VOLUME 63-----------SEPTEMBER 2007
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
September 3, 2007
Big doin's in the great Northwest this past month! I finally decided that DSL or Cable internet connections are so far in the future for our area that I'd have Satellite Internet installed. My friends from Pacific Wireless fixed me up on August 22nd with the premium version of Wildblue! It's a bit expensive and not quite as fast as Cable, but so much better than dial up!
An even bigger event: After much nail biting, hoping, and wishing, Rick nearly popped the buttons off his shirt when his daughter requested that Grandpa find her a spot in in our August Hunter Education Class at the Sportsman's Warehouse!
Having Jennifer earn her Hunter Education card so she can hunt with Dad has been high on Rick's wish list for a year or more, but apparently not so much so with Jennifer. (Anyone born on or after January 1, 1972 is required to successfully complete an approved Hunter Education course before they can buy a hunting license in Washington)
No one knows for sure what caused the turnaround, but suddenly Jennifer was eager to move forward, declaring, "I want to shoot a deer, a bobcat, a cougar, and a bear!" She attended classes with 21 other students from August 20th through 24th, and passed her "live fire" evaluation on the 25th.
In our classroom, students learn to safely operate several types of rifles and shotguns, using dummy ammunition, while also learning about sportsmanship, ethics, conservation, wildlife identification, wildlife management, survival, and first aid. This knowledge is evaluated at the end of the week via a 75 question written test.
As one of the instructors, Grandpa was also pretty proud of Jennifer's performance. She missed only 4 questions on the written test, which is better than many adults who have taken the class since I've been teaching!
You can see a picture of Jennifer's entire class on our Hunter Education page, but here's some with her certificate of completion and Orange Card.
The live fire portion of the course, at Center Target Sports' indoor range in Post Falls, ID, consists of shooting 10 rounds of .22 rimfire, and 2 rounds of shotgun ammo. The shotgun can be .410, 20 gauge, or 12 gauge. Jennifer has shot .22 rifles here at the Ranch, and touched off Rick's old .410 single shot a few times, so she was pretty comfortable with the live fire exercise. Her first experience firing a centerfire rifle on September 1st, was met with a tad bit more apprehension.
Jennifer had made a deal with Grandma, that included the use of Grandma's little .243 Ruger compact for her deer hunting if she passed Hunter Education class. (24 caliber just happens to be the smallest legal caliber for big game hunting in Washington) Last Saturday was her day to begin practicing for that deer she hopes to harvest come season opening.
For those who find themselves in a position of instructing a young or beginning shooter/hunter, a positive initial experience with a firearm that has noticeable recoil is vitally important! Some previous shooting experience with air rifles or .22 rimfires, is extremely helpful. This provides an opportunity to develop good habits at the outset without having the student worry about the gun kicking the bejezus out of 'em!
For that step up to the firearm with recoil, it's also helpful to have a good fit between shooter and gun. It can be frustrating to the point of distraction for a small, new shooter to try and manipulate a full sized firearm when learning. (We use "youth sized" firearms for live fire for our smaller students in our Hunter Education classes) In Jennifer's case, Ann's little Ruger with a 12 inch length of pull, and a 16½ inch barrel, fits the bill nicely.
Good eye and ear protection are necessary ingredients, not only for the new shooter, but us oldtimers as well. Experts will tell you that a loud muzzle blast can be as big a factor in causing flinching and jerking as recoil itself. Good hearing protection is especially important with the Ruger. Even though the short barrel is handy and easy to manipulate, it does create a ferocious muzzle blast! The importance of eye protection goes without saying. Last I heard, we are only allotted one pair of eyes as standard equipment!
It's also an important confidence builder to have the new shooter actually hit what they aim at early on. This can be accomplished by shooting from a short distance, using a steady rest, and keeping the recoil commensurate with the size and experience of the shooter.
This does not mean setting a new shooter up at a bench rest! Shooting from a bench will almost guarantee that every bit of recoil that the firearm possesses will be felt by the shooter! From a recoil standpoint, it's better to shoot from a sitting, kneeling, or standing position so the body can better flex with the recoil as opposed to being locked into the typically more rigid bench rest setup.
A steady rest can be accomplished with a monopod, bipod, tripod, or a genuine native tree limb, stump, or rock; anything that will help steady the firearm. If resting the gun over a solid object, pad the fore stock with a hat, glove, your hand, or something else soft, or it may not shoot where you aimed.
Here's some anecdotal evidence about the importance of not letting this process go awry. Some years ago a friend brought his teenage daughter out to my range to sight-in/practice with her .30-30 lever action before deer season.
In spite of strong encouragement from her Dad and I, the girl absolutely would not shoot from a rest of any kind; not from the bench, not with a bipod, not leaning against a tree! She would only shoot offhand from sitting, kneeling or standing. She declared, "That's the only way I'm gonna shoot!" Does anyone doubt that she's had the crap kicked out of her by that gun sometime in the past?
While she did manage to put a few rounds into the target with her chosen methodology, I was told later that she had an opportunity for a "monster buck," well within range that season, and failed to collect. Buck Fever, wrong gun, poor technique, or bad practice habits? I guess we'll never know.
We set Jennifer up, shooting over a tripod, standing position, at a distance of about 30 yards for her first shots with the Ruger. We also made sure that a P.A.S.T. recoil shield was situated between butt stock and shoulder. Here's a look.
Jennifer and Grandpa on the Shootin' Range
Two shots later, both in the 'minute of deer' zone, Jennifer was grinning from ear to ear, saying, "I want'a do it again!" A total of six shots were fired with no ill effects; no flinching, no jerking, just a smooth pull and rock back with the recoil. (We'll further discuss recoil, jerking, and flinching later in this newsletter)
I've never posted a video on the site before, so bear with me on this one. This link should take you to a short video taken with a digital cameral when Jennifer shot the Ruger for the first time. My version of Internet Explorer plays the video, but I make no guarantee whether your software will or not. The file is quite large, (11+ megabytes) so it may take a while to load. Click HERE if you want to see it.
All in all, a good first outing with the centerfire! We may have created a financial drain on the retirement income though. Ammo and reloading component prices have been climbing higher and faster than the price of gasoline, so we may have to sacrifice things like food and drink so Jennifer can shoot!
Immediately preceding Jennifer's range session, Gary Hamil, a friend and co-worker of Rick's, made use of our shooting bench and chronograph while testing some loads for his .300 Win Mag.
Gary Hamil at the Shooting Bench
(I hope Gary remembers his agreement to let me identify him and discuss his experiences as a timely topic for this newsletter. If not, I may be writing the next one from a hospital!)
Take another look at the picture. That's right, Gary's a big dude! I didn't ask, but I'd guess him at about 6' - 3", and pushing 300 pounds. Would you believe? Gary tells me he has a genuine, full fledged, chronic case of "close your eyes, jerk the trigger, flinch-itus" when shooting that .300 Mag with near maximum handloads and 180 grain bullets!
Pretty convincing testimonial to the fact that anyone, no matter the size, no matter the recoil level, can become recoil sensitive to the point of ruining your marksmanship.
Several months ago, Gary and I talked about this issue. The alternatives we discussed included everything from buying a gun that doesn't kick as hard to developing light recoiling handloads for the .300. I understand that up until a few days ago, a new rifle was still being considered, but the ultimate decision, for now, was to handload some reduced recoil loads.
Now, handloading reduced recoil loads for popular high pressure calibers like the .300 Mag, is not as simple as reducing powder charges of the most commonly used powders for the cartridge. For reasons not yet fully understood by this old hillbilly, this practice can sometimes create dangerously high pressures and may damage both your firearm and you! Your reloading manuals will tell you not to reduce powder charge weights below the minimums listed in the manual for certain cartridge and powder combinations! Don't do it!!!
So what do we do? Hodgdon Powder Company is a good source for information about reduced recoil loads if you're a handloader, or both Federal and Remington have come out with "reduced recoil" factory ammo for some of the more popular calibers.
Hodgdon Powder Company has done extensive research for reduced loads for many calibers using their H4895 Powder. This particular powder is almost unique in its ability to be utilized in this manner. Most other smokeless powders available to handloaders are not this versatile, and should only be used within the range of data for "standard" loads for the caliber. This link will take you to a page on Hodgdon's website which explains how H4895 can be utilized in this manner: http://www.hodgdon.com/data/youth/index.php
A note of caution here: H4895, like H4350 and H4831, is a powder that shares the same designation number as at least one other powder brand. In this case, IMR4895. It is important that powders be properly identified and used only as directed by data from reliable and reputable sources. Data for powders with like or similar numbers, but different brand names, are most often not interchangeable, and it may be dangerous to do so!
In addition to reducing charge weights of an appropriate powder, loading bullets that are "light for caliber" is another recoil reducing technique. (Bullet weight and powder charge weight are factors in the mathematical formula for computing recoil energy.) Gary chose to begin by reducing both bullet and powder weight.
As always I'll not print specific powder charges. The appropriate Hodgdon powder charge data for the .300 Win Mag coupled with a Sierra 125 grain .30 caliber bullet was the chosen load. From the 24 inch barrel on Gary's Model 70 Winchester, these loads chronographed at around 2600 feet per second.
As another recoil reducing measure, I recommended that Gary begin his benchrest shooting utilizing my Benchmaster shooting cradle. This useful appliance supports the fore end on an adjustable rest, while holding the butt stock so the recoil pushes against the weight of the cradle along with the shooter's shoulder. This reduces felt recoil enough for me, that a lengthy bench session with a hard kicking rifle doesn't become painful. A P.A.S.T. recoil shield was also utilized between shoulder and gun cradle.
Gary first fired a five shot group. Examination of the target showed three shots within a couple of inches, and the other two spreading the group to 3 or 4 inches. Importantly, the rifle didn't kick much with these loads. Now Gary was able to concentrate on sight picture and trigger squeeze without being concerned about recoil. The next three shot group went into just over an inch! After two or three similar series, Gary said, I've never shot groups like that from this gun before!"
Interspersed with shooting the "light loads" Gary fired a few full power loads using the same 125 grain Sierra bullet. Again, the groups were good, with no evidence of jerking or flinching. Next a few rounds of the light loads were shot dispensing with the Benchmaster Cradle, and using the traditional sandbags fore and aft. Still no flinch.
Note that Gary calls these "light loads," and Hodgdon's web site calls them "youth loads." Gary made me promise not to call them what I did the other day, so I won't.
So will this process cure someone's flinching problems permanently? Not necessarily, but it's a good start. Continuing to shoot the light loads until sight picture and trigger control become automatic, and gradually working in a few full power loads should do the trick. A lot of shooting with a .22 rimfire will also help cultivate the good habits with sight picture and trigger control should you feel yourself slipping back into that "close your eyes and jerk" thing.
I've often mentioned that we have abundant wildlife here at the Ranch, sometimes more than we want. One case in point is the herd of turkeys I chased away yesterday morning, but not before they managed to poop on the driveway! Another is the mama moose and calf that were around for a few days. The following picture was taken August 27th, as they made their way to the plum trees for a snack.
Mama and Baby?
These two became unwanted because they were tall enough to strip away the plums that normally fall from the trees in October and bring the deer around for snacks during deer season. Another reason; unlike our moose visitors in the past, this mama had absolutely no fear of humans, and the consequences of inadvertently getting between her and baby might be hazardous to one's health! They were fun to watch while here, but we're pleased that they've apparently moved on.
For this month's hillbilly wisdom let's consider an 1866 quote from Mark Twain: (Is it any different in 2007?)
"No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session"
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!