Desert shooting adventure – Targets to bring to range day

This past weekend, a few friends and I headed out to the desert in a minivan. We roughed over some unpaved roads with a whole arsenal laying over the fold down back row seats. At the end of the road (cough) there was a sign saying “Pavement Ends” that had at least 25 rounds through it. That’s how we knew we were at the place.

Hanging out with the cool kids, and those two guys in the distance.
Hanging out with the cool kids and those two guys in the distance.

Despite waking up at awful 5:30 in the morning, we were not the first ones there. Someone else had staked the usual spot! We found an area not far from them and had great seats to the tannerite explosions throughout the morning.

By large, the most important piece of equipment to bring to range day in the desert aside from guns and ammo are the targets, aka, things to destroy. We had a steel target rated for rifle rounds, two bowling pins, a few rimfire ground targets, a Cabela’s catalog and an old computer case.

Who know shooting steel was an exercise in abstract art?
Who know shooting steel was an exercise in abstract art?

The steel target was set out for 90 yards. The fellas shot at it most of the day while I was plinking away with my pistol and rifle where we had the ground targets set up. The steel jack I bought at Ammo Bro’s Santa Ana store grand opening was a great purchase. Seeing that little thing flip over 20 yards away with each pull was a delight. My primary bad habit with pistol right now is dropping the muzzle right before the trigger pull. As long as I stay conscious about it and fight it, I hit every time. Otherwise I see a plume of dirt, boo!

Tough-as-nails bowling pin stands up to 12 ga shells!
Tough-as-nails bowling pin stands up to 12 ga shells!

The bowling pins held up surprisingly well. We tied it to a plastic sawhorse and it hung like a little shooting gallery. I threw a few .22lr rounds at it and hardly made a difference, but when one of the guys shot their 12 gauge slugs at it the pin flew backwards and round the top of the horse. But! the slug didn’t penetrate the pin! We were pretty surprised about that. Those pins are strong! Next time we’re taking a .50 cal against them! (I wish)

Shooting with discipline – Stance

Shooting sports appeal to a type of personality that craves perfection through discipline. The idea of a shooting sport is that you prep, you aim, you launch a small object and you hit a target.

Discipline is huge when it comes to target shooting (and guns in general. Remember the four rules, always!) It is about getting all the different elements right to set yourself up for success. Good stance, good sight picture, good trigger pull. BANG! Go again.

I’m a fairly new shooter and there are things, like the isosceles stance, that are plain unnatural at first. Leaning your shoulders over your hips which are directly over your feet, shoulder width apart, is not a comfortable position because you have to engage your core and back muscles to hold upper body weight up against gravity.

Still, gotta do it with each shot. Before every pull, I remind myself to check my stance. It makes me feel like I’m sticking my butt out for everyone to see which, as a girl with a bit of decorum, is unsettling, but I do it anyway.

Now that I’ve practicing for a while, it is coming a lot more naturally. There are times when I can’t seem to line up the sight picture and nothing feels right. When that happens, I point the gun down, shuffle my feet around and mentally reset. When I start over, I think in my head “Point at the target. Point at it with your whole body.” Thinking that pulls my body forward like there’s a rod attached to my front sight and there’s a gremlin on the other side of the bulls-eye tugging really hard. That image in my head pulls my shoulders over my hips.

A good stance is the foundation for a good shot. When I’m in the right spot, I can feel it and it shows on the target.

Here’s a really great video from Haley Strategic about Weaver vs Isosceles stance. Like Ron said, “They both work. You decide which one works best for you.”

Browning Buck Mark – First thoughts with this .22lr pistol

The moment after I fired my brand new Buck Mark for the first time, this is thought went through my head: “I am holding a tiny explosion in my hand.”

While it is a pistol, and a great one at that, it reminds me of a revolver. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing like a revolver. It just reminds me of it.

Henry lever action rifle and Buck Mark pistol - .22lr
There’s my new buddy! Browning Buck Mark Practical URX – slab side barrel

There’s nothing physically similar between the semi-auto Buck Mark and a revolver. However, the Buck Mark is dissimilar to a usual semi-auto handgun in the sense that the slide, or rather, half slide, exposes both sides of the firing chamber, instead of just one-side, the ejecting side, on a Glock or something.

I think, because of that, it makes the explosion a lot more visible and in-your-face. Does it make sense that it reminds me of a revolver?

No? Just me?

Another thing I noticed is that it ejects with more force than I expected. The casings really go flying with each trigger pull. A huge cloud of gun smoke would appear with every shot. I feel like these things are probably normal, but I’ve never noticed it firing other people’s guns. I’m only noticing it because this is my pistol and I’m scrutinizing. My pistol. My Buck Mark. Mine. (Yeah, I love saying that.)

I’m convinced that my decision to buy a Browning Buck Mark (.22lr) was very, very right. I spent a lot of time doing research and feeling up different .22lr handguns at the store to find the perfect one. Being in California means that the options are pretty limited. I didn’t want to get a typical semi-auto pistol-looking gun because most of the reviews I read for those mentioned that they were picky ammo eaters. There was one comment that convinced me that the Buck Mark was the way to go.  I’m paraphrasing here…

Semi-auto pistols, like Glocks, are built for centerfire rounds, which are more powerful rounds, to move the slide and cycle the gun. The design and operation of the gun is to be used with a centerfire round. But .22lr is rimfire, not centerfire. It has less power. When you build a .22lr gun with the styling and operation made for centerfire ammo, no wonder you get failures. If you want to shoot a .22lr round out of a pistol, use a gun design that’s made for it.

There you have it. Once I heard that, it made total sense to me. With that little nugget of information, the next big question is… Ruger or Browning?

Image credit to tacticalpracticalri
Image credit to tacticalpracticalri

Thankfully(?), California’s (stupid) roster made that decision for me as the Ruger Mk3 isn’t on it.

Calguns monthly shoot – Meeting new gun buddies!

As a California gun owner, there’s a sense of camaraderie like when you wave to a passing motorcyclists from your motorcycle. Californians typically don’t like guns, don’t understand them. When you come across a fellow enthusiast, it’s like finding members of a secret club.

The biggest “club” in California is Calguns. It’s like the NRA, but they fight for our gun rights in California. You know that pesky CA-compliant gun roster? Yeah, they’ve got lawyers trying to get rid of that.

CGSSA April 2015 071_zpsfem8txlh
San Bernardino county chapter checking in!

On the lighter side of Calguns is the forum and the local community groups. The group leaders organize monthly shoots and events for calgunners to get together and do what we love best, talk about guns and shooting them (and eating pizza!)

A few weekends ago, I went to a monthly meet for the first time and the people were really friendly. The group was a huge mix of race, age, gender, personalities and experience levels. When we were hanging out in the lobby waiting for everyone to arrive and chowing down on pepperoni slices, I realized what guns being the “great equalizer” really meant.

Sure, there’s the conventional meaning where a physically weaker person with a gun in their hand can be physically equal to a larger stronger person .

What I’m talking about though is the idea that when it comes to the world of loving guns, it doesn’t matter what your race is, what parts you have between your legs, what color your collar is, how many wrinkles you have on your face or how many rounds you put through however many or few firearms in your collection.

You love guns? You love 2A and want to keep it strong? Welcome, friend! That’s the feeling you get at a Calguns meet.

The range stayed open late for our meet so we had full run of the place. Being at the range after-hours with the lanes packed for a special event is really awesome. Since everyone is a friend, people were walking around to see what other guns other people brought and exchanging tips on technique. Usually, when you go to the range on your own, the barriers between lanes shut you off from the people next to you and it feel like there are these invisible lines extending all the way back to the wall which you can’t cross.

More pics on my Instagram feed
More pics on my Instagram feed

It wasn’t like that with the meet. All night I heard people chatting with each other and saying the four most exciting words, “You wanna try it?” It was a real treat to be able to shoot all different kinds of guns. Semi-auto pistols in all flavors, tiny snub-nose .22 revolver, huge .357 revolver with the owner’s special reload blend, just-for-giggles Buck Mark with a rifle scope and my favorite of the night, a 10/22 Ruger with a suppressed barrel. The bullet was so quiet leaving the barrel that you’d hear the action cycle instead of the bang.

I invited people to shoot my lever action Henry too. It was the only lever action there and for some, it was the first time they’d ever tried one. The end result is always the same: big happy grin.

I definitely recommend seeking out your local community. Do it for the camaraderie, the wealth of knowledge from experienced shooters, the opportunity to share your knowledge and, of course, the pewpew fun.

Steel target shooting – fun times at the range

The only thing that would make this day even better would be if it were Sunday instead of Saturday so I could call it Sunday Gunday Funday.

You can barely see the steel targets in the picture, but they're there!
You can barely see the steel targets in the picture, but they’re there!

I woke up bright and early, scrambled around my house to gather all my shooting gear and jammed out the house to meet up with a friend at Raahauge’s range in Corona.  What I was most looking forward to was shooting steel targets. I had never done that before and my friend raved about it when he found out that I never had. “Oh man, you will have so. much. fun.”

Hearing the ding ding of making shots all morning was very mentally satisfying. Shooting steel targets is a metaphor for life, actually. First, you have to try your best to make the shot so you shoulder your gun, get your stance right and aim for the perfect sight picture. It’s all about prepping yourself to achieve success.

Then the second part, pulling the trigger and making it go. It’s easy to get stuck on this part in life. You put all your effort into getting ready for something but you never do it. So, pull the trigger. (And don’t just jam it back either. Squeeze deliberately.)

Then you’ll hear a ding. Or you don’t. You make it. Or you don’t. The better you prepare, the more your practice, the more likely you’ll hear that ding. But sometimes you just don’t without any explanation why.

How'd I do? 9mm at 10 yards.
How’d I do? 10 yards.

The thing about shooting steel targets that is way better than punching paper is this: Once you pull the trigger and hear the ding (or not), that shot is over. You rack the gun and go again. On paper, the bullet makes a hole. And this hole you compare to all your other holes.

I’m not saying that paper is bad, but there is a sense of gravity and business to them.  They’re really useful for judging and grading shooting skills, but who wants to be judged all the time? Steel is for fun. Paper is for work.

Today was tons of dingdingding fun. I can’t wait to go again.

First time firing guns in bigger calibers – 5.56mm and 12 gauge

Big caliber guns scare me. When I say big caliber, I mean anything bigger than a .22 caliber. Of course, this is all relative and about to change real fast.

Image credit -  Chuck Coker
Image credit – Chuck Coker

I went to the range this past weekend with my buddy who brought his AR-15 and Benelli M4 shotgun along. I would have been perfectly happy plinking away on my new Henry lever action all afternoon. But… that’s not to say that I didn’t have some curiosity. I didn’t feel quite ready for it yet though so I kept my distance, thinking and observing with my eyes.

The moment I realized that I was ready was when I stopped jumping every time the guy in the lane next door fired his .308 rifle (I think). Literally, each time a shot went off, my shoulders would tense and I could feel the arches of my feet lift a few centimeters. After a while, it was less surprising and sounded less violent.

When it comes to a gun that I’ve never fired before, I like to learn the basic anatomy of the gun. Before coming to the range, my friend had shown me how to clear, cycle, put on safe and load the weapons. I dry-fired a few times and looked over the gun asking him what every unfamiliar looking thing did. I even asked him about the button looking thing that holds the strap to the gun. Yeah, he chuckled at that one. But hey, AR-15s have all sorts of complicated-looking parts and I wanted to make sure I knew all of them.

Another step to make me comfortable with the idea of me firing the gun is to watch someone else fire it. What I watch for is how much the gun kicks and how to cycle in the next round (if not a semi-auto). I used to hide behind “I’m small so I can’t handle that gun” but I’m slowly learning that I can handle recoil as long as I have the correct stance and hold the gun tight to my body.  Seeing someone else fire it a few times gives me a good idea on how I’ll need to prepare, physically and mentally, for the kick.

When it was my turn up at the plate, it was immediately apparent that the weight of the loaded guns was something I hadn’t fully anticipated. I could lift them and hold them, but it was definitely tough on the muscles.

The Benelli was significantly heavier than anything I’ve held. I had a little trouble holding it up long enough to aim so I steadied myself with elbows on the bench. With that out of the way, I still didn’t feel strong enough because the trigger pull was so heavy! Turns out, I was just being a scaredy-bunny about it and I could pull the trigger just fine as long as I put some conviction behind it.

The first time I fired the shotgun, I felt a kick in the face. Not damaging, but hurtful enough to remind me that I need to weld my cheek to the stock better. This kind of thing is fairly inconsequential when it comes to firing a .22 rifle, but it sure makes a huge difference on anything bigger than that.

I went through less than twenty rounds between the AR and the shotgun. Towards the end, we were packing up and in my mind I’m thinking, wait, what, already? But there’s one more magazine!

The gun bug bit me pretty hard that day. Until my wallet fills back up again, I’ll be practice-practice-practicing on my Henry.

First time alone at the range with my Henry lever action .22 rifle

I have this weird affinity for material objects. I like to personify them knowing full well that saying “my car is having a bad day” doesn’t mean anything because my car is a machine and she knows no good or bad days.

Nevertheless, having my Henry lever action, my very own rifle, has made me feel like there’s a new important addition to my life. He is like a boyfriend. He’s stronger than me, protects me and makes me feel safe. In return, I feed him, clean up after fun times and lube metal on metal working parts regularly.

What is this ancient technology D:
What is this ancient technology D:

Today, I went to a local range for the first time, by myself.  I was a little nervous because I had never been there before, but I was confident that I knew more or less how ranges operate. The range was not what I expected. When I walked in, it looked like remodeling chaos. There were unpainted walls, mismatched floors and I could see into the ceiling above the ceiling. The shooting lane itself was short (50 feet only) and they used the carriers that swayed when you put your target out there.

I’m reserving judgment whether I’m going back. It’s hard to beat a range that’s so close, especially when the alternatives are at least 30 minutes away. The idea of shooting on a Wednesday evening is really appealing to alleviate the work stress that’s accumulated by hump day. (Yes, there is a hump-day guy at my work.)

Check out that gorgeous wood grain!
Check out that gorgeous wood grain!

This trip marked the first time Henry and I got to spend alone time together on the range. I didn’t have to think about my friends hanging out on the bench behind me, staring into my back and getting bored. I didn’t have to worry about whether I was taking too long or not shooting fast enough. It was just me, my rifle and my own sense of time. Talk about zen and forgetting the rest of the world exists.

I shot in the lower right to get that group to end up in the center...
I shot in the lower right to get that group to end up in the center…

I shot a total of 225 rounds with sights that were high and to the left. I hesitate to adjust my sights because I feel like maybe my poor aim is due to my poor marksmanship skills. I feel like I need a refresher on how to properly use sights and have my stance critiqued. Perhaps some more YouTube video watching is in order.

Now I’m low on ammo, so it’s dry-firing practice for a while now. I can’t wait to get back out there!