My account of the 2016 Nationals
First I want to thank Chris Martin and the Southern Michigan Gun Club and Pneumatics for hosting the nationals at their super facility. The food was great and the event was too. Chris di a fine job even though a bit short handed. Well done Chris!
After arriving in Paw Paw Michigan on Thursday Oct 6th, and checking into our motel, Chris Cory and I decided on the Roadhouse Grill for dinner. Upon arriving we found Kevin Kunkle (THAGC club member from afar) and Mike Norris just leaving. We exchanged welcomes and settled in for a few local brews while we waited for our other shooters to arrive.
Our group arrived and we were joined by Scott Allen, Chris Berry (Fellow Club members) And Mike Niksch the maker of the Thomas rifles. Also there was Randy Ebersole, Doug Miller, Vipha Miller, and Cliff…….Uh I don’t remember his last name and his Father?
We had a great time waiting, drinking, and swapping war stories together. This was basically “Team Thomas” as all but Chris and I and Cliff were shooting Thomas rifles and pistols in the Nationals. Oh, Cliff already had the Thomas rifle and pistol on order with Mike!
Friday, Chris and I ate at Café 237 just outside of Paw Paw. Breakfast of a perfectly cooked med rare NY strip steak with two eggs, hash browns, coffee, toast and orange juice was $9.95! It was great too…. Chris had the same but without the coffee and with country fried steak. Monster portions on both.
I shot the pistol match separated from Chris by a lane or so. My squad was with Nathan Thomas and Rizalde Marquez, “Riz” Both these guys are top flight pistol shooters. I am happy to be grouped and shoot with this caliber of competitors as it gives me a chance to watch good shooters and learn.. I am not a good pistolero…….
Nathan started us off clearing the lane. I was next, and thought I hit the KZ but the target stayed up. I loaded again and looked to see where I hit, expecting some unseen wind blown impact. I could not see my miss! I looked around the edge of the KZ and figured I split the pellet. I shot again and I saw the hit directly in the center of the paddle. Then I noticed that there were 4 hits in the center of the paddle.. All beside each other. We called a marshal and two went down and verified the target was not working. It was removed and I dropped the far target. We moved on.
Riz scored a 37 to take the open class title, and Nathan scored a 31, putting him in 10th place. I ended up with a 25 and hit the board at 23rd. I found out Chris C had some gun issues and scored 17. He was not happy…However he did well enough over our year of traveling, to take the top spot at the Grand Prix’s, Grand Champion, in open class! Way to go Chris!
After the match we headed out to the Old Peninsula Brewpub & restaurant. It was the club members from the night before with Scott, Chris C, Chris B, and me. This time fellow club members Joe Magarelli and Mike Finchum joined us. Mike Niksch was there and should be an honorary member, since a lot of our members use his rifles. Besides when he shot at our club, Chris C talked him into trying a shooting jacket. He borrowed mine and that was all she wrote. He bought in off the rack at Creedmoor the next day. Your Welcome Mike! We were also joined by friends Bob Dye and Bill Liebke. We have been shooting the Southern GP circuit with these two. Good guys all and a wealth of knowledge for us relatively new comers to the sport.
The prime rib was fantastic, the seafood soup expensive, and the beers were cold. What more can you want? Other then the $50.00 dinner bill for me….lol
Saturday saw my day starting less than happy. I swore I was going to have fun and not sweat the score. Wheeeel I did get a rocky start at the sight in range. After 2 shots with the Steyer, it would no longer cock and lock. The charging lever just would not engage the sear. I figured it was the trigger at fault and tried to adjust it on the line. That having failed, I went to the truck to get the tools and prepared to do a breakdown of the gun. Before I started, I decided to try one more thing. I moved the trigger forward a little bit in the guard, then ran the adjustment screws all the way clockwise bottoming out. Then little by little I turned them back out, alternating until the lever cocked and the sear held. I rapped the gun to see if it would release the sear on impact and it held. Great, I won’t have to DNF before I get a match shot off!
The problem was that the trigger was ridiculously light now, and the wind could set it off. I did not want to dicker anymore and possibly make it worse, so I elected to just go as is. The light trigger only cost me two shots during the first day, as my finger tip was cold that morning and I did not feel it. I got used to it by days end, and it was not a problem on Sunday.
I was in a two-man squad with David Lovio on his first ever field target event. He had a borrowed FWB and just made the side tape. He was shooting hunter class. Someone pulled the other shooter we had, to go to another squad. For just his first time at a FT match and being the National,s he scored a 41 on the red course and a 45 on the yellow course. Not too shabby for his first time.
The wind on the red course was not too bad except it had a nasty habit of taking a few long 50 yd plus shots, and slapping the pellet downward as it reached the target. This was echoed by several other shooters, so it was not just me…
The light trigger got me on the standing lane on the first target. I usually do a 3 or 4standing and kneeling, so when I saw the first target I was confident. I dropped it with the first shot and then just about to my face the light trigger said “I’m going now” and it missed. On the long target I just plain missed…. I cleared the kneeling lane which was a tough one. Small kill zones to be sure.. After the course was done I scored a disappointing 50 but true to my word I was having fun….
Sunday seemed colder then Saturday to me. We all sighted in and then headed to our lanes. It was announced that we would start at 9:00AM and just go ahead and go hot. I was starting on the standing lane with Roz Sumpter and Randy Ebersole. I was alone waiting for my teammates to get there and I decided to range the two targets. The far shot was far but very doable at around 33 yards and a full KZ.
Just then I noticed the film crew that was there to film the Nationals for a video were filming me…They came over and asked some questions and filmed my Steyer in the cradle on the ground. Then the gang arrived and we were off. The first target was a gimmie for me at 22 yds and a full KZ. I nailed the first target with ease and then lined up on the far one. I shot and it hit dead center level, but just at the right edge of the kill zone splitting the pellet and moving the paddle. I asked Randy how much time did I have left on the timer. I know I downed the first target pretty quick. Randy said 3 minutes. So I relaxed and dropped the rifle. After about 30 seconds I loaded and raised the gun. I was so steady that my movement was not even coming out of the KZ area! I smiled that sly smirk that you get when you know all is perfect and “Click”…….?????? I did not check to see that the cocking lever was locked on the Steyer! It simply tripped the sear with no air release…..Oh well, I re cocked and shot the pellet into the ground. Well after 3 ranging errors I was at the last lane when my friend Rob Seidon came to us. We discussed that he was chasing his scope all day and was not a happy camper.
Meantime I sat down on the bum bag and dropped the 3/8” target, blanking out the conversation behind me. Then I ranged the last target and it was a full KZ at 30 yds!! Bonus! Another gimmie….
It was at my zero for the rifle and full size! I dropped it the first time as Rob was walking away. I lined up again and heard Roz tell Randy. “Paul and Rob…Uh I’ll tell you when he is done” I then thought that Roz was going to say I was chasing Rob in the GP standings, Etc. Well, you guessed it, I hit low and split the pellet…..On the last and IMHO, easiest shot of the day...I did not get upset and actually laughed about it…I did say I was going to have fun at this match.
Some photos of the gang
This was my second Nationals, having my very first big 2-3-day match at last year’s Nationals in Ennice. I can say that after 6 GP matches including the Nat’s, I have gained great experiences, met great people, and made some wonderful friends, I will have had some memories that will last forever, if I don’t get old timers disease…LOL. Uh, What did I just say?
I look forward to one more match in SC at Deep Woods for this season end. After that, I will be back to hunting deer, (Not metal ones) and filling field target orders. I look forward to next season when I get to do it all over again!
I want to thank my travel partner, and fellow club member Chris Cory, for putting up with my old ***. Hey buddy, we get to do this again for another year….
LOOKING FORWARD TO SEE YOU ALL IN THE 2017 FIELD TARGET SEASON!