Rimfire at the range

They don’t kick or leave shoulders black and blue. They’re not loud and are highly accurate. Ammunition is affordable too. Enthusiasts agree, shooting .22 rimfire is enjoyable and fun.

Tuesday evening is devoted to the small caliber rifles at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club indoor range. Shooters new or experienced, young and old, take careful aim at small targets. They enjoy the challenge as much as they enjoy helping each other.

“They are competitive but, I’ll tell you what, they will help anybody that wants help,” said Jim Budeau, Logan. “Some will lend you a scope to try or ammunition to use. Anything you ask them, they’ll try and help you.”

Budeau, 69, is a long-time .22 rifle competitor and MRPC range officer for the Tuesday evening shooting sessions. He encourages prospective shooters to give rimfire a try.

“Absolutely. Come up Tuesday nights. If we’re full we’ll find room,” said Budeau. “There’s any number of guys that will sit out just to see new shooters get a start.”

One of the regular Tuesday night shooters is Harland Hayes of Minot. Even at 87 years of age he enjoys the sport and regular practice.

“I’ve got my buddies here and I go shooting all the time. We’ll shoot at Grand Forks, Fargo, Bottineau, Bismarck, all over,” said Hayes while taking a break at the shooting line. “I shoot a lot of the competitions. They don’t go by age. It’s alright to beat the younger guys once in a while.”

Hayes said he began shooting rimfire while growing up in the Stanley and Powers Lake area.

“We shot a lot of jackrabbits and stuff in those days,” laughed Hayes.

Today Hayes concentrates on taking the center out of small circle targets. Good optics are a plus. Scopes that focus down to 50 feet are preferred for the shorter distances shot at indoor ranges. Bolt action .22s are more common than semi-automatics, but any .22 will do at the shooting line. During competition, shooters are allowed 20 minutes to shoot 20 rounds.

“Most people that shoot good scores use 18 to 19 of those minutes. It’s just a matter of keeping your concentration so that when you are on the center dot, the gun goes off,” said Budeau. “I think trigger control is probably one of the main things, that and keeping your mind in the game. It is concentration and relaxation. You just enjoy it and enjoy shooting.”

While .22 shooters enjoy their practice time at the range, some choose to take it a step further and shoot competitively. However, not all competition is against other shooters at the same shooting line. Postal leagues have grown in popularity. A postal league is a competition involving shooters from virtually anywhere in the U.S. Targets are shot and mailed to a central location where scores are tabulated.

“One we shoot is out of Wyoming,” explained Budeau. “We shoot small silhouettes on paper. It’s a fun deal, all on the honor system. They’ll send back awards or sometimes money. It is against guys in Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, all over. We have a great time doing that.”

Local shooters participate in another postal league too, one based in Bottineau. That competition utilizes circle targets with a quarter-inch bullseye.

“It’s challenging, yes it is,” said Budeau. “Especially to try and get a perfect 200 score out of 20 rounds. It’s tough.”

All shooters face the same challenges. The difference between winning and second place is often minimal. The difference in the standings is sometimes separated by as few as one or two rounds. Shooting is done from the standing position.

“The technique is to do the same thing over and over, finding what feels good to you,” said Budeau. “You know what a good shot feels like and you try to get the bad ones out of your mind. Just remember the good ones.”

Hayes has been remembering the good shots for more years than most competitors have been shouldering their small caliber rifles. He shoots a Remington 571 with a Weaver scope. He began his indoor shooting “way back when, in the old Sears building downtown.”

Today’s .22 shooters have the benefit of utilizing Minot’s modern indoor range. Targets are well lit. Lights are dimmed at the shooting line, both to reduce possible glare and to create a relaxed environment conducive with precision shooting.

“You can stand up or sit down. Relax and shoot some more,” said Budeau. “Nobody pushes you. If you need help with anything or have any problems, just ask someone. They’ll try and help you.”

Indoor shooting sessions begin at 7 p.m. each weeknight at the MRPC range. The facility is open to members and non-members. All shooting is conducted under the supervision of certified range officers. Rimfire rifles, and most handguns, are permitted. However, Tuesday night shooting is set aside exclusively for rimfire.