1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

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CowboyTutt
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1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by CowboyTutt »

Dear guys, the following is my report of my second trip to the Billy Dixon Ultra Long Range Shooting facility for what I choose to call the 1st Annual Levergun’s Billy Dixon Shoot. I’m going to report things from a personal perspective, and I would appreciate it if other attendees like Griff, Lil’ Doc, Tym and others would please add their input to this report!

I drove out from California with my good friend Jim Williamson (Shootist) aka “Professor Loudenboomer” and we arrived Thursday night in Hotchkiss, CO. Hotchkiss is a very small town that appears to be in a valley surrounded by mountains with the Gunnison River running through it. Even in the summer it is still very green and very beautiful. Because I was traveling with Jim, I was able to stay at David Torkelson’s guest house (David is also a Shootist). The view from the front porch of the guest house is just awesome, and I enjoyed just sitting on the bench there and enjoying the scenery.

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Friday morning, Jim, David and I went to Zack’s for breakfast, a local restaurant famous for its BBQ dinners. Breakfast is also very good and if you go to Hotchkiss, be sure to have dinner there. Afterwards, we proceeded to the range to chronograph my new 45 Colt loads in my Ruger Bisley using some special 360 grain gas checked Keith bullets that are hard cast. These bullets are a special offering from Frank at Mt. Baldy Bullets and use a custom mold belonging to Daniel Marchel (of “454 Long” fame) who graciously allows others to use his mold. I am not aware of any other company who offers this bullet and if you are interested, please contact Frank at Mt. Baldy bullets:

http://www.mtbaldybullets.com/

I was concerned that these new loads were going to be too hot, but they turned out to be right on the money at 1100 fps which I consider to be a max load. I will probably reduce the charge by half a grain to get velocity to 1050 fps or so as I would like to keep the bullets sub-sonic. I used a front bag rest and sighted the pistol in at 2-2 ½ inches high at 25 yards. I was told this would put me close to a 100 yard zero. Recoil off the bag was substantial and would result in the muzzle going vertical with every shot. Firing these loads took all my concentration and is definitely not for whimps!

Afterwards, Jim and I proceeded to the 300 yard berm of the Billy Dixon range to sight in my new 485 grain 43 Mauser loads in my 71/84. Previously I had only shot them out to 200 yards in CA and I wanted to learn which range settings I would need at longer ranges. At 300 yards I needed an additional 100 meters on the rear sight, but at 500 and 600 meters I only needed an additional 50 meters, and at 1000 yards I could set it at 1000 meters even. Subjectively, it seems the heavier bullet has a flatter trajectory than the 400 grain bullets we use to duplicate the original 43 Mauser load. This was also my first time using cross-sticks to shoot off of.

While we were at this, a white Prius drove up and a big fella stepped out of the car. To my surprise, he introduced himself as Lil’ Doc from Leverguns. He had driven 1000 miles from Okalahoma to attend the event. We decided to break out his rifles and sight them in at the 600 yard line. Doc had with him two beautiful rifles, an 1876 Uberti in 45-60 and a Browning (Moruku) 1885 in 45-70. If memory serves, it only took him a few shots to get on target with the 1885.

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We then moved closer to the 200 yard berm and shot pistols. Jim was hitting the Indian on horseback pretty frequently at this range with his 44 Special. I managed to only hit him once not being a very good shot, but that 360 grain bullet obviously had a wallop! Friday night Griff joined the rest of us for dinner at a good Mexican restaurant in town.

Saturday the sky was cloudy which gave us a good respite from the heat. David Torkelson gave us an introduction to the range and described the safety procedures. We decided to have everyone use Stengel’s range which has concrete benches and allows you to shoot out to an 18” steel gong at 721 yards for purposes of sighting in rifles. There is also a steel coyote at 437 yards.

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My buddy Tym had his SM Lee Enfield in 303 Britt with him for this trip. I have a special affection for this rifle as it is the very one that Tym took me shooting with years ago that spurred my interest in firearms. After only a little sighting in, Tym could repeatedly hit the gong at 721 yards with the factory iron sights. I could actually see the bullet arc into the hill with the optics I was using.

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Meanwhile, Jim W. was shooting at the 437 yard Coyote with his 44 Special +P loads and coming really close! By the end of the weekend, I think everyone was impressed with Jim’s handgun skill.

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Griff loaded some BP cartridges on the spot for his 40-90 Shiloh Sharps. This cartridge packs a good kick and spits out a 350 grain bullet at 1600 fps if I remember what Griff told me correctly. The cartridge itself looks like a 30-30 on steroids, but has a reputation for being difficult to create accurate loads for. I think by the end of the weekend Griff received some good pointers on how to better load this cartridge but I will let him speak to that.

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After everyone had sighted in their rifles we proceeded to the 1000 yard berm of the Billy Dixon. A gentleman named Randy was having difficulty hitting the steel targets at this range with his Sharps (I believe it was a Pedersoli in 45-70). With David and Lil’ Doc’s help we finally got him “on steel.”

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I was able to sight-in at 1000 yards pretty easily with my 71/84 Mauser with Jim’s help on optics. Tym also wasted no time getting on steel with his M1-A.

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Here is Griff and Lil’ Doc at the 1000 yard line.

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We also had some local folk with some impressive bench rest rifles. They were teaching their sons to shoot with a 7mm Rem mag bench rest rifle. Actually, with the heavy weight rifles and porting, these guns were not beyond the ability of these young men to shoot. While you can’t shoot the artistic steel targets with these sorts of calibers there are smaller heavy weight steel diamonds for scoped rifles at the Billy Dixon range. Mr. Mahan is the gentleman standing in the picture, and he is an excellent shot at very long range. He hit a 14”x14” steel diamond at 1538 yards with his bench rest rifle.

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We moved to the 1538 yard line and with multiple eyes on optics managed to get most of us ranged in to what is known as the “Billy Dixon” target which is 3 Indians on horseback. Tym and I were surprised to discover that the Enfield in 303 Brit apparently was stable even at this ultra long range. In fact, Tym made the best shot of the whole weekend in my opinion when he plugged the center Indian right in the chest using the factory iron sights and from a seated position.

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Here is Lil’ Doc with his 1885 in 45-70. Lil’ Doc proved to be a capable marksman as he moved quickly from hitting the closer targets at approximately 1300 yards all the way to the Billy Dixon target. That's Doc on the left.

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David T. had with him a very rare customized Peabody rifle in 45-70. It is best described as a pre-Martini design with a hammer. He had just finished putting a new taller rear sight on it for purposes of this shoot.

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As it turned out, the rear sight was still not tall enough to get on target at 1538 yards. David was still a little low of the target. As he stood up, I said “What about using some hold-over on the front sight?” David smiled and said, “What, you mean Kentucky windage? I don’t usually do that”. Enter my buddy, Jim Williamson who says, “Mind if I try?”

Jim managed to hit the Billy Dixon target with David’s rifle within 3 shots if I remember right, then stood up and said “I’m done!” We all had a good laugh at this, including David.

Unfortunately, I was not able to hit the Billy Dixon target at all and I was not sure if it was my lack of shooting ability or if the new 485 grain loads were unstable at ultra long range. After we returned from painting the targets down range and returned to the Billy Dixon line, we discovered that Mic McPherson (Shootist) and By Smalley had shown up. Mic is a ballistician, gunsmith and author of numerous books and articles and By is literally a rocket scientist and together they have created new revolutionary cartridges known as SMc cartridges. For more information, here is a link to their website:

http://www.superiorballistics.com/

We also took time to sight-in Mic’s Shiloh Sharps in 50-90 in preparation for tomorrow.

We went to a late dinner at the local Mexican restaurant again, and then later that night “Doc” Boyle, another Shootist, arrived at David’s house.

Sunday morning was sunny and clear, and it was obvious it was going to be a hot day. We had enough of us to have our first competition for the Billy Dixon target. Each person was given 5 shots and whoever could hit the target on their very first shot just like Billy Dixon did would win a Billy Dixon medallion.

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Whoever scored the most hits in those 5 shots won the small pot we had all put into. While it was a competition everyone wanted his friend to make the shot and there was a very strong sense of camaraderie and co-operation the whole weekend that was best exemplified by this photo taken on Sunday.

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Here are David T. and Lil' Doc at the Billy Dixon line.

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In the end, it was Doc Boyle and his Pedersoli Sharps in 45-120 who won the pot as no one hit the Billy Dixon target at all except for Doc that morning. This rifle with BP loads really hits hard on both ends!

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David Torkelson pounded the 1538 yard diamond with his 22x45 SMc rifle with respectable groups. It was also on Sunday that Jim also shot the 18” gong at 721 yards off hand 3 times in a half-hour with his own 71/84 Mauser.

Later in the morning, Mic fired my 71/84 Mauser using the 485 grain and 540 grain bullet loads himself. He was able to hit the Billy Dixon target with the 485 grain load/bullet but not with the 540 grain load/bullet which we determined was not stable enough. While I was gratified to learn that the 485 load was stable and that all our hard work to develop this load in preparation for this event was not wasted, I was frustrated that I could not hit the target myself when it seemed that everyone else had managed to do so.

Later in the afternoon as people were leaving to start the long trek home, Mic’s son Joe arrived. Since they were going to shoot some more, I decided to make more attempts at the Billy Dixon target. Mic was kind enough to be my eyes using some good optics. I continued to dance around the target but not hit it. Mic commented that maybe I had fouled the barrel, so I went and got my cleaning kit and my friend Doc Boyle loaned me his cleaning rod, and I went to work. I have to say the bore was pretty messy!

Afterwards I returned to the shooting line with Mic on optics. I believe it was on my 3rd or 4th shot that Mic called out “hit!” I couldn’t believe it, after two days I had finally hit that target! I shot again, and again Mic called out “hit!” I hit the target two times in a row. I missed the 3rd shot, but that was OK. Months of planning had finally paid off. I’m particularly grateful to Mic and Jim Williamson who helped me every step of the way, from load development, to actual hand loading and testing, all the way to the firing line. I could not have done this without their help. If I can conclude one thing, it’s that these old military rifles like the 71/84 Mauser and the Lee Enfield can really shoot and that ultra long range shooting is not just a game for Sharps, Hi-Walls and sniper rifles.

In the end, there were 21 shooters at the event with over half of them locals and the rest from 5 states. Everyone got on target with either their own rifle, or someone else’s. I think everyone had a pretty good time, and learned a lot. I really enjoyed meeting our own Griff and Lil’ Doc as well as spending quality time with David T., Doc Boyle, By Smalley, Alan Amman (Shootist), and of course Mic and Jim. I’m glad my Buddy Tym could also attend the event. Next year’s event is tentatively scheduled for the 3rd weekend in August and more shooting games are already being developed for the range. I hope to see some of you there.

-Tutt

Text by Andy Tuttle
Pics by Andy Tuttle and Tym Hurst
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Little Doc
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Little Doc »

tutt,
you dun good. that is as good a description of the weekend and could be told. i enjoyed the shoot and geting to know the folks that attended. it is always nice to put a face with a name. everyone i met were great people.
there are few places where one can shoot to these ranges. this range and the targets are excellent. it will prove or disprove a load. as david said most people come with too short a staff on the rear sight. how would you know if you had never shot this far. quite a challange. if possible i would like to return and do this again.
this was an enjoyable trip and experience.
little doc
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Old Savage
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Old Savage »

Looks like a grand outing - bet everyone is glad they were there. Great report. You make the rest of us wish we had been there.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Ben_Rumson »

Way cool fun..Great report..Tutt, do you ever use the magazine on that Mauser?
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by C. Cash »

Most excellent Tutt!!!! Great report and looks like a great time indeed. Hope to get to meet you fellas someday.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by AmBraCol »

Great report, Tutt. Mic helped me gain confidence in my grandpa's old 30-30 which enabled me to take three white tail with it. He's a great guy, to say the least. Jim W. let me burn up a bunch of his 22 Hornet ammo and also play with his Mauser. That old rifle is a HOOT to shoot. We were plinking at 585 yards with it and I was able to connect fairly well. Thanks for the write up. I know y'all had a great time with some great folk. :)
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by JerryB »

Tutt, that was as good a report on a shooting event as I have ever read!The photos are just great and capture all the details you write of.I know that you have put alot into this and I'm sure all those that made the trip felt it was worth it.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Old Time Hunter »

Absolutely a first rate report+++, Tutt. Sure made me jealous, looks to be a great time. Love the Peabody. 'Course I'm a fan of the 71/84 Mauser also, anybody attempt a Trapdoor? According to the Sandy Hook trials, they should be ok for the Billy Dixon challenge.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Griff »

If you missed this event... you better make plans for 2009. I do believe that EVERYONE had a good time. Truly enjoyed meeting Jim, David, Mike, Andy, Mic, Doc, Thunder50 and a few other folks, who's names escape me at the moment.

I needed a little help gettin' off the ground, seems I forgot powder. Only one place on the Western Slope sells BP, and they only had 3F available. While I considered shooting it; I was very relunctant... especially after I got some answers to my question on the Shiloh Forum. So, David Torkelson graciously shared some of his 2F Goex with me.

I'd picked up bullets; primed, sized cases; Lee Handloader, card and felt wads when I passed thru the house, and was prepared... or at least I thought I was. Well, with David's powder, I spent a few minutes Saturday morning loading some rounds while others were downrange painting the targets they hit on Friday. My bullets were cast of straight WW in an RCBS .40-350-SP-CSA mould. I used both a card wad cut from wax paper milk cartons or Ox-Yoke WonderWads. I think that the bullet just doesn't carry enough lube as my fouling was getting a little crusty in the 2 or 3" of the barrel. And the throat in my rifle is just too short to allow seating bullets out far enough to use a lube "cookie" below the bullet. When I ordered the rifle, I'd asked for a grease groove throat, not paper patch (which uses a longer free-bore) as I didn't think I'd need the additional free-bore. Mighta been a mistake. Think the rifle is going to get dropped off a Shiloh for a little chamber reaming. A new rear sight is also in its future. I was probably about 2-3" short of having enough height to reach out to 1538 yards. Mic McPherson did some surgery and turned the base around and I tried a few "hail Mary" shots, to no avail. Just could get enough shots in an area to determine what was happening. Again, might have been a lube and fouling issue. Even swiping between each shot wasn't a big help. It certainly did make a difference @ the shorter ranges, but... out @ 1538, just ain't any way to know.

Well, suffice it to say, there'll be some more load development going on before next year's event. And, I'll be driving the pick up, camping nearby and making a little longer stay of it. There were some neat places on the drive up from Laredo that I would have liked more time to check out. Dinner at the Steakhouse in Alamosa, CO is definitely on the list again, great steaks! Cold beer! What else ya want? A couple of more guns are gonna make the trip next year also. I think the 1886 in .45-70 needs a little limbering up. And my custom 94 in .30-30 needs to prove its mettle against that coyote @ 438 yards also. I've made offhand shots with it at nearly that range... but it was a 18" square, the coyote might be a bit more of a challenge for the little 150grain pill. I know I'm capable... (see below). :mrgreen:

Here's the view from the "short range" range:
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How 'bout some RECOIL:
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More RECOIL!
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Little Doc was generous with both his rifles and his ammo, letting me shoot his 1876 .45-60 at the 438 yard coyote silhouette... I think there were about 4 or 5 of us shooting at it OFFHAND! Took me a few shots, but I managed to luck one in there to join the grinnin' squad! :D :D :D :D As I found out that my rear sight was out of range @ 1,000 yards, when we moved back to 1538 Billy Dixon line, he also let me shoot his 1885 .45-70. We talked long and in detail about BP cartridge loading, powders, sights, techniques and such. Well... he listened politely while I proved my ignorance. And I learned a lot, when I could keep my trap shut! :P

View from 1538 yards. Can you pick out the targets?
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(That buffalo target in the foreground is some 3-400 yards CLOSER than the indians.)

Close-up:
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To get an idea of just how LARGE they are, here's a pic of Tym paintin' Saturday's hits on the indians:
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Here's a close-up of the standing grizzly bear that was banged repeatedly on Saturday by Little Doc with his 1885 @ 1,000 yards:
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As can be seen in Tutt's photos, I spent most of my time spotting. Took some 6 seconds for the bullets to reach the target, then some 3 or so for the sound to come back. I'm convinced that many close calls went unobserved due to the background of rocks, brush and eyestrain. Misses to the immediate right and below were a little easier as there was much loose dirt and those big 400+ pills falling like artillery shells raised quite a bit of dust!
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by JohndeFresno »

Excellent report and pix. Thanks for bringing us there vicariously!
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Ysabel Kid »

Andy -

That report just made my morning. I think I am going to be smiling all day now. What a treat!!! Looks like it was a great weekend of shooting and camraderie. I've dreamed of having access to a place with such long ranges. Someday...

Not to hijack this post - so let's not start - but one of the things that kept bouncing into my mind as I savored this post was a question - how could anyone object to law-abiding citizens enjoying this activity?!? Honestly, even if someone didn't like guns, how could they possible complain, looking at the pictures and reading this report, of enthusiasts like these pursuing their interests. This shows us for what we - as a shooting community - really are, and at our finest. Good, honest, law-abiding men and women enjoying a common bond - not hurting a soul - and sharing a bit of their journey through life with one another.

Andy - thank you for sharing a bit of yours with the members of the forum. Congrats on hitting the BD target at the end!!! :D :D :D
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by JerryB »

Griff, you did a great job on the report and pictures, you sur did make it interesting for me.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Paul105 »

That looks like a ton of fun. Great report(s) -- Tutt, Griff.

I'll have to load up some 45-70 stuff for the 1895 CB (Smith Ladder sight) and the Sharps and spend some time trying to hit the 500 Meter rams at the local range.

Paul
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by CowboyTutt »

Griff, that was an outstanding report! Thanks! I received some more pictures from some of the guys:

Here's Mic helping me try to get on target. I had decided to move to a shooting table instead of using cross-sticks, but still didn't get on target at this particular time. One of the mental pictures I remember is Mic sitting at the scope, head slightly down, left hand high in the air counting seconds, listening intently. It takes 9 seconds round trip for the sound to arrive back to us. I wish I had got a photo of that.

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This is Alan Amman. Allan is also a Shootist who came to the event. In fact, Allan helped David T. cut the targets from steel when the range was created, and loads ammo for Doc Boyle. Allan's rifle is in 50-90 I believe, and he is one of the few who can routinely hit the Billy Dixon target with his BP loads.

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Here are those of us who were left on Sunday afternoon as the impact dust settled, sunburned but happy! From left to right: Griff, David Torkelson, Doc Boyle, By Smalley, Mic McPherson and myself.

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Mic asked me to share this email with you:
Dear Andy et al,

I enjoyed my limited time at the event and By has already written to many of his acquaintances with a glowing report of what we have to work with at that range. I want to also note that henceforth, we intend to include a scoped-rifle division for those who want to shoot period-class loads but who are limited by eyesight (all who are not already there are headed that way!).

I would also note that several of those who participated in the five-shot event fired one or more shots that happened to pass through the gaps between targets. I can assure you than no sane person would have wanted to be in the intended impact zone.

I will also note for those who might not know, at the elevation of the Billy Dixon Range, typical Sharps-class bullets fired a typical Sharps velocities deliver between 400 and 600 foot pounds of energy at 1538 yards. Doc's Quigley 45-120-560 load delivered about 750 foot pounds of energy at the target!

The 303 British load would have delivered energy similar to the muzzle energy of a high-performance 22 LR. Also note that one gentleman showed up with a 30-06 and military loads, which definitely would not remain stable at that range and we never did see an impact. Why some modern loads remain stable through the sonic-transition and others do not is akin to magic. This characteristic might be discernable a priori but one will never be sure until the shots are fired.


Sincerely Yours,

Mic
Again, hope more of you can attend next year!

-Tutt
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Griff »

Thank you Andy, but your report is a much better overview of the entire weekend. And I never saw you taking any notes.

From the evidence I saw, this photo of Andy sums up everyone's feelings about the event:
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Big Smiles!
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Old Savage »

That's Andy! His enthusiasm is contagious. :D He does like that rifle!

Again, nice to put paces to the names.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by CowboyTutt »

Old Savage, I hope you will reconsider and travel out to the BD Event next year. It really is a fun time.

-Tutt
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by The Lewis »

Great report Mr. Tuttle! That looks like a fine time. Man, I need to move west...
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by El Mac »

Great report! I shall be there next year.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Tom Richardson »

Griff and Tutt
You had the privilege of sharing time with two of my dearest friends ( am I allowed to say that) Jim williamson and Mic McPherson. Dave, and Allen are almost at the same level.
You fellows got to spend quality time with quality folks. I am glad you all had an enjoyable time.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Griff »

Tom Richardson wrote:Griff and Tutt
You had the privilege of sharing time with two of my dearest friends ( am I allowed to say that) Jim williamson and Mic McPherson. Dave, and Allen are almost at the same level.
You fellows got to spend quality time with quality folks. I am glad you all had an enjoyable time.
Yes, with my short exposure, I certainly understand your feelings. I believe however, the best of the bunch was Mrs. Torkelson... anyone who'd shared fresh strawberries, shortcake and ice cream is EXTRA SPECIAL! :D
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Tom Richardson »

David is a special person. Talented, cordial, and generous to a fault.
There are just a lot more miles with Jim, Mic, and their families.
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Jeff Quinn »

That middle horse looks like John Kerry.

Image
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dr walker
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by dr walker »

Tutt, Thank you for another great post and photos. Sure looks like everyone had a good time. I'd love to make it next year if schedule permits.
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Griff
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Griff »

Jeff Quinn wrote:That middle horse looks like John Kerry.
I think I'll exercise some restraint, and not say what first popped into my pea-pickin' head! :twisted:
Griff,
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kimwcook
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by kimwcook »

Excellent, excellent range report. Good to see everyone had a good time. I've got so many "got to do things" I don't know if I'll ever get to the shoot.
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Griff
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Griff »

kimwcook wrote:Excellent, excellent range report. Good to see everyone had a good time. I've got so many "got to do things" I don't know if I'll ever get to the shoot.
I understand that it's to be held in August next year... make an extra effort... you'll really enjoy yourself. I know I'm going to.
Griff,
SASS/CMSA #93
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There is a fine line between hobby & obsession!
AND... I'm over it!!
No I ain't ready, but let's do it anyway!
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JReed
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by JReed »

Way cool it looks like it was lots of fun. I will have to make it a point to try and make it to the next one if I can wrangle the time off.
Jeremy
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Hillbilly
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Re: 1st Annual Leverguns Billy Dixon Shoot Report

Post by Hillbilly »

First chance to read this whole post...

Looks like you guys had a whale of a good time. Maybe one day I can sneak out there and try that long distance shooting.

I wonder if I can see that far?

Jeff
always press the "red" button--- it's worth the effort and the results can be fun
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