Winter Shooting Sports Weekend

10-12 January 2014

Community Rod & Gun Club

Bechtelsville, PA



Ship 461 held its second annual Winter Shooting Sports Weekend at the Community Rod & Gun Club in Bechtelsville, Berks County, Pennsylvania, during the weekend of 10 through 12 January 2014.  This is the second year that the Ship held a winter shooting sports weekend and the first time that the weekend involved only Officers and Crew of the Ship.  The plan for the weekend called for shotgun shooting on Saturday and pistol shooting on Sunday afternoon.  The weather forecast for the weekend was unusually warm for mid-January, but the forecast for Friday night and Saturday called for rain, heavy at times.  Fortunately, the Community Rod & Gun Club graciously offered the Ship the use of the club's cabin for the weekend so accommodations were not a problem, even with the less than ideal weather forecast, as the gun club cabin has heat, hot and cold running water, a small kitchen, and indoor plumbing. 


Despite the less than ideal weather forecast, We went ahead with the weekend, knowing that we had a covered pavilion in which to store our shotguns, ammunition, and other supplies in the event of rain.  The rain came - and so did the fog - but the Ship's members prevailed in spite of the conditions and had a splendid time.


We arrived at the gun club cabin Friday evening and settled in for the night.  After setting up the kitchen, setting up personal gear, and stowing the shooting equipment, Skipper Wile provided those present with a short overview of the operation and safety aspects of the various 12 and 20 gauge shotguns that were available for the weekend.  Skipper Wile and Mate Cowles also provided some rudimentary instruction on shooting shotguns as opposed to shooting rifles and how to properly point the shotgun at a moving target.


Friday night's snack was freshly made popcorn, cookies and various beverages.  Once the instruction period was over, we relaxed and enjoyed a social hour prior to settling in for the night.


Saturday morning started with a hearty breakfast of French toast, sausage, an assortment of cold cereal, and various beverages.  The weekend's menu and station bill were posted in the kitchen area so everyone could easily see their duty assignments for the weekend.  Once breakfast was eaten and cleaned up, the crew was briefed on the range rules in effect for the weekend and we then proceeded out to the shotgun range.  We hoped that we had brought sufficient supplies of ammunition and targets. We had a full case of 20 gauge shells, nearly a full case of 12 gauge shells, and three cases of clay targets for use during the weekend.  A case of shotgun shells contains 250 shells while each case of clay targets contains 90 targets.  It is difficult to predict which gauge shotgun the crew members will prefer at any given time.   


As predicted, Saturday was rainy, somewhat heavy at times, with areas of fog caused by the unusually warm temperatures hitting the colder ground.  Once we set up our target thrower, we commenced our morning's activities.  Skipper Wile took the first shift at working the target thrower while Mate Cowles acted as the shotgun coach.  The intermittent rain did not affect our shotgun shooting other than the occasional mid-air splashes when one of the shotgun pellets would hit a rain drop.  The effects were pretty dramatic.


The Ship's crew members and adults took turns at the shooting stand, being given three (3) shells at each turn.  We had two (2) of each gauge shotgun available for the crew's use so they were able to try out different shotguns to see which they were most comfortable with.  It did not take long for the crew members to get accustomed to the various shotguns in use and some were rather proficient at hitting the moving clay targets.  Boatswain Walter Coyne was the most proficient of the Ship's crew members when it came to hitting the clay targets while Mate Andy Cowles took the honors amongst the adult leaders.  The fog did not present the problem for clay target shooting that the photos might make it appear.  The fog was never very heavy and its intensity would vary with the shifting winds.  Oddly enough, the wind always seemed to blow the fog off of the range when Mate Paul Coache was in the firing position onlySkipper Wile at the thrower  to return when he was finished shooting.  Despite that odd meteorological coincidence, it did not appear to give him any particular advantage with respect to hitting the orange clay targets.