Pistol Place contributor AdrianBP lives in Thailand with his wife Gung. Adrian recently had the opportunity to try some cartridge pistols at his local shooting club. Here’s his story…
Khao Keaw Rifle Club, Nakhon Sawan
Last year Gung and I visited the Khao Keaw Rifle Club which is about ten kilometers south of the provincial city of Nakhon Sawan in Thailand. Last Wednesday we decided it was about time (after a rather hectic eighteen months) that we followed up on our initial enquiries and went along to join.
“Khao Kaew” means “Green Mountain” and already had a well established shooting range when Gung was a little girl. In fact her father, a Major in the Royal Thai Army, was a friend of the owner. Despite the name, it caters more for pistol than rifle shooting and is an extremely well organised and efficiently managed establishment. Lifetime membership may be purchased for THB 2,500 (about GBP 50) or annual membership at THB 500. A guest may be invited to shoot, if accompanied by a member, for a nominal fee. As a foreigner, I would need a Thai referee and Gung was able to act as such; my “Tabian Bahn” (house registration document) proved my place of residence in Thailand.
Shooting prices are also fair and guns may be rented from the club for approximately GBP 20 including 25 cartridges and three targets. Additional ammunition may be purchased as required at about THB 500 for 25 cartridges (depending on the gun). A choice of .38, 9mm and .45 calibre pistols are available. There is a shop where you can purchase shooting-related accessories such as holsters, gun-slips, cleaning consumables, T-shirts, car stickers etc. Once we had registered, we were allowed to enter the range proper which lies though an exceedingly pleasant partially covered garden courtyard with seating and refreshments for sale (no alcohol, of course).
Luck was with us as we were informed that on the coming Sunday (the day before yesterday) the club would be hosting a beginners pistol shooting and marksmanship course which we could attend if we wished. We duly agreed and although arriving a little late, were quickly signed-in and found a place to sit in the (rather full) lecture room.
The course was given by three instructors in turn and was exceptionally good. It commenced by explaining the three main kinds of (practical) pistol you are likely to come across, giving as examples a S&W Model 19 revolver, a Colt 1911A1 and a CZ-75.
Basic operation and safe handling were explained, as well as club rules for carrying pistols at the range. Different types of cartridges were shown explaining both the metric and imperial systems of measurement and that favourite of the British press, the fact that very similar “calibre” bullets could in fact belong to very different cartridges. This was illustrated by comparing a .22 rimfire (short) against a .223 Remington!
The five basic parts of pistol marksmanship were then described (grip, stance, breathing, trigger pull and follow-through) in a clear and concise fashion. Slide-shows and video clips were used throughout and even though it was of three hours duration, with only a brief coffee break, everyone was glued to what the instructors had to say. Around eighty people were present, of which about a third were ladies. Most people had their own guns and it was fascinating, especially for an enthusiast like me, to see such a variety of different pistols.
Following lunch it was time to “have a go” and shoot some targets. A score of sixty or more would result in the basic marksmanship award… needless to say, I was a bag of nerves! Bar some clay shooting a couple of years ago and some rough shooting as a lad, I have relatively little experience of shooting firearms and in fact it had been some five years since I had done any full bore pistol shooting in Thailand, with that limited to about 300 rounds through a very limited selection of guns (a Glock 19, Beretta 92, a couple of Colt 1911s and a couple of S&W revolvers).
However, no time like the present and so Gung pushed me over to register and borrow a gun. On the Wednesday I had already been asked which calibre I would like and had decided on a Colt .45… I was now having second thoughts. However, one of the instructors volunteered his Colt Government Series 70 and so laden with fifty rounds, three targets, an empty magazine ejected from the pistol and said Series 70 with the slide locked back, it was over to the range!
I wrote my name on each target and waited my turn. It was here that luck was certainly with me as it turned out the last instructor to speak, Khun Dtoey, had not only studied in the United States but also spoke fluent English. He promptly took me under his wing after first asking whether I spoke Thai (of which I do a little, but nowhere near as good as his English!) and how much shooting experience I had had.
The targets are quite large at half a metre in diameter and are designed for 25m/ 50m shooting. However, for this course we were shooting at 15m. I asked as to when another chance might arise should I fail to obtain the required sixty… probably not for another six months was the reply (talk about pressure!).
The magazine was a single-stack type, although I thought the grip larger than that normally found on a 1911. Loading with five rounds, my first shot scored… a (lucky) ten!… but it was during this first target that the gun started to jam and so after shot #6 K.Dtoey asked the owner whether it might be a good idea to change the recoil spring. It was at this point the bell was rung and shooting ceased whilst targets were retrieved and replaced (this is done manually; the gun is placed on the table in front and you are not allowed even to touch it whilst people are on the range. Magazines may be reloaded).
Shooting at 15m for the award; maximum available range 25m to backstop
With a fresh target and a clear range the signal was given to continue. By now, my initial (reasonably good) shots had been replaced by two fliers caused, as K.Dtoey explained, partly by me not gripping the pistol correctly, but mainly because I was not making an uninterrupted trigger pull accompanied by the “surprise” shot (ie. I was “snatching” the trigger, perhaps trying to react to the recoil before the gun was fired, pulling it low and left). Even though I had done a little extra shooting using my KJW 1911 in the garden, even to the extent of wearing ear protection in an attempt to familiarise myself with shooting conditions at a cartridge shooting range, 6mm CO2 is not quite the same as .45 ACP!
Practicing at home: KJ Works 6mm CO2 1911A1 from Suphanburi “BB Gunzone”… and hearing protection all the way from Helston Gunsmiths!
Following his advice and placing my left hand slightly further forward than I was used to (I am right handed) and with thumbs parallel instead of crossed, I sighted the gun and slowly squeezed off the next few shots, trying my best to ignore the impending recoil which of course only comes into play once the bullet has left the barrel. This resulted in eight shots placed a little high, but with a grouping centre to center of about 70mm… and a score meaning a badge would be mine (big grins!).
There was still one more target to shoot and although the grouping was not so good it resulted in a higher score of 82 as against to 77. Although I realise many would be able to shoot much better than this (after all, “ratio” wise the 500mm target at 15m is in fact twice the size of the UBC 10m target and a third as big as the scaled target for shooting at 18 feet), I was still very pleased (understatement of the year!) and with practice hope to be able to improve on these scores, especially by placing the impending recoil, which you soon become accustomed to, out of my mind. By now I figured it was time to vacate my place at the range as there were still plenty of people waiting to shoot. Unused ammunition, of which I still had 24 rounds, was returned and a refund given (standard procedure at the club).
Target #2 – the two “fliers” came before K.Dtoey stepped in! K.Dtoey has represented Thailand several times at international level and is a qualified shooting instructor.
I am very much indebted to K.Dtoey and know for a fact that without his assistance, patience and instruction I would have fared very differently indeed. I would also like to add that along with my attempts at clay shooting in the UK and our trip to the UBC Meet a couple of years ago, this is yet another example of just how knowledgeable, interesting, responsible and above all friendly members of the shooting community are… wherever in the world you may happen to be. Thank you to everyone at “Khao Keaw”.
Target #3 complete with car sticker, certificate and badge. In all the excitement, we forgot to take a picture of the gun, but I think the size of the bullet holes speak for themselves (scoring rings are 25mm apart, target shot at 15m).