Range Games

Going to the gun range is a spiritual experience. It clears the mind and cleanses the soul. I have never said, “man, I really hated that” after a trip to the range. Even so, months of slinging lead down range gets monotonous. Here are some fun games you can play at the range to sharpen your skills, your mind, and satisfy the kid inside.

FYI- this is best done AFTER you have your rifle sighted in. You’ll just get pissed off if you try any of these without knowing where your rifle is shooting.

1. Timed Shots

If you have a shot timer for your handgun drills you can also use it for this nifty little muzzleloader drill. Even if you don’t have a shot timer you can download a shot timer app on your smartphone (like the IPSC Shot Timer on Android).

Prep: 

Have your rifle loaded and ready and your speed loaders ready for a second shot – preferably exactly as you would in the field.

Ready your shot timer.

Execution: 

1. Start the shot timer

2. Take your shot

3. Immediately reload as fast as possible

4. Take a second shot

Use a target with rings and add 10 seconds for each ring outside of the bulls-eye. The goal of this is to improve your efficiency in how fast you can get off a first and second shot. Not every shot in the field is ideal, requiring a second shot. Or there are those rare occasions where you’ll have another deer to shoot at — don’t miss out because you’re slow.

There are three key numbers that you can measure here: Time to first shot, time between first and second shot (your split time), and total time.

2. Yardage Monkey

Often times when we go to the range we sit at one yardage and plug away. Mix it up a bit!

1. Set up targets at your yardage of choice (25, 50, 75, 100, 150..to name a few).

2. Load your muzzleloader.

3. If you are shooting with a friend have him call out a yardage. If you’re shooting alone, roll a dice.

4. Shoot and repeat.

The goal of this game is to keep your hold-over skills keen. Don’t get caught in the habit of just shooting groups. We don’t shoot groups at deer, we want bulls-eyes at every yardage.

3. Yardage and/or Position Monkey

Do the same as above, only this time add in another variable, position. Or just keep it simple and try different positions at the same yardage.

Possible positions: Kneeling, Standing, Prone, Sitting (ground), Chair – deer in front, Chair – deer to left, Chair – deer to right.

Or you can steal a page from the tactical guys and come up with a bunch of crazy ass, awkward positions. Even if you don’t think the position is likely, you never know where that buck will present himself. The lessons you learn from shooting from different positions will pay off in the moment of truth.

4. Dot Shot

On any piece of paper or cardboard make 4 rows of 3 dots with a Sharpie about the size of a dime.

Depending on your confidence level set the target at a yardage you feel is challenging but do-able enough for you to hit the dot. If you have a 3″ group at 100 yards, don’t set the target at 100 yards.

Starting at the top row, aim for the first dot. Fire. Then move to the second dot…then the third. The first goal is to shoot out every dot in the row (only one shot allowed per dot). The second goal is to shoot out every dot on the page.

5. Trace

Similar to the Dot Shot, print off a simple black and white image (like a smiley face) and ‘trace’ the picture with your shots. Some good images would be:

  • Smiley Face
  • Peace Sign
  • a checker board
  • Most of the Wing Dings in Microsoft Word

Head-to-Head Shooting

Competition breeds excellence. Plus shooting with a partner is always more fun.

1. Clay Targets

Clay targets aren’t just for the scatter guns. Use them as a visual indicator of the shot.

Set up 3-5 clays in a row for each shooter. Preferably on separate boards so you don’t get confused.

First to bust all the clays wins. Loser buys beers once the rifles are put away.

If standard clays are too easy switch to the mini clays. Tootsie pops, empty shotgun shells, or charcoal briquettes are also good options.

2. Draw

No this isn’t a Hamilton / Burr style duel to the death.

Take 12 cards from 3 decks of cards (all the same). Take two pieces of cardboard and tape one set of cards to each in random order. Use the third deck to draw from.

Or…

Use one deck and give each shooter a suit (shooter A gets Spades, shooter B gets Diamonds) and use another suit to draw from.

With guns unloaded and on the table, draw a card at least 5 feet from the table. Lay the card, head to the table, load the gun, acquire target and fire.

2 points for being the first to hit the card, 1 point for hitting the card second, 0 points for a miss. -1 if you hit a different card.

This tests your memory, loading speed, target acquisition, and accuracy.

Tic Tac Toe

Of course, always check with your range officials to see if they approve of any of the above activities. If you have your own range, the sky is the limit on what you can do.

Got an idea for a muzzleloader range game? Post a comment!

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Another Case Against Pellets

I recently heard a story about a man who had his muzzleloader go off as he loaded a second shot. No primer, just went off as he was pushing the bullet down. How in the world would this happen? One word…embers.

Since pellets aren’t in powder form chunks break off in the seating process. the ignition of pellets is so inconsistent that not all of the pellet gets burned which may lead to glowing embers in your barrel after the shot. Put another load down and you may very well be pouring gas on a hot charcoal grill.

Not to say this same thing can’t happen with powder but you drastically reduce your chances of sending a ramrod through your hand or worse yet, death.

This is why it is important to run a wet and dry patch down the barrel after every shot at the range and to use powder instead of pellets.

Shoot straight. Stay safe. Shoot powder. 

Myth: Blackhorn 209 Will Not Ignite in an Electra

There’s a lot of information on the Internet about Blackhorn 209 not firing in an Electra. I’m going to (sort of) dispel that myth.

Today I tried an experiment. Blackhorn 209 has a high igniting temperature – so high that the spark that will ignite everything else won’t ignite Blackhorn 209, or so goes the theory.

So I hit the range with the following speed loaders:

  • 6 speed loaders loaded with 10 grains of FFFG 777
  • 3 speed loaders loaded with 80 grains of Blackhorn 209
  • 3 speed loaders loaded with 90 grains of Blackhorn 209
  • 3 speed loaders loaded with 100 grains of FFG 777
  • No primers, because it’s electronic!

Weather was overcast with the wind 10mph in my face.

I was shooting at 50 yards from a lead sled and ran a wet patch followed by a dry patch after every shot.

For the first group (middle diamond), I did the following:

  1. Load 10 grains of FFFG 777
  2. Load 80 grains of Blackhorn 209
  3. Seat Hornady SST 250 bullet (red sabot)
  4. Wet patch, turn over, run it through again
  5. Dry patch
  6. Repeat steps 1-5

Doing this Blackhorn 209 successfully fired every time.

For the second group (lower left circle), I did the following:

  1. Load 10 grains of FFFG 777
  2. Load 90 grains of Blackhorn 209
  3. Seat Hornady SST 250 bullet (red sabot)
  4. Wet patch, turn over, run it through again
  5. Dry patch
  6. Repeat steps 1-5

Doing this Blackhorn 209 successfully fired every time.

For the third group (lower right circle) I did the following:

  1. Load 100 grains of FFG 777
  2. Seat Hornady SST 250 bullet (red sabot)
  3. Wet patch, turn over, run it through again
  4. Dry patch
  5. Repeat steps 1-4

By far the straight up 777 was the best group, putting two bullets in the same hole. However, I now know I CAN use Blackhorn 209 in the Electra (with a little help from our friends at Hodgdon)

Keep in mind I never had amazing accuracy from the Hornady’s out of this gun. The TC 200 Shockwaves have given me the best groups so far but more experimentation is needed, both on the bullet side and on the powder side.

Next time out I’m going to execute the following test on the Electra:

Using 260 grain Harvester Scorpion PT Gold

  • 70 grains of Blackhorn 209 (just to make sure the myth isn’t a myth)
  • 5 grains of FFFG 777 and 80 grains of Blackhorn 209
  • 5 grains of FFFG 777 and 90 grains of Blackhorn 209
  • 5 grains of FFFG 777 and 100 grains of Blackhorn 209
  • 90 grains FFG 777
  • 100 grains FFG 777
  • 110 grains FFG 777

And compare to my baseline load:

  • 110 grains of FFG 777 and TC 200 grain Shockwaves

This and future groups and loads will be available on the Muzzy Bio page.