Howard Delo

Well, the 2019 NMLRA (National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association) Alaska Territorial Match is history. This shooting event is nationally sanctioned and is available to all the states if they choose to participate. I don’t think they all do. And soon, unfortunately, nobody may be able to participate.

We had two NMLRA Alaska field representatives at this match and they said, because of declining shooter participation resulting in lost revenues to cover the cost of putting on the match, the Territorials might become history in the next couple of years. This isn’t just an Alaska thing. This problem is occurring at all the Territorials held throughout the country. I would hate to see it go away!

Now the good news. I only shot in three aggregates but was able to complete all three. Last year, I had to stop part way through one aggregate, shooting only one of the three matches, and head home because of family health problems.

More inside

The first aggregate consisted of four separate matches for sighted smoothbore. In this aggregate, the firearm must, obviously, be a smoothbore and have a fixed front and rear sight on the barrel. As I said last week, I used a Thompson/Center Renegade with their 56-caliber smoothbore barrel. This gun is no longer made, so I put mine together from parts I found on the Internet.

When the smoke cleared (pun intended), while I didn’t shoot particularly well, I still managed to win each match and scored a gold medal for the aggregate. That sounds impressive until I tell you I was the only shooter in that aggregate!

My next event was the musket aggregate. This series of three matches required the use of an unmodified replicate of a Civil War vintage rifled musket. The musket may not have a trigger pull lighter than 3-pounds pull weight. Two of the matches require an offhand hold and the third allows “any military shooting position.” I was joking with two other shooters in this aggregate and said I was going to file a protest since they could get down into a sitting position (and get up!) and I could not — I had to shoot all three matches offhand.

Again, I didn’t shoot particularly well, but I did well enough to place in each match and took the silver medal for my overall aggregate score. I did learn a couple of thing from this event: first, the shooting recoil vest and pad I was wearing worked quite well protecting my replacement shoulder from the pounding of the heavy loads I was shooting; and second, I need to develop a round ball load for my musket to reduce bullet cost and lessen recoil.

A 58-caliber round ball weighs about half of what the 500+ grain Minnie bullet I currently shoot does. The balls also cost much less than the conicals and I might be able to reduce the powder charge by around a third from what I currently shoot and possibly achieve better scores.

My last aggregate was the Unlimited Longhunter, where any type of muzzleloader with any sight and shooting any style of bullet was legal. I have a stainless-steel Thompson/Center Omega model inline with a laminated, thumbhole stock and scope. It uses #209 shotshell primers for ignition and fires a PowerBelt conical bullet. I originally bought this rifle to familiarize myself with how inlines work and to use as an occasional hunting rifle.

This rifle was unlike all the other guns being used but it was legal. My 25-yard target score was twice as high as the next shooter’s posted traditional rifle score, so I thought I was on my way! That is, until the last shooter stepped up with his traditional, percussion side-lock rifle. He proceeded to clean my clock! I didn’t shoot worth beans for the last three matches in this aggregate and ended up only winning a second-place pin for the one match. My aggregate score wasn’t good enough to place for an aggregate medal. That’s fine — I was getting tired anyway!

I’m a certified NMLRA RSO (range safety officer) and I needed to get a minimum of 4-hours’ time in to retain my certification. Over the course of the three-and-a-half-day shoot, I RSOed two afternoons for a total of about 7-hours of qualifying time.

I’ve always enjoyed muzzleloading shoots and this time I was able to visit in the evenings with the other shooters who also camped out for the match. Consider coming out next year and participating in a family-oriented shooting activity.

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