The Hess Report


Monday, May 02, 2005

Range Report 

I took the firearms to the shooting range this weekend, for the first time in a couple of months. Ideally, I'd like to go once a month, but it hasn't worked out that way. My philosophy is that if you're going to do something, you ought to try to do it well, and in the case of guns, that means practice.

The range that I go to is public and free, situated on a State Gameland, about a half an hour from our house. As public ranges go, it's very nice: ten benches each at 100, 50 and 25 yards, and ten more at (I think) twenty-five or thirty feet for pistols. The entire shooting line has either benches or stands, and is covered by the standard slanted roof so you can shoot in the rain if you really want to.

On Saturday, I took the Saiga-20, which you've met before, and the relatively new Ruger Mark II, a .22 semi-automatic pistol. The Ruger's magazine holds ten .22 long rifle cartridges. It has a form-fitting walnut grip, red dot sight, and a custom target trigger.

Ballistics and gun geek stuff for the rest of the paragraph, so feel free to skip it when your eyes start to glaze over: I bought a box of 500 cheapo rounds that cycle okay through it, and have also tried CCI Velocitor hi-velocity cartridges which give a nice crack, but seemed to hang up pretty frequently. Saint!Joy bought me a box of Remington hi-velocity rounds for Christmas, and they are my favorites to put through this gun. They have noticeably more pop than the other rounds, and are far more accurate. I put eight out of ten of them into a two inch circle, shooting offhand at twenty-five yards. I put ten of ten into a one-inch circle at twenty-five feet.

Anyway, here's the Mark II:



The chunky thing on top is the red dot sight. From the perspective of the shooter, it appears like a TV laser sight. You look through the viewfinder and see a small dot of red light. Whatever that dot is resting on within the viewfinder will receive a bullet if you pull the trigger. It's an optical effect, though - it doesn't project a laser dot onto the target itself, just within the viewfinder. It's pretty cool, and after a twenty rounds or so, it becomes very intuitive.

My only regret during this trip was the I shot the Saiga first. Range rules state that you cannot shoot regular shot at the range - it would scatter all over the target props, etc. To shoot a shotgun at a State Gameland range, you are required to use slugs. Slugs are like a giant bullet that you shoot from a shotgun, instead of the normal scattering shot. They're big, mean, and can go through lots of things and smash them to pieces. As much as you don't want to be on the receiving end of any shotgun, it goes double for a shotgun loaded with slugs. Acquaintances of mine who hunt have told me that shooting a deer with a rifled slug not only kills the deer, but apparently knocks it violently to the ground. I had never shot them before Saturday. As it was a new experience, I decided to try it first.

I mentioned before that this was a mistake. Not only had I never fired 20 gauge slugs before, I'd never fired anything even close. I was unprepared for the power of that first shot. The Saiga made as loud of a boom as anything I've heard there. The slug tore a big hole in the target 25 yards down the range. I laughed a little, which probably would have been scary to the other people there if they had not done it themselves at some point. It was the laugh of, combined: that was fun; I had no idea it would be that powerful; that's some amazing shit; and that was really really fun. The guy beside me, who had been shooting some little single-shot .22 shot rifle, nodded and smiled. I fired off the other nine slugs.

The kick, even on the AK-47 based Saiga, was significant. After putting ten rounds through it, my shoulder hurt. The slugs cycled the gun (it reloads itself to be ready for the next shot) without error. The gun shot a little high, but as I was told later by those who know, just hitting the paper with slugs at twenty-five yards is more than good enough, and I put ten out of ten through that target. Anything alive that was hit by that would not only be dead, but very extremely really seriously dead. Even a bear. Now I don't have to be afraid of bears breaking into my house anymore. And let me tell you that ever since I overheard my Mom describe a campsite bear-mauling dream to my Dad when I was little, it's been in the back of my mind. So, one more childhood fear put to rest, and I'm only 34!

After that, I shot the Mark II, which was fun, but after the calamitous glory of shooting giant missiles of lead through a target and exploding the dirt embankment beyond, it was sort of anticlimactic. New shooting rule, which I should have been able to glean from almost every other life experience I've ever had, but didn't: start small and work your way up.

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