The National Short Range Championships
“Where 600yds is considered to be short range”
The first match of the new 2018 season got off to a flying start (for some) at Bisley. The weather was benign with never more than 1 minute of wind required and it showed in the stratospheric performance of the winners: Joe West in F/Open dropped just 1 point all weekend – out of 85 shots to count, it was one of the most impressive performances we’ve seen a t a National League match, and no less deserving of recognition was the F/T winner; Jon Longhurst who dropped only 5 points.
It was a weekend that showed up in sharp contrast those who had come ready and prepared and those who had not done their homework. There is no hiding place in such circumstances and it was painfully evident to some that the long winter lay-off had taken its toll. All the more credit then, to the worthy winners for braving the elements earlier in the year and getting in some good quality practice and load development.
Back to where it all started, Saturday morning; it was a misty and rather damp morning with a little light rain falling, it was mild though and the wind was just a gentle easterly zephyr. That set the tone for the entire match – this was going to be a trigger-puller’s dream. Visibility was not 100% though with many folk complaining of slightly hazy sight pictures. Hazy or not, it didn’t seem to affect Jon Longhurst who set a blistering pace with a superb 75.13 to take the gold. Just a few days earlier, Jon had injured himself in a home gunsmithing accident which resulted in a trip to A&E to get hand surgery; mercifully it didn’t affect his trigger finger! Elena Davis and Peter Dommett came 2nd and 3rd after a count-back on 75.8; the MXM Rutland team-mates were evidently well-matched.
By the time F/Open got down on the firing point, the light rain had eased off to just a very light drizzle, nothing really to complain about, especially for this time of year when we have been subjected to monsoon conditions at Diggle, mind you, at Diggle you can get monsoons at any time of the year. The haziness persisted though, making for a less than ideal sight picture. Last year, Steve Durrant was delayed on his way to the match by rendering first aid to a road traffic accident victim, gallantly donating his trousers to bandage the victim; thankfully, he had no such diversions this time and was able to focus entirely on slotting in a superb 75.12 to win the gold medal. The next three shooters all featured in a count-back on 75.9; Tony Marsh, Martin Scrivens and Shaun Baker, sadly it was Shaun who missed out on getting a medal. The conditions were so benign that the top 11 shooters all scored 75pts, spare a thought for Darren Stewart who came 12th with 74.9.
The first stage of a match is always particularly interesting to watch; it often sets the pace for the rest of the match and allows all the competitors to gauge where they stand and what’s going to be needed to prevail over the course of the match. It was clear that at 600yds in next-to-no wind, this was going to be a very high-scoring match indeed; it was going to be won by somebody who had put in the time to perfect their load development.
By the time F/TR got onto Stage 2 they had no more worries about any wet weather gear requirements, it was turning out to be a cool and overcast day, but mercifully dry and still with only the slightest easterly draft of wind to take note of.
Matt Jarram is always a serious contender and he showed that he had not lost any ability over the long winter off season; he was in fine form and racked up a good solid 75.11 to take the gold medal. Jon Longhurst was incredibly close behind though with only one less V-bull and last onto the podium came Mark Webb with 75.8 Only four shooters achieved 75 points though, which was quite a surprise as conditions looked ideal for getting possibles, clearly there was more going on out there on Century range than there appeared to be.
In F/Open, things could not have been any tighter at the top with a remarkable three-way tie for the podium positions; Richard Sharman, Shawn Baker and Joe West all tied on 75.12. As always, fortune favours those who drop their V-bulls early rather than late.
After lunch, we reconvened to finish the day with a 2+20 a barrel-burner! True to form, some folk did mention the effects of mirage off their barrels and having to await the sight picture to spring back into clarity, it was noticeable that not many competitors had mirage bands, but then it is quite forgivable, you’d hardly expect to need one in March. The lesson is; always bring everything with you, as you never quite know what you’ll need – until the time when you haven’t got it with you.
In F/TR it looked like we were going to have a duel between Jon Longhurst and Matt Jarram with both of them jockeying for positions on the podium again in second and third respectively after a count back on 99.13 Neither of them could match Mark Downing though who scored a truly superb 100.8, quite a feat with an F/TR rifle and quite possibly a new League record. Currently we don’t list any 600yd record-holders, perhaps we should now and it looks like Mark will top that list.
If Mark’s F/TR score was impressive (and it is of course), it tended to be overshadowed somewhat the by the outcome of the F/O relay. This must surely go down in the League’s annals (if we had any) as being the most high-scoring detail ever seen. An astounding 11 shooters all scored 100 points! Ranging from Mark Bannon’s 100.8 all the way up to an astonishing 100.17 by Joe West. That was a masterful performance by Joe and will be memorable for many years to come. There is something in the West genes, as his Dad Simon, the 2017 League Champion came second with 100.15. Three shooters had to fight it out for a bronze medal on 100.14; Ian Boxall, Martin Townsend and Gary Costello. Clearly, the F/O guys were getting a handle on things and really exploiting the mild conditions with their highly-tuned rifles, it was glorious to see such accurate rifles in action.
The clocks went forward overnight and this time there were no dramas – unlike last year when your humble scribe was enjoying a leisurely breakfast when the NRA’s horn sounded to begin shooting…
Sunday morning was, if anything an even better day than Saturday, there was no moisture in the air at all, it was mild and bright and the hazy conditions of Saturday were absent. Most crucially, the wind was rather livelier that it had been; still very mild and gentle, but rather more noticeable and still only requiring a minute at most.
Now it was F/O who were first into action, the shooters were keen to get on with it and make the most of the good conditions as things never stay the same for long. The top eight shooters all scored 75’s and chief among these was our former GB Coach, Tony Marsh who notched up an impressive 75.13 Nipping at Tony’s heels came Steve Durrant adding a silver to his previous gold and in third place came local Bisley man Darren Stewart on 75.10. It was proving to be very tight at the top now as there were several contenders who were no fewer than seven competitors who had ‘gone clean’ or had only dropped one point so far. This was turning out to be a demonstration of sheer accuracy; those were: Tony Marsh, Joe West, Darren Stewart, Gary Costello, Martin Scrivens, Steve Durrant and Richard Sharman.
By the time that F/TR got to play, things had not really changed that much, the wind was still as it had been earlier; stronger than Saturday, but still comparatively mild. That enabled the top five shooters to break 75, with Brogan O’Shea-Smith and Matt Jarram duelling it out for supremacy as both were on the same superb 75.10, they squeezed Ian Chenery into bronze position with a still highly respectable 75.9
The final stage, now there was all to play for, it was especially competitive in F/O with the “magnificent seven” who were either going in clean or just one point down, this was as exciting as any League match has ever been. Given the mild conditions, it was anyone’s guess which of them might prevail, they were all serious contenders. Weather-wise, it was now as we approached the late morning that the sun came out and the wind picked up – not by very much and not in a consistent way, but just enough ebbs and flows to keep the most observant shooters alert to the dangers. Gareth James proved to be more observant than most and racked up the only possible of the detail; a superb 100.11 Gareth though was not in contention, so attention switched to see who had dropped the fewest number of points. Of the magnificent seven contenders, it could not possibly have been any tighter at the top; three shooters dropped one point and two of them were in the running; namely Tony Marsh and Joe West. Tony and Jimmy Finn took the second and third places on a countback with 99.13, but the man of the match was really Joe West, although he came 4th, he had not dropped any points up until that time and his single dropped point in stage 5 still allowed him to prevail overall.
In F/TR the field was rather more open at the top, but nonetheless keenly watched to see what this final deciding stage would bring about. Matt Jarram and Jon Longhurst were under particular pressure to perform and they must have felt that all eyes were on them going into stage five. As it transpired, neither of them could clamber onto the podium, they were edged out by three shooters who had not yet featured in the prize lists; foremost among these was Asad Wahid who won gold with a 100.11 – an astonishing feat and all the more remarkable given that this is only Asad’s second season. Credit where it is due though, Asad has been assiduous in his preparation and dedication to practice. Second place went to the 2017 League champion John Cross, now almost fully recovered from his Segway misadventures. Clive Wall took bronze with 98.6 proving there is life in the old dog yet. As for the top dogs, well Matt Jarram had a tough time of it which was to prove to be fateful his 94.7 while still respectable was to prove costly. Jon Longhurst hung on in there with a good 97.9
Stuart had all the stats ready in remarkably quick time- he was ably assisted throughout by Tina and Ian Baldy, top marks to them all as stats can be a thankless task. In F/TR, despite his injuries, Jon Longhurst had performed fantastically well throughout the weekend, maintaining a good high level of consistency which did not fail him, he dropped just five points to rack up a superb score of 420.53 and took home the big silver salver and the title of National Short Range Champion. Matt Jarram’s stage 5 cost him dearly, but all the same he is still always a strong contender and can take satisfaction from a solid performance in racking up 416.47. Just one measly V-bull behind Matt, in third place and taking the bronze trophy was Adam Bagnall with 416.46.
In F/Open, the youthful Joe West proved to be simply unbeatable; he was on superb form all weekend with a perfectly tuned, accurate rifle naturally bedded into one of his own stocks. This will go down in League history as one of the best performances we’ve ever seen, to drop just one point is quite remarkable, he is deservedly the new Short Range National Champion. In second place but only by the tiniest of possible margins, just 1 V-bull, Tony Marsh can be rightly proud of his performance, it was a masterclass from the former GB Coach. Third place and the bronze trophy was won by Gary Costello who was just two points behind the leaders, it makes a welcome return to form for Gary, our former World Champion and it proves he still knows his stuff.
Thanks to everyone for making the match such a success; several people made it all a pleasure; Mik & Tina for organising it all, Jim & Steve the Range Officers and Stuart for doing the stats.
Next month, we shall convene at Diggle for the second League match of the season, another 600yd match as it happens, the big news is that we’ll be shooting on electronic targets purchased by the Association. This will free members from the chore of marking and should even out the quality of service. Speaking of which, the quality of marking at Bisley varied somewhat from truly superb to the rather less satisfactory lethargic. Match entries will go live online via our new website later so watch out for the email notification.
And finally, if I may be permitted the indulgence of a salutary tale – the lesson is; always check everything. This match was from a personal point of view a complete and utter disaster, my shots were mostly waterline but frequently went from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock scoring two and three and everything in between. Only recently, I’d taken delivery of the rifle from my gunsmith and had replaced the scope, finger tightening it with a view to properly tightening it later…..(you can see where this is going already…). At the end of the match as I was putting the rifle away, I detected an odd sound – a clearly audible click. It was the scope! It was moving laterally in the now, loosened transverse bolts…!! “Spot the looney”! Another lesson learned the hard way.
See you next month at Diggle!