Range Work - Part I

As the weather heats up and the days get longer, it seems like there is always something else to do besides practice my musket, carbine and pistol shooting. Yard work, vacations and "honey-dos" all take their toll. I was not very impressed with my performance at any skirmish this year, and some were more unimpressive then others for sure. I joined the members of the Chesapeake Artillery Carbine Team at the Cockade Rifle Skirmish on June 10, and was only breaking targets about every three or four shots. This mediocre result was the culmination of a confidence swing that began this Spring, and enough was enough. Basically, when I pulled the trigger I just didn't think I was going to hit anything at all. Alas, I knew all to well my next destination - the range.

I decided to set out for the range soon after the Cockade in order to (1) regain some small amount of confidence in my equipment and, (2) regain confidence in myself. Additionally, I recently acquired a LEE Bullet Mold #90478 which casts a .578+ 478 grain slug with short shoulders and shallow cavity, and I wanted to try a couple of different loads for the new slug in the carbine. With these goals in mind, I set up the bench, scope and carbine early one morning and decided to see just what was up with my carbine.

The first loads I tried were the new slug and 41 grains of FFF musket powder. These loads shot low and in a group about 12 inches in height and 2 inches in width. Not very promising to say the least. Only two of the four shots completed are visible in Picture 2, the other two being low and off the target at 6 o'clock. Next, I tried 32.5 grains of FF musket powder. This produced a much more promising group - five shots in 5 inches. While I was testing new loads, I also wanted to verify the accuracy of my present competitive load, which is also 32.5 grains of FF powder, but behind a Lyman #525215 Old Style Minie. I hung up another target (Picture 1) and fired a 4 inch group, which is about 1/2 inch bigger then I want. However, the bench work did prove that my current load was my most accurate load, and certainly reestablished my faith in the load I was using. Also, each group is just a frog hair to the right, and some minor sight work may improve my shooting. I never do sight work based on bench work alone, however, so I'll check my offhand shooting with this load and then decide how much sight work is needed. I must admit, though, my pigeon board misses have also been low and to the right, so I'm inclined to think some sight work is in order.

I fired one more group before calling it a day. Since the 32.5 grain FF load had far out performed the 41 gr FFF load, I opted to test a 30 grain FF load as well. The results are visible in Picture 2 - the size of the group increased. The partly cloudy skies quickly changed to mostly rainy at this point, and my day at the range was rapidly wrapping up.

Several good things were born of my efforts at the range. I reestablished confidence in my current load, so I have to worry about the uptight nut behind the buttplate now. I also was able to find a direction to take my load development for my new mold, and I will be trying 35 and 37.5 grains of FF next with the new slug next. This Saturday is the Mason-Dixon, and I'll report on my results in Part II.

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Range Work - Part II

Last Saturday I traveled the 128 miles to Ft. Shenandoah to participate in the 1995 Mason-Dixon Skirmish. Fresh from a couple hours of bench shooting earlier in the week, I was anxious to see how my carbine was going to shoot. As Irish Luck would have it, I pinched a nerve in my lumbar area only two days before the Mason-Dixon, and to say that I was stiff is an understatement.

I used the same load I've been using all year for my carbine shooting -- the #525215 Lyman Minie and 32.5 grains of FF powder. Having reestablished my confidence at the bench earlier in the week, I knew this load was capable. This time, when I missed, I kept repeating the same sight picture over and over, instead of "chasing" my misses. When you know your load works, you can psyche yourself into practicing logical shooting techniques, and it helps you shoot better.

In spite of my back problems and accompanying spasms, I managed to shoot my best round of carbine team this year, and I also verified that a little sight work is indeed in order. Many of my hits were low and to the right, as were most misses. Using the information from practice target 1, I wanted to move the center of my best group up one inch and to the left one inch. Knowing that my sight radius on the Navy Arms Musketoon is 18.75 inches, and that there are 1800 inches in 50 yards, I know that the relationship between my sight radius and 50 yards is about 100:1. In other words, every one inch of target change up, down, left or right will result in the movement of the impact of the bullet 100 inches! Another consideration is the sight modification rule (SMR) -- Front Opposite, Rear the Same (FORS). If I move the front side up, the bullet impact will move down (opposite), while moving the rear sight up will result in moving the bullet impact up as well (the same). My choice for this correction was to remove about 1/100 of an inch from my front sight, raising the impact one inch at 50 yards. Since my front sight is a tad wider then a pigeon at 50 yards, I opted to shave a little off the left side of my front post. This will make me shift my hold slightly to the left to center the front sight in my rear sight slot, resulting in the correction I want to make. Hopefully, I'll start busting even more targets in the near future.

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Giving credit where credit is due

I failed to credit Jim Womelsdorf as the contributor of the photo in the last column. The Chesapeake Artillery fired the same gun at the Mason-Dixon and placed second in the smoothbore competition, making the 1827 Fort Pitt 6-pounder not only the oldest gun to have competed at Ft. Shenandoah, but the oldest to win a medal! Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(C) 1995 Tom Kelley
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