2019 North Dakota Smallbore Outdoor Rifle Championships - Forks Rifle Club
Historically, the Smallbore Season in North Dakota never ended until after the outdoor championships. I remember years of shooting out in the open on the High Power 200 yard line getting baked, blown around, and just wondering why the weather on the first weekend in June always was so tough. Several years ago the Forks Rifle Club created a shooting building to house some benches and a great protected place for the Smallbore Championship to now take place. What a difference, and the scores show it!
The position championship is prone, standing, sitting, and kneeling - 20 shots in each position, and Any sights followed by an additional 10 shots in each position. There are three aggregates, an 800, additional 400 and the total 1200 that crowns the State Champion. There were 12 competitors on day one, the majority Jr’s but a few wily veterans as well. Joe Martin was on hand, just a year after his graduation from Tennessee. Martin was ready for these championships. He won EVERY single match of the position championship, firing his iron sighted Bleiker. Joe already owns the record for this match fired in 2014 when he was still a Jr, but his 1182 this year was not far behind his record performance of 1190. I showed up as this match was drawing to a close, shooting my sb rifle a little trying to adjust my tuner. The weather was beautiful, with a slight breeze that would move right to left and reverse if you were not paying attention. 9’s were easy to shoot. Alex Flores was high Jr shooting a respectable score, just ahead of the Vaagen crew. Well done to all!
In the afternoon on Saturday we shoot the ND Prone LR match - 20 shots on the High Power 200 yard SR target. 30 minutes, unlimited sighters, pull and mark the target after each shot. There have been 200’s shot in this match, but normal scores are in the high 190’s. The weather looked favorable with light breezes. I put my scope on my SB rifle and came up 25 minutes from my 50 yard zero. I thought I was ready... I am on relay 3, starting off in the pits. Firing begins and people get sighted in and are doing well, plenty of 10’s and X’s are shot with an occasional 9 or 8. Relay 1 finishes, a 197-5 was in the lead.
Relay two fires, no higher score. The wind has built a little, but still seems manageable. My first shot is just BARELY on the paper at 6 c’clock, I click up to find that I have 1 more minute of elevation… my scope is not going to work. I change over to irons, a little frazzled but the bad part was losing time at the beginning of the string as the conditions were building. Up 25 minutes on my irons, still about 6 minutes off, I then manage to get to the middle. Go for record, 10, X, 8... AHHHHH, finish the first 10 with a 98-5, second string I lost a close 9, then in a gust an 8 out the other side… oh well, not in the cards this year. My 195-8 was high for X’s but short on points. Joe Martin gets the win 197-5, with Ryan Karrar just behind with a 196. Well done guys, this trophy continues to elude me.
Onto Sunday - 160 shots, iron sights for the 50 yard and Dewar matches, then the option to change to Any sights for the 100 yard and 50 meter events. The state record is a 1599 with relatively low X count, but the problem is getting the conditions to work with us to challenge that score. This match was a series of “do not do this” for me. First, I changed my front sight a few weeks ago and shot about 40 rounds with it, struggling to find a tune for my rifle. It looked like it shot “ok”. The 50 yard match record has stood since 1956 by Leo Vilz 400-37. That is a good score, but with decent conditions I can beat it, as can others in ND. My first two shots for record were 10’s so, I was not starting out as I had hoped. The 30MM front sight and I were not getting along, sight picture was different than I was used to seeing, the gun “felt” different as recoil sounded strange.
On the second card I shot a purely bad shot and had a wide 9… the shame of a 399-32. I had the X’s for the match win, but not the points. Katie Zaun, Joe Martin, and Tom Thompson all were clean. Thompson on top with 31X’s. On to the Dewar, I took my 30mm sight off, went back to my old configuration, readjusted my tuner and laid down in prep time to find out that my front aperture had broken. I had to use a sharpie to make an outline in my aperture that created a front iris about 6.5mm while I normally use a 4.5. I did not have much hope, but the clock was running. I did my best to line everything up and was LUCKY to clean the 50Y target, I had a couple shots on the outside of the line looking in, my X count was terrible as well. After the 50Y target, I was able to borrow a 4.6MM front iris from Tom Thompson and that made 100 much easier. I was able to stay clean in the dewar match, and everyone else lost 1 or more. The wind while subtle, would switch with the mirage changing ahead of the flags. If you missed it, it was very easy to have a 9 show up.
100Yard up next, after my disaster with irons I changed over to my 30X Leupold scope. I really enjoy this match, 100Y usually is about being patient and firing quickly when a condition shows. The hardest part is stopping when there has been a change instead of continuing on and shooting a 9… my first target was pretty good 200 with lower teens for X’s, I had a decent bracket of where to hold and avoided bad shots. The second target I was dialed in, but shot at the wrong time on one shot after I had saw the reversal but it had more effect than I thought, 9 at 3 o’clock… but I had 18X’s. 399-31, the Murray aggregate record was safe another year. Tom Thompson used all of the 10 ring, but got all the points for the match win with a nice 400-24. Katie lost a couple, as did Joe… 50 meter match to finish out the day. I had my wind flag showing in my spotting scope, a good view of other flags to my right and could see the mirage in my rifle scope. Let’s go! I was able to get through the first card clean, but so did Katie. The mirage was changing more quickly now, if you didn’t wait it was easy to lose a shot. I was drilling X’s, but missed a pickup that had more value than I thought for a 9 out the right again. 199-19… Katie also lost a 9 on the last card so I knew I had the aggregate.
1597-123 for me, Katie Zaun freshly back from Munich Germany representing the USA at a World Cup - with a very good 1158 score in 3 position, takes second with a 1596-110 and Tom Thompson 3rd with a 1593-100, Meters was not kind to Tom, as it has done to me many times over the years. Denny Coulter and Tom Reiten did the scoring and called the line, we were done by 1PM and all packed up. It was great to be around my ND friends and give some pointers to a couple of the JR’s on some position refinement. All the ND records are safe another year….