Having not lived in North Dakota for 17 years, I had forgotten just how much the wind likes to blow. The absence of trees, and fairly flat topography allow the winds out of Canada to roll through on a regular basis. Speaking of Canada, if you want to shoot at a range "almost" in Canada but yet still be in the USA, Rolla ND is just the place for you.
Last fall the 2016 ND Midrange championship had to be postponed due to weather. Since there are not many free weekends to replace a late September match, the firing of the championship ended up being scheduled in 2017. The weather on Saturday was a beautiful spring day, with trees budding, temps almost in the 70's and sunshine. Doesn't get much better.
Andy Johnson and Coby Dalgiesh had the 8-point range in tip top shape. We had a full line and were forced to shoot 4 relays - what a great problem! For sling shooters the program consisted of 20 shots for record with Irons sights, then two more 20-shot matches with any sights. 13 competitors vied for top F-open honors, 6 others for F-TR, and 8 sling shooters went after perfect 200 scores.
“Commence fire!” was called a little after 9 am. The first winds were gentle, but still enough to give nines if you were a little unlucky. I was on first relay shooting next to fellow US national team member Russ Theurer - both sporting our Palma rifles. All 20 of my record rounds found the 10-ring with 13 being X's. I had several close 10's that had the wind changed just a bit more or less; I would have had a few nines. Russ's 308 did not cooperate for a 200 but just a couple squeaker nines showed up. Intrepid traveler Dr. Drew Rutherford started off the F-TR day with a 192-6x, we were on opposite sides of the range so I didn't see what rifle Drew was sporting today, but I assume it was his 223.
After match 1, it was down to the pits to pull 4 straight matches while the other 3 relays took their turn at greatness. Target 1 ran like a Swiss watch. My duties were fairly easy, as the other shooters on my target continued to pile up 10's and X's with the occasional 9 sprinkled in. Dan Marquart of National Guard shooting fame guided his Palma rifle to a 199-6x. Mike Cobert and Brian Suhr would trade wins on the day for the F-open crown, but match 1 would go to Cobert with a 200-9x to Suhr's 199...
On to match two, where sling shooters could swap out to scopes. I brought my 243 along, just in case the winds got "puffy" - which they did. Time to break out the glass and go to the line again. Back-to-back 100-8x’s allowed me to break the state any sight match record, not bad for a state with names like Coulter, Thompson, & Holien, who have been there for decades. Everyone else on the sling side got caught in those puffs and lost a point or two. Marquart even got to invoke the "I turned my sights the wrong way" excuse as he has SR direction beaten into his skull from all those years of M14 and M-16 dominance in XTC.
Suhr worked his F-open rig to the match two win, going clean while Cobert dropped two nines. The last match would decide the winner. In F-TR Dr. Drew again got the win, but only by 1 point over Roger Nelson.
Final match- Russ Theurer had enough of his finicky Palma rifle and broke out his course "Fat Rat". He steered that hammer of a gun to all 10's with 13 X's to close out the day and leave on a high note (doing it like a man with Irons as well!). Resident Lumberjack Coby also worked his 243 for 20 tens, but only had 11x's- not a bad score. I pulled a "don't do that" moment as I was trying to shoot up some ammo with brass that needs to be thrown away from over pressure. The load I switched to mid-match was the same, but the primers were different. This caused a full minute elevation change and I was too dumb to make the correction after a few shots and shot 2 nines out the top and left way to many X's on the table. Nobody to blame but myself... A 600 was attainable... Oh well...
Suhr again had the wind dialed in and followed up with a 200-14x, Cobert squeaked out two nines for 2nd. Dr. Drew continued to improve through the day and fired a 196-7x in the final match to claim the daily aggregate.
It was a fine day to be on the range and was the first time I had ever shot at Rolla. I definitely will be going back, and look forward to defending my win later this year. My wife did say this trophy was not as "ugly" as some others that have graced our houses in the past.
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