Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ephrata Sportsman's First Monthly Steel Match

Every year for the last few years the Washington State Steel Challenge Championships has been held at the Ephrata Sportsmen's range in Ephrata, Washington. It has always been a "Once a year" event, run primarily by Patrick Kelley, the 3 Gun Speed Demon! There has not been any regularly scheduled steel matches the rest of the year.

That's now all changed. Cowboy Action Shooter Grant Galbreath has stepped up to the plate, and is now running once a month Steel Challenge matches in Ephrata. The ranges are big, and the steel is outstanding, being as it's from Mike Gibson and MGM targets. They use genuine AR500 armor plate steel, and they ring like a gong when you hit them. Being armor plate, they also won't end up all shot up, pock-marked, dangerous, and have to be replaced in a few years.

I had an all day long and extremely boring at times meeting on Friday that I absolutely had to attend, and I wasn't looking forward to it at all. However, when I found out that the Ephrata club was going to run their first monthly steel match the next day, and since Ephrata is only another hour or so's drive East, my outlook brightened up considerably! KeeWee had to work, so she couldn't go, which is just as well, as the meeting would have meant she would have to kill a full day in Ellensburg, with nothing to drive but our "Mini-Land-yacht.

I drove across Snoqualmie Pass to Ellensburg on Thursday afternoon, about a four hour drive. Getting to Ellensburg Thursday evening, I grabbed a quick dinner in a small local restaurant, then parked the RV behind the restaurant for the night. The battery ran down for the furnace, and it was a cold night, but I had two sleeping bags, so I didn't totally freeze.

The next morning I breakfasted at the same place, then drove a short distance to Central Washington University, where the meeting was being held. The meeting was about as I expected, and my presentation went fairly well, without any major "Fox Passes".

After the meeting, I drove on East, crossing the Columbia River at Vantage, and then onward to Ephrata. I met up with Grant and his wife Carlin in Ephrata, and we headed off to a nearby Mexican restaurant for an excellent meal and conversation. After dinner they dropped me off at the RV, parked in the Walmart Parking lot, where I spent Friday night. I kept the furnace either off, or set on low, so the battery lasted through the night, and Saturday morning was much more pleasant!

The club range is only a few minutes drive from the Walmart, so after some cold coffee from the Thermos, I headed over there for the day. In the club house they had both hot coffee and doughnuts! Perfect! I signed in and had a while to sit around and visit with some of the other shooters. Some I had met before, but there were also a lot of new faces. After a little more coffee and another doughnut (yum) we had a brief shooters meeting, and then got down to the shooting part of the match. We squadded up into groups, and headed to our first stage. Our squad was a great bunch, with a mix of experienced and new steel shooters, but everyone in the squad was a decent shooter. Everyone helped out with scoring, running the timer, and so forth, and we had a great time.

The match consisted of five regulation Steel Challenge stages, and even though two stages had to share one bay, everything moved smoothly. In no time, it seemed, the match was over! DANG! The weather even cooperated a bit, and we didn't see any rain, and the wind only came up for a short while. It still wasn't all that warm, but for the time of year, the weather was certainly decent.

After the match we headed back to the clubhouse, where Chili dogs were waiting for us. To me, perhaps the biggest and best part of shooting is not the shooting, but the shooters themselves. Getting the chance to hang out, visit, tell stories, and socialize with the other shooters is what makes it all fun. Unfortunately, I had a long drive, a questionable mountain pass, and a ferry boat ride between me and Castle Completely, so after farewells all around, I fired up the Mini-Land-Yacht and headed West. Fortunately the pass wasn't too congested and it wasn't snowing, so the trip, though tiring, went smoothly. It was good to be home and to sleep in a regular bed, for sure!

Congratulations to Grant and the gang at the Ephrata Sportsmen's Club for running a first class match! It's a long haul for me to get to their matches, and the fuel cost alone makes it rather expensive. Even so, it's well worth the trip. If  you live anywhere in Central or Eastern Washington and have wanted to give steel shooting a try, then this is a match worth attending. Their steel matches are on the 2nd. Saturday of every month, with sign-up at 8am, shooter's meeting at 9am, and shooting right after the meeting.

Eastern Washington is lucky that on the 1st. Saturday of the month the Yakima Rifle & Pistol Association also puts on a Steel Challenge match at Moxee, which is just a few miles East of Yakima. Both of these clubs are running true Steel Challenge" stages, so these matches are both highly recommended.

Maybe we'll see you there!



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