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On the range

My day learning to shoot at the Winnipesaukee Sportsmen's Club

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Will Powers hangs targets to prepare for a day of shooting at the Winnipesaukee Sportsmen’s Club in Moultonboro last weekend. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 30, 2012
MOULTONBORO – I knew I was in for quite a day of shooting when I rolled up to the Winnipesaukee Sportsmen's Club and found my instructor Will Powers parked at the entrance gate with a license plate saying 'kabang' on his pickup truck. The morning didn't disappoint.

Powers offers personalized training in pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns and is an active member of the WSC, serving as the Chair of the Education Committee, Certified NRA Shooting Instructor and Certified Chief Range Safety Officer. We first got in touch over the winter, when he happened to catch a story I wrote on my first time ever shooting on a trip to Houston in November. That led to this past Sunday, when we met in Moultonboro for a morning of instruction and shooting, something I was looking forward to as I continue to acclimate myself to all things New Hampshire.

After arriving at the Sportsmen's Club, we headed down the path inside to the range, where Powers set up targets and we talked about some of the weapons on tap for the day's shooting session. My lack of experience notwithstanding, I was excited to work my way up the ladder and get to use some bigger weapons as I felt more and more comfortable. Various WSC members crept in as the tutorial moved along, all of them extremely welcoming and accommodating. I got a tour of the range, which included a look at the club's automatic clay pigeon launcher, a machine I was in no way capable of being ready to use but still impressed with nonetheless. The actual range had targets set up at different depths, all the way up to 100 yards which is a daunting distance to say the least. We set up some targets well in front of the 25 yard mark to start with, as the sun began beaming down on what would become a rather warm morning to shoot.

Fortunately for me, shooting takes place in a covered overhang. The only sweating I was doing came due to my general lack of uneasiness with my task for the morning. Our first weapon of the day was a Kel-Tec 380, a small pistol. While this particular gun wasn't used to accuracy, it did have a rather decent kickback despite its diminutive stature. I hit my target a few times during my round with the pistol, and we were off on our journey through a variety of semi-automatic weapons.

We next moved to a Springfield Armory XD 9mm pistol, before switching over to a Sig Sauer 9mm. That led to one of my favorite weapons of the day, a Beretta 9mm, the civilian version of the current military pistol, the M9. I managed to do some good work with the Beretta, pumping two rounds into my target and starting to feel pretty good about myself.

"Ready to move to some other good stuff?" Powers asked after my Beretta work.

"Let's do it," I replied with an unwarranted sense of confidence.

Next up was a Ruger 357 revolver, a gun that was a little more difficult to control, especially with double action. But after a shaky chamber, I stepped my game up and felt more comfortable by putting a few rounds into our targets. That set up our last handgun of the day, a Taurus 45 ACP. Another fun gun to shoot, as this one felt pretty smooth to shoot and I fired off rounds quicker than any of the previous weapons I had used.

While the pistols were all fine and dandy, they were merely an appetizer to the main course of our day. After a brief intermission where we changed targets and moved back to the 25 yard mark, I was introduced to two of the biggest weapons I had ever seen in person. That would be an AR-15, the civilian version of the military's M-16, and a Yugo AKM. Holding these two guns, I probably felt about as close to Rambo as my life will enable me to. I posed for a picture with the AR-15, trying my best to look tough while holding such a powerful piece of equipment. I'm pretty certain I came across looking like an idiot however, as to be expected.

The AR-15 got first crack at my clumsy hands, as I went through a magazine sitting down and one standing up. The red dot sight seemed to work well for me, and I had pretty good success hitting my intended target. There wasn't a ton of kickback with this particular gun, though my chin did take a few knocks from the recoil.

Now, while the AKM was fun to shoot, the results didn't quite match up. To say I was a horrible shot with that gun would be the understatement of the year. With no red dot sight, I was forced to do my best to hit the target located right next to the one I used the AR-15 for. I felt okay shooting, but when we were finished and rounding up the targets, they spoke for themselves. My AR-15 target was pretty solid for a beginner like myself, but the target for the AKM was almost completely clean.

"You could probably just save that one and use it again," I say after seeing the results, or lackthereof, from the AKM.

The strange thing was that the poor finishing rounds felt a little similar to hitting a bucket of golf balls at the driving range. When you hit the last shot poorly, it only makes you want to come back that much sooner and exact some revenge. That was the case here, as I'm already looking forward to another chance to improve on my performance. It wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, but I think overall I had a good showing for my first significant shooting experience.

As we packed up for the day, I gathered up the target from my AR-15 damage and rolled it up, taking it back home with me for evidence that I did in fact hit something over the course of the three hours at the WSC. All told it was an outstanding morning, and I look forward to the chance to get back out there and continue to become a true-blooded New Hampshirite.

For more information on Will Powers, visit his website at: www.powersfirearmsinstruction.com or the Winnipesaukee Sportsmen's Club at http://www.winnisportsmensclub.org/.

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