Archive for July 28th 2008

That night, as I drifted off to sleep, I decided to watch the movie “Quigley Down Under” once again. In it, Quigley, a Wyoming cowboy who has answered an Australian rancher’s advertisement for the world’s best long range rifle shot, clobbers a 17-inch bucket 3 times at 550 yards with his Sharps 45-110 and iron sights. Later, Quigley angers his would-be employer, is savagely beaten, and two henchmen are assigned to leave him for dead in the blistering heat of the outback. He manages to kill one of the bad guys and recover his rifle as the other attempts to escape in a buckboard wagon.

As Quigley swings his Sharps around, lining up on the man in the buckboard, I saw it: the front sight on the Sharps. It’s hooded, and inside the hood is a thin pin with a small round bead on top. It shows up only briefly on the screen, but it’s unmistakable. Then something clicked in my memory: a vague recollection that some extra sight inserts were included with the R1.

The next morning, I unearthed the paperwork that came with the R1, and a small plastic packet containing extra sight inserts tumbled out. Carefully, I opened it. One of the inserts was a circle of metal enclosing a narrow pin with a tiny metal disk on top – a Quigley sight.

The post-and-bead Quigley sight on the R1.

In tests on one-inch kill zones at varying distances, the pin-and-disk front sight proved excellent. At any range from 10 to 35 yards, just put the disk over the kill zone and cut loose. Most of the shots were hitting home. But would it work as well in actual field target competition, where the range to the target varies from 10 to 55 yards, and the size of kill zones may run from a squeaky 3/8 inch to 1.5 inches?

There was only one way to find out – the New York State Field Target Championships were the following weekend, and I determined that I would enter the Hunter Class to see what would happen. It struck me that the challenge would be very much in line with the marksmanship of Matthew Quigley: attempting high-accuracy shooting at unknown targets at unknown ranges with iron sights.

It turned out that the concentric circles of the peep sight, the front hood, and the tiny disk on front sight pin made it easy to line up on the round kill zones of the targets. My first shot on the sight-range was at a spinner the size of a quarter at 30 yards. Whack! – the spinner was rotating furiously. Whack! – the R1 clobbered the dime-sized small spinner next to it. I tried some closer targets; no problem.

The match itself was great fun, largely because I was freed from the need to close-focus a scope, adjust an elevation knob or decide which mil-dot to use. For most of the shots, all I had to do was aim dead-on and squeeze the trigger, and for the really long ones, I had to hold over just a bit. Checking later with the Match Director’s rating of target difficulty, I found I was able to down over 60% of the easy targets, 40% of the moderate targets, a third of the hard targets and a third of the expert targets. Overall, I “killed” 52% of the targets. The highlights of the day were dropping three targets at over 50 yards and “threading the needle” on some close targets with small kill zones. In the end, I finished in first place in the Hunter Class, with a score that would have taken third in the overall piston class.

Your Humble Correspondent in the heat of battle.

One thing in particular sticks out in my mind now – a 54-yard shot at an inch-and-a-half kill zone. A buff-colored target surrounded by autumn leaves, it was hard to see. I glassed it with 10x binoculars, getting a decent sense of where the kill zone was. I took aim, held one front-sight-disk-diameter high over the kill zone, and squeezed the trigger. I looked again. Now I was really having trouble seeing the target. “Is it down?” I asked. My brother-in-law grabbed my binoculars, focused on the target, and said something that implied strongly that I enjoyed canine blood from my mother’s side. He hauled on the line that pulled the target upright again. I took aim, shot and it dropped once again. I was amazed at how easy it was to hold steady and shoot accurately with this sight setup.

This small experiment proved that iron sights still do work. With sights that sit close to the centerline of the bore and a high-velocity air rifle like the Beeman R1 (which, with the exception of the Daisy peep sight, was just as it comes from the factory), the result is an extremely flexible and accurate combination that can be used for competition, hunting or emulating Matthew Quigley in some small way.

Maybe you could give it a try — you know you want to!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

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