Every eight years the National Smallbore Shooting Association of Great Britain (NSRA) and the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) face off in shoulder to shoulder competition in the heath of Sussex on the storied Century Range at Bisley Camp.
The NSRA’s Field Marshall Earl Roberts Trophy Match, an off-shoot of the older NRA sponsored General John J. Pershing Trophy Match, came into being when noted British rifleman, Colonel Thomas Sutton, a veteran of the first Pershing Trophy match in 1931, donated the trophy in 1969. The trophy and match honor Frederick Sleigh Roberts, a famed British artillery officer, and recipient of the Victoria Cross, who was a strong supporter of civilian marksmanship.
The selection of the 15-person U.S. Roberts team began in 2015 when the NRA president appointed Smallbore Committee Chair Tom King as Team Captain. Acting on the recommendation of the Smallbore Committee Roberts and Pershing veterans Lones Wigger and Hap Rocketto were named as coach and adjutant.
King is the official voice of the team and directs the coach and adjutant. Wigger is responsible for the training and final selection of the team while Rocketto is charged with logistics.
The 12 rifleman were selected at the 2016 National Smallbore Rifle Prone Rifle Championships through a two stage process—an aggregate of the scores of the metallic sight stage of the championship and the Dewar International Postal Team.
Named to the team are Olympian and World Record holder Eric Uptagrafft, 2016 National Prone Champion Mark Delcotto, All American Kerry Spurgin, Pershing veteran Matt Chezem, noted gunsmith Howard Pitts, Billy Azzinaro of the University of Kentucky, Army standout and Roberts veteran Hank Gray, Double Smallbore Distinguished Morgan Dietrich, former National Junior Prone champion and newlywed Michael Seery, three time conventional and metric national champion Kevin Nevius, All American and Pershing veteran Shawn Wells, and coach of the University of Michigan Rifle Team J. Michael O’Connor.
The firing team members will be decided on the basis of scores fired at Bisley with the three officials and two reserves acting as wind coaches.
It is a well-seasoned and experienced team which hopes to regain the trophy lost to the British in 2009 sporting, as it does, a resume of Olympic medals, world and national championships and records—as well as 18 smallbore Distinguished awards.