Howard Delo

Here’s wishing you and your beloved partner a Happy Valentine’s Day this Sunday, Feb. 14!

This past Tuesday, I braved the cold and wind-blown snow to attend the Mount McKinley Mountainmen monthly blackpowder pistol shoot at the Matanuska Valley Sportsmen’s indoor shooting range near Palmer. I was meeting some friends to show them how to load and shoot a muzzleloading flintlock pistol.

First, a little background. I was helping with the MMMLRC table during the last gun show at Raven Hall. I had two blackpowder flintlock pistols I had acquired over the years and decided to try to sell one of them at the show. A lady I had worked with for over 20 years with Fish and Game was at the show manning a booth with her husband.

Sherry was looking at items various vendors had for sale and when she passed the MMMLRC sale table, she spotted my pistol and immediately fell in love with it. I wasn’t at the table just then, but the guys told her I’d be back shortly. They informed me of what had transpired while I was gone.

Sherry came back a little later and we discussed the pistol and worked out a good deal for her to buy the gun. We also agreed to meet at one of the MMMLRC monthly pistol shoots so I could show her and her husband, Dan, how to load and shoot the firearm. They couldn’t make the January shoot but did attend the February match.

Neither Dan nor Sherry had ever fired a blackpowder handgun before, and knowing they needed some instruction, had asked me if I could help them out. I had generally explained the loading and shooting process and had given Sherry a list of loading tools she would need in addition to the powder and balls to shoot and clean the gun. Since no local store in Alaska carries an in-depth inventory of blackpowder shooting wares, I also gave her a couple of web addresses where she could go and order some of the necessary items.

Rob, the range safety officer running the shoot, began with a safety talk which everyone listened to. I then showed Sherry and Dan about wiping out the barrel and getting the powder measure adjusted for a light powder load to begin shooting. I helped Sherry get the first load down the barrel and she advanced to the firing line ready to try her hand at the target seven yards away.

Now before you smirk about the range, you should know this pistol is a 62-caliber smoothbore with no sights. Sherry had never fired a gun like this before and was a little apprehensive about the recoil and aiming. She had good form in holding the gun and when she pulled the trigger, the flintlock fired immediately. She was surprised to realize that her shot hit about eight inches above the center and that the recoil was nowhere near as bad as she was afraid it might be.

Dan’s turn was next, and his shot was higher on the backstop than Sherry’s had been. Sherry loaded the pistol for her second shot, and I suggested she hold her aiming point on the bottom edge of the target paper – a little “Kentucky windage” if you will. She was all smiles when her shot landed in the ten-ring, just missing the “X.” She had Dan take a picture of her holding the pistol next to the target.

During breaks, I encouraged them both to walk down the line and watch how the other guys cleaned and loaded their pistols. I also told them to ask questions if the person they were watching had a free moment. This would allow them to see different loading techniques and tools and learn why things were done in the order they were.

They spoke with Steve, “Bean,” Pat, Rob, and Paul during their stroll. Paul showed they about loading a cap-n-ball revolver and explained some of the history of his gun. I want to thank these guys for being friendly, courteous, and helpful in answering Dan and Sherry’s questions. While being competitive, these matches are more for fun and the guys enjoy visiting and helping folks, especially new shooters.

Sherry and Dan had a “blast” and said they would be back. That’s good to hear!

Don’t forget the gun show at Raven Hall this coming weekend. The MMMLRC will have a display showing Sharps rifles. I plan to be there with my two Sharps rifles.

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