Ship Shooting Sports Day

Community Rod & Gun Club

Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania

16 March 2013


One would think that four (4) days prior to the arrival of spring, the weather would be turning pleasant and that the winter clothing could be put away for another season.  That's probably what the Officers and crew members of Ship 461 thought when they scheduled a shooting sports day for Saturday, 16 March 2013.  However, Old Man Winter had one more surprise up his sleeve and along with his friend, Jack Frost, paid a visit to us just four days shy of the arrival of spring.  The arrival of inclement weather was not enough to discourage the members of Ship 461 from carrying on with their planned shooting sports day.

The members of the Community Rod & Gun Club of Bechtelsville, Berks County, Pennsylvania, were kind enough to allow the Sea Scouts to use their clubhouse and shooting range for the day.  Ship members arrived at the Berks County location around mid-morning on Saturday to get organized prior to commencing their shooting activities.  Rifles and ammunition had to be unloaded; eye and ear protection checked; and the range rules gone over one last time.  The range was under the control of Skipper Tim Wile, who has been a NRA-certified instructor for more than three (3) decades.  Ship Committee Members Pattie Guttenplan and Zachary Wile assisted during the day and helped oversee the day's activities.  As an older teen program, the Sea Scouts, like Venturers, are permitted to shoot high caliber rifles as well as pistols, under the supervision of qualified NRA-certified instructors and range safety officers.  Boy Scouts are restricted to shooting .22 caliber rifles and 12 and 20 gauge shotguns.  Cub Scouts may only shoot air rifles shooting BBs.

The day commenced with some of the club members giving the Sea Scouts a short demonstration of their black powder muzzle-loading rifles.  The Sea Scouts were shown how muzzle-loading firearms were loaded and shot.  While not planned, the Sea Scouts were also given a demonstration of what to do when the priming charge goes off, but the main charge does not -- the proverbial "flash in the pan."  The photo below left shows CM Zach Wile firing one of the muzzle-loading rifles with the tell-tale puff of white smoke belching from the rifle's barrel.  The black powder rifle demonstration gave the Sea Scouts some appreciation of the convenience and reliability of modern firearms as well as a recognition of what our forefathers had to do in order to put food on the table.

Once the black powder demonstration was over, the Sea Scouts moved onto more modern firearms, but not too modern.  The first "modern" rifles shot by the Sea Scouts were World War I era German Gewehr 98 rifles.  The Gewehr 98 (Gew 98) was the standard infantry rifle of the Imperial German Army in the First World War and, as indicated by the "98" in its designation, was adopted in 1898.  The particular models at the range were built by the Mauser works in 1916 and 1918 and shoot the standard 7.92 x 57 millimeter cartridge, more commonly known as the 8mm Mauser cartridge.  Along with the First World War models, the Scouts also had available an example of the Second World War model of the Mauser 98, the Karibiner 98 Kurtz, or Kar98k.  This model of the Mauser 98 rifle was adopted for use in 1935 and the particular example we had had been sporterized by the soldier who had brought it home as a war trophy.  The photo at right shows Matt Ranberg waiting his turn to shoot the Kar98k while attempting to keep his hands warm.  The photo also shows the distinct advantage of having a covered pavilion from which to shoot during less than ideal weather, as shown by the white ground and falling snow.

By the time the Sea Scouts had exhausted their ammunition supply for the 8mm Mauser rifles, it was time for lunch and a time to get warm in the club cabin.  The Scouts enjoyed a lunch of pizza and various drinks while they got warm and discussed the morning's shooting.  Following lunch, the Sea Scouts once again headed to the rifle range, this time to try their hands at shooting semi-automatic M-1A rifles, the civilian versions of the military's M-14 rifle.  The M-14 rifle was adopted by the U.S. military in 1957 as a replacement for the M-1 Garand that saw service in the Second World War and in Korea.  The M-14 rifle and its civilian counterparts are chambered to shoot the 7.62 mm NATO cartridge, which is also known as the .308 Winchester.  The M-14 was replaced as the military's standard rifle in the mid-1960s by the M-16 but is staging a comeback with the US military as the M-16's 5.56mm cartridge is considered by some to be underpowered.  The M-14 and its civilian counterparts are now prized as a competitive shooting sports rifles as they are quite accurate and are much sought after, used examples of the M-1A bringing as much as $1,500.00.  The photo at left depicts two of our Sea Scouts shooting the M-14 rifle.  The continuing snowfall outside of the shooting pavilion is quite evident in the photo.

It didn't take long to exhaust our supply of 7.62 mm NATO ammunition and the Sea Scouts had to move to a different rifle.  This time, the Scouts had a bit of a variation.  Our final shooting period involved shooting a Korean War vintage M-1 Garand rifle and a Vietnam-era M-16 rifle.  The M-1 Garand rifle shoots a 30-06 cartridge which packs a kick similar to the 8mm Mauser while the M-16 rifle shoots the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, or otherwise known as a .223 Remington, which is much easier on the shoulder.  It was hard to tell which rifle was more popular with the Scouts as each had its unique characteristics.  The M-1 packed a pretty good punch and it was easy to recognize when you fired your last shot as the rifle ejected the empty clip with a distinctive "ping."  The M-16 was a bit easier on the shoulder and fun to shoot, but the way the Scouts found that they had run out of their allotted rounds of ammunition was when they pulled the trigger and nothing happened.  The Scouts were allotted ten (10) rounds of 5.56mm ammunition per turn while the M-1 clip holds only eight (8) rounds of 30-06 ammunition.  So, with the M-16, the Scout had two (2) extra shots over the Scout firing the M-1.

By 3:30 p.m., the Scouts had exhausted their ammunition supplies and it was time for the necessary chore of cleaning the rifles.  With each Scout picking a separate rifle, it did not take long to disassemble and clean the various rifles the Scouts used.  The bolt action rifles were the easiest to clean, having the least amount of moving parts, and those Scouts cleaning those rifles were finished first.  The Scouts cleaning the semi-automatic rifles learned how to disassemble, clean, and re-assemble the M-1 Garand, the M-14, and the M-16.  Within an hour the Scouts had all of the rifles cleaned and had the gun club cabin cleaned up as well. 

It was then time for some frivolity as the Scouts busied themselves with taking advantage of what is most likely the season's final significant snowfall and made a small snowman.  As the photo below right shows, the effort did not meet with unqualified success.  Still, the Scouts enjoyed the late winter weather and enjoyed romping in the snow. 

The snow did present a challenge returning home, however.  While the trip from Bechtelsville to Souderton is only about 23 miles, the late winter storm wreaked havoc on area roads.  A trip home that should have taken 40 to 50 minutes took close to an hour and a half as a result of several detours caused by vehicle crashes on the various major roadways.  Despite the weather, we made it home safely and without incident.

The Officers and crew members of Sea Scout Ship 461 once again express their sincere gratitude to the members of the Community Rod & Gun Club for allowing us to use their facilities and for their strong support of the Boy Scout program in general.  It was quite a luxury to have the use of the club cabin as a place to warm up, eat lunch, have indoor plumbing available, and the availability of the cabin contributed greatly to the event's success.

This page last updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013.

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