River Bend Redux

This was my second visit to the River Bend Gun Club a little bit north of Atlanta.

On my first trip almost a year ago, I had been working in Atlanta and stayed through on the following weekend to shoot the club’s 2700. I had a great time at the well run competition and looked forward to renewing my previous acquaintances as well as shooting the 2700.

This time my work had me in Huntsville Alabama for two consecutive weeks with a 2700 at the club on the sandwiched Sunday. Driving time from Huntsville was expected to be three to five hours depending on how much scenery I wanted to take in. I had all day Saturday to get there so I took the scenic and relaxed drive down back roads through the Great Smokey mountains. With all the trees budding their spring growth, it was spectacular.

I spent Saturday night at a Best Western in Canton GA — and will not stay there again. It was a warm evening and the air conditioner in the room was utterly useless. There is a Hampton Inn under construction next door so, next time, I’ll stay there.

First shot was scheduled for 10:00AM on Sunday. I planned to arrive at the range plenty early “just in case” and, boy, was that a good idea!

At 8:15AM, I left the hotel for what I expected to be a 45 minute drive. I punched up “River Bend” in the GPS and, to my delight, the gun club was listed. Wonderful!

Or so I thought.

Forty five minutes later I was at the end of a backwoods country road dead end. The GPS announced, “Arriving at destination,” but the gun club was nowhere in sight. I’d been there a year ago but this was decidedly not the right place.


I pulled out the map from the club’s website and found a nearby intersection and punched that into the GPS: Shiloh Church and Yellow Creek roads near Ophir Georgia.

The GPS said it would be a 30 minute drive.


I’d still be early but only by 10-15 minutes.

But I did say the countryside was pretty, didn’t I? At least I got to enjoy more scenery as I followed the GPS back down the same wrong roads I’d just driven.

Arriving at the club, I found a small group at the pistol range. Jim Good was expecting me — I had emailed him a couple of weeks earlier that I was going to be there — and as I pulled up to the range, he smiled and waved.

I removed my travel gun box and travel ammo box from the rental car’s trunk and headed up to the line.

Counting myself there would be five shooters plus the meet director. The weather was threatening rain and a thunderstorm which probably accounted for the small turnout.

But I was prepared with my plastic baggies for scoring pad and each gun. Indeed, I was looking forward to the rain as a good test of my preparations — the only way to be sure you’ve got everything in hand for some contingency is to actually go through it.

The matches went relatively quick but with the 50 and 25 yard walks back and forth, we didn’t finish that fast. It was a fairly normal pace. We took a typical break between 22 and Center Fire, a lunch break before 45 and then finished about 2:30PM.

Jim Good, meet director, had the scores entered, ranked and printed after each gun but with such a small group there wasn’t a lot of competitiveness. Instead, everyone was just enjoying the day. And it never really rained more than a few drips — I think we used umbrellas once but then ignored the scant drips the rest of the time. My gun and score pad baggies worked as intended so I passed my personal “rain test”.

I left for the drive back to Huntsville about 3:00PM and took the quick route, up to Chattanooga and then back down into Alabama. The GPS said I’d be there in three hours.

But the GPS didn’t know about the torrential rains and near tornado conditions I’d encounter on I-24 and US 72.

Fortunately, the traffic was light that Sunday evening and although an hour later than expected, I made it back to Huntsville without incident.

Work resumed the next morning.

Now that’s a nice weekend.

Thanks, guys!

Day 4 of 4, 45 Caliber and Leg Match


Little things:

  • John occasionally brings sweets — donuts, cupcakes, etc. — but won’t touch them himself until the match is over;
  • Younger shooters (that’s younger than 50 or so) are more passionate in their frustration and can become borderline reckless if their handguns jam more than once — keep an eye on them;
  • Renold usually has a tune going in his head as do I and, passing close to each other on the way out to the targets or back, we hum aloud to compare notes, but adopting his tune doesn’t help me shoot as well as he does;
  • Most of the High Masters have a lot of upper-body strength, often from childhood, but there are significant exceptions so it’s not a requirement for that level of performance, just a help;
  • Couldn’t see a double on someone’s otherwise excellent target one day, scored it as a miss, didn’t change my story when the shooter pointed out a slightly elongated hole, he challenged it (for a buck), the jury agreed with him, then I re-scored it but possibly gave him too much thereby apparently compounding my faults — like a shot in the five ring, “it happens,” and all you can do is move on;
  • The conscious mind can only think one thought at a time but Bullseye requires a skilled coordination of observations and actions — it can be a long road for those who insist on “figuring it out” because that path forces no more than one step at a time;
  • I feel an odd tension around Bill — we’re too much alike, perhaps, even though we appear to be quite different;
  • Bob will move up and out of Sharpshooter land after today — good, because he’s shooting Master-level scores which sure knocked me out of the run for one of those new pistols, the prizes for this competition;
  • I’ll need 90+alibi rounds of wad for the 45 competition today, plus 30+alibi of ball for Service Pistol team and another 30+alibi of ball for the Leg Match;
  • I lightly cleaned the wad gun last night so it’s ready; and
  • Yes, my shoulder and grip are both tired but no more so than yesterday or the day before — I’m ready.

Let today’s matches begin!


I won’t have the complete scores for a day or two but, at this point, I know how I did, and it was “extremely well” on this last day.

Here are my scores across all four days of this annual event:

Service Pistol 681-9 75.7%
22 Caliber 823-15 91.4%
Center Fire 773-12 85.8%
45 Caliber 811-17 90.1%
2700 Aggregate 2407-44 89.1%
3600 Aggregate 3088-53 85.7%
22 Team unk. unk.
CF Team 264-2 88.0%
45 Team 275-8 91.7%
Service Pistol Team 220-1 73.3%
EIC Leg Match 252-4 84.0%
Everything 4099-68 * 85.4% *

* will increase slightly with 22 Team score

After four days of shooting a 900 plus one or two NMCs in each day, my technique has settled down considerably.

Significantly, in both of those final NMCs, I think my performance was just about the same but for the Leg Match, I had changed to some ammunition given to me many, many months ago by John Zurek. This change seems to show the gift ammunition flying substantially better than what I had used just moments before.

About this gift ammo John Zurek had said, “Save this for a Leg Match. It’s really good stuff.”

And I’ve had it sitting in the supply cabinet for, what, maybe a year now? A while back, I tested a scant 10 rounds in the Ransom Rest and they printed within a 1.5″ circle at 50 yards. Oh yeah, that’s good stuff!

So today, I used another 30 of those rounds for the Leg Match.

As I released each shot, I called it and then looked in the scope. The truth of John’s words looked back at me because practically every shot was on call. And while it’s true I still messed up a couple of them, when the Leg Match was done I had a very respectable score.

With that, I also learned that the ball ammunition I had been using in the Service Pistol matches, both individual and team competitions, simply did not get along with my ball gun. At least some of the blame for the dismal Service Pistol scores goes to the ammunition / gun mix. They just don’t get along.

I have ten rounds of the “good stuff” left and I’ll have to figure out what to do with them. Certainly I’ll be measuring them with calipers every possible way I can think of. And ultimately, they’ll probably get fired from the Ransom Rest again but this time with a chrony in front and then a virgin target way out at 50 yards. Whatever I get from all that will be both my starting point and my goal in developing a ball load.

Yes, there’s a lot to be done.

But looking back at the last four days, it’s been absolutely wonderful.

  • I shot some really good targets in a major competition with 60+ shooters.
  • I renewed acquaintances with shooters from California and Colorado, and made new friends with others from as far away as New York state.
  • From the preliminary numbers, it would appear I placed very well within the Sharpshooter ranks — I think I came in second in that (my) classification.
  • I had quite a few very good trigger releases and have a very good idea what that should feel like, and a very good idea of how to make it happen more often than not. In other words, my “shot plan” has received some careful honing and is working substantially better than before.
  • I learned that I need to develop, not buy, a ball load that flies well from my ball gun. (The “White Box” ammunition John Zurek gave me as a gift is over twenty years old and is no longer being made. I have only those ten precious rounds left from which to begin my efforts.)
  • I had a really fantastic time!

Day 3 of 4, Center Fire


Today and tomorrow are the days in which my concentration — and repetition — need to be at their best. I will do the same things as yesterday but with a more challenging gun.

Today we shoot the individual Center Fire matches in the morning, and then the team Center Fire and team 45 matches after lunch.

Many shooters use the same gun for Center Fire and 45 for economic reasons. I’m no exception. My wad gun started life as a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec but has then been “matured” with a carefully fitted Kart competition barrel, trigger job, slide to rail adjustments and a red dot sight. The resulting race horse shoots extremely well when fed and handled correctly and, especially for the latter, that’s today’s challenge.

My ball gun will go along for the ride today for two reasons. First, it’s my backup in case the wadder becomes disabled in some way. Secondly, the trigger has to be weighed and, if it passes, the gun tagged before the EIC Leg Match tomorrow. The Marine gunsmith who makes that determination is available today (and tomorrow).

Yesterday in the 22 matches I succeeded in finding the precise finger placement that resulted in neither a left nor right “flick” of the barrel when the hammer was released from the sear. Simultaneously, I had many successes in maintaining a solid but unbiasing and unchanging grip so that, again, as the hammer was released from the sear, my grip was still pressing squarely with no rotating pressure that would have “flicked” the barrel left or right, nor up and down for that matter.

In addition, well after I had assumed my 90 degree stance and brought the pistol up and then settled down into the aiming area and took up the slack on the trigger, I then focused my attention on the dot, started the trigger and then patiently “watched” the wobble and, when it lessened as it always does and the dot was deep in the aiming area, the shot broke and I mentally noted the dot’s “o’clock” position on the target but immediately returned the dot to the center of the aiming area and held for several more seconds. I then lowered the gun and verified through the spotting scope the new hole in the target where I had placed the shot. And on the few occasions where it was not where I’d called it, I analyzed what I had done wrong — finger too deep into the trigger pushing the hole left, rushed the shot to “get it over with” rather than simply observing the process as it developed before my eye, etc. — and re-rehearsed my shot plan so I’d return to it on the next shot.

Today and tomorrow, I simply have to do that again, and again, and again.

The shorter barrel of the wad gun (5 inch) as compared to my 22 (S&W Model 41 with the 7 inch barrel) means that those “flicks” will be all the more sensitive to my attentions today.

I will, therefore, need to be most diligent in my concentrations.

Today’s mantra, since my body follows this shot process almost completely without conscious guidance, will simply be

Ohhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… [Bang!]


I was wrong.

The number one lesson in Bullseye is pressuring or moving your trigger finger straight to the rear … and not changing your grip pressure while doing so.

I broke that rule big time today and paid the price.

My Slow Fire scores were 80-0 (started good, went downhill), then 64-0 (hideous) and 67-0 with that three point rise due to finally, on the last shot, figuring out how to move only my trigger finger to break the shot.

But, well, the good news is that I did eventually figure it out. Every target from there on, the Timed and Rapid Fire targets in the NMC and their own matches, were all in the 90s including a 97-3 in Rapid Fire.

So, by the time the Center Fire segment was over, I was ready to shoot Slow Fire — Oops, too late!

I finished with 773-12, well shy of the 810 mark that would bump me up into Expert category I’ve been eyeing on the horizon. And it is unlikely I’ll recover enough points tomorrow to bring my average up to that level for the 2700.

And to be honest, with the “oops” that butchered most of this morning’s Slow Fire targets, it seems clear this Sharpshooter still has a lot to learn.

But it wasn’t too late for some measure of redemption because after lunch we shot team Center Fire and team 45 NMCs. With the trigger issue figured out, I was ready and since my scores could make or break those of the team, the pressure was on.

In the Center Fire team, one round of my ammo wasn’t up to snuff; it was the fifth round in the first string and it failed to fire, probably with a high primer — I’ve been getting one of those about every 200 rounds. In the alibi, I only partially regained my concentration and ended up trading my initial three tens and an X for four eights. That brought my score down eight points on that target!

But regardless of that, I was pleased because the Slow Fire targets in both team competitions placed me in good stead with my teammates. I had done my part fine.

Toward the team total in Center Fire, I contributed 264-2.

And for the team in 45, I added a couple to those lost eight and ended with 275-8.

Day 2 of 4, 22 Caliber


The Plan

  • 6:00AM Up: One cup of regular coffee while surfing the net and reading the newspaper (online).
  • 6:30AM Breakfast: oatmeal with a pat of butter, one hard-boiled egg with pepper, a small can of low sodium V-8 juice.
  • 7:00AM Shower and dress for cool weather, lined bluejeans same as yesterday, fresh but similar thick cotton shirt, sweater with jacket on top.
  • 7:20AM Pack gun box with primary (S&W Model 41) and backup (Ruger Mk III) 22 pistols with their respective ammunitions (CCI Standard Velocity in the plastic box and Federal Gold Medal Match 711B) in sufficient quantity for the 900 and the follow-up team competitions plus enough for alibi strings (120 + 30 rounds). Also take a small can of the low sodium V-8 juice.
  • Switch to Northrop Grumman baseball cap for today. (I wore the Bill O’Reilly “No Spin” cap yesterday.)
  • 7:30AM Drive to range in rush hour traffic.
  • 8:30AM First shot.
  • Before the NMC: Drink the V-8.
  • Lunch: Probably a nearby Subway with some of the other shooters.
  • 1:30PM 22 team competition NMC.
  • Approximately 2:30PM Done. Record scores and head home.


Friday the 13th didn’t bother very many today. The weather was gorgeous, there was practically no wind, and by midday, most had shed their jackets and sweaters.

Starting at 8:30AM, two relays totalling almost 60 shooters shot the 22 caliber 900 before lunch. And beginning at 1:15PM, nine (9) teams completely filled the line for the team 22.

I was with one of the home club teams in the afternoon and shot 277-5, one point better than my individual NMC this morning with 276-5 but the morning also included my best ever Slow Fire, 94-2.

Also in the morning but in the second relay where I helped out along the line, one of the groups of military had reliability problems with their armory-issued S&W 41s and I’m quite certain every Timed and Rapid fire target had an alibi, often with three or four shooters from their ranks.

After the NMC but before starting the Timed match, they described their problems which boiled down to not enough “oomph” to reliably extract the spent round, clear it from the gun, pick up the next round cleanly and seat it fully into the chamber.

“Maybe some ammunition with a little more pizzazz would help,” someone said.

“Try oiling the top round so it seals better in the chamber and gives a stronger blow back,” another suggested.

While the last of the NMC targets was scored, shooters from the first relay offered up ammunition and cans of oil to the afflicted shooters and, although these measures didn’t cure 100% of the problems, the alibi strings and number of shooters in each was significantly reduced.

My score?

Why, thank you for asking. I shot an 823-15. Not bad, not bad at all.

Day 1 of 4, Service Pistol 900


The Desert Midwinter competition for 2009 Conventional Pistol begins today with a 900 for service pistols.

Last night I gave the ball gun a light cleaning but didn’t touch the previously fouled barrel. It should, therefore, be ready to go, and repeatedly so, starting with today’s very first shot.

My shoulder feels mostly better but a distant ache remains from Tuesday evening when I fired that same pistol and ammunition in an International 600 as warm-up (for me) and fouling (for the pistol) for today. Tuesday was a calculated risk because I needed the refresher on iron sights and that lighter gun as compared to the wadder with its red dot that I’ve been shooting. And “refresh” it did because today’s challenge is going to be in consistently moving the trigger straight back in Timed and Rapid Fire. (Tuesday’s Duelling Fire was humbling in this regard.)

The International Center Fire is at 8:30AM this morning but I’m skipping that and focusing my attentions only on the Conventional program.

Service Pistol starts immediately after that, around 10:00 or 10:30. Accordingly, I will leave the house at 9:00AM for the 30-45 minute drive. That means I need to pack the gun box at 8:45AM.

Weather is predicted to be in the low 50s, partly cloudy but no rain, and with a light wind from the south-southwest. The range is shielded from that direction by a mountain so we’ll have some air movement but nothing strong enough to push an outstretched hand. I think I’ll wear my lined pants and a thick cotton shirt with the lighter jacket, but take a sweater to insert if it feels chillier than expected.

I’ll be shooting the Aguila ball ammo I fired on Tuesday night. It chrono’d at an average muzzle velocity of 908.1 ft/sec at almost this same temperature. That’s very close to the stated ideal of 920. In my tests a week ago, I measured a minimum velocity of 890.7 and a maximum of 929.6 over 20 rounds; an admirably tight range that is beyond my current ability to make on my own. And the standard deviation from one round to the next comes out at 10.1, again much better than I can make on my own. I’m confident this ammo will fly in a consistent manner from muzzle to target.

But it kicks hard and, with the “Zins grip” I’ve been using for several months with the heel of the backstrap tucked into the thinnest part of the V notch across the palm of my hand, I’ll feel each shot all the way up into the shoulder. If my calculated gamble fails, I’ll know it by the end of the National Match Course.

But as is true with the ball gun with its Kart barrel and fitting by Dave Salyer, this ammunition also “shoots” better than I do. What the target says will be what I did. If the shoulder holds up, I’ll do well. If it doesn’t, well, it’s up to me now.

Time for breakfast. I’ll have a full serving of Coach’s Oats (whole grain oatmeal) with a pat of butter (and no sugar!), a boiled egg with lots of pepper, and a small can of the Low Sodium V-8 juice. And, yes, for those who ask, I have my one cup of coffee in front of me now. I’ll also take another small can of Low Sodium V-8 for a last minute dose of nutrients a few minutes before we shoot. After that, a bottle of water from the refrigerator in the pistol office will suffice for the match.

Today’s mantra will be, “Front sight, straight back, front sight, straight back,” and then, “be quiet and let your body shoot; it knows how.”


Compared to the wad gun and the 22, both of which have red dots which increase the overall mass, the ball gun is a lightweight. Couple that with the full-strength ball ammunition and the gun becomes a real challenge.

My first two Slow Fire targets were pretty bad with one or two shots completely outside the scoring rings. By the third, I figured out I had my trigger finger in way too deep and was pushing the shots off the target to the left. Although still not very good, at least the final Slow Fire had all ten shots in the scoring rings.

Timed Fire in the National Match Course had some promise. Although not great at 88-1, it was notable for two reasons. First, it had a decent looking “cloud” of 45 caliber holes.

But when I looked through the scope after the second string, there were too many holes. Someone had cross-fired onto my target!

I was shooting 45 caliber ball whereas the cross-fired shots were 9mm and the gentleman scoring my target easily identified four of the five erroneous shots. The fifth, however, was not so easy so he dropped the one worst shot on the target and tallied my score, 88-1.

But looking at the photograph, I now suspect that the 3 o’clock ten might be the fifth 9mm hole which would have reduced my score to 84-1. But at the time, well, neither of us could tell for sure so it was scored as 88-1.

The cross-firing shooter was apologetic but, hey, we’ve all done it myself included. So we moved on to the next target.

My best target of the day was the first Rapid Fire at 91-4 and, as if I didn’t know better, I mentally congratulated myself saying, “You’ve got it licked, dude!” And that, of course, caused me to relax, lose my concentration, and shoot a dismal 65-1 on the last Rapid Fire.

Rule One in this sport: Never congratulate yourself.

Or is it: Focus on the front sight.

But then again, maybe it is: Pressure the trigger straight back.

(Too many Rule Ones!)

I finished the Service Pistol 900 with a 681-6, not very good but, then again, I learned where to put my finger on the trigger, I had a couple of good targets in Timed and Rapid, and even my Slow Fire scores were headed in the right direction.

This is progress!

After packing things away, I cornered Jim Henderson and asked if he’d let me get a picture of the two of us together. I said I wanted something to hang on the wall so I’d know who I had to beat. Steve Reiter was nearby and I asked him to click the shutter. James said, “Don’t jerk it, Steve,” but even with that, Reiter still had a “failure to fire” (the shutter) and we had to try again.

Tomorrow morning is the 22 match. For today’s Service Pistol the line was full (35 shooters) and two had to wait for the second relay. I glanced at the squadding chart for tomorrow to see which relay I’m in and it looks like they’re both very close to full. I shoot early in the first relay with first shot at 8:30AM.

And I’ll have to remember that dainty little 22 has a much lighter trigger than the service pistol I was shooting today.

But it’ll be “straight back” again tomorrow.

10s and Xs!

Hopeless in New York

Roslyn Club’s Indoor Range in Westbury

With some time to sightsee yesterday, I stopped by Roslyn Rifle and Revolver Club’s indoor range at 1130 Broadway, Westbury, NY 11590. A small bore competition was preparing to start so I only stayed long enough to get the Bullseye pistol person’s contact information.

But after some checking of the state laws, it appears to be totally impossible for an out of state shooter to compete anywhwere in New York.

  • Residents must obtain a permit for each and every handgun from the county in which they live.
  • The permit which must be carried lists each such handgun.
  • It is illegal for a person to touch any (loaded?) gun not on his permit.
  • And non-residents are generally not allowed to obtain such permits.

Basically this means that out-of-state residents may not legally bring their guns into the state for Bullseye competitions, nor can they obtain a New York permit for their handguns owned legally in some other state.

Although some states allow out-of-state residents to legally travel into and compete in their states, this does not appear to be the case in New York.

So even though the Roslyn club has a very active Bullseye league that shoots on a regular basis, shooting is restricted to permit holders within the state of New York.

Unless you wish to risk confiscation of your handguns, incarceration, fines and fees to lawyers to get your guns and yourself out of the slammer, it appears the rule for New York state is “No visitors, or moochers, allowed on the pistol ranges.”

Soaking Up the Rays

So I went and tried to enjoy the beach.

But that wasn’t very enjoyable either.


Sunnyvale Again!

Are you sure that’s only 50 yards?

The Sunnyvale Rod & Gun Club is up in the Bay area’s foothills, just behind (and in) Cupertino. Bullseye is fired on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month with “first shot” at 6:30PM.

ECIs in place

Last night, I drove down from Alameda coming down the right side of the San Francisco bay on I-880 before cutting across 237, then 85 and finally up into the foothills. My GPS said it was going to be a one hour drive but with rush hour traffic, it was two.

Gabbing before the first Slow Fire

Fortunately, I arrived about five minutes before things got started. I carried in my two locked boxes, one with ammo and the other with the guns — that arrangement is required by the state of California and those boxes must, in turn, be locked in the trunk.

But then — Oh, no! — the key to the gun box was in my briefcase back in the hotel in Alameda, two hours away.


The ammo box, on the other hand, had 3-digit locks and, yes, I did remember the combination. So I had that box’s contents of ammo, staple gun, staples to refill the staple gun, clipboard for the score card and marker. Just no guns through which to shoot that ammo.

[Sigh.] OK, I’ll watch.

Ed Kelley calling the match

I borrowed a set of ears from the club and greeted those I knew from previous visits or who had competed in Phoenix and I’d met there.

Angela Liu and John Bickar

On a previous visit to Sunnyvale, I had remembered my keys but no magazine for my 41. Oops! (Do you see a pattern developing here?)

Luckily for me, John Bickar (above) had an extra so I shot with a “loaner” on that visit.

Thanks, John. (And wow, can he shoot!)

Ron Wilcox

And Bullseye shooters are, as you probably know, a generous bunch.
Seeing my predicament on this latest visit, Ron Wilcox volunteered his backup Trailside and ammo.

How could I refuse?

I offered the ammunition I brought but Ron said, “I know mine works well in this gun. Go ahead and use it.”

Thanks, Ron!

John “Skippy” Yarborough
Regaling us with a story

And then there’s Skippy.

I’ve known Skippy almost as long as I’ve been a member of the
email list.

For those who don’t know, several hundreds of Bullseye shooters subscribe to this list. When one member sends an email, his/her message is propogated out to all the members who range from High Masters to rank beginners, from world-class Bullseye gunsmiths to those who can barely tie their shoes (but *do* know how to handle a gun safely). If you want to know anything about Bullseye, ask the list.

I “met” Skippy through that list back when the multi-year archive of email messages had failed. We hoped, along with the help of others, to resurrect it but, alas, that was not to be.

But that effort did start an acquaintanceship, and a friendship, that persists. Bullseye is like that.

Art Pimentel

But the focus of any club is primarily shooting.
The socializing that happens is an essential component of any successful club but it is secondary when it’s time to punch holes in targets.

Art is someone whose face I recognize but, other than that, we haven’t yet become acquainted. Next match, maybe.

Bob Tabb

And Bob was a brand new acquaintance for me on this visit to Sunnyvale.
Bob and I scored each other and, when you do that, you get to know each other a little. It’s a beginning.

Hi Bob!


So if you’re in the Bay area on a Wednesday evening, check the calendar to see if it’s the 1st or 3rd one of the month and, if so, check this group out.

I’m sure you’ll find they’re as friendly as any Bullseye group anywhere in the country.

Thanks again, guys (and gal), for a nice evening.

10s and Xs!

Central Pennsylvania

I absolutely love central Pennsylvania, from the southern border with Maryland all the way up to New York state. Every bit of it is gorgeous and the people are warm and friendly.

Years ago, I spent a lot of time in and around State College up in the north central part of the state. On weekends, I hiked small segments of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the area. It was there one fall I came across a very large, mature buck who had frozen at my approach but, when my unseeing footsteps came within a dozen yards, it bolted and gave me one of the most severe starts I’ve ever experienced. That was one large animal!

Recently, I shot the Dutchman 2700 at the Palmyra Sportsmen’s Association outside of Harrisburg. Depending on local road and bridge construction, this can be an interesting club to find but, once there, there’s no need to go elsewhere.

Jeff Lutz runs the show from registrations to running the statistics during the match to having the final scores posted just a few minutes after the final shot has been fired. And I must say that was one of the best run matches I’ve ever attended. (Wish I could say my Slow Fire targets turned out that good but, oh well.)

One of the small but convenient touches was having a menu from a local sandwich shop available at the beginning of the 2700, taking lunch orders from all the shooters, and then having the sandwiches back at the range when it was time to eat. It gave everyone more time to visit, more time to relax, and more time to just enjoy the whole experience.

Nicely done, Jeff. Very nice indeed!

Since I’m travelling on business and by air to most of these events, I travel light. My “kit” includes a Smith & Wesson Model 41 (22 automatic) and a custom Essex 1911 (45 ACP), both with iron sights. The 22 is exactly as it came from Smith & Wesson and, other than the factory replacing the extractor after it disappeared while shooting, I’ve done nothing except keep it reasonably clean and lubricated.

The Essex 1911 is another story. I purchased it from another shooter who said it had been custom built for Air Force shooters in the 1960s. By the time it reached me forty years later, the gun was well worn. Indeed, if I shook my hand while holding it, automobiles would stop at nearby railroad crossings and look for the on-coming train. So, I sent the gun to Dave Salyer for an overhaul. Today, although you can see the mileage it’s been through, it’s a straight-shooter. (I value the same attributes in people.)

Also on this trip, I finally got to meet Tony Brong whose blog I’ve read, enjoyed and learned from on many occasions. I’ve left Tony a comment or two over time, he has left me a lot of encouraging comments and suggestions, and we’ve slowly built a long-distance friendship without ever meeting.

But finally, the timing of a business trip perfectly fit that of this annual match at Tony’s home club and, when I told Tony I’d be there, he generously invited me to stay at his home. And on Saturday morning before we left for the match, Laura fixed us a pair of perfectly balanced, high protein breakfasts. (And from my scores, I can see I should’ve asked her to make something as a pick-me-up before my center fire.)

In the match’s final standings, Tony almost won the 22 competition coming in a very close second (878 versus 874) with the 22. For perspective, over the nine targets in that aggregate, promoting a couple of 8s to 10s would’ve tied him in first. That’s some very fine work!

And in the overall rankings for the 2700, Tony took 4th place.

Even better, in the EIC match, Tony won! In so doing, he also earned more of those extremely difficult to get “leg points.” Both a Master ranking and a Distinguished Pistol award are fast approaching for Tony.

Also shooting at this match was another individual I’ve come to know but never met, Neil Kravits, of NSK Sales. (Neil’s business is just over the line in Maryland.) Before I began reloading my own ammunition, I was a very happy customer of Neil’s for quite some time. He makes a top quality product at a very reasonable cost. My local postal carrier asked more than once, “What the hell is in this damn heavy box, 2000 rounds of ammunition or something?”

I would smile as I answered, “Yes.”

Since then, I’ve invested the money and the time to do my own reloading, and not a little of either. Making a top quality reload is, I have discovered, no small feat. Regardless of my move to making my own ammunition, however, Neil has continued to be a participant by recommending loads and measurements and sharing his considerable expertise, all without pay.

And ending the day was a wonderful home-cooked meal at Tony and Laura’s, one that I really appreciated with a week of teaching still ahead of me.

Sunday was another travel day as I drove west toward my work near Pittsburg.

I don’t know what the state of Pennsylvania considers to be its “central” portion but I’d have to say that, based on my many experiences there over many years, the “center” of which they can be proud is very, very wide.

Thanks Tony, and thanks to Palmyra and all of central Pennsylvania!

AP in England

Yes, you can shoot in the England but, if you want to shoot handgun, it’s going to be either air pistol (AP) or black powder.

I was there for a week on business and checked the local clubs. The Marlow (Berkshire) Rifle and Pistol Club’s website listed Monday evening air pistol and, after swapping emails with the club chairman (see the website) to find out if I could shoot and if the club had a pistol I could borrow and getting a “Yes” to both, I went.

The club is just south of the center of Marlow (in Berkshire). West of London and a few miles outside of the M25, the “car park” at the general recreation facility is free after 7:00PM.

The air pistol event at the range started at 8:00PM. I arrived a few minutes early hoping to meet other shooters. As it happened, however, I was the only handgun shooter. The three others were all shooting air rifles.

The gentleman running the event offered me my choice of the club’s two air pistols, both pump action. After trying both and finding the triggers very heavy, I chose the Gamo and prepared to shoot a few 10 round targets.

At this point, I must confess I was disappointed to be the only handgun shooter, and more so, I was saddened by the apparent demise of pistol shooting in England.

As you may know, handgun firearms were banned there and also in some other parts of the UK in 1999 except for black powder and air. Owners of all other types of handguns were forced to sacrifice their weapons. I’m told that many owners either sold their guns to people living on the continent, or they joined clubs on the mainland where they could visit a couple of times per year to spend time with their exiled children.

I shot three targets but found myself losing interest. And when I began the fourth but placed my first two shots outside the black, I decided to stop and take a break, and then to decide about continuing or just leaving.

I stepped out to the reception area, sat down and closed my eyes.

And it was then that I overheard a voice in the room saying, “And then after you’ve balanced your weight in your NPA, raise your arm slightly above your aiming area and then let it settle back down. The muscle along the top of your shoulder is much smoother when extending and you’ll get less wobble if you come down into the aiming area, not up.”

“I know this language,” I said to myself.

The voice went on, “In the nine week program, we’ll go through these basics, we will develop a shot plan — a couple of them most likely — and, toward the end, I’ll help you figure out a time sequence for shot release that will work for you.”

What’s this, I wondered?

I’ve seen a couple of different programs and workbooks in the US but nothing called the “Nine week plan.”

I opened my eyes to see who was speaking. The gentleman had his back to me. He was bareheaded, wore what appeared to be a sleeveless shooting jacket over a long-sleeve shirt, and wore khaki pants.

He was speaking to the fellow that had taken my evening’s registration and five pounds whom, I gathered, was interested in learning to shoot pistols from this expert.

Well, heck, so am I!

I waited for a pause in the conversation before asking if this was a program he had personally developed?

No, he said. It had been developed by the senior trainers throughout the country (the UK) and that he was merely the senior trainer for Berkshire. His job, he said, was to work with those air pistol shooters who had already excelled in preliminary training administered by designated (and trained) trainers at each of the local clubs and, as each of his trainees then completed their nine week programs, he might recommend a few of them on to the national program and its trainers.

I asked several more questions and he showed me quite a bit more of the program but, when I asked if a copy of the program were available in the United States he smiled and said that, no, at this point the program is only being used in the UK to encourage air pistol shooting in preparation for the 2012 summer olympics in Lonon.

With that, I was even more impressed, and interested.

We went on to discuss some of my immediate issues including trigger control, finger position, balance and head position, and the problems of eye versus hand dominance and the good and bad positions for cross-eyed shooting.

He generously offered a solution to one of my issues.

Specifically, although I am left-eye dominant, I shoot righty-righty because the only way I knew to shoot cross-eyed made my neck hurt. When I told him I was cross-doninant and demonstrated the position I had tried, before I could say why I quit using that position he said, “Don’t do that — it’ll make your neck hurt!”

And went on, “Stand this way instead and then learn how to deal with the recoil. It will be awkward at first but many have mastered it. You probably can too.”

But as much as I wanted it, the “Nine week program” wasn’t going to fall into my hands, nor would it be possible for me to complete the program. That impossibility was not because of my home address (outside of the UK). Rather, although the program could take longer than nine weeks to complete, it still required regular practice. But with my work and travel, that just is not in the cards I’ve been dealt for this period in my career.

So, I took the gentleman’s offered email address and said I’d drop him a note. I’m still very interested in the contents of the program and, although I’m unable to do all of it, some of the elements would still be of very practical use. My intention, and he was agreeable, would be for me to pick and choose the parts I could adopt, and that he would work with me by email to integrate them into my shooting.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Looks like it’s time.