Release 9.0: Phoenix, Arizona, 17 Oct 1999

And it was back to the 5.0 venue, Ben Avery shooting range, on yet another day of perfect Arizona weather. Again about eight people, but a lot more weapons than Atlanta -- my personal short-barrel .45, at least one other .45, three .40s, several 9mm guns, a .22 target pistol, a single-action cowboy-action-shooting revolver, a black-powder muzzle loader, a couple of scoped hunting rifles, an AR-16, and an HK M91 bipod gun.

The HK, set up with sniper sights, was an interesting experience. I generally don't like ring-and-post sights, but these were pretty good. I actually made consistent hits on a target a couple hundred yards downrange, three-quarters of the way back to the berm. The .22 and the AR-16, on the other hand, were not good to me; the .22 started misfeeding after just a few shots, and the AR-16 wouldn't fire at all (some kind of lock-up; the owner concluded lugubriously that it needs a lube job).

The real fun started when the two spinner targets came out. These things have a inverted-U-shaped support that you hammer into the ground; this was easy in the loose, sandy desert soil. The middle, uppermost part of the U threads through a collar with two paddle-shaped wings. One wing is bigger than the other so that at rest the spinner is vertical. But if you hit either paddle with a bullet, the collar will merrily and quite visibly spin around.

We set two of these up at the manufacturer's minimum recommended distance of 25 yards (ricochets off a metal target are no fun to have in your face). At that distance, the orange sticker on the three-inch-wide upper panel is a difficult target for a pistol.

I couldn't hit it with the .22 at all before that rather elderly gun packed up on us. But my trusty .45 proved a different matter. I spent the last four shooting rounds trying to learn how to nail the spinner reliably. This was initially frustrating but big fun; I started out making about one in six shots, and pulled my hit rate up to one in four. One clip I was really in the groove and made three shots out of seven.

I was working on pulling my hit rate up to one in three when one of my shots knocked the spinner support clean out of the ground. Ah well...

The day had one more pleasant surprise waiting. The sun was setting and the range about to close down when Mike Shelton loaded up his black-powder muzzle-loader revolver. We got one shot each. The gun discharged huge showers of gaudy sparks in the gathering dusk.

The day was a great success. We packed up and proceeded to a local Mexican place for dinner.