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All Further Blanchard Blasts Canceled

Currently there are no more Blanchard Blasts scheduled.  No it wasn't shut down because of political pressure.  The organizer got burned out and the land owner wasn't particularly enthusiastic either.

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The Blanchard Blast is a shooting event where they stuff pop cans with dynamite and put them at various distances away from the firing line (from a minimum of 300 yards on up to 1,200 yards away). You get three shots, then another shooter gets three shots, you continue rotating and can shoot all day long. The June 1995 newsletter reports some guy hit the 1,100 yard can on his 13th shot.  I got email from him on 4/13/01 saying it was on his 12th shot.  The only reason it took that many shots was because of the Military M-118 Match Ball -- Not the most accurate .308 available.  Someone else hit a 350 yard can with a .22LR, but it didn't detonate. You can expect several detonations per minute. In June '95 they had 130 spectators and 59 shooters.
bulletThe Challenge
bulletFirst Hand Report on the May '96 Event (including sound).
bulletFirst Hand Report on the June '97 Event.
bulletFun For The Whole Family
bulletHints on Shooting the Event Yourself
bulletNitty Gritty Details
bulletAn explosion 550 yards away (1.1M .AVI)
bullet550 yards is a LONG way to shoot at pop cans (1.4M .AVI)

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The Challenge

From the April 1996 issue of Blanchard Blast Bulletin:

Do your friends consider you a skilled marksman? Are you up to the ultimate long range challenge? Perhaps you know of someone who constantly boasts of being able to shoot great distances accurately. If the ability to hit small targets at unbelievable distances intrigues you, you'll want to attend the next "Blanchard Blast" a new and exciting shooting event held in North Idaho. This is definitely not your regular long range shooting event because large paper targets are not allowed in this competition. Actually the Blanchard Blast is unique for two reasons. 1. The dedicated competitors represent every age group and compete with every type of firearms imaginable. 2. The targets distinguish this shooting event from all others. The targets are 12 oz. soda pop cans filled with dynamite, as in HIGH "EXPLOSIVE" dynamite.

All shooting is from rock solid benches with plenty of sand bags to cradle your firearm. Of course some serious marksmen prefer "freestyle" standing only, but you don't have to if you don't want to. At first it may be difficult to pick out a target , certainly not because of the petite size, but simply that there's so many to choose from. Each event has over 200 brightly painted dynamite laden targets. The close ones are a mere 350 yards away. These serve as a confidence builder that will help you decide to reach out and tackle the ultimate can at over 1,200 yards, well over a half a mile away! After you've teamed up with a spotter you will be allowed to engage any target with 3 shots each then you'll fall back into rotation and await your next turn. While you wait you may see another competitor shooting at "your" can, now the pressure is on! The line moves rapidly because there are 25 benches in which to shoot from. Finally, it's your turn again. Your concentration is so intense, beads of sweat roll down your forehead and into your eyes. The cross hairs seem to blur as you exhale and gently but firmly start pressing the trigger. This a critical moment, flicks of sand testify that another will have this "trophy" before you…or will he? BARRROOM! Diligence paid off. As your rifle recoils back you see a bright flash three feet in diameter, simultaneously a smoke cloud rise to over 50 feet. Then as the crowd cheers in your honor all present not only hear but FEEL the thunderous boom. If this sounds like fun to you then believe it or not you're a Blanchard Blaster too!!!

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Family Fun

Letter to the editor of the April 1996 Blanchard Blast Bulletin.

Fellow Blasters:

Just a quick note to let you know my family and I really enjoyed the June 4th shoot. I was happy to see so many women and young kids there. My husband and I try to include our boys in everything we do and this shoot was great fun for the whole family…

B. King
Sandpoint, ID

Do Idaho shooters know how to have fun or what?

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Report From May 18, 1996 Event

Just finding a pop can at these distances is a challenge. At 300 yards I could just barely find the fluorescent orange cans without optics. At 350 yards they were invisible without optics.

The accuracy requirements assuming ZERO wind are somewhat daunting. A pop can is 2.5 inches wide and 4.5 inches tall. At 350 yards this is 0.7 by 1.2 MOA. At 500 yards it is 0.48 x 0.86 MOA. A good quality rifle will give 1 MOA of accuracy. An excellent rifle in the hands of a practiced expert can deliver 0.5 MOA. But accuracy is measured center to center of the bullet holes. If the pop can is stuffed tight on both sides you gain almost the half the bullet width on both sides. For a 30 caliber bullet this gives an additional 0.30 inch or 0.08 MOA at 350 yards and 0.05 MOA at 500 yards. So, at 350 yards the real requirements for a "1 shot, 1 kill" is 0.78 MOA accuracy and at 500 yards it is 0.53 MOA. So, it appears that given ideal conditions, an expert rifleman, and top notch rifle, it should just be possible to get the 500 yard cans, first time, every time. At least that is what I thought until the shooters meeting about 10:30 AM. There is about an inch of sand in the bottom of the cans to keep them from blowing over easily. The sticks of dynamite are about 1.5 inches in diameter and are wedged side by side in the pop can. No particular orientation is made with respect to broadside or edgewise with these sticks. They could be presenting you with just a 1.5 inch side view. So, we are presented with a worst case situation of 0.49 x 1.03 MOA at 350 yards and 0.34 x 0.73 MOA at 500 yards required. Then when the cans get knocked over without detonating they can be presenting you with the bottom or top view -- just two 1.5 inch diameter circles.

My goal, assuming no wind, was to get the 350 yard cans first time, every time. For the 500 yard cans the goal was to nail them 50% of the time. It was windy, gusts of 10 MPH, so I have my excuse for not even coming close to that goal.

Wind really was the critical issue. If there is even the breath of wind it must be taken into account. The pop cans start upright, but that changes as people blast away at them. I thought this whole event would be an exercise in reading the wind. But it's more a matter of having a good spotter to work with. You take your best guess at range and windage and get close enough for your spotter to walk you in to it. Out to about a maximum of 385 yards my laser range finder could get a lock and I could get the elevation within a couple inches or so on the first shot. But the windage was tough. Shot to shot windage for the same point of aim at a 300 yard can for the same windage point of aim went: +1.0, 0.0, -0.5, -0.5 inches. That was relative to the outside edges of the can, except for the 0.0 shot, which was to the center but 2 inches low. The next shot I adjusted 1/4 mil right (about 2.5 inches) and just barely hit it -- on the left side. The next shot was back to the original point of aim, for windage, and it detonated.

The ballistics program I wrote for my HP-41 hand-held calculator was only used a couple of times. When I was trying to get the cans at 300 and 350 yards. I used it to give me an estimate of the windage. I already had good scope settings for the range from a table I had put together and put in my weather proof log book. After the first rain shower I put the calculator away and didn't use it again. Same with the wind gage. It gave me direction and velocity, but the wind would vary from 0 to 10 MPH in a matter of three or four seconds. An hour or so later the wind changed directions by about 160 degrees. I finally put it away and just relied on my spotter (my 12 year-old son Jamie).

My nine year-old daughter, Kim, videotaped the event. She got a great picture of the tops of some distance trees when I got my first can (155K WAV file). She never did get one of my four hits on tape. At the end we essentially got rained out. They piled all the remaining cans into four or five piles about 500 or 600 yards away, then when a break came in the rain most everyone, except for me, blasted away at them. I video taped it (sound only 1.2M WAV file or video snippet of this 1.1M AVI file), with Kim asking to do it herself, then leaning on me and asking questions as I tried to hold the camera still on action 500+ yards away and capture the final minutes.

My results were as follows:
bullet350 yard can: ?? then someone else got it.
bullet360 yard can: shot 4 detonation.
bullet300 yard can: knocked it over on the fourth shot. Detonation on shot 13
bullet475 yard (est.) can: fifth shot detonation.
bullet475 yard (est.) can: five shots, can turned on end towards us, then hit by someone else with a better angle.
bullet500 yard (est.) can: BOOM on shot one!
bullet510 yard (est.) can: 14 shots, most within two or three inches, then rained out.

I fired 51 rounds. I didn't write down all the rounds -- especially at first. I do know I got the 500 yard can on the first shot though. My son, Jamie, was quite thrilled and made a big deal about it.

Four cans out of about a 100. Somewhere between 30 and 50 shooters, so I got my share at least. The guy next to me on my right didn't get any until the end where there was a pile of cans together.

We had a great time. Jamie started out saying he didn't want to spot for me. He wanted me to find someone else to do it. Then after I said I didn't have anyone he agreed to do it for a while. Later the kids argued over who was going to get to do the spotting. Kim had a good time too. She wasn't able to spot well, but loved watching and video taping. Next year we'll do it again. And we are thinking about how we might be able to run our own event.

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Report From June 21, 1997 Event

Jamie and Kim went with me again. We arrived at 9:15 hoping to get a bench with a better angle for the more distant targets than last year. We did get a little closer, but not much. There were already about 20 shooters there. By 10:00 AM there were 30 shooters and all the benches were taken. At the shooters meeting J.R. Shepard went over the safety rules and told us that on the distant hill was a yellow five-gallon can packed full of dynamite. "Most of North Idaho should hear it when it goes off", he said. "Should be easy to hit too, it's a lot bigger than a pop can." Yeah, right. It was also nearly 3/4 of a mile away.

Several people I tried to get to come to the event said all they had was a SKS and said they didn't think that would be good enough. Probably not, but I did see at least two SKS's there this year. Also I saw a Thompson-Contender chambered in .223 being used.

 I shot Federal 30.06 Match (168 grain Sierra BT) ammo again. I brought some handloads, but they were not as accurate as the Federal ammo so I didn't use them until I ran out of the Federal. The handloads also had more recoil and my shoulder was so sore by that time that I only shot a few rounds and decided it was time to go home. I wore my Microsoft Gun Club Tee shirt (version 1.0) and my Team Direct (Microsoft Direct X) hat.

After we got the go ahead to start shooting I zeroed in on a distant orange spot with my laser range finder and was able to get a lock on one 375 yards away. I adjusted my scope for 10.0 MOA and aimed dead on. "About 12 inches to the right", reported Jamie. Hmm... must be more wind out there than there is here. That would figure out to be over 10 MPH at this distance, but I could barely feel anything on my face. I really must get better at this wind thing… I adjusted three MOA left and fired again. Jamie thought I hit it, but it didn't go off. Okay, this is looking good. We are dropping them in there. Same point of aim, I fired and it hit an inch and a half to the left. Fine, within the accuracy of the gun and shooter, especially since a wind change could account for the miss. The next shot to the same point of aim knocked the can over and we could barely see it through the branches. We moved on to an easier target another five yards distant. We shot at that for a seven rounds before it moved because of a close hit. Someone else got it before we did though. We shot 32 rounds without getting a solid hit.

I decided I want to try taking a few shoots at the five-gallon can. I moved my bench around to point more in that direction. J.R. came by and asked me to move down to the other end so my muzzle blast wouldn't bother the guy next to me. I went to the left a half dozen or so benches and another guy with a .340 Weatherby Magnum and I took turns shooting at the can. I couldn't get a lock with my range finder, but that wasn't surprising. It won't lock beyond 400 yards without a reflective target (like a car reflector) and even then it won't go beyond 1000 meters. I estimated 1000 yards and adjusted my scope for 39.75 MOA. I took a couple shots but Jamie couldn't see my where they hit at all. The guy with the Weatherby claimed he saw one. About 25 feet low he estimated. I doubted that. But I adjusted up to 45.0 MOA, which would be only about four to six feet depending on the range. It hit about 20 feet to the right. I saw the dust that time. I adjusted 8 MOA left. He claimed I hit a couple feet to the right. We traded back and forth. I could not see his hits at all in my tripod mounted 45-power spotting scope. His wife thought she saw something in her hand-held binoculars. After several shots I tried again. He claimed he could see something "real close", but I never saw another hit and I know I could get my scope back on target before the bullet would hit, nearly two seconds later. I took about ten shots total at that target and gave up. There was just no point if you don't have a clue where they are landing. I was discouraged. It was nearly noon and I hadn't got a single detonation. The closer targets in the 350 to 500 yard range were all gone so I decided to take a break and clean my rifle -- it would be lunch time soon anyway.

During lunch they set up more targets. After lunch I got a lock with my range finder on one at 357 yards. I knocked it over on the fourth shot, making it nearly impossible to see. I moved on to two side by side cans at about 370 yards. There were other people shooting at them too. I could see the dust kick up around it as I fired my shots. My shots were closer. The others were all a foot or more away, mine were almost all within five inches. Finally on shot 14 I nailed them. Finally! We had been shooting for hours and finally we got our first can.

On to a single can at about 360 yards. Again the dust was kicking up from the other people shooting at the same one. Jamie had trouble distinguishing my shots from all the others hitting just around it. There was a hit near the can every two or three seconds. By really bearing down on the forestock I was able to get the scope back on target quick enough to see the dust from my hits and occasionally see the actual hit. I finally nailed it on shot nine.

The only one left at the closer range was the one at 357 yards that I had knocked over earlier. We could see the glint from the shiny aluminum bottom, not much, but we went for it. Again the group of shooters took aim at "my" can. Again, my shots were closer, a half-inch left and a half-inch low. Dead on, but two inches low. Three inches left, one inch low. Another one about a half-inch left and half-inch low -- it jumped a foot in the air! Three inches left, two inches low. Then on shot six -- BOOM! A big smoke ring went up, I grabbed my camera snapped a couple pictures. I had never seen a smoke ring like that before. The guy next to me smiled and said, "I hope you got a picture of that one."

Jamie and I were jacked now. This is more like it. This is fun! We moved on to the next closest can, one at about 500 yards. I shot 12 rounds before running out of the Federal Match ammo. I got out my handloads and fired ten rounds before giving up after a particularly painful blow to my shoulder.

Three detonations, four cans. Not too bad I guess. I'm pretty sure there were some people that didn’t get any. It was fun when we were hitting them every ten shots or so. Next year I'm going to get my handloads all tuned up for my rifle. I had chronographed them and they were much more uniform in velocity than the Federal Match ammo. I had individually weighed the charges for each round down to the 0.1 of a grain, but there was something else that wasn't quite right. I found out just the day before the event that they weren't nearly as accurate.

I took some other pictures too. The one below has two explosions in it. The closer one is at about 250 yards. It was for people to shoot at off-hand. If there were enough shooters (50 minimum) J.R. was going to give the first person to hit it a prize of $50.00. Some kid shot it from a bench though. He apparently didn't hear the instructions about it at the shooters meeting. The more distant one is at about 350 yards.

Two at once.

View of the firing line.

Microsoft Gun Club (Version 1.0) t-shirt.

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Hints For Shooting

1) Pick on cans that are on the hillside in the dirt rather than on stumps, stakes or posts above the ground. The dirt makes it easier for the spotter to identify the bullet impact locations.

2) Get there early to pick a good bench. Only some of the benches will have good angles for all the cans. The left most benches are the best - we were three benches from the right. We couldn't safely fire at cans beyond about 600 yards.

3) Watch out for the guys with muzzle brakes. The side blast can be obnoxious, or so we were told. In '96 I did watch a guy shoot a .50 BMG. I was directly behind him and did not experience any discomfort.

4) Bring a good spotting scope. For the May '96 event we took my astronomy telescope, after the two people with spotting scopes I expected to go with me canceled at the last minute. It got soaking wet, inside and out, and was unusable for the final minutes of madness. I didn't even try shooting those final minutes. Without feedback you don't have a clue unless you know the exact range.

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Nitty Gritty Details

bulletHours 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM
bulletGates open at 9:00 AM
bullet$25.00 (approximately) -- shoot all day.

Range Rules

bulletThis is a cold range. Firearms may not be loaded until instructed to do so at the firing line.
bulletAll firearms transported with open bolt. Keep ammunition separated until positioned at firing line.
bulletOnly shooter and spotter allowed at firing line. Absolutely no one allowed on firing line unless shooting or spotting.
bulletEye and ear protection mandatory while shooting or spotting.
bulletMaximum 3 shots fired at targets per shooter. Then fall back in rotation until next turn.
bulletNo smoking while shooting or spotting.
bulletDo not cross caution tape barriers. Please observe and stay within the taped barriers.

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For more information write to:

Blanchard Blast Bulletin
PO BOX 88300
Oldtown, ID 83822

The event is located at:

Mile Post #26
Hwy. 41, Blanchard, ID

Follow the 4x8 signs.
Watch the Nickels Worth for more details.

Directions from the Seattle area:
Go East on I-90 past Spokane.
Take the Idaho State Hwy. 41 exit.
Go North 26 miles.

Directions from the East:
Go West on I-90 towards Spokane from Coeur d'Alene
Take the Idaho State Hwy. 41 exit.
Go North 26 miles.

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Email: Joe Huffman
Last updated: March 08, 2004