantly more expensive than the obvious alternatives such as  Sierra Match King and Hornady A-Max that I know of. I know a bunch of people I shot with in Scotland used those bullet heads so I would be happy to try them out. When I am a bit closer to buying I will make enquiries of people who may be able to give me more advice.

The other issue is finding a source. In Scotland I used to buy from a couple of shooters who bought in bulk then sold on at very competitive rates compared to high street and on-line retailers. So far I have seen some good prices on-line (except for the hazardous materials handling surcharge for powder) but need to make enquiries to see where the people who know buy from.

On the subject of shotgun ammunition; in Scotland I was enjoying shooting clays with 21gram (3/4 ounce) 12 gauge loads. They were very nice to shoot with, and since I’m not in it for world records it is nice if I can avoid a broken shoulder. From the few places I have been to so far, the most common weight for clays seems to be 1-1/8 ounces or about 32 grams. 50 rounds of that would leave me without the use of my arm for a week, based on previous experience. I do have a recoil pad that I can add to my shotgun, but it changes the fit of the gun. I know 3/4 ounce loads do exist but I am yet to learn where it can be bought in this area.

I am confident I can get Lapua Center-X at a good price here so I am actually not worried about that.

If you read this and have any related suggestions feel free to comment. I would appreciate any pointers.

The end of an era

Bearsden Rifle and Pistol Club Medal

Bearsden Rifle and Pistol Club Medal

Last night (Thursday 26th April) I paid my last visit to Bearsden Rifle club. I had originally intended to shoot my last couple of cards but the plan changed to having a drink with a few of the guys.

Last friday all our stuff was picked up to be shipped across the pond. Unfortunately for one reason (pirates apparently), and another (money/hassle), the ammunition I had spent two days loading up (almost 500 rounds of .308 plus additional heads and cases) could not go. So I unexpectedly had to find homes for a large quantity of ammunition in less than a week. Fortunately for me the guys at Bearsden rifle club came through for me and I managed to dispose of the whole lot legally and safely, and then went for a drink.

I would like to express my gratitude to a great group of people whose support and encouragement has enabled me to develop enormously as a shooter. As shooters we need good facilities and support in order to practice our sport and grow in it and in Bearsden I found an ideal environment.

 

Postscript: This photo was taken on my last night at the club, it shows Niall MacDonald (seated), Kenny MacIvor(L), Myself (centre), and Andrew Gutenmacher(R) in the clubroom.