Click here for Part I.

June 1998
"Got it! That was a solid 525 yard shot!" This, from Michael, who was peering through a spotting scope at the remains of a Prairie Dog.
Michael’s son Tim, who had made the shot with his Mauser-actioned 6mm Improved, looked up and smiled, "I was trying for a head shot; I estimated 500. That’s why I hit it low. This thing is a tack-driver." The rifle was, in its latest form, a gift for graduating from college. Tim was Michael’s middle son and the only one of the three, two boys and a girl, that was as interested in shooting as he was. The family had gathered together at the family property for what had become The Annual Prairie Dog Shoot and Perpetual BBQ. What had started as a gathering of Michael’s father and brothers had expanded to include wives, daughters, and grandchildren.
Of the whole family, Sean, his son Michael, Grandson Tim, and nephew Mickey and his son Jacob were the most hardcore shooters and reloaders. The rest of the family came out and shot, but they tended to indulge other interests as well. Sean, Michael, Mickey, Tim and Jacob shot competitively and hunted enthusiastically. To them, behind a rifle was their favorite place to be.
Tim had just graduated from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology with a degree in Geology, and Jacob had just finished his enlistment in the Air Force as a Machinist. They had gone out on the prairie together as a group to shoot Prairie Dogs and spend some time together.
Tim looked at his cousin, "Think you can top that?"
"Hell yes. That old relic can’t hold a candle to my Remington." With that, Jacob got into position on his rifle. Michael scanned the horizon with a binocular until he spotted some activity on a mound, "Okay, I’ve got three of them sitting on a mound at two o’clock. The range is-" he scrambled to sight in an old Wild Artillery Rangefinder, "-right at 515 meters which translates to-" his fingers flew across a pocket calculator, "- 563 yards. Call it 565."
Jacob sighted through his scope and slowly applied pressure to his trigger. The rifle’s report sounded and a fraction of a second later, a Prairie Dog flew up into the air.
Jacob looked up and smiled, "Nothing to it."
Michael and Mickey both were beaming; this was a continuation of the friendly competition that they had had going on for years.
"How about letting an old man give it a try?"
Tim jumped up, "Sure Grandpa. I’ll spot for you."
Sean had been standing by one of the trucks getting his rifle, a custom-built SAKO in .260 Remington. He sat at the bench, prepared himself, and then proceeded to shoot 5 Prairie Dogs in a row, the closest being 580 yards away.
September 2005
CPT Timothy Dugan’s thoughts wandered as he cleaned his rifle. Having come home on leave And having nothing better to do that particular day, he took his Mauser-actioned 6mm Improved out and proceeded to dot the 100-yard target with 3-round cloverleaves. Once he was satisfied with his zero, he rang steel out to 600 yards; the farthest his family had installed so far.
Now? Now he thought about his unit. He had been a Geologist for an oil company in Wyoming when the attack on 9/11 happened. His cousin Jacob had made a beeline for the Air Force Recruiter’s office and re-enlisted as a Machinist. Tim had decided to enlist but, after a long conversation with his father, had opted for being in the US Army Combat Engineers. Initially, he thought he would just serve as an enlisted man but, when it was discovered that he had a 4-year degree, he was encouraged to go through Officer Candidate School. He went through the 12 week course, passing with flying colors. Following that was Jump School and then on to the Engineer Officer Basic Leadership Course, ending with his assignment to an Engineer unit and subsequent deployment to Iraq.
Upon his arrival at his new unit, he was both impressed and appalled. Impressed at the Engineers’ ability to get anything done in an incredibly short amount of time, and appalled at the weapons handling skill of his troops. He took it upon himself to get them trained up. When he discovered a shortage of weapons cleaning equipment, he sent an email to his brother, a sales rep for a firearms accessories company. He immediately sent Tim several cases of cleaning equipment which Tim distributed to his company. Once that was solved, Tim then set about organizing remedial marksmanship classes. This lasted only until it was discovered by higher ups that didn’t want to waste their budget on small arms ammunition. Still and all, the confidence and ability of his troops in their weapons was notably improved.
Tim wasn’t worried about approval from higher; he had no intention of making the Army a career. That’s why he routinely took a turn at finding Improvised Explosive Devices and many of the other duties that officers were frowned upon performing. However, Tim would not ask his men to do anything that he, himself was not willing to do. As for combat operations, Tim proved himself a capable leader, if a little too cautious.
He was almost through with his second tour in Iraq when he got the news; his grandfather had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He asked for, and was granted Hardship Leave. The funeral the previous day had been wall to wall with friends and relatives. His grandfather had had many friends in and out of the shooting community. The coffin containing his grandfather’s body was surrounded by flowers and photos of him. Tim’s favorite, taken while Sean was still a relatively young man, was of him in his shooting jacket, cradling an M1 rifle, and giving a ‘thumb’s up’ just after shooting a 300 yard Rapid Fire Prone string, and ‘cleaning’ the target. That is, all of his shots had gone into the ’10’ or ‘X’ rings at the center of the target.
As he finished running an oily patch down the bore, he thought about the path that this rifle had taken. He remembered his grandfather talking about sending a bunch of them home, to be built into hunting rifles for his father and brothers. All of the rifles, including this one, had been passed down to sons, and in one case, a daughter who lived for Antelope hunting. However, this particular rifle had not just been passed down as a tool for hunting. This one had been passed down to shooters. The difference being that those that came into possession of this rifle were the type that would rather go to a rifle match instead of watching football. The ones that watched the results of The National Matches the way some watch the standings in The Triple Crown. Who loved shooting and saw shooting at steel plates 1000 yards distant as a way to reach their own personal Zen. That is what made this rifle special.
Having completed his task, CPT Dugan placed the rifle, muzzle down, in the gun safe, closed and locked the door, and went to prepare for his trip back to The Sandbox.
On his way upstairs, he encountered his cousin Jacob, "Hey Cuz; you do any good?"
Jacob, who was holding a custom rifle by the barrel in one hand and cleaning supplies in the other, smiled, "Just my usual spectacular marksmanship. How about you?"
"Not bad. Rang steel out to 600, made a few bughole groups on paper. All in all, a good day’"
"Still, it won’t be the same without Grandpa outshooting us all. Have you seen our parents?"
"You’ve got that right. I think everyone is over at Grandpa’s with Grandma. We’re all having dinner there around 6."
"Good enough. I don’t have to report back for a week. You?"
"I’m headed out tomorrow morning. I’ve still got two months to go on this tour."
"What then?"
"I don’t know. I’m probably going to get out after this enlistment. I never intended to make this a career. Sarah wants to settle down and raise a family."
Sarah, being Tim’s wife of two years, tolerated the military but didn’t really care for Tim being gone every few months. She preferred to have everyone at home.
"Nothing wrong with that. Will you go back to the oil fields?"
"Maybe. I might look into other areas. No sense thinking about it until I get home. What about you?"
"I can’t complain about this gig. I make a lot of interesting stuff, and I get to dabble in other stuff if I pay for the materials. The closest I’ve been to any fighting was Kandahar; some mortars falling on the field, a few random shots. I was only there for a few months. I never tell Judy that stuff, though. She knows but she doesn’t know, ya know?"
Judy was Jacob’s new wife. They had met while she was a Personnelist in the Air Force and had hit it off right away.
"Yup, I know. Sarah has been on pins and needles the whole time I’ve been in. And now, with a little shooter on the way, she worries twice as much."
"What??? You never said anything!"
"We just found out. We were going to tell everyone at dinner but, since you were here…"
Jacob gave his cousin a hug, "Congrats! You hoping for a boy or a girl?"
"I don’t care; I just want ‘healthy.’"
"Well cuz, this means we have to go rifle shopping!"
"I figured we’d get baby furniture, first."
"You can never prepare too early! Wow, now I really wish Grandpa were here!"
"Same here. Hopefully, this will take a little of the sting away."
"No doubt. Grandma will be tickled pink."
"I hope so." Tim glanced at his cousin’s rifle, "So, are you going to clean that off-brand thing or just leave it as is?"
Jacob grinned, "Off-brand? This rifle cost more than your whole collection! Go on! I’ll catch up as soon as I’m done."