Monday, April 16, 2012

To infinity and beyond your target

This weekend I was able to sneak out at nap time for a little shooting therapy. I did some load development for my mom's Ruger LCP which went well; I tested out my ammunition weatherproofing skills which also went well, and I started to do some weak hand only (WHO) drills because I hadn't done them in a long time, but that part came to a screeching halt due to safety concerns.

I was shooting next to my brother's fiance' (WHOOOOHOOOOO!!!! Congrats, y'all!!!), ringing the Nevco steel target while shooting with my left hand when I noticed someone walking along a path on the top of the hill from my target. All I could see was from his jaw up, and he didn't seem to have any idea that two people were blasting away not 150 yards from him. The hilltop is part of what used to be a massive dairy farm surrounding my parent's property, but has recently in the past few years fallen into the hands of the Historical [Hysterical] Society; they made it into a Civil War historical thingy where there's a pathway a couple of miles long with information plaques every quarter mile or so. You can't do anything with the land that I know of except walk along the path, and that path happens to take you along a 15 degree angle above the place where I've been shooting for 25 years. It's a rare occasion that anyone actually walks it, but this weekend it happened. We packed up and quit shooting for the day because I couldn't tell where the guy went.

Thinking about it, I've had this very thing happen to me on four other occasions over the last 8 years or so:

- Once while shooting on a friend's private property in the middle of 25 wooded acres, a buddy of his jumped on a 4-wheeler with my friend's 6 year old daughter and went trail riding, and the trail brought them directly behind the dirt backstop we were shooting into. They knew we were shooting before they took off, but they didn't know where they were when they were behind the backstop. My friend called a cease fire and we quit for the day.

- Same friend and I were shooting rifles at 300 yards on a gas-line in the middle of a big piece of property in another county. I was in the middle of a string of fire from a .300 Winchester Magnum when some kids on three 4-wheelers drove into the woods about 200 yards behind the target. I was on the scope and couldn't see them, but my friend called a cease fire and we quit for the day because we couldn't verify where they went.

- Again, same friend and I were shooting on a big piece of privately owned property that was going to become a subdivision one day in the near future. We were shooting rifles at a 350 yard target, I was on the scope touching off 308 Winchester rounds when my buddy called a cease fire. Some curious moron with his young son drove his truck onto the property and drove right up to the target to see what was going on. His truck appeared from behind a hill about 100 feet to the left of the target. They sat in the truck for awhile and then drove off. It just about gave me a heart attack.

- Shooting on a power line on a huge piece of property in the middle of nowhere, I was spotting bullet trace for a buddy of mine while he was shooting a 30.06 at a big target at 650 yards. Right before his 3rd shot, I saw a man's face appear at the top of the target in the distance -- it was four men riding on two 4-wheelers, and they were about another 600 yards behind the target. I yelled cease fire right at the shot, which went low and into the dirt in front of the target. The men rode past us a few minutes later, but we still decided to quit for the day.

Keep in mind that these events happened over the course of about 8 years, and represent only a fraction of a percent of times when I've been shooting and nothing happened. One theme all of them have in common is that the backstop we were shooting into was certain, but the people who appeared were in the direction of fire. Rule #4: Beware of your target and what is beyond it -- this rule is really two rules in one; and unless you break it and another safety rule, you won't shoot anyone. It does help to have someone not shooting to be a general lookout so that if there's a safety issue it can be dealt with quickly. It pays to be observant!
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