Whether you like it or not, if you own a semiautomatic rifle, whether it’s a rimfire or a classic such as the Remington 7400, Winchester Model 100 or Browning BAR, as of July 1 it falls within the state of Washington’s definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle.”
That’s only one of the dirty little surprises way too many gun owners didn’t understand when Initiative 1639 was on the ballot last November. From now on, unless a federal lawsuit challenging some provisions of the gun control measure is successful, even your Ruger 10/22 and Marlin Model 60, and similar popular .22-caliber small game rifles, are all “assault rifles.”
Parts of the initiative are being challenged in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, but a ruling may be a long time off, and whichever side loses will likely appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco.
As defined on Page 27 of the initiative – you did read it and vote last November, right? – this is a new class of firearm that, according to Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, never before existed.
“‘Semiautomatic assault rifle’ means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge,” the initiative states.
And more recently the Brady gun control group is raising money to, you guessed it, ban assault weapons.
GETTING ON TARGET
That little housekeeping business out of the way, let’s get on with something far more pleasant. We’ve talked about scopes and optics in recent editions, now let’s do a quick refresher course on how to zero a new rifle or a new scope on your favorite old rifle.
After mounting your scope and getting the crosshairs as level horizontally and true vertically as is possible, head for the range with a supply of ammunition – the same loads you will be using this fall – a couple of sandbags and a spotting scope or binoculars.
Place two targets, one at 25 yards and the other at 100 yards, making certain there’s a good backstop behind them.
We’ll presume you’ve run an oily patch down the bore, so your first shot through a cold barrel will be the fouling shot.
Take aim at the 25-yard target, holding on center, and squeeze one off. Wherever that pill punches a hole, take a long look at it. This will allow the barrel to cool off a bit and if you need to reposition the rifle, take care of it.
For the second shot, zero on the same point of aim as the first round, presumably the X-ring in the middle of your target. Fire that shot. If the second bullet hits the same spot as the first, now it’s time to do some quick math.
A typical rifle scope adjusts one-quarter inch at 100 yards right or left, up or down, with each click of the appropriate knob for windage or elevation. That means four clicks to adjust 1 inch at 100 yards.
However, at 25 yards, you’ve got to crank that knob four times to adjust for a quarter-inch and 16 clicks to move a full inch. Got that?
Let’s say your bullets struck an inch low and 2 inches to the left at 25 yards. Turn your elevation knob 16 clicks up and the windage knob 32 clicks to the right.
Now fire that third shot. If you’re in the bull’s-eye – and you should be or at least pretty darned close – it’s time to shift to the 100-yard target unless a fourth shot is necessary to fine-tune at close range.
At 100 yards off a sandbag rest with a bag under the forend and another one under the buttstock for a firm base, once the rifle barrel is cooled, zero on the bull’s-eye and fire. Odds are you will be a bit high but in the bull or close to it. Now’s the time to remember you will shift your point of impact a quarter-inch with each click of your adjustment knob.
I zero my rifles about 2.5 inches high at 100 yards. With my loads, that lands them on the mark at 200 to 225 yards.
Last fall, I shot a three-by-two mule deer in Central Washington’s Moses Coulee on a pal’s property. The buck was about 125 yards away and unbeknownst to me, the bullet knocked it flat but didn’t terminate.
When I got to the buck to field dress it, the animal got up and I had to finish it off with a head shot from my .41 Magnum revolver.
That brings us around to an important detail. If you carry a handgun while hunting, make sure you can hit something with it. If you pack a .22-caliber pistol for grouse or rabbits, make sure you can accurately hit a target at 25 yards.
Normally shots on small game will be closer than that. I’ve got a Ruger MK IV semiauto with a bull barrel and adjustable sights. It is very accurate with 40-grain lead bullets, and that didn’t happen until I went through about half a box of cartridges.
Now, my .41 Magnum is another matter. This particular specimen has a 4-inch barrel. It’s a Smith & Wesson Model 57, and I keep it stoked with handloads consisting of 210-grain Nosler JHPs ahead of 20 grains of H110 powder over either a CCI large magnum primer or a Winchester large primer.
Last month at the annual Elmer Keith Memorial long range handgun match outside of Spokane, I repeatedly hit a target at 120 yards with that gun and load combination, so bonking that buck at about 15 to 20 yards wasn’t much of a challenge. (There were witnesses.)
I’ve killed two deer intentionally with handguns over the years, and last fall’s was something of a fluke. The rifle bullet, a 165-grainer out of a Savage bolt-action in .308 Winchester, sledged the critter but it turned zombie on me and essentially refused to croak.
Don’t carry a gun that you can’t accurately shoot.
Story and Photos by Dave Workman