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...for the blackpowder enthusiast

Long Range Shooting at the National BP Meeting
by Jim Reed

"I should have saved my powder and given Peter a donation. It would have saved time."

I rang Tim Busby the night before the shoot to find out the start time. 8:00 am! When I arrived, I was the third car there and wondering if I had come to the right place, having traveled into the back blocks of Taranaki. Eventually we had a few more turn up, ranging from Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington as well as a few locals.

The range runs parallel to the sea, and is used by an Aero club and the NRA (alternately, no together.) We were warned we may have to stop shooting if the overhead airplane tried to land We were able to get on the range at this time of the year as the NRA season has finished. (They obviously don't have thermal to keep out the winter chills.)

Shooting finally kicked off around 9:00 am. The gods in Mt Egmont blessed us with a little Taranaki sunshine (drizzle) which appeared from time to time during the day, and the howling breeze meant that a raincoat was a good idea, all day. Most of the day the flags lied. The mid-range flags often faced each other, and the one on top of the backstop hill pointed to us. I aimed straight at the target, with my trusty V sight, and managed it hit it.

Scoring was an imperial function, with maximum of 5.1 for the centre bull area, down to a 1 for staying on the target. The butt party marked each shot, and indicated the value with a pointer. At the mound, everyone helped each other, by advising the fall of shot. Each person fired 13 shots with the best ten counting.

Working in the butts also gave a different perspective on life. Incoming shots were encouraged onto the target, although one never knew who was shooting.

After shooting at 300 yards, we moved back to 500 yards, and the target size was increased. Prior to the practice, Laurie figured out I needed an 8 mm elevation raise, as would compensate for the V sights being mounted on the barrel. I fired one shot in the practice, hit a five and conceded that any more would be wasting powder. By the way, the 45/70 case of Elephant 2 F powder must be a little less powerful than the original Danish .45 load, as the 500 yards sight setting was in the middle of the "6" for 600 metres.

At this range, my luck was still holding out and I scored a 34.1 to go with the 34 on the 300 yard range. This isn't great, but I considered it to be a real success to even hit the target.

The afternoon was finished off with a 500 yard Sniper silhouette shoot. I should have saved my powder and given Peter a donation. It would have saved time.

On Saturday evening most of us turned out in a local New Plymouth restaurant. A couple of guys brought their wives along too. The boys from Auckland stayed at the Okato Pub, and were so excited with the night life there, they never made it to the dinner. An excellent meal and good company, quickly passed away the evening.

On Sunday, it was back again at 8:00 am. This time for the 600 yard shoot. The day was magnificent, with no wind, rain and just enough overcast to make shooting great. This time the V sights were not as good. I only managed to score a 20, but still I was pleased to see nine of my 13 shots actually hit the target.

Then came lunch and the mathematical manipulations. This was closely followed by an English comedy act involving Tim Busby and John Howard. I was awarded the first prize in the 300, 500, 600 and Aggregate for Military Breechloader, as I was the only one to be firing a antique military breechloader. Since there was no trophy available in this class, I was even given the opportunity to present one for next year's shoot.

Upon receiving my certificate, I pointed out that the judges, Tim and John, had misspelt my name. The next four recipients of awards did the same, and at this stage, no alcohol had been past around.

Peter took out the overall championship, and Alan the free rifle breechloader. Dave took away the muzzle loader, and then came the real comedy duo of Tim and Alan. They both participated in the Military Muzzle loader, and exchanged so many certificates and trophies that nobody could figure out what they had won and had not. I guess with only two in their class, one couldn't complain.

As a novice, it was a real pleasure to be shooting with four of the top BP shooters in New Zealand, each of whom have represented New Zealand more than once.

It was an excellent weekend of shooting, meeting great people, learning about firearms, and generally being entertained. My only two regrets were that we didn't have more people turn up, and that there was nobody there under 35. Let's make next year better. See you there!