....     June 2007 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Black powder at Night by Howdy Doody

What a beautiful sight. Well, it probably isn't for everyone, but there seems to be a growing interest in sending flames, sparks, soot and booms downrange. Sometimes even hitting a target in the process. I think I am hooked and I enjoy it so much that I was able to have a nighttime side match at the recent California State Championships. It was fun to put on and see all the smiling faces. All those smiles and all the grunge on the shooters teeth, convinced me that CAS is not just for daylight, it can be fun after dark too.

There isn't a whole lot to shooting at night. Of course you want to shoot true BP. I noticed some really great flames from a lot of folks and even pyrodex flamed a little bit. It seems to be a contest of whose is longer, flames that is. Getting on target just doesn't seem to be the ultimate goal in this night shooting endeavor. You think targets are hard to see in the daytime? It is really challenging after dark. Having a lot of fun is the main ingredient in making up loads for the night. 

What will work just fine for loading up is the same load as always. I like to make up specials though and although I shoot a lot of cap and ball, I shoot cartridge guns at night. Somehow fumbling around loading a cap and ball in the dark seems a bit too much, although I have thought of it, since I have ROAs and can get about 40gr of good olí Goex in there and smash a ball on top. I have had good results with just loading a full caseload in 45lc and topping with a little lead. By little lead I am referring to the bullet known as the EPP-UG. That is a big lube grooved bullet that works fine to replace a ball in C&B and also sized to .452 works just fine on top of a big case full of powder. No wads, no cookies, just powder and bullet. The recoil is surprisingly light compared to less powder and a 250gr bullet. I use my standard 12ga shotgun load of 43gr of 2F Goex in the shotgun with only 1oz of shot, but my shot is mixed. I mix 7 ½ with 6 in a plastic bowl and try for a 50/50 mix. I use red Winchester plastic wads in my shotguns that are choked cylinder. These shotgun loads work great for me and I can knock down any target and they work on poppers too. I load shotgun shells on a Mec. The adjustable charge bar works super for the bigger charges we use for black powder and I can lock the setting. 

Half of the night shoots I have been to so far have started with a BBQ or pot luck dinner while waiting for the sun to go down. No drinking adult beverages until after the shooting is done and guns put away of course, but it sure builds a lot of camaraderie amongst the BP night shooting crowd. It is about fun after all. One club has a night shooting group known as the Dammit Gang. They even have a logo and all aliases have added to them Dammit. For instance I am Howdy Doody-Dammit. Itís about fun alright.

As for the actual shooting, the steel is set at normal distances and scenarios are the same as you would see anywhere. A Nevada sweep here, a pistol dump there. It is best to keep it simple as possible, since the real challenge is even seeing the targets. We found after the first night shoot that having black targets is a bit too insidious and evil and now lighter colors help a lot. Silver paint works great. Backlighting is great, but not possible everywhere and at every club. Having just one halogen 500-watt lamp directed across the targets works good and having two of them, one from each side works really well. It is important to light the loading and unloading tables too. Try to see if you have the hammer down on an empty with old eyes by kerosene lantern is hard, which prompted me to carry a tiny mag light for doing that and for rummaging around in my gun cart. Clip on work lamps with just an incandescent bulb works really well at the tables. 

Once the guns are staged, it is off to lighting the night after the beep. If any movement is involved between guns, then of course you need to watch your footing. I haven't seen any one have a problem with getting around in the dark yet, but that is where using a little caution would be appropriate.

There is a lot of noise. A lot from the booms of black powder going off at night, but a lot of the noise comes from the whoops and cheers from the bystanders too. It is just one heck of a great time and I hope every BP shooter gets a chance to at least try it once. 

Warning! It is very addictive and probably should come with a warning label. You will find yourself driving long distances and traveling to places you wouldn't normally think of going, just to shoot the night shoot.

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