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Shot In The Tail

Shot In The Tail…

The Hudson New Hampshire Range is a small range, ten points packed so close together that the legs of spotting scopes often intrude into the adjacent shooter’s space. Some might generously call it intimate. However, an astute observer would comment that the shooters on the line appeared more like the top row in a tin of brisling sardines rather than a firing line of highly skilled shooting athletes.

The close proximity of shooters led to the inevitable, mats overlapped, shooters’ legs became tangled up, spotting scopes were knocked about, positions had to be adjusted to accommodate the confined space, and the slightest breakdown in natural point of aim might put you on someone else’s target.

For example, I confess that I twice crossfired onto the target of the shooter to my right, my shooting crony George Pantazelos. The first of two my miscues was a dead center X in bull two of George’s first Meter target. Now George shoots his targets in the following order: bull one, three, four and two- a U, while I shoot one, three, two and four, two columns.

I finished first and as a result I had opportunity to watch George shoot the bull I had defaced. I had a strong interest in his success as my bull two was a four shot knot that could easily be mistaken for a five shots. George’s first three bulls were pretty much one hole groups fully contained within the ten ring. The darker angels of my soul, having no reason to believe otherwise, were hoping that George would continue hammering the X ring and I my shooting sin might pass unnoticed.

The gods of shooting do not suffer fools such as me lightly and punish us severely for our indiscretions. George’s last bull was a clean, like his first three, but with six distinct shot holes.

Two shooters to my left lay my brother Steve, hammering away at the target with one of his better performances of the year. He shot so well that at the end of the day he was in second place, one point behind and, note this, eight Xs ahead of match winner Pantazelos. With it Steve earned his first Regional medallion and his first leg on prone Distinguished. We all must agree that such a performance must be a high point in any shooting career.

However, he is constitutionally incapable of allowing himself to be outdone by his little brother. When word reached him that I had crossfired he did likewise and blasted off an extra one for good measure so as to not be outdone by me. When he heard that I had erred a second time in finding my own target his big brother reflex kicked in and he began scattered tens and Xs on adjacent targets like a farmer broadcasting seed across a fertile field.

No bull was safe.

Fellow competitors were hitting the floor like students during the “Duck and Cover” drills, which many of us remember from our grammar school days in the 1950s.

There were those present who reported that his eyes and maniacal chortling conjured up an image of a cross between psychopathic killer Tommy Udo, portrayed by Richard Widmark in the movie Kiss of Death and equally unbalanced portrayal of Cody Jarrett by James Cagney in White Heat.

In the end he bettered me, as he intended, by shooting three cross fires during the match: a glorious hat trick of incompetence unequaled anywhere in the Western shooting world on that momentous day.

Had he only shot one crossfire, rather than trying to best me, he would have won the match, taken home a gold medal, a Distinguished step, and a Perry voucher.

He would have won all that swag and bling had he only fired two cross fires to tie me in ineptitude-he had, as I noted earlier, a higher X count than George.

But, no, fiendishly laughing and out of control, he had to one up his kid brother and shoot three cross fires, to deny me of my only chance to be the best at something that day.

When the dust had cleared, and the scoring crew was able to uncross its eyes from the combined efforts of the Frères Rocketto, Pantazelos remarked accurately, but not unkindly, that even if we had a GPS we would be unable to find the X Ring.

Disclaimer: No competitive rifle shooters were harmed in the making or telling of this tale. Secondly, Steve actually won a Perry Voucher the next week at the Rhode Island State Championship and Regional so he ended up winning it all but for a gold medallion.

Category: Hap's Corner

About the Author: 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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