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4V50 Gary
March 13, 2000, 10:32 AM
Last Saturday (March 11), I attended the Rendezvous at the Livermore-Pleasanton Rod & Gun Club. Well over 100 smoke pole shooters attended, many of whom were dressed in period costume. We even had some reenactors who made their appearance including: Montgomery's Highlanders/77th Regt, English Civil War with matchlocks no less.

Rules were all iron sights, no ladder sights, no glass, no sight enhancers (apertures on glasses), no aperture sights. Patched round balls only.

I brought out the first blackpowder rifle I own - an old Markwell Arms percussion kit gun in 45 cal. Load was 40 grains FFF, various patches (used two different thicknesses .010 and .015 during the shoot - just because I ran out of one brand), and a .443 Speer swaged lead ball. Barrel length is about 33 1/2 inches. I managed to swab out my barrel with denatured alcohol after about ever 5 shots.

First target was a cylindrical gas tank painted orange post at 200 yards. Next was a 5 -7 yard target (talk about extremes) poker chip on a indexed board (numbers and letters). You called the square (by number and letter) and fired.

Other stations had metal targets at varying distances silhouette of a coiled snake at 75 yards; life size deer with a metal gong for a heart; your choice amongt three sizes of metal gongs at about 130-150 yards - the largest being the lowest score of course; an elbow shaped piped with a toilet type flapper (you shot the pipe and the bullet richochets up to strike the heavy metal flapper - if the flapper rises, you've hit it and no one can dispute you!); logging chain suspended between two poles at 50 yards (two of them and they're both tough); mystery load (they give you an antler horn and with which you load you gun and fire at a gong at 50-75 yards); Choice of prarie dogs at 25 yards (1 point) or (turkeys which appeard half the size) at 50 yards (2 points) - I shot for the turkey and actually got it; lollipop tree at about 15 yards (you shot the lollipop of your coice), cards (edgewise at 15 yards); and a Rearing Bear (40-50 yards) with a gong heart you hat to strike to score.

Another fun one was a simulated stress target. While it was a simple gong at about 75 yards, you dropped a lead ball down this coiled pipe. As the ball traveled down the pipe, you could take your shot. If the ball emptied into the pan before you shot, you either couldn't shoot or if you did, your shot was disqualified. I mentally counted the time as about 5 seconds and fired off in about 3-4 seconds. This was one of the two point targets.

Another two point target is the ever popular ax heads. An ax head is mounted on a board with its blade facing you. On either side of the ax head is a clay pigeon. The idea is to shoot the ax head, split your ball and break both pigeons. You may elect to shoot only one pigeon and guarentee yourself a point or go for the ax head and try for two. I've only done this once before and this time got only one.

As a replacement for the feather (we had 8" feathers we'd shoot and if you broke it, you'd score), we had crossed strings. I don't think anybody broke the strings.

In total there were 25 targets with five of them being 2 points for a total of 30 points. I walked away with 20 (which is OK and the best I ever shot).

Blackpowder rifles are a lot more challenging than modern guns. An AR15, Ruger Mini14 or scoped bolt action would have blown away all the targets. But with blackpowder and varying distances, it's much more challenging and you must know your gun to do well.

After the shoot, it was off to Trader's Row where I met a friend who persuaded me to buy a gourd. Picking a small one with which he could made a ladle, he shook it to demonstrate that it could be used as a rattle. I joined in with mine and we did a brief "hare krishna" dance. "Hare, Hare, Hare Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Krishna." (To think I used to waterbomb those guys).

If you've never been to a blackpowder Rendezvous shoot, you have to try it at least once. It's a blast!

Keep your powder dry.

[This message has been edited by 4V50 Gary (edited March 13, 2000).]