There is just something about time with a .22 that non-shooters simply don't get. The proper term is probably "soul food", but somehow that doesn't quite seem right at the same time. And I suppose it hardly matters. Those who get it, will just nod knowingly, and those who don't, won't. (Those who want to get it, should of course contact someone who does, because that can be arranged, usually with considerable enjoyment by all involved.)
Yesterday I got a couple of hours to try out a local shooting site for the first time since landing in Homer. It's possible that I owe several apologies to various deities for the unconscionable length of that interval, but times have been really tight and we've certainly been busy with the wee miss (who just turned 18 months and is a total blast) over the last year. "Begin again," as they say in Guitar Craft, and that's what I did.
It rained on me, on occasion hard, but hey, it rains in Homer sometimes and that's no excuse not to train. It being a new venue for me, I figured that much of the time would be spent figuring out what sort of targets to use and how to place them. This place is clearly used for plinking pretty regularly and some things are fairly well thought out already. I learned a lot about how to use the space, and fortunately I think with just a little attention, targets should be pretty simple, with a couple options for working at 100-150 yards and a lot more at 50 and under. Actual training sessions--not requiring chronography or super-exact range estimation--should quickly become very fast to set up. The only big drawbacks are that you do have to be careful where you hit the ground hard (as remarkably clean as the place is, there still is some occasional glass and other pokey things around), and I do need a place where I can shoot at 300. I'll keep looking for the latter, and for the former a little judicious location-shopping and/or a good mat should work for the deck-hitting drills.
I tried out some new ammo for the Kimber 1911 rimfire. Although I have never in my life owned any other .22 that was picky about its ammunition, people swore up and down that I should try some CCI Mini-Mag (with its plated bullet) to improve functioning in the Kimber. So, I picked some up and I will say that it was much better than with brick ammo, but still with too many failures to fully chamber (approaching 1 in 10) and the occasional hangup with too steep an angle of entry into the chamber. Frankly, I suspect this pistol just has a too-tight chamber and if I can find someone to ream it out another thousandth or two and polish out the juncture between the feedramp and the chamber proper, I'll have a fully reliable piece to work with. (It would be a little different if these were the sort of malfunctions that you could reasonably clear like you would with a centerfire, but...uh...no.) That said, it was really nice to have this gun running as well as it did; if I can get it to run like the .45 does or even close to it, this will be just exactly the training piece I wanted it to be. Hammers? Check. Ride the disconnector? Check. Hits right where I look? Oh yeah, and man, but those Bo-Mar style sights are nice.
I was pleased to find out that my skills have not deteriorated as badly as I'd feared. Turns and tracking greater than about 60 degrees were a little rusty, but the hits were still there. I used a rock to simulate holding Sabre for strong- and weak-hand-only pairs, and was happy with that. I still need to get a good solution for barricade drills, but fundamentals first!
I also brought the Henry lever .22 with me, and of course this was an absolute delight. That rifle has (touch wood) never, ever malfunctioned on me, and with the little tang-mounted ghost-ring rear sight that Bob Parker installed for me back in Lakewood, it's as accurate as I am, and as fast as I am. Snapshots were a dream, even in the pouring rain. I focused on basic snaps, multiple-target drills, and the "rice paddy prone" position for longer shots. (I confess, I did not work on sitting and prone; this was partly the rain and also partly that this rifle does not wear a Ching Sling. Those two positions only come into their own when my arm is solidly locked to the piece. Next time, I'll have the Scout with me too, and will run the Rifle Bounce drill...rain or shine.)
At the end, to verify, I ran a two-target drill with the .45 and another with the Airweight J. Results were gratifying; although that J is the hardest-kicking gun I own (by a sight) and I always suffer blast marks on my thumb (because my thumb is trained to go high and winds up sitting right by the blast shield), you do not notice it until after the action is over, and the hits are right there. With the .45, of course, they're right there much faster, much more pleasant, and possible much farther out. Either way, it's nice to know that multiple hits still follow hard on the heels of the signal--which frees me up to focus much more on awareness, and the preferred outcome of avoiding the fight in the first place. (I don't know about you, but that's why I train.)
All in all it was great fun, and also educational, and also comforting. Lots of notes taken, and actually I learned that I do still have two holes in my shooting battery--at least my training battery. In these tough economic times, training with .22 makes more sense than ever (especially in the same leather gear), and I suspect that it wouldn't take too many sessions like this for a new .22 to pay for itself in the cost of ammo savings. (Yesterday, I ran 250 rounds through the two .22s, five through the J, and four through the .45--and got the results I wanted.) So, a Smith Airweight J in .22 (the model 317 AirLite is the likely candidate) and a Ruger 77/22 or CZ 452 bolt rifle with Ching Sling and either Scout Scope or ghost-ring sight, would give me the trainers for DA revolver and bolt rifle to match the Kimber rimfire 1911.
And hell, if nothing else, training with .22 removes the anxiety about finding all the empties for reloading! :-)