Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Nice Day Off.

I managed to make it to my first Cowboy Action Shoot since late last spring. It was a local shoot, six stages. For those that don't know a stage is a shooting scenario. It consists of ten (or more) shots from the revolver(s), nine or ten (or more) shots from a pistol caliber rifle and four or more shots from a shotgun. We shoot at steel targets, usually pretty close. As a matter of fact we had the shotgun targets too close at the first half of the shoot and people were getting peppered with birdshot bouncing back.

Once we moved those targets back another five yards the bounceback was more tolerable. Once lead shot bounces from steel it is ballistically identical to a ping pong ball. Up close it is fast but it loses speed like a bowling ball thrown straight up. By a weakling.

Anyhow I shot in the Frontier Cartridge class with my black powder loads in .45 Colt and 12 gauge hammer double shotgun. I missed one target in the first stage and then my shootin' irons became death rays and I didn't miss a target again the rest of the match. Well, a very slow death ray.

I made the mistake of buying all my gear before I ever went to a shoot or talked to any competitors and so I bought all the big cartridges. Then I started shooting and discovered that the winners all shoot light recoiling guns, mostly .38s and a few .32s. If I had the budget I'd replace my Cowboy Action handguns and rifle with that grand old .32-20. Ah well, I'll never win a match but with the black powder I can make a lot of noise, stink, more smoke and a whole lot of fun.

The interesting thing about black powder in cartridge guns is that the noise and perceived recoil makes most folks think that the loads are real hot. Shotshells are still rated in "drams equivalent" meaning that smokeless shells are rated as to how fast the shot would go if pushed by that many drams of black powder. I usually shoot two and a half drams or two and three quarters of real black, light twelve gauge loads are three drams. A Dram is 27.3 grains. A grain is 7,000th of a pound. Black powder is so inefficient that half of the mass of powder goes out as solid matter, adding to the recoil. So the smokeless load would be something like twenty-twenty five grains with very little staying solid to add to the recoil.

Ah, nobody cares about that, just remember if you see a whole lot of smoke then the powder level usually isn't up to the noise. My .45 loads probably leave the barrel of my revolvers at around 700 feet per second or a bit less. In a strong revolver I could get that same bullet up to 1350 fps with smokeless while with black the best I could do would be about 900 or a little more. Not that I would advise standing in front of a .45 slug at black powder velocities. Or a muzzle loading rifle, either. The butcher's bill of the War of Yankee Aggression shows what those old smoke poles could do. Ah well, I'd rather shoot the steel rustlers and train robbers.

The day started off nice and clear with a temperature in the mid sixties. As the day progressed it clouded up and never got to eighty.

The only drawback was that I'm getting too old to tote those big steel targets off and back on the trailer. Lord I ached this morning.

The top and bottom pictures are me. If ou enbiggen that pic you will see the cloud of smoke forming. When it is real humid and the wind is still a black powder shooter has to do some fancy duckin' and dodgin' to see the targets. The third picture from the bottom is a Pard loading up his replica of a Winchester Model 87, that old lever action shotgun. If you always wondered what to get me for a present...

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