Howard Delo

I finally got caught up enough on my summer to-do list (it’s my list and not my wife’s, if you’re wondering) that I felt comfortable to take a couple days off and do something fun. Over the weekend, I did some shooting and took a drive.

Saturday was the scheduled annual range safety officer (RSO) meeting at the Upper Susitna Shooters Association (USSA) facility located at Mile 94 on the Parks Highway. While attending the meeting and getting updated on the operational changes due to the pandemic, I also received my “free” membership for having worked the necessary number of days last year to qualify for the free RSO membership.

All the RSOs are unpaid volunteers and the two major incentives to encourage participation are free shooting and, with the appropriate number of days worked, the free membership.

The USSA range requires that an RSO be on site before any shooting is allowed by anyone. I would guess that’s probably an insurance requirement, but it also makes good sense that controlling the shooting ranges contributes to everyone’s safety. That’s why, years ago, I took the National Rifle Association training to become a certified RSO. That way, I could go to the range on the days it was closed to the public and shoot my own guns while complying with the range requirements.

I enjoy meeting the shooters who come to use the range. With the pandemic and all the first-time gun owners out there, I feel an obligation to get new gun owners off on the right foot in enjoying their new firearm and learning how to operate it safely. Plus, keeping an eye on facility users safely shooting keeps my own awareness of safe gun handling front and center in my mind for myself.

Anyway, since I was already at the range, after the meeting, I went down to the 100-yard range to work on sighting in a couple of blackpowder rifles I have. The first is that Sharps 45-70 rifle I recently acquired and have mentioned before. This rifle came with a period-correct scope mounted on it which had never been adjusted to shoot, since the rifle had never been fired. I took the scope manufacturer’s owner’s manual with me to read about how to set the scope up. It took a while, but I got the scope adjusted for eye relief, reticle clarity, target clarity, and vertical crosshair adjustments. I then bore-sighted the scope.

My first shot at 25-yards was a little low and left, so I started making the correction adjustments using the rear sight mount. All the sighting adjustments on these old-style scopes are handled by the mount/scope rings. The scope itself has no adjustments to move the crosshairs. I gradually worked the crosshairs toward my desired aiming point and enjoyed the experience despite the recoil.

The other gun was a large-bore muzzleloader I’ve been working on to get sighted in. I need to lower the front sight to raise the group on this fixed sight rifle. I shot and filed and shot and filed. I made progress but I’m not done yet. This rifle is a hunting gun as opposed to being a target shooter. I’ve got time before the hunting season arrives.

Sunday, my wife, and I loaded the “kids” (our three little dogs) into our RV and took a drive up toward Hatcher’s Pass. It was a beautiful day and the drive was pleasant. I hadn’t been up there is several years and my wife had never seen the area.

Once we got above tree line, the views of the mountains, with snow still clinging to the tops, was breathtaking. The creek running parallel to the road for the whole distance was scenic with all the tumbling and whitewater from the dramatic elevation changes the creek experienced as it came out of the pass.

The road was closed near the top, so we couldn’t make the entire circle, coming off the Parks Highway and ending up at Independence Mine, over near Palmer, but it was an enjoyable and relaxing trip.

There were campers everywhere there was a wide spot in the road or access off the road to get nearer the creek. Many folks had brought ATVs and were using them to ride the closed road and some of the trails in the area.

I had never thought of doing that, but with a few small additions to my flatbed hauling trailer, we might load up the six-wheeler and spend some time there ourselves.

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