Howard Delo

It’s that time of year again! The Alaska Territorial Black Powder Match is scheduled to occur from June 18th to 21st. The match will be held at Ft. Wick, located off Yoder Road, south of Talkeetna on the Talkeetna Spur Road. Yoder Road is located exactly at Mile 3 on the Talkeetna Spur Road (the road mile sign is within a few feet of the Yoder Road sign). Turn right and go about 3 miles down Yoder Road. There’s a sign in the trees on the right. Turn right on the two-track road and follow it to the parking area.

The public is welcome.

The blackpowder crowd started “buzzing” about this shoot in February. Then the pandemic started, and nobody knew if the match would be held. As time passed and the spread of the virus seemed to be under control, the decision was made to hold the shoot. I was glad to hear that for several reasons.

First, I enjoy the competition and the comradery with the other shooters. Several of the guys are contemporary to my age with a similar view of life and love of shooting. It’s nice to be in the company of a group like that. I don’t always shoot that well, but the good-natured kidding that occurs is fun. I can usually give as well as I get!

Second, I’m a National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA) certified range safety officer (RSO). To stay certified, an RSO needs to get a minimum number of hours of work in supervising blackpowder shoots annually. I usually get my necessary time in at this shoot.

Third, I seem to always end up working on loads and shooting techniques during relays at this event when I’m not shooting for record in a match. Sometimes even when shooting for record.

This year, I have several different things I want to try, like stippling marks on the round balls for my sighted smoothbore, a lighter powder charge using round balls instead of Minnie balls in my military rifled musket, and finish sighting in my “new” Hawken, 69-caliber rifle. If I get that done properly, I might even shoot an aggregate set of matches with it. If the stippling works for the sighted smoothbore, I’ll probably give it a try in my regular flintlock smoothbore.

Smoothbores can be surprisingly accurate out to about 50 yards. Beyond that distance, hitting the scoring rings on a target is more luck than skill. I’ve read articles and talked with other shooters who use stippled round balls in their smoothbores and have seen significant improvement in their scores. The stippling acts like the little divots on a golf ball and seems to help the ball fly truer to the aiming point.

I also want to sight-in and shoot my “new” blackpowder cartridge rifle (BPCR) I mentioned in a previous column. While this rifle was, technically, used when I got it, it had never been fired. I need to finish getting the Malcomb-style scope set up and adjusted and see how it shoots. I’ve been told since the rifle has a scope, officially, I can’t compete for medals and pins during the blackpowder cartridge matches. The rules call for iron sights only. And, it might be beyond the weight limit allowed for BPCR matches. However, I can still shoot it off the record.

For the past few years, I’ve generally shot the sighted smoothbore, rifled military musket, and the hunter rifle aggregates. The hunter rifle involves shooting a percussion-lock, open sighted, round ball rifle. I have also shot the regular flintlock, smoothbore matches on occasion too. I wonder how many aggregate matches I’ll shoot considering all the experimenting I plan to do.

If this year is like the previous several, I’ll end up doing a lot of my experimenting while shooting actual matches!

Last year was the first year I was able to take the motorhome north and “campout” at the match, eliminating an almost 100-mile round-trip drive every day. I’m planning to do the same thing this year, but I’ve finally learned not to plan on things like this until they actually happen.

My wife and I plan to make a couple of day trips, or possibly an overnighter, with the RV just to make sure everything is working correctly. My wife suggested, if we get cramped for time, we could do a campout in the yard. This is a great idea. It’ll help our new puppy adjust to “life on the road.”

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