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On Going Shooting

On Going Shooting

My co-workers found out that I’ve never fired any of the guns that I’ve accumulated from my various inheritances. This struck them as something that needed to be remedied. So we all decided to spend one Saturday morning at Dragon Man’s.

Dragon Man is a bit of a character. Here’s what his entrance looked like back around September of 2016:

On Going Shooting

He’s got strong opinions. (He’s got a handful that aren’t terribly appropriate for a family website.)

Anyway, the time came for me to get my guns together and get them cleaned and looked at and maybe put some rounds through them. I have four guns:

1. A .22 rifle that my dad got as a kit back in the 1950s when he was in Indian Scouts. It’s a little cheap thing. The parts look like the kit only cost a few dollars back in the 50’s and they are assembled in such a way that it looks like it was assembled by an 8 year-old.

2. A Mauser sniper rifle taken off of a dead Nazi by Uncle Bill back in the 1940’s. It was originally mounted to a 2×4 rather than a real stock, so when Uncle Bill brought it back from Germany, he had a right nice stock made for it. Which also means that the gun itself is worth more or less diddly squat from a historical perspective.

3. A Ruger Mark I .22LR handgun. My dad bought this back in 1971 from a co-worker whose wife got pregnant and refused to have it in the house. Mere months after purchasing it, my mother announced her pregnancy with me. Dad didn’t get the same ultimatum, but he did get a gun case with a lock.

4. Great-grandpa’s shotgun. I knew that it had a woman’s nickname but I didn’t know what that nickname was. A few years back, someone explained to me that the nickname was most likely “Elsie” and I boggled that he was right. “HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT?” and then they explained L.C. Smith shotguns to me. Yep. That’s the one.

Well, when I mentioned that I’d never put a round through any of these, my co-workers went nutso and told me that I was, absolutely, going to go shooting.

So we drove out to Dragon Man’s. The trip to the range out there is a treat in and of itself:
On Going Shooting

On Going Shooting

On Going Shooting

On Going Shooting

On Going Shooting

Well, we got there and I didn’t have any ammo for my guns and the shop was out of ammo for the Mauser, so I ended up only buying some .22LR for the Ruger. With our ear protection at the ready, we went down to the range itself. They had a number of different distances set up for different kinds of guns. 100 yard range for the rifles, 15-25 yard ranges for shotguns and handguns.

We first got started with some rifles and we were shooting on the 100 yard range (which had wooden pallets set up at both the berth in the back and the 45 yard line) and the first gun I shot was my buddy’s 9mm Ruger PC Carbine. It was a pleasant shoot. Semi-automatic, so I was able to fire off several rounds without having to reload or do much of anything except pull the trigger a second time to fire off a second shot. There wasn’t much kickback to speak of and the noise wasn’t particularly notable. I did a little bit of damage to the pallets at the 45 yard line but we hadn’t set up targets or anything so my ability to say whether I hit was based on the pallet shaking after being shot.

Well, the range officer soon shut the range down, told everybody to put our guns on the tables in the front with the actions open, told us to step away from the tables… and then, once everyone had done that, told us that we could set up targets downrange and load our various magazines and STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM THE GUNS. So I loaded my magazine for my little Ruger .22LR handgun. First thing I noticed was how much of a pain in the butt getting the clip out of the gun was. Here, look at the base of the grip here:

On Going Shooting

See that little hook thing holding the magazine in place? That is a pain in the butt to push back on a cold morning. Having gotten it out, though, it was easy enough to load the magazine with .22LR (like, I’d never loaded a magazine before but it was really intuitive if you just asked yourself “which is the end of the bullet that goes out?” and make sure that that part is pointing in the direction of the front of the magazine).

We then went on to shoot handguns. My little Ruger was fun and intuitive. Apart from getting the magazine back out, I’d recommend the handgun to anybody. Plinking fun.

“Hey, Jay! Try this one!”, my buddy called over. He handed me his Smith & Wesson .38 Bodyguard. I fired it once. It kicked like a dang mule. Seriously, after one shot, the gun went from pointing at the target to pointing 45 degrees above the target. Fired it again expecting the kick this time and, again, it was just as bad. “Yeah, that gun sucks”, he told me.

“Now fire this one” and we shot his Smith & Wesson m&p Shield m2.0. I *IMMEDIATELY* fell in love. It was a gun built for easy concealed carry and it was lightweight, but it didn’t kick much at all. I found it hard to believe that it was made by the same company as the Bodyguard. It was like the Bodyguard was made by a Russian gun company who didn’t care about your wrists and the Shield was made by a Swedish gun company that spent years studying how people held guns and measuring the curve of the hand between the thumb and the forefinger.

If I find myself purchasing a gun in the next year or so, it’s going to be a S&W m&p Shield.

After that, we fired my buddy’s CZ 2075 Rami. Another little light handgun that was an absolute pleasure to fire after the exceptionally unpleasant Bodyguard. (I still prefer the Shield, though.)

The range officer shut everybody down again and my friend who is in the reserves wanted to go back to firing rifles. He brought out his AR-15, you see. So after the range officer gave the all-clear, we trotted down to the 45 yard pallets and put up a bunch of targets that were specially made to garishly show off color whenever they got shot. Something like this:

On Going Shooting

Well, we trotted back to the stand and the range officer gave the OK once he was confident that everyone was back and safe and my buddy fired the AR-15. Holy cow, the AR-15 is the loudest gun in the world. “If they made Toxic Masculinity into a gun, it’d be an AR-15”, I thought to myself. After a couple of shots, he asked me if I wanted to try. I made sure my ear protection was well seated and I targeted one of the fresh targets through the site and pulled the trigger.

Holy cow, I actually hit paper. Holy cow, I actually got it in the rings. (I credit my friend’s scoping ability rather than my own shooting ability for that.) Most surprising to me was that, holy cow, the AR-15 isn’t that loud when you’re actually firing it.

The exhaust for the gun was set up so that a *LOT* of noise came out in such a way that it was aimed away from the shooter and directed toward pretty much anybody/everybody else on the planet. I put some more rounds through the target even though I’d never fired an AR-15 until moments before. “No wonder they want to ban this thing”, I thought to myself.

After that, we fired a Remington Model 700 from 1965. A fun bolt-action rifle that felt positively analog in comparison to the digital AR-15. Loud, like it felt like a rifle should be, a nice kick like it felt like a rifle should have. (I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.)

We fired rifles until the range officer shut the range down again and then my buddy suggested shotguns. Once the range officer started everything again, we went through a brief tutorial on how to load and fire a Mossberg 500. After the tutorial, my buddy held up a shell and said “This is birdshot!” and we shot the pallet a couple of times.

He then got a mischievous look in his eye and said “now let’s shoot some turkey load.” When I pulled the trigger, it felt like I had been punched in the shoulder by a particularly emotionally stunted bully. I looked at my friend who then laughed and said “I’m sorry, Jay.”

It was weird. The exact same gun and two different loads both made for that gun (and both firing birdshot) had two *VERY* different experiences. One felt like you’d kinda expect shooting a shotgun would feel like. The other was like shooting a shotgun version of the Bodyguard revolver from earlier. (The pallet didn’t survive being shot by the turkey shot shell.)

After that, I went back to shooting handguns and we were there for another two instances of the range officer shutting the range down for target replacement.

On the drive home, I told my friend “yeah… I’d like to do this again. You won’t have to drag me out of my house next time, even.”

If you’ve never been out shooting, you should go. You’ll learn a lot. And don’t be afraid of shooting the AR-15. It only sounds like that when you’re more than a foot away from it. (And definitely check out the S&W m&p Shield.)

So… what are you shooting?

(Featured image is “Before, inflight, expanded” by Drew Stephens. Used under a creative commons license.)


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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50 thoughts on “On Going Shooting

  1. I trained on the AR15 and you are definitely supposed to use earplugs with that. Or else you could go deaf. But with earplugs, they aren’t really that bad. I’ve never used the scope on the AR15 (just the front side tip and rear side apertures). With the scope, do you need to zero your weapon?

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    • With the scope, do you need to zero your weapon?

      My immediate response to this question was “wait, what?”

      Because when I sat down to shoot it for the first time, I sat down, picked it up, looked through the scope, pulled the trigger, and hit paper.

      So I asked my buds who go shooting this same question and they told me:

      “It should be sighted, it doesn’t necessarily need to be zeroed.”

      The guy whose gun it was said that it’s this one. He explained to me that it’s not a magnification scope at all, so I should see it as more of an improvement on iron sights than what I probably think of when I think of “scopes”.

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    • you are definitely supposed to use earplugs with that

      Yes, let me say explicitly:

      I wore my ear protection whenever the range was live. The only times I ever removed my ear protection was when the range officer shut the range down.

      That said: The AR-15 was LOUD AS HELL even with ear protection. But when I was firing it? It was no longer LOUD AS HELL. It switched to being about as loud as the handguns.

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      • If you plan to shoot often, I suggest investing in one of these. We use them when shooting at my father-in-law’s place. They’re pretty cheap (those are 60 bucks) and well worth the investment for someone who shoots even a few times a year.

        They’ll cancel noise above a certain level, but actually amplify soft ones, so you can carry on a normal conversation while someone is shooting. If you’re an outdoorsmen, they’re also pretty nice to have when camping. You’d be amazed at how alive the woods are at night. (Although the occasional owl can scare the crap out of you).

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        • I go shooting with people who have their own headpieces like that, and have extra ones for just in case theirs break or they go shooting with someone else. (Yeah, it’s kinda nuts.)

          I might get a pair… someday? But, at this point, I’m still in the category of “went shooting once” rather than “goes shooting infrequently”.

          But those look pretty sweet.

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          • I ended up buying my own pair, even though 90% of what I shoot is a crossbow or bow. Mostly because I wanted ones with Bluetooth, so I could listen to music. :)

            Since I’m one of two people who prefer bows, the rest of the family are generally using something much louder. :)

            Nothing as fun as an AR-15, but Thanksgiving we were shooting skeet in between murdering frozen water bottles and paper targets. :)

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  2. The magazine release on your Luger is very common if not standard in pistols for the European market. I have a Sig Sauer P220 like that. It allegedly started life in service to a probably female Swiss border guard. I’m sure I could research it and find out for sure but who has time. It is a very enjoyable firearm but that release is a real bug for people who haven’t dealt with one before. More use and some judicious oiling will ease it up for you.

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    • Not to be too pedantic, but Ruger, not Luger. The mag release on a Luger is in the standard under the thumb position. It is one of the few Euro pistols that are like that. Then again, it hasn’t been made in 75 odd years.

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      • Cell phone, auto-correct, etc.

        I’ve seen quite a few Euro-pistols with the heel release but maybe this is different and I’m not understanding what he’s referencing.

        Edit on closer examination of the picture I think I see it now. Obviously different from what I was talking about and it does look like it’d be annoying.

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          • If I’m seeing a hook that goes up the grip and rests by the trigger then that is indeed something different. The kind of (in my experience common for European market handguns) heel release I was thinking of is a small latch on the bottom of the grip. It is much less convenient then a button type release but not as bad as pulling the release down like a lever which it looks like this requires.

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    • Well, lemme tell ya, it was a downright *PLEASURE* to fire the Shield. To release the magazine, there was a thumb slide. You slid the button, the magazine popped out. It felt like it was engineered by ergonomic gnomes.

      The Ruger felt like it was from the stone ages in comparison.

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    • I’ve never liked that Ruger .22, but it seems like everyone has one. I’ve seen .22 conversion kits for larger caliber pistols, and if I ever feel the need to get a .22 pistol, I’d rather go that route.

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  3. I apologize if I told this story before. The ROTC program in my (public) high school,* believe it or not, had a shooting range in which we fired 22 rifles of some kind–I don’t know what kind, but it sure wasn’t semi-automatic. Real rifles. I couldn’t hit any of the paper targets

    A little later, maybe the next summer, my father took me shooting out in the mountains. We shot at beer cans and such. We also used a 22 rifle, probably of a kind similar to what we used in ROTC. This time, I hit a few things.

    It was so long ago, I don’t remember whether I liked it or not. I don’t think I’d like it now. Or, I might like it, but I’m not sure I’d like to spend the time necessary to actually do it.

    The reason for the difference: In ROTC, I tried shooting right-handed (or right-shouldered with the trigger finger of my right hand). With my father, I did it left-handed. It makes sense. I write with my left hand.** But for some reason, the people who ran my ROTC program never thought to ask if I was left-handed…..and I never thought to tell them.

    *Not only was it a public high school, it was a public high school in the biggest city in Cibolia. That was in the 1980s. I doubt they still have a shooting range now, but I could be wrong.

    **However, I bowl with my right hand. I also think that if I had batted right handed in little league, I might have actually hit the ball.

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  4. I used to own an S&W M&P .45. It’s the duty version of the Shield. I loved that sidearm, very easy on the hand & wrist, but about as concealable as a brick.

    I don’t recall the AR-15 being that loud, but then again, my hearing is so damaged by being around turbines that to me, it probably isn’t. And ARs are supposed to be easy to shoot, it only fires a jumped up .22, after all. The recoil on those is barely noticeable. Now my Mosin (a 7.62), that beast is loud and kicks like a mule. It’s the rifle version of your imagined Russian revolver. I wear a thick coat when I shoot that beast. Oddly enough, my lever action shoots a similar round (a 30-30) and is much nicer on the shoulder. It’s all in the powder charge, because the bullets are both about 10 g, but the 30-30 has around 2500 J of energy, and the 7.62×54 has 3700 J. Basically, with the Mosin, I don’t have the really hit the target, the shockwave might very well destroy it with a near miss, and if it’s close enough, the muzzle blast might just set it on fire.

    The Mossberg 500 is a solid shotgun. I own one and love it. Although I just picked up one of these yesterday, on sale for about $300 off the MSRP. I wasn’t planning on getting it right now, but I wanted one, and the sale price was too good to pass up. I’m looking forward to taking that out in the Spring when we get back to WA. For now, though, it sits in a locked case, since my safe is in a storage unit back home.

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  5. Years and years ago (pre-kids who are now college graduates), I went camping with a group of friends who brought a variety of guns: a target pistol, a few more conventional handguns, and a couple of rifles. We shot at makeshift targets like tin cans, which were in little danger from me. It was fun, especially on the rare occasions that I hit something, but not so much that I wanted a gun of my own.

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    • Longer ago than that for me, Dad and I sighted the .22s we used for small game at 75 feet using a three-inch circle. Dad’s vision was 20/15, and he had learned to hunt small game in rural Iowa during the Depression (when the number of rounds plus the number of squirrels you came home with had damned well better equal the number of rounds you started with), so it was tough to meet his standard. It was a kind of big day the year that he looked at my pattern and didn’t check the little short-barrel open-sight rifle himself.

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      • I’d love to pick-up a knack for squirrel hunting… we have woods and boy have we got squirrels… and I’d rather combine walking in the woods with an activity, and an activity that aligns with our love of food? Should be a no brainer.

        And yet, I can’t get past eating the squirrel part.

        Must be the last vestige of Chicago suburbs refusing to let go.

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        • Yeah, the whole “rats with better costuming” thing. The rear legs are big enough to be worth frying. The rest usually went into a stew.

          South central Iowa has always been the poorest part of the state, and the Depression made things worse. Grandma said that Dad’s squirrels and rabbits were a nice addition to the household meat supply. Everything I heard when I was a kid visiting there was that the few game wardens in that part of the state simply stayed in their offices during the Depression; local folklore said at least one went into the woods to catch a couple of out-of-season deer hunters and never came out.

          As I recall, squirrel hunting involved walking into the woods, and walking out, but mostly knowing where to sit and wait. I learned a lot about how to sit and wait hunting squirrels when I was eight and nine.

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    • Once you get things sighted in and learn how to shoot and hit things, it’s a lot more fun. Much easier to be competent at than say, archery*, but not without it’s own set of challenges.

      *You can’t be good at either until you learn to control your breathing, but once you do, they’re both much more fun.

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  6. Fun post… like a food review.

    Was the M&P 9mm or 380? 380 is pretty popular and shoots a little more controlled; but I’ve never shot an M&P. I’ve looked at the M&P (and similar) but have stuck with my old Taurus revolver (which accommodates .410 shotgun shells) for farm work… it is not fun to shoot – I call it the hand cannon.

    My brother-in-law gave me a Ruger Mk ii .22 and yeah, it’s right fidgety to manage… I don’t find it all that safe and almost treat it as a single shot. It’s also missing the front sight which makes it surprisingly difficult to aim… so its exclusively a point blank farm implement… which is a shame because it is supposedly a fine marksman firearm.

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  7. I too have an Elsie, it was my FIL’s and his father before that. Right nice double it is. That said, plinking is quite a bit of fun and you are quite right about the Bodyguard. My father had a similar gun and it was about as much fun to shoot as you described. Then again I always got the impression that the size and reliability were greater factors in the purchase.

    Sounds like you had a nice day. And that everyone was focused on safety.

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  8. Glad you had fun Jay. Just like golf, a bad day at the range beats a good day at work.

    Most folks are pretty safety conscience. It’s the newbies that get all worked up and do stupid stuff :)

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      • I’ve probably told this story before…. My father worked at an insurance company. At some point the underwriters noticed that 50% of their motorcycle injury claims were riders with less than six months experience and 80% had been riding for less than a year. They commissioned a study to see if there was something that could be taught to new riders to make them safer. They had psychologists involved doing interviews, the whole nine yards. The psychologists’ conclusion at the end was, “People who have been riding for a year or more, when they are on the motorcycle, are clinical paranoids. They believe that everyone else on the road is trying to hit them. So when someone does pull out in front of them, or cuts them off, the riders have already planned where they’re going to duck. And no, we don’t know how to turn people into paranoids any faster than that.”

        Certainly by the time I’d been riding for a year, I was hard to hit. At some point I had to give up the motorcycle because I stopped believing I was immortal.

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        • My father did a good job instilling that paranoia in me as he taught me to ride, along with the idea of having a constant plan to avoid getting killed. He was also a big proponent of safety gear. His other favorite saying was, “there are those who have fallen, and those who are gonna.” Better to be able to lay it down and not wind up a mass of road rash in the middle of nowhere, than the alternative.

          It all saved me multiple times, including the time the lady drove out of the fog and into me.

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  9. Good on ya Jay, I went to Dragon Man’s about a year ago, I think you were out of town that week or I would have offered a trip out there. I was teaching sis and the nephew about muzzleloaders and cap and ball revolvers.

    Ames recently had surgery on her right thumb, so she couldn’t work the slide on her Glock .45. We ended up purchasing a S&W Shield in 380 and she has nothing but good to say about it.

    That Ruger .22 pistol you have is a excellent side arm. It would probably be good to ignore some of it’s lesser traits for it’s ability to put rounds on a target over considerable distance. A .22 doesn’t have much force in a single shot, but if you train to put two quick shots on target, it levels the scale a bit. Would recommend to Marchmaine to find a front sight also.

    Since I am on the subject of Rugers, I would suggest on the next trip to test a 10/22 rifle. They are a nice rifle and can also be found in regular .22LR or in .22 magnum.

    The caliber-pistol debate is interesting. As long as the 9mm, .40, and .45ACP are shooting hollow points, the wound cavity in ballistic gel shows very similar results. Looking at it from a pure “ball ammo” cross sectional F=mass x deceleration, the .45 has more cross sectional area, and slower speed on average, applying more of it’s force to the target(often coming to rest within the target to achieve a 100% force transfer).

    This weekend I shot some test loads for a 7mm Remington Magnum. Much of what I have read on the internet said not to load ‘high power’ rifle rounds with lighter than recommended powder loads. After sifting through hundreds of charts of loading data, I realized that the lightest recommended loads were generating the lowest 35,000-25,000 PSI chamber pressures for 130 grain bullets. (I cast my own 130 grain bullets two weeks ago).

    I decided to test* two rounds with 20 grains rifle powder mixed with 5 grains charcoal powder, in a attempt to make sure the burn rate was pretty slow. The rate was so slow that each shot left about 25% of the rifle powder that didn’t ignite and was laying pristine in the charcoal dust along the length of the barrel. Both rounds made it out the barrel punching a hole in my target plate and disappeared more than six inches into backstop clay.

    After cleaning the barrel I reloaded two rounds with only 20 grains rifle powder. Both rounds shot clean and ended up even deeper in the backstop clay than the previous. If my math and intuition are correct, these rounds are moving just below 1100 feet per second. There are no signs of over pressure in the chamber or on the cartridges.

    This opens a possibility that the platform could be a long range, or cheap short range solution depending on the conditions.

    * built a test apparatus that cycled the (bolt) rifle remotely by a pull string while I was behind cover

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