I LINE UP the scope on a single shot rifle (no ammo in the gun) at the Farmington Fish and Game Club's rifle range. Ernie Frongillo. (click for larger version)
July 28, 2014NEW DURHAM — It was maybe Barry Conservation Camp in the late 1980s.
Or maybe it was at Boy Scout camp in the early 1990s.
However, no matter how you slice it, the last time I had fired a firearm of any sort was many, many years ago.
However, while covering a women's firearm safety course at the Farmington Fish and Game Club in New Durham a few months back, club members asked if I'd be interested in doing some shooting myself. I informed them of my lack of experience and I suggested that if it was something we did, they might want to have an ambulance on hand for when I injured myself.
They assured me that I would be perfectly safe and after consulting my calendar, made a decision to head to the club on Tuesday, July 22, for a little firearm action.
I was greeted by members Ernie Frongillo and Todd Piper and Club President Bob Chase showed up shortly after I did to help out.
It was decided we'd start on the rifle range and then work our way to the pistol range and finally finish up with a little skeet shooting.
Again, I checked to make sure there was a first aid kit nearby, commenting that I expected to have more than my fair of issues. The three members assured me again, that I would be just fine and Piper even commented that my experience taking pictures at various sporting events would likely make me a solid shooter.
Needless to say, I was skeptical of that statement. My guess was that I would hit the outer edge of the target once every 50 shots or so.
Our first stop was the rifle range, which featured a row of targets at 50 yards away and another row of targets at 100 yards. I wisely chose to start at the 50 yards, figuring I'd have a better chance to at least look respectable from that distance. Even so, I was questioning whether I would find the target.
Piper, who serves as the chief range officer for Farmington Fish and Game Club, hauled his rifles out of the back of his truck, giving me a choice of three different rifles. After talking it over, we decided that a 223 single shot rifle was a good starting point.
Safety remained the top issue for the club members as I started looking at the rifle. Eye and ear protection were mandatory for everyone in the range while guns were firing.
"The first thing you have to think about when dealing with a firearm is that it's always loaded," Piper stated. "That's when you get in trouble, when you assume it isn't."
The first rifle I tried, was, as mentioned, a single shot weapon, the Remington XR 100. Luckily for me, the rifle also came with an 18 scope, which had its advantages as well.
However, I struggled with the scope, trying to adjust it so I could see the target and it took me quite a while to get myself comfortable with how I wanted to look through the scope at the target. The three members made some suggestions about things that might work and offered up instructive tips.
I fired off a number of rounds using the scope to hone in on my target and once we made sure that the rifle was empty, I walked down the range to pick up the target and much to my surprise, there were holes. My first thought was that while I was shooting, one of the club members was at the booth behind me firing shots into my target to make me feel better, but that was indeed, not the case. I had fired pretty well for someone who hadn't done anything like that in more than 20 years.
"With new shooters, we like to let them shoot a few times before we start teaching them the little things," Piper said.
Next, Piper drew two very different looking weapons from his bag. One looked like a hunting rifle you'd see in the back of any truck on Main Street. The other looked did not. Yet, he explained the guns did the exact same thing. Beside the appearance, there was nothing different about the two firearms.
The first one was an MP 15 semi-automatic. It had a scope, though not quite as powerful as the scope on the XR100 that I started with. However, I was able to squeeze off more rounds quickly because of the semi-automatic nature of the weapon.
Then I decided to really test my luck and set up a target on the 100-yard range and went back to the single shot XR100 (the one with the good scope) to fire off a few shots.
To my surprise, I was able to drill the target on a fairly consistent basis from the longer distance. So of course, that led me to test my luck even more and try the third gun in Piper's bag, the Ruger Mini 14. This one was a bit more of a challenge, as this gun had no scope.
I went back to the 50-yard range to fire that gun, using the logic that it would be easier to hit the target without the benefit of the scope. And again, once to my surprise, I consistently hit the target.
Our time was up on the rifle range, so Frongillo lowered the flag (the range flies a flag if there is active shooting occurring) and we made our way to the pistol range, where there were plenty more weapons to check out.
I chose the booth on the end, where the targets were closest to the spot where I'd fire the weapon.
First up was the Ruger SR 22, followed by a 380, which Chase mentioned was famously used by James Bond in his movie series. Next up was a Sig Sauer 777. Sitting in the booth next to me, Piper was firing off a couple of bigger weapons, including the 44 Mag and an even bigger weapon. I took a few shots with the 44, but decided against anything bigger, since the 44 gave more of a kick that I really wanted.
The next stop was at the skeet range, where I was greeted by Bob Lee, who took me around the range and explained all the safety and equipment issues. The guns on the range were .12 gauge shot guns, each taking two bullets. The skeet range consisted of eight stations and for each trip through the range there was 25 bullets.
I said the word and Lee released the skeets from one of two houses. One fired the targets from a low angle and the other fired them from a high angle.
Somehow, with a lot of luck, I managed to hit two different skeet out of the 25 shots that I took. Lee noted that for a first-time shooter, that wasn't too bad, but when the next guy on the range (admittedly, a seasons skeet shooter), fired off numerous shots with ease, drilling seemingly every skeet that came out of the houses.
Chase pointed out that the skeet range is usually open on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings and is open to the public.
With the three different disciplines in the books, I was ready to head off. Piper invited me to call him if I was ever interested in shooting again and Chase noted that if I wanted to give archery a try, we could do that too in the future.
As I headed back toward my office, with my shoulder hurting a little (thanks to the skeet shooting), I realized that for a few hours, I had gotten away from everything. The stresses of work, the daily grind of the work day, had pretty much melted away. There was no worrying about anything. While holding any type of firearm you have to be constantly thinking, constantly aware of your surroundings. But that allows you to relax and forget about everything else.
While I didn't run out and buy a gun the next day, I did realize that it was an enjoyable experience and one that I hope to get to do again in the near future. And being as I didn't shoot my fingers or toes off, I am sure I will try it again.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org