MN Mid Range Regional Championship - Northwestern Gun Club
Last weekend, I made my annual trip up to the scenic shores of Hunter Lake for 2 days of prone shooting. Northwestern Gun Club hosts the Mid Range Match on the first weekend of September every year, and it alternates between the MN State Championship and the Regional. This was a regional year, so 15 sling shooters made the trip to the great north woods to try and lay claim to an NRA Regional medal. As prone matches in the Midwest often turn out, it was a top-heavy class, with a full 2/3 holding High Master ratings.
It was a beautiful weekend to shoot, with highs in the lower 60’s and low humidity both days. All of the summer mosquitoes and gnats had found somewhere else to go by now - this is really the perfect time of year in Duluth.
The match program called for 80 shots each day; 4 20-shot matches at 500 on Saturday, and 4 more at 300 on Sunday. For those who like shooting with scopes, the matches would be an even split between Any/Any and Any/Irons. NWGC is known as a pretty calm range, being tree-lined almost the full length of both sides. Even so, what it lacks in big wind it more than makes up in the lighting department. Being an East-facing range, the morning relays are reminiscent of late afternoons at the world-famous Winnequah Gun Club. For the poor souls like me who choose to shoot iron sights all the time, things can sometimes be pretty ugly.
To help shooters out a little with the light issue, Saturday’s 500-yard matches were scheduled to start at 10 am instead of the usual 9 o-clock start. This gave the sun an extra hour to get up in the sky, which marginally improved the sight picture. The first 2 matches were Any/Irons, so even the scope lovers had to navigate the dark, gray targets with real sights. I drew a spot on first relay, so 4 of my good shooting buddies and I got to be the test dummies. The wind was just twitchy enough that I was turning the windage knob almost every shot, and not always in the right direction. Somehow, all 20 stayed inside the 10-ring, and I finished with a raggedy 200-6x to win that first match, just topping Phil Klanderud’s 199-9x, and Little Stevie Knutson’s 198-11x. Little Stevie has basically owned the September Duluth match for the last 5 years or so, so it was way too early to count him out of anything. Jim Fernandez took a 4-point lead in the combined M/Ex/SS class with a fine 191-6x to kick things off.
No one got away unscathed in the second Irons match, but Craig Bennis’ 199-15x was darned close. Newt and I also stayed alive with our own 199’s, just with fewer X’s than Craig. Bruce “Raw Deal” Rawlings and Palma Alliance member #31 John “Lumpy” Lumberg both came to life with 195’s in the combined class, with Bruce edging Lump by an X.
Scopes were allowed for the 3rdand 4thmatches of the day, and the shooting of 200’s came back into style. Bennis’ 15x topped Klanderud’s 13x in match #3, but my own 16x with irons took top honors. Newt put up another 199, keeping him right in the middle of the action down 4 for the day. And down 4 is where he’d stay. His 200-15x in the 4th edged out my runner-up score of 200-13x. Lumberg takes the 3rdand 4thmatches in the combined class, putting up solid scores of 190-5x and 194-6x. It was a tight race after day 1, with me down 1, Knutson down 4, and Bennis down 6 with 80 shots to go.
Scopes were up first on Sunday at 300, and the scores showed it. 4 200’s made the scoreboard in the first match, with Newt’s 16x leading the charge. I was not one of them, as I watched 2 9’s come up right on top of each other, and in a row! That had me scratching my head, and kicking myself for not correcting off the first one. Newt’s clean in the first match didn’t help my cause any, and I now had only a single point lead and not enough X’s to try to hold him off for the next 60 shots!
Stevie followed it up with another 200-16x in the 2nd match, but I stopped the bleeding by putting up a 200-15x with my Palma gun. Reigning MN State OTC Champ Jeff Jezierski shot his 2ndclean of the day, looking very tough at the mid-point of the 300-yard matches. Meanwhile, Jim Fernandez was back in top form winning the combined class for both of the scope matches.
The scopes come off and irons go back on for everyone to finish the day. Newt keeps right on trucking, 200-12x in the 3rdkeeps him perfect for the day with one match left. My own 16x clean wins that match, and gets me back in the game for x-count. Jim Soderstrom shoots his 3rd199 in a row, keeping his daily agg looking good. Jezierski loses 3, but his previous 2 cleans keep hope alive for him. Bennis is also in good shape, down 3 after 3 matches. Johnny Lumberg takes another one in the 3rd match in the combined class with a 196-7x. Also in the 3rd match, a brave group of doctors perform major surgery on Mark Rohmann’s rifle after it gave up the ghost with 4 shots remaining. After a lengthy delay, Mark slung back up and drilled 4 X’s to finish his match – way to maintain composure!
Last match of the weekend, here we go. Newt shoots a 200-10x to finish the day. Yep, it’s a perfect 800 for him, the 9th of his long and illustrious shooting career. That leaves him with a 1596-100x for the weekend agg, and leaves me ZERO margin of error if I want to win this thing. I still have a 1-point lead, but need another 200 or a 199 with more than 10 x’s to seal the deal. Newt is THE MAN in Duluth, and that’s in my head a little as I shoot my string. Towards the end, my heart rate was up, and I had to slow down and focus very carefully on my trigger control to avoid catastrophe. The wind was still manageable and staying within the same bracket it had for the previous 150 shots, so there would be no good excuses, I just needed to execute. It worked out, and my remaining shots broke clean to finish with a 200-13x to win the final match. turns out 1597-103x was just enough 2 win the 2-day Regional aggregate; 1 point and 3 x’s over Steve. Man, that was close!
Jim Fernandez did a great job as always as match director, and the range was in beautiful shape. Dale “Weatherman” Wickstrom kept things moving on the line with his walkie-talkie skills, and other club members helped out in all sorts of ways behind the scenes. Lil’ Dickie VanValkenburg and Mrs. Fernandez came to the rescue on Saturday afternoon with a top-notch dinner for everyone at the range.
Thanks to NWGC for letting me come up and stay for another weekend, I’ll be back next fall!