Sunday, July 31, 2011

Range Report: Sporting Clays at Black Wing

Last week I received the following email from my brother Big Mike:
I just found out that Blackwing shooting center has a SPORTING CLAYS course. I went shooting this evening (pistol, that is) and got a tour of the clays course. I NEED to shoot the course. My plan is to do so next weekend (the 30th/31st). You want to come down and join me?
What could I do? When your brother needs to shoot a sporting clays course, you cannot in all good conscience allow him to face this challenge alone and unobserved.  So on Saturday morning I threw all my gear along with a change of clothing into the trunk, put my jalopy under me and headed South for a shotgun holiday.

I've written about Black Wing before as a notable part of a Columbus Road Trip, but the sporting clays section is brand new to Black Wing, and the course is impressive.  The Black Wing sporting clays course is fifty shots over ten stands, with each stand displaying a very well thought out scenario.  Every stand features between four to six birds launched in report pairs or natural pairs.  For those not familiar with the terms, a report pair means that a single clay pigeon is launched and as soon as the shooter discharges his firearm the second target is launched.  A natural pair is when both clay pigeons are launched simultaneously.  If you're up to it you can run the course in reverse once you reach station 10 and turn it into a 100 shot course.

Black Wing Sporting Clays Course as Seen From the Parking Lot
I admit that I doubted that Black Wing could construct a decent sporting clays course, but I should have known better.  Black Wing has received a five star rating from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and clearly they are not going to do anything to drop that rating to four or even three stars by putting together a poor quality range.  The photo above is taken from the parking lot.  The two cars are about twenty feet from me.  In the middle ground are the skeet fields.  Beyond the skeet fields is an open field, and in the background you will see a line of trees.  The sporting clays course is in that tree line.

Here is a typical shooting stand.  Range rules dictate that you load your musket once you're in the stand and not before.  Before you leave the stand you must unload your musket, one way or another.

Typical Stand
Stand Electronics
You must get a card at the shooting store before you can shoot the range.  You put the card in the reader (shown here with the card inserted in the reader, just under the LCD) and the equipment counts the birds to the card.  Interestingly if the catapult malfunctions and doesn't throw a bird, no bird is counted.  There must be some sort of sensing device on the catapult, although we didn't examine the equipment closely nor did we pester the staff with a lot of questions.  We only had two instances of a malfunction in the hundred shots.

Station Directions
Every station has a set of directions as to what to expect, which is nice.  You also get to see one bird from each catapult before you have to humiliate yourself shooting at them.  Hey, no sense in not postponing the inevitable, right?  I remember station six because it was difficult and I shot a little better than I expected.

Station 8 - Four Easy Shots
Station 8 is two report pairs flying overhead and out into the field - and safety.  This particular shot is an inevitable scenario on any sporting clays field, and I was glad to find it here.  Any shot-gunner can learn to hit this one in a few tries, as the birds are flying high, directly away from you.  All you need to do is aim under them and remember to keep your barrel moving while you shoot.  I got two out of four, I think.

Bad Luck Station
I wasn't going to include this station, but Big Mike made a disparaging comment about Excellent Rachmaninoff's behavior and ancestry, so here it is.  Big Mike didn't get any of the birds on this particular stand - missed 'em all.  If he'd learn to be nicer to Excellent Rachmaninoff he'd likely have hit a few.

Trap and skeet shooters who are any good at all will have a very humbling experience on this course, particularly trap shooters (who are an anti-social bunch anyway, but what do you expect?).  I shot 33 out of 50, which is a very respectable score.  I think if I had the energy to shoot the course again I'd do better, but not a lot better.  This is an enjoyable course to shoot and combines easy shots with hard ones in a nicely balanced course.  Every experienced shot-gunner who shoots this course should get something - maybe not everything, but something.

Shooting this sporting clays course comes with a few caveats.  First of all, more than half the course is in full sunlight, and this time of year that translates into heat.  I was wearing light clothing, SPF 48 sunscreen and a light hat with a full brim and I still felt the heat.  By the time we hit station 10 I was soaked and Big Mike was feeling the heat.  I suggest you dress to protect yourself from the sun.  Secondly, although there is water located along the course, you should bring your own potables in the form of Gatorade or something similar and have a drink at each station.  Finally, the path connecting the shooting stations is made of rough cut stone, which is no problem if you're wearing hard soled hiking boots (like Mike) but is a major pain in the feet if you're wearing tennis shoes, like I did.  By the the time I got to station 10 I was truly regretting the thought of walking back to the car, parked on the far side of station 1.  Walking that path was painful.

Speaking of the car, when you drive out to the course and park, be sure to park closer to the highway than to the sporting clays course.  Although it is very unlikely, bird shot can reach the parking lot from the course and you'll want your car parked away from the falling shot.

All in all, this is a great sporting clays course.  Even if Big Mike didn't live in Dublin, Ohio I'd make the drive down to Delaware in order to play the course.  I'd just plan for an early start and a long day.


flask said...


Mad Jack said...

Thank you. No, I haven't deduced the identities of the dysfunctional keys on your keyboard. Which keys are they?