Monday, July 22, 2013

Range Day. An old friend comes out

I got a late start on things today, since I spent much of last night and a good chunk of the early morning hours at a housewarming party put on by some of the folks I work with for one of the crew who bought a new house about a mile from me.

I'm getting too old to shotgun beer after beer with them damned kids. Granted, I showed 'em how it was done, but damn, getting up this morning when Proud Hillbilly pulled in the driveway for a range trip was a bit harder than I remember it being after such sessions.

Anyway, this time, we hit the range and went to work on distance shooting. PH handles her M1 carbine quite well at ranges out to 100 yards, so we decided to hit the long range (200-400 yards) and I broke an old friend out f the safe--a rifle that I cherish dearly but have only fired one other time in the last decade:
It's my Springfield Armory M-1A--one of the very few firearms that I ever bought new in the box. I got it back in 1989, when George Bush Sr. signed off on the first Assault Weapons Ban, and even paying the ridiculous mark-up that the trendy gun shop in Royal Oak Michigan put on their firearms, I still got it for about half of what it would sell for used today. And it's one of the early ones, made with all USGI parts. The only thing that's "Springfield, Inc." on this rifle is the receiver and the stock. It sports a 1961-dated Harrington and Richardson barrel and a TRW bolt and trigger group.
Back when I bought this rifle, I was still living at home and bound by a strict weapons proliferation treaty that my father imposed on me as a condition for having any firearms at all under his roof. I was limited to three long guns--a Ruger 10-22 (which I still have), an old Western Field 12 gauge shotgun, and a beat-up, shot-out old Blue Sky imported M-1 Garand which I'd bought from Woolworths Department Store. The M-1 was a good rifle to learn to handle a rifle with, but it's bore was so worn that it's muzzle would swallow a .30-06 cartridge right up to the bottleneck(!) and it's stock and handguards rattled like a maraca. With that old rifle, I was hard-pressed to hit the target stand consistently at 100 yards, much less produce anything resembling a group. I needed an upgrade, and when the ban hit and prices on everything affected doubled and tripled, I ran out and got the very last M-1A that this shop had. (They also had one each H&K 91 and FN-FAL--actual Belgian, NIB--but I had to have the M-1A.)

This posed a question of what to do with the rifle, since I had not sought nor received permission to increase my arsenal inventory by 33%. And said arsenal at the time was subject to inspection by my father through the simple expedient of mandating that all three approved firearms remain on a three-gun rack on my bedroom wall at all times unless I was actually hunting or target shooting with one. But I was nothing if not sneaky back then, so the rattle-trap Garand disappeared into a hiding place in the basement and the similar-in-appearance M-1A took it's place on the wall rack. Without it's 20-round box magazine, it looked an awful lot like an M-1, and this went without notice or comment for a couple of months, until one day, after handling the M-1A, I made the mistake of leaving it's box magazine in place when I racked it on the wall. That evening, when I came home from somewhere, I was summoned by my father to my room and asked two questions: "Where did you get the M-14 and where's your M1?"
Yeah, my father had served in the Army National Guard back in the Vietnam days and had carried and trained on not only the M-1 Garand--a big factor in my being allowed to own that specific rifle--but also on the M-14 and its heavy-barreled M-15 variant. He hadn't really paid much attention to my rifle rack and the magazine-less M-1A had escaped his notice thus far, but the one day that I left the box magazine in that rifle, it caught his eye immediately. I was busted.

But my dad was really an ok guy, and after a discussion about my bringing the rifle into his house without his approval, and me showing him the DCM marksman-training manuals that I'd bought for it a current Shotgun News ad listing that rifle as now selling for over four times what I'd paid for it (Yes, youngsters, we've had panics and price inflation on firearms before Obama), he realized that I was becoming both a serious shooter and a savvy investor and the three-gun rack became a four-gun rack with the addition of another set of dowel pegs. The M-1 Garand went back on the rack and all four of my authorized firearms remained in plain view from then on. (My Springfield Armory 1911A1 was still hidden in a locking ammo can bolted to the firewall of my F-100 truck out in the driveway though. That one had to wait until the right time later to be "amnestied" into the house. But that story is for another day.)
This M-1A became my target rifle and SHTF weapon, and it was my only serious shooter right up until a fellow named Bill Clinton won the presidential election in 1992, at which time I bought a brand new Colt AR-15A2 HBAR, both as a protest and because I'd lost a bet with my best shooting buddy over that election. (The purpose of the bet was standardization for our shooting trips and survival plans. He was an AR-15 guy. Had I won, he'd have had to but an M-1A.) But by that time, I was out from under my dad's roof and I could and did buy whatever I wanted and could afford.

By this time, I was shooting High Power matches and M-1As were still serious competitors. I took this one all the way to Camp Perry in 2001 and shot the President's 100 with it, and I was never prouder than that day when I shot an 89 out of a possible 100 with it in the 600 meter relay, putting five shots into the 9-ring and three into the 10, with 1X. (The other two were 8-ring hits...and this was in that variable wind that Perry is famous for.) I've never shot that good before (or since) and had I done so well at the 200 meter and 300 Meter stages, I probably would have made the top 100.
Alas, I retired it from competition use in favor of the AR-15, and except for one 200-yard match that I shot with it in 2007 (coming in second place overall), it's just sat in the gun safe waiting for a day like today.

Well today I took it out. It took a bit of fiddling to get it back on target as I haven't shot it since I had my Lasix surgery and I'm just now learning that all of my rifles with a "pre-lasix" zero need a significant windage adjustment to the right. But once fiddled, it was on nicely at 200 yards, so then PH and I fired on two 400-yard targets, and being cocky, I dared her to bet lunch on the result of our firing at 400 yards. Gamely, she took the bet, although I could see that she was already calculating the cost of the meal. But as it turned out, I cranked in too much elevation and all of my rounds were "overs", tearing up the top of the target pretty nicely but impacting above the scoring rings. PH, on the other hand, managed to put a half a dozen of her fifteen or so rounds fired into her scoring rings though, making her the winner. I bought dinner at John's Restaurant.

It was an ignominious start to the renewal of my friendship with this old faithful rifle, but it felt good to shoulder it and sight it and caress that once-familiar trigger again. I suspect that I'll have it back out again before too long. I didn't realize until today how much I've missed it.


  1. Practically green with envy, here. She's a beaut!

  2. DAY-UM!

    I have *always* wanted one of those!

    Since it's an early one, I guess it has the forged receiver?

    Now I'm itching to take my Garand out to the range!

    Busy this weekend, so I'll have to see if I can finagle a day off work so my son and I can hit the range during the week when it's not crowded.

  3. Purty! And those ARE good shooters!!!