The Pickering Chronicles #2 – Beginning A Journey
“It’s like algebra, that’s all. I just have to figure it out, step by step.”
― Hollis Seamon,
That BB gun was a challenge to begin with. I had to start closer up and slowly work my way back to 15 yards. Then I had laser eye surgery and all of a sudden I had distance vision. I could see the target! Finding the rear sight became a new challenge.
I began to teach myself to shoot. I worked with my uncle to learn to hold a rifle properly and build muscle memory. Advisors told me to get a real firearm and go to the next level of preparation for an African hunt. It was suggested that I get a .22 first, then get a 30-06 and do some hunting in North America.
I went to a gun show and, ignoring all advice, bought a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 plus a crate of surplus ammo. The rifle and the ammo were CHEAP. Readers of these Chronicles will soon identify this unifying theme (CHEAP) throughout the development of my hobby. Of course I had to take the rifle apart and clean it up. Doing so reminded me of the engine rebuild I did on my first Volkswagen. For that I bought a book called “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive,” tore the engine all apart and learned how it worked. Disassembling the 91/30 was a similar experience. It was the beginning of my appreciation for the magnificent engineering that goes into the design and building of a firearm.
I bought a second 91/30 in order to re-do all the woodwork on it — not restore, but refinish the way I wanted it done. That led me to a kind of a mini-hobby working on stocks. I’ve done perhaps a dozen rifles now, for myself and for friends.
I made this Monte Carlo stock from rosewood before I gave my old BB gun to my grandson.
My son came up from the States and I sought a place for us to shoot. At that time I had not joined a gun club (too cheap to do so!). I found a ranch property in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just short of an hour from our house and spoke to the owners. My son and I visited the place and I fell in love with the land. It is on 5 quarter sections that ramble over terrain that changes from prairie grasses at 3,000 feet above sea level to aspen forest to alpine meadow at over 6,000 elevation. The owners also manage another 5 adjacent quarter sections for another property owner. The cattle are only moved there in mid-summer and left to graze until late fall or early winter. At the time we went shooting, we were the only souls on the property. Imagine: 2-½ square miles to roam in, with complete privacy.
I contacted the owners to meet them face to face. Glen and Kelly were more than gracious and told me I could shoot on their property (called Timber Ridge) any time I liked. They gave me the secret password to access the cabin on the property any time I wanted. That was about six years ago; we have over that time become fast friends.
The 91/30 was fun to shoot, but it had a recoil. My uncle helped me buy a bolt action .22 and a 30-06. More education for me: the .22 didn’t kick AT ALL compared to the 91/30.
Purchase of my first box of 30-06 cartridges was a shock! This was a few years back, when 22lr prices were outrageous; compared to 30-06, though, they were pretty cheap. But compared to the cost of 1,000 BBs — I realized I had been spoiled rotten.
Another thing I discovered was that I am not comfortable shooting with a scope. The 30-06 came with a scope. Impulsively, I bought a fairly cheap scope for the 22. It was a waste of money. First, surprisingly enough, the cheap scope was just that: CHEAP! More importantly, my vision is such that having one eye focus through the scope and the other eye looking at the unmagnified target proved to be difficult for me. Hence, I am for iron sights all the way. I don’t own a rifle scope any more.
Much of my practice was with the 22. I found the price of factory 30-06 ammo steeper than I was willing to spend just practice shooting, so I began to shoot the 91/30 with surplus ammo more and more. Then I discovered the SKS. Lesser recoil than the 30-06 and more like a 30-30 was very comfortable for me. I could shoot 50-100 rounds and not feel beat up. Also, more cheap ammo.
In the meantime in lousy weather or on any day I could not get out to the ranch, I continued to shoot my BB gun. I developed enough skill with it so that I could split a playing card on edge from 12 yards, standing freehand.
About three years ago we were visiting relatives in Washington State. Listening to me whine about the cost of shooting, my uncle took me down to his reloading bench and led me through the process of reloading some 30-06 rounds. We talked about the equipment needed, powders, etc., etc. The information entered one ear and most of it spilled out the other ear. However shooting one of the rounds I had actually reloaded myself was a real treat — very satisfying.
I began collecting more and more rifles. I had no handguns as they are designated “restricted firearms” in Canada. In order to own one each individual requires another full day firearms course, membership in an approved shooting club, and a fistful of paperwork. Failure to keep the paperwork handy for the RCMP can qualify the owner to enjoy a 5 year prison term. This ain’t Montana, fellas.
Over time I built up a respectable collection of firearms. After watching most of you birds on YouTube I decided it was time.
Time to learn to reload. . .
Find the entire series here: The Pickering Chronicles
If Uncle Jim were a few years younger, he’d be old enough to be Thomas’s son! Nevertheless, Thomas enjoys hunting, freehand shooting, and reloading. He’s looked for challenges all his life and continues to seek them out. He agrees that everything goes better with Loads of Bacon!