With the possible exception of skeet and trap it seems that every shooting event is timed in some way or another, from the more choreographed disciplines like ISSF rifle and pistol events to the newer “bang and clang, run and gun” three gun competition. No matter if it is wind up analog or digital electronic a timer is a necessary piece of equipment for shooter and official alike. The lack of a timepiece, or lack of attention to one, has made for some interesting stories over the years.
Bill Woodring and Vere Hamer were in a tight race for the 1937 smallbore prone championship. There was no quarter given and none asked as the two national champions, Hamer in 1930 and Woodring 1936, went into the final match neck and neck, and there both men shot identical scores. The Critchfield Trophy’s preliminary bulletin gave the championship to Hamer on Xs, each man being credited with a score of 1992.
Hamer then stunned as he strolled to the statistical office, paid his challenge fee, and declared that he had been credited for a double by the scorers when, in fact, he had run out of time and saved a round. He won his challenge, got his fee back and lost ten points. His act of good sportsmanship insured that Woodring, with a five point margin over Doctor Russ Gardner’s second place 1987, locked up a second consecutive victory for the reigning champion and the first back to back victories in match history. History does not record if Hamer had a stop watch or not, but it does record that, perhaps in reward for his sportsmanship he won his prone second title in 1939.
Bruce Meredith had placed second in the 1967 Metallic Sight Championship and so occupied the second firing point from the left as the Dewar Team took to the line. Meredith asked noted gunsmith and trigger innovator Karl Kenyon to act as his wind coach and Kenyon was delighted to do so.
Meredith was down one point with eight Xs at 50 yards when time was called, surprising both men as there were still two rounds in his loading block. Kenyon had been paying such careful attention to the wind that he neglected his stopwatch, costing Meredith, and the Dewar Team, a possible 20 points. Pulling themselves together after the disaster the pair carded a 199-9X at 100 yards for an aggregate of 378-17X.
When the results bulletin came back late that year from the match sponsor, the National Small-bore Rifle Association of Great Britain, the showed that Great Britain had won with a score of 7846. The United States was second posting a 7826. One will never know if Meredith would have shot two more tens, although it is likely. Had he done so the teams would have been tied and the match would have been decided by the high score at 100 yards.
Two years later, with Meredith again on the Dewar Team, that exact circumstance would happen. The teams tied at 7879 with Great Britain notching a 3945 at 100 yards to the US score of 3937 for a British win.
On the positive side, after the Dewar debacle Meredith went on to win the U.S. Cartridge Company Trophy, and a selected Remington 40X rifle as the any sight champion and the 1967 National Smallbore Rifle Championship garnering him the Critchfield Trophy, a selected and engraved Winchester 52D rifle, a Lyman Superspot telescopic sight, and a National Champion brassard. Feeling badly and embarrassed Karl Kenyon also awarded him with a lifetime of free gun and trigger work.
The 2009 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Prone Championship began under less than ideal wind conditions and fighting them, as he sought perfection, was SSG Shane Barnhart, USA. Barnhart came into the match with a championship resume that was second to none in its breadth having won open, service, and junior titles in both position and prone, and a civilian and intermediate junior crown as well. The only thing missing was a win as a sub junior and a woman, the former being because he never shot at Perry in that category and the latter out of reach for obvious reasons.
Intent as he was on the X ring he shot an amazing 35 sighters, but only 12 record shots, eating eight record rounds as time was called. Controversy still swirls around the question of whether he forgot to start his timer, looked at his timer had the battery gone flat, he forgot his timer, or if he even owns a timer.
Barnhart, stinging from his earlier lapse, shot a 400-40X to win the opening Dewar of the any sight aggregate and repeated the next morning, his third Dewar clean of the tournament. So, while most shooters were packing up at the end of the day, Barnhart returned to the 100-yard line to make a run on Baron Whatley’s National Championship Dewar Record of 400-40X+10X and Mary Stidworthy Sparling’s National Record of 400-40X+40X. Perhaps caught by a stray gust or a misread wiggle in mirage or just exhausted by five days of shooting a shot wandered into the ten ring after several Xs and the attempt ended in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative gallery.
The match bulletin shows SPC Joseph Hein USA winning the National Prone Championship with Barnhart winning the any sight championship with 2400. Hein’s aggregate score was a 4790-354X while Barnhart posted a 4710-385X, and 80 point deficit. There is no telling how things might have turned out if Barnhart had watched the clock and gotten off those eight rounds.
So, get a timer and use it or you will find out to your regret, to paraphrase Herman Hupfeld’s classic torch song As Time Goes By, that a miss is still a miss…as time goes by.