Back in April, 2011, I became a probationary member of the Scarborough Fish & Game Association in Scarborough, Maine. The name notwithstanding, SF&G is a shooting club, and a very large, very active one at that. They stage just about every kind of rifle, shotgun, handgun and archery event you can think of, and there is a dedicated range for cops to practice shooting people (so if you have any wants and warrants outstanding, stay away).
Among their assets is a beautiful range with shooting points from 100 to 600 yards, but since the Association’s official religion is safety, they do not let anyone use that range until they’re vetted. You qualify there or you stick to the 100-yard ranges; SF&G does not want any bullets sailing over the backstop. If you raise your muzzle above the level of the backstop you get a warning. If you do it again you are requested to leave.
The 600-yard hopefuls are split into two squads; one pulls targets while the other shoots, and then they switch. You can use any rifle you choose, any scope, or iron sights, and since this is a qualification and not a competition, you can use a bipod or sandbags or a mechanical rest.
All the shooting is done from prone. You start at 100 yards to check your zero, then you move back to 200 and fire five shots for record. All five have to be on target or you go home. The highest possible score is 50. Then you move back to 600 and get to fire a few sighters, after which you make whatever corrections you need and shoot five shots for record. Same rules–every bullet has to score or you get to slink off.
There are half a dozen coaches, all experienced over-the-course competitors to whom this is old stuff. They score you, and will give you advice if you ask for it, but otherwise they leave you on your own because they want to see if you have the knowledge and equipment to get the job done.
For my trial by fire I used a Shaw Mark VII .30/06 with a Bushnell Elite 6500 scope with a mil-dot reticle. Ammo was handloads–155-grain Berger VLD bullets at 2,840 fps. I also used a short Harris bipod. The only question in my military mind was which dot to use to get in the black at 600 yards. Through a mixture of Euclidian geometry, trigonometry, basic physics, consultation with ballistic tables, The Book of Kjells, prayer, fasting, and a whiny call to Kenny Jarrett, I determined that the fourth dot down would get me into the promised land, or at least my bullet would go there.
We had a beautiful calm morning with only a 2 mph breeze, and my first shot went into the eight ring at 2 o’clock. I needed to come left half the width of the eight ring, so I put in enough clicks to do that, and then I had to come down about six inches, so I did that. The next shot was a 10, so it was time to shoot for record.
I ended up with a 45×50–two 10s, a 9, and two 8s. This was good enough to qualify, but in competition it would get you looks of pity and contempt. The guy for whom I was pulling the target shot 50×50-4X, which means he put four out of 5 shots in 6 inches at six football fields. I wish I had the chance to find out what he was shooting, but was able to learn only that it was one of the 6.5s.
A final note: The shooter to my left, who was using an AR, asked me what that huge cartridge was in my ammo block. “A .30/06,” I said, and smiled, because when the old ’06 qualifies as a huge cartridge, we’ve come a long, long way.