So, just what is the .357 Magnum like in a confined space?

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A number of years back my wife and I served as coordinators for the defensive pistol matches at our gun club. Our matches were somewhat similar to IDPA, but without the endless rules to make everything “fair.” We enjoyed a large following of regular participants who were very involved and loved to build sets for stages.

(Some of them got a little carried away; one particular gentleman once designed a stage that featured cardboard cows. Yes, cows, complete with udders. He’s a very creative sort.)

We held our matches on our club’s metallic silhouette range, so we had only a large open field in which to set up stages. We’d usually set up four “open” stages (you could see the entire thing), but also liked to set up one secret stage – the participants couldn’t see anything until they were actually in it. The way we usually accomplished this was to hang large tarps on portable stakes to block the view, but there were other approaches.

One particular match several guys got together and constructed a dark tunnel. The premise was that you were walking down an alley at night and targets would swing out or come charging toward you. It was a technical marvel and all contained in a narrow structure made of wood and black plastic (“visqueen.”) As I recall, it was about 8 feet wide, 8 feet tall, and perhaps 30 feet long. Since the premise was darkness, the entire thing was sheathed in that black plastic – including the roof. It took quite some time to build, so the guys had been on the range the day before to do the construction.

When we arrived the next morning to start the match we found that it had rained overnight. That wasn’t a problem, because the black plastic roof had kept everything dry. What we didn’t think about were the large puddles of water on that plastic!

Since I was the match director, I got to shoot first. I was using a Ruger SP101 with the 2-1/8″ barrel and fire-breathing 125grain JHP magnums. The range officer and I entered the structure, closed the door, and the buzzer went off.

I saw the first target and put two rounds into it, and immediately heard peals of laughter behind me. Outside of the enclosure, the other shooters were becoming hysterical.

I finished the stage (as I recall, there were three more targets) and exited the enclosure to find the laughter had diminished only slightly. People in the crowd told me that my first shot had created such a large amount of pressure in the enclosure that the sides were pushed out and the pooled water on the roof had been thrown twenty feet into the air. The effect, they said, looked like a Looney Toons cartoon of a stick of dynamite exploding in a barrel.

In the heat of the moment I didn’t really notice the concussion, but the range officer mentioned that he didn’t want to follow me so closely any more!

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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