Any day on the shooting range is a great day for me, but Hilltop Gun Club’s first-ever carbine clinic yesterday (October 17, 2015) was a fantastic day on the range.
The weather began with a bit of a brisk breeze and bright sunshine as a small group of dedicated shooters gathered at Hilltop Gun Club’s shooting range for a four hour carbine clinic hosted by Hilltop members.
I first came aware of the clinic after receiving a Facebook update to Hilltop Gun Club’s page announcing the October 17 hosted event in which I (we) were invited to ‘enjoy your shooting rights’ in a safe and fun environment to learn about my carbine rifle. And I was excited! Since retiring from active duty in 1995 I have not had the fellowship of shooters on the range except the occasional and rare brief chat another shooter at Zaleski State Park’s short range. And while I am perfectly happy running through shooting drills on my own it is always so much more enriching and enjoyable done with others. The men and women attending the clinic did not disappoint.
We began with short topic presentations: Kevin spoke on the origin and history of Hilltop Gun Club and its contribution to the Athens area history. I quickly gained confidence in and respect for the club during the ensuing safety briefing and discussion. Jake, an experienced and well qualified Marine Corps vet next spoke to us about his experience training Marines to qualify with their weapon. After a brief Q&A Jake walked us through the components, field stripping, and cleaning of the AR15/ M4 with plenty of opportunity for questions, exchanges of ideas, and solid practical knowledge which we put into practice in short order with a series of sight-in drills consisting of three rounds aimed at a three inch circle ten yards down range. Between drills shooters examined their grouping with the Range Safety Officer and adjusted their weapon’s sight.
After the sighing-in drills I was wonderfully surprised by the next short topic: Hand loading by Bill Hayes of Bean Hollow Bullets. In less than three minutes Bill dispelled every misconception I held about building reloaded ammunition. I’d always thought there was the need for expensive presses, dies, and scales, and it was as dangerous as a bag of snakes. Not even close. In fact, Bill showed us just how easy it is and how to do it with a great degree of safety. He loaded one round into a revolver, discharged that round down range, and then walked back to the bench whereby he rebuilt the casing into a deployable round in less than two minutes time. That round was then successfully discharged down range. A volunteer, who’d never built a reload before, used Bill’s method to again rebuild the round and discharge it on target. I made up my mind then and there to pursue reloading ammo as my next hobby. Not only will the hobby give me a personal satisfaction of preparing my own ammunition for my .223/5.56 and .45 caliber rounds it will also safe me a boat load of money, because, as Bill and Kevin pointed out, factory loads are ridiculously expensive. I’ve already started looking on-line for the reloading manual and comparing equipment prices. Bill indicated he could have me set up and running with easily stored quality equipment for a couple hundred bucks.
After Bill’s demo we then set out on a series of basic range drills: Straight-line advancing assault on four targets, serpentine advancing on four targets, then a series of firing line drills at longer ranges. I’m fairly okay at clearing rooms and close contact targets but I have a long way to go when it comes to ranges beyond twenty-five meters while standing on the firing line. That I only punched four holes on a silhouette torso on the fifty yard range demonstrated that, but I never once felt any denigration from any of the other shooters, who were far more skilled. Nor did I ever have a concern for my safety during the drills. Range safety and line control were very effectively managed by our RSO.
During the closing moments of our day on the range Kevin spoke on the club’s plans to further develop the range equipment and I’m excited. The one that got my attention was the shooting “house” because we rarely have the opportunity to deploy the AR inside an enclosed structure during training, and let me tell ya, if you’re carbine is part of a home defence strategy (or any fire arm for that matter) then participating in shooting drills inside a structure is of great training benefit. Indoors the rifle report is amplified and the sound wave does an assault of its own on your senses. Experiencing it in a training environment can reduce the shock value of indoor fire at a time when you want all your senses focused. So this range development is something I’m looking forward to.
I love to shoot my rifle but the opportunity to do it with other skilled shooters willing to share their knowledge and methods is an unparalleled experience. I am grateful for the folks of Hilltop Gun Club for hosting the carbine clinic and I look forward to very affordable follow-up clinics to further develop my skills. A scan of the club’s internet home page will provide a look-see at what is available in the future. So for me, when it comes time to refresh my certifications for my concealed handgun license (Concealed Carry) I know where I can go. Thank you all for a awesome shooting day.