Palouse Practical Shooters '98 Invitational Boomershoot
This was, in general terms, a dynamite shoot, although, technically, we didn't shoot at dynamite. It was a mixture of ammonium nitrate, diesel, and potassium chlorate. See Reactive Targets and Blanchard Blast for more background info.
There was a charge of $30.00 per shooter.
A group of people with rifles shot at a bunch of pop cans filled with high explosives. There were 68 of these very reactive targets. There was one target per shooter at about 270 yards mounted on an IPSC target. One target (total, not per person) at 825 yards mounted on an IPSC target with a prize of $25.00 for the person to hit it (if any). And the remaining targets distributed approximately as follows: 70% of the targets between 300 and 500 yards, 20% between 500 and 600, and 10% between 600 and 700 yards. Hitting a pop can at 500 yards is not easy. Even at 300 yards it is an interesting exercise. But there are people and rifles that can do it, even at over 1000 yards. We didn't have a 1000-yard range, but 800+ yards was interesting enough for this time and this group of people.
We shot almost due west and since it was morning and early afternoon during the shoot and with heavy clouds most of the day there was no problem with the sun. It still required good optics and sharp eyes. For future shooters I recommend a >= 10 X scope. A 6 or 8 X might get you the stuff closer than 400, but you'll be much happier with 10 X or greater.
This really is a team event. If you don't have a partner, don't worry, you can match up with someone on the day of the shoot, but plan on spending an equal amount of time spotting for someone as well as shooting.
Please keep in mind this was an invitational only event for more than one reason. The reasons are: 1) I wanted a small number of people so I wouldn't have to make hundreds of targets, 2) I wanted people I could trust to be safe without watching them every second, 3) I wanted people that would be tolerant if there were some glitches and things didn't go as smoothly as one would hope -- this is a very experimental event and there are bound to be some things that need to be improved.
It depends on how good you are to a certain extent, but probably you should plan on bringing about 100 rounds of ammo. Maybe more. My first dynamite shoot I shot 51 rounds then we got rained out. In the second event I shot over 100 before my shoulder gave out. At the '98 Boomershoot there were people that shot over 200 rounds.
First, I would like to thank all the people that helped. Paul and Tammy showed up early and helped put out targets. Tim, Dana, Doug and Alan helped get people out to the shooting site and back to their cars at the end of the day. Sam, Steve, and Jon helped dispose of the left over targets at the end of the day and endured a very late night arrival back in the Seattle area because of it. The shooters were pleasant and were quite cheerful throughout the entire event despite having some very adverse conditions to put up with.
It rained off and on throughout the day and it made access and shooting difficult. I think that if the weather looks marginal a day or so ahead of time we should cancel it next time.
There were five shooters from the Microsoft Gun club, one team (one a shooter, one a spotter) from Clarkston, WA, and one person from the Cavendish area. And then the crew of Joe Huffman (range master and organizer), Doug Huffman, Amy Huffman, Kim Huffman-Scott, and Alan Lansing.
The target area looked like this:
Main Target Area.
In the foreground there are seven white spots, which are IPSC targets with a pop can attached in the middle of the lower A-zone. They are at about 270 yards from the firing line. There was one target for each of the seven shooters (actually there were eight shooters including me, but at the time we set up the IPSC targets I didn't know Tammy was going to be shooting too). There are four red dots on the picture (edited into the picture) where there are reflectors at 400, 500, 600, and 700 yards from the firing line. There were 68 cans on the range with the distribution approximately as indicated in the description of the event.
The 825-yard target.
In the very center of this picture there is a white dot, which is the 825-yard IPSC target (with pop can) and a reflector. This would slightly overlap the upper left of the main target area picture above. No one was able to hit the 825-yard target although one or two shooters did take a number of shots at it. There were 15 holes in the paper.
The first cans to be hit were the ones on the IPSC targets closest the firing line. Here is a video of the First Cans. Although the video has been edited to be only nine seconds this actually took several minutes. The first target took three shots to get, which was much less than the average.
There was some concern in the beginning because the cans appeared to be hit without detonating. It turned out this was probably not the case. If the cans were hit 'solid' they did go off. Some cans had holes in them from grazing hits, and bullet fragments which let in water from the rain and some these failed to go off. But to the best of my knowledge there were none that were known to be dry, got a solid hit and failed to detonate. But early on I was very concerned and was considering our options, such as moving closer or walking the field to 'stalk' them. But here is what one of the shooters had to say about it: Worth It. Still, I think the chances of the cans out at 500+ yards detonating will be very slim with the current mixture. Future events will have more sensitive targets.
At about 3:00 PM I decided it was time to start cleaning up. Three of the Microsoft Gun Club Shooters, Doug, and I went out into the field to finish off the cans. Probably over half of them were still out there. We shot them from a standing or kneeling position from about 75 to 100 feet away. One brave (or foolish) MicroSerf tried shooting from even closer with his pistol. He got a couple solid hits on the cans, but it did not detonate. The velocity was just too low.
March 27, 1999. Dana (and Tim) gave me some pictures of that she took. Here are the better ones. Thanks Dana!
Jim (with the rifle) is the guy that really dominated the shooting this time. He got the first can on about his third shot. And continued to take them out faster than anyone else.
Left to right: Tim is watching, Tammy is spotting for Paul and Jim continues to nail the cans as Alan, I, and Doug watch the action.
Jon, Sam, and Steve from the Microsoft Gun club attempt to cover their gear as the rain and wind comes in.
Tim offers Tammi and Paul a dry spot in Howard (their vehicle) as the rain approaches.
I was able to arrange for hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks to be available for sale. Amy Huffman and Kim Huffman-Scott supplied these. They put on their food sale despite some very adverse conditions.
There are no bathroom facilities. We can probably dig a crude latrine down over the hill behind some trees for future events, but it won't be the most elegant solution.
There is excellent cell phone service at this location.
The event is completed. It was held October 4th, 1998.
Status as of October 1, 1998:
I have most of the chemicals ground up and pre-measured. Final mixing will be on site, the day of the shoot. Tomorrow (Friday) I will be doing site preparation with the weed eater, etc. Be sure and bring tarps to lie down on, or shooting benches. Sandbags, bipods, whatever will be your responsibility as well.
The sign for the turn off from Cream Ridge Road is 20" x 30" and is bright yellow. It will have black lettering that will say "PPS Boomer Shoot".
Weather reports are mixed at this point. I have one report that says it will snow in Moscow on Sunday, another says partly cloudy in Pullman (8 miles from Moscow). Another says showers in Orofino. In any case it will not likely be terribly hot. Rain gear may be appropriate...
Lunch will be available on site. Hamburgers and/or hot dogs, probably a fruit salad, chips, and soft drinks will be available. I haven't heard what the price will be yet. It probably will be something in the $5.00 range.
Status as of September 28, 1998:
I mixed up some explosives and let them sit for 72 hours. I then tried to detonate them. It appeared that the sensitivity decreased with age. I had difficulty getting them to detonate. It is possible that it was due to slightly changed mixing procedures instead of the aging. More tests will be required to know for certain. In any case, here is the data for planning purposes.
Bullet diameter in the table below was 0.311, 123 to 125 grains (7.62 x 39 ammo), the velocity is the estimated velocity at the target:
This contrasts with a fresh batch (with slightly different mixing procedures) of 50% success with 2060 fps with the FMJ bullets as above, and 100% success with 2460 fps BTHP (168 grain Sierra Match Kings out of a 30.06). Also, in one out of one shots on September 2, 1998, with a .223 having a target velocity of approximately 2864 fps with a 55-grain bullet we had a detonation. At this time, if I had to guess, I would guess that velocity is the critical parameter in getting a detonation. And furthermore, one should have a target velocity of > 2100 fps to achieve detonation even with optimal mixes. Hollow point bullets may help some.
In any case, it answers the safety question if the mixture is stored for a day or two. I suspect the real issue is the mixing and I will attempt to address it before the shoot. If not, we can change the rules of the game if we end up with a bunch of failures to detonate with the mix we use.
Status as of September 23, 1998:
I did some more tests on the explosive mixture. I am convinced I have a relatively safe to manufacture mixture. I mixed some up and tried burning it in a fire (I was about 90 yards away). It did not explode; only burn vigorously -- enough to fuse the ground into crude glass/pottery type stuff. Also, I was not able to detonate it with a .22 rifle. I got several good hits without results. Then one hit from the 30.06 set it off.
I still need to do a few more tests. 1) Mix some up and try to detonate it from about 400 yards away. Will the 30.06 bullets have enough velocity to do it, or do I need to make the mixture a bit more sensitive? 2) Mix some up, seal it as it will be in normal use and let it sit out in the field for a few days. Will it still detonate? Will it still be insensitive to a .22? Or will a grasshopper kicking the can set it off?
Status as of September 21, 1998:
I put up red reflectors (about 3.5 inches in diameter) at 400, 500, 600, 700, and 825 yards. The terrain is rather rugged and there wasn't a good location for anything at 800 yards.
With the naked eye, I cannot see the 400-yard reflector. With the 6 X optics in the range finder and knowing where it is, I can find it if I look carefully. The 500 yard reflector is really tough. The 600-yard reflector is just almost completely invisible. The 700-yard I could only find it by scanning with the range finder and looking for the strong signal being bounced back. I could not see it at all even with the 6 X optics. The 825-yard reflector I couldn't find from the shooting site. From the 825-yard mark looking back to the shooting site I had a reflector outlined on the top of a hill and the sun at my back. I could see it with the optics.
There is a lot of dead Star Thistle on the ground and I will try to get the weed whacker out there next week. But even so, you should bring a tarp or something to put down on the ground if you plan to shoot prone. You probably should also bring sandbags or something similar (bipod, etc) to shoot from. I may bring a table or two, but there won't be enough room for everyone to shoot from my tables.
I received my order for 20 pounds of Potassium Chlorate today. My pop can collection is running ahead of schedule. All the materials for the explosives storage facility (to ATF specs) have been ordered and it should be built by this time next week. There is still lots more to do, but I think everything will be ready.
There isn't a real close city with weather forecasts available, but I expect the weather will be somewhat similar to that of Lewiston, Moscow, Pullman, and Orofino. Currently (September 30th) the weather forecast is for cloudy with a high in the low 60's. Should be good, as long as the rain/mud from the previous day has dried up.
Email: Joe Huffman