Desert MidWinter 2014 Preparations

Earlier this week I reloaded all the 45 ACP wadcutter ammo I’ll need (and then some) for this week’s Desert Midwinter 2014 competition.

Today is “prep” day for the guns and, between the International and the Conventional events, I’ll be shooting all of these.

Here’s a run-down, from left to right.

TOZ-35M Free Pistol

The long, strange-looking one with the scoop-like grips is a Russian TOZ-35M. It is a “free pistol” and is used in the International (as in “Summer Olympics”) event. It shoots a 22 Long Rifle (LR) cartridge and targets are at 50 meters (about 55 yards). The 9-ring is about 4" in diameter and some of the competitors will put all 60 of their shots into that space. (I’ll get quite a few in there.) Earlier this fall, I custom-shaped the grips to my hand with Dremel, file, sand paper and a *lot* of elbow-grease. They’ve since been stained and Lacquered.

I’ll be shooting that one tomorrow morning.

Smith & Wesson Model 41

Also tomorrow is “Standard Pistol”, another 22 LR event. I’ll be shooting the second gun in the picture, the one up toward the top and next to the TOZ. It’s a Smith & Wesson Model 41, one of the few “production” guns made to target-pistol accuracy. It has the shorter 5.5" barrel, also from S&W, that balances better in my hand.

The “scope” sitting next to it is a red-dot. Looking in the eyepiece, you’ll see a red dot and, when everything is adjusted exactly right, that’s where the hole is going to appear when the gun is fired. This one is often attached to the S&W 41 to its left, but only for the Conventional Pistol events. International rules preclude its use. All guns used in International competition must use “iron sights” so the red-dot is detachable so I can use it in both types, International (without) and Conventional (with).

Ruger Mk III

Number three with its spiffy, bright red grips is a Ruger Mk III that’s been tweaked and tuned with several Volquartsen parts. It is also “convertible” and serves as my backup gun to the S&W 41.

But these guns are all thoroughbreds so, while they perform to a very high degree of accuracy, all of them are also very picky about their feed and care. These are not “throw them in the dirt and keep shooting” guns. Oh, no. They like to be reasonably clean, carefully lubed and prepared and then “warmed-up” just enough for competition. That “warming up” is also called “fouling the barrel” wherein we shoot 10-20 rounds down the previously cleaned barrel so it’s not quite clean anymore. Point of impact will move about 1-2" during that process but, once fouled, they shoot to the same point of impact for 100-200 rounds.

The S&W 41 likes CCI and Fiocchi Standard Velocity ammunition. The Ruger Mk III, however, prefers Federal Gold Medal that has a slightly greater “Oomph!”

Before moving on to the other guns, let me mention that these two 22s are also used in International Rapid Fire which I find to be the single most challenging, and entertaining, event. There are five targets placed side-by-side at 25 meters distance. Shortly after “Attention” is called, all five targets turn and face the competitor who, in eight seconds, raise the gun from the low-ready position, aim and fire one shot into each of the five targets. This is repeated at six seconds and, finally, at the incredibly challenging duration of four seconds. It’s that final challenge, five targets in four seconds, that both frustrates and amuses shooters. My first time, I didn’t get off my fifth shot before the time was up. And the next *several* attempts, I didn’t even hit that final target. (Good thing there’s a large earthen berm behind the targets!)

Custom 1911-A1 Service Pistol

Center top is my ball gun. It’s a 45 ACP 1911-A1. This is what the troops carried in World War II and, in Bullseye, we refer to it, therefore, as a Service Pistol. The little colored strips of tape you can see on the front of the trigger guard are from recent competitions, each certifying that the trigger had been “weighed” and found to be at least 3.5 pounds for that competition. Trigger weight is how hard yiu have to press on the trigger to make it fire and while 3.5 pounds may not sound like much, holding the iron sights in strict alignment on your preferred aiming area of the target and making the shot “break” without disturbing anything is, well, that’s what this game is all about. Of all the guns shown, this one has the heaviest trigger and is, unquestionably, the most difficult to fire accurately. Plus, it uses full-strength ammunition which, after several dozen shots, starts to take a toll on the shooters arm. It’s a bear, and a lot of fun, to shoot!

This particular 1911-A1 was custom-built by an Air Force gunsmith quite a few years ago and has passed through several hands before reaching me a couple of years ago. I had it refurbished with a new barrel and other parts and hand-tweaked for the Bullseye sport. It will, fed good ammunition and a High-Master class shooter, hold a 1.5" group at 50 yards. (I’m not there yet.)

IZH-46M Air Pistol

The orange-handled gun is an air pistol, an IZH-46M. This shoots a very small 17 mm pellet (smaller then the 22 cal) and uses compressed air to power it down range. There’s a long pump handle since this one has to be pumped (and cocked) for each shot. (Some air pistols use a pre-charged compressed air cylinder instead of the manual pump.) Air Pistol, or simply AP, is another International event and we will shoot it at the indoor range “by infiltration.” That means you show up and shoot when there is space available. No reservations.

Springfied Armory MilSpec 1911-A1

At the top right is my wad gun. This is another 1911-A1 but which has since gone through a transformation. It started life as a Springfield Armory MilSpec and I began my real education with exactly that. But as my shooting has improved, so has the gun. Over time it has had just about all of its internal parts replaced, tuned and tweaked.

As with the others, it is now a race horse for a specific competition, Bullseye 45. That competition allows custom loads and this gun is set up for very light and very accurate loads. Rather than the traditional, coppery looking 230 grain Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) bullets, I load and shoot a slightly lighter 200 grain “Semi-wadcutter” bullet made of plain lead. And I load less powder because, at around 710 feet per second, the bullet flies much more accurately than it does with the standard load at 820 feet per second. That lighter load also requires a milder recoil spring in the gun for proper functioning so it uses a 12 pound spring instead of the usual 18 pound one. As you can see, it sports a red-dot scope but this gun *always* uses the red-dot scope – the iron sights from the original Springfield Armory issue are long gone and never to be used again.

Smith & Wesson Model 14-2 Revolver

The final gun is my newest acquisition, a Smith & Wesson Model 14-2. The “-2” means S&W made some changes to the original and marked it accordingly so you can tell which is which. Those changes have continued and I think they’re up to at least “-6” by now but target shooters prefer the “-2” because, for this sport, it shoots best.

This one has iron sights only, no “dot.” I’ll shoot it in International sport’s CenterFire event and, depending on how I feel, I may also shoot it in the Bullseye event of the same name.

Alternatively, I can shoot the Bullseye wad-gun since the 45 ACP cartridge is also a “centerfire” cartridge. (The “wadder” 1911 gun cannot be used in International events for two reasons. First, it doesn’t have iron sights and, second, it shoots a projectile larger than 0.38" in diameter. The 38-caliber revolver, on the other hand, is “legal” in both International and Bullseye centerfire.)

Five Day Competition

The Desert Midwinter Competition in Phoenix is spread over five days, Wednesday through Sunday. I’ll bring different guns and ammo on each of those days according to what’s on the agenda.

Hope to see you “on the line!” (Admission is free for visitors and we’ll be glad to loan you some “ears” to protect your hearing.)

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