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Currently Browsing: Shooting

Places to Shoot

It is basically impossible to maintain a healthy shooting culture without having places to shoot. Even if we change the laws in places like New York City, because they’ve been so utterly successful at destroying their gun culture, Bloomberg likely won’t ever have to worry about icky gun people in his city. There’s almost nowhere to buy a gun, and almost no places left to shoot. This is a city that once contained NRA’s primary shooting facility! Can you imagine that today? Actually, you don’t have to. This is where NRA’s range in New York City was:

Think there’s any chance of getting that facility back as a shooting range? Not a chance. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be possible to make new places to shoot in the Five Boroughs, but it’ll take generations, and a court willing to take the Second Amendment seriously.

It’s far easier not to lose those places to shoot in the first place. Generally speaking, I’m not going to air my club’s dirty laundry in a public forum. But I’ve spoken about some things either seeking advice or pointing out things that might be useful for people in the same position. I see a few comments here and there like this:

“Sorry, but, your club sounds like a Fudd club.  Are black rifles banned too?  Only 1 shot every two seconds?”

Now, my club it’s actually not a Fudd Club. It’s Gun Culture 1.5, to use that analogy. No issues with black rifles there: but we do have some rules that are… outdated. I am not likely as far behind as some other people would be in participating in an effort to bring Gun Culture 2.0 to a Gun Culture 1.0 club. But anyone struggling to help in such an endeavor has my respect: we owe it to future generations of shooters to try to preserve places to shoot.

I will fully acknowledge that some clubs and ranges are hopeless, and will die with their current leadership. I’m not suggesting every effort will always pay off, just that the effort is worth our collective time even if our individual effort fails. I can almost guarantee you that if you were to join a “Fudd Club” of sufficient size, you’re going to find allies in any effort to un-Fudd it. If you suddenly find yourself trying to take a Gun Culture 1.0 club into Gun Culture 2.0, I offer some advice:

  • Don’t be an asshole. No one likes someone who comes in with a personal agenda and has all the grace of a bull in a china shop. Those people are quickly flagged as trouble, because most of the time they are, no matter what they are selling.
  • Try some of the old shooting sports. I shot Silhouette for several years. I even shot air gun silhouette. It greatly improved certain aspects of my shooting. It’s also a great way to get to know people, which is key to changing anything. You’ll find friends in unexpected places. As I’ve introduced some more modern shooting sports, I’m finding a lot of unexpected crossover from shotgunners.
  • Be willing to help out. I was willing to help out when asked, or even when I wasn’t asked. Before I knew it, I received the ultimate punishment a club can administer to a member: I was given an officer’s position.
  • Don’t expect or push to change things overnight. I have been an officer for almost a decade at this point, and I’m just now starting to have enough influence to change some things. A lot of what got me to the point was circumstantial. It’s good to have an instinct for when an organization is ready for change, and when you’ll get resistance. When you get to those “ready for change” moments, go for it.
  • Talk to people. In deliberative bodies, if you bring an issue up and lose, that will be dead for a while. No one likes rehashing old shit that got shot down. So if you’re going to bring up an issue, be sure you have the votes. Have an idea which people are strong and weak yeas or nays. Think about compromise positions. Think about what you can do to firm up your weak votes.
  • Build systems and culture, not cults of personality. If you don’t bring other people along with what you want to do, even if you succeed in making changes, they likely won’t outlast you. People who are successful at building a legacy build systems and cultures. Culture is important, and it’s deliberate. It doesn’t just happen. It’s like a garden. You have to tend it.

I’ve heard stories of clubs that change through outright revolution. I recall a story told to me a while ago about a club in Pennsylvania who had a cadre of members that wanted to put on a machine gun shoot. The leadership said no. Next election, they replaced the leadership. That club now has an annual machine gun shoot. If you have the votes and the people willing to step up to affect that kind of thing, it’s an option. I am a reasonably good administrator. I’m a poor revolutionary. I’ve always wondered how the people who used the outright revolution managed it. I have to work within the confines of my own strengths and weaknesses, which I guess is a good final bit of advice. I’m always curious to hear stories in the comments from anyone who’s got one.

Draw From Holster

With club elections now behind me, a new system to manage prospective members in place and seemingly working, I’ll have some more time now. I’m interested in bringing a Steel Challenge match to my club. The only problem is we don’t allow drawing from holster. Maybe I could get an exception for the match, but I think that’ll be a tough climb. The fact is there are some risks associated with letting any yahoo draw and fire from holster, and I’ve seen enough sloppy gun handling there to be wary of it even myself. But I’m also finding people will rise to the competence that’s expected of them… in other words, as I’ve been running matches, I’m seeing gun handling practices get better.

If I were to run a Steel Challenge-like match, I’d probably need to get people’s gun handling skills up before we could do anything like draw-from-holster. I’m curious what other people might have done in this situation, and how other clubs that allow draw from holster or allow limited draw from holster manage it. If you run a Steel Challenge match, which means it’s an open match, how do you know the shooter showing up actually knows how to do a safe draw? Is there ever any safety check? Pre-qualification? Do you police equipment? I’ve looked at other clubs in the area, and some allow it, but only for qualified people.

A Big Fear of Mine

I’ve recently gotten into progressive reloading, and have several thousand rounds under my belt at the point. Enough to worry about this as a real possibility. While there are things I can get for my Hornady LnL press to boost the level of automation, a certain reduction in speed and some amount of manual steps forces me to pay more attention to what I’m doing, and offers more opportunity to catch something.

When reloading .223, I had powder stick in the mechanism and dump a light charge into one case, and then overflow the next case. Fortunately, with the powder I’m using, the charge pretty much fills the case, and all it made was a mess. But if that happened in a pistol round? Good chance I wouldn’t notice. I have Hornady’s Powder Cop, but there’s enough variation in how powder lays it would be hard to catch an overcharge. It’s useful, but not a precise instrument. It’s best, I think, for catching no-charges, which is also potentially fatal to your firearm if you plant the squib bullet in the barrel and follow up with another cartridge.

I also worry about this as a match director now. It’s not only my loads, I have to worry about the loads of the guy I’m standing behind. Shoot enough, and be around guns enough, and the law of averages will catch up with you at some point.

More Gun Blegging: Pistol Caliber ARs

I’ve never been into pistol caliber carbines all that much. I’d be interested in submachine guns if they were legal, but semi-auto pistol carbines have just never tickled my fancy. However, my club has steel targets set closer than 100 yards that are limited to pistol calibers, and our indoor range is limited to pistol calibers. We’re also about to get more pistol-caliber-only steel. So I’m thinking a pistol caliber AR-like carbine is something I could use.

But I’m not sure what to get. I’m not opposed to registering it as an SBR, and as long as I’m doing that I might as well register a can for it. To me a 16″ barrel on a pistol caliber gun is a bit pointless. But maybe I can get a pinned or integral suppressor that takes it out to 16″ and only need one tax stamp? To me if you’re going the suppressed route, the .45 ACP is a better option, but I believe that takes a more AR-10 sized lower. One thing for sure is I’d want it to take Glock magazines.

Anyone out there have any experience in this area?

What to Do with the 6.8?

Years ago, against my better judgement, I had an opportunity to buy a barely used 6.8 SPC AR-15 upper for a pretty good price, so I took it. My first clue there was trouble should have been was how badly the case head was marred after extraction. I always made my reloads lighter than factory, but reality is I could only ever push about 2100ft/sec at the muzzle without creating notable symptoms of overpressure. Factory ammo all exhibited overpressure signs.

Turns out that manufacturer’s supplier of that upper over-chromed their barrels, and so they all had pretty significant chamber pressure issues. Not knowing how safe it really was to shoot, and not liking the anecdotal evidence that suggested I could only avoid overpressure symptoms at positively anemic velocities, it’s sat in my safe for years unfired.

I’ve been debating whether it makes sense to re-barrel that upper in 6.8, or just repurpose the upper for a standard 5.56x45mm AR, sell the 6.8 brass, bullets, etc, and move on. The only reason I’d even re-barrel in 6.8 is because of just a little inner gun hipster. But I don’t really know how much of a future 6.8 has, and I can’t abide by modern guns I don’t ever shoot taking up safe space.

Sport Pistol Powder

Since I haven’t been spending as much time writing about shooting, I’ve been actually shooting more. A lot more, which has kept my reloading press busy. Up until now I’ve used Unique for most of my pistol loads. Recently I got a hold of some Alliant Sport Pistol powder, which was introduced last year. It’s very fine grained, measures very well, and doesn’t have as much of a tendency to jump out of the case and end up all over the press as the plate snaps into index. What does get on the press is too fine grained to really gum up the works, which means I don’t have to stop as often to clean up the mess.

The only downside is it’s harder to detect a double charge in larger calibers visually, and while I’ve had overcharges with Unique that were scary, it’s slow burning enough that I didn’t have a kaboom when I’ve done it. I have a feeling Sport Pistol overcharging will have more of a tendency to blow up the pistol.

The loads feel a little more crisp on recoil than my Unique loads. They also give loading info specifically for polymer coated bullets, and it’s advertised to be formulated to work with poly coated bullets. I don’t know how much that’s true, or how much is just marketing BS. Supposedly poly coated bullets are safe to shoot through pistols with polygonal rifling, like Glocks. I hope that’s true, because I’m shooting ACME “lipstick” bullets through mine. The poly bullets are dirt cheap and work well on steel targets. I’ve noticed they make a nice cloud of dust when they hit the steel, so I’d be careful with the rounds indoors. So far they seem to be working great for such cheap bullets.

4th of July Falling Plates

I had the plates turned around for the practice portion leading up to the match. Then the big reveal:

Falling Plates Pre-1801 Union Jack

I think we can all agree that King George was thoroughly trounced:

Falling Plates Shot Up

I think I may be wanted in the UK for a hate crime now.

Falling Plates

My apologies for the lack of posting. I have a whole lot going on right now. It’s dues processing time at the club. In addition to fielding angry e-mails about dues increases, there’s a lot of set-up with the bank. I don’t really like being dues chair, but each year I’m trying to automate more and more of the process. Next year it will be stupid easy. We’re taking credit card payment this year for the first time. Because I’m apparently enjoying the lack of sleep, I’ve also taken on running a falling plates match.

We’re pretty much a Gun Culture 1.0 club. Previously we shot Bullseye, CMP, Trap, Silhouette, more Silhouette, and even more Silhouette. But I’m noticing those sports are getting really sparse turnout these days compared to when I joined. Matches are what suck people into club life, and a club that doesn’t have healthy matches won’t stay healthy overall for too long. So I decided a Falling Plate match started from the low ready was a good way to bring a somewhat more Gun Culture 2.0-like sport into the club. I’ve never run a falling plate match before, so my fellow match director and I are kind of making it up as we go. What does this take? I don’t know:

Obtain plate rack.

Plate Rack

???

Profit!

That’s about how it goes, right? I’m thinking we can mix it up a bit to keep it interesting. Maybe one match you load 6, so if you miss one you have to do a magazine change. I tried to keep classifications simple, and this is just a “for fun” club match. But my co-director and I want to bring Steel Challenge to the club eventually.

If anyone has run a Falling Plate match and has advice, I’m all ears. I’ll also listen to stories about anyone who has helped move a club from GC 1.0 to 2.0 matches. We’re probably a long way from anything like USPSA, IDPA, or anything else that requires drawing from a holster, or running with a gun. But Steel Challenge is pretty tame.

 

Legends of the Clubs

Shooting clubs all seem to have their legends. One thing I’ve consistently heard since joining mine is, “If we have just one mishap here (i.e. someone gets shot), this place is finished and over with.” This has always bothered me, because if this is true, why do we insure against this eventuality? Sadly, suicides on gun ranges are not as uncommon as one might think, and the commercial ranges that suffer them seem to continue on. I also know of clubs who have had people shoot themselves accidentally, and that are still around. So it strikes me that this is quite a survivable thing for a club. Not that I would advocate clubs get complacent about safety, but there’s a fine line between safety and being afraid of our own shadows. In my experience with talking to other people in the shooting community, the primary cause of death for shooting clubs is poor leadership, not accidents.

Hardly a Truer Thing Could Be Said

Dave Hardy looks at the NRA Board elections. I couldn’t agree more with what he has to say, especially this:

I also try to compensate for my natural bias, and not to neglect the folks who focus more on shooting as such rather than activism. If we don’t have people to bring juniors into the shooting fold or promote hunting or arrange competitions, activism won’t do much good after a generation or two.

I guess you could say my focus lately has been preserving places to shoot, and trying to keep some kind of shooting community together at a local level. All the political activism won’t amount to squat if we’re not making new shooters, and that’s really hard if there are no places to shoot.

Join your local gun club. I don’t care if it’s run by curmudgeonly old farts. Most of them are, because any organization needs young people to not end up that way. I can say a lot of bad things about the Baby Boomers, but one bad thing I can say about my generation is we’re not joiners, and we’re too cynical about our ability to make a difference. But eventually, all those curmudgeonly old farts are going to die, and without young people waiting in the wings to take the reigns, those places to shoot will die with them and disappear forever. Take some non-crumugeoness with you. You might find a lot of curmudgeons actually aren’t all the curmudgeonly if you approach things the right way with them.

And eventually? You’ll be the one griping “about these kids, and their fancy electromagnetic weapons. You know, in my day, we didn’t have to plug in our ARs! Back then, 3000ft/sec was enough for anybody! Don’t need no fancy charger here, no sir!”

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