A hybrid primitive-style match with paper targets is a hit with local muzzleloader club
There are several aspects to “primitive shooting” with our muzzleloading arms. This includes “loading from the pouch” instead of using a shooting box. It certainly includes using a patched round ball rather than the modern elongated bullets. And primitive shooting does include using
targets that are not the typical bull’s eye style, and usually not paper targets.
However, my club recently enjoyed a very good shoot that was primitive in nature, even though all of our targets were paper and they were all shot for what we might call the typical “bull’s-eye” score. I want to illustrate how a primitive match can be held while using paper targets. It is easy and it’s a lot of fun.
A couple of our targets did have scoring rings; it’s hard to get away
from that. And the four targets I’ll mention were all posted at 25 yards
for off hand shooting. Each of the targets will be described and talked
about as the match is covered.
The rifle I used in this match was my Kunz-style .50-caliber flintlock
with the 42-inch barrel. This rifle “got fed” with 50-grain charges of GOEX FFFg powder under .495-inch Speer swaged balls, which were wrapped
in .015-inch prelubed patches from Bridgers Best. The match was for five
shots at four different targets for a total of 20 shots, filling the morning quite nicely.
One thing that worked really well was my rifle’s flint. It was one of the English black flints from Track of the Wolf, selected and put in the gun’s cock just before the match started. All 20 shots were fired without giving that flint any attention, other than to “check the edge” by feeling its sharpness with my fingertip, carefully. No knapping was needed or necessary and my rifle spoke with good, fast ignition for all shots fired.
THE FIRST TWO targets I posted were the “turkey” and the “tin can.” I selected the turkey as my first target mainly because it seemed to be the largest, giving me something that was easy to see. That turkey target also had a white bull’s-eye “aiming point” in the middle. The tin can target was posted next to it.
That turkey target had circular scoring rings that have no relation
to the turkey, other than starting somewhat in the middle. The scoring
rings do not refer to any kill zone and they basically ignore the head or heart of the turkey. You could miss the turkey and possibly still receive a score (of 6) for that missed shot. If we were hunting, we would certainly consider putting a hit where bagging that turkey would be a rather sure thing.
My first shot did not give me a “dot in the white,” which I could have seen from the firing line, so I could only guess that it was in the black part of the turkey. That first shot might have been the 8, which hit slightly high, but that is just a guess. With my second shot, I could see a hit in the white bull’s-eye, which told me to just keep
goin’ without any changes.
NEXT, OF COURSE, was the “tin can,” which had been posted right beside my turkey target. This picture of the tin can, or “beer can” as it is called on the target, has scoring lines around it, but our scorekeeper made sure every shooter understood that only shots that hit the can would be scored. That takes away a lot of the possibilities for earning points and puts us closer to the “hit or miss” conditions of more primitive shoots. And that tin can is smaller than the common size, only measuring 2½ inches wide by 4½ inches tall. It’s a good target, for sure, and shooting at it is certainly different from shooting at a bull’s-eye target.
Hits couldn’t be seen while shooting at the tin can. At the same time, while I was shooting, I couldn’t see any hits “in the white” beside the
can, so that was a good indication and I just kept shooting. I’d fired four of my shots at this target when our scorekeeper called out to see who wasn’t finished. I had one shot to go and the others were waiting for me to shoot before a cease fire would be called so we could change our targets.
That really didn’t make me hurry but I will always believe that the “high 10” on my target was my last shot. When we went forward to change
our targets, my group on the tin can delighted me, to say the least. My
score of 50-4X was the top tin can score for the day, but my partner Bob
DeLisle was barely one point and one “X” behind. We were both doing some
rather good shooting, but the match wasn’t over yet.
DURING THE CEASEFIRE, I pulled my turkey and tin can targets and posted the buffalo and the crow. Like my first two targets, these two were posted side by side and I shot the buffalo first.
The buff alo might qualify for being the most primitive of the targets we used in this match. The buffalo is black, of course, and it is divided into scoring areas, but not scoring rings.
The scoring areas are relative to the areas where a shot should be placed for a good kill, if this was on an actual hunt. Like an actual hunting target, there is no aiming point or bull’s-eye on this buffalo. A shooter still needs to be selective with shot placement, just as if
those shots were made while hunting.
The most difficult target of these four was certainly the crow. This crow was only 2¾ inches tall through the body, and while it did have scoring rings, the high score area was not in the middle. The 10-area was slightly forward of the thickest part of the crow, which meant that the best aiming point was not where most of us would automatically hold our sights.
And those scoring rings were only partial rings; only shots that hit
the crow would earn any points. Bob and I both saved this target for last and we shot at our crows at the same time. After I had fired my
first shot at the crow, Bob signaled to me with his fingers that I had hit slightly high and to the left.
When I fired my second shot, Bob held two fingers together, meaning that I had doubled (to shoot through or near the same bullet hole) or nearly doubled my first shot. After my third shot, Bob held three fingers together. That went on for all five shots and my shooting at the crow target gave me my best group of the day. Bob’s crow target was also very good, with a group that was close in size, if not smaller and “better centered” than mine, which gave him two more points. Bob and I were the
only shooters who scored over 40 on this tough target.
WELL, THAT’S HOW OUR little match went. I just wanted to show how a paper target match could lean toward the primitive side of shooting traditional muzzleloaders. It’s a lot of fun. Enough fun to be thought of as more relaxing than stricter bull’s-eye shooting, as well as being inviting enough to bring some new shooters into our circle. Let’s hope these “fun matches” bring in some new faces.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT