Making a Smokeless Powder Cake (Sorta)

We reload our Junior ammunition with a surplus powder, WC-844.  It is available only once or twice a year and we jump on an opportunity to buy 24 or 32 pounds in a single purchase just in case it doesn’t show up again.

But, unlike commercial powders which are manufactured to be consistent from container to container, military powders do not have the same lot-to-lot consistency.  Different lots may vary and when the military arsenals load ammunition, they vary the charge weight in the cartridge to get a specified velocity within pressure limits.  So, an M193 round loaded at Lake City in 1998 may have used 24.3 grains of WC-844, but an LC 2015 cartridge might only have had 23.8 grains.  When we use powder from pulled down ammunition, the powder can be a mix of who knows how many different powder lots – we only know that it is WC-844.  We need all of our powder to be the same for accuracy and safety reasons.

We need all of this powder to be the same. Time to do some mixing!

As the picture shows, we had five different jugs of WC-844.  Now, they might all have come out of the same drum of surplus pull down powder — but then again they might not. To make sure that all the powder is the same, I have to blend it together – a process not terribly different from mixing flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to make a cake.  You pour a little out of one jug, add in some from another, and stir well (with a wooden paddle).  Then you repeat until you have all of the powder from the five jugs in one big bucket – all mixed up into a consistent batch.

That is when you realize that you have about 35-pounds of smokeless powder sitting in an open bucket in your garage – pucker time.  You pour it back into the black anti-static plastic jugs with a glass cup and once it’s all back – you give a big WHEW! 

Now we have our powder blended for the summer of 2023.  I have to do test loads to make sure that we are not going to have any pressure issues – but that should be done by mid-November.  Mark Walters and I have looked at many fired cases, and we think we will reduce our load by a half-grain for 2023 – a basic load of 23.5 grains from the 24.0 we used in 2022.  That should not have any real difference in zeroes and muzzle velocity, but it will make life a bit easier on rifles and cases.

Sniper Match; Saturday 8 October 2022

It is amazing what ideas can come out of a trip over to Port Clinton, Camp Perry and a session at Small Arms Firing School and National Matches.  Once the Juniors saw everything that was happening over there – they wanted to do it!

So, over the end of summer we managed to put on a Rattle Battle – but the Juniors wanted to shoot a Sniper Match.  As we all know, the Vintage Sniper Match is shot with old guns; M1903’s, M1903A4’s, M1C’s, M1D’s and several rifles from other countries.  The Juniors don’t shoot those old wooden guns, so we thought we would just shoot a Vintage Sniper Match format and let the Juniors shoot their service rifles just to get the flavor of the match.

I first thought we could shoot a Sniper Match on a Thursday at practice – but several “not Juniors” said they would like to shoot as well, so someone (not me) had the great idea that we could shoot it after the Mid-Range Match last Saturday; so we did.  I set up two classes for the match; Vintage Class for “old  wooden guns” and an Open class for everything else.  We would shoot the usual SR-3 target at 300 yards and then just to add some interest – we moved about 80-yards back to a firing line at the front of the mower house and shot on the MR-63 target.

The Sniper Match is a Team Match and teams are known for their imaginative team names.  We had four teams initially sign up for the match –but one team had to drop out (a casualty of old age, cold and Arthurite-is) and we had a three team competition.  The overall favorite team for the Match was the team of Mark and Mark (Mark Walters and Mark McKee).  Mark McKee, the old bear, came out of hibernation just for this match!  This pair are serious shooters –  a nationally ranked team in the CMP Vintage Sniper Match competition at Camp Perry – usually finishing well into the medal classes with their scores.  They bring a pair of well-tuned M1903’s to the line, both with the Unertl 8X externally adjusted scopes shooting optimized match loads.

Mark and Mark with their M1903’s. Note the vertical sandbags.

The next Team was the Branson Bunch, the father-daughter team of Geoff and Emma.  Geoff and Emma had an ammunition shortage, so they had to borrow FWRR Junior ammunition and both of them shot Emma’s service rifle.

Miss Emma and Geoff working on sighters

The final team was The Coot and The Cutie; Larry Beardsley and Kileen Shaffer.  Larry was shooting an M1903A4 with a  4X Weaver K25-F and LC66 M2 Ball ammo and Miss Kileen shot her service rifle.

Larry and Kileen working sighters at 300-yards

We had never shot this match at FWRR – so it was a bit of a learning experience, but once we went through a couple of the LOAD AND BE READY, TARGETS, UNLOAD AND DISMOUNT command cycles – things went very smoothly.

After the first stage at 300-yards, the competition was pretty close.  The Branson Bunch, with their modern service rifle, was narrowly out in front with a team aggregate of 193-3X.  Astonishingly – The Coot and The Cutie were in second place with a pair of 94’s for a team aggregate of 188-3X.  Mark and Mark had a couple of shots wander out into the far regions and came off the line at 300-yards with a 182-5X.

Then, we packed up, switched to the MR-63 face and moved back to the extended range.  This was a true unknown distance – we had not lasered the move-back so all shooters had to establish new zeroes after some sighting shots.  The five-minute sighter period was a bit hectic, and the wind had picked up a bit as the afternoon wore on.

Mark and Mark’s experience showed as they quickly settled into a steady pattern of good shots.  The wind blew them around a bit, but they also hung a lot of shots into the middle of the target ending up with another 182-5X; a very consistent team effort.  It goes to show that Old Age, Cunning and Practice do pay off after all!

The Branson Bunch struggled a bit after the move back.  Their second string had a number of shots wandering wide both upwind and downwind as they fought wind conditions.  They ended up at the longer range with a 159-1X.

The Coot and The Cutie shot last.  The door was open for them to snatch a victory off the table if they could hold their performance from 300-yards.  But, then The Coot made a very bad strategic decision.  He decided to change from the LC66 M2 Ball ammo he had shot at 300-yards to 168-grain Hornady BTHP Match loads.  BAD MOVE BUBBA!  The heavier ammo shot to a different zero – not just elevation, but windage as well. The Coot started turning knobs and promptly turned the windage knob the wrong way – then turned it further the wrong way on the next shot. Then, getting flustered – he proceeded to cross fire on the third shot for record.  After turning the windage so far right that the next shot was a Miss, he finally managed to get back into the scoring rings for the last few shots.  The Cutie did what she could do to salvage the day, but the damage was done. Her 88-1X only brought the team up to a 143-1X for the extended range stage.

At the end of the day, Mark and Mark – with their pair of old wooden Vintage M1903’s carried the day with a match aggregate of 364-10X.  The Branson Bunch followed with a 352-4X and The Coot and The Cutie trailed with a 331-4X.

It was fun though.  Gary Mabis, who was watching – made the comment that we should do it again when he could shoot.  I suspect that once the girls get over their distrust of the big gun, they will want to try the Vintage Match at Port Clinton.  And, I suspect we will work one of these into next summer’s schedule.

Thanks to everyone for a fun match to close out the year!

Mid-Range Match; Saturday October 8, 2022

What a Glorious day for a shooting match!

On Saturday, October 8th we closed out the 2022 High Power season with a Mid-Range 300-yard Prone Match.  The weather co-operated with brisk but not brutal temperatures and cloudy bright to clear skies.  The winds made shooting as bit challenging with winds fish-tailing from southwest to northeast at as much as about 10 MPH – but with periods of calm as well.  Fourteen shooters came out and we had almost two full relays.

All of our shooters were well experienced shooters, so we were able to run the match as an infiltration match.  The shooters were allowed to decide how they wanted to come on and off the line and we gave a total block time to finish the match.  Some folks decided they wanted to shoot straight through; some shot alternate shooters and some shot two matches and rested one.  It worked very well and things moved as smoothly as just about any match has in a long time.

Shooters spread out and shared the line in the infiltration match

We had planned the match as a late start match to let shooters from distant places come over without having to get up at oh-dark-thirty and the scheme worked out well.  We had three shooters come over from the Lima Sabers – it was good to see those guys at our FWRR range.

And – to top the day off; the shooting was excellent. Fourteen shooters shot three matches each, for a total of 42 matches.  There were 8 iron sight matches, the rest were scope matches.  Of the 42 matches, 19 matches scored 190 or better – pretty good shooting.

In the iron sight matches, Joe Bakies from Lima Sabers took top iron with his third match score of 200-11X.  Norb Norden took second iron with a 184-4X and Mark Walters closed out the money with a 178-6X.

In any-sight, the top shooter was Geoff Branson with a 200-15X.  Ron Dague was second in any-sight with a 200-8X. Bob Working dropped a point and took third with a 199-6X.  It was a tough day and it only took one little error to cost you!

The High Match Aggregate was shot by Joe Bakies with a 596-32X.  (Joe shot all three matches with iron sights).  Geoff Branson took Second Aggregate, down by one point, with a 595-39X.  (Geoff takes the X-Man award with the 39X count; he wins bragging rights).  Ron Dague rounded out the top three places with a 592-24X.

The Range Officer always seems to have no shortage of help.

The top Junior for the day was Miss Emma Branson, continuing her sharp eyed hot streak from the Atterbury State Weekend, with a fifth place overall score of 577-17X.

Miss Emma hard at work on her 577-17X
Addiysn and Kileen, the Dynamic Duo, on the low end.
These guys just have too much fun!

Thanks to all of the shooters who came out for the day.  It was fun and it was a great way to close out the 2022 High Power season.  Our next match will be Winter Offhand on Saturday, November 12 at 9:00. We will shoot our usual 100-yard format; two strings of 20 shots for record (first string will be 22 shots, drop the low 2 as sighters).  We’ll see you then!