Anyway, after taking mom out to lunch on Mother's Day, she went home to take a nap and I was left with the afternoon to myself. Since I had been unable to make it to the range last weekend, I figured this was a prime opportunity to make up for lost time.
In retrospect, I should have stayed home.
There are some sports or hobbies where, according to the old adage a bad day spent doing it is still a pretty good day. This is most emphatically NOT true with firearms, because a really bad day at the range can result in injury or death. Fortunately neither of those things happened on Sunday, but it was still a pretty crappy day.
Lesson #1: If the rangemasters are having a bad day, go home.
For those who don't know the term, rangemasters are the guys (I have never seen a female rangemaster) are the people who work at the firing range, making sure that everything is working okay and that people aren't being irresponsible with their firearms. Everything they say is Law on the firing line, and if you don't obey them they will kick your ass to the street, because we are dealing with guns here and folks need to be responsible.
You know the phrase "If momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy?" Well, the rangemasters are the mothers of the firing line, so when they are having a bad day (people have bad days, it just happens), pretty much everyone else is going to have a bad day as well. They will gig you for little things, stupid things, things that you've done a million times before and no one said word one about. So when they chew you a new one, you have two choices: nod, say "yes sir" and take your beating, or leave.
I should have left. I didn't. I'm not saying that what happened after this was their fault; what I am saying is that when shooters are upset they tend to exercise poor judgement and make mistakes. Let's call it a "contributing factor" and be done with it.
Lesson #2: There is such a thing as Too Much Bullet
The first rifle out of my case was Izzy at the 50 yard line. Prior to this, I had been using Silver Bear 174 grain ammo, but I had shot all of that up the other day. I didn't want to use my corrosive military surplus (milsurp) rounds, so I went with something shiny I had bought a while back: 180gr Sellier & Bellot.
Let me tell you that it might not look it on paper, but there is a HUGE difference between a 174gr bullet and a 180gr bullet. Even with two recoil pads, that 180gr round hurt. My shoulder is still aching two days later -- I shudder to think what it would have been like with the original stock and skullcrusher plate.
If my shoulder had been the only casualty of the afternoon, though, I would have been all right with it. But apparently the recoil was such that it actually vibrated the screws on my scope mount loose. It was midway though my second magazine that I realized none of my shots were hitting the target. Like a dumbass, I corrected for windage and shot again. Another magazine & a half later, I finally figured out that my scope was actually tilted upwards and that meant all of my shots were going so low they were missing the target entirely.
Lesson #3: Use a threadlocking compound
If I had secured the screws with Loctite or Permatex, this would not have happened. Guess what I bought at the store today?
Lesson #4: Use cheap bullets when practicing. Use only the good stuff when you're certain.
The shiny 180gr S&B? A buck a round. the milsurp rounds back at home? Five cents a round. Make your mistakes with the cheap stuff.
Lesson #5: Know when to leave well enough alone.
I'm happy to report that this was one lesson I didn't need to be taught, thankfully, because it could have gone wrong so many ways.
After realizing my scope was flopping around, I had a "bubba" moment of "I can fix it!" by trying to shim up the base of the weaver rail with a screwdriver I keep in my range bag. I had wedged it in place and was sighting in on the target when something told me I needed to reconsider. I took a look at the screwdriver handle about a foot from my face and realized that 180 grains of recoil would probably shove that thing right into my eyes. I quite wisely decided that Izzy was range-fucked and put him back in the case.
I pulled out my .22 and shot a quick set just to make sure the scope on it was still good. This was the result:
|The three circular patches are from shooting Izzy.|
Lesson #6: Always bring tools with you
Another one I didn't need learning. I always bring a range-bag with me when I shoot; it carries my targets, ammunition, a bottle of water, and various tools for making field adjustments: allen wrenches, screwdrivers, leatherman multi-tool, etc. I joking refer to it as my "shooting purse" but it's come in damn handy more than a few times. So when the yahoo next to me needed a tool to adjust his sight, I had one I could lend.
Lesson #7: Something things just turn to shit
It was like a cloud of bad luck descended upon the entire range. Yahoo to the left needed tools; the yahoo next to him had a casing that wouldn't eject and only freed when the rangemaster put a rod down the barrel and hammered at it with a piece of wood for a few minutes.
As for myself, I was trying my luck on this target:
If you didn't follow the link to the PDF, I want you to know that the 1-point circle there is approximately the size of the orange circle in the previous picture. It is dead-easy to hit, which is why it's worth only one point.
I missed the shot. Don't ask me how, because I don't know. I could hit a bullseye an inch across at 50 yards, but something that huge I missed by a good chunk and my shot ended up in the big white field in the center of the paper.
It was like I rolled a critical hit, followed immediately by a fumble. And I could not stop missing. I clipped the 5 right at the edge; the 10 shot went high and to the right. Not what happened with the 15, but the round meant for the 20 went high and actually hit the 150 circle above it.
I cannot explain this. I tried shooting another tube of ammo, but every single bullet refused to feed into the chamber, giving me jam after jam after jam. I switched from lead round-nose to copper hollowpoint.
They all jammed.
I applied Lesson #5 and left before things could get worse, because it is never a good idea to be in a bad mood while using a tool that generates small explosions near your head.
I had hoped that by cleaning, lubing, and tightening by .22 I'd be able to fix the feed problem, but no joy: jammed every time. So I took it to my local gun shop and, wouldn't you know it, I could not replicate the results. The dummy rounds (called snap caps) loaded perfectly every single time. All I could do was describe what had happened and make an appointment for the gunsmith to take a look at it. I don't know if he'll find what's wrong with it or not. I hope it's not expensive.
As for Izzy, I suspect the entire Weaver rail is fucked. When I removed the screws that held it to the rifle, I noticed a lot of stripped threads. I don't know if this is due to me over-tightening them (I don't think so, but it's a definite possibility) or just using cheap metal in the manufacture. I'm investigating replacement rails, but am caught on the horns of a dilemma: less expensive rails might be made of more cheap metal, but simply having a higher price tag is no indication of quality. If any of my readers can recommend to me a strong, reliable rail at a decent price, I'd surely appreciate it.