Above: 2018 F-Open Team Championship runner-up, “Team McMillan.”
Of all the NRA F-Class Nationals, long-range (LR) is my favorite. Why, you ask? Because the KISS principle has been applied. All the shooting is done at the longest of the LR distances. The NRA defines LR as 800, 900 and 1000 yards. Since all the shooting is done at 1000 yards, the LR Nationals presents the hardest challenge to the competitors and simplifies the shooting for both the competitors and the organizers. No yard line changes are required. Score, shoot and go to the pits.
The 2018 championships were held at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM, in September. This was the 18th F-Class Nationals, the first being held in 2004 at Camp Butner, NC.
Day 1 started off overcast, with rain storms predicted all day. Nonetheless, shooters had their rain gear out and were ready to start sending rounds downrange at 0800, and the match commenced—even though the rain had started.
Normally rain is counterproductive to good scores, but the wind was none to nil and this led to an amazing number of clean scores. In fact, 20 of the 127 F-Open competitors fired 200-point cleans. However, one stood out above the rest—Norman Harrold with 200-22X. Now you ask how he could shoot 22 Xs in a 20-shot match? Well, under NRA rules if you shoot all Xs in a match you can continue to shoot until you miss the X-ring. Norman fired two more Xs and then a 10 for his 23rd shot for his record score of 200-22X. Dan Bramley, the U.S. F-Open Team Captain finished second with 200-16X.
The F/TR shooters were also shooting outstanding scores with six of the 100 competitors shooting cleans. Mike Plunkett and Ray Gross both fired 200-16X scores, with Mike taking the win. Both shooters set new pending 1000-yard records.
Unfortunately, after the four relays had finished firing the cardboard on the target frames was getting extremely wet. It was decided to forgo shooting the other two matches scheduled for the day, so the frames would be available for the rest of the championships. Subsequently, shooters left the range to dry themselves and their gear out.
Day 2 didn’t have rain, but the Raton switching winds arrived to mess with the scores. When the three strings of 20 shots were over, F/TR shooter Mike Plunket had dropped 26 points for the daily winner’s slot. Daniel Lentz was down 18 points for second place. Third place went to Laura Perry with 571-14X. The F/TR Championships was still anybody’s game with one day to go.
The F-Open trigger pullers saw Norman Harrold’s name at the top of the leaderboard again, but even he was down 11 points due to the conditions. Second place went to famous benchrest shooter Lou Murdica with 587-25X. Kevin Hill also shot a 587-25X, but according to the Creedmoor rules he finished third.
Day 3 was Team Day. Each shooter on the four-person teams would fire 20 record shots for a total of 800 possible points. They would do this two times for a Team Championship, with a possible total score of 1600-160X. Twenty-two F-Open teams and 14 F/TR teams entered the fray. At the end of the first match, three F-Open teams were within two points of each other. “McMillan Open,” coached by Keith Glasscock, had the lead with a 793-42X. Two Xs behind was “The Long Shots” coached by Berger Bullets’ Michelle Gallagher. One point back was “Team Grizzly” coached by Trudie Fay of Raton.
On the other side of the house the F/TR teams were also slugging it out. The top three F/TR teams also had a three-point spread. The “X-Men” coached by James Crofts finished in first place with a score of 783-36X. One point back was the “Irregulars” scoring 782-30X. Third place went to "Team McMillan" with 781-32X, who were coached by Ray Gross.
In F-Open, “Lapua-Brux-Borden” coached by Bob Seabold took first with 788-41X. “Team Grizzly” also fired a 788-41X, but was Creedmoor’d into second. Third place went to “Team Berger” coached by Mid Tompkins. In F/TR, the “X-Men” improved their score by two points (785-25X) and “Pierce Engineering” moved from eighth place in the first match to second in this one with 774-21X, coached by Tom Majewski. A score of 772-21X placed “Team McMillan” in third.
Everyone then congregated around the Wailing Wall to find out who won what in the aggregate. And the winners were F-Open’s “Team Grizzly” scoring 1580-81X. “Lapua-Brux-Borden” beat “The Long Shots” for second place, 1578-81X to 1578-65X. In F/TR the “X-Men” won the gold with 1568-61X. “Team McMillan” had a total of 1553-53X to take silver, and “Team Texas” won bronze with 1549-51X.
Day 4 was the last day of the 2018 LR Nationals. It was a pretty tricky, but nice day with 11 cleans fired in F-Open in the first match and three in the second and final match. The F/TR competitors with their ballistic handicap managed to shoot three cleans in the first match. One each by a High Master, Master and Expert, respectively. In fact, the high score of the day was 200-15X fired by F/TR master Jason Peel.
Keith Glasscock in F-Open managed to shoot two cleans for a daily total of 400-21X to win the daily gold. Norman Harrold’s 399-20X gave him silver. Shawn Ahrens’ 399-19X was good for bronze. In F/TR, Scott Harris’ 200-11X and 192-5X gave him first place. Ian Klemm’s 392-14X was good for second, and Joseph Wade was in third with 391-17X. Once again, everyone clustered around the Wailing Wall outside the Eagles Nest building to harass the staff posting results.
In F/TR, Ian Klemm’s 1161-42X beat out Mike Plunkett’s 1160-45X. Daniel Lentz’s 1155-34X gave him the Championships and the gold medal. Laura Perry was High Woman, Joe Claudette High Junior, Bob Lorenz High Senior and Doug Boyer was the High Grand Senior winner.
F-Open was not quite as close, with Norman Harrold’s 1188-62X giving him the championship and Kevin Hill in second with 1183-51X. Third place went to Lou Murdica’s 1181-50X. Christine Harris took High Woman and High Junior went to Madison Bramley. Lou also took High Senior. Team Berger’s Larry Bartholome’s 1180-53X netted him High Grand Senior honors.
Congratulations to the winners and all the 216 shooters who participated in this match—the epitome of F-Class shooting. I look forward to seeing you all this September in Raton. You can find complete 2018 match results by visiting this link.
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Photos by Denys Beauchemin