Howard Delo

Last week, I was lamenting how I was unable to actually do some shooting while attending two different shooting events. This week has been a little better in that I got to shoot at one event, and I didn’t really expect to get any shooting in at the other. Let me explain.

The Mt. McKinley Mountainman muzzleloading club held their monthly handgun shoot this past Tuesday evening at the Matanuska Valley Shooting Range on the Glenn Highway south of Palmer. This monthly shoot is run in a more relaxed format than a normal “regulation” pistol match. I like that since I’m not the greatest handgun shooter that ever competed and the format is less stressful.

I only shot one of the two possible targets that were available. Each match involved ten shots on target and the best score in each handgun category was the winner (bragging rights only). The categories include percussion, sidelock; flintlock, sidelock; and cap-and-ball revolver. I hadn’t been to one of these matches in six to eight months because of my knee problems and recovery from the resulting surgery. I figured ten shots would be about my limit as I work my way back into “shooting shape.”

More inside

It turned out that I was right. I noticed I was tiring for the last few shots. I was pleased with my score as it was an 83 out of 100 possible points. I was shooting a 54-caliber, percussion, sidelock, single-shot pistol. While my score wasn’t the highest, it also wasn’t the lowest either. I even earned a couple of white beads for the two tens I managed to fire.

One of the other shooters, Keith Bayha, a long-time muzzleloader in Alaska, has written and published a seven-volume set on the history of muzzleloading in Alaska. One book explores the introduction of muzzleloaders to Alaska by the Russians, English, and Americans in the early settlement of Alaska by whites.

Other volumes document the various rendezvous held here, the different clubs that were formed, various shooting records at organized shooting matches, short biographies of almost all the muzzleloading participants over the years, muzzleloading and blackpowder hunting stories in Alaska, and other facets of the sport. Keith has spent over 30 years researching and gathering the information he presents in this set.

I purchased a set from him and took a cursorily look through the books before mentioning them here. I was impressed with the amount of work Keith has put into this set. If you have any interest in muzzleloading in Alaska and would like to know more about its history here, contact Keith. He lives in Sutton and I think his phone number is in the book.

I am a long-time member of the Upper Susitna Shooters Association, located at Mile 94 on the Parks Highway. According to their rules, no shooting can occur on the range unless a Range Safety Officer (RSO) is on site. RSOs also have keys to the front gate and building allowing them to open and close the facility on days when it is open to shooting. The range is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It is closed Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I got certified as an NRA recognized RSO to help regulate the shooting activities. A side benefit of being an RSO is that I can go shoot on the two days the range is closed to the public and other, non-RSO shooters. That’s about the only time RSOs can get any shooting in if they are working at the range. I also can shoot for free.

I volunteered this past Wednesday to RSO and, while I did bring some stuff to shoot if things were slow, I didn’t expect to get any shooting in. Folks have discovered the USSA range and it is usually busy any day it’s open to the public. Wednesday wasn’t terribly busy, but the shooters came in steadily.

I also was “mentoring” two new RSOs, Tracy and Mike, who had just attended the RSO training day the previous Saturday. Both these guys did an excellent job throughout the day and were teaching me about some of the changes that had been instituted over the winter to operations.

I’m not a big fan of operating the cash register when accepting monies for shooting fees, memberships, targets, and other services the range provides. At the end of the day and much to my surprise, the cash register summary tape agreed to the penny with the manual record I kept. Old dogs and new tricks!

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