Gaul and Shooting are much the same…

Success in the shooting sports is, as Gaius Julius Caesar said of Gaul,”…omnis divisa est in partes tres.” Success is divided into three parts, physical, equipment and mental.

Shooting does not require the physical abilities of a superhero. One of its beauties is that it is blind to height, weight, speed, gender, or age. A mask, colorful form fitting clothing with a logo on the chest, and cape are not necessary, although some of the newest shooting garb would make you think that there are some practitioners of the sport who are not quite clear on that facet of equipment.

Shooting is unique among sports because traditional rifle and pistol competition is static. It seems that almost every other sport is dynamic, requiring movement. In shooting the ability to be still pays big dividends when one is trying to shoot a 10.9 at 50 meters.

The sport requires nothing more of a participant than average physical abilities. A sure test of the potential of a shooter is to give that person an ice cream cone. If they can pick it up and lick it there is a good chance they will succeed in time. If they smash it into their forehead it will just take more time.

Good equipment plays no small part in being a good shooter. The rules keep the playing field level in this aspect as your gear must conform to various restrictions in regard to size, weight, and shape. However, most shooters are inveterate tinkerers and even the best equipment can be improved upon by a good gunsmith. It is even possible to buy a few points by spending the gross national product of a small third world nation on ammunition.

Given that most shooters have equal ability and equipment, the dividing line between good, better, and best is in your head. As the celebrated philosopher, sports psychologist, and Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra put it, Ninety per cent of the game is mental. The other half is physical.

The mental part of the sport encompasses a variety of things, chief among them are goal setting, building and maintaining self confidence, managing stress, imagery, pre-match planning, and dealing with unusual circumstances. These are all part and parcel of the mental game that can best be defined as preparation, the most important aspect of success.

Confucius said that, “ The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” I am agreement with the Chinese sage to a point, but I don’t think the will to win is the key. Every competitor wishes to win, but having the will to prepare to win is what really matters. It’s putting in the long lonely hours of hard work focusing on every little detail that counts. There is a big difference between wishing and willing.

Like an enormous bank vault door that easily swings on the smallest of ball bearings successful preparation hinges on the shooter’s journal. The journal is the key element in preparation because it contains the written plan to success. The written word is the lens that focuses thoughts and allows us to clearly see the steps on the road to our goal. Thoughts are ephemeral, but once written they become permanent and we are committed to them.

There is a famous rifleman whom I am fortunate to call a friend. In his long competitive career he has accumulated numerous national, international, and world championships and records on his way to three Olympic medals-two being of gold and one of silver.

Nothing gets the best of him. He is undisturbed by Camp Perry winds and rain or the intense pressure cooker of world class competition. He is very open about saying that the only way to out shoot him is to out prepare him. He keeps a journal and says that no detail is too minute not to be recorded and reviewed. He boasts that if you want to beat him you have to get up each morning before he does and he claims that no one owns an alarm clock that rings that early.

I have shot with him often and observed his every action hoping to pick up some tip that might make me better. He arrives in plenty of time for his relay, sets up his gear, and only then does he socialize. Ten or 15 minutes before his relay he sits behind his scope observing conditions. He has just one eccentricity. Immediately before going to the line he opens his journal, removes a battered, tattered, and yellowed piece of paper which he stares at it for a minute or so before carefully returning it and heading to the line.

Over the years my curiosity about that piece of paper grew. I speculated what it might contain. A host of thoughts crossed my mind. Was it an inspirational Biblical passage, a family photograph, or a very tight shot group from an important match? I had to know.

One day I was squadded next to him and my curiosity finally broke through my thin moral veneer. When he wandered off on some errand I furtively looked about insuring that my skullduggery was not being observed. Reaching over I snatched up the journal from his lawn chair and quickly pulled out the piece of paper.

My jaw dropped. Two lines of neatly printed block letters read: CARTRIDGES: POINTY END FIRST and under it; SIGHTS: COUNTER CLOCK WISE-UP AND RIGHT.

He was right: no detail is too minute not to be recorded and reviewed when you prepare to be the best.

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Take the King’s Schilling; do the King’s Biddding…

In a time long ago the center of my shooting universe was a large concrete and granite example of Classical Revival architecture located at 360 Broad Street in Hartford, Connecticut; the Connecticut State Armory and Arsenal, headquarters of the Connecticut State Military Department. For twenty years I was a small cog in that martial machine which churned out National Guard shooting champions at a furious pace.

Tucked away in a small side office on the second floor of the western wall were the desks of my shooting bosses Colonel Bill Meagher and Chief Warrant Officer Billy Mulligan, the State Marksmanship Coordinator and his able assistant. More importantly, deep in the bowels of the nearly two acre building, behind a massive safe door, stood racks of competition firearms and stacks of match ammunition.

Winchester 52s, National Match M-14s, carefully selected M-16s, Smith and Wesson Model 41s, and platoons of venerable Colt 1911s stood as if at inspection, dressed and covered, behind locked cyclone fence partitions. Across from them were heaped cardboard cartons and wooden crates. The cardboard each contained 5,000 rounds of 22 caliber standard velocity and match grade ammunition. Some of the wooden crates held four M19A ammunition cans of 5.56mm ball cartridges while others contained a pair of M2A1 cans holding either 7.62mm or 45 Caliber National Match ammunition.

When I would whine, in my childish way, about some of the inconvenient aspects of shooting for the Guard my captain, Platoon Sergeant Dick Scheller, or coach, Platoon Sergeant Roger McQuiggan, would quickly remind me of the largess that poured forth from the great gray building. A simple rephrasing of the old British Army recruiting saying became, “You take the governor’s guns and ammunition: you do the governor’s bidding” served as a reminder that I had volunteered for the team and, ungrateful wretch that I was, got more in return than I gave.

The Connecticut Guard Rifle Team had a solid history going back to the early 1900s. It participated in the National Matches and occasionally had a bright moment. Private E.C. Simpson won the President’s Match in 1906. Seventy three years later Scheller would take home the trophy. McQuiggan and I would be the only other Connecticut Guard rifleman to win a place in the Presidents Hundred.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Gadd, Sr. would be the first Constitution State Guardsman to earn the Distinguished Marksman Badge in 1924, the first year Guardsmen were eligible. Captain William Denison, and Second Lieutenants Emil Kumnick and Clarence May would join him before the year was out, the first five of 26 Distinguished Rifle Badges earned by the Connecticut Guard.

First Lieutenant Robert Gadd, Jr. joined his father as Distinguished in 1930 becoming the first members of the same family to earn the distinction. Between 1935 and 1939 the three Lacy brothers, James, John, and Walter all earned the Badge. There are other Distinguished family relationships. Scheller’s son James earned his while serving in the United States Marines, Al Maloney’s wife Mary is a civilian Distinguished Rifleman as is my brother Steve. Dave Colt’s father Lebaron, who became the first Connecticut Guardsman to earn the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge in 1971, and his brother Stephen are both Distinguished Pistol Shots.

Specialist Fourth Class Ralph Bluminhagen earned his Distinguished Badge in 1962 with an M1 in just three Excellence in Competition Matches. Raymond Baker II and Brian Roy are the only two Double Distinguished shooters the program has produced. Baker has the unusual distinction of earning both in combat style competition, never once earning a bull’s-eye leg.

The program fell on hard times following World War II. For many years, the late 1950s until the early 1970s, often times the only representation the state could muster was Scheller and anyone he could dragoon to join him on the range.

Major General John Frederick Freund was appointed Adjutant General of Connecticut in 1972. Riffling through his correspondence one day he came across the match bulletin for the most recent National Guard Rifle and Pistol Championship and noticed that Connecticut had finished nearly at the bottom. He found this intolerable and ordered Meagher to do whatever necessary to see that the state would be at the top of the list as soon as possible.

Meagher contacted Scheller who latched onto a willing McQuiggan. The two hit the streets like a Royal Navy press gang and rounding up every willing Guardsman, prior service rifle shooter, and innocent civilian rifleman they could find. Within six years the team won four combat rifle championships, two National Guard and two All Army titles and a National Guard M14 championship and began an incredible run of ten consecutive National Guard Smallbore Rifle Championship victories.

The program has changed markedly since 1972, most shooting is now combat style, but the men and women who have passed through the program have collected nearly two dozen National Guard national team championships, 11 service rifle Distinguished Badges, five smallbore Distinguished Badges, four M-14 and nine combat rifle Chiefs 50 awards.

Not a bad return for both the state and the individual and for both giving and taking the Governor’s guns and ammunition.

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NRA State Championship Conentional Smallbore Rifle Prone River Bend Gun Club Dawsonville, GA September 23 – 24, 2017

Final Results Bulletin – 2017 Smallbore Prone State Championship – Sep 23-24, 2017

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The Great Pumpkin Match Marks Summer’s End

The Great Pumpkin Match Marks Summer’s End


Tropical Storm Jose meandered off the coast of New England and its fringe winds sorely tried the skills and patience of the competitors who were trying to shoot center shots during the 2017 Great Pumpkin Metric Prone Regional.


The Pumpkin traditionally starts at 100 yards and works backwards to give the competitors a relief from the notoriously fickle afternoon winds of The Bell City Rifle Club. The plan backfired as the morning was bedeviled with inconsistent puffing winds that swung windmills through 360 degree arcs at lightning speed while the afternoon was calm..


Shawn Carpenter, Rifle Coach at Grasso Tech, had not fired a shot since he returned from the victorious US Roberts Team trip to England in late August. The layoff seemed to do him good as he opened the match with a 384-14X at 100 yards. His nearest competitor, literally as he was shooting on the adjacent point, was second place Hap Rocketto, an assistant coach at the US Coast Guard Academy who posted a 375-11X. Hope Kavulich, the 2017 High School League Champion, pulled into third with a 371-8X.


Carpenter did not let up and shot a nearly identical score, 384-12X, to win the Reverse Dewar. Avon Old Farms Rifle Coach Len Remaly was in second shooting a 378-9X to beat out Reading Rifle Club’s Frank Garbouchian’s 374-11X.


It seemed if Carpenter was producing his scores on a photocopy machine when he posted yet another 384, this time with 16Xs to win the 50 meter match. Another Coast Guard Assistant Coach, Ryan McKee, who was shooting his first ever prone tournament, nipped Rocketto 379-8X to 378-14X for second.


With three wins under his belt it was no surprise that Carpenter nailed down the metallic sight title with an overwhelming score of 1152-42X, a 27 point lead on second place Rocketto, 1125-40X, and 31 up on third place Remaly, 1121-31X. It was Carpenter’s match to lose as the match moves into the anysight phase.


The anysight day opened calm and hot with a few new players showing up for the second day of shooting.


However, not all that was showed up on Saturday returned on Sunday. Len Remaly, believing that cleanliness is next to godliness, has pulled off the cheek piece, inserted a bore guide, and scrubbed out his rifle upon returning home. When done he carefully packed it away for the return trip. Upon opening his rifle case at the range he was shocked to find that cleanliness and forgetfulness occasionally go hand in hand. While he packed his rifle, he forgot to pack his cheek piece.


Len, a gray haired shooter of the old school, uses a hoary old wooden rifle in an age of shiny aluminum stocks. He was faced with having to withdraw from the match when Hap Rocketto, another elder statesman of the sport who uses a similar prehistoric stock suggested they share his cheek piece. Rocketto is a fast shooter and for the rest of the day he shot his string, rolled over, pulled out his cheek piece and handed it to the hovering Remaly who rushed to his point, slid the cheek piece into his rifle, and shot his string.


The heat was nearly at record heights and the conditions became quite squirrely. Jeff Henry and Craig Samuelson, whose eyes were not tired from shooting irons, quickly dethroned Carpenter.  Henry shot a 389-14X to win the 100 yard match. Samuelson was second with a 387-11X but Carpenter hung in with a 385-17X.


Just when things seemed to be rolling along young Kaley Pasko rolled her ankle in a rut on the 100 yard berm. There followed a cease fire while competitors scurried about, under the direction of Lauren Harris, gathering up range debris, scope rods, an old T Shirt, and duct tape to splint the damaged appendage.


With Pasko on the way to medical care Samuelson slipped past Doerschler, 390-18X to 389-20X, for the Dewar win but Carpenter hung in at third posting a 386-16X.


On the final target of the day, the second stage at 50 meters, Garbouchian punched out a near perfect 198-13X which, when added to his first card, gave him a match winning 394-20X. Carpenter completed a sweep of being in the money in every match with a second place 393-19X as Doerschler grabbed third place on the back of 388-14X.


Carpenter won any sights, 1164-52X, Samuelson followed with a 1162-44X, and Doerschler was third at 1157-46X.


The Regional Gold Medal went for a 2316-94X and was Carpenter’s by a wide margin. Silver medalist Rocketto followed in a long way back his wake at 2273-90X. Doerschler, who made a heroic dash to close a nine point gap with Rocketto to tie him, fell short by 25Xs, 2273-65X, for third.


Match Director Nicole Panko was assisted by Mr. Kavulich, who ran the line on Saturday, Lauren Harris who collecting targets all weekend and played EMT for Kayley Pasko, and someone cryptically listed as “My boyfriend” who did data entry.


It was a weekend of shooting that tested the competitors in many ways and was tinged with a bit of sadness as it marked the end of the outdoor season

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David Botsford Lyman

David Botsford Lyman

David Botsford Lyman, 62, of Meriden, Connecticut, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Deborah Woessner Lyman; son Remington Perry Lyman of Columbus, Ohio, brother-in-law Dennis Woessner and wife Sherrill of Glastonbury, Connecticut; Douglas Woessner of Anchorage, Alaska; “Grandma” Dolores Woessner; two brothers Wallace and Charles Lyman and wife Carolyn, as well as numerous nephews and cousins.

Born in Middlefield, Connecticut on June 12, 1955, he was the son of the late Pearl and Charles Lyman III.  He attended the Independent Day School in Middlefield and graduated from Wilbraham and Monson Academy.

Lyman attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he was a member of the varsity rifle team. He moved to Anchorage, Alaska to study rifle coaching under Robert Hickey and there he met his wife, Deborah, a member of the University of Alaska Anchorage Rifle Team.  They married in Anchorage and moved to Connecticut where he entered the family business, The Blue Trail Range Corporation. His successful business career was an extension of his hobby, the safe and accurate handling of firearms which extended to coaching shooters, young and old.

Lyman was a nationally ranked competitive rifleman who earned the National Rifle Association Distinguished Smallbore Rifleman Award for both prone and position shooting. He was the 1981 and 1982 National Smallbore Rifle Three Position Champion. In service rifle competition, he won the Golden Eagle Trophy, emblematic of the junior championship in the National Individual Trophy Match.

He was an Endowment Member of the National Rifle Association; Life Member and served on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut State Rifle & Pistol Association; Past President and Lieutenant Governor of the Meriden Kiwanis Club; and, NRA Certified Rifle Instructor who trained almost 20,000 Connecticut youngsters in safe firearms handling.

In lieu of flowers it is requested that contributions be made to The Blue Trail Range Junior Club Endowment Fund, Inc. c/o Craig Fishbein, Esq., Fishbein Law Firm, LLC, 100 S Main St, Wallingford, CT 06492


Calling Hours will be Sunday, September 10, 2017, 3PM to 6PM at The B.C.Bailey Funeral & Cremation Services, 273 S Elm Street, Wallingford, CT  06492.


Interment will be at the convenience of the family.

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As a pilot, who is a member of the Quiet Birdmen, and a Distinguished Rifleman I am aware that Camp Perry was once used as an Army Airfield during the interwar years. What I only recently discovered was that it was also the site of an unusual shooting contest that paired my two favorite hobbies, aviation and competitive shooting.

The 1925 National Matches were scheduled for Camp Perry from August 22nd through September 30th with the National Rifle Team Match, for the Dogs of War Trophy, the premier event.

The Program noted that the match would be open to ten man teams representing the National Guard and civilian teams from the several states and territories, various Organized Reserve, Citizen’s Military Training Camps, Reserve Officer Training Corps, the US Military and Naval Academies, and some miscellaneous organizations.

On the active duty side of the house the Marines and Navy fielded one team each. The Army had teams representing the Infantry, Cavalry, Coast Artillery, and Engineers. The fact that the Army could field four teams, and sometimes more, if the Signal, Field Artillery, Quartermaster, and Chemical Corps had enough skilled riflemen was a very sore point with the two seagoing services who felt, with some justification, that the situation stacked the deck in favor of the Army. It wouldn’t be until the National Matches resumed after World War II that the services would achieve parity: one service, one team.

While the Army enjoyed an overwhelming advantage over its rivals one of its components, the Army Air Service, was conspicuously absent. It would seem odd because there was a long tradition, well long for an organization that was only 18 years old, of shooting dating back to August 20, 1910. On that day, a Curtiss A-1 pusher, piloted by its manufacturer Quiet Birdmen Glenn Curtiss, cruised in lazy circles above Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay Race Track. Sitting to Curtiss’ left was Second Lieutenant Jacob E. Fickle. Squinting through the sights of a 1903 Springfield rifle, he squeezed the trigger, worked the bolt, and squeezed the trigger again, blowing two 30 caliber holes in a three by five-foot target on the ground 100 feet below him. With those two shots Fickle entered the annals of aviation as the first aerial gunner.

Fifteen years later the Air Service was a more technically mature organization. If the Army wouldn’t let the Air Service participate at Camp Perry it was prepared to participate in the National Matches on its own terms. While sixty-six team were shooting in the National Rifle Team Match five aircraft were squadded for what was promoted as “The World’s First Competitive Aerial Shooting Match,” although some Great War aviators might have taken some umbrage at the grandiose billing.

Rather than the more mundane National Match course of fire the spectators would observe something even more exciting, “… actual fire from the planes in the air… directed against ground objects, silhouette targets, and moving objects.”

On the 25th of August 1925 five aircraft darted in the airspace above Camp Perry with both pilot and observer required to shoot at targets staked out on the Camp Perry greensward. One, a DH-4 from the 321st Observation Squadron based at Pearson Field, Vancouver Barracks, Washington, was fitted with four 30 caliber Browning machine guns, two fixed on the right side of the fuselage, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc, with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and two on a Scarff ring with 970 rounds of ammunition for the observer in the rear to wield. First Lieutenant Oakley Kelly, Air Service Reserve was at the controls while Sergeant William Steckel manned the flexible machine gun in the aft cockpit.

Oakley, now an obscure aviation footnote, was one of the most famous pilots of the pre-Lindbergh era, He had teamed up with Lieutenant John A. Macready, another Quiet Birdmen, for two record setting flights. The pair set a 35 hour, 18-minute world endurance record on Oct. 6, 1922. The following year a 26 hour, 50 minute, and 38 second trip from Roosevelt Field, New York, to Rockwell Field, California, was the first non-stop transcontinental flight.

By performing “the most meritorious flight of the year” they were presented with the prestigious Mackay Trophy for an unprecedented two consecutive years. Only one other person has received two Mackay’s and that was Hap Arnold, the first winner, and his were 23 years apart. It also was Macready’s third, a mark untouched in aviation history.

Streaking toward the ground Oakley pointed his ‘plane at the standing target and loosed a stream of bullets from the fixed guns. The bullets kicked up clumps of grass and dirt and, after the dust had settled, the scorers counted his bullet holes and awarded him a score of 270 points out of a possible 300. On a second pass Steckel stood up in the rear cockpit as Oakley guided the aircraft so he could direct fire at a recumbent target, posting a score of 250 out of 500. With a score of 520 they outshot the nearest competition by 58 points to win the one and only Camp Perry Competitive Aerial Shooting Match.

They lucked out in more ways than just winning the match. Two fellow aviators, and contestants, were disqualified when they wrecked their plane.

As mentioned earlier I am a Quiet Birdman and so, it turns out, was Oakley. We were both in the Army when we shot at Camp Perry. But that is not an uncommon occurrence. What is uncommon, and joins me to Oakley, is the fact that 61 years after his win I won a match at Camp Perry, likely making us the only two Quiet Birdmen to ever win a shooting match at the National Championships.

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2017 US Roberts Team


Heavy gusting winds, thunder lighting, rain, and hail did not deter 2017 US Roberts Team regained possession of the prodigious trophy by defeating the British 3838 to 3827.

Shooting a Dewar on International targets Eric Uptagrafft, Hank Gray, Mark Del Cotto, Morgen Dietrich, Kevin Nevius, Mike Seery, Billy Azzinaro, Matt Chezem, Howard Pitts, and Kerry Spurgin, under wind coaches Team Captain Patti Clark, Team Coach Shawn Carpenter, Team Adjutant Hap Rocketto, Reserve Shawn Wells, and Reserve Mike O’Connor scored the win on the storied Century Range at Bisley Camp.

The team was inspired, or more likely frightened, to the win by exhortations from Lones Wigger, who had to withdraw as Team Coach at the last moment for personal reasons.

Earlier the Goodwill Randle Team won its event with Great Britain 2304 to 2289. Edie Fleeman and Marth Kelly lead Michelle Bohren, Lily Davenport, Ruby Gomes, Elisabeth Harty, Ginger McLemore, and Chris Rakyta to the win. The Randle Ladies were coached by Kevin Nevius, Mike O’Connor, Joe Graf, Hank Gray and Eric Uptagrafft.

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2017 Rhode Island Outdoor 3P NRA Regional and RIRRA State Championship

2017 Rhode Island Outdoor 3P NRA Regional and RIRRA State Championship


It was a gem of a summer morning, warm, light breeze, warm, and a bright sky, when Range Officer Brenda Jacob called the shooters to the line at the South County Rod and Gun Club for the prone stage of the 2017 Rhode Island Outdoor 3P NRA Regional and RIRRA State Championship.

Using iron sight junior Rick Miller posted a 387-16X to edge out ‘scope shooters Bob Lynn, 385-18X, and Joe Graf, 382-10X for the win. Matt Lazarski was the best Expert with a 373-10s just a head of team mate Matt Jerome by a pair of center shots. Marksman Dave Czerwonka’s 373-8X was good enough to take his class while Kiera Ulmer bested all Unclassified Master with a 372.12X.

Miller made it clear that his training plan was working when he won his second match of the day shooting a 379-11X standing. Lazarski was in second place as first Master with his 356-7X. ZuZu Demetrius topped the Expert class shooting 344-6X. Jack Eddy, 336-3X, and Devin Harris, 308, bested all in the Marksman and Unclassified Master classes respectively.

Heading into kneeling, the final match of the day, Miller held a commanding lead and it was his match to lose. And, after a fashion, lose he did. Phil Kohanski came out of the pack and took the match with a four point lead over a pair of New Hampshire competitors, first Master Elizabeth Dutton and five points over Lynn. Miller, 361-6X, had to settle for Expert class honors. Marksman D.J Titus carded a 354-8X while Ulmer grabbed her second class win of the day.

It came as no surprise that, after Statistical Director Nicole Panko tabulated the scores, Miller, at 1127-33X, was awarded the gold medal. Silver went to Elizabeth Dutton who compiled a 1093-26 aggregate. The bronze medallion went to Lazarski’ s 1090-22X while Czerwonka bested all Marksman with his 1040-12X. Ulmer was not to be denied a victory as an Unclassified Master.

Graf retained the Epstein Trophy for yet another year while Titus earned his first state title.

2017-ri-3p-regional (PDF, 46KB)

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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Two-Any Sight Metric Position Championship

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Two-Any Sight Metric Position Championship

Iron Man

(Based on Preliminary Scores)



The 2017 National Smallbore Rifle Champions moved into the last day. While the Any Sight Championship was in the fore in the back of everyone’s mind was the Iron Man.


McPhail, one of the best prone shooters in the world, opened the match with a winning prone with a score of 399-30X. Dan Pempel, 396-23X, was three points back with Dan Martz right ion his tail shooting a 395-26X.


Standing saw civilian Megan Hilbish win with a commanding score of 384-16X. Patrick Sunderman and Norton nearly needed a Rule Book review to decide second and third when both shot 379s. Sunderman notched 15Xs to Norton’s 11 for silver.


The final 40 shots of nine days of competition would be kneeling and Sunderman came through with a 388-19X for the win. Behind him was Norton and McPhail each with a 386-16X. The Rule Book went McPhail’s way and he was second and Norton third.


Norton, 1160-48X, won the day, a slim point ahead of McPhail’s 1159-51X. Sunderman slid into third with an 1154-55X. When the two days were totaled McPhail took the Any Sight title three points ahead of Norton, 4707-273X to 4708-256X. Sunderman rounded out the top three with a 4685-259.


The final prone match, 40 shots on the metric target with any sights, was the deciding factor in the Iron Man competition when McPhail beat Norton by four points. Over eight days McPhail shot a 9504-711X, Norton a 9501-655X, and Sunderman a 9478-640X.


The last shot of the any sight metric position championship marked the end of the 2017 Smallbore Championships. The targets frames have been stacked away for 50 weeks until next July when smallbore shooters will again converge upon the Wa-Ke’-De Range.


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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championships Day One-Metric Position Championship-Metallic Sights

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championships

Day One-Metric Position Championship-Metallic Sights


The 2017 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships entered it penultimate day with the start of the Metric Position Championship under partly cloudy skies.


George Norton, making a play to recapture the Iron Man Trophy, lead off the match with a 396-24X prone. Mike McPhail, who is returning to position shooting, had a very good 24X count as he put together a score of 394 for second. Erin McNeil, yet another Army shooter, slid into third just behind McPhail, and ahead of Dan Martz’s 392-17X with a 393-19X.


In a match heavily laden with young shooters junior Antonio Gross broke the adult steak of wins in the second match when he posted a 378-9X standing. Norton kept the pressure on shooting a 376-8X for second. McNeil picked up her second third place finish of the day with a 374-10X effort. Martz and McPhail were very much in the running after both scored 373-11Xs on their feet.


Norton led the pack with a 772 over the first two matches, enjoying a five point lead over McPhail and McNeil going into kneeling. Martz and Gross were not far behind with a 765 and 764 respectively.


At the elite level kneeling scores are often as good as prone but today would not be one of those days.  Bill Beard, a veteran of the ’84 Olympics, was top gun in the match with a 385-14X. Jared Desrosiers had the same X count but a 383 score for second place and Gross was in third, shooting a 383-14X.


Despite a last minute lunge to the finish line by the civilians and juniors the Army shooters had built up enough points early on and they ended up sweeping the Metallic Sight Championship. In descending order, it was Norton, 1149-39X, McPhail, 1148-54X, and McNeil, 1147-43X who out Xed Gross, 1147-43X, for third.


The 2017 championships will close tomorrow with the Any Sight title on the line and the Iron Man will be decided as well.

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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay One-Day Conventional Position

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay One-Day Conventional Position



The first day of the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Conventional Position Rifle Championships opened with 120 shots in three positions with metallic sights.



Army’s Patrick Sunderman, who had a solid prone performance in that championship, opened with the tournament with a 400-38X. Mike McPhail, perhaps one of the best prone shooters in world, followed up 400-37X and, in perfect descending order, civilian Daniel Martz closed out the top three with his 400-36X.


Moving into standing young Malori Brown, an intermediate junior held hard shooting a 397-18X Army shooters Erin McNeil and Sunderland and junior Jared Desrosiers, who has his eye set in joining the pair at the AMU, battled it down to Xs when they all posted 396s on their feet. McNeil prevailed by five Xs, 25 to 20. Sunderman’s 17X left him in fourth.


McPhail shot his second perfect score of the day, 400-30X, to win the kneeling match. Sunderman was second just an X behind the winner. Desrosiers was again in the money with a third place score of 399-29X.


Final results have Patrick Sunderman winning the National Smallbore Conventional Position Metallic Sight Championship with a score of 1596-114X. Mike McPhail is second at 1595-124X. Jared Desrosiers out Xed Antonio Gross, 1594-109X to 1594-104, for third.


The paper team match saw an Army runaway as they carded a 4766-338X to have a 30 point pad on the second place Coast to Coast Team’s 4736-267X effort. The Illinois State Association was third with a 4679-210X



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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Five-Day Team Matches

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Five-Day Team Matches

(Based on Preliminary Scores)


Your Correspondents in the Field

Joe Graf and Hap Rocketto


The final day of the2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championships featured a trio of fired matches and an unfired team aggregate.


The Black Hawk Ladies, Michelle Bohren, Michele Makucevich, Nancy Tompkins, and Ginger McLemore-coached by Dani Makucevich, burst from the starting gate, shooting a 1599-115X to win the Metallic Sight Title. The bested the Army by a point which was critical as the AMU had a 16 point advantage in the X column. The Black Hawk Chiefs were in third shooting a 1597-117X.


The Ladies did not slacken and posted a 1600-131X, the only clean of the day, to take the Any Sight Title as well as set a new National Record for women over the Dewar Course. They bested a 38 year old standard by 16 Xs. The Black Hawk Chiefs fired a 1599-129X for second while the Black Hawk Veterans, all former service men, came in third with a 1598-121X.


As would be expected the Black Hawk Ladies also won the Team Aggregate Championship with a 3199-246X. The Black Hawk Chiefs, 3196-246X was second followed by Murray State, a team made up of the college’s alumni.


Mentor Morgen Dietrich teamed up with mentee Eric Hazelton to win the Randle Mentor Match.


With the conclusion of the popular senior junior match the firing at the 2017 Championships ended. Later that evening the competitors enjoyed a family style dinner and awards ceremony. It was highlighted by an extensive awards table full of shooting paraphernalia and ammunition, at which each competitor got a chance to pick a prize based on the order of finishing.



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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Four-Day Two Any Sights and Grand Aggregate

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Four-Day Two Any Sights and Grand Aggregate

(Based on Preliminary Scores


Your Correspondents in the Field

Joe Graf and Hap Rocketto


The Randle Team scores show that Erin McNeil’s 400-33X is the winner of the Eleanor Dunn Award. She led the team to a 3978-252X aggregate as the anchor to a lot of brand new Randle Team Alumnae who will carry on the tradition of this fine international postal event.


When the competitors went to the line on the final day of the individual competition they faced hot humid conditions and very dark and threatening sky.


There was virtually no wind in the Meter Match which was won by Mark Del Cotto’s near perfect 400-39X. Del Cotto’s victory came on a tie breaker with Michele Makucevich. Army Team mates Mike McPhail and Kevin Nguyen both shot 400-38Xs with McPhail Creedmooring his fellow soldier for third place.


Junior Erick Hazelton punched out 38X while shooting a 400 for the Dewar win. Joe Graf and Cameron Keating were knotted at 400-38X and took home second and third respectively.


As the final 100 Yard Match began the sky darkened ominously. McPhail and Gray dueled it out for the win, with McPhail prevailing when his 400-37X outranged Gray’s Pat Sunderman made it a sweep for the Army when he posted a 400-36X.


No sooner had the last shot been fired then a slight drizzle turned into a hard rain. Considering weather reports, the Match Director postponed the Team Matches until tomorrow when they will be fired before the Mentor Match.


Gray went clean on the day, one of 11 1200s, with a 1200-108X for the win. Dan Pempel and Del Cotto added still another tie to the day when they found themselves knotted up at 1200-106X. NRA Rules dictated that Pempel was second and Del Cotto third.


Gray, the newly minted 2017 Metallic Sight Champion did not falter during the second two days and took the Any Sight Aggregate with a 2400-218X, Del Cotto and Eric Uptagrafft tied in both number of points and Xs with a pair of 1400-106Xs with Del Cotto winning this the breaker and earning the second step on the podium.


Both the metallic and any sight champion laurels adorning Hank Gray’s forehead were removed to make way for the champion’s crown. A superb four day effort saw him shoot 419 Xs, 60 tens, and one nine for a 4799-419X. He was hotly pursued by second place finisher Mike McPhail who was two points behind with an outstanding X count of 438. George Norton tied McPhail on Points but fell behind on Xs accumulating 397 which gave him the bronze.


With only team events to follow the individual phase of the 2017 National Smallbore Rifle Prone Championships have ended.





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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Three-Day One Any Sights

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle ChampionshipsDay Three-Day One Any Sights
(Based on Preliminary Scores


Your Correspondents in the Field

Joe Graf and Hap Rocketto


After the stormed tossed last day of metallic sights the shooters arrived at the range to find it hot, humid, and still.


With scopes replacing metallic sights and the wind barely fluttering the flags it was soon pretty evident that this would be a day that would be decided by Xs. Mark Del Cotto set the pace, and the tone of the day, with a perfect 400-40X. Right on his heels were Kerry Spurgin and Mike McPhail who slid into second and third respectively with a 400-39Xs.


Dan Pempel, of the Air Force posted a 400-38Xfor a win in the Dewar. A pair of 400-37Xs scores pitted Jimmie Fordham and McPhail for second and third with Fordham getting the nod for the silver.


Individual competition for the day ended with Kevin Nguyen, from the AMU, blasting out a 400-38X at 100 yards. Ron Wigger and team mates McPhail and George Norton all shot 400-37Xs and had to have the final places settled by the Rule. Wigger was awarded second, McPhail third and Norton was on the outside looking in.


There were no less than 13 perfect scores fired! McPhail prevailed missing the X ring only seven times for an astounding 1200-113X, just a few Xs short of the National Record. Hank Gray, hanging on to his overall aggregate lead, posted 110 X with his perfect score for second on the day. Eric Uptagrafft was just an X short of Gray shooting a 1200-109X.


After individual competition ended the Dewar Trophy and Randle Cup International Postal Matches were shot. Kevin Nevius, assisted by wind coach Shawn Carpenter, cleaned the 50 meter international target with 15 Xs and had a 196-10X at 100 yards to record the highest score for US Dewar team and earn the Edward Crossman Plaque. Ginger McLemore was presented the “Fast Freddy” Scielzo plaque by Jim Miller of the US Dewar Shooters Club, for being the most senior shooter on the team.


Randle results were not available at press time.


Day four of the tournament features the last day of any sights and team matches.


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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championships

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championships
Day Two Metallic Sights

(Based on Preliminary Scores


Your Correspondents in the Field

Joe Graf and Hap Rocketto



The weather radar was glowing red and, after consultation with local experts, the Match Director declared a three hour rain delay to start of the match. As if on cue the heavens opened and lightning and thunder filled the air just at the stroke of nine. By noon the storm had blown itself out and the shooters were on the line to finish the metallic sight aggregate.


Olympian Mike McPhail fought it out with Army team mate Hank Gray for honors in the opening Meter Match. Bothe shot a 400-37X with McPhail prevailing on the tie breaker. Defending National Champion Marl Del Cotto was third with 400-36X.


The Dewar was another hard fought contest that ended up with the Stat Office going to the Rule Book to give George Norton the win as he and el Cotto tied with clans and 35Xs. Gray, Eric Uptagrafft, and McPhail were knotted at 400-33X with the rules deciding in Gray’s favor for third place.


McPhail shot a 400-36 at 100 yards to wrap up another win. Ed Foley, Norton, and Uptagrafft all shot 400-33Xs with Foley in third, Norton in third, and Uptagrafft out of the money.


Gray emerged at the Metallic Sight Champion with a near perfect 2399-201X. McPhail was second, 2398-209X, and Norton, 2398-190X third.


A Competitors’ Meeting followed the match and it was very productive. Lones Wigger spoke to a possible return to Camp Perry citing that the ranges have been greatly altered since smallbore was last there, firing lines torn up for example. The only available firing line is the Vaile 200 yard line, with is not covered, and would require the competitors to man haul their gear 800 yards from the parking lot.


Many other suggestions were raised concerning smallbore, in general, and the National Championship, in particular. The Members of the Smallbore Committee and Staff present took copious notes, asked questions, and solicited ideas.


Day three will open the anysight championship with the Dewar, and possibly the Randle, to be fired in the afternoon.  




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2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championships

2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championships

Day One Metallic Sights

(Based on Preliminary Results)


Your Correspondents in the Field

Joe Graf and Hap Rocketto


It was rather a surreal experience for any shooter with several years of National Smallbore Championship experience. It was the first single relay match since the 1948 Championships at Quantico which were by invitation only. On the positive side, you didn’t have to move your gear on the negative side you didn’t have to move your gear.


With approximately 90 entries the match staff re-squadded the competitors and allowed a 30 minute break between matches resulting in the shooters heading home for showers and dinner about 1PM.


George Norton, the first person to win the Iron Man competition and be presented the Wigger Trophy, won the Meter Match with a 400-35X Dan Pempel, an Air Force shooter Creedmoored the Army’s Mike McPhail for second when both posted 400-33Xs.


Pempel shot a 400-29X and found himself in second again, ironically on a tie breaker with Nancy Tompkins. Steve Angeli and Kerry Spurgin went to the rule book for third with Angeli coming out on top in a 27X tie.


Hank Gray nailed 32Xs in a 400 point effort for the 100 yard win while Ron Wigger came in second shooting a 400-30X. Norton found his way back into the money with the last of the clean scores, a 400-26X.


Gray’s rush to the finish line at 100 yards gave him an eight X edge over Norton for the Aggregate win, 1199-98 to 1199-90. McPhail, who had piled up Xs at a phenomenal rate-102 out of a possible 120, was third shooting an 1198. 


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2017 Nite Owl League, Match 10 Results

Results from Match 10 of the 2017 Nite Owl League can be viewed below:

2017-Nite-Owl-Match-10 (PDF, 14KB)

The Nite Owl League is a smallbore prone league that shoots 40 shots at 100 yards, each week, throughout the summer. HPM participates in this league and scores are submitted weekly to the the Nite Owl statistician. Complete results are posted at so you can see how shooters match up in four or five different participating locations including: Massachusetts Connecticut, New York, and Canada.

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‘peace to the gentle shade’…

by Hap Rocketto

One of the lessons I try to teach young shooters is to expect the unexpected. In a rifle match things can, in the words of Robbie Burns, “Gang aft agley.” You have to be prepared for events that are outside of your control and respond to them with a measured plan of action.

Some common glitches, for which a plan of action can be formulated in advance, are not being on paper on your first shot, stuck cartridge cases, fogged over scopes, forgotten equipment, and such calamities. Having a plan will usually allow you to keep your head and diminish any negative effect upon your performance.

However, every once in a while something will occur that is so far outside of the realm of possibility that you really have to dig into your past experience to find a solution.

I lay sprawled on the grass at Camp Perry prepping for the first stage of a 100 yard metallic sight match. The wind was pretty steady at about seven miles per hour from two o’clock. Therefore, it was no real surprise that my first sighter popped up to the left, about a half nine.

My Sam Gates rear sight is graduated in 1/6th minute clicks and a ten inch ‘bloop tube’ increases my sight radius so that each click is now worth about a 1/8th minute. I had to move right about 20 clicks. I spun the rear sight and shot another sighter which appeared just a fraction of an inch to the right of my first. The wind did not appear to vary so I presumed a bad sight picture and shot another sighter which almost doubled the previous shot.

I was a bit perplexed but put on a few more clicks to no avail. I was reminded of the Niagara Falls sketch from the 1944 Three Stooges short comic film Gents Without Cents. You know, “Slowly I turned…step by step…inch by inch…” I kept twirling the windage knob. Suddenly I felt no resistance and the knob came free in my hand. Now this was a problem which I had never thought about.

The Gates sight is elegant in its simplicity, just two blocks of metal, each sliding on a pair of pins, one set vertical for elevation and one set horizontal for windage. They are held in place by the adjustment knob which works against the pressure of a spring.

The windage block had not popped off into the grass to I carefully rethreaded the screw, pressed the block against the stop to set it and cranked the sight a few handfuls left. I was in a quandary as to what to do but recalled the many days that I shot service rifle and was trained to ‘favor.” Favoring is a quick way to apply a sight adjustment in a rapid fire string by moving the service rifle post sight in the direction the coach directed. In smallbore favoring is called shading and I am fairly well versed in shading with a scope. Not so much with iron sights.

The problem with shading with irons in smallbore is that it is harder to maintain the correct hold off. There is also a tendency to ride up or down as the curved surface of the aperture meets the curved surface of the bull. A high power target is very forgiving of a slight error between the straight edges of the post and the curved edge of the target but that is not the case with the small rings of a smallbore bull.

Very good smallbore riflemen can shade effectively with irons. As a matter of fact Ed Etzel shot his way to an Olympic gold medal in 1984 shooting 60 shots in 45 minutes for a 599X600, shading the whole way. I am no Ed Etzel but it looked as if I had no choice but to learn how to shade.

Knowing that I had come back to my rough starting point I gingerly held the left side of the aperture against the left side of the bull. Much to my relief the shot came up a half nine a three o’clock. I took a few more without moving the sight and shot a nice group. I then clicked left and was soon shooting tens and Xs. Maybe shading with irons wasn’t that hard? Oddly enough, while going through all of this, a visit to Westminster Abbey while in London with the US Roberts Team in 2009 popped up in the back of my mind.

I went for record and was keeping them all in the ten ring for about the first five shots. Then the nines started to appear at one and five o’clock indicating that I was riding up and down. Try as I might I wasn’t able to recreate my early success on a regular basis and lost points, it was a minor disaster-but not as bad as it might have been had I reacted rather than responded to my problem.

During the target change I hurriedly pulled the sight apart, gave it a touch of lube, and reassembled it. Being one of the few smallbore shooters who actually has his mechanical zero recorded I reset the sight, bolted it back on the rifle, offered a quick prayer to the shooting gods, and got ready to shoot the second string.

My first sighter was an X and I went on to shoot a 200-15X on the second card. There is no reasonable or logical explanation for what happened.

And here is where the trip to Westminster Abbey comes into play. Nicholas Rowe, Poet Laureate and dramatist, is buried in Poets’ Corner in the venerated church. Now shade has many definitions. A shade, in Greek mythology, is the spirit of a dead person residing in the Hades, where my score and I would have certainly been if I had not recalled, and calmly practiced, Alexander Pope’s epitaph for Nicholas Rowe, in which he wrote, “…peace to the gentle shade.”

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2017 Nite Owl League, Match 9 Results

Results from Match 9 of the 2017 Nite Owl League can be viewed below:

2017-Nite-Owl-Match-9 (PDF, 30KB)

The Nite Owl League is a smallbore prone league that shoots 40 shots at 100 yards, each week, throughout the summer. HPM participates in this league and scores are submitted weekly to the the Nite Owl statistician. Complete results are posted at so you can see how shooters match up in four or five different participating locations including: Massachusetts Connecticut, New York, and Canada.

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2017 Nite Owl League, Match 8 Results

Results from Match 8 of the 2017 Nite Owl League can be viewed below:

2017-Nite-Owl-Match-8 (PDF, 27KB)

The Nite Owl League is a smallbore prone league that shoots 40 shots at 100 yards, each week, throughout the summer. HPM participates in this league and scores are submitted weekly to the the Nite Owl statistician. Complete results are posted at so you can see how shooters match up in four or five different participating locations including: Massachusetts Connecticut, New York, and Canada.

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2017 Nite Owl League, Match 7 Results

Results from Match 7 of the 2017 Nite Owl League can be viewed below:

2017-Nite-Owl-Match-7 (PDF, 29KB)

The Nite Owl League is a smallbore prone league that shoots 40 shots at 100 yards, each week, throughout the summer. HPM participates in this league and scores are submitted weekly to the the Nite Owl statistician. Complete results are posted at so you can see how shooters match up in four or five different participating locations including: Massachusetts Connecticut, New York, and Canada.

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