Before Wendell asks again, a Boomershoot is not "A way of reducing future Social Security payout." A Boomershoot is a shooting event where people with high powered rifles shoot at high explosives.
Also, it came up that someone thought I was using the phrase "Boomershoot" as a take-off on the Seattle "BumberShoot" (kind of a Mardi Grais music festival) event. This is not entirely correct. Yes, I had thought of that angle, but the real reason was the fireworks manufacturers call something that makes a loud explosion type sound a "boomer". Hence we are shooting boomers. But there is the pleasant thought that was pointed out to me regarding the BumberShoot angle: "The left-wing highly PC crowd that goes to it would probably faint if they heard about your event."
The complete story
In May of 1996 my two oldest kids (James and Kim) and I went to "The Blanchard Blast" in Blanchard Idaho. The targets were pop cans filled with dynamite at ranges of 300 yards to over 1000 yards. We had a great time and on the way home we were thinking about how we could put on our own event. In June of 1997 we went again and again had a great time and were even more determined to hold our own event. It took me over two years (off and on) to come up with a suitable high explosive mixture that I could make economically myself. See the web page on Explosive Experiments for the ongoing story on making explosive targets.
In September of 1998 I got my first detonation.
In October of 1998 I held my first event. It was very small. I invited about ten people and seven showed up. Five of them were from the Microsoft Gun Club nearly 350 miles away. That first event was held at a different location than the later events. It had a greater range available (up to about 900 yards) but it didn't have very good access. I used pop cans as target containers, something I changed for later events. The event was a moderate success (the weather was not very good). It was enough of a success I was decided to hold more events and open it up to the (almost) general public. The main restriction I have on entry is that people have email and web access. It is so much easier and faster to communicate via the Internet that I don't want to go to the extra effort to use snail mail.
In April of 1999 I held the event at a different location. It only had 700 yards maximum range, but the access was much better. I used half-pint milk cartons for the containers because they were easier to fill and are safer in the event that one explodes when someone is close by. The day before the event Eugene Econ put on a precision rifle clinic which was very well received. Also, the weather was better. There was some strong winds in the afternoon, but it didn't start raining until after the last shooter left. There were about twenty five shooters.
In July of 1999 I had a rather small turn out, but the weather was great. I had one big target equivalent to about five of the normal targets 700 yards from the firing line. When it was detonated it brought new spectators -- from five miles away! However, the next day while my wife and I were on our way to Glacier National Park in Montana a fire broke out at the range. It was a result of the spilled explosive material which spontaneously combusted and started the hay field on fire. This resulted in my canceling the event planned for August of 1999.
In April of 2000 the event was essentially filled by the end of March. Again there was a precision rifle clinic put on the day before by Eugene Econ. The weather was somewhat marginal with occasional showers, but it cut the chance of unwanted fires down to zero.
In April of 2001 the event was overbooked by the middle of March. I had one entry from Chicago and others from California as well as the usual crowd from the Seattle area. The clinic was again put on by Eugene and his assistant Mike Haugen. The event was catered by Dean Gimmestad who got universal praise. Saturday morning people showed up for the clinic and it was raining. I was able to get the classroom portion of the clinic moved to my cousins shop. Dean brought his catering truck to us and we had lunch in relative comfort. In the afternoon the class moved back out to the range. It was still raining some and it was windy. It gradually got better but it was not at all pleasant. The next day was better. Scattered showers and moderate winds. The first shot of the event got a boom and the second boom came less than five seconds later. There were a fair number of large targets this year and the shooters connected with them -- even out to 675 yards. The targets disappeared far too rapidly and I resolved to fix the problem for the next event.
In May of 2002 I extended the shoot by adding Friday. The clinic was again on Saturday (and again sold out). Sunday filled up in March and Friday was nearly sold out by the time of the shoot. With the help of Stephanie Sailor doing publicity a reporter from Newsweek came from Chicago and a reporter and photographer showed up from the Missoulian (Missoula Montana). Both wrote favorable articles. The rain, wind, snow, and hail dampened the fun some, but with the big increase in the number of targets and the improved emphasis on safety people reported being pleased. Dean Gimmestad did the catering again. I had a production line of several people mixing explosives on Saturday and it only took a few hours to produce all the targets needed for Sunday.
In May of 2003 we introduced fireballs which Ry and I had been working on for a couple of years. There was an opening demo of these targets that was about 100 feet from the shooting line. Each shooting position had their own fireball targets at the 200 line as well. Both the Saturday precision rifle clinic put on by Eugene Econ and the Sunday event were sold out by late February. Dean Gimmestad catered the event again. The Friday event didn't quite sell out. Nearly 800 targets containing over 700 pounds of explosives were used. These were built Thursday and Saturday just hours before the events. We had participants from as far away as Illinois, Michigan, and North Dakota. The Lewiston Morning Tribune wrote two articles on the event and the Lewiston T.V. station KLEW sent a reporter and had video on the Friday evening news.
In May of 2004 we put out over a 1000 targets over three days. There were far too many failures to detonate however. We had changed our procedures slightly and didn't realize it would adversely affect the sensitivity. Mother's Day being on Boomershoot Sunday didn't help the attendance which was essentially the same as 2003. We had Kim duToit and Stephanie Sailor both show up which was a real treat. Shooters showed up from Idaho, Oregon, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Dean Gimmestad catered lunches on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and then dinner on Friday for the experimental UltiMAK event.
In May of 2005 we changed the target bodies again. We used cardboard shipping boxes with the explosives sealed in "zip-lock" baggies. The thick hard cardboard we had previously used was causing some detonation problems. The new containers were easier to close up as well. We still had detonation problems that weren't solved and there were very few detonations beyond 380 yards.
We had excellent weather and tried to make up for the problems by allowing people to move in close for cleanup. This was an incredible hit with the shooters and we were asked to make it a regular part of Boomershoot. The "smoke" engulfed everyone, the dirt fell all around us, and the pounding of the explosives to our bodies at such short range was exhilarating. It was a nice recovery for the problems with the targets. There was a group dinner Saturday evening at the Ponderosa in Orofino arranged by Stephanie Sailor which was a long overdue addition to the event.
KING 5 Evening Magazine (Seattle television show) showed up and put together a great video (47 MBytes). Bloggers The Gun Guy, Analog Kid from Random Nuclear Strike, Fish Or Man, Isntapundit, Kirk from Fun Turns To Tragedy, and reasonablenut were all there. That didn't included the members of the staff that were bloggers. Lots and lots of blogger attention was received.
Everyone that I talked to about it said it was the best Boomershoot so far.
Before the April of 2006 event extensive testing was done and the mix was changed again. The reliability of detonation was much better. It wasn't until 600 yards and beyond that targets occasionally wouldn't detonate. Virtually everything went boom. The few that didn't had edge hits that drained the contents before a solid hit occurred. The Spokesman Review attended and published a great article and video. Eugene put on his Precision Rifle Clinic which was sold out in early January. We saved a couple hundred targets for "clean up" at the end which Ry made a video of and again it was a big hit.
In April of 2007 nearly everything went like clockwork. Except for some positions in the .50 caliber area the event filled up on November 20, 2006. The Precision Rifle Clinic filled up on November 8, 2006. There were 115 shooters signed up plus numerous spotters.
Free wireless Internet access was made available for the entire site.
During the actual event all the targets, nearly 900, were built by 14:00 on Saturday. Less than 10 failed to detonate. The extraordinary production rate of the targets can be partially attributed to Joe's daughter Kim. She not only worked incredibly fast and accurate she came up with an innovative way to prepare the potassium chlorate which was much faster than any of the previous methods.
A new method of building fireball targets was successfully tested. The opening fireball demo was a little bit too close to the crowd and some people got hit by prills of ammonium nitrate. No injuries were reported.
There were a few rain sprinkles in the late morning for three to five minutes then in the afternoon the wind was a bit troubling, but overall the weather was great.
During the cleanup some fireball targets caught some sticks and an old stump on fire which required extra attention but no real harm was done.