Montana’s newest sporting clays facility is up and running in less than a year. Jim Bailey, owner and general manager is in the construction business and had planned to use the land for an upscale home development, and had started to do that when the housing market went south.  He then gave a lot of thought to how else to utilize the land for a profitable return since he already had done some work in developing roads, etc. After some discussion with some friends he decided to develop a sport shooting complex.

Published in Jerry Sinkovec
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 00:00

Shotgun Talk

Writer Michael McIntosh once said, "Collectors and shooters see guns from different angles..." To that I say, Amen! I happen to be both a collector and a shooter, which creates a whole new set of angles that I won't get into right now. But what I thought I would do in this month’s column is share a couple of my staunch opinions about shotguns. For space reasons, I will limit my comments to hunting shotguns. So, for better or worse, here they are... Don't feel too embarrassed if you disagree with me on one or two.

The most stupid thing ever put on a good double gun is a Selective trigger. Double triggers are a love, and a single trigger is fine by me. But a lever that lets you switch back and forth from one barrel to the other? Please... This is one novelty that I hope goes away.

The best American-made over under for the money is the Ruger Red Label. The best pointing auto-loader ever made is the Remington 1100. And as long as we are at it, the best waterfowl gun is the 3 1/2" chambered Benelli Super Black Eagle II and the Browning Gold Hunter auto loaders. The best waterfowl load? The 3-inch Heavy Shot. It is amazing...! But who wants to pay $3.00 every time you pull the trigger?

The best barrel length for a doublegun is 28 inches. You won't swing it too fast and you won't slow it down or stop the gun too soon. For a young shooter just starting out, I will give the nod to 26-inch barrels to lighten the gun – as long as they can be upgraded to 28-inch barrels as soon as they can handle them. The best gauge for a young shooter? It’s 28 gauge. Not a bad upland gun for any shooter, young or old, except maybe for pheasants. The best load for the 28 gauge is a 2¾-inch shell with ¾ ounce of #7½ shot. Trust me on this! The best chokes for this load in a 28 gauge? Skeet and skeet. It is a dandy quail gun/load combo.

The best fixed chokes for any double gun? If I had to pick two it will come as no surprise that I would choose improved cylinder and modified. If you are shooting steel shot at waterfowl over decoys the best choke is improved cylinder. Steel patterns are very tight. Last year I shot a black duck with an improved cylinder choke at 87 paces with a 3-inch Kent Fasteel cartridge loaded with #2 shot. A great cartridge if you don't mind watching the brass rust while you hold it in your hand.

Pistol grip or straight stock? This falls into the “whatever your preference is” category. You will shoot either equally well if you practice with them. In the end, it just doesn't matter, as long as you can live with it. I shoot both and switch back and forth regularly. I kind of like the lines of the straight stock, but I'm a loyal Yankee and will never let go of the fact that I come from a nation of riflemen.

Now you will hate me, especially if you love the game of skeet. I think American skeet shooting ought to be done with a low gun. No pre-mounting. Further, I think the shooter should not be able to call "pull" when he is ready for the target. This job belongs to the one pulling and he should be able to pull at will. I would really like to see a "new" skeet game start at clubs all across America that I call "walk-up skeet." The shooter moves around the field freely and the puller pulls at random. In the end, 25 birds total have been launched and the shooter never knows from what direction or exactly when. This in my mind, puts back some of the spontaneous excitement back into skeet shooting that most closely resembles flushing birds during upland hunting. Which is the whole reason skeet shooting was invented for in the first place.

Just one more. Is the worst gun law (one of many) in the State of Massachusetts? It’s the trigger lock law. I was guiding some gentlemen from Texas not too long ago and told them we have to have our guns cased and trigger locked while transporting them in our vehicles, and locked up while in our homes. And if they ever get stolen, the police and the DA prosecute the gun owner. Their jaws dropped, their eyes got big, and then they spoke in the manner that makes Texas the great state that it is: "That’s the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. What if you got to get to your gun?" Amen brothers. Don't ever give up your freedoms in Texas like we have here in Massachusetts.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 0233.

Published in Captain David Bitters

Wouldn’t it be great if four-time Olympic shooting champ Kim Rhode finally appeared on a box of Wheaties?

As legend has it, if it had been up to Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, Kim would’ve been beaming her warm smile on the Breakfast of Champions back in 1996, when at age 16, as the youngest member of the U.S. Summer Olympic Team, she won her first Gold Medal for double trap.

Media Contact: Sherry Kerr
Outdoor Media Resources
Phone number: 256-831-7877
Email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NEW ONLINE FORUM ENGAGES MEMBERS OF THE NSSA/NSCA IN GLOBAL CONVERSATION ABOUT SKEET, SPORTING CLAYS AND GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP

 

After More Than Two Years Offline, the NSSA/NSCA Continue Their Forums as Part of a Cooperative Agreement with Shotgun Life

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – June 16, 2009 – The joint organization of the National Skeet Shooting Association-National Sporting Clays Association (NSSA/NSCA) announced today new online forums for members with the goal of sharing accurate and unbiased information about their sports while stimulating camaraderie worldwide.

The new NSSA/NSCA forums arose from an agreement between the NSSA/NSCA and Shotgun Life (www.shotgunlife.com), the first online magazine dedicated to the best in wing and clays shooting. Under the arrangement, Shotgun Life has donated all the software, hardware and technical support to resume the organizations’ forums, which have been dormant for over two years, as part of the 10 shotgun forums launched today by the online magazine.

The forums are available by visiting www.shotgunlife.com and clicking on the Forum tab at the top of the page. NSSA/NSCA members should see specific instructions distributed by the organizations for registering in the Forums.

“With the next generation of shooters becoming much more active in skeet and sporting clays tournaments, it was time to once again bring a meaningful exchange of information to our members around the world,” said Don Snyder, Executive Director of the NSSA/NSCA. “Shotgun Life came to us with a generous proposal that helped us accelerate our goals of using the Internet to help unite our members in an online global community.”

“It’s an honor to be underwriting the NSSA/NSCA forums,” said Irwin Greenstein, Publisher of Shotgun Life. “As a free, online magazine our intent is to break down the barriers of entry to participating in the shotgun sports. Our support of the NSSA/NSCA forums is in complete alignment with the goals of these two tremendous organizations that have enriched the lives of so many shotgun owners.”

Members of the NSSA/NSCA will be able to access the forums at URL after they receive login information for their respective organizations. They can start participating in the forums immediately.

The National Skeet Shooting Association

Founded in 1928 and headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, the National Skeet Shooting Association is a not-for-profit organization owned and operated by its members. With nearly 17,000 members, it is the largest organization in the world dedicated solely to the sport of skeet shooting and sporting clays shooting. Membership is represented by a Board of Directors and an Executive Committee which employs an Executive Director to manage NSSA/NSCA affairs.

The NSSA is dedicated to the development of the sport at all levels of participation and vows to create an atmosphere of healthy competition and meaningful fellowship within its membership. Shooters who want to compete can enter fun shoots and skeet shooting tournaments. The NSSA also offers the hunter a recreational target shooting sport that will strengthen hunting and gun safety skills and extend "hunting" seasons.

You can access the NSSA’s web site at www.mynssa.com.

The National Sporting Clays Association

Founded in March of 1989 by the National Skeet Shooting Association headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, the National Sporting Clays Association is a not-for-profit organization owned and operated by its members. With more than 20,000 members, NSCA is America's official premier sporting clays association. Membership is represented by an Executive Council which employs a Director to manage NSCA affairs. An Advisory Council and State Delegates provide members with an additional source of input.

The NSCA is dedicated to the development of the sport at all levels of participation and vows to create an atmosphere of healthy competition and meaningful fellowship within its membership. Shooters who wish to compete can enter sporting clays tournaments and be competitive immediately. The NSCA also offers the hunter a recreational target shooting sport that will strengthen hunting and gun safety skills and extend "hunting" seasons.

You can access the NSCA’s web site at www.mynsca.com.

Shotgun Life

Launched in January 2009, Shotgun Life is the first online magazine dedicated to the best in wing and clays shooting. In addition to covering all the major clays sports and waterfowl and upland shooting, Shotgun Life showcases the finest shotguns in the world, women shooters and features extensive background information about the equipment and sports to help encourage new shooters to participate. Shotgun Life is available free of charge. Shotgun Life also distributes a free weekly e-letter with clays shooting tips from some of the best instructors in the world.

You can access Shotgun Life at www.shotgunlife.com.

Published in Press Releases
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 05:30

How I Shot With the Stars

Most people agree that baseball is the all-American sport. But after spending three days in San Antonio, Texas at the National Shooting Complex, I would argue that the sport which best captures the heart and soul of the American spirit is skeet.

Professional baseball has been battered by drug scandals, crass commercialism and outrageous salaries - giving a black eye to the American core values of fair play, self-determination and mutual respect.

By contrast, tournament skeet remains firmly in the stronghold of the shooter who competes for the love of their sport and a burning desire to win fair and square. While these birds certainly don't have feathers, the hunger is still there to feed that great American quality of redemption - that you can always pick yourself up by the bootstraps to make a comeback target by target. It's the grit of the individual and their gun forging their own destiny.

While professional baseball now finds itself pulsing through the digital infrastructure onto big-screen TVs and multi-media web sites, skeet holds fast to the ideals of craftsmanship in the hand-finished shotguns that still produce a streak of 500 or more consecutive broken targets.

Although the predecessor to the baseball bat may have helped primitive man fend off sabre-tooth tigers, it is the gun that won the American West - a part of the country I found myself in for three days in March.

As an avid recreational clays shooter, I became immersed in tournament skeet through a remarkable program developed by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) - the sport's nonprofit governing body.

The NSSA and its sister group, the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA), in conjunction with the state-level associations, keep track of just about every major skeet and sporting clays tournament in the U.S. The NSSA-NSCA is the repository for all registered scores shot in both large and small clubs throughout the country and in the world.

NSSA shooters often enter the realm of tournament skeet through grass roots organizations such as the 4H, which actively promotes skeet competition; through various instructors who want to see a promising student take their skills to the next level; or through local clubs where the NSSA sanctions competitive shoots.

But NSSA member, Stuart Fairbank, saw another way of opening the door of tournament skeet to recreational shooters. It's called Shoot with the Stars, and it has been held at the annual Toni Rogers Spring Extravaganza, one of the earlier Top 10 shoots in the country that shooters use to open the tournament skeet season for three years. This year it took place March 27-29 at the NSSA-NSCA National Shooting Complex.

Although Stuart says the concept for this type of program had been around for the past 20 years, it was in 2007 that he teamed up with NSSA Secretary/Treasurer, Bob DeFrancesco, to really make it happen.

As Stuart explained it to me in the club house "There were always people who felt that the shooting games were exclusionary. They belong to a home club where they feel comfortable, but in terms of tournament shooting they have a hard time getting started. It can be confusing at first especially when you travel away from home and don't know anybody at the shoot. And there's the apprehension associated with meeting, and being squaded with, and competing against the big shooters. We want to make it as easy as possible for the new folks to experience a first-class tournament, meet and shoot with some of the best in the game, and do it all on manageable budget."

For example, for someone like me who's managed to shoot his fair share of 25 straight in skeet, it would be an absolutely intimidating proposition to go up against the likes of some of this year's stars...

  • Sam Armstrong, whose 12-gauge average in 2008 hit 0.9920 (meaning that he broke slightly more than 99 out of 100 targets in each competition).
  • Dave Starrett, whose 12-gague average in 2008 was 0.9963
  • Billy Williams, who had a 2008 12-gauge average of 0.9907
  • Tami Meyers, with a 12-gauge average of 0.9826 in 2008
  • Bob DeFrancesco who racked up a 20-gauge average of 0.9958


Of course registered tournaments do not directly pit the new shooter against these stars, or the other stars who participated in the program including John Shima, Stuart Fairbank and John Herkowitz. A classification system that ranges from top-ranked AAA to E shooters ensures competitive equilibrium. I had been ranked D, given that I had registered for a single tournament skeet shoot in 2007.

Turns out, I was exactly the kind of shooter that Stuart wanted to attract through Shoot with the Stars.

Stuart believed that the sport needed to create "ambassadors," or recreational skeet shooters who were given the opportunity to mingle with the stars, and then go home and spread the good word.

So in 2007, Stuart and Bob posted the first Shoot with the Stars call on the Internet, attracting three shooters. Over time, a selection process was put in place. The names of up to 27 shooters would be drawn - three from each of the organization's nine regional zones.

This year there were 15 recipients including myself, since I was the only one to apply from Zone 2.

The 2009 sponsors were Ms. Toni Ann Rogers (Title Sponsor), Federal Ammunition, Browning, Rio Ammunition, Kolar Arms, Remington Arms (.410 bore), Winchester Ammunition (28 gauge), While Flyer targets, leathersmith Al Ange and the NSSA as sponsors.

With sponsors and organization in place, the 2009 Shoot with the Stars gave us newcomers 100 shells in each gauge (12, 20, 28 and .410 bore) for use in the competitions, plus they waived our entry fees in each event of $50 and the nominal target fees that came to $6 per day. The Shoot with the Stars program also provided the experience of a lifetime (for skeet shooters this is tantamount to playing golf with Tiger Woods).

My Shoot with the Stars adventure started when I landed at San Antonio International Airport at about noon on March 26th. After renting a car, I headed directly to Blaser USA in San Antonio, the U.S. arm of the German manufacturer that makes the marvelous F3 shotgun.

Story3insideF3
The Blaser F3 American Skeet Combo


Having shot an F3 before, I knew it would be the gun to shoot. Here's why...

  • The F3's 100% mechanical, single-selective trigger functions at a light 3.3-lbs trigger pull. The hammers of the F3 move in a linear plane - straight forwards and then backwards when the gun is re-cocked. Typically, most hammers pivot around the pin in a lower efficiency arc. This design gives the gun a crisp, confident feel every time you pull the trigger.
  • You can adjust the trigger blade length for a precise fit.
  • The gun's Inertial Block System prevents double, or fan, firing. It's coupled with a mechanical trigger group that doesn't rely on recoil to set the second shot. If you get lucky and hit your first shot with a poofer, the next shot will fire regardless.
  • The F3's receiver measures a sleek 2.415 inches high at its tallest point, making it one of the lowest-profile shotguns on the planet. Blaser managed this engineering feat by streamlining the conventional lock. The gun's low-profile receiver, and its low axis, help reduce felt recoil by directing the shock wave through the most dense part of the stock. This would be important in shooting 200 competitive rounds per day, plus several rounds of practice.
  • The balancer in the stock is a cylindrical weight on a long threaded screw. You can move the weight up or down to find your perfect balance. The additional weight in the stock also helps absorb recoil.
  • With Blaser's Ejection-Ball-System, the ejector springs are cocked automatically when the shot is fired and the gun is opened. This feature virtually eliminates hulls sticking when you crack open the gun.
  • The grip has a substantial palm swell.
  • At 8 lbs, 7 oz, the gun has a near perfect weight for recreational skeet shooters (tournament skeet shooters are known to add weight that could bring their guns to over 9 lbs for controlled swing momentum).


Norbert Haussmann, CEO of Blaser USA, had arranged for me to pick up the perfect 12-gauge model for Shoot with the Stars. It had a Monte Carlo stock complemented by an adjustable comb. The barrels were 30 inches in length. The lid of the hard case held three sets of Briley Revolution tubes in 20 and 28 gauges and .410 bore. Along with a full set of chokes, Blaser packages this F3 as the American Skeet Combo. And I have to say, it is really impressive.

After a Blaser tech tweaked the comb for me, the gun came up just right. If ever I were going to shoot a great game of skeet, this F3 would be the shotgun to make it happen.

Mother Nature, however, had other things in store.

Before leaving for San Antonio, I had checked the weather. It was supposed to be sunny, mild and in the mid-80s. It didn't exactly turn out that way.

The next morning saw prevailing winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph. For a flying disc such as a skeet target, winds that high create crazy turbulence.

Story3INSIDEflag
Winds hit 40 mph


Air density, drag coefficient, angle of attack - everything is up for grabs as the wind blew across the open, flat terrain of the National Shooting Center.

If the target is going with the wind, it can race out of the trap house with an afterburner burst, and then get driven into the ground even before it reaches the opposite house.

If the target is going into the wind, it can simply rise and stall - one of the worst things that can happen to a shooter who uses momentum to swing through for the target break.

Then there's the ongoing debate as to whether or not it's best to break a target in the wind sooner or later. Some experts believe that you should break the target as soon as possible before the wind knocks it off the line of trajectory. Others, meanwhile, say you should wait until the target adjusts to the wind before pulling the trigger.

All I can say is that conditions were not great to shoot the first event of the tournament, which was doubles (when the high-house and low-house targets are thrown simultaneously).

Of the 45 skeet fields at the National Shooting Complex, I was slotted to shoot on number 9. My squad star would be perennial All American Sam Armstrong from Maryland. At least it was a 12-gauge event (imagine if it was .410).

Introductions and hand shakes all around among the five squad members and we were ready to shoot. During the 100-round event, I was surprised at the ongoing chatter of encouragement. If someone made a great shot, the others shooters in the squad let him know about it. When you stepped up to the station, you were given a pep talk - "You can do it...come on, get in the groove, crush 'em now..."

Turns out it was the unspoken code among tournament skeet shooters. You helped your competitor achieve their fullest potential in the preliminaries and then faced him head on in the shoot-offs. This friendly banter contributed to a real sense of family among the shooters - even for a newcomer like me.

For Sam and the other highly ranked shots, doubles took on a beautiful cadence: BANG...1 Mississippi...BANG. It was the veritable heartbeat of doubles. Consistently, they knew the rhythm of the game and mastered it.

Story3Home
Irwin Greenstein with Sam Armstrong


My final score was 57. Not great. It turns out, I made a couple of mistakes when it came to shooting in strong winds, which were explained to me over dinner that night with Sam and his friends at a Saltgrass Steakhouse.

First, by following the school of thought that says you break the targets close to the house in the wind, I held the Blaser further back than usual. The gun swung so beautifully, I figured it would be no problem nailing that target right out of the house before the wind could grab it.

I found out afterwards that you do just the opposite when shooting in the wind. You hold further toward the center stake. By reducing your gun swing, you stand a better of chance of breaking the target as it slows down, as opposed to attempting to shoot it when it comes accelerating out of the house.

Another mistake I made was shooting the target when it stalled in the wind. For example, if I were shooting the low 1, and it stalled right in front of me, I ended up missing the target. I was wondering how was that was possible? After all, the target was stopped dead; it was close enough to be hanging right off the brim of the cap. How the heck could I possibly miss that target?

The answer was simple: I had unconsciously lifted my face off the stock to look at the unusually high targets. Break that seal between your cheek and the stock and you'll miss the target every time - even if the bird is dangling three feet in front of you.

My third mistake was trying to measure the target lead in the wind. If you look for the lead, you invariably take your eyes off the target - or worse end up glancing at the front bead. Either way, the target will get away from you.

OK, lessons learned. But would they stick? Let's see how I would shoot the next day.

Right after the alarm clock went off, I checked the weather on my iPhone. Wind was blowing at 15 mph, with gusts reaching 23 mph. Certainly challenging, but not as daunting as the day before.

When I arrived at the National Shooting Complex that morning, one word dominated the communal conversation: wind. One of the stars confided later that he had not missed a single 12-gauge target since August 2006 - until doubles the day before when he shot a 98.

Other top shooters said "the wind got to me." What did they mean by that? A strong, relentless wind can make you tense your muscles, slowing you down. Likewise, a sense of exhaustion sets in, both physically and mentally. Unlike them, I never expected to shoot 100 straight, often the threshold for entering the shoot-offs. While a 97 or a 98 would be great for me, it was unacceptable in the rarefied ranks of AAA skeet champs.

I had two events scheduled for that Saturday. I would shoot 12 gauge at 10:30 and 28 gauge at 3:00. I was optimistic. At least 12 gauge gave me the firepower for a wider margin of error in the wind. When it came to 28 gauge, I'd been shooting it for the past year at my local club. I think it's the perfect gauge for skeet, and I had recently nailed my first 25 straight in 28 gauge.

Stuart Fairbank, a multiple World Champion from Connecticut, turned out to be the star of our 12-gauge squad. An affable guy, he really kept up the chatter - giving the squad a positive vibe through all 100 rounds. My final tally for the event was 81. I have to give ample credit to the Blaser for what I thought was a good score. It performed flawlessly, giving me great site pictures, a controlled swing and a comfortable shooting experience.

Story3INSIDEstuart
Stuart Fairbank with Irwin Greenstein

With a few hours remaining until the 28-gauge event, I paid a visit to the NSSA-NSCA Museum on the grounds. The museum included a history of skeet with wonderful artifacts. There were Hall of Fame Photos for both skeet and sporting clays and some entertaining videos to watch.

After the Museum, I walked across to the concession and ordered a tasty pulled-pork sandwich. I took the sandwich onto the patio and watched the other events as I ate.

At about 1:30, I installed the 28-gauge tubes from the trunk of my rental car. They went in like butter. After I shot two practice rounds, I knew 28-gauge would be intimidating.

Everyone says that regardless of the gauge, you always shoot the target the same way. Keep your hold points and break points consistent, whether it's 12 gauge or .410. However, here's the rub: A standard 12-gauge 1-1/8 oz shell with #9 shot holds about 658 pellets. A standard ¾ oz, 28-gauge shell with #9 shot has about 439 pellets - or nearly 50% fewer pellets. For the highly ranked shooters, the lower pellet count wouldn't make that much of a difference. But I needed all the help I could get as the sundowner wind started to kick up, fulfilling the prediction of 23-mph gusts. In the end, I shot a 67.

My 28-gauge star was multiple World Championship winner Billy Williams from Montana, the only one of two shooters to score perfect 100's in doubles the day before. Throughout the event, Billy was a master of encouragement, leading the squad in a chorus of positive banter. Even with my less-than-stellar 67, it was a joy to shoot in that squad. By now, I was starting to feel like an NSSA son-in-law.

Story3INSIDEwilliams
Billy Williams with Irwin Greenstein


That night, the Party on the Hill was held in the massive Beretta Pavilion. A Mariachi band entertained as free Mexican food, cocktails and beer from a keg were served. From this vantage point, you could look down across the great expanse of the National Shooting Complex and the Hill Country Beyond. It was a clays shooting paradise.

Sunday morning saw me slotted for two events. At noon, I would shoot 20 gauge with star, Bob DeFrancesco, NSSA Secretary/Treasurer and many time All American from Connecticut. My .410 event would take place at 4:30 with star, Dave Starrett, another multiple World Champion winner from Ohio. The weather was a hold-over from the day before: 14-mph winds, gusting to 25 mph. In the 20-gauge event, I scored a respectable 75. My score for .410 score came in at 63.

What did I walk away with from my Shoot with the Stars experience?

For one thing, I learned that Stuart was absolutely right about the experts who volunteered as this year's stars. Every one of them was approachable, supportive and basically just a really nice person. Second, it rekindled my desire to shoot registered skeet at my local club. I discovered that the competition simply makes you shoot better. You keep a razor-sharp focus on the targets, you pay more attention to foot placement at each station and you shot the birds more aggressively - breaking them sooner. Finally, I learned valuable skills that I could apply just when I'm hanging out and shooting skeet with friends.

Tournament skeet is not for every shooter. But sometimes you just don't know until you give it a try. Based on my experience, I would urge any skeet shooter to give tournament shooting a test drive. Join the NSSA and find a club near you that holds registered shoots.

In the end, I had only one regret about my trip to San Antonio: it was having to return the Blaser F3. That shotgun sure was a keeper.

Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your letters and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Helpful resources:

http://www.mynssa.com

http://www.blaser-usa.com/

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns





Sunday, 11 January 2009 08:25

You do what... ?

She's a teacher, an artist, and a ballet aficionado originally from Brooklyn, New York--and an avid clay shooter!

If this doesn't entirely add up, don't be surprised. Sometimes, even Bonnie Berniger herself wonders how she ended up becoming passionate about clays shooting.

"My friends can't understand how I can go from the arts to shooting," she says. "People from Brooklyn don't understand that shooting could be a sport. They associate a gun with crime. When I come into work happy after a weekend of shooting, they looked at me very strangely."

Published in Women Shooters
Saturday, 30 August 2008 17:39

Alessandro

Alesandro
Was it because he used to cut class to go shooting? Was it because his father was a champion skeet shooter in the Army? Was it that darn Remington 1100 of his? He was shooting 100 straight in skeet -- and that was no fluke. His vest was covered with patches. What’s up with that kid, anyway?

His Father’s Beretta

Well, Alessandro credits his father, Rinaldo. In fact, Alessandro still owns his father’s first shotgun, a Beretta SO3 that he bought in Brescia, Italy, while stationed at Fort Darby there.

The Beretta SO Series marked the company’s entry into sidelock over-and-under shotguns. The elegant design of the lock work has only five basic parts, plus three pivot pins and a single screw -- in an attempt to make the shotgun extremely reliable. The minimum number of parts, and a chrome-plated action, made the SO Series smooth and easy to use.

Alessandro recalls that his father paid $300 for the SO3. These SO3s are no longer in production and today can bring in upwards of $5,000 -- with some exemplary combo sets demanding nearly $10,000.

That Beretta SO3 was the Vitale family’s introduction into shotguns. Rinaldo had emigrated to the United States from Calabria, Italy in 1961 at age 16. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and then found himself stationed back in his native country -- this time, in the Tuscan region surrounding Florence and Siena. He became a small-arms training Sergeant and fell in love with firearms and cooking.

Rinaldo befriended many local chefs and restaurateurs -- enabling him to become a restaurant success story in Maryland. Today, along with Alessandro, his older brother Sergio and their mother Regina, the Vitale family operates Aldo’s in Baltimore’s Little Italy and Cibo Bar and Grille in nearby Owings Mills.

The 10-Year-Old Skeet Shooter

While laying the foundation for the family’s culinary legacy, Rinaldo continued to pursue skeet shooting. He joined the Loch Raven Skeet and Trap Center in 1971 -- the year before Alessandro was born. But by age 10, the kid practiced skeet with his father. Firmly planted on stations 1 and 7, Alessandro kept shooting away at targets with a pint-size .410.

The kid graduated to his first gun, a Remington 1100 Sport in 20 gauge. That was the shotgun, in fact, that really got the goat of the Loch Raven shooters. Alessandro recalls shooting several 100-straights with it. As he got older, he completed a full set of Remington 1100s, buying them in .410, 28 and 12 gauge.

Alessandro thought he would be a Remington 1100 guy for life until his first visit to Italy to spend a summer with family. Like his father, Alessandro found Italy to be a turning point when it came to shotguns.

It was 1988, and he was shooting skeet and trap. That was the year Enzo Ferrari passed on, and Alessandro remembers the entire country went into mourning (Of course, Alessandro had no way of seeing into the future when he would become a Ferrari owner himself.)

Love at First Sight

But that fateful summer Alessandro laid eyes on his first Benelli M1 Super 90 semiautomatic shotgun -- the civilian model. “It was love at first sight,” he recalls.

With its black synthetic stock and forearm, and the optional magazine extender, the thing looked like a riot gun. Italy’s famous voluminous paperwork, though, prevented him from bringing it back home with him.

So he started calling just about every gun dealer in Maryland (this predates the Internet) until he found a small gun shop in Maryland’s Eastern Shore called Vonnie’s Sporting Goods in Kennedyville that had one left in stock.

Alessandro was there in a heartbeat. It was the bomb: matte black finish, 18.5-inch barrel, imported by Heckler & Koch. He shelled out about $800 for it, twice the price of a Remington 1100.

Just by looking at it, you could tell the Benelli M1 Super 90 was way ahead of its time. The shotgun incorporated a patented, super-fast, recoil-inertia system compared to the more usual gas-operated systems found in most other semiautomatic shotguns.

The engineers at Benelli had figured out how to perform both extraction and ejection into a single mechanism using something called a rotating bolt head. A model of shotgun innovation, it uses only three components: the bolt body, the inertia spring and the rotating bolt head.

Fires Five Rounds Per Second

The reduced mass of parts makes the system extremely fast and reliable. Alessandro said the shotgun was capable of firing five rounds per second without ever jamming.

And because it uses recoil rather than spent gas to chamber the next shell, the system stayed clean -- a big benefit for Alessandro.

As much as he loved the Remington 1100, the gun consumed a lot of time in maintenance. He still bemoans the cheap rubber O-rings used to seal the barrel. It was a twenty-five-cent part when he used the shotgun all the time; and once the O-ring broke the shotgun went kaput (that only happens once before you learn to pack extra O-rings).

Then there were the gas ports that needed to stay cleared. And the oil had to be just right when he took it waterfowl shooting -- or too much moisture in the lubricant would jam up the shotgun.

Out Shooting on the Farm

These are common complaints among the legions of loyal Remington 1100 owners who now swear up and down that the factory improved its quality control. (Plus you can buy after-market O-rings that may be more durable.)

Still, back then, Alessandro grew reluctant to take his Remington 1100 hunting. When it comes to the Benelli M1 Super 90, Alessandro swears the dirtier it gets the better it shoots. That’s why he now owns almost every model of Benelli shotgun -- his collection is up to about 20 models.

He’s also a Beretta aficionado. Add it all up, and he has some 35 shotguns in his gun room.

There are plenty to go around as Alessandro shoots with his father and brother. The family owns a farm on the Eastern Shore and leases others for waterfowl hunting. And the three Vitales get out there whenever they can to shoot geese, ducks and even doves.

In addition to his shotguns, Alessandro loves his cars. Ferraris, BMWs, Mercedes -- he’s had them all -- the top-of-the-line, tricked-out models that nail you to the seat when you floor them.

Not that the old crew at Loch Raven expected anything less from Alessandro.

Useful resources:

http://www.lochravenskeettrap.com/

www.aldositaly.com

www.cibogrille.com

http://www.remington.com/products/firearms/shotguns/model_1100/

http://www.benelliusa.com/

http://www.benelliusa.com/firearms/inertia.tpl

http://www.berettausa.com/

http://www.berettaweb.com/Premium%20Guns/prima%20pg.htm

http://www.berettaweb.com/sezionati/sez%20SO.htm

http://www.mdisfun.org/planningamarylandvisit/outdoors/ huntingandshootingsports/
Outdoors-Hunting-ShootingSports.html


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_F430

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns

The prospect of a long, holiday weekend put me into action. I'd jump on a plane and head west to San Francisco -- catch up with friends and do a little skeet shooting.

Published in Women Shooters
Saturday, 30 August 2008 16:07

Shotgun Chokes

Count yourself lucky that some genius invented the screw-in shotgun choke. Otherwise, you’d probably need five shotguns.

Adjustable shotgun chokes give you the ability to change the pattern of your shot by tailoring the constriction. The baseline constriction is cylinder -- or the inner diameter of your barrel. From there, the designations grow tighter. 

Choke Bore Sizes and Constrictions
CYL LTSK SK IMK IC LM M IM LF F XF D
12 Bore .000 N/A .005 N/A .010 .015 .020 .025 .030 .035 .040 .005 and Rifled!
20 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .009 .012 .015 .018 .021 .024 .027 .005 and Rifled!
28 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .009 .012 .015 .018 .021 .024 .027 N/A
.410 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .008 .010 .012 .014 .016 .018 .020 N/A

(Courtesy of Briley Mfg.)

*Abbreviations:
CYL = Cylinder
LTSK = Light Skeet
SK = Skeet
IMK = Improved Skeet
IC = Improved Cylinder
LM = Light Modified
M = Modified
IM = Improved Modified
LF = Light Full
F = Full
XF = Extra Full
D = Diffusion
N/A = Not Applicable

Looking at the chart, you’ll see that SK (skeet) imposes a .005% constriction compared to cylinder. Full gives you a .035% constriction. Yes, that’s a 600% difference.

Percentage of Constriction Based on Distance
Choke 20 Yards 30 Yards 40 Yards
Cylinder 80% 60% 40%
Skeet 92% 72% 50%
Improved Cylinder 100% 77% 55%
Modified 100% 83% 60%
Improved Modifiedz 100% 91% 65%
Full 100% 100% 70%



In this chart, you’ll notice that as the choke grows tighter (from cylinder to full) the density of the pattern increases based on distance.

That’s because tight chokes distribute the shot in a tight, dense pattern best for long shots. Open chokes give you a wider, diffused pattern intended for close shots.

If this sounds counter-intuitive, here’s the way it works.

You may be thinking that you want the wider pattern for longer shots because the target is further away. The longer the distance, logic dictates the wider the pattern giving you a better chance to hit the target.

But what you’re not taking into account are the laws of physics.

Smaller shot (which tends to be used for close shots of 16-20 yards) lacks the energy (momentum) to give you accuracy at longer range. The shot spreads willy-nilly and you lose accuracy.

So if you’re going for a long shot, you want to use a bigger pellet in a tighter shot string for an arrow-head effect. Hence, a tighter choke.

For close-range shots, as in skeet, physics dictates that the more pellets you shoot the greater the odds for hitting the target before the smaller (lighter) pellets lose their momentum. So you want to go for a wider choke that lets the smaller, lighter pellets actually swarm around the target while they’re still effective.

Basically, there are three types of chokes.

The fixed choke is already machined into the barrel of the shotgun. You’ll see guns that are designated with skeet chokes, or full and improved cylinder chokes for wingshooting. The type of chokes depends on its specialized use, and will often be accompanied by stock and sight complements.

When you buy a new shotgun, it will include a few screw-in chokes most appropriate for its design. You usually can purchase after-market chokes to fill out your inventory.

Screw in chokes come in two varieties: extended and flush mounted.

Extended chokes protrude above the muzzle and are generally clearly marked; they are designed to be screwed in by hand.

Flush-mounted chokes are screwed entirely into the barrel so that in the end the choke is flush with the muzzle. Newer flush-mounted chokes tend to also be clearly identified. But less expensive or older flush-mounted chokes rely on a notch system to identify their constriction.

Choke Notches
Cylinder /////
Skeet /////
Improved Cylinder ////
Modified ///
Improved Modified //
Full /



Then there’s the adjustable choke. This is a single choke with multiple settings. Turn the selector to set the most appropriate constriction.

Once you have the choke installed, it’s best to pattern it on paper.

You’ll need a pattern target and something disposable to mount it on.

Typically, you’d want to be about 40 yards from your “pattern board.” Draw a 30-inch circle around the center of the pattern and then count the pellets as a means to determine the accuracy of your choke. A full choke should put 70% of its pellets in a 30" circle at 40 yards. A modified choke should put 60% of its pellets in the circle. And an improved cylinder should give you 50%.

Perhaps the biggest risk with chokes is that they become a crutch.

For example, if you consistently missed the #3 station on skeet with a skeet choke, moving to a wider cylinder choke probably won’t help. After all, if you’re on the target, you’re on it. The same can be said of most other clays sports.

Missing shots is generally not a function of your choke selection. It’s a function of your skill, technique and body mechanics.

The worst mistake you can make with a choke is using it as an excuse for missed shots.

If you have a problem station, and you’re using the recommended choke, the best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice.

Helpful links:

http://www.mynssa.com/

http://www.shootata.com/

http://www.trapshooters.com/

http://www.ushelice.com/

http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/basictraining.asp

Published in Guns
Saturday, 30 August 2008 16:04

All About Shotguns

There are two challenges to finding a great shotgun -- fit and suitability.

The shotguns section of Shotgun Life is dedicated to helping you recognize the perfect shotgun (that you’ll want to keep for the rest of your life, and then hand down to your family for generations to come.)

For some people, finding a great shotgun is simply love at first sight. For others, a great shotgun grows on them -- and they find themselves down in the basement cleaning it for absolutely no other reason than just to be in its company.

But for every shotgun owner who falls in love with their pride-and-joy, there are teams of engineers and craftsmen toiling away behind the scenes to bring your gun to fruition.

As you’ll see, shotguns are generally designed for a particular sport. Some shotguns have composite stocks and fore-ends to withstand the travails of duck hunting. Then there are single-shot trap guns with high ribs that help you intercept rising targets. And skeet shooters find that their beavertail fore-end is particularly adept at bringing about a smooth, quick swing.

So let the search begin. Here is what you’ll find in our shotgun section…

  • Shotguns for Clays and Wingshooting
  • Shotgun Actions
  • Break Actions
  • Over/Under
  • Side-by-Side
  • Single-Barrel Shotgun
  • Semiautomatics
  • Pumps
  • Skeet Shotguns
  • Trap Shotguns
  • WaterFowl Shotguns
  • Upland Shotguns
Published in Guns
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