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...for the blackpowder enthusiast

Frolicking with Round Balls,
New Zealand Style

Jim Reed

New Zealand Club Shoot

16 June 1996

Last weekend, our club, the Rotorua Black Powder Club (RBPC) held its annual Round Ball Frolic. What on earth is a round ball frolic? Well you may ask. Crack open a can, throw another log on the fire and move closer to the light.

When we ventured out on Saturday morning it was hosing down. It had all the beginnings of a great day. Rain, cold and mud. But, as things go, by the time we hit the range, the water had slowed to a trickle, and from then on, it got better.

More than twenty brave and hearty individuals turned out. Some were dressed in their shooting finery, but most of us took the more practical angle of staying dry and keeping warm. We each paid our dues and received a card (seven of spades for me) and a pencil.

The first shoot was the card shoot at a distance of around 25 yards or meters, depending upon when you went to school. As our eyesight is not getting better, we all had to wander up to the target and find where our card was placed. A simple task of placing five balls into the card. Simple for some, but most of us need the practice. The quality of cards ranged from those that had been gutted by a close collection of hits to those that could be immediately used by the shooter for poker.

Never was any good at cards anyway!

Some kind publican had donated a carton or two of beer cans that were past their sell by date. I'm still not convinced that they all made it to the range, but those that did were strung up on the target rail. From here on it was sudden death. We lined up at twenty yards and each person fired. Those that hit, lived for another five yards further back, until we had a winner. Those cans certainly do explode when they are hit with a .58 cal round ball. At twenty yards you could almost drink the beer.

At that stage, the weather had dried out enough for the Senica shoot to be held. Here is where the cards and pencil came into play. There were a number of targets on the range, and shooters paired off. One of the pair went through and was marked by his partner, and then the other went through.

The first spot was okay. A turkey head at 30 yards. Then came the "horse." RBPC is famous for this contraption. A 44 gallon drum partly filled with water, on four springs. You had to sit on this mobile monster and shoot at a deer head at 25 yards.

Then came the slippery log. A piece of 4 x 2 timber that had lain in the long grass since the last round ball frolic, was the log. It was greasy, and as most of us were wearing gum boots, certainly filled the bill. Luckily we didn't have far to fall. A shot at a disk and a block.

I don't know who thinks up these shoots, but someone has a fiendish imagination. We had three shots at well disguised rabbits hiding in the bush. One I couldn't even see! Okay, rabbits are fine, but not when you have to shoot off the other shoulder, behind an old cable drum that moved every time you leaned on it. After one shot right handed and two left handed, my rabbits were still laughing at me.

The last two stands were a gun port shoot and the chunk shoot. With the gun port, you place your barrel through a small aperture and try to shoot the target. The chunk was a large log that you had to shoot over. All just like in the movies. Having made it to the end, you tallied your score to see how badly you had done.

To restore confidence, we then rolled through a clay bird shoot, where everybody shot in turn, six shots at distances up to 50 yards.

The sadists came out. Pop up targets are hard to hit at any time, but with a round ball AND a bunch of encouraging bystanders, it's nigh improbable. Two shots at either of two pop up targets, and reloading on the run. It is interesting to see how some people manage to drag their bench ramrod along with them. Still, we never had a target pierced by a ram rod, so we did well. Those that hit both targets went through again, with the duration of the "up" time reduced until a winner emerged.

The second to last shoot was a team shoot. We grouped into four teams. At this stage we were down a few, as people had disappeared, so we only had three per team. The objective was to shoot five balloons at 35 yards, then a turkey at 90 yards, and a buffalo head at around 100+ yards. As had been throughout the day, all loading was from the pouch. Piece of cake!

Each team was timed. Mother Nature does like to see people having a good time, so laid her hand on the balloons. They were blown all over the place. Some teams consumed so much powder and lead, that they had to race back for supplies. Eventually all targets were put out of their misery.

A Tokoroa Shoot was the final event. It was also to be a blanket shoot. I never did figure out how Tokoroa got involved with this, but a blanket shoot is where everyone brings some small object and places it on the blanket. The value of the object was advertised as being around $5. The shoot was a paper shoot, with the five shots closest to the bull winning. Everyone was rated, and the winner took first selection from the blanket, with the last person having Hobson's Choice.

It was a great day and all who participated really enjoyed themselves. A special thank you has to go out to Marshall Jim and his helpers who ran such a great event.

When is the next one??