I cannot use the same word twice, and I shouldn't, because this year's Pyramyd Air Cup CAN be described with ONE different word: INTENSE.
Not "tense" because there was the same good humour, the same good natured ribbing, joking and horseing around, BUT, everyone knew we were there to SHOOT.
As for many, Pyramyd Air Cup started for us MANY months in advance. For me, it all started in March when my calendar told me it was time to start looking for air fares to go to Ohio. So, after a little looking around, I found a return ticket for $80 each of us, and so it was decided to just get them. If, later, Veronika could not make it, we only lost $80, however, NOT buying the ticket could cost us well in excess of several hundred dollars if at the last minute she could. So we got them. SouthWest airlines offers TWO checked bags per passenger so the rifles, if we were to take two in separate hard cases, were no problem.
Close monitoring of TSA's policies and their changes revealed that we did not have to worry. Spring-Piston airguns are still classed as "Pellet Rifles" and therefore are exempt of the "hard case" requirement.
After the World's, we were almost packed, but given the failure of the "Muzzle Tamer" in Lithuania, I had to assemble my rifle and correct a few design flaws within the device.
Of course, taking it all apart and redoing a few aspects meant that it had to be tuned AGAIN.
And I did... or so I thought at the time of disassembling the rifle for packing again to fly to Canton-Akron.
The day of the flight came up and we were at LGA on time, complications arose because we realized that just after the Cup we would have to stay over in NYC for Rosh hashanah services, so an additional bag was packed and left in Brooklyn. All this added to the time. By the time we got to LGA, we were a little bit close for comfort.
Southwest in LGA is not the brightest candle in their chandelier. We declared the airgun but they refused to give us the form to fill until the Port Authority showed up.
After three calls and 25 minutes wait they decided it was time and showed up.
Once everything was explained and the serial number was taken, in addition to driving license number, we were on our way to the TSA checkpoint.
As usual (and, as we told the counter employees), the shape of the action triggers an alarm in the TSA shape/material recognition program in the X-Ray machines. And in we went to open the case and have it chemically checked for explosives, as well as visually checked to ascertain that it was not a firearm.
I find it peculiar that even though other airports of the area (notably Newark / EWR) does NOT require all this, LGA still thinks it does. No wonder Joe Biden labelled LGA as a "Third World airport".
And when we got to the gate, we were told that the plane had been delayed an hour! LOL!
You run all over the place just to find out that the other part is delayed. Funny. Yeah, right.
Our main concern was that the weather had not turned so bad that the shoot would be affected. I had my Field Target Team USA rain gear, but thunderstorms in Ohio are no easy matter. Still, on we went, waited the additional one hour and when the plane arrived, we prepared to board.
From there it was a pretty standard trip, less than an hour on the air and we were in Ohio, in 30 minutes more we already had a car in hand, had established our GPS position and programmed the GPS to take us to the Schönbrunn Inn.
Funny name, we thought, but then we started seeing towns named "Berlin", "Schönbrunn", etc, and we decided it was natural.
Hotel ended up being extremely nice, with a typically Teutonic breakfast (eggs, cold cuts, cheese, bread, oatmeal, juices, milk and waffles)! Well, that was a nice surprise. Served from 06:00 hrs. onwards, perfect for the working lad, or competing shooter.
Got up early Friday and headed to the range, Veronika stayed at the hotel doing some work. She was not shooting, so we were not in a hurry to get her sighted in or anything.
At the range, I noticed that the courses were set under the roofed shooting positions, so that solved part of the problem (getting wet), but it created another problem: It was going to be cramped.
TUSCO Rifle Club devotes two ranges to the Pyramyd Air Cup: the top range (that I will call the "Large Bowl") and the lower range (that I will call the "Little Bowl", even though the range is larger for reasons that will become obvious in a short while), and of course it offers the larger part of the lower range (between the mid berm and the end of the range) for sighting in and to set up the "test/Try Me" range.
This year there were no BIG bores in the Try Me range, but still a Sumatra in 0.25" cal. at full power made a mess of some of the spinners, and targets. I guess it is hard for people to understand the power, penetration and deformation potential of a well placed 0.25" 32 gr. pellet. By the end of the day some spinners were bent, down, torn, or badly abused. The 4 boars target was completely deformed and the reset did not appear to reset anything at all. Still it was fun and gave good feedback to shoot at little metal thingies.
After some 300 pellets downrange, I thought that the whole re-tuning process had been successful.
We adjourned to the PayDay challenge that played out nicely. For me, when I saw a perfectly well released shot from the D-34 hit the target 2" high at 12 O'Clock I remembered how VERY hard it is to sight in a gun for other persons to use, especially with scopes. Iron sights are easier. But it was all in the spirit of fun and I was happy and having fun.
We closed the day blocking three booths at the Texas Roadhouse with great steaks, good beers and incomparable company, as we were seated with Tyler's parents. We did not stop laughing all evening.
Off to bed and early to rise, I was at the range before sunup.
Testing the Sightron under those conditions was interesting. It was extremely dark and overcast, but the scope at 27.8X performed extremely well.
By the time the shooter's meeting was called, I thought I had everything under control.
The shooters meeting was followed by a few declarations from the Range Officers about eye protection. It was not at all funny to hear them, for the second year, insist that the projectiles "would come back at us", I thought that by now they would have learned that we do not shoot into the rocky backstops with high power centerfires. But no, they haven't. Anyway, shooting with glasses had been and would be the rule, under penalty of expulsion from school, LOL!
I started the Match squadded with Mr. Fitchum and Mr. Christensen on the "Little Bowl" on lane 6, the standing lane. No biggie, I thought. And it wasn't. But before getting into the shoot itself let me tell you why the names of the ranges is important:
The Little Bowl is a rather narrow range, with what seems to be about 35 yards of frontage. Between those 35 there are two berms. Rather steep sides, that end about 2 yards in front of the shooting line. The berms are not completely uniform, there are places that are higher and places that are lower.
So, when the winds blow across the berms at around 10 mph, all sorts of funny things start to happen. Swirls, rolls and opposing wind directions at different parts of the trajectory are not unthinkable.
And on top of that, the strings were soaking wet. No info there on a "snap".
When the air has more space to flow, wind is still a challenge, but the fact that it can settle eliminates at least some of the extreme rolls and swirls.
Wind in the upper range, the Big Bowl, is easier to read EXCEPT for lane 1 (the extreme right lane, we were changing lanes right to left, even when shooting near to far), where there is a "cut" and the wind funnels in all sort of crazy directions.
Ah, well the show had to go on and we soldiered as best we could.
I was having all sorts of strange misses, like those "Holland's Mystery Shots" that you simply do not know WHERE they came from. Ranging was good (I trusted it was good and published data differs from my range card by at most 2 yards, so I am confident that the scope is reading well), besides, my range card was telling me that misses were all over the place so, misses left, right, above and below could only mean one thing: the Muzzle Tamer (MT) was not where it should have been.
I had tested and shot and adjusted and tested again till I THOUGHT it was, but clearly it was not.
I ended the day with a completely disheartening 25/48.
But, as Yogi Berra used to say: it is not over till it is over! Next day would be a different day.
By the time we had lunch, I discovered that everyone else was having trouble with the wind, but I really could not say the same. My problem was NOT the wind, it was dispersion, and I was fairly certain that the ZR Mounts, as modified, were pretty accurate in their return to battery after each shot. The ONLY untested variable was, again, the Muzzle Tamer (MT). So, I decided to come early on Sunday and re-tune the Muzzle Tamer. If I had learned one thing from our good friend Matt Brackett at Dubingiai was that, sometimes, drastic adjustments need to be made on the fly.
We still had to shoot the Gunslinger, so I adjourned to the sighting in range and made sure that I knew where the rifle was shooting and that, as far as Silhouettes go, I was on target.
I shot the first rounds of the Gunslinger and did well, missing only 3 shots for the 48 targets, and I was all prepped to go for the final, but then Tyler reminded me that this year we would be shooting the final on Sunday and so we left the range to change and prepare for the banquet.
And Banquet it was! LOL!
Salad, meat, chicken, fish, sides and a very economical bar made for some very merry times. We sat with Eric B., Sean McD, Kevin Yee and quickly the conversation turned to a long standing argument between East Coast shooters and West Coast shooters.
Kevin is one of our top shooters, he was until some months ago, one of the driving forces at Diablo FT Club in CA. He holds the opinion that the courses need to be different because terrains are different. We reminisced about the layout and topography of places like San Luis Obispo, Temecula, Heaven's Ranch, and CASA, and contrasted them with the terrain of places like SPARC, DIFTA, EFTCC, FTRPA; and then it hit me:
The SAD truth is that Californians do not have trees!
Well, they do have trees, I know at least one shooting Club that hosts Benchrest shoots in an old orchard, but I mean that not one of their courses is set in a forest. ALL the FT courses are set in open, rolling, grassland.
And wind CAN be a headache under those conditions.
It was interesting to talk these things face to face, because there is NO OTHER way to reach good agreements. No amount of phone calls, keyboard emoticons, or wordsmithing will relay ideas the same way as a good face to face conversation over a beer (or two).
After Josh Unger made us all laugh and the raffles were over; after Rossi, Ted and Josh had finished their "spiels" and after the food was gone, we returned to the hotel, tired, but primed and ready to go first thing in the morning.
Sunday found me at the range, allen wrenches in hand and a good position where I could command the 35, 45 and 55 yards targets.
And as soon as the range was hot, the process started: Shoot a group of five shots, then adjust the MT, another group of five, another adjustment, went past the sweet point, come back and do some more adjustment; once the thing was defined for 35 yards, go on to 45 and now start the fine tuning process. And then go to 55 and repeat.
Each distance yielding a slightly better shot cycle and closer and closer groups. All in all, between competitions and tests I shot well over 700 pellets during the weekend.
Once all that was done, tighten all the screws, and re-sight and re-trajectory the gun. That section was easy with PP Calc in hand.
And just in time, the shooters' meeting was called and off we went.
For Sunday, I was squadded with Kevin Yee and Tom Peretti, both good friends and excellent shooters. Kevin had a good score from Saturday at 35, so he was 10 points ahead of me, but Tom's score was an amazing 38/48. I was prepared for being served a good helping of humble pie the second day.
We started on lane 4, and let me tell you all in completely unequivocal terms: I HATE grey targets! LOL!
There is simply no way of telling where you are hitting! But as luck would have it I had a really good break on the long target on lane 5 at 45 meters, the clouds opened up, the sun shone from our backs and I CLEARLY saw the pellet entering the top left hand edge, so I knew I had to correct my zero. Three clicks down and three clicks right and everything clicked (pun intended) in place. From there on I cleaned quite a few lanes and was very happy with my second day final result of 41. Tying with Tom P. was as much as a surprise for me as it was for Kevin and Tom himself.
It is always a pleasure shooting with those two and here I want to make an important observation for those that are just starting on this terribly hard learning curve that top notch FT is:
The "Enemy" is not the other shooter. The "Enemy" is the course, the wind, the lighting conditions.
YOU are there to vanquish those unknowns. What other shooters do is their business; you are there to READ the environment and to send the pellet CLEANLY through the hole. ONE target at a time. Simple.
That is why all shooters are (or should be) supportive of all other shooters. A simple : "Good Shot" relayed to the shooting squadmate tells him you have noted the target fall and that you appreciate his knowledge and his "art".
If you note that one squadmate is getting nervous a short observation like: "Just Relax and Breathe" can tide him over the stomach butterflies of the next lane.
Smile to life and life will smile back at you.
I have never met a squadmate that did not respond well to enthusiasm, kindness, and smiles. Even among other, completely foreign, nations. A smile is a smile.
As much as I had a good performance on my second day, the damage of the first was hard to overcome with such good opponents and I ended up a distant fourth, 5 points behind Kevin.
No sweat! we'll back in 2016 for the next PAC FT event.
After all that, came the Gunslinger.
I had made some notes of my aimpoints the day before. Since I do not click, the aimpoints was everything I had for the Silhouette ranges that this year were a little different than last.
The third places were decided and then the shootoff came.
With all the excitement and all the good feelings about how the "system" had performed the second day, I forgot to check my trajectory and make another "cheat sheet" for the second day. BAD decision.
We started more or less in Sync. But then I missed three shots between the first 2 "balconies" (in Metallic Silhouette, each animal is a "balcony" from the old layout of silhouette shooting matches where the shooters were placed atop a raised platform), I lost my rhythm, and Ray finished with good four hits in front of me.
Again, there will always be next year!
Maybe next year I will bring along a DIFFERENT rifle to shoot the Gunslinger and avoid these pitfalls. I DO THINK that using two rifles is not right, but that is just me.
After the Gunslinger, the awards were given out:
I am sure next Year's PAC will be even better than ever. So, make sure you save the date as soon as it is posted. And make sure you prepare well. Shooting FT is always fun, but it is even more fun if bring down most of the FT's
Till next one, shoot straight!