Howard Delo

I helped instruct an online Muzzleloading Hunter Education class this past weekend. The online version of the class occurs primarily on the students’ computers where they are exposed to the material and subsequently tested on their knowledge of that material. When the students attend the half-day proficiency shooting portion of the class, the instructors review the essential information through questions and answers with the students.

The instructors decide if the students are reasonably fluent in “blackpowder speak” and, if so, the class moves on to the shooting portion. During an instructor-lead class, the state supplies the guns, powder, bullets, and other shooting equipment. A passing shooting score requires the students to place four out of five shots in an eight-inch group anywhere on the target.

During an online class, the students provide their own equipment and supplies. They also must fire a minimum of four out of five shots hitting in an eight-inch group, however, they are required to hit the center target area, not just anywhere on the paper. Since the students are shooting their own rifles, they are expected to hit the “bullseye” and not just any random area of the target.

Everybody passed, some quite easily and others by the skin of their teeth on a second attempt. For one couple, they learned a valuable lesson about practicing and becoming familiar with their rifle. I think the shooting they did for this class may have been only the second time they had ever fired the rifle.

One common denominator among the students was having enough shooting supplies. Someone commented that they couldn’t find the “209” primers they needed to shoot their inline rifle. Others barely had enough bullets to finish shooting. In fact, the young couple ended their reshoot using a totally different style of bullet from what they had started shooting because that was all they had.

If you are a shooter or reloader, you are already familiar with the lack of ammunition and reloading equipment and supplies available over the past year-and-a-half. As material becomes available in local stores, customers snap it up as soon as it appears on the store shelves.

I had tried to stock up back when materials were available and, for the most part, I’m not in any danger of running out of most stuff for the short term. However, I am low or out of a few things. When I can find them, I’ll be buying a couple of pounds each of Bullseye, Unique, and 2400 smokeless powders. I use them for reloading some of my handgun cartridges. I got lucky a few years ago and scored on an eight-pound “keg” of H110 powder, which is what I am using primarily for my “Bang and Clang” shooting loads.

I’m still looking for a couple of different caliber cartridge cases, but I’m not out and can continue shooting for a while. Bullets can be a little problematic, but, again, I stocked up when bullets were more plentiful. I’ve been lucky here too since I was able to find one thousand lead bullets perfect for my “Bang and Clang” shooting.

Since I’ve been doing more blackpowder cartridge shooting over recent years, my need is for lead bullets. Over the years, I’ve managed to amass a suitable selection of bullet molds for most of the calibers I shoot. I’ve also been lucky to find precast bullets online as well.

I’m finding that I can buy lead bullets from various manufacturers for little more than what it would cost me in time and materials to make them myself. I have a complete set-up to cast, lubricate, and size my lead bullets. If availability does eventually go away, I can still shoot the main guns I’m shooting now. It’s nice to have options.

Another option you might want to have available, considering ammo shortages and supply line delays, is shooting air guns for practice and even small game hunting.

Again, over the years I’ve acquired a few air rifles, two in 22-caliber and one in 25-caliber, to target shoot and plink in the yard and, in the case of the 25-caliber, to try small game hunting. I’ve harvested one spruce grouse so far with the 25-caliber and have eliminated several backyard pests with my pump-up 22-caliber. These rifles are amazingly accurate and have enough power to humanely harvest small animals and birds at short ranges, say out to fifty yards or so.

With some thought and proper setup, these air guns can be used indoors as well.

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