Proficiency with firearms isn’t just a necessary life skill but it’s also a fun hobby. Some play golf or go bowling. Me? I like to blast at stuff in my backyard.
One of the perks of my new location here on the mountain is an infinite back stop. Basically, I can shoot in any direction in any caliber at any time and not risk hitting things I don’t mean to shoot (like people, cars, houses, etc).
I finished my chores and projects early today and rewarded my self with a little bit of shooting. Usually when I shoot, I pick one gun or caliber and hone my skills in a focused manner because it’s easier to get better when you work at it one tool at a time. Today I switched it up and fired 10 shots each out of six different guns at six identical targets over the span of about a half hour. I wanted to see which I was best at right now.
It’s been many months since I’ve shot a gun seriously (at a fixed distance and using a standard target). Most of my recreational shooting is just casual plinking at cans. But since today was my first attempt at serious “range time” in a long time, I bravely decided to document the results for all to see, mock, and laugh at. Enjoy!
It was 77 degrees this afternoon with 46% humidity and a 3mph light breeze from “downhill” (almost ideal shooting weather). I was standing shooting off-hand at 15 yards (unless otherwise specified) on the level (neither uphill nor downhill) at Birchwood-Casey “Eze-Scorer” targets (8″ x 8″) stapled to a sheet of plywood on a 4 foot tall post.
First up was my Browning Buckmark semi-auto pistol in .22LR (“Camper URX” model in stainless finish with the 5.5″ bull barrel). I’ve owned this gun for almost a decade and have put many rounds through it. It is accurate and I feel I can shoot it well.
I had one flyer (lower right) but I’m going to blame that on the fact that the gun was clean (all of my guns were today) plus I was shooting no-name bulk lead round-nose ammo (not known for its accuracy). With 10 shots out of 10 on the paper and 9 scoring a total of 74 pts, this is about as good of shooting as I could’ve hoped for as rusty (and shaky) as I was today. Not counting the lone flyer, my group measured 3.75″ and this gun shot the day’s best three bulleyes.
Next up was my Taurus model 85 revolver chambered in .38 Special. I’ve owned this gun for less than one year and it is my first wheel gun. It also has the shortest barrel of any gun I own (I call it my “snubbie”). To offset these handicaps and to maximize my accuracy with this notoriously inaccurate gun, I fired all ten shots single-action (with the hammer cocked). Ammo was PMC Bronze FMJ “ball” training ammo (regular load, non-“+P”). Not surprisingly, I had three flyers. But the 7 shots I did get on paper scored 51 pts. This group measured 4.25″. 3 flyers out of 10 shots (30%) is a bit disturbing (this is a 5-shot pistol) so the tight group (for me) was reassuring.
I was slowly warming up as I moved up from smaller calibers to larger. Time for everyone’s favorite: 9mm! My Taurus PT-111 “Millennium” Generation 2 is my newest gun. I’ve owned it for only a month or two and I’m still getting used to it. I love its size, magazine capacity, and light weight so much that it has become my everyday carry gun. I guess I better get good with it then huh? Shooting American Eagle FMJ training ammo, I only had one flyer out of 10 shots and it’s literally touching the paper there at 4 o’clock so I hesitate to even call it a “flyer”. A recently cleaned gun will do this until you’ve fired enough “fouling” rounds through it. The trigger on this gun has a ridiculously long pull. I’m positive that’s why I’m all over the place here. But look at those two bullseyes! I scored 51 pts with this rather large 7.25″ group. More practice is definitely needed with this pistol.
We all have that one gun that we feel most comfortable with. Usually it’s the one you’ve owned the longest and/or shot the most. For me, it’s my Gen 3 Glock 21. This pistol was a gift from my Dad and is the first “real” pistol I’ve ever owned (not counting that cheesy little Beretta Bobcat in .22Short I had when I was a kid). I love everything about this Glock: the balance, the fit in my hand, the crisp trigger, and the way it “points” without even being consciously aimed. It’s no surprise then that I shot my favorite pistol the best. I shot 10 rounds of Federal FMJ “ball” training ammo and everything landed on the paper. 68 pts and a 5.5″ group out of a .45ACP duty pistol at 45 feet! I’ll take it. Love, love, love my Glock.
OK, that was enough pistol shooting for one day. I wouldn’t say I “hate” shooting handguns but it’s a very difficult skill to master and maintain. The older I get the harder it gets to hold a pistol steady, get a good sight picture, and squeeze off a good shot. Give me a rifle any day. Rifle shooting is a breeze by comparison, and few rifles are as fun or as accurate as the AR-15. Mine is a lightly modified cheapy DPMS Panther Oracle. It was my first AR and I’ve put thousands of rounds through it over the past decade so shooting it feels as comfortable as putting on an old pair of jeans. This comfort shows up in the fact that, like the Glock 21, my AR shot no flyers today. Pretty impressive for recently cleaned guns shooting mediocre bulk ammo. For the AR, I moved back to 50 yards and shot from a rest (not a bag, just the railing on my deck). Optic was a non-magnifying red-dot (which might need some re-zeroing). Ammo was low-budget American Eagle 45-grain FMJ training stuff. I got all 10 rounds on the paper and in a very nice 3.5″ group. If you call that shot at 11 o’clock a flyer, my group tightens up to less than 3″. Points scored totaled 74 (tying the Buckmark 22 for first place). 50 yards is pretty close for rifle shooting. Maybe next time I’ll double that distance and see if I can maintain a 3″ group…
For giggles, I loaded up my Mossberg 500 12ga. shotgun. Shotguns, while punishing to shoot often and train with, are perhaps the guns we should all strive to get the best with. Here’s why: a shotgun is the gun you are mostly likely to use to put down a rabid dog, kill a varmint that’s been eating your chickens out behind the barn, or blast home invaders in the middle of the night. If you are scared of shotguns, just shoot them more often! If 12 gauge is too much kick, move down to a 20 gauge or even a .410. Or just do what I do and use lighter/shorter 12 gauge loads. As a prepper, homesteader, or self-defense enthusiast, the shotgun is your friend. There is a huge variety of different size shells and load types from slugs to birdshot. No other gun changes its character and usefulness so much just by using different ammo. If I was forced to only own one gun it would be a shotgun.
That said, I’m not that great with my Mossberg. Today I loaded two Herter’s 2.25″ “Mini-buck” shotshells. Each one carries six double-aught pellets which roughly equals the firepower in a 12-round magazine of .380 or 9mm but unleashed in two shots versus a dozen. In the photo above you can see what an open-choke shotgun does at 15 yards. Only 8 of the 12 pellets landed on paper (four “flyers”). If I was scoring this like a pistol, I’d give it 45 pts. The grouping of the pellets that hit paper was a lousy 7.5″. But if I hadn’t labelled the target, you’d have difficulty telling it apart from the 9mm or .45 targets.
So, how is your shooting? Are you practicing as often as you should? Can you beat this old man’s shooting?
Late Edit: turns out I’m shooting pistols from twice as far away as necessary. Certified Gun Master Massad Ayoob says 7 yards (21 ft) is the optimum distance to practice self-defense pistol shooting. This makes me feel even better about my four and five inch groups at over twice that range. Maybe I’ll do all this over again tomorrow…at 7 yards. Stay tuned.