From my perspective the 2019 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Prone Championship may best be distilled by a novel, a TV ad, and a book of the Bible. The first is Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, a novel written by English Gothic novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The second is a Wendy’s fast food restaurant TV commercial of the mid 1980s about chicken nuggets. The third is the Book of Job.

About three weeks prior to the championships the Kenyon trigger on my prone rifle developed a hitch which required me to replace it. That seemed like no problem as I have several extra Anschütz rifles and triggers lying about. It turns out that it was not as simple as I had hoped as my other rifles are 1800 series guns and my prone gun is a 1600 action. None of the triggers would fit.

Just as Victor Frankenstein created his creature out of different parts I mixed and matched actions, triggers and stocks to get a working prone gun. None of my bloop tubes would fit the selected barreled action forcing me to conjure up a way to fit my 30mm front sight on it. Eventually I got everything to work because, as was stated in the Wendy’s ad, “Parts is parts” and headed off to Bristol with, shades of Shelly, my Frankenrifle.

The first day of metallic sight competition was a trial. It seemed very dark down range and no matter how much I fiddled with the adjustable rear aperture and the various filters I could not get a good sight picture. Without a bloop tube, my sight radius was now eight inches shorter and the front the aperture was closed as far as it would go, It was not the best solution, but it was all I had. After the first match of day two I thought I might open the aperture a bit to let in more light. It was then I found I had installed the sight backwards! Once it was corrected things got better but it was too little too late.

With any sights I had a fresh start and lay down with some confidence that I would be back to form. After a few sighters there befell me, as Shelly wrote, “So strange an accident happened that I cannot forbear recording it.” My replacement trigger failed. Fortunately, I had a spare and quickly installed it. There was no time to adjust the trigger and I had to go with it. It seemed to break cleanly, but the pull was like dragging a log across a sandy beach.

I had been granted a continuation of fire but only had ten minutes to shoot the first stage of the Meter Match. I had no time, chance, or choice but to continue.

After another day of travail, we looked at the rifle when we got back to the motel. It was there that Shawn Carpenter noted that my trigger guard was askew and binding the trigger shoe. The problem was quickly solved, and I had a clean breaking trigger for the final day of conventional prone. The only downside was a nagging cough which had developed from a from a summer cold which had been pestering me for about a week.

The next morning, I took to the line with an air of confidence. I was quickly sighted in. When I closed the bolt for the first record shot the cocking indicator went fully forward. I cocked the rifle again and watched as indicator disappear into the back of the bolt once again. After several repetitions I declared a disabled rifle. I had no more triggers and was in a dark place because I would be faced with withdrawing.

Setting about trying to figure what was wrong I pulled the bolt out and the firing pin slid about a quarter of inch forward. It was a broken firing pin that had laid me low not the trigger. I guess I should have expected it as it was the original firing pin in a 34 years old rifle which had seen yeoman service. Fortunately, I had spare firing pins and was soon back on the line again for my second a continuation of fire in as many days. Parts is parts and it seemed most of mine were becoming pieces.

With conventional prone in the rearview mirror there were two days of metric prone still ahead. Things seemed to be working out but there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I was running out of parts and should something else fail I would be out of luck.

The thought was quickly pushed from my mind when my brother Steve flopped down onto the line next to me and cursed. His handstop was missing. Luckily, I had two different kinds with me and sent him off to fetch one. I unfortunately told him it was in my toolbox when it was in a spare parts bag in my rifle case. He uses one with a quick release button while me preference is for an older style with a ball and hook which was the one in my toolbox. He made it work and, search as he might, he could not find where his may have fallen off between our ready area and the firing line. That night he noticed it on the floor partially hidden under a bed.

Other than the various mishaps it wasn’t too bad a match. Shawn made the Dewar Team and fired a perfect 1200, Steve put up a 1198 which netted him a second senior and first Expert award, and I took a second overall in a Meter Match.

However, the cough never left me. It was still bothering me when I got home so I went to see my doctor. He said he had bad and good news. The bad news was I had bronchitis. The good news was it usually lasts about 10-14 days and I was almost over it!

The Biblical Job suffered many trials. He lost crops and livestock and was beset by boils. I lost triggers and firing pins and suffered bronchitis. However, neither one of us lost faith and things turned out alright in the end.


About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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