Session #4

Dragged my host (my oldest friend, in whose basement I am currently residing) out to hang with my gun mentor today (who is his friend, and is how we met). This is an accomplishment; my host is a successful surgeon, avid Dad of a 3.5-year-old daughter, and attentive husband. Thus the only reason I managed to drag him out for an afternoon (which turned out 2-3 hours longer than we planned) is because his wife is awesome and is fully in favor of him getting Man Time(tm).

Anyhow, we turned up, grabbed the two Garands (mine and my mentor's - his is in much better shape and newer, but mine shoots well), two Black Rifles and a pair of Smith & Wesson Model 5906 pistols. Threw those in the car along with the range bag (targets, staple gun, spotting scope, ear protectors, basic tools) and an ammo can of .223 and a case of 20 en bloc clips of -06 for Garand Food.

At the range, I realized that while I now had my very own set of 30db ear protectors (go me!) I had managed to forget my sunglasses. This was a problem because my sunglasses are my current prescription, and my daily wear glasses (besides having a 14-month old prescription) are very fashionably narrow - when getting a cheek weld on the Garand, I end up looking out the inside top corner of my right lens through the sight, and these lenses are so narrow that the 'sweet spot' where they're properly focused is microscopic. Out the corner, they're almost useless.

This is not an excuse. I am not a good rifle shot these days. I am too out of shape in both body and rifle time. I can keep all my rounds within 8-10 inches of the bull at 100 yards with a blade sight, but whereas last time I was getting good if misplaced groups, today I didn't use the front rest and still don't have a sling - and my shots were all over the damn place.

As my mentor said: "Understand that the 'natural shot' is a movie myth. Even the 'naturals' at this only get good at it by practicing. A lot."

So we blew a lot of holes in paper, and some folks at the range had considerately propped several bright orange pigeons up at the 120-yard berm so we gleefully shot the crap out of those for a while.

This time, I got to shoot a black rifle. I selected the one with open sights, out of some obscure feeling that I shouldn't have the luxury of a scope. I didn't do that well; the rifle feels so very, very different from my Garand that it was a completely unfamiliar experience. I think I got all 30 rounds on the target, and probably 12-15 of them were within the circle, but again I was all over. Fun, though; especially now that I have decent ear protection. 5.56x45mm military is loud as hell.

After we'd used up all our Garand Food and shot a few magazines of 5.56, we went over to the pistol range. My mentor started us out exercising with the guns, loaded but not chambered, safety on - face the targets at 10 feet, gun at your side. Practice bringing up the gun, flipping the safety off and firing a shot, resafetying it and bringing it down. Do this a lot (8-9 magazines worth) until the motion becomes, while not natural, familiar. Then practice bringing the gun up live, safety off, and firing a shot without looking down the sights; do that fifty or sixty times, working the motion into muscle memory, including bringing the finger outside the trigger guard as soon as you bring the gun out of battery. Don't worry about hitting bulls-eyes, just try to put the rounds as close as possible to the first hole you make. Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. (And remember not to shoot yourself in the foot.)

Then move back five feet and do it again.

In between rounds, when my host and my mentor were on the target lane, I tried firing at metal flip targets two lanes over, at 25 feet, aimed fire. I discovered something interesting - I'm very accurate in the bring-the-gun-up-unsafe-and-fire routine. I discovered that was because when I fire double action, I hit my flip target on that first shot perhaps 80% of the time. It's the single action shots I'm just not hitting - and my glasses aren't good enough to see where I am hitting.

My mentor wandered over to spot. Turns out it's not my glasses - I'm not seeing where I'm hitting because apparently I'm consistently between 4-8 inches low when firing single action. I'm confused, because I have the three sight dots aligned properly at the target, which isn't that small - but I'm hitting the bar or the dirt behind, having gone below the bar. I'm really not sure what to do other than adjust my aimpoint, because these aren't really adjustable sights! I traded guns with my host and we shot consistently, so it's not the gun. I just apparently look down pistol sights in such a way that when I've lined up the three dots, I'm aiming low. I have no idea how that works.

As a diversion, we shot some .22 Long Rifle out of my mentor's go-bag gun, a Walther P22 manufactured under license by Smith & Wesson. It's a nice pistol for target work - my only complaint is that it's a bit small (it's about 85% the size of the comparable Walther 9mm, although it looks identical. I have big hands. I was much more comfortable with the wide grip version of the 5906, and even more comfortable shooting M1911s than small nines (not that I was much more accurate though). If I could have a pistol of my own (haven't gotten my New York City premises permit yet) I'd probably have a P22, though, just because .22LR is so damn cheap you can blaze through it all day for very little monies.

After we were done on the pistol range, we headed back to my mentor's basement to clean.

I'm getting pretty good at the Garand cleaning. Remove trigger assembly; separate barrel assembly. Use chamber brush. Use Hoppes and a toothbrush to clean the chamber and operating area. Use Hoppes and patches to run the barrel until the patch comes out clear. Use a bore snake to wipe the barrel down. Clean the action with brake cleaner to remove the Hoppes; use Rem Oil and gun grease on moving metal contact, reassemble the gun.

Of course, today I was wiping my Garand with a rag and the rag caught in the action on the lifted magazine follower. I reached in to free the rag and ensure no threads remained, and yep, I managed to catch my forefinger fingernail with the action. M1 thumb (just not thumb). I have a nice under-nail blood bruise and yes, it hurts. But heck, now I know.

In addition, I learned to clean the 5906s, which is pretty simple. Pop the slide release lever out of the gun; safety off and the slide will move forward off the frame. Turn it over; take the spring and piston out, then remove the barrel. Scrub those parts, and the action of the frame, with Hoppes; rinse clean with brake cleaner (think about how I've spent the afternoon with my hands in an organic solvent, woohoo -at least the paper cut on my finger from target hanging, although stinging nastily for a few minutes at the touch of the solvent, is no longer red around the edges - nothing organic survived in the cut to aggravate it, and it healed within an hour of the soaking). Use the compressor to blow all parts dry. Spray Rem Oil liberally around the moving bits; use thicker oil on the slide lugs, reassemble the slide, hold down the trigger action and push the slide back to align the slide hold notch so you can pop the slide release lever back into its socket. Voila.

Although we were running short of time, I got a quick lesson on disassembling and cleaning an AR-15/M16/M4 action - next time I'll try to do it myself.

And so we learn.