There was a slight break in the rain/snow/cold/miserable weather we’ve been treated to this February so I took the opportunity to hit the range along with some friends. Since it was to be the first time they would be shooting most of these weapons at most of these ranges, I had thought to myself earlier that they were going to be popping their cherries. This immediately led me to the thought of going out and finding cherry mylar balloons to have inflated and posted out on the range for them to shoot at. Unfortunately I came up with this idea the day before so I couldn’t spend a lot of time looking around and had to settle for just regular red balloons – but the concept was still awesome. So back to the weather – as you can see above the clouds mostly dominated the day but the sun peeked through every now and again to warm things up. Temperatures hit the low 50′s and the rain that had lashed the area the previous night and early morning was gone by the time we got there. But the wind – owch! The forecast had called for moderate winds around 12mph but unfortunately we had to deal with winds of 15-20mph gusting up towards 30mph. The only break was the wind direction, which was out of the west, and the range is oriented east so it was to our backs mostly. Still, I had my pistol case open on the table and the wind nearly blew it off with all the guns still inside!
Setting up, I had trouble twisting the cap off my spotting scope. It’s a very thin cover with a ridged edge like a coin and I swear the last time I used it I had screwed it on lightly because I had this same issue last time I was at the range. I tried, one of my friends tried, but the damn thing just refused to twist off and you couldn’t get a good grip on it – even with my gloves, which have leather on the palms. I was ready to give up and do without it (which would have sucked) when I suddenly had the brilliant idea to take my GoPro camera mount off the windshield of my car and use the suction cup, which was just smaller than the lens cap. Once it was attached, the mount gave me more than enough leverage to apply the pressure needed to twist off the cap – which was still enough that I thought the cup was going to strip off! Needless to say, I’m not putting that damn cap back on again since the only time the scope is out of the bag its being used. No wonder when I was buying it the lens cap was the source of a negative user review.
The plan was to have both my friends start on the P22, then move to the larger P99, with posted targets at 15 yards and the balloon targets at 25 yards. We wanted to post the balloons at 15yds too but the wind blew them so low to the ground we had to move them back to the limit of ground targets. Even so, both my friends were able to pop the balloons on both pistols with only a few tries. Then they tore up the two 15yd targets. While they were on the P99 I set up the .22 bolt-action rifle and started to zero it back in for 50yds as I had adjusted my elevation out to 100yds last time I was shooting it and the difference in bullet drop is a good foot and a half. I set the elevation dial on the scope back towards where it was when I first got the rifle and started shooting, I had to dial it back a bit more before I hit the proper elevation. You can see the target below where I walked my shots down to the center of the target, not adjusting for windage.
Once I was dialed in I handed off the rifle to my friends and told them to just aim for the center of the balloon since the push of the wind was well within the dimensions of the balloon. The balloons were pretty great dynamic targets. I didn’t think to staple them to the posted targets so they would only wave a little bit – instead we staked them to the ground with about 2-3 feet of string so they were bouncing and swaying a good deal. You had to just sight in close to it and wait for the balloon to swing over the cross hairs. Despite the added challenge though both my friends nailed their balloons in a single clip of 5 rounds. I let them expend the rest of their clips on the posted target. Time was running short, so we immediately hopped onto the 5.56 at 100yds. I had one of them spot for me to make sure the scope was set then turned them loose. Again, within one clip the 100yd balloons were toast. One of my friends had trouble using the scope prone, and when she had the idea to use the bench to sit that worked out for her. I was spotting as she fired, looking at the 100yd balloon, and was dismayed to see that although she could use the scope now her shots were coming nowhere near the target, I couldn’t even see them through the scope. Then she announced she had hit it and I was confused until she told me she had been trying to take out the 200yd balloon!! Well, that explained a lot. She got plenty of congrats for nailing the balloon at 200yds, then sighted in a blew away the 100yd balloon easily. My other friend also had a 200yd balloon, but it was inadvertently popped as he was putting rounds into the 100yd posted target. Below is the 50yd posted target, the 100yd posted target and one remaining balloon, and you can barely make out the 200yd balloons. I kept forgetting to take better pictures while out on the range – that 400yd round trip walk takes quite a while!
My friends had to depart after that, so I took the last balloon and staked it out at 200 yards – this would be my first 200yd target. I set up behind the gun and scoped in – the wind had kicked up again and the balloon was bouncing all around back and forth and side to side – I knew I could wait for the wind to die down but that probably wasn’t going to happen any time soon so I put the cross hairs in the spot the balloon crossed most frequently and timed the shot as best I could for when the balloon was swinging towards the middle. I didn’t adjust for elevation, I was pretty sure at this range the bullet trajectory had flattened out enough for it not to matter. After the shot the balloon didn’t pop, but it did slowly bounce around less and less until it was lying out of sight on the ground. Did I actually hit it?? It had been posted out there for some time before I was able to take the shot and the temperature had been falling as the afternoon wore on so the gas in the balloons would contract. But it had still died down too quickly for compression to be the reason, though I wasn’t letting myself be sure until I was able to actually walk out there and see the hole in it. One shot, one kill!
For my last firing session I set up some clay pigeons at 25, 50 and 100yds. Twice it took me until the last round in my 15 round clip to nail two pigeons on my P99, and 7 rounds to nail the remaining 25yd one on my P22. The 5.56 was still set up so I took on the 100yd clays next and managed to nail on in 14 rounds. I sent a few after the second but gave up and was ready to switch over to the .22 bolt-action at 50yds when the cease-fire was called and my time was up. I also sent some 5.56 through the target I used earlier – below you can see a good example of how beneficial it is to have a spotter when you don’t have a lot of experience. The numbered holes are with my friend spotting for me, you can see how he guides me on target and I get a nice grouping. Then the rest of the holes around circled from when I was shooting on my own, having no clue where I was going, just aiming towards the center of the target.
Looking ahead, I have a single Wednesday afternoon late next month to try and make it out again and I may be able to sneak in a morning session on the weekends too. But besides just getting to the range with decent weather there’s still the ammo concern. I’m running low again and it’s still near impossible to find 5.56 and 9mm at any of the gun shops anywhere within reasonable driving distance :/