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Firearms can be a blast...as well as good investments

The nice folks at Woods ‘n Water have agreed to let me share my shooting experiences with you over the next several months. Using the knowledge I have acquired from shooting over the past 50 years, I hope to help experienced shooters, as well as shed some light on the sport for some who may be new to shooting.

I plan to cover shooting every gun that I have (as well as all those I can borrow from gun shops or my buddies), and I will touch on gun safety (every time), as well as reloading, accuracy shooting, fun shooting, some equipment I have purchased (or borrowed) and general shooting with everything from .22 rimfire to .30-06, including rifles, shotguns, handguns and black powder rifles.

Each article will cover what I have actually done and have had practical experience doing. I am not sponsored by any gun or ammunition manufacturer, so my articles will be from my side of the fence without influence from any particular company or retailer. When I share my experiences with you, I will tell it like it is from where I sit.

I started shooting with my father when I was about 5 years old using a Remington Model 572 Fieldmaster and my Daisy lever-action BB gun. Since that time I have acquired several more guns, sold some, traded some and had FUN with every one of them.

Now let’s get to “Fun Shooting!” Firearms can be a blast (pun intended) to shoot and an excellent investment. Yes, I said an investment. Most well-made firearms – if purchased right and meticulously cared for – can provide you with a lifetime of fun and a strong return on your investment if you ever decide to sell or trade them.

I must mention gun safety, and cannot stress enough – Treat all firearms as if they are loaded, ALL THE TIME! Never point a firearm in the direction of anything you do not want to possibly shoot. More people have been shot by an “UNLOADED” firearm than in any other type of accident.

If you follow a few simple rules, you will be a safe gun owner. Always wear eye and ear protection. Every shooter should get a pair of safety glasses and some sort of hearing protection. Safety glasses sell for around $10, and foam ear plugs cost only about 25 cents per pair.

I can speak from personal experience about the need for hearing protection, after years of being “not too smart." It is safe to say my hearing is not as good as it should be, and I wish I had worn hearing protection while shooting over the years. Now when I shoot, I am now religious about always having my “ears and eyes" on.

If you purchase a new rifle, be sure to read the owner's manual and get familiar with your gun before heading to the range. When choosing a rifle, try out several to see which is a good fit. Go to the local gun store and ask to hold the gun. Put it up to your shoulder to see how it fits and feels in your hands. Ask the salesperson to go over how the gun operates and have him show you how to insert the magazine, put on the safety, and anything else you might need to know about this gun before heading home.

Now, let’s go over some FUN SHOOTING you can enjoy with your wife, husband, buddies, kids or grandkids.

A .22 caliber rimfire rifle is a great starter gun for adults or kids. I also like them! The rifles are fairly inexpensive, the ammo is cheap, there is little or no recoil, and the report (noise when the trigger is pulled) is minimal.

The rifles are light and easy to handle, and they can be fun and accurate with or without a scope. Almost everyone likes shooting rimfire. Used rimfire rifles can be had sometimes for a song and dance and other times for about a month’s wages, depending on the rifle (and your job). I recently purchased a Savage Model 19 made around 1934 (yes, 1934!), and it is, without question, one of the best “shooters” I have. Plus, it looks neat!

Without a doubt, the most famous .22 rimfire target rifle has to be the Winchester Model 52. This was originally a military training rifle that turned the shooting industry upside-down with its remarkable accuracy. This rifle won more shooting matches in its day than any other. Today these rifles bring top dollar (if you can find one) in good condition.

There are a few kinds of .22 rimfire ammo, including:

• .22 long rifle (most powerful),

• .22 long (second most powerful),

• .22 short (third most powerful),

• .22 cb cap, .22 acorn and .22 calibri (cb cap, acorn and calibri are not much more powerful than a pellet gun), and

• .22 rat shot (long shell, usually with a blue, see-through plastic cap filled with small, round lead pellets similar to a miniature shotgun shell).

We'll talk about the .22 mag later. These rifles can be pretty accurate with bulk ammo and can be darn accurate with match ammo. Bulk ammo is like the boxes that cost around $1.99 for a box of 50 (around 4 cents per round). This ammo will work just fine for the average rimfire shooter who is trying to shoot targets and hit a 1-inch circle, and in some rifles this regular ammo will print groups of less than 1/2-inch at 50 yards.

There are several companies that make .22 rimfire ammo, including: Federal, Remington, American Eagle, Winchester and many more, and this ammo can be purchased at most gun stores, Wal-Mart and some hardware stores.

It comes in boxes of 50 to 500 rounds with different velocities, different weights and different styles (round nose, hollow point, flat nose). I suggest that you buy several types and see which shoots best from your rifle, because they will not all shoot exactly the same. Some will be a hair more accurate than others, but the only way to know is to shoot several types and brands in your rifle.

Once you find the one your gun "likes," go ahead and get a good supply. It is not milk; it will not spoil, and if you decide to have a FUN SHOOTING day, you do not want to have to quit shooting early.

Specialty match ammo can range upwards of 50 cents per round. The main difference between regular ammo and specialty match ammo is how closely the tolerances are monitored in each.

In the less expensive ammo, the range of the velocity (how fast the bullet leaves the barrel) is not exact with each round. It can vary 20 to 50 feet per second with the same rounds, from the same company, in the same box. And the tolerances for the loading are not nearly as closely monitored in the less expensive ammo.

Most of the good match ammo is designed for the shooter that has a very high-dollar rifle, a pricey scope and a rest (which can cost upwards of $800 for competition shooting models).

These shooters are trying to get the bullet to hit a dot on the target that is 1/64th of an inch wide on EVERY SHOT. Therefore, the ammo manufacturer is careful that each powder load is exactly the same and each bullet weighs exactly the same in each round. The reason for so much attention to all of this is to have the bullet leave the barrel at exactly the same speed every time, translating into consistency in bullet placement.

Now, for most of us, the bulk ammo works great, and most rifles will shoot this just fine. Hitting the smallest bull’s-eye with your rifle can be achieved to a very good degree by finding the ammo that shoots best out of YOUR rifle. I know this might sound a little strange, but all rifles (even by the same manufacturer) shoot slightly differently, and they do not shoot the same with all brands/types of ammo.

I have several .22 rimfire rifles, and to achieve that “dead-on” accuracy with each gun, I had to try several different makes of ammo before I found the one that each rifle “liked” the best. Now, some of you are thinking this must be a lot of work for just shooting a .22. But you are wrong! It is fun!

Get set up with your rifle and several different types of ammo, a note pad and a spotting scope or gun-mounted scope and start shooting. Keep a record of each shot and, at the end of the day, you will have a good idea of the right bullet for your gun.

You have now made it possible for your gun to shoot in the same hole (or very near the same hole) with each shot. If there is no wind or very light wind, you can hold the rifle still, gently squeeze the trigger just right, and be on your “A-game,” knowing that your rifle will be able to do its job.

The only downside to this is that you can’t blame the gun when you are not on your “A-game.” Luckily, most rifles can achieve this type of accuracy with the less expensive ammo. I have a .22 rimfire pistol that loves Federal 4-cent-per-round ammo, and will put it in the same hole each shot at 25 yards. It simply does not like the “high dollar” ammo.

The bottom line, is you have to see what works best in your gun. Once you have the best ammo for your rifle, the competition with your kids, wife, husband or friends can begin. With a .22 rimfire rifle, you can have lots of fun for very little money. You can get a good, new .22 rifle starting around $120 – and if you get a scope (for us old guys that just can’t see that little target like we used to) – you can get away with less than $150 – or around $350 if you get a very good one.

How can you beat that? A new gun that will bring you many years of enjoyment (and a little meat on the table if you so desire) for around $150. If you take good care of your new gun, you will be able to get your money back, plus a little, down the road, or hand it down to your son or daughter. Most gun stores offer used trade-ins for a little less than a new model of these guns. But, be sure you get some sort of short warranty if you purchase a used gun.

I like to shoot from a sand bag or bipod, so think about this when making your purchase. Most of you live in an area that has some sort of gun range/club, and these are great places to join. Most of the members are very helpful in showing you “how to.” It is rare that

I shoot and do not learn at least one new thing from my fellow shooters at Gateway Pistol and Rifle in Jacksonville. Scopes are a great addition to most rifles, as they let you place the crosshairs directly on a target that is more than 25 yards away. They also double as a way to see exactly where your shot hit the target.

A scope will allow you to stretch out your shots to 100 yards or longer with a good degree of accuracy. Scopes come in an array of sizes, magnifications, reticles (crosshairs) and red and green dots. Most I've had are user-friendly for installation and easy to sight-in.

Scopes are like your shirts – different strokes for different folks. I like a Mil-Dot reticle with dots on the crosshairs that allow you to sight-in the rifle using one dot and shorten or extend your sighting using the other dots.

If your rifle is sighted-in using the center crosshair at 50 yards, the bullet will hit the target at a lower position at 100 yards. Almost all bullets leave the barrel on a straight line, before rising up a little and then starting to fall the further they travel before impact. Having a scope with these dots allows you to compensate for this trajectory by using the different dots.

Wind will also move a bullet, so you can use the dots that go from right to left to adjust for wind. I used to think that I needed a high-dollar scope on all of my rifles, but I have since learned differently. I now have BSA scopes on most of what I shoot, and they are flawless, easy to work with and will not break the bank.

Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was five years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very-safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience. Email: [email protected] or go to: www.shootingwithjim.com