June 19, 2013
One of my favorite pastimes is recreational shooting. It’s an excellent opportunity to get away from the bustle of the city and focus on a simple but challenging task. I especially love taking people who have never shot before and introducing them to marksmanship and gun safety.
After graduating from UCSD, I took my good friends Jon and Lewis and gun-hater Melody out to the desert for some wholesome fun. The following is my account of the day.
I woke up early, around 05:30 or so; summer desert trips require early starts. The car was packed the night before, so I just needed to shower and put the ice cream in the cooler. Lewis overslept, so I waited a bit longer before leaving to pick him up. We picked up Melody and Jon and headed over to Golden Donut. We grabbed sandwiches at Vons and departed SD around 07:45. Upon arriving in Ocotillo, we stopped at the Texaco so Melody could go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, it was out of business and looked like something from an apocalypse movie. We drove into town and stopped at one of the small bars there so she could go to the bathroom. After the pit stop, we made our way up to the BLM land that we would be shooting on.
By chance, there was another car, a silver pickup, driving towards Shell Canyon at the same time we were. The pickup arrived at the turn-off just before we did, and took my regular spot. Other than that, we saw no one else on the BLM land that day. We continued down the road and picked a new spot. It was up a river bed, but still easy to access. I was just glad the place had not been closed for restoration. It was pretty warm as we applied our first coat of sunscreen, maybe in the 90’s. We set up the usual ground tarp and chairs, but I also had a folding 10'x10' tent that my parents got me for graduation. The tent was crucial to keeping the heat bearable; between the gentle breeze and the tent’s shade though, it was quite tolerable. We used folding tomato cages for our target stands. I normally use rigid ones, but these were much easier to transport. They were less sturdy and annoying to set up, but worked well enough. I gave the safety brief and we started shooting the .22s.
After an hour or so we switched to the shotgun for some hand-thrown trap. I shot first, then it was Melody’s turn to shoot. I handed her the gun and told her how to load it. While loading the first round, she somehow managed to jam the gun. I have no idea how it happened. The round stuck between the shell lifter and the tube, and I could not move the forearm forward or backwards. I had to do some impromptu disassembly so I removed the barrel and tried to remove the trigger assembly. I didn’t have any punches so I had to use an Allen wrench and part of a cleaning rod to get them out (using a phone book as my hammer). That was the first time I had broken down the Wingmaster before, and I was a little nervous that I would not be able to put it back together. With the trigger assembly out, I was able to remove the stuck round. I put the trigger assembly back in and wanted to make sure I had fixed it so I tried racking the slide. To my surprise the extractor came out, and landed in the dirt. After much trial and error I was able to get the extractor cleaned out and back in the right place. I eventually got the gun back together and there was much rejoicing. We took a break for lunch, after which we resumed trap shooting. None of us are very good, but simply racking the slide is entertaining enough.
We switched to the .30-06 which is a nice change of pace from the other guns. One of my favorite things is watching a new shooter’s face when I show them a .30-06 round. If they’ve only shot .22lr, the change in bullet size results in a priceless facial expression. Mini watermelons were on sale at the 99c store so I bought six of them, and three yellow squash things. I also sprung for the 180gr rounds, which do a real number on hot produce. I started us off and shot some phone books with the surplus rounds, then we rotated through the rest of the shooters. Melody did not want to shoot it at first but we pressured her into doing it anyway. After everyone was warmed up, we put the fruit out and started blasting. I ended up getting a double kill because two were lined up. Once we had killed all the fruit, we switched back to shotgun for some simple speed trials.
We filled up the smaller Gatorade bottles (that we were rapidly consuming) with soda from the larger 2-liters. Then we’d shake them up and set them in a line, spaced a few feet apart. The goal was to shoot three bottles or cans as fast as possible. It was pretty fun but I only bought a few cans, should have brought more. Once we had shot all the bottles and 2-liters, we fooled around with an old tire we found. By the end of all that, we were pretty exhausted and the heat was starting to get to us.
We took a break and ate a large watermelon that I had bought at Costco. We chopped it into quarters and ravenously ate it. We looked like zombies eating brains, shoving our faces in the red flesh. I’m normally not a big watermelon fan but it was probably some of the best tasting watermelon I have ever had. We were super thirsty and it was remarkably juicy. I had only brought Gatorade to drink and had started to regret that by about midday. The Gatorade was satisfying at first, but we were drinking so much that it was starting to become too sweet. Next time, I will bring some plain drinking water.
By the time we were full on watermelon it was about 16:00 so we started to pack up. Melody was feeling faint, likely from dehydration, so she sat down while we finished up packing. We cleaned up all our trash and collected most of the brass, but I should have done a better job of positioning the chairs so that more of it would land on the tarp. Perhaps I will get a bigger tarp. With the car loaded we cranked the AC and drove into town. We stopped at the convenience store to get some water, then departed to SD. When we arrived in SD, I dropped everyone off and unloaded some the gear. Despite being tired and having been together all day, we reunited shortly after for some scrumptious fish tacos and a fine after-dinner coffee.
It was a good day.