29 March 2010

Obscure and Arcane

Mr. Fuzzy has long been accused of being interested in the arcane and obscure (to which he pleadeth nolo contendere); this shooting match which he attended last Saturday is a fine example of the same. Muzzleloading firearms became passe not long after the Civil War (1861-1865) and black powder fell out of use by 1900. Even in remote parts of Southern Appalachia, muzzle loading rifles had largely disappeared by the turn of the century.

One of the few reasons they were kept was for the occassional special shooting match which mandated the use of muzzle loading rifles. Displays of shooting prowess had ben common in the trans-Appalachian region from the mid-1700s. A popular form that is uniquely America is the "over-the-log" or "chunk" match, with its roots in the 1700s that has nonetheless been carried forward without interuption into the 21st century. Without this type of match, where the prizes were fresh meat, muzzle loading rifles and the knowledge of building and shooting them would have vanished forever (see the book Foxfire V for a relevant chapter). A chunk match is perhaps more American than apple pie.

Above, an image, ladies and gentlemen, of the three founding fathers (Mel, Ron, Jim) of this eighteen year old over-the-log match, perhaps the largest single shooting match in the country. Mr. Fuzzy attended the first and second years of this match and enjoyed the shooting and the fellowship immensely. It was such a warm and dare I say "fuzzy" pleasure to see so many old friends again after more than a decade of abstinence. My hat is certainly off to these three fine gentlemen for the thousands of unrenumerated hours they have spent so that the rest of us might enjoy the event.

It is held on the Pall Mall TN, farm of World War I hero Alvin York and involves only muzzle-loading rifles, either flintlocks (which real men prefer) or percussion, shooting round lead balls. There is no restriction otherwise on the rifle. Many have long barrels, in the range of four feet (48 inches), to create a long sighting radius and the hoped-for increase in accuracy.

Shooters tend to be men, of a certain age... handsome and debonair gentlemen in so many cases... about 200 of them...

The match is fired a 60 yard range with all shooters firing their flintlocks or percussion rifles from the prone position, their muzzles resting on a log or 'chunk' of wood (hence the name 'chunk match'). Now, gentle readers, hold on to your mental hats for this detail: each shooter makes up their own target (denominated as "spotter"); there are as many ideas for spotters as there are shooters. To get a better view of these spotters, click on the picture to enlarge it (indeed, you may perform such an act on any or all of these images). The actual target cannot be seen - it is behind the spotter!

There were ten relays for each of the 230 or thereabouts shooters, therefore, the judges had to score 2,300 targets in real time. Scoring is performed using a micrometer to measure the distance of the bullet hole from the center of the "X" - the final score ("string") for all ten relays is the sum of the distance that each hole lay from the center of the "X" - the winner, for the fifth year in a row, had a score of about 4.8 inches meaning that on the average, his ten shots were less than half an inch for the X-center. That's is mighty fine work!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An arcane skill to be sure, but it reinforces admiration for the men (and women) in our past who lived and died by these weapons.