Howard Delo

By the time you see this in print, the 2019 Alaska Territorial Muzzleloading Shoot will already be in its second day of shooting. I always try to attend as many days of the scheduled three-and-a-half days of shooting as possible. The last few years, however, I’ve only been able to make about half of the event.

For the last several years, I’ve planned to drive to the Territorial Shoot, being held at Ft. Wick off the Talkeetna Spur Road and stay in my small motorhome to avoid the 100-mile round trip drive each day, but something always came up.

A couple of times, problems with the RV prevented its use. Other times, family health issues dictated that I needed to be home each night to help with things. This year, everybody is healthy, and the RV seems to be running just fine. Time will tell if all the pieces fall into place.

More inside

By necessity, I’m writing this before the shoot actually occurs – that’s what happens when deadlines are involved and I’m “on the road, again.” I’ll tell you about the various matches that I usually shoot in and some of the others I never seem to be ready for. I would like to be bragging about all the medals I won and new shooting records I set, but none of that has happened yet (and probably won’t either!).

The various matches, and combined matches known as aggregates, have rules governing the type of sights allowed, the weight of the gun, the trigger pull weight, the ignition system used, the caliber of the firearm, smoothbore or rifled, and some other factors. I won’t bore you with that here. Just know that these requirements assure a fair competition between shooters of all sizes, ages, and experiences. There is a lady’s category and youth categories to allow equal competition within a grouping. Although there have been a few lady shooters and a couple of youth shooters who could whoop the male shooters in any given match!

The matches I usually try to shoot involve the military musket, the smoothbore, the sighted smoothbore, and the hunting rifle aggregates. I use a reproduction Enfield musketoon in 58-caliber for the military musket match. This is an exact copy of the original firearm issued to artillery and cavalry troops during the American Civil War. The smoothbore is an exact copy of a flintlock Northwest Trade Gun in 62-caliber or 20 gauge, depending on whether you shoot round balls or birdshot. This category doesn’t allow a rear sight to be used.

The sighted smoothbore matches allow either flintlock or percussion actions and a fixed rear sight. These guns can be quite accurate out to 50-75 yards and will surprise a lot of folks at how well they shoot at 100 yards. I use a Thompson/Center Renegade percussion long gun in 56-caliber which I put together from parts.

I originally started shooting the sighted smoothbore because not many other folks shot it. I figured I could probably win a medal or two by doing so. As it turns out, one of the other shooters tied a national record shooting his sighted smoothbore in the Western Regionals a year ago. There go my hopes for a gold here! Maybe I can still win a silver or bronze though.

I usually shoot the hunting rifle aggregate with either my 50-caliber custom Hawken percussion rifle or my 54-caliber Lyman Hawken-style rifle. When I finally get the fixed sights adjusted properly, I might even use a 69-caliber custom Hawken I got in the last couple of years. If nothing else, that gun would make a great conversation piece and would work well hunting moose or bears. As the match name implies, I have used both rifles over the years to hunt big game. So far, I’ve taken two whitetail deer with the 50-caliber.

Another rifle I’ve used in this match is a 36-caliber percussion underhammer. It’s easy on recoil and shoots better than I do. We’ll see which mood strikes me when it’s shooting time!

A few years ago, the blackpowder cartridge category was overhauled. As I recall, there were four separate matches and the combined scores constituted the aggregate score. The first year I shot that overhauled aggregate, I had record scores in four of the five matches and aggregate, but all those records have since been broken by other shooters. This year marks the end of the cartridge rifle category, as I understand things, and naturally, I’m not ready to shoot it.

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