MN Long Range Regional - Gopher Rifle and Revolver Club
Leading up to this match, it occurred to me that the enchanted Brux barrel that I put on in mid-March already has 1100 rounds through it. At this rate, it was going to be about used up by the end of August if I didn’t come up with a “Plan B”. Having just gotten 2 Bartlein’s back from gunsmith extraordinaire Randy Gregory, I decided to head up to GRRC earlier this week to try to get a few down the tube, and hopefully come home with a decent 1000-yard zero. That range trip went even better than I could have hoped for, as right out of the gate it seemed like it could be imbued with some of the same magic as the Brux. I just brought along some of the rounds I had loaded for the Brux for rough testing. It took 3 rounds to get on target, then a few sighters to get centered up, but the resulting groups showed some real promise:
Ok, nice – I decided to bring it back on Friday for the squadded practice day before the regional started in earnest on Saturday. It held it’s own there, while good buddy Brian “Short Pants” Mrnak and I squared off for 3 casual matches at 1000, and another string on the always-challenging 300-yard ICFRA target. Brian is about back to his peak shooting form, and as such he got me by a couple of points on practice day, but I was still pleased with how well the new barrel seemed to shoot. Seemed good enough to roll the dice and give it a shot for the “Any” sight matches the next day…
The forecast for Saturday was looking bleak. There didn’t seem to be any question of whether or not it would rain, only when it would start. A massive storm system stretching all the way down to the Arkansas border sat just west of us, promising we’d all be wet before the day was over. Most of the amateur meteorologists on hand agreed that we should be fine until noon or so, so match director Steve Naumann got things kicked off at 9 am sharp. Entries were split pretty evenly with 16 sling shooters and 15 F-Class. This match would usually draw closer to 40, but I think the near-guarantee of driving home with wet gear kept some of the fair-weather shooters at home curled up by the fireplace.
The condition was fair for the first match, with winds coming from the NE, as is often the case at Harris. I was on first relay, and managed the top sling score of 199-14x for the win. Fellow Palma Alliance and US National Rifle Team member Morgen “Man-Boy” Dietrich was 2nd just 5 X’s back. Yet another Palma Alliance Member, Mike Cieko topped the Master/Expert class with a fine 196-2x. Drew Rutherford gave a lesson on the beauty of the .308 Winchester to all of the assembled F-Class shooters, posting a cool 197-12x with his FTR rig, with Joel Danielson coming in 2nd place.
After shooting match 1, my relay headed to the pits with our rain gear to pull 3 strings for relays 2 and 3. Everybody stayed dry through Match #1, but by the time Relay #2 started the second match, the rain had started to fall. I was lucky enough to be pulling his target while Craig “The Phantom Menace” Bennis put together the only clean 200 of the day – 11 x’s in the rain with his .243 made my pit duty easy. By the time relay 1 got back to the firing line it was raining for real. We waited as long as we could before laying down for prep, but we all got soaked anyways. Somehow, Brian Mrnak managed to shoot a masterful 199-7x in that mess, which may have been the most impressive feat of the weekend. Perennial favorite Pat Scully took the F-Class match at 197-8x, with Chuck Laitenen 1 point back. My own 193-6x took some of the wind out of my sails after winning match 1, but I knew there’d be chances to try to make it up later. MD Naumann wisely made the call to scrap match #3, and the rain continued to fall the rest of the day. The food truck arrived (yes, this match had catered lunch) an hour or so later, and everyone ate and told tall tales for then next few hours as gear dried by the wood stove.
As Morgen and I made the drive up to the range on Sunday, it was clear that it was going to be an interesting day. Trees were shaking and every flag we passed was standing straight out from a full value west wind. There weren’t likely to be many cleans shot today. The big wind was going to separate the scores, and since I was starting day 2 in 6th place, I was glad for the opportunity. Jeff Dick took advantage of the condition and drove his .284 F-Open rig to the match-winning score of 194-6x. Rick Siever finished just one X back, while Drew “Ramblin’ Man” Rutherford put his “real wind” experience from North Dakota to use to top fellow TR man Steve Ernst by a point. My own 197-8x was good enough to win the sling category, with Ginormous Jay Johnson taking second 4 points back.
Match #5 looked pretty similar, and I was on top again with another 197, 9x’s this time. USNRT wind coach Stevie Knutson shot the same score to take a share of the win, and Short Pants Mrnak was next at 197-7x. Chris Longley and John Rykhus went 1-2 for the F-Class shooters, 194-4x to 193-2x. Jeff Dick entertained the crowd by firing a shot during prep time, costing him 10 points and earning him a healthy ration of ribbing by his fellow shooters. Oh well, I doubt if he does that again!
The West winds were even more mystifying for the last match of the weekend. Brian and I were squadded next to each other all weekend, and I knew our scores were close. I had made up some ground in the first 2 matches of the day, but it was going to come right down to the wire in the last match. We both managed the conditions as best we could, with both of us taking some lumps along the way, I know I was surprised by 2 8’s that seemed to come out of nowhere. My 194-3x again tied a USNRT coach; this time it was Ricky Hunt. We would have to be satisfied with second place though, as Knutson shot the same score with 10 X’s to win that match. Rick Siever wins the F-Class match, with his 195-6x edging out Pat Scully and Joel Danielson’s matching 194-4x scores.
At the end of the weekend, consistency paid off and rewarded those with the fewest major errors. The NRA Regional medals went to the following:
Drew Rutherford 951-24x – Gold
Rick Siever 972-27x – Gold
Pat Scully 966-30x – Silver
Joel Danielson 961-24x – Bronze
Erik Rhode 980-40x – Gold
Brian Mrnak 978-36x – Silver
Morgen Dietrich 970-38x – Bronze
This match also has some trophies on the sling side, one going all the way back to 1978. The “Any Sight” trophy for Saturday’s agg went to Grand senior Bill Lair, who last scratched his name onto it back in 2009. I was happy to take home the “Iron Sight” trophy for Sunday’s agg, which I had last won back in 2015. I also took back the overall trophy, which I was kind enough to loan to Morgen Dietrich back in 2015, but he decided to keep it for 3 straight years. Sheesh, the nerve of some people…
I think it’s safe to say that a good time was had by all. Thanks to Steve Naumann for running another great match, and to the Gopher club members who helped keep things running smooth. An extra big thanks to the food truck guy for keeping us all fed on Saturday as we dried off in the red shed.
Next up for Long Range shooting in MN is the 2018 Fulbore State Championship on June 29-July 1. This is one of my favorite matches every year, and is one of the best opportunities to learn to read wind you will find anywhere in the country. Pair firing for 3 days from 500, 600, 900, and 1000-yards will make you watch conditions and make decisions like you rarely would at any other match. Unless you already know everything about how the wind works, I’d suggest you put this one on your calendar!