The Stuff Weekends Are Made Of (Part 2 of 3); Long Range Shooting

Every year for as long as I can remember my mother’s side of the family has gone to the Vermillion fair. Ever since I moved to the city I have spent less of the weekend at the fair and more of my time at the farm taking in every occasion to enjoy the outdoors. Summer 2012’s fair weekend, I think, has been one of the best to date. This story however cannot be told chronologically but rather divided by subject.


            Although the official reason for my trip out to the country was the Vermillion fair, between you and I, the real reason I took time off work and drove three hours, was to go to this shoot. For the past few years my stepfather, Darrell, has hosted a long range shoot and for the past few years I have often stopped in and seen the equipment and said “hi” to those partaking in the festivities. They can only be described as friendly, informative, and non-competitive. There are no awards or scores, just men and their guns. I was extended an official invite to this year’s event and I was not going to miss it. 

           The shoot was scheduled to start Saturday morning, however for me it started on Thursday. I arrived at the farm Thursday morning ready to help set up. We began by loading Darrell’s custom built, by him, steel plates and gongs into the back of a side by side ATV and believe me when I tell you these things are heavy. I was informed that their weight is no accident, it turns out even at a kilometer a bullet can still penetrate the lighter steel plates… and even some of the thicker ones. This to me really drove home the importance of knowing what is behind your target when hunting. After the heavy loading I was offered, and immediately accepted, a cold beer. It was very warm that day. 
            We then drove the little side by side to the 1000 meter target. As we bounced and scraped through the trees and brush along to quad trail, I understood why he opted not to just take the truck. Arriving at our destination involved a rather nerve wracking climb up a steep hill, with a somewhat overloaded ATV. I know it was overloaded because when we stopped and applied the parking break it started to roll down the hill. We immediately blocked up the back tires and began unloading and setting out the new targets among the old along the hillside. When it was all said and done there were about twenty targets on the hill. They ranged from about three meters wide and a meter tall to about four inches by four inches. What grabbed my attention was that this small target had bullet marks on it. While on the hill, Darrell was considering the placement of the targets while I paced and did the same, it was at this point I noticed a large piece of black plywood, an old target. For reasons I still do not understand I grabbed it and flipped it over… snakes, probably five garter snakes, which is about five more than I would have liked to have seen. Two things occurred to me 1. We don’t have a shotgun on us or the quad 2. I really wish we had a shotgun on us or in the quad. I quickly flipped the old plank back on them and told Darrell that we had to do our best to remember a shotgun next time.

            The next day, now Friday, we loaded the ATV with a weed whacker, duct tape, old cream coloured house paint, paintbrushes, and a shotgun. We arrived at the 1000 meter hill and I was told to use the tape to cover holes in the targets from previous shoots and glob the paint over top. He explained to me that when the plates are shot, if the bullet does not go through, it will still knock the paint off leaving an obvious smudge where the bullet hit. This explains the large amounts of surface rust he had let build up on the targets. He began cutting the grass in front of the targets while I began taping and painting, for the first half I was impressed at how well I was doing at keeping the paint off myself and for the second half I was cussing about my ruined paint stained pants. After we finished painting and cutting grass I grabbed the shotgun with intent to evict those snakes from our world. I ran the slide, walked up and with authority, I flipped the old plywood sign and found nothing, they wised up to my plan. Disheartened I didn’t get to shoot them and happy I didn’t have to see them I unloaded the gun jumped in the ATV and we went to the 700 meter targets to paint them and hang a few gongs. While there we spotted another snake but it escaped before any level of excitement could be reached. I was also able to spill a bit of paint on my shoe, good thing too, I was worried I might not get any paint on it. We then went and painted the 400 meter plate a large one meter by one meter chunk of steel I was told would be for some of the guys bringing their black powder guns. This shoot is sounding better and better. We then returned to the house and I was informed there is one last thing we have to do… load Darrell’s cannon onto the trailer because there were request for him to shoot it on Saturday for the participants to see. It was about this time I was starting to realize that excitement was going to keep me from sleeping that night. After we loaded the cannon we were done for the day and I was off to a friend’s bachelor party for the afternoon and evening, that story will not be told here, or anywhere else.

        The following morning I awoke in a daze in an undisclosed location in a condition that we’ll just call sub-par. I immediately made my way back to the farm for the shoot and arrived at about the same time people were starting to get geared up to get out to the range, perfect timing. The shoot itself was quite exciting and I got to try out a large amount of hardware far outside of my tax bracket. The first gun I shot was a .223 wssm (Winchester super short magnum) at about 750 yards and with a bit of assistance

The .223 WSSM

from the owner, Darrell, and bit of math,  also provided by Darrell. I was informed of what to set the scope to and sure enough each shot was bang on with that swinging gong as proof. It really gives a sense of accomplishment even if you didn’t do all the hard work like building and reloading. I asked what the math was that he used, and I was told it was thanks to his ballistics calculator app (yea I guess there’s an app for that too) all he had to do was enter in his bullet weight, velocity, coefficient, and distance of the shot. Naturally I asked what coefficient and I’m still not 100% on this but I believe it has to do with the bullets resistance as it goes through the air and this shaky understanding was only obtained after an entire group had done their best to explain it to me, bless them and their patience. I also spend a majority of the morning acting as spotter for other shooters and chatting with other people at the shoot. Then around lunch time we changed it up, Darrell loaded up his cannon and carefully took aim at the 400 yard plate. I had my doubts he could hit it. The fuse was lit, several cameras were rolling, everyone was covering their ears… then a thunderous boom came out of the cannon followed seconds later by the loud twang of that big lead slug slamming into that 400 yard plate followed by amazement, laughter, and applause.
          The day continued on and a long time friend of the family offered to let me shoot his .338 Lapua, an offer I quickly took him up on.  I pointed it at the 1000 yard target, adjusted the scope, took aim, took a deep breath and fired, and missed. I repeated this several times and to no avail, oh well you can’t win them all and it was still an amazing view. Next it was on to the 50 BMG this was the one I was drooling over. To the extent of my knowledge it’s the biggest meanest rifle available to us Canadians. I loaded the first round, had someone step in as a spotter for me and took aim at one of the cream coloured targets, about two feet by two feet wide, a gutsy target given my skill with the Lapua. I get comfortable, take aim, squeeze the trigger, and fire. At this point I should probably tell you, shooting a 50 BMG is not like shooting a normal gun first its loud, very loud, so you wear two pairs of hearing protection, small inserts and the large muffs. Second they have a large muzzle break (presumably for user safety) this reduces recoil but as a result has a strange effect on the gun. It seems to float when fired only for a split second but you can feel it. The recoil pushing back and the muzzle break pushing forward the result is a gun caught seemingly in mid air and in limbo only to come rattling and crashing down

View At 1000

in an all around exhilarating experience. The first shot I fired missed, but not by much, I loaded a second and fired and got a little closer. The third was right on I could see the paint chip, I did it! I shot 1000! That was all my shooting for the day I was happy with that and I know I’ll be back every year, especially if I’m told there will be another delicious pulled pork dinner afterword.


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