Bullseye Travel Exerciser

I travel a lot and keeping up my Bullseye practice is challenging. I’ve shot the matches at home that I could, shot a few on the road by taking my guns along as baggage, and many of you have very generously let me shoot your guns and your ammo, and then you’ve done the cleaning.

I am most grateful.

But nonetheless, my work has kept me especially busy of late and my shooting has, well, gone backwards. After just barely earning my Expert classification not that long ago, I now see my scores down near the low end of Sharpshooter, or worse.

My last two matches have left me feeling discouraged.

But I enjoy the people and, when I shoot well, seeing that nice cloud of holes in and around the X ring, so I decided to do something about it, something that I could take with me when traveling that will help my Bullseye game.

You’ll find this exercise useful for all sports where grip, wrist, arm and shoulder strength are required. Bullseye is but one such sport.

The exercise needs no equipment other than a 9″ piece of 3/4″ wood dowel, 48″ of good string and any of several objects you will commonly find in hotel and motel rooms.

I’ve shown it here with a water bottle to be used as the weight but any free object you find in a motel room of comparable weight will do. The TV remote will work. The telephone handset, disconnected from its base, would be a good choice. Even a bath towel, folded and rolled up tight, would do just fine.

First the materials. You’ll need

  1. a 9″ piece of 3/4″ wood dowel with a hole drilled through the middle, and
  2. 48″ of a good grade of string or twine.

To drill the hole through the middle of the dowel, use a nail and hammer to make a dent — a significant one — where you want the hole. This will keep the drill bit from “walking” as you start the hole. Second, fold each of two sheets of paper towel to pad (protect) either side of the dowel and put it in a vise to hold it steady. Then drill straight down through the dowel. I used a 1/8″ drill bit but anything big enough to pass the string will work.

I then sanded my piece of dowel to get rid of any possible burrs (100 grit, 220 grit and then steel wool) and then gave it a single coat of some danish oil finish I found in my paint locker. It was dry and ready for the next step after an hour in the Arizona sun.

Drop one end of the string through the hole and tie it to itself. The hole will prevent the string from turning round and round the dowel and, instead, it will wind itself up as you turn the dowel.

In the far end of the string, tie a loop about 1″ in diameter.

You’re done.

When you’re ready to use it*, find an object of suitable weight. Anything from a half pound to several pounds will work — you will simply do more repetitions with lighter weights.

To attach the selected weight, hold the loop in one hand and grab the string a few inches back from there and push it through the loop. You will then have a much bigger loop that you can size for whatever you are using for the weight. Snug up the bigger loop so your weight doesn’t slip out and, holding the dowel palms down and straight-arm in front of you, let the weight dangle.

Using both hands, wind the dowel forward and raise the weight. Keep your arms out straight as you would in Bullseye. Try not to bend your elbows.

When the string is all wound up and the weight all the way up, unwind it the other way — don’t let the dowel spin in your hand and the weight drop. Instead, continue to grasp the dowel and roll it backward one step at a time. You need to do the work to make the muscles stronger.

When the string is completely unwound and the weight is back down at the bottom, don’t stop. Keep winding in the same direction but now onto the other side of the dowel. Doing so will exercise different muscles.

This will work the muscles first on the underside of your wrists (rolling the dowel forward and away from you) and then on the topside of your wrists (rolling the dowel toward you in the reverse direction).

Repeat this until you start to feel the strain then stop. That’s enough for now.

With lighter weights you’ll do more repetitions but, either way, if you exercise until your muscles start to complain, you’ll be getting about the same amount of work — work is measured in distance and pounds — regardless.

Give it a half hour rest and then do it again. As before, stop when you feel the strain.

I also do a second exercise when traveling, and that is to hold the weight out at arm’s length, focus my eye and attention on the top of that object, and then hold it as still as possible for as long as possible. Again, I repeat this several times, take a half hour break and then do it again.

Those two exercises will, I’m sure you realize, strengthen the main muscles when shooting Bullseye, those in your wrist, elbow and shoulder. The winding-up motion, done first in one direction and then in the other, is particularly beneficial to the wrist and I probably don’t need to tell you that a limp wrist is a no-no in Bullseye — your shots would be all over the target in the 45 match.

Using that “found object” in your hotel room for the weight means there’s one less thing to pack. Better, many of the hotel chains I frequent automatically put one or two “free” bottles of water in the room when I arrive. These are ideal because they weigh just about the same as your 1911. And if its not there, I can almost always find a nearby grocery store if I want a six or twelve pack to keep in the room over my stay of several days.

Unlike air travel with real iron and lead, a small wooden dowel with a piece string doesn’t need to be announced; it pass will pass through TSA checkpoints without any problem. While not as much fun as shooting Xs, the muscles you build will make that lead pushing all the better when you finally do get to the range.

* * *

And a quick note to travelers: If you’re in Phoenix on a Tuesday evening, stop by the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club — Google it for the address. You’ll find the Bullseye crowd at the pistol range 100 yards inside the open gate starting about 6:30PM and lasting until 9:00 or 9:30PM. Come on up, introduce yourself, say that you are a Bullseye shooter in town for a few days and thought you’d stop by to watch.

You’ll have offers of guns and ammo to shoot that evening from half the folks there in no time at all.

See you on the line!

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* Note: Don’t exercise the day (or two) before a match.

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