Winter Shooting Sports Weekend
18-20 March 2016
Community Rod & Gun Club of Bechtelsville
Ship 461 held its semi-annual shooting sports weekend during the weekend of 18 through 20 March 2016 at the Community Rod & Gun Club of Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania. This is the third year that the Club has permitted the Sea Scouts to use their facility for shooting sports and training. This weekend had originally been scheduled for the weekend of 22 - 24 January but the January blizzard caused the postponement of that weekend until March. During the week prior to our March weekend, there were forecasts of snow for the first day or spring, 20 March 2016, but the weather cooperated with us and the weekend was great for shooting!
We departed Zion Mennonite Church on Friday evening around 1930 and headed out for the Rod & Gun Club in Bechtelsville. We arrived at the club without incident around 2015 and proceeded to unload our vehicles. Once all of the personal gear was unloaded, the kitchen set up, and the firearms and ammunition properly stowed, we went over the shooting schedule for Saturday and reminded everyone about the range rules and provided a refresher in firearm safety and range commands. The balance of the evening was spent enjoying each others' fellowship and getting ready to bunk down.
Saturday began at a reasonable time of 0730 and a breakfast of pancakes at 0800. By 0900, breakfast was over, dishes cleaned up, and we were ready to begin our day of shooting. We determined that it would be best to begin with the .22LR rifles at the 50 foot range to give the Sea Scouts the opportunity to earn their various levels of the rifle Sea Scout Shooting Sports Medal. For the basic level, the shooter has to shoot five targets where a three-shot group can be covered by a quarter. To qualify for the intermediate level, the Sea Scout must shoot two (2) targets, shooting twenty (20) rounds per target, and achieve a score of at least 100 on each target. The Scouts shoot these levels from the bench rest or prone position. To qualify for the intermediate level, the Sea Scout must shoot four (4) targets from the standing position, ten (10) shots at each target, and achieve a score of at least forty (40) on each target. The Sea Scout must also take the NRA "First Step" course for the basic medal level and the NRA Basic Rifle Course for the intermediate level. The Sea Scouts took those courses at an earlier date.
At 1230, we broke for a quick lunch of hot dogs and were back on the range by 1400. The afternoon commenced with a period of shotgun shooting with 12 and 20 gauge shotguns and the opportunity for the Sea Scouts to qualify for various levels of their Sea Scout Shooting Sports Medals in the shotgun discipline. For the basic level, a Sea Scout must hit 11 out of 25 clay targets; the Sea Scout must hit 11 out of 25 clay targets twice for the intermediate level and 11 out of 25 clay targets three times for the Advanced level. The NRA courses also required for the Basic and Intermediate levels were taught to the Sea Scouts at the last Cradle of Liberty Squadron Rendezvous.
The wind had died down from earlier in the morning which made it better for shooting the clay targets. Our Boatswain, Matt Ranberg, initially manned the clay target thrower but about halfway through the period, he tried his hand shooting. Matt has already earned the Advanced level in Shotgun and was simply shooting for pleasure. He also enjoyed out-shooting our adult leaders, who did not do as well as him. One Scout had never fired a shotgun before and was thrilled when he hit his first clay target. Only one of the Scouts managed to hit 11 out of 25 targets, which was Kyle Coache, who already had earned his Basic level in shotgun. Unfortunately, he did not manage to repeat that feat to earn his Intermediate. Neither Peyton Lugo nor Lukas Shirley managed to reach the 11 hits necessary for the Basic level. Well, there is always the Squadron Rendezvous in June, guys.
We exhausted our supply of shotgun ammunition (300 rounds) by 1630 with a little more than a box and a half left of clay targets. We extended our supply of clay targets by retrieving those that were not hit from the field and re-using them. Some of them broke upon launching, but most worked well a second time. The ground was soft enough so that the majority that was not hit did not break apart upon impact. We then proceeded to tear down the shotgun range and place the thrower and remaining clay targets into the Skipper's vehicle, since those items were not to be used for the remainder of the weekend and we still were unsure of what the weather would be for Saturday night and Sunday morning.
The Sea Scouts finally reached the period of large bore rifle shooting at 100 yards that most had been anxiously awaiting. Sea Scouts and Venturers are permitted to shoot large bore rifles and the Ship had two calibers available: 30-06 for two of the large bore rifles; and 8mm Mauser for the other two large bore rifles. The Scouts had available two (2) Kar98k rifles from World War 2, both of which are chambered in 8mm Mauser; a Winchester Model 1917 from World War 1 and a Remington 03-A3 from World War 2, both of which were chambered in 30-06. The 8mm Mauser cartridge is also known as the 7.92 x 57mm and dates from 1888. The 30-06 cartridge is also referred to as the 7.62 x 61mm and dates from 1906, being a modification of the 30-03 cartridge adopted in 1903 for the 1903 Springfield rifle used in World War 1.
The Scouts and leaders spent about an hour and a half shooting the large bore rifles at 100 yards. Again, one of our Sea Scouts had never fired a large bore rifle before but managed to score a few hits with the Kar98k at 100 yards. He kept his target to show his parents!
The large bore shooting period ended at 1830 and, as the Scouts cleaned up the 100 yard range, Mate Paul Coache prepared our dinner of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and chips. Mr. Coache took it upon himself to do the majority of the cooking for the weekend with some assistance from the Scouts. No one complained (surprise!).
Following dinner and clean up, the Scouts took their standard field trip to Zern's Farmer's Market in Gilbertsville. Zern's is basically an indoor flea market with a plethora of vendors selling everything from government surplus to fresh meat and cheese. The boys enjoyed walking around Zern's and seeing what was available. Mr. Coache always visits the candy vendor for his orange slices.
Upon our return from Zern's, it was rifle and shotgun cleaning time. It is important to clean firearms before storing them and, in the case of the 8mm rifles; the ammunition shot was military surplus from Czechoslovakia and had corrosive primers. Some of the 30-06 ammunition was military surplus from Pakistan, and also had corrosive primers. The quicker a rifle is cleaned after shooting corrosive ammunition, the better. A rifle that is left un-cleaned after corrosive ammunition has been shot in it will deteriorate in only a short period of time.
After the cleaning was finished and all of the materials and firearms were put away, it was time for some fellowship and a snack. We turned in a bit earlier than we did on Friday night. After all, a full day on your feet in the fresh air does tire one out.
Sunday was limited to a breakfast of pancakes, cleaning up the dishes, packing up the Scouts' personal gear and the Ship's gear. Once the Clubhouse was cleared of our material, we gave the building a thorough cleaning, including wet mopping the floor. We try to leave the Clubhouse in better condition than we found it.
The trip home was uneventful and we were back in Souderton by 1100. The Sea Scouts and leaders of the Ship all considered the weekend to be both an enjoyable and successful one. Again, the Officers and Crew of Ship 461 offer our thanks and appreciation to the members and officers of the Community Rod & Gun Club of Bechtelsville for allowing us to use their facility for our shooting sports weekends.