Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Monday, May 09, 2005

May 2005 Range Report

True to my procrastinating nature, instead of spending Saturday afternoon detailing the Caddy as previously scheduled, I blew it off in favor of something enjoyable. What the hell. Baked-on bird crap kinda adds character to the old gal.

Instead of doing something responsible, I went to the shooting range to break in the new Ruger Vaquero. Seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.

I'd never been out to the American Shooting Centers out near Hwy 6 & Westheimer. It's back in the Addicks Reservoir area, not far from West Oaks Mall. I wasn't sure what to expect, but found it a pleasant, well-run facility, at least for pistol shooting. Fees run $8 per shooter & 1st firearm, with $4 for each additional gun. They've got a pro shop onsite with loads of goodies and ammo, and I picked up a box of 50 .45 Long Colt rounds for $20 in addition to the range fee.

They're all about the safety rules at ASC, which I have no quibble with. There's multiple range officers on hand, and they all keep an eagle eye out for potential problems. Shooting periods last for about 1/2 hour, followed by a cease-fire and a walk-by inspection to make sure each gun has its action open or cylinder out. Finally, after warning people not to handle any firearms until the range goes 'hot' again, you are allowed to replace your targets on the backstops, using the supplied stapleguns. (Believe me, the stapleguns are an unbelievable luxury! I'm used to using everything from thumbtacks to scotch tape at some ranges I've been to!)

They've got 7, 10 and 15 yard pistol ranges, and some 20 yd and longer ranges for .22 rifles and shotguns. I didn't check out all the rifle offerings, but I did see a 50 yard and 100 yard range for big-bore work. The website says they offer up to 300 yard rifle ranges. They've got facilities for skeet shooting and sporting clays, but I'm not wealthy enough to support that hobby!

The range was busy, but there were enough open lanes that there was no waiting list. I dumped all my gear at a 10 yd slot, and waited to post my targets. There's a roof over all the lanes, so ear protection is a must once you get underneath it.

There was a really diverse crowd there Saturday. Quite a few college-age kids with .40 S&W poppers, a few older types with really pricy race guns, and several families shooting everything from .22 to .44 Mag.

I bought a couple of bullseye targets and a couple of silhouette targets, and alternated between the Vaquero and the 1911A1. I put 100 rounds through the sixgun, and 150 rounds through the auto, and learned several things.

First, I'm a sloppy-ass pistol shooter. While all the rounds I sent downrange would have easily fit inside someone's torso, there was very little effort made towards grouping unless I slowed down and put my mind to it. I prefer the old one-handed bullseye marksman stance, one hand on hips, the other straight out towards the target. Not as efficient as a good Weaver stance, but my opinion is that if it comes to combat pistol work, you better plan on having only one hand available, anyway.

You're gonna have a flashlight in the other, or else be reaching for reloads, or dragging yourself behind cover. Best to practice using both hands, but one at a time, IMHO.

The Vaquero shot pretty much to point of aim, but the tiny sights made that aiming point a bit iffy at times. Also, when I tried to do a quick follow-up shot, it often went high or over to the left (or right, depending on the shooting hand) telling me I was jerking the trigger and not waiting to get the gun fully on target before touching off the followup round.

After shooting the Vaquero and retrieving the target, I was surprised to find red plasticky threads embedded around the bullet holes all over the paper. I'm thinking that the box of Black Hills ammo used a wax gas-check behind the lead bullet, but that's just a guess.

The 1911A1 is shooting low for some reason. I first noticed it at the Blogfest shoot, but it was first apparent when I started using the reloads I bought at the last gunshow. The Winchester whitebox ammo shot a bit low, but these rounds are definitely using a slower burning powder, and the rounds are grouping 3" below point of aim at 10 yards. I need to call the company that sold them and see what the deal is. I shot all the reloads except for 10-12 rounds, so I'll stick with the Winchester for my practice fodder.

Half the shooting low issue is my point of aim. I'm used to lots and lots of .22 rifle shooting, and "balancing" the entire bullseye on the tip of the front sight, instead of aiming for the middle of the bull. When I concentrated on aiming dead center, I would pull the rounds up, but I kept falling back to habit for the last 3-4 rounds in the mag.

I definitely need to shitcan the el cheapo $8 .45 mags I bought last year in favor of some more Wilson Combat mags. I had mags fail to drop clear on eject, mags fail to hold open the slide after the last shot, and one that insisted on wedging itself in the well, and having to be yanked free. Even at $25 apiece, the Wilsons are gonna be worth it!

So, looks like the Vaquero is a keeper. I really need to get into reloading, or I'm gonna spend my retirement money on ammo. 40 cents a bang is a bit high for regular shooting.

I'll be back to American Shooting Centers, too. Nice place, and well worth the range fees.