Whilst you flatlanders crank out 800 rounds an hour of your modern, sissy smokeless ammunition real shooters cram powder, patch and ball down the business end of custom made smoke poles and set about taking care of business. This past Sunday, (while it was still sunny and 72 degrees instead on the foot of snow I have right now), we had our annual black powder long rang steel silhouette match. I must say that this is the most entertaining match that we have all year... you tend to get a little bored with shooting paper all the time. Although a 50 and 5X at 50 yards tends to become increasingly more difficult as the eyes get older it still doesn't hold the thrill it did decades ago. Long range steel on the other hand presents a whole new dimension of challenges. The match consists of 40 shots... yes it does take considerably longer when you have to walk back to your shooting box to load for each shot so 40 rounds is a fairly extensive shoot. The targets are steel plate and are considerably smaller than the actual size of each animal that they represent. Ten shots are taken at each group of targets and with the exception of the rams each plate must be knocked off the post. (With the distance and weight of the rams it takes at least a .54 caliber to knock them over with a round ball and since very few competition shooters use a caliber that big the rules state that you only have to score a hit. With the swirling and gusty winds that we had I decided to shoot a .45 caliber rather than my flatter shooting .40 caliber. The obvious warm-up course of fire were the chickens at 55 yards. (All targets are set up and ranged by laser range finders prior to the shoot.) If you can't clean the chickens at that range you need to be sitting behind the line as a spectator rather than donating your entry fee. The next set of targets are a bit harder, piglets at 113 yards. This is where you start to identify some of the Pilgrims. They figure that just because they can hit 'em off the bench with a scoped 22.250 standing on your hind legs with a smoke pole can't be that much harder. Surprise, surprise! Next were the turkeys at 176 yards. (They look much bigger in the Safeway freezer.) This is where knowing how to dope the wind comes into play and where an old military working dog handler has the edge. (If you don't learn how to read the wind and it's nuances when you're a dog handler you're pretty much no more than a target.) If a bunch of those guys relied on their shooting acumen for food they would have been vegetarians. The last course of fire were the rams at 237 yards. A hard enough shot with a modern rifle off-hand but a bit more challenging with a round ball in the wind. Depending on it's velocity and direction from following, quartering, full value or head long, depending on when you took each shot you at times had to hold off to one side or the other up to two-feet and two to three-feet high. No matter what caliber you're shooting you can pretty much light a cigarette between pulling the trigger and the ball reaching the target. At that range I would have been much better off shooting 85 or 90 grains to flatten out the shots but that would have broken my shoulder or collarbone so I wimped out and stayed with 75 grains of FFFG. Even that was testing the limits of my capabilities and I am embarrassed to say that it hurt like hell. After the shoot we all nestled comfortably in our lawn chairs and enjoyed the beverage of our choice while scores were tallied and the awards ceremony set up. (I even stole an egg salad sandwich from my buddy Deak since I was starving.) As some of you know my goal in life is to always beat my little shooting buddy Deak at every shoot. I don't care if I come in next to last as long as he is dead last. On this day I was worried. I knew he ad beat me on the rams, my five hits to his seven, (I'm convinced he cheated but I just don't know how.) Turns out I won the other three sets of targets and took first place in the overall aggregate which proves that even a blind pig can find an acorn every now and then. So, what's the moral of this story? Simple, throw away those flatland, sissy modern guns and learn to shoot like a real man. Oh, if you come out here for a little black powder competition... bring folding currency. Jack Wanna kill these ads? We can help!