As his readers by now must have guessed, the RRR loves the sport of competitive pistol shooting. Shooting and archery are about the only sports where middle aged and older men can compete with, and even excel over younger athletes. Unfortunately, almost all shooting events are held on Sunday and if I went as often as I wished I would never get to go to church. But I allow myself one Sunday each year to skip going to church or preaching and participate in the Iowa Reserve Law Enforcement Officer's Association shooting tournament.
For the last couple weeks I've been practicing. Competitive shooting is different from the regular police weapons qualification in that the target has a bullseye with graduated rings of varying scores, each getting larger and each time larger, a lower score. The tiny oval in the middle is 10 points, the next 9, then 8, then 7. Any hits outside the 7 ring gives no points at all.
I set the alarm for 0430 this morning and cleaned and oiled the guns I was to use for competition and organized my gear. At 0530 I awakened Mrs. RRR so she could get ready and go with me. It was almost 0700 when we left for the Big City and the tournament. We arrived and met with my fellow officers and their wives. John, Roger, and I were Team 1; Jeff, Doug, and Randy were Team 2. We were in competition with the eight best teams in the state and in all, 45 individual shooters, representing the best Reserve Officer shooters in the State.
The first match was the individual shoot for semi-automatic pistols. I used my beloved old .45 Colt and went up to the line. All the “strings”, as each group of shots is called are timed to make the shooting more realistic of real life situations. The first string was from 75 feet. We had 65 seconds to draw our gun from the holster, drop to the ground and shoot 6 shots from behind a barricade with our strong hand, reload the gun, rise to one knee and shoot from behind the other side of the barricade with the weak hand, reload again, and fire standing with the strong hand back on the right of the barricade.
For the next stage we had 6 seconds to run from 75 feet out to 45 feet, draw and shoot twice holding the gun two handed, then wait and have 3 seconds to shoot twice more, then wait again and two more and yet again 2 more. Then we had 20 seconds to run up to 21 feet, draw and shoot 6 times, reload, and shoot 6 more.
Lastly we had 20 seconds to run up to 15 feet, draw and shoot 6 times with just one hand, reload, and shoot 6 more with just the other hand.
There were 50 shots fired, each with the possibility of 10 points, so the highest possible score was 500. I shot 453, the best I've ever done. It was the second best in my division, fifth best over all. I walked back to the bleachers and hugged Mrs. RRR. Life was good. After the rest of the semi-auto shooting was done, it was time for the revolver shoot. This time I used my wonderful old Smith and Wesson, also a .45 caliber. It was a gift from Grandpa Ranger years ago. As it is a revolver, it can't be easily reloaded like the Colt auto can. It uses “full moon clips” which are star shaped metal pieces that each hold 6 cartridges in the same configuration as the cylinder in the gun. After shooting 6 shots, I swing the cylinder out, punch the ejection lever that dumps the 6 empties onto the ground, place another loaded clip of 6 rounds in, slap the cylinder shut and fire again.
The revolver shoot followed the same pattern as the semi-auto. I knew I hadn't done as well when it was finished, but was surprised to see that neither had those in my division and I had come in first! Then we fired the team match where Roger, John, and my scores would be added up for an aggregate. It was 60 shots instead of 50 and even more complicated with different firing positions and situations. While I didn't shoot as well as I had in the individual match, I did quite well and our team won 3rd place in the state. Our total score was almost 1600 out of a possible 1800. We all came home very pleased.
Lastly was the off duty shoot. This is a shortened version of the first two done with little short barreled “back-up” guns that officers carry hidden to use as the last resort when all else fails. I had borrowed a tiny .38 caliber Colt with a barrel less than 2 inches long from Grandpa Ranger. It has to be loaded one shell at a time to start with then reloaded with gadgets called speed loaders which hold the cartridges in the right position and drop the new ones into the cylinder when everything is done exactly right. I did not excel with the borrowed revolver, but did make a passable showing for using an unfamiliar weapon in a match I've never tried before. The most important thing is that it was fun. I got to compete with some of the best in the field, out shoot many of them and enjoy the comraderie.
Best of all, I had my most enthusiastic fan, Mrs. RRR there to watch me do it. We drove home and she made a delicious tuna salad to celebrate.
You won't see the results on ESPN or in the sport pages of the newspaper, but there are some very happy deputies in our county tonight