By Tank Hoover
Clive Bumpkins’ ’98 Tahoe winds down the labyrinth-like lane leading to the Gravel Pits Shooting Range. This range isn’t fancy. In fact, it doesn’t really exist…officially.
The deserted canyon came to being from decades of gravel excavation. After drying-up, the company simply abandoned the huge hole.
Before long, locals realized it was a great place to shoot without being bothered. Clive’s been shooting here since he was 12. Riding a bike, his pump .22 slung over his shoulder, a brick of .22’s, some peanut-butter sandwiches and a canteen of water was the recipe for an all day “shoot-a-thon.”
Now 73, Clive is a wiry six feet tall with a slight paunch. The Vietnam vet retired after 46 years working as a defense contractor tool and die maker. His garage houses a fully functional workshop, including a Grizzly milling machine and lathe, where he works on “his” projects full-time.
Since the Gravel Pit isn’t an “official” range, there’s no range-Nazis barking orders every five minutes, thumping their chests. When others show up, things are kept safe with common sense and respect, making for a relaxing time.
Homemade shooting benches, an A-frame roof and target stands add to the casual atmosphere. Clive contributed most of the materials and time for these improvements, as he just felt the need to give something back for all the time he’s enjoyed here.
The old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is especially true at the range. Before Clive unzips the first gun case, he checks the brass buckets for empties, separating calibers he loads for from everything else he uses for trading fodder.
Next, he’s off to the trashcans for cartridge boxes. The plastic inserts make for good loading blocks or a way to protect and store his large cast bullets for his .45-70 Sharps.
Those plastic .22 rimfire boxes are especially nice for storing shop odds or ends. Clive has dozens of them filled with gun parts, screws, springs and other gun bits on his garage bench.
Readin’ Range Sign
Shooting trends are obvious by caliber and type of brass left behind. Shell-shucking 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223/5.56 are the most common culprits, as most people are just too lazy to “police” their brass. Thinking them foolish, but grateful non-the-less, Clive, a self-described range-rat, greedily gathers the tasty morsels.
Range-rats are adaptive to their environment. After picking buckets of 9mm and 5.56 brass, Clive thought, “I really need to start shooting these calibers more. Who cares if I lose some ‘free’ brass? Didn’t cost me anything.”
Dusting off his AR-15, Belgium made Browning Hi-Power and CZ-75, he makes it happen, giving his revolvers, lever-guns and single-shots a short reprieve. Shooting for cheap leaves a warm spot in Clive’s heart and the free 9mm and 5.56 brass just makes sense to take advantage of it.
Every Rat Has His Day
Clive has had many great days at the range before he’s ever fired his first shot. One particularly successful morning he found 38 pieces of .35 Whelen brass, 43 .308 hulls and a box of .30-30 empties. Hell, he even found 37 5.56 stripper clips in the trashcan! You couldn’t knock the smile off his face with a grinder!
Innovate And Experiment
Being a true handloader, Clive started making his own brass for the fairly new .300 BLK. After all, he had buckets of LC 5.56 brass he’d collected. Being curious, Clive loved piddling with new cartridges! Especially when they were efficient and would ramp-up the power of the parent cartridge.
Besides, he wanted one of those Ruger American bolt-guns. Known for accuracy and durability, they were also affordable. Making his own brass justified getting one, in his mind. Now Clive shoots for pennies a shot with his converted range-scrap brass and bullets he cast himself.
Feeling smug, after a full day of shooting, Clive’s ’98 Tahoe climbs the winding road out of the pits. He’s tired, but satisfied. Chewing on some homemade venison jerky, hearing the “jingling” brass is music to his ears, as it bounces in his bucket. Yep…every rat has his day!
Stay tuned… maybe I’ll tell you how Clive mines for lead at the Gravel Pit Shootin’ Range.
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