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Combat Articles

Getting There

This is more than a just report of an event originally held seven years ago that was held again. It is an adventure of sorts, as well as a good day in the outdoors with your armed friends.

You will understand about the shoot if you have seen (or will go out and rent) the movie Hombre, because all of the shooting scenes in the movie were used -- plus a couple of scenes that could have turned into shootings, like the butt-stroking of a cowboy in a bar.

We have always discussed, mostly in fun, about putting on an event where getting there was part of the problem. Although it wasn't designed that way, half of the participants (four out of eight) found it necessary to solve a problem involving getting there before they could shoot.

Seven years ago, after I shot in the original event, I just drove out to Highway 14 by using Bird Springs Road, heading basically east. After a few changes of dirt path, I arrived at Highway 14 and headed back for L.A. on the paved road. No big deal.

So this time, I suggested to Bill (the car pilot-in-command) that we could shortcut through Red Rock Canyon Park and not have to go all the way around by way of Walker Pass. Bill took the bait -- er, I mean he wanted to try the route -- so off we went.

Trust me: there are quite a few more roads out there than show on the map we had, a photocopy of a square of a larger topographical map. We also asked directions from one of the many four-wheeler and motorcycle people who were all over the landscape. Much later, we were still discussing what the guy might have meant by his directions.

Bill, of course, suspects that I was getting even with him for taking me on my very first motorcycle ride -- on a rough dirt road with a 300 foot drop off on one side, when I didn't know even which way to turn the throttle. That incident never crossed my mind. Besides, if Bill fell into any of the gaping gouges in the road, I would have gone with him because I was in the car too. When I was riding the little 70cc Honda, long ago with him, I would have just gone down the cliff by myself. So I still owe him just a little more revenge, wouldn't you say?

At any rate, we used "dead reckoning" (thank goodness for the sun). After heading three or four miles back toward the way we came in, following the only road that we thought was going in the right direction, we finally turned and headed north, which is what we needed to do. A feature shown on the map we had was a road off of Bird Springs Road that led to a microwave transmission tower. After our road finally turned north, and we went on aways, I saw something on the far ridgeline. I dug out my small binoculars and, hallelujah for landmarks, it sure looked like a microwave transmission tower to me. We were on the right track, so to speak.

However, the long semi-straight road (which looked much more like a riverbed, except for numbered road markers) sloping down to Kelso Valley had more than its fair share of erosion, and we found ourselves getting out to stomp down the edges of the huge ruts a half dozen times. A tone point we had to detour around through the brush. Did I tell you that Bill forgot to put his shovel back in the car? Lucky for us it was a four-wheel-drive and, except for the low ground clearance, it worked very well. Bill drove it well in the tight spots, on the journey across country -- or through no-man's land, depending on your point of view.

I believe that we arrived at Red Rock Canyon at 0900, and the event site around 1200. The second-place off-road team, Dexter and Comer, arrived at Red Rock around 0800 and traveled I'm not sure how far. The route they wound up following ran into a road that was really impassable, and they had to turn back all the way to the paved road and come in by way of Walker Pass, arriving at about 1300. Well, at least we weren't the last ones in, and somebody else tried to be as adventurous as we were. If there is a moral to this story it must be this: operating through terrain you haven't been over in seven years (or ever, for that matter) without up-to-date maps or a recent reconnaissance absolutely guarantees you an interesting adventure whether you want it or not!

I'm actually writing this first part before Horne gets around to sending me the results, so I'm going to talk about a few things I saw and experienced. Repeat after me 1,000 times: I will never go to war without optical sights! Even some of the guys with scopes had problems with the lighting conditions, seeing the targets well enough. Several of us (I and Cris once, each, for sure) with only iron sights did not see a target when it was exposed above rocks, and therefore didn't get to fire that shot. I did unscrew the aperture from the Lyman peep sight I had on the rifle I'd borrowed, during one stage, to get a "ghost ring" large enough to get on the pop-up target quickly -- but it didn't really help. I either hurried a lot -- or at least some -- or might not have had the correct sight picture, because I missed a 100-yard or -meter target in that stage.

There were some cases of "sling binding," which means a shooter tried to gain stability from the sling by putting it on before he shot, and it made his movements much more difficult. I do believe in getting steadier, but I also think a shooter must learn the starting point or closest range at which he first needs the stability of the sling to make hits. The two stages in which people experienced sling binding were at 125 yards, maximum. For head shots, yes, a sling would have been helpful; but none of the people out there needed a sling position to hit a full silhouette at under 150 yards or meters. It would have been much quicker for them to just bring their rifles up to their shoulders and shoot, instead of wrestling a rifle into a shoulder and then going on to the target.

A note of preparation: it was cool and breezy all day, and the wind picked up later in the afternoon. Several people ran back to their vehicles to get coats and jackets that they weren't carrying with them. I didn't go back (I had a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, and my fishing vest) so I can be a little holier-than-thou this once. But clothing should be part of your field planning.

I have plans to fix up a .30-06 Springfield for these bolt-action-only events, and after shooting a little at D.M. to check zero, and then trying the rifle in the field, I am definitely not going to use a small aperture peep sight for iron sights -- or a hooded front sight. I plan to use a side-mount, 6X scope (used or inexpensive) to match my M1/H's set up, and I think I'll leave the standard, thin front blade and hog out the rear sight for a ghost ring.

I thought that the hooded Lyman front post sight (on my borrowed rifle) wouldn't get the glare ofthe sun on the post. Well, the sun looked like a flashlight, shining through the front sight and rear aperture. I held the sights between two pieces of plywood because I just couldn't see the actual target at all. You will do yourself a really big favor, and you will learn a great deal, if you go out to a place where you can get directions of fire into the low sun, both early and late in the day, and see for yourself just how well your own sighting system works for you.

 

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