At this shoot, the targets talk back; Long-range marksmen
gather at Cavendish to take part in an unusual type of rifle
CAVENDISH -- Instant gratification. That's what
participants in the Palouse Practical Boomer were after
The 40 or so shooters spent the better part of the day
hunched over rifles or lying prone on the ground while peering
through scopes and squeezing triggers.
The sporadic pop, pop, pop of gunfire rolled over the lush,
green farmland. Less sporadically, a dust devil of smoke and
water vapor rose from the ground, followed by a low thumping
The explosion signals a hit on one of the half-pint milk
cartons containing an explosive mixture of ammonium nitrate,
potassium chlorate and various types of fuel.
The shock of that boom and the lingering poof of smoke is
an uncommon reward for target shooters accustomed to the more
mundane reward of piercing paper targets. It is also the
instant gratification they seek.
"It's a world of difference from shooting a hole in a piece
of paper," said Richard Frailey of Spokane
The shooters were reaching out between 200 and 700 yards to
hit the targets. At that distance shooting often becomes a
"You are just over it," said Bill England of Lewiston,
while staring through a spotting scope. "Your windage is good,
England was helping another shooter determine how close his
shot came to hitting a target by reading wisps of dust kicked
up by his bullets.
Successful shots are tough to come by at that range. Throw
in a gusty wind, and even experienced shooters with finely
tuned rifles have a tough time.
"It's humbling. You think you are pretty good and then
...," said Ry Jones of Moscow, who was helping run the shoot.
"It is exceedingly long range. Most people miss at the gimme
range -- 200 yards."
As an organizer of the event, Jones has had plenty of
opportunities to shoot and hit the exploding targets. He
helped Joe Huffman of Moscow put on the event and experiment
with different explosive mixtures. Through the course of
experimenting, he took advantage of the chance to touch
hundreds of the targets.
"I still enjoy connecting," he said. "There is a real sense
of accomplishment when you hit one of those guys that is out
there mocking you."
About 95 shooters will participate in the two-day event,
which wraps up Sunday. A nonexplosive long-range shooting
clinic is being held today.
Huffman defined the shoot as an example of the psychology
of fun. Psychologists, he said, describe fun as meeting a
challenge that is mildly stressful. The challenge of hitting
small targets hundreds of yards away acts as a mild form of
stress, he said. The stress is relieved when the target is hit
and that feeling of relief is what most people call fun,
according to Huffman.
"When they get a hit, they get the thrill of accomplishing
that little task," he said.
In this case, there is a bonus bit of fun when the target
"Putting a hole in a piece of paper is not nearly as
rewarding as hearing the ground shake," said Huffman.
Lee Ellyn Frailey of Spokane loves firing shotguns in trap
and skeet events, but normally doesn't get a thrill from
shooting rifles. But this event is different, she says.
"It's a kick."
Her husband, Richard, heard about the shoot via an e-mail
from a friend who sent a link from Huffman's boomer shoot Web
"Inside of five seconds from getting on the Web page I said
'I need, I really, really need to do this.' "
Lee Ellyn hopes to pick up some shooting tips at today's
clinic. Her husband has given her some pointers but he says
there are some things best taught by someone else.
"If you are married, you understand, nonspousal instruction
is far superior," he said.
Barker may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org