It all started in 1997: A long, long time ago with a much smaller waist and less knowledge of the world. I made my second trip to Camp Perry, but my first alone and first for Smallbore. Armed with my 1413, clothes and some cash I headed west. I met many people that trip, but most important was J. Michael O’Connor. In future years we traveled many miles together, talking about shooting and how to progress. This friendly rivalry took us both to double distinguished smallbore and many smallbore prone regional wins.
1997 was the first time I saw a Pershing match – 4 years opposite of the Robert’s team that would travel across the pond to compete shoulder to shoulder with Great Britain. Wigger had a 6399 that year using fast Federal UltraMatch, a score seeming in comprehensible to a lowly sandbagging marksman.
Mike and I wanted to be part of a “select” team, annual Dewar membership was a first step but making it to the top 10 of the US smallbore competitors became a career goal. Little did we know way back in 1997 that we would carry out the team goal in 2016.
Our England trip began on August 10th, flight from Bismarck to Denver then on to Dulles. Rechecking all our bags again and on to Heathrow in England. Our team congregated in Dulles, and Billy Azzinaro barely made the flight. Further west we continued. Day one in England many of the team took in some sites, Amy accompanied me and we were able to see Stonehenge and Windsor castle on day one. Along with creating some friendships we had shepherd’s pie, fish and chips and took in a few pints and some local pubs. Not a bad first day!
Sunday the team took to the firing line and began competing against the 350 other British. It would be an English match (60 shots at 50m) and a Scottish match (60 shots at 100y). The winds were relatively calm and the temperature was nice. Getting the match jitters out was a good first day- Eric Uptagrafft showed early on that he would be a force the whole week! He was continually winning matches or placing in the top ten, he was really dialed in. Many others on the team also claimed wins throughout the week.
The British championships are made up of equal amounts of 50m and 100y, shooting metric targets all the time versus conventional forces you to go back to basics – natural point of aim and shot execution are table stakes to firing good scores. The winds could get extremely puffy, one particular 100y match Michelle Bohren DOMINATED all others by winning the match agg by 5 points. She lost only 6 points, where as I am sure I lost 6 points on only 3 shots. She was in the zone and continued all week long to a third place finish overall behind Eric U and Hank Grey. Then Howard Pitts got in the action and took fourth. USA shooters took the top 4 spots of the championship. I was way back in 18th, but was preparing myself for the Roberts Team match.
The Roberts Team match is made of 10 firing members and 2 alternates, it is fired in England every 8 years and the Pershing is fired every 8 years in the US alternating with the Roberts team every 4 years. The match is a simple Dewar match- 20 shots at 50 meters and 20 shots at 100y by each firing member. For the Roberts team we fire on Metric targets, whereas the Pershing match is fired on our conventional targets. 8 years ago the Brits won on their home turf by a single point.
Lones Wigger was slated as head coach for our 2017 trip, his doctor recommended he not fly as the event came closer. Shawn Carpenter took on the role and the team rallied behind “Win it for Wig” as the event came closer our team was selected from the aggregate. Mike O’Connor and Shawn Wells would capably coach two shooters each- I had already put in my request to have Mike coach me as he guided me to a 592 a few years earlier in the Wakefield team match at Bristol. We formulated a plan of attack for how we wanted to communicate.
Our team was made of 2 person squads- starting with Gray and Uptagrafft coached by Patti Clark, Myself and Mark Delcotto coached by Mike O’Connor, Kevin Nevius and Mike Seery coached by Shawn Carpenter, Howard Pitts and Kerry Spurgin coached by Hap Rocketto, and finally Billy Azzinaro with Matt Chezum. Conditions had been building all day, with direction shifts back to the left being very dramatic. With Mike making the correct calls I was able to get mostly 10’s, but I did fire a couple shots at the wrong time misevaluating the change. After the 50m phase we were just barely ahead of our Brit competitors- it was all going to come down to 100.
After the target change the winds began to increase, cloud cover increased and the rain began. My front sight aperture had water all over it, many on the team with their front magnifier get wet- as firing time is only 20 minutes which includes your preparation there really isn’t much time to work on equipment. We had to continue on, then the hail started, yes hail. The wind increased, it was not easy to get a clear sight picture but Mike continued to call the correct wind and I was able to keep the majority of the shots in the 10 ring. Eric U’s spotting scope fogged up, he had to have Patti call his shot location to make any sight adjustments from, and it truly was a British shooting experience with all “their” favorite weather.
As the “hooter” sounded all firing was complete, we had to wait for the soggy targets to be scored before the results would be posted. The team was packing our gear after pulling the rifles apart to dry them as best we could. Results were posted and for Wigger, we claimed our victory! Having an “OK” week individual performance capped off with a team victory was a great finish. The British treated us very well all week, and did a great job of awarding trophies for all classes for each match- from the pictures you can see what excellent trophies everyone has potential to win.
On Sunday, our group took a train into London and toured the city- double decker bus and some extra time at the tower of London. It was a great end to a wonderful trip.
20 years ago a Jr shooter from ND decided he wanted to make a team and represent his country, being back in ND since March I finally was able to complete that goal!
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