Published November 02, 2012, 07:55 AM

A morning at the range

The sky is clear and bright, the air calm this early in the morning. Laurie and I unload the shooting box containing spotting scope, targets, stapler and a host of other necessities and place it on one of the concrete shooting benches. Two rifles I place in the rack, and ammunition I set on the bench. We are at the rifle range near Logan, Mont.

By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun

The sky is clear and bright, the air calm this early in the morning. Laurie and I unload the shooting box containing spotting scope, targets, stapler and a host of other necessities and place it on one of the concrete shooting benches. Two rifles I place in the rack, and ammunition I set on the bench. We are at the rifle range near Logan, Mont.

We wait for a break in the action, as there already are eight or 10 other shooters on the line. Someone rings the bell, signaling “firing line clear,” so we walk targets out to the 100-yard and 200-yard plywood target boards and staple them in place.

Back at the bench, we strike up a conversation with a young couple, and the woman tells me this will be her first hunt for deer.

“Well, I wish you luck. It is good to see young people continuing the tradition of hunting.”

It gets me thinking about other ranges I have visited over the decades some poor, others good — the gravel pit northwest of Jamestown back in the ‘60s, the Pipestem Dam range, half dozen Marine Corps ranges in various parts of the world … the superb range near Cheyenne, Wyo., which is now closed due to the club losing its lease. I’ve fired on decent ranges at Livingston and above Helena and along the Missouri River at Great Falls.

The poorest ranges require no membership, which results in hooligans who bring all manner of “targets” — defunct appliances, empty buckets, milk jugs and the like. They seldom haul away the junk afterward. These places look like garbage dumps.

The Manhattan Wildlife Association, which administers the range where we are shooting today, requires an NRA membership in addition to a $40 annual range fee. Paid members get a card that has the combination to a lock on the drive-through gate. The combination is changed every spring. The system works well — no garbage strewn about, no hooliganism. There are trap and skeet fields, a range for high-powered rifles, and several handgun ranges — all with berms separating them. If you are caught firing into a berm you are likely to be booted out of the association.

But back to the shooting: For the last year or so I have been using a device called a “Lead Sled” for checking rifle zeros on the bench. I weight it down with a couple sandbags, place the rifle on the rest, then I turn a couple knobs this way and that until my crosshairs are resting on the bull. Grip the rifle firmly, hold ‘em-and-squeeze ‘em. It doesn’t beat up the shooter like when you fire off sandbags.

Today I am shooting my old 7mm Weatherby Magnum that Jake bought for me when I was 16. It is on its second barrel — a 26” Douglas Premium — and it shoots very well with the 154-grain Hornady Spire-Point (now called the “Interlock”) or the 175-grain Nosler Partition. With this rifle I shot my first grizzly bear, my only mountain goat, two black bears, a half dozen animals in Africa and at least a dozen elk. I will use the rifle on a Judith Mountain area elk hunt in November. I have let down the old 7mm on a couple occasions, but the rifle has never failed me. Today it is shooting well, as it usually does. I move the scope adjustment one-quarter inch left at 100 yards and put the rifle away. I will scrub the bore on the patio at home.

Next, I shoot the .270 built on a Finnish Sako action with custom Bishop stock and 22” Douglas barrel. I’ve owned this rifle almost 40 years and taken every one of my seven wild rams with it and a few deer. At 200 yards my first shot is dead center in the bull’s-eye.

“I couldn’t have punched a hole in that target with a pencil and got it any closer to perfect,” I say to Laurie. I’ll use the .270 on a desert sheep hunt in Nevada in December, if my creaky legs are up to it.

And so we load up our gear, carefully lay the rifles in cases in the back of the Suburban, cross the West Gallatin River bridge and make our way home.

“Nothing like rifles that shoot where they are supposed to,” I say as we get onto the highway.

“Amen to that!”

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974

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