After a long dry spell with no time behind the trigger, I visited the Southeast Regional Park Shooting Range, a range run by the Pima County Parks & Recreation Department, with my friend Ian.
I had several objectives:
- Try out a new range.
- The Great Rezeroing — I’ve switched my primary ammo in my ARs from Federal XM193 to Prvi Partizan M193 and so wanted to rezero.
- Try out Prvi Partizan 69gr and 75gr match ammo.
- Actually get some shooting time in, rather than just taking new shooters to the range.
All of these objectives were accomplished
The range consisted of 30 firing positions. Each position had an ambidextrous concrete table from which one can shoot. One could also shoot prone, if one wished.
The entire line is protected from the elements by a corrugated steel roof. Range staff frequently walk the line to ensure that everything is safe (and the ones from today were very nice, not grumpy). Firing periods consist of 15 minutes of shooting and about 5 minutes of target-checking. The change in periods are announced over a loudspeaker.
During the cease-fire periods, shooters needed to unload their firearms. No unloaded-chamber-indicator flags were necessary. No handling of any items on the shooting tables is permitted during the cease-fire period.
The fee to shoot there is $7/all day per person. Additional fees are charged for rental items like earmuffs and eye protection ($1/each), spotting scopes ($3), rifle and pistol sight-in rests ($5/$3 respectively), boresighters ($3), and a chronograph ($10, with the caveat that if you shoot it, you buy it). Additional targets are provided for $0.25.
The range provides wood target frames, which seemed to be kept in good repair. Taller frames, marked with bright orange paint on the top, are required when shooting in such a way that bullets passing through the ordinary-height targets could bounce over the berms (e.g. shooting a handgun at close range). The taller targets allowed the bullets to pass through and continue on to the berm, rather than bouncing off the ground.
Small carpets are available to place on the concrete table, so as to avoid scratching the finish on one’s gun. Additionally, carpet-covered wood blocks and sandbags are available for free.
The range is divided with two berms separated by a long, tall concrete wall running perpendicular to the firing line. The closer berm peaks around 75 yards, and allows shooting at distances up to 50 yards. The longer range berm is located at ~225 yards and allows shooting at distances up to 200 yards. There are sockets in the ground placed at convenient intervals (e.g. 5, 10, 25, 50, etc. yards) for one to place target frames. Sockets are numbered to avoid placing one’s target frame in someone else’s lane. If one wishes to bring one’s own target frame for shooting at arbitrary distances, this is permitted so long as the frame is made entirely from wood.
No full-auto fire is permitted. Range staff will inquire about NFA items, like suppressors, but it is not necessary to declare these items ahead of time.
The range staff keeps the range quite clean, and will often pick up brass during cease-fire periods when one is downrange. Reloaders should ensure that they collect their brass often, or ask that the range staff not pick up brass in their immediate area. Obviously, one should pick up after oneself simply to be polite. Buckets are available to deposit brass.
All in all, SERP was an excellent range. The Three Points Shooting Range (also known as the Tucson Rifle Club) is larger, has longer ranges, often has fewer people, and does not have a hot/cold period on the range. SERP is a bit smaller, has a few more shooters, and has active supervision from range staff. SERP is also $1 more per person, if this matters. Both ranges are excellent and well-maintained, though SERP has better tables and stools.
One more note: there is a drinking fountain available at SERP, but no sinks for hand-washing. I didn’t notice any restrooms either.
The Great Rezeroing
I printed out a few of the M16 zero targets from here and setup a target frame at 25 yards. After a few three-shot groups of Prvi M193, I was able to dial in both my 20″ and 16″ ARs.
I then moved the target back to 100 yards, put on some Shoot-N-C-type targets and took slow, aimed shots. Shots were striking 8″ high and 8″ to the right of the point of aim. Shots were consistently grouped in a ~2″ circle. To ensure this wasn’t an ammo issue, I switched ammo brands and had the same deflection.
The target was then moved to 50 yards. Again, rounds were striking high and right. I moved the target to 25 yards and re-zeroed (just using Shoot-N-C, rather than the zero target, which I had used up). After re-zeroing, all shots were striking within a reasonable radius1of where I was aiming, both at 25 and 50 yards. I have no idea what caused the rounds to strike so high and right after the first zero, but it was somewhat frustrating. Hopefully things are where they should be.
Prvi Partizan Match Ammo
Most of the day consisted of firing three-shot groups to get the zero dialed in. Unfortunately, with the brief exception of the 100 yard attempt, most of this shooting took place at 25 or 50 yards — hardly an adequate distance to judge the quality of match ammo.
Even so, I fired 60 rounds of 69gr and 20 rounds of 75gr Prvi Match ammo.
The 69gr stuff is quite good, and had small, consistent groupings at all distances. Even when the point-of-impact was distant from the point-of-aim (totally the fault of my sights being off, not due to any ammo problems), the groups were pretty tight. The ammo’s certainly more accurate than I am. For reference, the lot for the 69gr stuff is 0901.
The 75 grain ammo was also quite good. My 1:9″ barrels stabilized the bullet at the distances I fired it. There were no keyholes or sideways strikes. I will test this at longer ranges and see how it performs, as a 1:9″ twist is supposed to be marginal at best for >72gr bullets.
One downside, though: one of the primers in the 75gr ammo popped out and could not be located. It wasn’t in the action of the rifle, so it must have ejected somehow with the casing. The casing was found a minute or so later with the head all covered in soot and the primer missing. This has never happened to me before. The lot of the 75gr ammo is unknown, as Prvi puts the lot number on a little slip of paper and evidently someone at the store had opened the box and the paper probably fell out.
Even if the Open Tip Match bullet was suitable for self-defense (the jacket is the same thickness, and not designed to peel back and open), the fact that a primer could pop out and gum up the works troubles me. I’ll stick with crimped primers for Serious Business ammo.
Getting Trigger Time
It’s been a while since I’ve been to the range. Most of my previous visits involve taking new people to the range, so even then I don’t get to shoot much. Today, I went with Ian, another avid shooter, and actually spent some time behind the trigger.
In addition to the Fun Happy Times chasing my zero around, I also wanted to function-test the 9mm Federal HST jacketed hollowpoints I recently purchased. I really like HSTs in .45 ACP, but have been carrying my 9mm Glock 19 recently due to its more compact size. The fact that I also have a SERPA retention holster for the Glock also comes into play. I’ve been carrying Federal Hydra-Shoks in the Glock for years, and they’re certainly excellent rounds, but the HSTs seem a bit better to me2. I wanted to ensure that the rounds would feed and fire reliably in my pistol, so I bit the bullet (ha!) and burned through $22.95 worth of HSTs3 today. Granted, 50 rounds is not sufficient to make a proper statistical analysis, but it served my purposes: there were no failures and the rounds hit where I was aiming (the Hydra-Shoks had a tendency to shoot a bit to the right).
All in all, a great day at a new range. I got a bit of sun, got some trigger time, zeroed my rifles, and tested out my defensive pistol ammo.
Now, if only I could afford to do this more often…