Monday, March 19, 2012

Longish Range Shooting

My first rifle shooting trip of the season was something new and exciting for me. Until now I haven't really done any shooting at all past 100 yards. Sadly, that's about the most that can be done safely around my home due to flat land and limited facilities at the public ranges.  Recently, a friend and I were allowed access to some land in southern Ohio where the terrain is filled with natural backstops and elevation changes severe enough to provide a thorough cardiac workout.

To make full use of this unique geographically optimal opportunity, I invested in some steel targets from Big Dog Steel.  I had never shot steel before and this seemed like an ideal chance to try it out.  We had day of perfect weather.  It was almost too warm.  You don't see temperatures north of 70F in March very often around here.

Below you can see a view of the target 200 yards away from my shooting position.  We later tried 300 yards as well.   Even 200 yards seemed a whole lot further away than I expected.  You can see tiny white dot in the center of the picture.  That's a target roughly 8x12 inches.

The steel targets made a satisfying delayed ping when hit by a high powered rifle round, and provided exactly the experience I had eagerly anticipated.  As you can see below the AR500 hardened steel plate shook off the .308 Win and 30-06 rounds with hardly scratch.  The paint was taken off, but the surface was still almost smooth to the touch.

However, we soon stumbled across the little secrete that no one seemed to mention about shooting steel targets.  While the targets themselves are as close to indestructible as anything made by man, the hardware and apparatus used to suspend them from the ground are clearly not.  The point of shooting steel from so far is that fact that you get a ping for a hit and nothing for miss.  So the fact that misses happen seems to be implied, but no one seemed to mention the potential of equipment destruction from my research online about steel shooting.

Below you an see the effect of a 30-06 round on the lesser hardness steel of the Big Dog Steel folding target hanger.  Surprisingly, still held the target with minimal sway even with one side totally compromised.

We also managed to cut 2 of the chains and destroy a bolt head. Luckily, this was not completely unforeseen. I had bought 2 of the target stands "just in case," so we were able to continue shooting.  Still at roughly $60 a hanger, if I do this sort of thing regularly I may look for a more economical system for hanging the targets.  I had thought that because of the round surfaces on the chains and rods of the steel hanger system, that it would survive at least a few hits with less than total damage.

I've seen sawhorses used for this purpose, but I imagine those are even less fun to drag hundreds of yards over hills.  Everything has a trade-off. I would be interested to see if ropes instead of chains and bolts could be used.  But, they may not survive the stress of the plate being impacted.  Even the bolts and chains which were not hit showed noticeable signs of stress.  The amount of force involved on the wrong end of a high powered rifle is hard to fathom.   Though I found the equipment failures interesting and a little surprising, it didn't negatively effect the trip.

My first foray into long range shooting was amazing.  This is first time time ever had to compensate for gravity or even consider thinking about wind.  This trip was more fun than I've had in along time, and it will probably be quite a while before I can find a way to top it.  I hope to try it again someday.

(And yes, I backdated this blog entry a bit.)

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