Guns, guns, guns.

Boomershoot, Day 1 (Clinic)

Today was my first day at Boomershoot. This was actually the Eugene Econ clinic, for which I arrived late, as I missed my connection from Frankfurt (Athens, originally) and had to spend the night at the Chicago O’Hare Hilton.

Sidebar: The O’Hare Hilton has an extremely surreal restaurant called The Gaslight. My waitress was extremely nice but I couldn’t get over the fact that she was partially naked, clad in the official uniform of what amounted to a one piece bathing suit and fishnet stockings. This was in a place that was almost comically garish and old-westy, in the basement of hotel at an international airport. It was like the saloon in Deadwood, as designed on the cheap by someone in the 70’s. Gina was cute and seemed totally out of place – so perfectly out of place, in fact, that if it were a movie, she’d actually be perfectly in place, cast as the stuck, sad-eyed young girl that some hero is supposed to rescue, from her awkwardness all the way down to the cross she wore, perilously low.

As I was late I missed the learnin’ that the rest of the folks did up front, but I was fairly quickly re-zeroed for the first row of targets. The folks running the clinic are incredibly cool – equal measures helpful, bossy and comradely in the way that only certain people, from certain walks of life, can be.

It took me a little longer to re-zero than I thought it should, but I think that’s because I’m out of practice, having been in countries where it’s probably illegal to be doing what I was doing. And I’d never shot at anything beyond 200 yards.

However, it’s just math. There are a limited number of things that can happen to a bullet once it has started down it’s journey from the comfort of it’s brass casing. The further away the target is, the more dramatic an effect may be, but it’s still just math… The bullet travels in an arc, light does not, so you just need to line up an intersection between the light reflected into your eye from the target, and the ballistic arc of the bullet. Easy, right?

Once you’ve ruled out shooter error, I think wind is the next biggest factor, and wind doping is what separates the pros from everyone else. Wind doping produces a funny 2 dimensional arc where the bullet is offline from the target in both height (elevation) and width (windage). Good shooters will put their first shot into a target at very long range in a heavy wind.

Just because the wind is doing something at ground level, where you can look for markers to show you wind speed, doesn’t mean that it’s doing the same thing higher up, where your bullet happens to be. If you are shooting across a valley, for example, the wind might be very different up where you bullet is.

Because the target is many yards away, figuring out the wind and doping appropriately is critical. While the science is well understood (it’s just math) I think that perhaps the actual implementation of that science is an art.

After some monkeying around I was able to shoot some pretty small metal poppers at 700 yards, which was great fun. Most of the time when I make a good shot I am stunned – I can’t believe I did it.

At the end we got to shoot 3 boomers at 380 yards – 1 big, and two littles. As an example of good shooting, the folks off to my left, which included Mike, took their first boomer on their first shot, even though they had to take out the elevation they had put into their scopes shooting at 700 yards and adjust for wind.

I had a tough time popping the big one first, but then I got the two little ones in one shot each, which made me happy. Frankly, if it hadn’t been for the explosions, I wouldn’t have believed I actually hit them. Shooting explosives is fun.

The other revelation of the day was spotting, which people had said was almost as much fun as shooting, but I wasn’t sure I believed them. It turns out that if you are right behind a shooter with a good spotting scope, you can see what’s called “bullet trace” following the bullet on it’s merry way. It’s vortex-shaped and looks like water-in-water. It’s just so incredibly cool to see the bullet zip along in it’s arc and come hurtling down into the target. On one of Caesar’s shots I saw the bullet the whole way, and when it hit the boomer I actually saw the brief little flash of ignition before the complete detonation. That was SO COOL.

Spotting is awesome! I need to get better at it though – every time Caesar misses I take it personally.

Today we’re going to do more stuff, not sure what Eugene has in store. I’m totally lagged so I’ve been awake since 2 AM, which may make the day harder, but I’m sure it will be fun. Along with whatever the curriculum has in store:

  • Caesar is cooking up some high-speed rounds for us to play with (there are concerns that our 168gr match rounds won’t be fast enough to detonate at 700 yards).
  • We are going to experiment and learn how to use our mil-dots to comp for elevation so that we can take shots without dialing in the elevation.
  • I’d like to try some higher-stress shooting to see how long, and how many shots, it will take us to acquire and shoot 3 different targets at different ranges. That should be a good exercise for us to develop our teamwork and communication as well.
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