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Quigley Shoot 2010

By Bob Anderson

Quigley 2010, the twentieth anniversary for this event, was being anticipated with great expectations. All five of us from the Douglas Ridge Rifle Club had been planning and preparing all winter. Bullets were being cast, cases prepped, loads developed and some range time put in.

The Quigley Shoot, Forsythe, Montana is a type of gong shoot where competitors shoot vintage and replica black powder buffalo guns at metallic targets, the furthest being a full sized steel Quigley 2010buffalo. When hit, the targets ring like a bell. Over 600 competitors come from 37 states and 7 foreign countries. The rifles also must shoot cast lead bullets as used in the old days.

Finally, “the day” arrived, Tuesday morning, June 15th. Steve and Jack showed up at my door at 6:30 a.m. and we loaded up all of their gear. I had loaded at 5 a.m. that morning and topped off the truck the night before.  Fifteen minutes later we were on the road and on our way to Forsythe, Montana. The atmosphere in the truck was totally comfortable and upbeat. My 2005 Chevy crew cab Z71 had plenty of room for the three of us and the full canopy in back had plenty of room to spare.

We hit rain in the Columbia River Gorge and when we broke out into Eastern Oregon the showers became intermittent and continued until we got to Fourth of July Pass and Lookout Pass going into Montana. Then the rains began and stayed with us through Missoula and into Butte. We checked into the Finlan Hotel, an historic hotel opened in 1924. We then went to our favorite barbecue place around the corner.

The next morning it was raining so hard when we got up that we were soaked by the time we got our gear into the truck and headed over the mountains to Bozeman for breakfast. When we reached the summit, it was coming down so hard, I was only able to do about 45 mph. As we cleared the top, there was a car that had hydroplaned into a ditch and the entire front end of the vehicle was submerged. The rain continued unabated all the way to Bozeman where we partook of a huge ranchhand breakfast of eggs, hash brown potatoes, lots of bacon, hot coffee and toast.

We continued down the I-90 to Big Timber and stopped to visit the Shilo Sharps factory and C Sharps. Both plants make high quality replicas of the Sharps buffalo guns. Of course, we had to stock up on the requisite souvenir hats and shirts. I had brought along a Shilo ’74 sharps in 45-70 and it had a straight pistol grip and crescent butt plate. I was going to sell it at Quigley, since it hurt so much when I shot it.

Out of curiosity, I asked how much it would cost to convert the rifle to one with a pistol grip type stock. Shilo quoted me $900 and I figured that they were just too busy to do the work. I then walked down the street to C Sharps and asked them the same question. John, the owner, walked across the showroom and opened a cupboard door and removed a bucket with some butt stocks from some of his sales samples. He said I could have it for $100 if it fit my rifle and gave it to me. I could pay him at the Quigley match if it worked. He then gave me the name of a gunsmith that could fit it.

We arrived at Forsythe, Montana in mid afternoon and checked into the Howdy Hotel, built in 1906. The room wasn’t fancy, but was clean and had kitchen and a shower and cable TV. We couldn’t complain for $36 a night.

After checking in, I drove out to the site of the Quigley Match and we met up with Jim and Dave Kendal, two brothers from our rifle club, Douglas Ridge. It was too late to shoot, but it felt good to relax and walk around and visit vendor trailers and see what was up. Suddenly a violent thunder storm came over the hill; mountain if you are from Texas.  There was lightening striking within a ¼ mile and then came the rain pounding down. We said a quick goodbye to Jim and Dave and jumped into my truck.  I put it into four wheel drive and eased out of the campsite.

The ground there turns instantly into a very slimy mud with the first drop of rain. You have to drive slow and steady so that one does not break traction. It was a ½ mile to the road and we made it ok, but the range was closed soon after to any vehicle traffic. Many competitors with trailers, were not allowed in until Friday when the sun finally emerged.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the gunsmith’s home and he checked out the rifle and stock and announced that it would fit, but the bottom tang would have to be cut and curved in order to fit the new stock. I was then told that he was pretty busy and couldn’t possibly get to it immediately.  He said he couldn’t possibly have it done before 11 a.m. the next day. That was a miracle, as far as I was concerned, but was nervous about how much it would cost. When he told me $35.00 and I knew there was a God.

The next morning it was still raining hard, so we couldn’t get to the range. We stayed in town and visited all the stores and museums; all ten of them. At 11:00 I picked up the rifle and the workmanship was beautiful. It was also fitted out with a new vernier sight for competition. The rest of the day was spent sightseeing.

Friday morning arrived and we ate a quick breakfast and headed for the range. We had six different targets at ranges from 350 yds, which is shot offhand, to the buffalo at 814 yards. Other than offhand, all other targets were shot off of cross sticks. We spent Sticksthe day shooting at each of the targets, trying to refine our vernier sight settings for each. It wasn’t raining, but the wind came up and in typical eastern Montana fashion, began blowing with gusts to 40 mph. We had so much windage dialed into the sights that we ran out of windage adjustment.

Part of the day was spent walking around visiting with people we have met over the years and catching up on what had been happening in their lives.  Registration was taken care of and we left to go to dinner and rest up for the match, which would be starting at 9 a.m. the next morning.

At 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning all 600 hundred of us were either on the line, spotting or waiting to move to the line to compete. The range flag was hanging straight down, whereas, the day before it was standing straight out because the wind was blowing so hard. Everyone was hurriedly dialing out all the windage they had put in the day before. When the horn was blown, the firing started. For five hundred yards along the shooting line, it was nothing but a light haze. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the line, set up my cross sticks, got my stool set and ammunition set out. When I settled in and aimed at the target and adjusted my Hadley cup eye piece, the target was a dull grey from all the lead that had hit it. I proceeded to shoot all around the target, as if I were trying to shoot an outline of it. Finally, there was a very satisfying ring and the scorekeeper announced a “hit”. This is the way the entire match went for me. I could not adjust the windage on my Browning BPCR 40-65. It was a new, old stock, rifle and the oil in the sight had turned to glue, so I was doing Kentucky windage and not very well.

There was considerable spare time between times at the line shooting, so we spent that time talking again to old friends and shopping the vendors located just back of the line. They had some really cool stuff. Shilo Sharps and C Sharps were both there, as was Buffalo Arms and a dozen other vendors selling everything from original buffalo guns to period clothing. It was a blast to go around and meet all these fine people.

That night, we went out to dinner and celebrated and rested up for the next morning when the last two stations would be shot.

Sunday morning came with overcast, but calm and dry weather, but soon after starting, the wind began to pick up and we had probably a ten mph wind. A little after noon we finished up and they started the award ceremony and after announcing all the winners for the different categories, they began announcing door prizes. I won four sticks of SPG lube which is one of the best bullet lubes you can buy. I even use it for my smokeless loads. Somewhere around three or three thirty, the sky began to turn black and lightening began in earnest.

Then a few drops of rain began to fall. The next thing I know, they are announcing that the ceremony is over and that there is a severe weather warning to the west of us on I-90 and we better get going.

Since we were packed, we got the heck out of there and hit the I-90 and headed for Portland. The rain began to come down in sheets and I was flying down the freeway at 25mph instead of 75 mph as you could hardly see the road.

When we passed Billings, Montana, the sky was black all the way to the ground where the town should have been. We heard later that a tornado had just passed in front of us.

It was decided that we would push straight through and drive nonstop to home. The rain continued until we crossed the mountains into Idaho. By ten Monday morning I had dropped off my last passenger and headed for home. It was noon when I pulled into the driveway and was greeted by my 3yr old grandson, Braden.

The weather was iffy, but the trip was a blast because of the relaxed nature of the competition and the camaraderie, meeting old friends, making new ones and not having a cell phone ringing all the time.