Last updated on November 15th, 2017 at 04:29 pm
Another great shooting weekend wrapped up on Sunday, as shooters completed the 3-day long MN Long-Range State Championship. Gopher Rifle and Revolver Club hosted the festivities, which had sling and f-class shooters vying to get their names onto many historic trophies. The weather was hot, but we expect that for June in Minnesota. Match Director Mark Rohmann and GRRC staff did yeoman’s work making sure that everything went off without a hitch, and everyone went home happy.
Gopher is the only Highpower club in the state with a 1000-yard range, and they also built 800 and 900-yard firing lines sometime in the 90’s to be able to host official “Palma” matches. A Palma match consists of shooters firing 15 shots for record from the 800, 900, and 1000-yard lines with a total possible score of 450 points. Sling shooters are limited to rifles chambered in either .308 or .223, and only iron sights are allowed. The bravest of these Palma shooters form the “PALMA ALLIANCE”, who have taken a vow to self-limit themselves by shooting only sub-156gr bullets, as is required in international competition. Non-Alliance members shoot heavier bullets to take advantage of their superior ballistics. In the 20-plus year history of Palma matches at GRRC, there has never been a perfect 450 fired by a sling shooter here. The Man-Boy himself, Morgen Dietrich came out of the closest in 2013 with his near-perfect score of 449-32x – no mean feat, even though he did it shooting 185gr Berger Juggernauts.
This year’s LR championship called for Palma matches on both Friday and Sunday, so we would all have 2 chances to change that little piece of state history. With a break from Palma on Saturday to focus on the 1000-yard line, there would be plenty of opportunities to do big things this weekend. The 4 Alliance members on hand for Friday’s Palma match were chomping at the bit to get started in what looked to be a near-perfect day for good scores. Alliance captain Brian “Short Pants” Mrnak assembled the team and delivered a pre-match motivational speech that would have made Tony Robbins cry before we dispersed to our assigned points to start the match.
The condition from the 800-yard line proved manageable, and Craig “The Menace” Bennis, Steve “New Guy” Naumann, and I made it through our 15-shot strings giving up no points. Fellow Alliance Members Mrnak and Jay Johnson were right behind us with 149’s. It’s always nice to clean 800, but we all know that in a Palma match, the rubber doesn’t meet the road until later in the day. Back at 900, Steve and I both managed to stay clean for another 15 shots, and Short Pants put up the only other 150 of the stage.
Brian, Jay, and I were all on 3rd relay for the day, which meant we would be first up in the 1000-yard stage. Jay got caught for a handful of points, while Brian served up a masterful 148-4x to finish the day with an excellent 447-19x. I have gone back to the 1000-yard line quite a few times still clean, but I have only managed to capitalize on that start and finish clean once before. Well, today was my day, as I managed ten 10’s and 5 x’s to finish with a 450-23x. This was a new state record and the only 450 ever shot in MN, so yeah, I was pleased.
Time for relay 3 to head to the pits to pull for last 2 shooters, and “New Guy” Naumann was next up on my target #16. Remember that Steve was also still clean at this point, could lightning strike twice? It turns out that it could. Steve steered all of his 155 VLD’s into the 10 and x-ring, and his 450-24x for the day took my name off the state record list just 30 minutes after it got there. With Steve’s and my 450’s and Brian’s 447, it was a clean sweep for the Palma Alliance. Looks like 155’s can be competitive with the heavy bullets after all!
Down on the little targets, the 3 F-Class High Masters present did what High Masters are supposed to do, as Chris Longley (445-21x), Mike Jones (444-13x), and Patty Cakes Scully (443-19x) finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
After the conclusion of the Palma match, there was an extra 20-shot “Any/Any” match from the 1000-yard line. Scope wizards Craig Bennis and the young Serbian Sensation Elliot Zunich showed the rest of the sling shooters how it was done, by posting the top scores of 197 and 196, respectively. My Palma rifle was a ways behind, but still managed to claim 3rd with a 194-5x. Longley extended his lead over Scully by another point in F-Class, as his 194-5x squeaked past Pat’s 193-4x. After that match was over, MD Rohmann served up top-notch BBQ chicken dinner, and we all ate and swapped stories of the days events.
On Saturday morning, Palma Alliance General Steve Knutson arrived to further strengthen our numbers in the 1000-yard “any rifle” contests. Alliance members literally stuck to their guns – all 5 members shot Palma/Irons against the higher-octane 6mm’s, 6.5’s and big .30’s present. Steve Naumann showed that he was no one-day wonder by winning the 1st and 3rd matches outright, while letting me take home the middle one. Steve’s Saturday score of 593-23x put him at the top of the scoreboard, and made him the 2017 MN 1000-yard champ. In FTR, Chuck Laitinen did the same thing, winning 2 out of 3 with Ramblin’ Man Drew Rutherford taking the other one. That put Chuck on top of the Saturday agg by a single point over Drew. Things were not as close in F-Open, as Scully kept his boot on Chris Longley’s neck all day, finishing 4 points ahead in the day’s agg. On his way to the Saturday victory, Scully managed to shoot a 200-17x in the last match of the day. This ties the National record, and puts Pat into some very lofty company. Scully and Laitinen are your 2017 100-yard f-class champs in Open and FTR, respectively.
The only thing left to do for the day was settle the annual 2-man team match, and 5 teams showed up to test their mettle. It was all Palma Alliance on the sling end, with Brian Mrnak putting on his coaching shorts to lead Jay Johnson and Steve Naumann against Stevie Knutson and me. Proud new camper owner Knutson put on a wind-coaching clinic while I shot, and we only let 1 point get away while stacking up 12 x’s. I returned the favor by steering Steve all over the 9-ring, but in the end despite my worst coaching efforts, we still had the X’s to come out on top. In F-Open it was another close one, as the team of Scully and Johnson topped John Rykus and Joel Danielson by a single point. They also had an 11 X advantage, so John and Joel would’ve needed 2 points to win. Chuck Laitinen and Scott Olson shot unopposed in FTR, and finished with a solid team score of 383-10x. Another BBQ followed the team match, and this time Mad Dog Rohmann served up all of the pork chops we could handle.
On Sunday morning the wind was up from the 2 previous days, and it looked like perfect scores would take a little more work this time. Could either Steve or I shoot back-to-back 450’s to Join Dan Simpson in that elite club? For me the answer quickly turned out to be “no”. A nasty hang-fire primer cost me a low 8 early in my 800-yard string. Steve knuckled down and shot a cool 150-10x to keep his dream alive, and Jay Johnson and Stacey “The Surgeon” Tamulinas also kept them all in the middle. 6 out of 16 F-Open shooters stayed clean through 800 as well.
At 900, Steve again steered them straight, shooting the only 150 on that yard line. 2 450’s in a row was really starting to look like a possibility, and from an Expert-classed shooter with only 5 or 6 Palma matches under his belt?This guy is quickly turning out to be a valuable addition to the Palma Alliance.
Once we got back to 1000, it was clear that staying clean there would take a truly epic wind-reading performance. Big gusts and let-offs were happening fast with very few clues on the flags or in the mirage. Steve made it through the first 6 or 8 shots clean, but then the dream ended as a wide 8 showed up on the right side. It’s burned into my memory, as I was on the next target and saw the same 8 come up on mine. Steve made a correction and shot again, and was rewarded with another 8 right next to the first one. The indicators were definitely not telling the truth, as none of could see an 8-ring wind change downfield. Steve got back in the middle for the next shot, and only lost one more point on his way to a 145-3x finish. I felt his pain, as I caught another 8 and a 9 as I limped to a 145-4x. 145’s turned out to be respectable, as the only sling shooters to top it were Tamulinas shooting 185’s, and Knutson with his good old Sierra 2156’s. The F-Class gang took similar beatings, with Scully and Johnson being the only 2 to top 140.
At the end of the day, Naumann’s 445-18x was the top sling score, with Stacey just 3 x’s back for 2nd. Sierra stud Knutson finished 3rd with 443-15x. Laitinen again cruised to the FTR win, and Eric Johnson just edged out Scully by a point with his 442-15x.
Another BBQ featuring brats was served as we waited for the stat office staff to work their magic on the abacus. Overall MN Long Range Championship Trophies for the weekend aggregates went to Steve Naumann (Sling), Chuck Laitinen (FTR) and Pat Scully (F-Open). MD Rohmann secured no less than 11 prizes to be raffled off after the trophies were handed out, and lots of folks went home with some good loot.
The MN Long-Range State Championship is was one of the biggest and best MN prone matches in recent memory, and Mark did an excellent job of making the whole thing happen. A big thanks is owed to all of the GRRC members who worked behind the scenes getting the range ready, and especially to Ed Dike for giving up his whole weekend to run the pits for us. Steve Naumann definitely puts more than his fair share of work in at Gopher, so maybe his tour de force weekend was a bit of cosmic payback for all the hours he puts in.
Hope to see everyone back here in a few weeks for the 1000-yard regional!
Contest ends 12 midnight on June 13, 2017
Winner will be announced in the June 14th Newsletter
*Only one entry per person. No purchase necessary.