Ben Avery Range – Phoenix, AZ
The 2018 Berger SW Nationals is in the books. Except for a really windy final day which caused a match cancellation the weather was gorgeous sunny and warm. It was a wonderful reprieve from the rainy Seattle days. Congratulations to Allen Thomas the 2018 Berger SW Nationals Champion of the Sling Grand Agg. Oliver Milanovic was second and Trudie Fay was third. The winning Team for the week was USA Hayes – Coach Phil Hayes and shooters Nancy Tompkins, Oliver Milanovic, Justin Skaret and Trudie Fay. As soon as the results of the match are posted online I will have a link here. This match has become so popular that it sold out in a few hours. We have shooters from as far as Scotland and Australia that attend yearly. Almost 400 competitors between sling and F-Class make this one of the most successful matches in the country. Even better than the NRA US Nationals. Thank you to Michelle Gallagher from Berger and her crew for running a great event year after year. I wish I could say I had a successful match but unfortunately the barrel life of my RPA decided it had one too many rounds through it.
I noticed that the groups I have been shooting lately were getting wider and wider. I thought it may have been my ammo. The first day of the matches at Berger was the 600 yard match. Even though very windy I knew I was not shooting as well as I know I can. The second day we had the Palma Team match. I and 4 others were coached under Emil Praslic. Again, my groups were all over the place. I had too many weird shots. We were chasing my elevation. Emil said he wanted me to shoot his ammo from ABM for the next day to see if that might be the problem. We measured the chamber on my rifle and put 60 rounds through the press to shoot the next day for the Individual Palma match. I learned quickly that day that is was not the ammo. My groups got wider and wider as the day went on and the further back in yardage I went. It had to be the barrel. As luck would have it I brought my #2 rifle with me this year.
My other rifle is a Hall action. I really should not call this my backup rifle. It won me my 3 national records. But it has been a long time since I have used this rifle. So I shot it with the ABM ammo on the 4th day of long range at 1000 yards. Perfect. My first string was a 199/200 with 11X. Sigh.. By now it was too late to win the Agg but I was relieved to have an answer to my wide groups. I shot the rest of the match well even though I got beat up by the wind conditions some. At least my elevation was good! The 5th and final day of the match was Sunday with 2 more strings at 1000 yards. The night before we could hear the crazy winds in our hotel room. In the morning we had received notice that the match was delayed a couple of hours. They could not even get the targets in the frames. As the morning progressed and the wind continued they decided to call both matches and the Grand Agg was to be decided without the them. We called it a match and went straight to the awards ceremony. The next day, Monday, the US Team had a scheduled practice.
Competitors from the US Team stayed and other members flew in just for this Monday practice. It was a practice and tryout for spots for future US Team matches. They set up at 300 yards with the ICFRA targets (International) to represent an actual Palma team match. The ICFRA are really difficult to shoot because the bullseye rings are tiny. About .5 MOA. There were four coaches on the line and each coach had four shooters. The coaches were “microphoned” together with a head coach behind them. Each shooter had a plot sheet made for them which shows the groups they shot under each coach. With these results the US Team Captain and coaches can pick members they want to participate in future matches such as the Canadian Nationals coming up this August. And then from Canada they will choose the team to go to New Zealand next year for World Championships. I felt I shot very well this day considering I was using a rifle I had not been set up on in a few years. Speaking of rifles! The really exciting part is I am having a new rifle built by John Whidden.
All week during the match Rob and I talked with John about the variety of stocks, actions and barrels to choose from. We have decided on a build and I should have it in a few weeks! I will spill the beans when I receive it. I have covered many topics today and hopefully did not overwhelm or bore you. Just gives me more article ideas for the future! Thanks for listening and have a great week. #lifeisshortgoshoot