Pass Right, Score Left

Five days, four guns, nine disciplines and over a thousand rounds, that was the Arizona Desert Midwinter competition for 2010.

And I’m pooped!

Tony Brong and myself


My good friend from Pennsylvania, Tony Brong, came out for the competition this year. Like many of you, I’ve been following Tony’s blog (click here) for some time. Tony is an accomplished Bullseye competitor and I consider myself lucky to know him as well as benefit from his Expert (soon to be Master) observations.

Our blogging and emailing friendship grew when Tony and I both shot the August 2008 Dutchman 2700 at the Palmyra club when I was in Pennsylvania for two consecutive weeks on business. The weekend “break” with Tony was great although I can’t say the same for my shooting.

With Tony returning the visit at this year’s Arizona Desert Midwinter event, I can’t say much more for my shooting as I had been “on extended hiatus” from shooting for several months due to personal issues, but getting to spend time with Tony again and to introduce him to all the wonderful people I’ve come to know at the Phoenix club was, well, wonderful.

Don Kling and Tony Brong

More PA in AZ

Don Kling, now an Arizona shooter, originally hails from Tony’s club back in Pennsylvania. Although their times at Palmyra didn’t overlap, they both knew many of the same club members.

Don calls the matches in Phoenix, both International and Conventional segments. Each has unique requirements. In Conventional, for example, it is not only common practice but typically encouraged for shooters to load their magazines at the end of each string before scoring targets. That way when they come back to the line, the next string can begin without delay.

But in the International disciplines, this is considered a safety violation and is grounds for immediate expulsion.

In International, shooters are forbidden to touch ammunition or firearms until commanded to “Load”. They then have sixty seconds to load a magazine or whatever the weapon requires, and no more than what the next string requires — typically five (5) rounds — and otherwise make their weapon ready to shoot.

At the end of that sixty seconds, the “Attention” command is announced and shooting ensues about three seconds later.

Well, for Bullseye shooters who are unaccustomed to but otherwise eager to try the International forms, Don patiently explains the difference in rules. He then follows up with an inspection and one-on-one “correction” with anyone who needs a little extra attention.

And don’t forget your ECI — Empty Chamber Indicator — typically a 8-12″ piece of brightly colored weed-wacker (grass trimmer) line that is threaded through a gun’s empty chamber and out through the end of the barrel. The NRA (Conventional pistol rule maker) mandates these in every NRA sanctioned event.

But when, during an International segment whose rules don’t require ECIs, Don called “Empty Chamber Indicators in place”, one of the shooters objected.

“International rules don’t require those, Don.”

Without missing a beat however, Don replied, “I’m calling the match and I do.”

That was that and ECIs were promptly put in place.

Presenting the Case

Scoring Jury

Scoring of a shooter’s target for most Bullseye matches other than at the annual championship in Camp Perry is almost always done by the person to the right of each shooter.

At the beginning of a match, each participant is given a blank score card on which they write their name and firing position number.

The command, “Pass right, score left” tells the tale. (The shooter at the extreme right end passes his card to the one at the extreme left, who then has to make the long trek to the other end of the targets each time around. Some ranges will make smaller “loops” where the line is divided in half to save walking distance.)

Immediately after scoring a neighbor’s target, each shooter looks at his own target to see his score — scorers write the score on the target as well as on the scoring sheet — and to see if he agrees with it.

Late in the Desert Midwinter match, a shooter challenged the scorer’s call on a critical shot. The scorer and shooter discussed the matter but could not come to agreement. As per the rules, Don then formed an impartial jury and included several expert and better level shooters including Tony. Tony’s participation as an unbiased outsider who knew none of the individuals made him a particularly good choice.

After each of the jurors had carefully examined the target and listened to both the shooter’s and the scorer’s case, they voted. And both shooter and scorer, after seeing and hearing the honest assessments applied to the case, accepted the outcome with no further argument.

Cara Kraus, Long Skidder
(Click for larger image)

Does It Count?

Some shots, while dramatic, can end up being worthless.

This one, for example, is called a “skidder” and before looking at the possible numerical values, the scorer must consider from which side of the target the shot entered — did it enter from the front of the target or the rear?

You see, a shot fired on a turning target, if the target has turned away from the shooter, may over-rotate slightly and allow a late shot to hit the backside of the target first.

Shots fired after the target has turned away from the shooter don’t count.

But if the shot enters from the front of the target, it is good. The scorer then looks to see what was the lowest valued ring encountered and, if the shot also marked the next higher ring, the shot is scored for the higher ring. If not, then the lower score is entered.

Skidders can also obscure — destroy would be a better word — other holes in the target and make scoring unusually challenging for the remaining holes.

How would you score this one?

Dan Norwood

Dan Norwood

This gentleman is one of the top finishers at this year’s competition. He is on the United States National Guard Marksmanship Team.

And he’s a gunsmith.

Bill Weldon, one of the regulars at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club knew Dan’s abilities and when I asked Bill to recommend a gunsmith to put a roll trigger on my wad gun, Bill suggested I ask Dan.

I did.

And he did.

In ten minutes using the extensive collection of tools he carries with him to competitions, Dan disassembled my 1911, measured and then dressed the parts, adjusted the three tongues of the flat spring and, voila, I now have a roll trigger. (Dan would later help Tony with his centerfire gun.)

Winners and Losers

In the end there are those who received awards and rightly celebrate their win.

And there are those who didn’t receive anything and perhaps some of them felt they lost.

I shot better than expected in some events, worse in others. In that respect, you could say I won some and lost some.

But a week later, I couldn’t tell you my scores.

You see, I’ve become pretty good at filtering what is important from what is not. I remember the faces you see above, the kind acts, the sincerity. I remember the smiles, the laughs, the jests and the good-natured ribbing. I remember the people.

So, I shoot Bullseye for the people.

Tony is one of them. So are Don and Cara and Dan and the shooter who challenged the scoring of his target.

Next time you stand at the line, look at the person to your left and then the person to your right. They’re gonna be good people, honest people, sincere people.

Pass right, score left.

You won’t lose.

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!

Business Travel, How Boring

I have a business trip coming up at the end of August to the Pittsburgh area. With several weeks of advance notice like this, I can often work in a competition with my trip. Here’s how it goes…

Ok, work is August 25-29 in West Mifflin, PA. The map shows I’ll be near Pittsburgh so parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are within driving range.

Looking in Shooting Sports, I see that the Palmyra PA club has a 2700 on the 23rd, a Saturday. And there’s a 1800 in Lynchburg Ohio on the 24th and a Registered (2700?) at Canton Ohio on the 24th.

Hmmm… Well, I’d prefer to shoot a full 2700 and, looking at the map, Lynchburg is all the way across Ohio from where I’ll be.

I’ll strike Lynchburg off my list as too far to drive. (If the two 2700s don’t pan out, I can always resurrect Lynchburg [no pun intended].)

Canton looks do-able and I’ve been there before. Nice range.

And Palmyra is Tony Brong’s home range. I read and frequently comment on Tony’s Bullseye Blog  ( but we’ve never met. This might be the chance I’ve been hoping for. (Note to self: Tony’s getting pretty darn good. Better look for a restaurant in central Pennsylvania selling “Humble pie” because I’m gonna need a slice.)

But wait, the Palmyra range is pretty much on the other side of Pennsylvania. That is going to be several hours driving, there and then back, from Pittsburgh.


What if I fly-in to BWI instead of Pittsburgh and then drive up to the Palmyra area? That looks like an hour, maybe two hour drive at most. I could do that on Friday, spend the night and then shoot the match on Saturday. That’s not nearly so much driving.

Then, depending on how lazy I want to be, I could enjoy the evening there and head west to Pittsburgh on Sunday, or I could grab the gun box immediately after the Palmyra match, drive to Canton and shoot that 2700 on Sunday. Then, after that 2700, drive to Pittsburgh Sunday evening for work on Monday. That’s a lot more driving but, hey, two 2700s in one weekend? Is that sweet? (Will I still be able to hang on to the ball gun for the Sunday ball match or will I be limp-wristing the white-board marker at work on Monday?)

Still, two 2700s in one trip. Sure is tempting…

But this is do-able regardless if it’s one 2700 or two. The travel works, the driving is, well, drive-able, the car is essentially free and I’ve got the hotel points.

Ok, let’s check the gun rules for these states.

Checking the gun-travel book (“Traveller’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States”), I’m OK in Maryland if things are 1) separated into two locked containers (guns versus ammo), 2) stored in the trunk, 3) I’m just “passing through” that state, and 4) have a copy of the program for the competition.

Pennsylvania is more permissive as long as I keep things in the trunk and fly home from Pittsburgh, not Philly, the so-called “City of Brotherly Love” where handguns are strictly “Verboten!”

And Ohio is gun OK also so long as I keep things locked in the trunk.

Let’s check the Palmyra and Canton programs on-line.

Googling “Palmyra 2700” leads me to and, therein, click “Pistol” and, yup, there’s the link for the 2008 Dutchman 2700 Outdoor match on August 23, 2008. There’s the registration information on page two … and there’s a Leg Match, too. Great!

Print that and put the hardcopy in my briefcase in case a Maryland trooper needs to see my invitation to “pass through” his state with my firearms.

And now let’s google “Canton 2700” … uhm … Ah! it’s a bit farther down in the results but, yup, there’s the link to the Canton McKinley club ( Therein, let’s try the “Match Schedule” and, yes, there’s the “Ohio State Championship” on the 24th of August that starts at 9:00AM (registration and set up a half hour earlier). But I don’t see a link for the details yet. The club’s home page still shows the Perry warm-up on July 4-6.

(Poking around the website.) Well, I don’t see the match program for the 24th but, regardless, it’s in their calendar, and they sent it to Shooting Sports, and it says it’s the Ohio State Championship so, yeah, I think there’s a match there on the 24th.

This is gonna work!

Ok, let’s get down to the financial details. What’s it gonna cost me, match fees aside, for the extra travel?

First, as long as I don’t spend more money, the company will pay the airfare regardless of which days I fly. Southwest has one of its major hubs in Phoenix so I get good rates to lots of places in the US. Bottom line: the air tickets will be covered by the company because of the business trip. That gets me there and back.

Next, I’ll need a rental car. Fortunately, the rental car will be the same for 7 days as it is for 5 so no extra $ needed there.

And I’ll need Friday and Saturday nights from my accumulation of Hilton points for places to sleep. Oh yeah, I got plenty of those points. No problem with free places to sleep.

This is coming together very nicely.

And looking in the closet in the ammo boxes, I see plenty of 22 and … …

Oh oh, I’m out of both 45 ACP wad and ball.

And its 109 degrees in the loading room this time of year. (Why didn’t I put in that air conditioner this spring?)


I’ll just have to plan two hot evening sessions, one for wad and another for ball. And the extreme heat addles my brain. I need to plan doing the setup for each load while the neurons in my head are still working. Once the machine is calibrated, I don’t need to be quite as meticulous.

That is, once I start cranking out production, I’m sort of on auto-pilot with my eyes watching the powder level in each shell as it comes around. It’s true I have to pay attention but I don’t have to watch things down to a thousandth of an inch as I do when setting it up. Once I start pulling the handle, I can do that in the heat. It’ll just be hot. Real hot.

One reloading session for 400 rounds of wad and then a second one for 100 ball should do it. (I’ll crank out some more ball while I’m at it — why stop at 100 once everything is set?)

So, unless something changes, I’m going to plan on shooting the Palmyra match on the 23rd of August, and maybe the Canton match on the 24th.

And I’ll finally get to meet Tony! (Better drop him an Email.)

Who said business travel can’t be fun?