This past weekend, 22 competitors squared off against one another to claim 3 different titles at the ND Outdoor Smallbore Championships. The outdoor Position, 200 yard, and Prone championships were all up for grabs. I had not been to the Forks Rifle Club in over 15 years. Since that time MANY improvements have been made, 8 point 50’ indoor range, separate silhouette range, and multipurpose range with covered firing points that now houses the 14 point outdoor smallbore range.
The course of fire for the 4P championship is 20 shots in all four positions, followed by an additional 10 shots in each position for a 1200 point 4 position aggregate. Before the covered firing points were created, we shot this match from the high power range 200 yard line. Out in the wind and sun made for a long day, and as is usually the case in ND the wind blows…….plenty……… Since the championships have moved to protected firing points the position scores have increased greatly. Joe Martin shooting his trusty Bleiker showed us all why he was chosen by Tennessee to be a firing member on their NCAA rifle team. His 198 standing is a great score, but there were many other fine scores as well shot by the many juniors and seniors who attended. I am still in position shooting retirement, and when I see the scores shot by these fine juniors I am not itching to contort myself back into Kneeling and Sitting. I do miss shooting standing some though.
At the conclusion of the position champs, we moved to the 200 yard line to compete on the High power 200 yard target. There is a 200 yard smallbore target that is quite a bit more challenging, but with the ND winds, keeping all shots in the 10 and X ring is normally a chore. Squadding was completed, and relay 1 and 2 were sent to the firing line, with relay three heading to the pits. As a general rule of thumb, you need 21 additional minutes of elevation from your normal 100 yard zero to get to 200. Being the poor record keeper that I am, I could not remember if my scope was set for 100 yards or 50 yards… I guessed 50 yards and came up but ran out of elevation about 4 minutes short. I won this match many years ago (as a non-resident) holding well above the black, I didn’t want to try that again in the winds that were present. Thus, hearing the whispers of my training partner Erik “Taco” Rhode calling me to “man up” and put on the irons. I installed my Warner Rear sight and clicked up a bunch.
Eric “Skippy” Hazelton made the journey from Zimmerman, MN. Skippy and I have traveled all over the country to shoot smallbore prone matches in Raton, Camp Perry and even Bristol. He has beaten me several times, so I knew I had to bring my “A game” to have a chance. We were even squadded next to each other for the 200 yard match. Relay one got underway with the flags facing pretty much due east, and a couple of shooters ran out of windage on their smallbore sights. I was lucky to find the middle relatively quickly, and began for record. 10’s and X’s were holding my attention until a mid-ring nine ruined my day at 3 o’clock. If there was any consolation, Skippy got an even wider shot out in the 8 ring in the same spot. How timing can make or break your day. I had a couple additional leakers that made me settle for a 197-7, a decent score for the conditions but certainly beatable. Tyler Linneman came to the line on the last relay with his Anschutz fitted with a scope. Tyler has won this match before and had his equipment ready to rein in the Forks winds again. I was scoring Joe Martin as Tyler shot, 10’s and X’s were a plenty, then a 9 pimpled its way out….back to the 10’s and X’s then later an 8. My tepid 197 had a chance, but Tyler used his scope to gain the upper hand in X count, staying in that small circle 10 times. Another State Champ win for Tyler, congratulations! The next morning I looked at my rear sight. I had over 9 minute of right windage on my sight. Those comparing SB 200 yard shooting to long-range are correct in the similarities.
Growing up in ND in the winds makes earning a SB Master card all but impossible. The intrepid winds are one part, but only shooting 160 shots a year also makes reclassification difficult. This works to our favor when attending larger matches as we normally well outperform our classifications. Records in ND are also difficult to break, the 50 yard match has been on the books since the late 50’s. 400-37. This is a score I have shot better than on several occasions with irons, but in the ND winds you need to have the conditions and your mind game aligned. There was enough wind to make it possible, but I was not up to the challenge. My 10X actioned SB rifle would drill a couple of shots together, then its operator would break a shot at the wrong time or with misaligned sights. I got all the points, but my X’s were dismal. Leo V has his record for another year. Joe Martin had his game figured out and got all the points besting me in X’s with 30 to my 29. Skippy wanted to make sure to get all of the target he paid for with his entry fee and found the 9 ring a couple of times. There were only two cleans, so only Joe Martin and I had a chance to match or break Bill Murray’s long standing 1599 record.
On the line there was a Bleiker, Walther KK300, many 20 series action Anschutz, several round action Anschutz, Stiller 2500X, a 52E, and a 52B. With my custom rig, we had a variety of rifle brands to accomplish the same task. Dewar Match with irons was up next. The wind was puffy, but after 40 rounds I was feeling comfortable and was hitting the X ring consistently moving the sights from where my shots showed up on paper. Even back to 100 I was able to guide all additional 20 shots into the 10 and X ring finishing with a 400-27 for the match win. Russ Theurer showed his long-range prowess and used his round Anschutz X action to a near perfect 399-23.
Shooters can now switch to any sights if they so choose. I seriously considered staying with irons as I can see flags easier, but there is something to be said for shooting with a scope. The winds were hard, and yet puffy from time to time. Flags did not seem to show the changes as well as were the bullets landed on your target – pray and spray was truly my tactic. Target one started off fine with 10’s and X’s going in a good cadence, then the dreaded 8 appeared at 10:30……WTH????? I looked at the flags and mirage, there was no logic. Back to the sighter and another X. Well, Bill Murray would not be beat again. I was able to navigate the rest of the card with all 10’s and X’s but the damage had been done. To add insult to injury the first shot for record on the next card was a 9 at 3……Oh the humanity. I regrouped mentally and went back to sighters. I used intestinal fortitude to finish that card clean to have a chance for the overall aggregate win. I was successful in my task, but Skippy showed why he loves scope so much he got through with only a single 9 to claim match 33. Russ T again the bridesmaid but with a different Anschutz X action sporting a scope to shoot a 398-22 at 100 yards.
50 meter has hurt me and many other shooters over the years. In the late nineties I was leading this match as a junior only to get rolled up by this little target and give the championship away to Geoff Krassy. I didn’t want that to happen again, and on the first stage I pounded the X ring with 18 of 20 shots. Target two was not as successful, but even with a few WIDE 10’s was clean. 400-30 was enough for the final match win. Skippy steered his scope to a single 9 for a 399-31 and Russ T again right with the pack with an excellent 398-29. Shooting was complete and the scores were tallied. Steve Martin and Tom Reiten did a great job of running the line and scoring the targets. Katie Zaun shot her Stiller 2500X to claim the Junior trophy with a respectable 1582-84. I was able to finally claim the ND State SB Prone state championship with a 1597-110. Richard Reiten, Tommy Thompson, Tom Reiten, Denny Coulter, Ed Jensen, William Murray and many others have their name on this trophy, and it is very exciting and fulfilling to be added to the roster.
If you enjoy shooting in the wind, Forks Rifle Club is just the place for you!
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