USPSA stage first for me

Yesterday I participated in a USPSA match at the Marysville Rifle Club. One of the stages was a first for me in a couple ways. The first part of the stage was fairly ordinary. You started in a shooting box and upon the start signal you drew your gun and shot three targets partially hidden behind a picket fence. From there you had to go maybe 75 feet forward and around a corner where a second set of targets became visible.

This was the most interesting portion of the stage:

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There were two targets in the open, one on the extreme left of the picture above and the edge of one almost visible on the extreme right of the picture above. There were two targets visible behind the green door (no relation to the movie), and two targets visible from underneath the barricade to the left. Still nothing particularly unusual.

The interesting part of the stage are the targets in the distance on the right. There are three paper targets behind a sheet of black plastic (soft cover). In front of two of the targets are Mini-Poppers*. These targets are about 25 yards away. You can’t see most of the paper targets because of the soft cover, you have to shoot the steel targets down to get good access to the paper targets, and you have to shoot these fairly distant targets from below a barricade. Going prone left you with the problem of shooting the two targets to the left at almost a 90o angle and while prone I was unable to get enough elevation to hit the distant targets and still be stable. I, and many others, squatted or kneeled to shoot below the barricade. Being a tall person this pushed my aging flexibility to the limit and a little beyond. My back felt a little odd for the rest of the day but is almost normal now.

I have never shot a stage where soft cover was the only way to get good hits on a target. I have never shot a stage where my flexibility was a limiting factor. Also unusual was that I was also the only person, out of 70 shooters, to get all 26 A-Zone hits.

My time of 29.98 seconds put me at 6th place out of 20 shooters in my division and 33rd out of 70 shooters overall.

Here is how the stage (and match) winner shot it in Open division in 19.30 seconds:


* See here for a picture of one. Official dimension are as below:

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New shooter introduction advice

I recently received an email from Robert Z. asking three questions:

I have a couple of coworkers interested in shooting and I wanted to get your advice:

1) I have an orange gun – do you teach them the basics (grip, stance, 4 rules) before going to the range or you do it there?

2) most of the time you seem to have a private bay, is this something for VIPs only or any regular Robert can reserve? I live in Redmond, too, and I think it is well worth the money as you may end up with someone shooting some cannon next to you and the new shooter will start flinching from that.

3) how do you select what firearms you start with?

Here are my answers:

1) If I have the chance I teach them with my blue gun before going to the range. But most of the time I don’t have that opportunity.

2) I have an early Platinum membership which allows me to reserve Bay 3 at West Coast Armory (Bellevue) a couple times a month at no charge. The present day Platinum memberships don’t have that benefit. I think, with some membership types, you can still reserve it for a price. I think it’s something like $80 for two hours. Call to find out for certain.

3) I always start them out with a .22 pistol (when available, suppressed). I do this even with people that have some firearm experience. It makes it easier for the student as well as the instructor. You both have a much better chance of seeing the shooter jerk the trigger and other common beginner mistakes. And with new shooters they can concentrate on the stance, grip, sight alignment, and trigger pull without the recoil. The recoil will dominate their attention instead of the other things. Once they have the fundamentals working fairly well let them have a few shots with a centerfire to experience the recoil. Handling recoil is its own topic and should only be worked on after the student has the fundamentals as almost second nature. They can get there with dry fire or they can shoot a similar number of rounds (a few hundred) with a .22.

New shooter report

On August 2nd Ry brought Henry, his nephew from Illinois, to the range. Henry had shot a fair amount with Airsoft guns but never a real gun. As usual, I started him out with safety rules, grip, stance, and sight alignment on a suppressed .22 from about 10 feet away. This was his first shot (from a video by Ry):

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Most of the time he was able to keep them on the target. He tended to have a bimodal distribution of his shots. They were either good or way off. I gave him the gun with an empty chamber when he expected the gun to be loaded. The bobble of the gun showed both of us he was not holding the gun steady as he squeezed the trigger. More dry fire helped.

I moved him on to shooting multiple targets. One shot per target. After he seemed have that down fairly well I removed the suppressor and brought out the timer. The pressure of the timer showed and on nearly every run of five shots he would miss one of the targets.

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I told him each miss was a three second penalty, as it is in Steel Challenge matches and told him to remember the mantra, “Trigger prep, sight alignment, squeeze, follow-through”. The hits got better and then his times improved with some strings being in the mid fours.

I moved him on to low powered .40 S&W loads. At first he did almost as well as with the .22. Then there were more and more wild shots. More dry fire was required. After he seemed back in control I turned him over to Ry as I prepared to leave (Barb and I were headed to Mount Rainier that evening). Ry had his own set of toys and Henry started out with a fully equipped 9mm:

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I picked up my brass and gear and left while Ry and Henry finished out the last 20 minutes or so we had the bay reserved. Ry later send me video and a picture he had taken of Henry with an AR:

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The next day, while Barb and I were hiking nearly over 6500 feet above sea level on Mount Rainier, I got a message from Ry, “Thank you for yesterday. Henry can’t stop talking about it.”

Another shooter has joined the community.

New shooter report

This is way late but better late than never.

Last month daughter Kim and her husband Jacob had some friends visit Idaho from Utah. Most of them had never shot a gun and wanted to learn. Kim was thrilled I was going to be working on Boomershoot stuff that weekend and brought them to me to learn to shoot.

A couple locals had more gun experience and also showed up to participate. I originally expect people would arrive around 4:00 and maybe leave by 6:00. They arrived about 1:30, but, whatever. That worked for me as well.

It was a hot day and we put up a small shelter to give us some relieve from the sun:

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I did the usual by starting them out with safety rules, grip, stanch, and a suppressed .22.

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As you might expect, one of the more experience people needed a little more coaching to unlearn bad habits. The only pistol she had ever shot was a 9mm. She confess that when she pulled the trigger she always closed her eyes. Her hits on the target reflected this. With a little extra dry fire and coaching we got most of that cleared up and her targets looked much better.

Continue reading

Rounds in the last four months

I kept forgetting to make a post about my reloading activities. Partially because there hasn’t been much. But it was greater than zero and I intended to make my usual posts. Oh well.

March

80 rounds of match grade .223. This was four sets of 20 using various weights of CFE 223 powder. Even the hottest loads, showing some minor high pressure signs, were almost 20 fps slower than previous loads with Varget which showed no pressure signs. Varget is one of Hodgdon’s Extreme Rifle Powders which is extremely consistent from lot to lot and extremely temperature stable (actual test with 308 Winchester):

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CFE 223 is not part of their Extreme product line.

April

125 rounds of match grade .223 using the previously tested Varget loading.

May

216 rounds of match grade .223 using the previously tested Varget loading.

2509 rounds of .40 S&W.

175 rounds of these were a load which tested hotter than expected. They resulted in a Power Factor of 182.7. My previous tests indicated this load should result in about a 175 PF. I was quite perplexed at this until I looked at my data closely. This velocity measurement was done when the temperature was 80F. My previous velocity measurements had been at a lower temperature. I verified this by cooling some of the ammo to 35F. The velocity was over 25 fps slower which was equivalent to a powder charge of 0.1 grains less. I put these rounds aside for a match in Idaho on a cold day.

The remainder of the .40 S&W rounds were of the load I wanted to use for USPSA matches when the temperature is 60 F or warmer.

June

61 rounds of match grade .223 using the previously tested Varget loading.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 7,439 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 2,126 rounds.
300 Savage: 50 rounds.
40 S&W: 100,872 rounds.
45 ACP: 2,007 rounds.
9 mm: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 134,891 rounds

Over 100K rounds of .40 S&W! That’s kind of cool.

Chronograph stage at Area One

Prior to the Area One match in Bend Oregon I expressed some concerns about making Major Power Factor. It turns out I did just fine:

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I saw the chrono team weigh the bullet before getting any velocity measurements, 180.2 grains, and knew I was going to be okay. My sample of 20 had a minimum of 178.3, a maximum of 180.7 and a mean of 179.2. I was concerned they might pull a 177 or something. Then, if the velocity was really low for some reason I could be pushing the threshold and perhaps break into Minor Power Factor (< 165). But the velocities were good. Had they pulled a 177 grain bullet and measured the same velocities the power factor would have still been 170.6 and comfortably in Major.

The odds were low of getting a low velocity since my measurements indicated a mean velocity of 978.4 with a standard deviation of 10.6. But still, you never know how the tolerances might stack up against you on any given day. As it is I suspect the chronograph they used would not agree with my chronograph, which is another variable that is difficult to plan for.

Area One USPSA results

I had relatively modest goals for my Area One performance:

  1. Don’t get hurt or hurt anyone.
  2. Don’t get DQ’d.
  3. Don’t finish last.

I met my goals. In Limited I came in 81st out of 118 shooters. If you just look at Limited B class shooters then I came in 32nd out of 38. Or if you just look at Limited Seniors then I came in 9th out of 15. And finally, my favorite view, in Limited, Senior, B class shooters I came in 2nd out of four shooters.

I had a good time at the match. My squad was very pleasant to be with. The last time I went to Area One, over 20 years ago, it was sometimes very uncomfortable. Some shooters were very aggressive in asserting their bullets had touch scoring rings that the R.O. called as out. I didn’t like that atmosphere. These were nice people to be with.

One of the most unusual event I have heard of at a USPSA match is that one guy got DQ’d at the chronograph stage:

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I have a lot more to say about the event. But that is going to wait until I have time to edit the video.

Quote of the day—Brian Enos

Awareness in shooting comes from observation without thought. Awareness leads to action without thought. Awareness exists only in the present tense, along with shooting. Although awareness happens actively, it’s perceived passively.

Brian Enos
1990

Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals Page 16.
[I know what Enos is saying. I sometimes experience this when shooting and am trying to get into “the zone” consistently. I think this is the major obstacle to my further improvement at this time.

I’m not certain this is the best way to say what Enos means.

I went looking for Yoda quotes to supplement Enos but I couldn’t find one that was a good match.

A year or so ago I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience to try and find out more about getting into this state of mind and body. It wasn’t as rewarding as I had hoped it would be.

Several decades ago, when I played a lot of tennis, I read The Inner Game of Tennis. This was when I first started understanding this state. I’m beginning to wonder if I should read it again and apply it to shooting.—Joe]

USPSA firsts for me

Today I shot in an USPSA match at the Paul Bunyan Rifle and Sportsman’s Club (results are here). I’ve been shooting USPSA matches for over 20 years so one might expect there are very few, if any, things I have not seen and/or done or at least heard of in regards to stage designs. I certainly thought that before today. Sure, at the big matches they have fancy props and they do interesting things with platforms, carrying odd objects (I seem to remember a squirrel statue from many years back), and even a mining cart. But have you ever seen a stage which one only required one shot? A state which required a reload between each shot? Or a fixed time stage with no timer? Well, today I shot all of those oddities.

The stage called Quick or Slow was a single USPSA Popper at 35 yards. You started standing in a box with the gun loaded. Upon the signal you were to draw and knock down the Popper. If you missed you were required to reload between each shot until you knocked it down. I was the first shooter in our squad and I felt pretty good about dropping it on my first shot with a time of 2.21 seconds. Others did quite a bit better. The overall winning with a pistol caliber carbine dropped it in 1.17 seconds. The best pistol shooter (with an optic sight) dropped it in 1.38 seconds. I came in at 13th place in Limited class out of 26 shooters, 38th out of 97 overall, and got a whopping 2.647 points (in overall ranking) on that stage. One poor person took over 37 seconds to get 0.158 points (in overall ranking).

The stage called Murmaider had four disappearing targets which the shooter activated by stepping on a slightly raised platform. It was Virginia Count scoring so you had a maximum of eight shots. Your gun was loaded on a table directly downrange of the activator. Two targets were drop turners which presented themselves three times. The presentation time couldn’t have been more than a half second for each turn. There were two swinging targets that were pretty fast acting too. The “fixed” time was the total time the targets were visible. It was self actuated so there was no buzzer required. Hence, no timer. Here is how one shooter handled the problem:

Out of 40 points possible the overall winner got 31 (Limited class winner got 29). I got 22 points even after reflexively shooting at one of the drop turners three times when I realized I had a miss as I fired the shot. I knew I made an error and didn’t take one of the two shots I should have taken at one of the swinging targets which were much easier shots. This avoided the extra shot penalty but cost me the opportunity of another five points. The 22 points gave me a tie for 4th and 5th out of 28 shooters in Limited.

There was one other first for me today. I shot a Popper, got a clang from a hit, assumed it went down and continued with the rest of the stage without confirming that it went down. I didn’t realize it didn’t fall. I was totally surprised when the range officer asked me if I knew that I left it standing. We went over to look:

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There was nothing wrong with my shot. I was shooting 40 S&W with a Power Factor of 170 or greater so I asked for a calibration test. I’ve never done that before. I’ve shoot low plenty of times and figured it just wasn’t worth the effort to get a calibration test and took another shot (or two) to get it to fall.

This time the range master came over, shot it with the 9mm calibration ammo almost exactly dead center in the circle portion of the target, and it slowly fell forward as it was supposed to. I got a miss. Oh well, it was a bit of bad luck.

USPSA Area 1 Championship

For the first time in over 20 years I’m attending a level III USPSA match. In two weeks I’m going to Bend Oregon to participate in the Area 1 Championship. This consists of 17 stages shot over the course of three days. At this level match you get to shoot some interesting/different/challenging stages.

Some of the stages have a western theme such as Wild West, Showdown, and Outhouse Slider:

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But there is one stage of particular note. This will be the most interesting/different/challenging stage I have ever shot:

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New shooter report

Yesterday Dana and Chris from Barb’s Book Club went to the Bellevue Gun Club with Barb and I. Neither had even touched a gun before.

It went well. As usual I taught them how to shoot a pistol since it’s an indoor range with only 25 yards available. I did the usual stuff regarding safety, then stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, dry fire, and finally had them take their first shots with a suppressed .22 from 10 feet away from the target.

The following three pictures are by Barb. Yes, there is something wrong with the stance and grip in each of the pictures. They were still working on getting everything correct at the same time. It got better latter on before it deteriorate as they got tired at the end.

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I also talked them a little about ammunition. The bullet, the shell casing, powder, and primers. After I showed them rimfire and center cartridges Barb spoke up, “I didn’t know that! So that’s what you meant by that all this time.” Whoops! I thought she knew.

Dana had some problems at first. The shots were going all over the place. Chris’s first two shots were several inches high but close to each other. I asked if the top of the front and rear sights were level with each other and without a word put the next several shots into the bulls-eye. Okay, that’s an acceptable answer.

Dana shot again and after asking a few questions all of a sudden many of her shots started going into the bulls-eye. She had only been using the front sight. Once she used the rear sight in combination with the front sight things worked much better. Imagine that.

I had them shoot a .22 revolver in single action mode. Then had them dry fire in double action mode and advised them that in general they would probably be happier shooting semi-auto handguns.

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Near the end of our reserved time we put up two USPSA targets and I talked to them about self defense shooting. This included where to shoot, what to expect in terms of the threat response to hits in various locations, and when it was legal to shoot.

After a couple of magazines through the Ruger 22/45 Mark IIIs I had them start from a close ready position and then push out to fire first one shot at a time then two shots at a time. They did very well with all shots in the lower A-Zone (except the two Chris tried in the upper A-zone). I was very pleased with all the progress they had made and they thanked me multiple times.

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At the end of the month another new shooter from the book club is scheduled to go to the range with us.

See also the QOTD.

Quote of the day—Dana

Of the top five things people would never expect me to do, learn to shoot a gun is one of them.

This is exciting!

Dana
June 1, 2019
[I’ll have a full “new shooter report” later today.

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In the picture above Dana is the woman on the left. Chris is on the right. By their own request, they are getting a sample of what self defense shooting is about.—Joe]

One of these is not like the other

I was at the range a couple days ago and noticed my handgun was shooting a couple inches high at 10 yards. Odd, I thought.

I put the target out to 25 yards and tried again. Yup, obviously high. I adjusted it down and continued my practice. It bothered me and I kept thinking about it.

Then I noticed the front sight looked a little odd. I looked closer and from a different angle and discovered the problem:

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On the left is a new sight from my spare parts bin. On the right is the old sight.

I apparently broke it off shooting through a port at a recent match. To avoid damaging your gun you need to push all the way through the port or stay out of the port completely. If you are mostly centered in the port the recoil can interfere with the proper cycling and, as in this case, damage you gun.

I replaced the sight when I got home, order a new one to put in the spare parts bin, and went back to the range the next day to rezero my gun:

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The top group is from five yards and the bottom group is from 27 yards away. One flyer with each six shot group but good enough to believe the sights are where they belong.

Quality control

For USPSA matches I’ve been using 40 caliber 180 grain, polymer coated, Truncated Cone, bullets from Black Bullets International. They are very accurate, clean to reload, clean to shoot, and don’t have a jacket that comes back at you when you shoot at steel. I have reloaded almost 11,000 rounds using these bullets.

My only complaint about them is the quality control appears to be a bit marginal. One time I found a 125 grain 9mm bullet in with the 180 grain 40 caliber bullets and a few bullets which weighed as little as 177.5 grains.

The most concerning to me, which isn’t that big of a deal if you take it into account in your reloading, is the weight variation. They are advertised as 180 grain bullets. I have had batches that averaged 181.26 grains. And, most recently 179.2 grains.

Looking a bit closer at the data (a sample of 20 bullets) I found:

Mean Standard Deviation Min Max ES
179.2 0.574 178.3 180.7 2.4

If I had assumed the bullet weight was the advertised 180 grains, adjusted my load for 925 fps to get a 166.5 Power Factor and expected to meet the 165 minimum PF required to “make Major” at a USPSA match I would have ended up shooting Minor with a PF of 164.9 if chrono man had pulled a 178.3 grain (or less) bullet. This would have made me rather annoyed. One has to take into account the variation in bullet weights too, not just the average or the minimum from a sample. The statistics are a bit complicated and beyond the scope of this blog post but after taking into account the weight variation, velocity variation, and temperature sensitivity of the powder I had to load for a PF of about 175 at 70F to have less than a 10% chance of shooting Minor at a match where the chrono tested was done when the temperature was near freezing.

Okay, fine, that’s not really a big deal. I can tell the difference between a 175 PF load and a 165 PF load but it doesn’t make that much of a difference in performance.

Today I found another thing to annoy me about their quality control:

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It looks as if the bullet mold was not completely closed when the lead was poured. Why wasn’t that caught by some quality control process? When Barb and I toured the Montana Gold Bullet manufacturing facility QC was clearly a big deal. The bullet above clearly would have been rejected. But I have other indicators that Montana Gold may be an exception in the QC department.

 

Halle Berry training for John Wick 3

This afternoon daughter Jaime, her fiancé, and I went to see John Wick 3 – Parabellum. It’s a good action movie. There is some humor too. As Jaime pointed out the humor is “interesting”. It’s delivered completely straight and frequently without even any words. I recommend it for more than the entertainment value. It shows very skilled gun handling and shooting by both Keanu Reeves and Halle Barry. I’m inclined to believe, as is stated in the second video below, we see actors shooting guns at skill level never before seen in a movie.

Below is Barry doing, essentially, USPSA stages. I expect she is performing at about a low class B for a USPSA shooter.

There is some controversy in the gun community over this. I’m inclined to side with Uncle on it.

I expect the anti-gun people universally hate the movie and the training videos. It shows what can be done with guns and make it look fun. And it is fun. I’m going to a USPSA match tomorrow, and do most of what Reeves and Barry did in the videos above and I’m going to have fun doing it.

Boomershoot 2019—Sunday

Staff started arriving at 7:00 AM to mount the reactive targets on the wood stakes we had driven into the ground Thursday and last night. By 8:30 we had completed that job and the opening fireball target, designed by Barron Barnett, was complete by 9:30.

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There are a dozen pieces of 10 foot long rebar stuck in the ground around the target. On each piece of rebar are two road flares. The flare are to ignite the gasoline. The placement of the rebar was determined from viewing the video of previous fireballs. We have learned that placement is critical to getting good ignition of the gasoline.

The opening fireball target was detonated by 9:57:

Notice the last frame of the video. The sand platform was only reduced to about the same level as the surrounding ground. It worked wonderfully, resulting in almost no crater.

I think we have this fireball creation dialed in. There was no question about ignition of this fireball. We is suspect the good ignition was the reason it was the hottest, by far, of any fireball we have ever produced. Notice the photographer leaving the area as the fireball climbs into the air? His left arm received a minor burn from the radiant heat.

It was wonderful weather for the long range shooting. With almost no wind, hundreds of targets disappeared in minutes. The rate of target detonation approached that of a high intensity event.

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One experienced Boomershooter told me he got six boomers with eight shots, all of which were over 650 yards away. The entire upper area of the hill was emptied of boomers within just a few minutes.

People loved all the steel. The big USPSA silhouette targets range like bells. You could easily hear the most distant one even though it was 700 yards away. One Boomershooter told me, “It sounds like I’m at church!” Yup, this is The Church of Guns and Explosives.

Without any wind the targets were so easy to hit that of the nearly 700 hundred targets available only 15 were still undetonated by lunch time. The only target we found that definitely had a sold hit without detonation was hit by a .22 caliber bullet at about 650 yards. It’s just too much to expect for the .223 cartridge to deliver the velocity required at that range.

With the near perfect detonations and the good wind we learned a new lesson. Watch the weather forecast and adjust the number of targets accordingly. We needed far more targets for a day like today.

We let the participants shoot at the steel another hour after lunch before we packed things up and everyone went home. Barb and I were headed down the hill to Orofino by 5:00 PM.

It was an awesome Boomershoot.

Update: More fireball videos.

Quote of the day—danno

OMG.. This is a bucket list item… I’m trying to figure out why I’M NOT THERE” This is a “walk over coals” event.

danno
May 2, 2019
Comment to Boomershoot 2019—Thursday
[I ask a lot of people that same question. After people attend just once they are either there or have extremely good reasons, like, “I can only afford to drive from Maryland once every two years.” Or, “I’m dying of cancer and I don’t have the strength to get out of bed.”

Today is Boomershoot Sunday. Why aren’t you here?—Joe]

Boomershoot 2019—Saturday

Daughter Kim got the Boomerite production back on schedule and we have all the targets we need for Sunday. This is the production line as seen this afternoon:

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Here is the finished result, just under 700 targets:

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Yeah, there is a large stuffed bunny in one of the crates. But guess what it is stuffed with!

The dry ice is to keep the targets cool and fresh. The targets go dead over time and the dry ice slows down that reaction. We want the targets to be easier to detonate after being stored overnight. It made a big improvement in the successful detonation rate.

Here is what the High Intensity event looked like from the perspective of the targets:

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We put out hundreds of targets and after only a couple minutes only five targets were left. One guy melted his hand guard on his AR-15 from shooting so much. Another melted his blanket with the muzzle of his AR when he touched it on the blanket.

This is only a hint of what High Intensity is about. You just cannot capture experience of multiple shock waves hitting each second. Multiple new shooters came up to me afterward and said something to the effect, “That was amazing! I know you told me, but I had no idea.”

Attend Boomershoot 2020 and find out for yourself.