After a rather long break of a couple of months I thought I would head out for some practical shotgun. I am lucky enough to live reasonably near the previously mentioned Phoenix practical shooting club. The drive to the club is enjoyable in it’s own right. Beautiful rolling downland, sweeping valleys lush with evergreen, all shimmering with a light frost and the low winter sun. Although it is still cold the blue sky and sun are welcome visitors and make a yomp through forest track even more enjoyable.
Crisp but clear and sunny – ideal!
A gaggle of familiar faces soon began to turn up. Graham from ACP shooting was busy as usual prepping another Bora Barak shotgun for an eager customer. The usual banter ensued leaving us eager to see how the Bora performed given their less than fantastic quality control. It should be mentioned that the common faults are fairly easy to remedy with some light sandpaper or a dremel but still, no one wants to be gunsmithing a new purchase..
Phoenix run an ongoing league table meaning all shoots are competitive. A few guys take this pretty seriously while others (like me) are just happy to get some practice time in. The competitive aspect is good in my opinion as it keeps you focused and allows you to compare with your old times.
After our names are called we troop off in squads towards the firing points. My name is first on the ROs list so I step up feeling a little rusty after two months off. Nobody wants to go first as it is beneficial to watch others and learn from them before shooting each stage. To be honest I am still so slow with reloading that the added complexities/strategies that the more experienced might employ are lost on me!! First or last won’t effect my time alot.. Stage 1 was the dreaded wooden horse. 9 targets shot from sitting on the horse and you can start with only 3 loaded. I made a rookie miss on my last shot and had to reload 1 shell extra into the empty gun. This cost valuable seconds. None of the group cleaned stage 1 perfectly. Sitting up on that horse is pretty damn awkward when your shotguns going BOOM and your quickly trying to get straight on the next steel.
All targets are steel and include red “no hits” which attract a time penalty.
The second stage saw us in a more familiar scenario. Seperated “rooms” which would require moving reloads between them. I am first up again..
I was fairly happy, I need to work on speed and fluidity but no major issues. The main thing I need to do is more shooting which is great because that is the fun part!
The guys with shotguns sporting detachable magazines such as the Boras had a very good run. Sometimes they can have feed issues or problems seating/releasing the magazine. So far no such issues had occurred and they were putting in solid times.
No one had any major issues and one of the new shooters really stood out as his times with a 3 shot pump were pretty impressive given his experience level. 3 shots of course need to be reloaded more often and if you fumble then time can really drag. The new guy had nimble fingers for sure. We made our way down to stage 3. This one looks easy but is actually pretty awkward. You get to load up with 8 rounds only and must shoot 8 steels positioned either side of a tree/door. You are standing on a pallet which means you have very limited angles to hit the targets.
I am a left hander as was another chap. I shoot the first 4 on the left side normally and then swap the shotgun to my weak side to get those on the right. My left handed comrade chose to stick with his strong shoulder and lean out further. He was taller than me! That is the main reason I really enjoy practical shooting of all kinds – everyone employs slightly different techniques and tactics. It really is very interesting to watch and try out strategies that catch your eye the next time you go.
Me going slowly but surely. My error was to load only 7 rounds meaning my last shot was just a click and a time penalty..
And some people got it right.. This chaps Benelli proved pretty formidable.
Our squad had 2 guys using a Benelli 3 shot pump, 2 guys using Bora Baraks (semi auto detachable mag), 1 guy with a semi auto 8 shot Benelli and a chap with a lovely looking Vepr 12 mag fed semi auto. The Vepr looked splendid with Magpul furniture and a muzzle break which seemed to work very well. The shooters are all in classes based on the gun they use. You have to bear in mind that upgrades may bump you into open class where everyone has upgrades! That doesn’t stop us wanting them though. I think a Vepr may be on my want list in the future..
The last stage of the morning comes around all to quickly. This stage features 3 “rooms” with 8 targets. If you have an 8 shot capacity like me then you have to not miss or reload and burn time. Those with extended mag capacity had no such worries…
The Vepr – you can see how effective that break is for reducing recoil.
One of the things that seperates practical shooting is the physical element. It suprises me how much adrenaline you burn just trying to move with speed while reloading. It really is a very exciting feeling which I am sure contributes to the grin factor. Of course you must also stick within strict safety regulations which makes concentration even tougher. You really do need to multi task hard to get good at this..
Running, reloading and keeping safe requires a lot of mental focus.
By now everyone was shooting well. The guns had all functioned flawlessly for once including the brand new out of the box Bora Barak.
Although none of us broke any club records we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Anyone who imagines practical shooting is full of broody macho types will be sorely dissapointed. It is actually populated by a bunch of affable outgoing guys who spend as much time chatting and joking as they do shooting. A bad round is all taken in good fun and I have yet to see anyone become even slightly irritated at a poor performance.
The mornings shoot was over and most wandered back to the club house for some hot food and a strong coffee. I had to leave early but I was very pleased to learn they would be running practical mini rifle in the afternoon. I have a feeling I will be signing up for some of that and blogging it here soon.
Many thanks as always to the guys and girls who run Phoenix.
Thanks also to ACP Shooting for being on hand to deal with everyones gun problems and supply many of the guns used by the members at superb prices.