Last updated on November 22nd, 2017 at 06:42 am
Beginning July 7th, Smallbore Prone shooters gathered at Bristol, Indiana to vie for the title of National Champion. Past champions, Civilian, Service along with Collegiate, Juniors and Civilians from all over the country arrived with aspirations to shoot new personal bests and attempt to shoot a 6400 aggregate score- having only been accomplished 3 times in history.
The matches started with an “Old” format- 50yards, 50 Meter, Dewar and 100yards would be the match order. Following the daily 1600 a four person fired team match would take place. 2016 is a selection year for the 2017 Roberts Team to compete at Bisley, England against Great Britain. For those looking for more match information or history, it can be found at www.pronematch.com Hap Rocketto has much of the history recorded for the alternating Pershing/Roberts team shoulder to shoulder matches.
The prone championship has gone back to the 6400 format. Day one started out rather benign and many took advantage. http://competitions.nra.org/championship-results/nra-national-smallbore-rifle-championships.aspx is the web link where this year’s scores can be found. Matt Chezem who trains at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Co., started out with a 400-38 in the 50y match. I shot the “ugliest” 20X target to claim 2nd Overall with a 400-37, 46 other riflemen scored 400 or better of the 130 contestants. I was fortunate to shoot 4 20X cards at 50 yards this week; I really wish this match would go away to save ammunition….. On to the meter match, Katie Bridges who studies Geology at TCU shot a winning 400-35 score- again I got lucky to find myself 2nd Overall with a 400-34. Eric “Skippy” Hazelton fired a 400-28 for 6th Ma, Matthew Griffin let one loose for 399-24 and first expert (SANDBAGGER…) New to the “450” palma club Erik “Taco” Rhode showed his iron sight prowess with a 397-30 for a win in the Sharpshooter category. Hank Grey of the AMU won the Dewar match with a 400-37 and Mark DelCotto took the 100yard match with a 400-35. Two 1600’s were fired- Delcotto and Chezem setting up a battle for the rest of the week- my day one aggregate of 1599-132 was a personal best and put me in 6th place OA….not bad. Skippy finished down 5, Matty Ice 6 and Taco down 8.
Day two began with the announcement that the Dewar match would be fired after the completion of the daily 1600. This put many on edge, tracking scores and challenges all day to land one of the 20 shooting spots on the annual postal match. Conditions were slightly trickier than day one- luck and skill were both needed to prevail…. Three shooters tied with 400-40x’s, Eric Uptagrafft of the AMU, Katie Bridges and two time defending champion Kevin “Devious” Nevius all knotted up in an unbreakable tie. People are serious…. 55 400’s were fired with the lowest X count being 19. My 35 landed me in 22nd, Ice had 36 for 14th, Skippy 35 for 19th and Taco 35 for 20th. Close would be an understatement. On to the meter match, Nevius gets the win with a 400-37, I decided to fire a round before my sights were lined up, making a 399-34. Not good. Skippy and Ice stayed clean, Rhode tried out the 9 ring with me…. Howard Pitts and Hank Grey shot an unbreakable tie of 400-38 in the Dewar match for the win, and our very own Ice man shoots the highest score in the last 100 yard iron sight match with a 400-33, for his 3rd Match win at nationals in his short Smallbore career. Only 11 shooters were able to keep all those 40 rounds in the 10 and X ring in the last match, I was fortunate to be one. Day two aggregate goes to Nevius with a stellar 1600-134, Billy Azzinaro from University of Kentucky also went clean. I managed only 2 nines for the day and had an iron sight aggregate of 3197-261- this is a personal best for me and gave me a 4th place overall finish behind Delcotto 3199-265, Uptagrafft and Gray’s 3198’s. Now was the selection of the Dewar Team- I managed the 4th spot and was followed by Chezem, Kerry Spurgin, Nevius, Mike Seery USAF, Stephen Angeli, Pitts, Mike O’Connor, Azzinaro, Bridges, Daniel Martz, Shawn Wells, Jimmie Fordham, Jim Miller, Mark Gould USAF, Ice, and Dan Altman, alternates Paul Gideon and Peter Church.
The Dewar Match is fired on metric targets at 50 and 100yards with iron sights, each shooter is granted a line coach. I selected my travel partner Erik Rhode and reported to the line. We began firing the match at 6:30 pm (talk about a long day on the range) starting at 50 yards and moving back to 100yards. Conditions were switchy requiring sighters and many sight changes. I finished down more than I would have liked, but our team score was higher than last year. We will see what Great Britain shoots after their national championships later in the year. The fired Dewar score was then added to the previous iron sight aggregate and the top 12 scores would make up the Roberts Team going to England in 2017. Because it was so late, targets were not scored until the following day. No one knew where they sat in relation to the team, we were all a little uneasy. I was very concerned my Dewar performance may have dropped me out of the top 12. Hap Rocketto will be the adjutant for the team in 2017 and as day three began he was shooting and trying to compile final results.
Day three changes to Any Sights- most adorned their Smallbore rifle with a scope- “with a scope, there is hope!” is chanted by many, me included. Conditions were perfect again 3 400-40X were fired- Gould, Gray, and Shawn Carpenter all were perfect- there were an additional 5 400-39X’s. 400-37 got me 17th place, one behind Ice with his own 37X. Taco though he had me beat with his excellent 36X campaign, but not yet! 72 other competitors got in on the 400 action as well. Skippy decided to use all the target he paid for with his match fee and shot a 9 just to prove he could!
Meters found Shawn Carpenter going back to back match wins with a 400-39X- talk about consistency! 400-36 got me 2nd master….Taco shot a 400-30 to school the other Sharp Shooters! Delcotto claimed the Dewar with 38- Ice and I found the 9 ring twice each in this match, but Taco showed his long range prowess with a 400-30X for another SS win! Final match of the day was claimed by Chezem with 34X. I stayed clean with 30, but Ice again found the 9 ring twice. Taco couldn’t claim his first 1600 just yet and found two shots in the nine ring to end the day with an excellent 1598! Not bad for a new Smallbore shooter and he even claimed to “like” using a scope…..hmmmmm. Skippy had an “incident” with a line officer that cost him a few points- it is a good story told much better in person. Ask him about it the next time you see him. 1600’s were again needed to claim the day- Chezem had 149X’s to Delcotto’s 136 and Spurgin’s 127- my 1598-134 only got me 10th for the day.
The final day found Delcotto down 1, Uptagrafft, Gray, Chezem all were within striking distance. How would it play out? Much like the day before 3 shooters fired 400-40x’s to start the day- Chezem, Gray and Carpenter. That means Shawn Carpenter shot 80 straight X’s at 50 yards in the two matches- WOW! My 37X just edged Taco’s 36 again! 😉 Ice and Hazelton both stayed clean along with 48 others in the match. Bridges takes the meter match with 38, and I managed to win the Dewar with 34X (I won the dewar in 2014 with 39X) Delcotto lost a point in the Dewar, it came down to the last match to claim the national title. The mirage was beginning to switch and leave in rapid timing, only the best would survive the 100 yard match clean. Bill Burkert showed his senior skill to claim the final match with 35X. Chezem lost his last shot, to miss out on an anysight 3200….Time to tally the scores. I didn’t have the patience to make it through the match clean, losing a nine on each card. Ice did go clean to keep an excellent any sight agg (for an EXPERT!!!!) Delcotto stayed clean to close the door on any more points dropped but the story of the day was Jared Desrosiers firing a 1600-140 from the sharpshooter class to claim the daily aggregate- wow! Gray and Clayton Hanson also added 1600’s for the final day.
It was now time to count the scores- Delcotto wins down two, Gray silver down 3 and Chezem moves back up to Bronze down 4. My personal best ever 6393-531 was good enough for 6th place over all- I am very pleased with my finish. Ice wins the Expert class with a 6385-481, Taco loses out on the Sharpshooter win in the final day marathon but still finishes with an excellent Master Level score of 6372-467. Skippy had an off year, but will be ready to claim the Junior category at the 2017 nationals.
It was a great trip, we avoided rain for all the individual matches and got to connect with old friends. One of the shooting sports Giants Lones Wigger is fighting cancer and made the trip to Bristol- if you know Lones he hates to lose and told the whole awards banquet he has no desire to lose this battle to cancer. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and Prayers- this will be his toughest battle.
All in all the Upper Midwest was well represented at this year’s Smallbore Nationals.