I'm surprised that this match even took place...
Thursday the weather looked iffy, so I sent out messages that a decision would be made by 2 pm on Friday. Friday rolled around and the weather wasn't clearing for Saturday, but I did see that after 2 pm there was nothing but sun and overcast. So I sent an email out asking who would be interested in starting at 2 pm.
Slowly the responses came in and at 10 people I said it was on. But mid-morning on Saturday I was surprised because there would be 16 people confirming. So at 9:45 I started setting up the course and at noon I had two new fellows, Chris and John, come in and start to help. At 12:45 I finished and left to get my equipment while sight-in started.
I get back to the match with my equipment and I see Doug and Betsy, who weren't supposed to be there as well as Greg and Pat Shirhall, who also had said they couldn't make it. What a nice surprise.
At 2 we got started with a quick shooters meeting and then got started with the match. The course was 32 Troyer. I was shooting with Chris who had never shot before. We both used my equipment and he had a blast. After 5 lanes I hadn't missed a shot and Chris was having all sorts of fun. The kneeling and standing lanes I missed 1 shot each, so was very happy and starting to get excited that I might beat the Himes brothers. But the last two lanes were to be my downfall. I missed 2 on a small kz on lane 9 and then 4, FOUR!, on the last lane. And I couldn't even tell you if I was high/low/left/right. The small kz was so shot up I couldn't tell where the pellet hit. After all was done I had tied Tom Himes and was 4 behind Dennis. So I was very happy.
After the rifle course had been cleaned up we got to shooting pistol and it was just 4 of us. Looking at the clock it was around 6 pm, probably the latest any of us had shot here but it was the greatest. Weather had calmed down, there wasn't any wind, the temp was mid 70's, and there wasn't any noise coming from the powder burners. Absolute perfect time to shoot. In the end Eric took first in pistol followed by Mike Norris, then myself and Kevin Kunkle.
We made quick work of cleaning up and left about 7:30.
Dennis Himes 56
Tom Himes 52
Sean McDaniel 52
Shawn Pragle 48
Kevin Kunkl3 47
Doug Rogers 43
Doug Dunlap 40
Betsy Dunlap 37
Chris Schaeffer 32 (New Shooter)
Rick Vaeth 34
Pete Kopf 27
Greg Shirhall 48
Paul Manktelow 28
Eric Brewer 22
John McNamara 12 (New Shooter)
Tony Garland 9 (2nd time out)
Kurt Rudolph 7 (2nd time out)
Mike Norris 48
Glenn Thomas 37
BCSA (Broome County Sportsman Assoc.) is one of the closer matches for us with a 2.5 hour drive down to Binghamton. I started my travels at 4:50 am and got to Eric's by 5:10 am and we were on the road by 5:15 am. What's funny is that we seem to always pass Paul Manktelow on our way. Not that we're speed demons or anything, but we drive at 10 over and Paul drives at 5 over in his red Mustang with a black racing stripe down the center. A honk and wave from us and we continued our journey.
Up in Rochester the weather was great, but as we got closer to Greg's we realized the rain had set in. We were the first to arrive with Greg and Pat questioning our sanity. They were almost positive that nobody would show. However, another 30 minutes later and we were bringing out additional tents and setting up additional sight-in targets to accommodate the 22 people that showed up to shoot in the rain. It's really nice when it's raining and you know you'll be shooting from under a tent.
Greg kept his pre-match speech to a very bare minimum and we began to shoot. Shawn Pragle and I were squadded together so of course we giggled a bit because of the 8# elephant in the room :) There was 1 cold line due to a string tangle but other than that we all just had fun shooting.
After shooting and before the scores were announced, Betsy Dunlap brought out a cake to celebrate her husband, Doug's, 70th birthday this week. Greg then started with the results and handing out the medals.
I ended up with 49/60. I had one technical error (shooting the wrong target) and a bunch of missed shots on the standing/kneeling. But for the difficulty (35.9 troyer) I was happy with how I shot. Greg announced that I had the high score for the match, so that was nice. I beat Brian V. by one shot, similar to last weekend at Ray's when he got me by 1 shot.
We then started the pistol match and I later wished I had sighted in earlier. I ended up missing 4 shots in the first two lanes because of this. Pistol was shooting to the left by almost a full mil-dot. In the end I ended up with 31/40 and both Eric and Nic got 33/40, so if I'd just sighted in I <could of, would of, should of...>
Despite Nic's sight picture being clear today Eric ended up winning the shoot-off. We helped clean up the targets and strings and headed to McDonald's for a quick lunch. Our good-bye's said we headed back to Rochester.
Just a short note about equipment and the first time field-target shooter. Do NOT go to Wal-Mart, Dicks, etc and buy a rifle you will be disappointed for sure. There have been many before you who have tried and failed, ultimately ending up wasting money.
The latest "thing" for trying to sell rifles in the big-box stores is high FPS, but that means absolutely nothing when it comes to accuracy. In fact, slower is more accurate. First of all, a pellet leaving a rifle above the speed of sound is really loud. Second, if the pellet is traveling above the speed of sound when it leaves the barrel then it typically slows below the speed of sound before it hits the target. When this happens the pellet typically tumbles and accuracy is lost. Other things to consider are that pellets are typically designed to be shot at an optimum velocity. Meaning that a JSB Exact Heavy coming out at 865 will most likely be more accurate than the same pellet coming out at 930 fps. As the speed increases in the barrel the barrel then becomes even more picky with regards to everything about the pellet...head, softness, weight, etc.
My suggestion is to spend some time shooting different pellet rifles and/or pistols at one of our matches. Doesn't cost anything and you'll learn a CRAZY amount about the guns that we shoot, what works, and what doesn't work. The most frustrating thing is to buy a piece of equipment only to find out it doesn't work or isn't accurate. Then you're frustrated, and broke, and either have to find more money or give up in frustration. Either way, it's an issue.
The people involved in field target are all too happy to share their addiction, so please, please, please seek their advice and help. We've all been where you are and have learned a lot to get where we are now.
Once you do get interested in field target, whether you have your equipment or not, just go out and shoot. I get some people telling me that they want to practice some more before they come to a match...wrong. Just go to the match and you'll improve so much quicker. You'll get tips and advice from those shooting with you. We also get some that come out saying they've been able to hit the 50 yard target in their back yard 100% of the time. They get out to an actual match and miss it 100% of the time. It's a different world when you have the wind, sun, and timers added to the mix.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. You can submit questions through this web site and I'll try and respond promptly.
Eric and I headed out Friday afternoon making our way to Frederick, MD for the DIFTA shoot. We planned to stay with Hector and Veronica and their two kids Daniel and Sophia the next two nights. Shoot DIFTA on Saturday and then drive to Wappinger Falls EARLY Sunday morning to then shoot at Ray's and head back home.
Our time to Hector's was about 6 hours. I started helping Veronica with Dinner while Eric and Hector started working on Eric's Steyr to undo the previous tuner's modifications and get it back into good order. This ended up taking Friday night and all Saturday afternoon.
Saturday weather was forecast to be about 88 and humid (typical for Maryland in August) and it didn't disappoint. We got to DIFTA at 8:15 and were sighting in by 8:30. At 9:45 Paolo started the match with the shooter's meeting. A "Speed Lane" consisting of 3 targets (6 shots) in 2 minutes or less was the only thing out of the ordinary.
So Mark and I headed to our starting lane and began knocking down targets. My second lane was the speed lane and I got them all, but having only 2 minutes to range and then make your shots definitely gets your adrenaline going. I got them all, but it took me probably 2 lanes before the adrenaline was gone. We'll be adding that to the RBGC course the next match.
After 6 lanes I had only missed 1 shot, but I ended up dropping another 7 on the next 7 lanes to finish with 64/72 which got me high score (and another free DIFTA match) and 1st in Hunter PCP. Mark, the fellow I shot with was 2 behind me in Open PCP. We had a good time shooting together and shared some laughs. Eric finished 1st in Hunter Piston.
For anyone who hasn't been to DIFTA I would suggest you make the time. It's an absolutely beautiful course with the sight-in and course all under a forest canopy with minimal ground growth. In the spring and summer you have a lush, dark green canopy and in the fall you have wonderful colors as the leaves begin to fall.
Sunday morning was an early one. I was up at 2:45 am and we were out the door by 3:30 am. We drove the 5 hours to Ray's in Wappinger Falls and got there at 8:30 am when the range was opened. Ray has a great course that is also in the woods. It's a lot more condensed than most, but he makes the best of it. The sight-in area gets congested as there aren't many targets, but it gets done. The other advice for Ray's is to bring both long and short sticks (for hunter) as most of the lanes are angled up where you sit, so having short sticks proves beneficial as you are then shooting down at almost all targets. The last lane you're usually shooting up at a 60 degree angle at some targets that are 10 yards away.
Both Eric and I shot Hunter PCP and Hunter Pistol, so we had our hands full shooting twice per lane but it was fun. In the end Eric and I were at 71 and 74 if you scored 0, 1, 2 (miss, faceplate, hit) and so we thought Eric had won pistol. But then Ray was counting hits only and somehow I managed to beat Eric by 1 point in pistol.
So Eric finished 1st in Hunter Piston and 2nd in Pistol while I was 1 shy of high score, 1st in Hunter PCP and 1st in Pistol.
After the match was over we all went to a Chinese buffet and caught up and then we left for home, about a 4 1/2 hour drive, arriving about 7:30 pm on Sunday.
We had a great weekend of shooting and seeing friends.
After spending the weekend with the Himes brothers I realized that pellet head sizing is critical to being accurate. If the head size is smaller than your barrel then it could go in at an angle relative to the barrel and come out the same way resulting in a pellet that is initially not flying straight. I could see this at 15 yards indoors. Unsorted would sometimes produce a 1-hole group but more often it would create a one-hole clover. At 15 yards it should be a single hole. And given sorted pellets at that point I could produce 1-hole groups all day long.
Next step is to figure out how to sort them. You have the Pellet Gauge which is about $50 but is very slow and a bit hard to use, or you have the Compellitor system from Mark Buchanan for about $370.
This second option is a bit pricey, but it is quicker and I think more accurate. I can do about 15 pellets a minute once I got the motions down. This requires a compressor generating 80psi or more and a reloading tool (about $30).
Setup is easy. Screw in the gauge at the top of the picture, put the die in the bottom and attach the pellet "seat" in the press. You then attach the air compressor, use the provided brass pellet to set it up and you're good to go. The directions provided have some typos, but nothing that prevents you from getting the gist. Below is a small video showing the operation. Currently I'm looking for pellets with a head size, according to the gauge, of between 29 and 36.
The Pellet Gauge will get the job done, but trying to get a 177 pellet straight up and down and not have the "die" shave anything off as you're trying this is just painful. It does work if you get the process down, but I would honestly need training because with my "large fingers" it is a long drawn out process.
In comparison in about 2 hours with the Compellitor gauge I was able to fill a tin with 500+ pellets that were of the size I was looking for after going through probably 1500 pellets.