The cell phone rang and, after a brief struggle to remove it from my cargo pocket, a quick glance showed it to be good friend Jim Zirkle.
“Hey, Jimmie, what’s up?”
After a few preliminary remarks, Jim told me he’d mowed the target range and thought it was time to sight in our rifles well ahead of the rapidly approaching deer season. Why didn’t I plan on coming over on Thursday?
Terry Claypool would be rolling in, as well. The three of us have been zeroing our rifles early for several years now, and our annual get together was rapidly becoming a tradition.
September is a great time to sight in.
In my foolish youth, I’d wait until just before deer season when the weather’s nasty and cold. There’s a good chance of snow, a bitter wind may be blowing and, all in all, I’d rather zero the rifle in wearing short sleeves than sit shivering at the bench in winter.
With the date set, it was necessary to get organized — not always the easiest thing to do.
Well, I opened the safe and removed the 30-06 and the .243. Both rifles were in good shape, evidently, as I’d taken the time to clean and oil both before storing them. Always a bit of a relief.
There have been a few occasions when, for some reason or another, I’d neglected this ritual and it was upsetting to discover a streak of rust here and there on the barrel, bolt or action after a year’s storage. Nothing serious, mind you, but it’s still troublesome to think you could do such a silly thing.
I didn’t even have to search for my gun case. A visit to a garage sale during the summer had produced a two-gun, hard case for a very economical cost, very soothing to my Scotch instincts for frugality.
I always wonder about garage sales with high prices. The object of a garage sale, as I see it, is to get rid of as much unwanted stuff as possible, clean the place up a bit and free up some space, not to make a large amount of money. Price things so people can’t resist the bargain, or they will in all likelihood walk right on by.
Next, where’s my ammo? Do I need to hand load? Did I leave my box of shells in the back pack or remember to put it away?
Some vigorous investigating revealed the backpack was empty, the ammo stored in the proper place and there were cartridges enough to sight in and an extra box for hunting. Very good; that’s a relief.
Now to dig out my shooting bag and review its contents.
First, are my shooting muffs in place? Ear protection is a must.
What about the stapler, screwdrivers, various Allen wrenches, spare change to adjust scope turrets, light gloves, pliers, targets, pen or pencils and stickers to cover bullet holes? Gee, I wonder what I’m forgetting? Must be something.
Oh, yes, the muzzle loader with all its necessities. Yet another kit of accoutrements — powder, primers, cleaning patches, ramrods, bullet starters, sabots and cleaning solutions. Good golly.
Thursday finally arrived, and I loaded the car and headed over to Duke Center. Jim was already at his sturdy shooting bench when I arrived, arranging equipment.
A few minutes later, Terry pulls in with his usual big grin. We all shake hands and catch up a bit before getting down to business.
Jim turns to me and asks if I happen to bring targets; he’d left his back at the house. Much to his amazement and mine, I had. Miracles never cease.
Into the side by side, and we placed targets at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards and returned to the shooting bench.
Jim already had his Browning 300 Winchester Short Magnum ready to go with some special hand loads I’d worked up. He was shooting 130 grain Barnes TTSX bullets pushed by a magnum charge consisting of 68 grains of H414 at 3300 feet.
This turned out to be one of those super accurate combinations, producing groups of a half inch or better. Every rifleman dreams of groups that size.
He placed the rifle on the lead sled and settled in. The first shot flattened the grass in front of the muzzle, the blast echoing up the valley, then rebounding from the far hills, sweet music to my ears.
His shot struck the one-inch circle at 100 yards. Jim gave us a smile and moved to the 200-yard target, aiming with the 200-yard crosshair.
That shot hit the one-inch circle, as well. Jim was really grinning now.
Moving out to 300 yards, he took careful aim using the appropriate holdover and fired. The bullet struck the one-inch circle at 3 o’clock.
Wow. High-fives all around.
Terry fired next. His shot struck a little low and right. The scope was adjusted and his next shot touched the circle at 100 yards.
Good enough for Terry, he put his 300 Winchester Magnum away.
My turn, but my 30-06 wasn’t grouping. The screws, scope mount and fittings were checked, nothing appeared loose.
Then, the light went on.
I wasn’t holding the rifle firmly enough, causing it to recoil erratically off the rest. Groups improved immediately and my last shot hit the one-inch circle at 300. I was all smiles.