Last week I had to get a rifle scope sighted in at the last minute before a trip, so I had no time for a leisurely morning or afternoon at the range.
Range time to me is supposed to be fun. Sure, there’s a purpose — improving skills, getting a gun-scope combo ready to hunt, trying new ammo (pricey today, though!) — and of course, any range time requires safety. Rushing through anything can be a recipe for disaster.
But my time needed to be succinct and deliberate. So, it was more clinical than like the days as a teen when I’d go with my father to shoot milk jugs. I was fortunate that he took me, and lessons learned then are still applied today. The public range I use was pretty packed at the 100- and 50-yard areas so I dialed in at 25 yards knowing it would be an inch high at 100. Just like Dad and I did many years ago.
I’ll have more about the new rifle I’m using on the trip when I get back, so be on the lookout. It’s chambered in .308, a caliber I’m quite comfortable with for deer, and loved the 180-grain Federal Premium ammo. More on all the details later.
Before heading to the range, I grabbed five basic things I knew I’d need to get the job done:
Targets and Accessories: If you have the ability to use a large target, like a large piece of white posterboard or white butcher paper, that helps to get started. You can see where the bullet hits, even if it’s off the target, and make adjustments. I was using the “exploding” orange targets from Birchwood Casey and the holes were easily visible from the bench. Always have good targets, clothes pins or clasps, or a sturdy stand for the target.
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Binoculars and Rangefinder: The first thing I did at the bench was range the distance to the target area to ensure a 25-yard setup. My Hawke Frontier ED 8×43 binocular enabled me to look at the target with clarity after each shot so I could make adjustments. With a hot range and old eyes, it’s much easier to see what’s going on with a good binocular.
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Shooting Gear: Several years ago I acquired a Caldwell Lead Sled and it’s one of the best things I have for the range. Sturdy, heavy and secure, I don’t have to worry about my rifle being off when I adjust the Lead Sled and settle in for the shot. Ammunition, hearing and eye protection and other items such as a notebook to record info, pens, extra targets and tools are good to have in the range bag.
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Good Weather: You can’t control the weather, of course, but you can keep up with the forecast. Pick a good day to go with little to no wind. If you’re shooting in summer, go in the morning or evening if possible to avoid the hottest part of the day. Winter? Dress accordingly. Avoid rainy days, too. Those aren’t fun tromping back and forth and getting wet.
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Good Attitude: Range time should be fun, even if it’s a quick outing instead of one consisting of several hours. On my drive to the range a woman in front of me short-stopped in a merge lane and I almost rear-ended her. I let out a few choice words that would have gotten me a bar of soap in my mouth like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.” Fortunately, I’d settled down by the time I got to the range. Be calm, have a good attitude, make it fun, and don’t have your blood pressure skyrocketing. That’s not good for anything except bad health.
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After I finally got dialed in and, literally, was stacking bullets almost in the same hole, I had to take a moment to have some fun. I found a battered Gatorade bottle and stuck it on a target post, then added a 20-gauge shotgun shell hull in a slit in the bottle. The first shot blew the shotgun shell into the air and it tottered like a trapeze artist flailing into the net.
I laughed. That was a good way to end the day.
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