THE PISTOL CRANK'S WINTER
By F. C. NESS
Winter is officially over. Soon it is Easter time. Winter is a pleasant thing in retrospect for the gun lover, especially the pistol species.
On the heels of winter there follows a period of dormancy when all sports are at a temporary standstill. Summer fishing has not as yet opened and winter fishing has but recently ended. Most hunting has long passed by, even the fox and wolf hunters have quit.
But for us spring has thrown down the bars of winter and the pistol-crank's season has commenced. So it is a pleasant thing to realize that the cold season is over and this afternoon I have reviewed the events of the past few months and find that it is possible for the devotee of the pistol to get a measure of his share of sport during the cold season.
Here in lower Minnesota we have pike and pickerel spearing on the Mississippi and ice fishing on Epson's Lake and other adjoining creeks. The past winter was an open one which was a handicap to the sport of skiing, but we had excellent ice for skating. However 1 confess I am a one-sided cuss and very partial to my chosen sport.
Yesterday I went over to Ole's house. He has a long cellar not devoted to moonshine and ample for a ten yard range. I had with me some of those store targets with a J-inch black bull containing an inner white ring of i-inch diameter which counts twelve. Eleven is in the black and first ring outside the black counting a ten. You all know the kind; they are usually used for 25 yards rifle practice with the "twenty-two".
We were shooting along the west wall which was lighted by two windows, and we required no artificial light. I had some .32 long rifle cartridges which I always use in my ten inch pistol. Ole went outside to ascertain whether the noise was unseemly while I fired five shots at the bull's-eye. This string was 57 x 60. Then I fired five of Peter's shorts at another portion of the paper. Ole reported that there was a very slight difference in the sounds of the two strings, and that pedestrians passing on the sidewalk before the house didn't appear to notice anything unusual. As the long rifle size was unnecessarily powerful we decided to use the "shorts".
I had always made it a point to use nothing but the full length shell in my pistol but I think if the arm is carefully cleaned no harm will come from using a few of the shorter cartridges which reach only two-thirds up the chamber. The result might be different were I to use the short ammunition in great amounts and then return to the longer shells without cleaning out the chamber.
We fired five shots at a time, turn and turn about, though I tried one ten-shot string scoring 110x120. My average was eleven and two-fifteenths, which means that I scored baeter than hitting the 1-inch bull every time. The 1-inch center was hit a great many times, in fact we shot it out. When one of Ole's shots struck two feet low he didn't believe it| possible, but there was no mistaking the hole through the plank. This emphasized to him the necessity for extreme care in not only aiming and holding the pistol but in pulling i: as well. It is this factor that makes pistol shooting so fascinating outside of the romance connected with the one armed weapon all through our American history, especially that of the West.
If you are to become a consistent pistol-shot it will be necessary for you to adopt the manner of grasping and holding the pistol best suited to your individual requirements and peculiarities and STICKING TO IT. You must grip and hold it in exactly the same way for each and every shot. Be careful to grip the stock at the same height each time. I prefer a high hold as far up on the grip as possible ».this seems to steady the arm for me, but if you grasp it near the bottom it places your trigger finger for an easier and more direct pull on the trigger. Try to grip the stocks with same pressure for each shot. I think the majority of shooters will do the best with a slightly relaxed grip, to squeeze it very hard seems to promote and accentuate nervous trembling. Hold your thumb in the same position each time. I hold mine fully extended along the sides of the frame parallel with the barrel.
Well, to get back to my subject, I find in looking back that I managed to get in a few days' of pistol fun during the past winter.
A week before Easter, Ole and I hiked out to the trap shooting grounds and picked up a lot of unbroken "lost" clay birds. These saucers we mounted on a box five in a row and we bombarded them from the thirty-yard range. Shoot until a miss, then turn the gun to the other. I found it possible to break the five straight. Ole did remarkably well for a novice at that, but I used my left hand to make things even and found we were about even this way, both averaging three out of five. A contest of this nature greatly increases the pleasure of the pistol.
Earlier this winter I had a similar contest. We took a sled full of catsup bottles up the river on the ice and arranged ten of them in a row on a board. Conditions: five shots at thirty paces providing a hit was made with each shot. When he missed, the shooter lost the gun to the other. The catsup bottle is a narrow target at this range and in no case did we score a perfect five shots, but we broke the whole cracker-box of bottles before we left although it took 200 cartridges to do it.
Another time we were out with a Colt automatic and stood in the snow slush for an hour to have our fun. I will brave my inconveniences to get in an afternoon of pistol work which usually means only one or two hours. But in the winter time there is one real obstacle and that is cold fingers. It is not the discomfort so much but the hampering of accurate work for fine shooting cannot be done with a numb trigger-finger, and to take away the accurate placing of the bullets is to remove the very charm of pistol shooting. I was feeling indisposed, grouchy and out of sorts one day last winter, tired of reading, sick of remaining indoors with nothing to do and no place to do it. I strapped on my shoulder holster and took a hike out to a small creek five miles distant, picking up empty shot-gun shells along the road as I tramped along. Reaching my destination, a railroad bridge, I tossed the shells into the creek and fired a box of ammunition at them as they floated. It commenced to rain and I soon became soaked and chilled but felt in a much improved frame of mind when I reached home. But a cellar like Ole's is the dope for a cold winter.
Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,
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