Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shoot, I Can Still Shoot!

Walking and Chewing Gum

I believe I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but when it is spring/summer/fall/winter in Montana I have a tough time being outside doing outdoor pursuits AND parking my butt in this chair sharing what Montana and the United States has to offer.  So . . . not much blogging lately.

When spring rolled around I had visions of getting back to Highpower Rifle competition and attended Montana's Spring Warm-Up Match in Butte (see here).  But, all of the snowpack and rain caused a bit of flooding in the Treasure State.  My house didn't flood.  However, ground water rose to a new high in our well house.  Working on that and not wanting to travel three or four hours to a Highpower Match just to watch it rain kept me at home--more than I wanted.  Those delays made my second highpower match in 12 years the 2011 Montana State Highpower Championships at the Deep Creek Range outside of Missoula.  (Note to self: "Don't do that!)  That was followed by matches in Anaconda and Butte, Montana.

Surprisingly, I hadn't lost much skill in those 12 years and I'm back shooting as well, or better than I did when I was a competition junky.  With the exception of working the bolt for the rapid fire events, I am at the top of the pack; at least state-wise (not nationally).

For those unfamiliar with highpower, the normal Across The Course match consists of four (or five) individual matches and from one to three aggregate matches.  The individual matches consist of: 22 shots offhand from 200 yards (two sighting shots and 20 record shots slowfire), 22 rapid fire shots from the sitting position at 200 yards (two sighting shots--slowfire, and two ten shot strings done in a time limit of 60 seconds), 22 rapid fire shots from the prone position at 300 yards (two sighting shots and two ten shots strings done in 70 seconds), and 22 slowfire shots prone from 600 yards (two sighting shots and 20 shots for record.)  In slowfire, the target is pulled and marked after each shot.  In rapid fire, the target is put up for the 60 or 70 second time limit and then pulled into the pits.  Besides shooting, competitors need to score other competitors and take their turn in the target pits.

Securing targets in the pits.

Here is a recap of the last three matches.

Montana Highpower Championship at the Deep Creek Range.

The afternoon of Friday, June 24 was the M1A Montana State Championship.  Competitors had to fire an M1A or M14.  All firing was done at 300 yards and consisted of 20 shots slowfire prone, 10 shots rapid fire prone, 10 shots rapid fire sitting and 10 shots slowfire offhand.   A perfect score would have been 500.  Jamey Williams of Conrad, Montana won with a 472-9X.  Second place went to James Patterson with a 461-8X, and third place went to John Strandberg with a 449-6X.  George Waldorf won the optics category with a 432-1X.  (I don't own an M1A any more)

M1A Shooters and their rifles at the Deep Creek Range, west of Missoula, Montana.
(Don Strom opted for a dog.)

Saturday was the Across the course match, which was conducted as described above, except that an extra slowfire prone was shot at 600 yards.  The match winner was Steven Powell of Utah, who shot a grand aggregate of 978-42X.  A perfect score would be 1000-100X.  The resident champion was Scott Lindley with a 962-16X.

My bolt manipulation skills weren't up to the task and I ate a round at 200 (didn't get it off in 60 seconds), and shot one in the dirt at 300 yards (trying to beat the target into the pits . . . lol)  But with those two exceptions I was pretty happy.  I was match winner on the first slowfire prone match at 600 yards, with a 197-10X, second place overall and first in the master class on the second slowfire prone match at 600 yards, with a 198-7X, first master in the slowfire aggregate (combination of 200 yard offhand and the two 600 yard matches) and first in the master class with a 947-27X in the grand aggregate.  High Master Don Strom beat me out on the second 600 yard match with a 199-9X.  To decipher Don's score:  He shot 9Xs.  The X-ring on the 600 yard target is 6 inches in diameter.  He shot 10-10s.  The ten ring is 12 inches in diameter.  And, he shot 1-9.  The 9-ring is 18 inches.

High Masters Don Strom and Scott Lindley (l to r) shooting offhand at 200-yards.
Lindley is this year's Montana State Resident Champion.

Sunday was the Long Range Match (1000 yards)

The match consisted of two individual 1000 yard matches, each unlimited sighting shots and 20 shots for record in a time limit of 25 minutes.

Steven Powell of Utah beat me out of the aggregate and one of the 1000 yard matches.  He shot 194-7X, 193-7X, and a grand aggregate of 387-14X, while I shot a 197-7X, 188-5X and a combined total of 385-12X.  To decipher my 197-7X: The 1000 yard target has an x-ring of 10 inches--I shot 7 of them; it has a 10-ring of 20 inches--I shot 10 of them; and the 9-ring is 30 inches--I shot three of them.

Shooting at 1000-yards at Deep Creek Range.

The Deep Creek Range has been called "The biggest Indoor-Outdoor Range in the World."  It is clear cut out of timber on one side and the other side is a near-vertical mountain.  Wind played a big factor on the 600 and 1000 yard matches this year, but normally, wind is almost non-existent.  It is also a beautiful place to spend the weekend, shoot, have a beer and see old friends for a weekend.

Target Pits at the Deep Creek Range.

Anaconda, Montana Match 9 July 2011

Anaconda got its name from the Anaconda Copper Company--the same one that dug the Berkely open-pit copper mine that was eating the city of Butte, Montana until it was closed and turned into the largest Super Fund site in the United States.

The highpower range west of Anaconda is only 200 yards long, so the 300 yard and 600 yard phases are shot on reduced sized targets.  200 yard matches are fun, because you don't have to move your gear from yard-line to yard-line.

One of the women competitors shooting offhand at the Anaconda Range.
The biggest challenge at Anaconda was the wind.  Almost everyone had a miss during the offhand match.  It is probable that the only reason I won the offhand match with a dismal 181-3X was that I didn't shot a miss!  My rapid fire skills were improving and I shot a 192-2x for second place at 200 yards sitting and a 194-8X for third place at 300 yard rapid-fire prone.  I was happiest with a 200-7X during the 600-yard reduced target and was match winner there.  (The only 200 score shot in that brisk Anaconda breeze.)  The 200 yard reduction of the 600 yard target has an X-ring of 1.79 inches and a 10-ring of 3.79 inches.  Being "in the money" across the board also earned me match winner of the grand aggregate with a 767-20X.  

Butte, Montana Match 10 July 2011

The Butte Gun Club range is on the side of a huge open mountain with few trees.  (It's in Montana, so the wind can be troubling--especially offhand and 600-800 yards.  Scott Lindley, who was the resident Montana state champion at the Missoula match earned first High Master in the grand aggregate with a 760-16X.  The Match Winner was Jamey Williams, who won the M1A match in Missoula, with a 773-19X.  Personally, I didn't do well in the offhand phase.  I can recall several times over a decade ago that shooting in the wind in Anaconda gave me a jerk that I couldn't overcome the next day at Butte.  The same thing happened the weekend of 9-10 July.  Awwwwww.  But my rapid fire is picking up.  Won first master class with a 197-7X at the 200 yard sitting--Lindley beat me with a 198-7X.  Won first master class at the 300 yard prone with a 199-6X--Matt Waite won it overall with a 199-9X.  Williams won the 600 yard match with a 192-6X, besting my 191-7X.  And, I was first master and second in the grand aggregate with a 770-24X.

Sitting rapid fire at 200-yards.

That afternoon we had an 800-yard match.  Unlimited sighters and 15 shots for record in a time limit of 22 minutes.  A perfect score would be 150-15X.  Jim Panagopoulos and I both shot 150s, with me edging out Jim Pan (as he is called) by one X.  Jim's 150-7X vs. my 150-8X.

A good couple of weekends!

I'm still not sure if I can walk and chew gum at the same time, since I don't chew gum, but when I focus on one thing I can do it fairly well.  When I considered returning to competition, the thought entered my head, "Can I still shoot?"  I can.  Additionally, being outside with like minded people, shooting guns, having a beer and a story or two afterwards, and camping in Montana . . .  well, what can I say?  I can still do that, too.