Three good days for New England sports…

Three good days for New England sports
By Hap Rocketto
(a subsidiary of CPL Digby Hand Schützenverein International)  

Three good days for New England sports started at the Hopkinton Sportsmen’s Association as I, and 39 other prone shooters, laid out our gear for Dan Holmes’ exceptionally well run annual Fall Foliage Prone Regional.  The only thing that would be crisper than the autumn air would be the shooting.

Conditions were near perfect but I was working under a handicap.  The night before the Red Sox played game two of the 2008 American League Division Series against the California Angels of Anaheim and Los Angeles, or what ever they are calling themselves these days. Is the current run of the Angels’ meltdowns against the Sox a manifestation of an identity crisis? The Sox know their place, Boston, but the Angels seem to be The Flying Dutchman of baseball, a team that does not know its place, doomed to wander through ballparks forever searching for a home. The game ended after 1AM and was up at five to get to the match.  My wife Margaret, a rabid Sox fan, noted, in baseball parlance, that I was “working on short rest.”

It was an ideal day to shoot; little if any wind and an overcast sky. At the end of the iron sight day, much to my surprise, I was in the lead with a 1595-111X.   Erik Hoskins shot a 1591-110X and was right on my tail.  With the lead came a moral quandary.

The annual Abe Rocketto Memorial Service Pistol Match was to be shot the next day.  Did I honor The Old Man by attending or did I come back and try to win the regional?  Fortunately my bother has a degree in philosophy. After some discussion we agreed, or perhaps rationalized, that The Old Man would want me to go back and try for the win.

I was feeling uneasily confident as I got my gear and mind in order.  A few weeks earlier I had banged out a 1599-147X with the scope at the Connecticut State Championship.  As Hoskins and I looked down range at the dead calm he remarked,”Today is all about execution.” 

We shot in the traditional order, short range first and long range last. With dead conditions we had vainly hoped for a Camp Perry style long range/short range arrangement to avoid facing a windy afternoon at long range.  At 50 yards I executed a solid 400-36X, Hoskins had a 400-37X. Bob Lynn was clean with 35Xs.  The Meter Match saw each of us post 400s, Erik with 38X, Bob with 33Xs, and me with 30Xs.  The Dewar saw the first real distance challenge.  Erik dropped one X at each yard line while Bob lost four and I went for eight.  Hoskins was running away with the anysight match but Bob and I were only concerned about shooting 40 more tens and Xs.  My windmill had yet to quiver all day, let alone move.  It sat just as I had set it up hours earlier. A good omen I thought.

Between each match Erik and I sat together, and he kept me on an even keel making me believe that I could shoot a 1600. He helped exorcise the dark angels of self doubt, lack of focus, and low expectations.   My goal was to simply shoot tens but he told me to, “shoot for Xs: the tens will take care of themselves.” 

My first sighters at 100 blew out the X.  Eight record Xs and two tens followed, one of the tens low at five.  It was easily a bullet’s diameter away from the line but seemed so far out that I gasped.  Bull two was looser, six Xs but two more low tens.  I had to get my focus back for low was exactly where I lost the point in Connecticut.  The final target change brought me to the brink of perfection, but my first sighter took my breath away, a wide nine at three, my first shot out of the ten ring all day.  It took me eleven sighters to settle down and go for record.  A pair of tens just off of the line at one o’clock were followed by one click down and one click left and then eight Xs.

As I shot the last bull I felt that the loading block never emptied. Like the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice every time I shot one round it seemed as if two more appeared in its place.  Would this torture never end?  It was taking forever to shoot this string.  Was I being effected by time dilation as described in Einstein’s’ Theory of Relativity?  At long last I came to the last round.  Taking counsel in, of all people, Lady Macbeth who advised that you could not fail if you “screw your courage to the sticking place” I drew in a breath, let part of it out, settled the dot on the center of the X ring, and broke the 160th record shot. Through my scope I lay watching the bullet meander down range at an excruciating slow speed; eventually it ended my exquisite torture, dropping into the hole in the center of the X ring made by its nine predecessors.  What seemed like an eternity to me was a mere ten minutes, from start to finish, by my timer.

A 100-10X final bull and I had my first 1600!  A moment later I also thought I was having my first heart attack.  A clamping sensation nearly paralyzed my left arm while an enormous pressure compressed my chest.  Fortunately it wasn’t the big one but rather Hoskins enveloping me a congratulatory man bear hug!  After finishing his match he had anxiously scoped my last few shots.  He may have been the only person more relieved and happier than me at that moment.  He had 36Xs to my 32 and Bob’s 28.  It was Erik’s second 1600 in two weeks and for Bob and me, our first in 58 and 61 years respectively, which also is the order we finished the anysight match.

That evening the Patriots thumped San Francisco and the next day the Sox beat the Angels to advance to the League Championship series. As I said earlier, it was a good three days for New England sports but the Sox beating the Anaheim Angels was nothing compared to me beating my darker angels.

I hope The Old Man is happy with the results, I know I sure am.

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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