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The 2010s: National Smallbore Outdoor Rifle Championship History

The 2010s: National Smallbore Outdoor Rifle Championship History

If you haven’t already, be sure to read Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 and Part 9 of this series of articles celebrating the National Smallbore Outdoor Rifle Championship Centennial.

2010

There are certain constants at the National Smallbore Rifle Championships: good fellowship, hard-holding competition, and heat and humidity. This year was no exception when nearly 300 competitors renewed old friendships and began making new ones.

In the Metallic Sight position championship, a trio tied in score, separated by a few Xs. Abigail Fong, carried along by the momentum she had built up a few days earlier in winning the inaugural NRA Metric Position Championship at Bristol, emerged as champion with a score of 1184-68X.

2010 Camp Perry Smallbore
Smallbore firing line at Camp Perry in 2010.


The Any Sight championship would be a hot day, both in score and temperature and Shane Barnhart was not to be denied earning the Any Sight title. When the two day’s scores were totaled, it was no surprise that Barnhart emerged as the champion, picking up his fourth Frank Parsons Trophy.

After a hiatus, multiple-time Intermediate and Senior National Champion Fred Cole returned to Perry and was recognized at the awards ceremony with a standing ovation. By coincidence, or perhaps the subtle sense of humor of the statistical office, Cole was assigned firing point 88, his age. The retired English teacher, with an impish smile, commented that he hoped that would happen each year until he fired on point 100.    

Showers struck twice in the morning of the opening day of prone, both times on the unfortunate first relay. Veterans of the recent Metric Championships topped the first day’s results list with identical scores of 1198. Eitan Barazani, a west coast rifleman, with 95 Xs bested Mark DelCotto, a Kentucky shooter with a strong resume in long-range shooting. He was second by 8 Xs. 

Camp Perry veteran Boyd Goldsby had shot consistently throughout the day and emerged the winner of the second daily aggregate with a near perfect 1199-89X. But Charlie Kemp’s aggregate score won the Hoppe Memorial Trophy as the Metallic Sight champion.

2010 NRA Smallbore awards
The winner's podium during the 2010 awards ceremony at Camp Perry.


The Any Sight championship began on a blistering hot day and consistent shooting by Barnhart gave him the day. The final, and deciding day, opened with Barnhart and Kemp within two points of each other. One small error on Barnhart’s part and Kemp might replace Lones Wigger as the oldest competitor to win the prone Championship. The last daily aggregate went to Kevin Nevius as Barnhart became the new Any Sight champion and won his second National Championship in eight days. It was a sweet victory considering the disaster he endured the previous year where he may well have won had he not lost track of time and failed to fire eight shots. He joined Lones Wigger and Joe Hein as the only riflemen to ever double up.

2011

The 54th NRA Outdoor Smallbore Position Championships were fired under some of the roughest conditions in memory. The first day the thermometer climbed from 81-degrees Fahrenheit to a recorded 105 degrees. Joe Hein handled the conditions best and emerged as the Metallic Sight champion. Shane Barnhart repeated his 2010 Any Sight victory with a match record score. A challenge was needed to determine the grand aggregate winner as Hein’s final target was scored as having only 19 shots, but a review found 20 hits and Hein returned to the top step of the podium.

After the horrid weather conditions of position, the weather report calling for temperatures in the mid-70s was looked on with relief by over 300 prone shooters. The first day ended with Mike McPhail winning with a 1200-103X. On the second Reya Kempley took charge and won the Metallic Sight championship. The stage was set for an interesting last two days of competition.

Joe Hein, 2011 NRA Smallbore
Joe Hein (c.) began shooting with his father at age 5.


Any Sights began with Kempley in the lead but, with scopes now on the rifles, perfection was required to win. Day three closed out with Tarl Kempley, Reya’s brother, winning. High heat and humidity marked the final day. The mercury topped out at 97 degrees and the humidity was near 70 percent. Nancy Tompkins’ perfect two-day score of 2400-200X won the Any Sight championship. 

Mike McPhail started the match with a sub aggregate win and ended it with the aggregate victory. He and Mark DelCotto battled all week and ended with identical scores of 4796, but McPhail had 401X to DelCotto’s 380X.

2012

If a picture ever summed up why we shoot it would have to be one taken of the stage at the 2012 NRA National Smallbore Prone Championships Awards Ceremony. A bespectacled Peter Fiori stood bashfully next to the pedestal which held the Joseph P. Glabb Trophy which he had just been awarded as sub junior champion. Had the diminutive Fiori taken the traditional position behind the trophy he would have been hidden from the audience.

A few yards to Fiori’s left stood Joe Farmer behind the Sam Bond Trophy, just presented to him as the Senior Champion. Farmer earned his Smallbore Distinguished Rifle Prone Award in 1968, likely before Fiori’s parents were born. Separating them were several other National Champions and a span of some 70 years. And, that is the real reason we shoot, because shooting is truly a sport that lasts a lifetime.

2012 Camp Perry smallbore
Prone shooters at Camp Perry in 2012.


Eight days earlier, 281 competitors opened the 2012 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Outdoor Championship with the Position championship. When the Metallic Sight aggregate results were posted, Joe Hein found himself the Metallic Sight champ. Shooters woke on Any Sight day to see that the nighttime wind had laid waste to the tents and shelters in the assembly area.

The wind also played havoc with the Kruger targets that had been purchased for this year’s matches. Krugers are of a thicker paper than U.S. targets and are made from a short fiber material, making the shot holes very distinct but, unfortunately, the targets are very brittle. Competitors found that they would break, not tear, when caught by a gust of wind causing havoc in the scoring room when target fragments had to be reassembled for scoring.

Buffeting winds upset more than the targets and the shooters’ shelters; it did the same to the standings. It’s a rare Any Sight prone match at Perry when there are no 400s—this was one of them. 

As the competitors wearily packed their gear at the end of the exhausting day, the statistical crew totaled up the scores and rising high school senior Benjamin Swanson emerged as the 2012 Any Sight Champion, while Tarl Kempley was crowned the Three-Position National Champion.

NRA Smallbore Three-Position top finishers in 2012: Tarl Kempley, Kirsten Joy Weiss and Amanda Luoma.
Three-Position top finishers: winner Tarl Kempley (c.), runner-up Kirsten Weiss (l.) and third place Amanda Luoma.


Having won the first prone match of the position phase, Hank Gray repeated the feat by winning the first match of prone, the Metallic Sight Dewar. However, the first daily aggregate went to the newly crowned position champ’s sister Reya Kempley. The two days of Metallic Sight competition saw Chris Abalo win both the second day, and with it, the Hoppe Trophy and the Metallic championship.

The second half of the tournament began with Abalo winning the first match of the Any Sight phase and going on to win the first Any Sight aggregate. But he dropped a point and Hein went clean to win the Any Sight aggregate. Hein’s 2400 was not enough to overcome Abalo who was named the winner of the Critchfield Trophy.

2013

Blistering heat and high humidity blasted the 307 position competitors who filled the line in their quest for the 2013 Frank Parsons Memorial Trophy. Even with the excessive heat and humidity, shooting conditions were good. Joe Hall took advantage and slipped by Erin Lorenzen by a 13 X margin for the Metallic Sight championship.

None of the top Metallic Sight finishers could relax as the second half of the championship is the Any Sight championship and all were aware of the old shooters’ maxim, “Where there is scope there is hope.” And it seemed true as Jason Parker, who had hovered close to the top all day, pulled off a win in the Any Sight aggregate. But when the scores had been totaled, Hall was the winner of the Parsons Trophy as the overall champion.

The top awards were spread deeper this year as the old winner-take-all system was changed to a pass-down arrangement. The new format decreed that a national champion was awarded only that award, so the other categories were awarded to the next highest scorer in that category.

2013 Randle Team
The 2013 Randle Team.


Settlers living along the Lake Erie coast between Sandusky and Toledo were startled by naval cannon fire emanating from Put-in-Bay on September 10, 1813. A few weeks short of 200 years later, smallbore rifle shooters were awakened by the crash of thunder and flash of lightening, as if the battle had resumed. The storm left the awning twisted and torn, damage reminiscent of the shattered rigging of the sloops and brigs of the opposing naval forces of U.S. Navy and Royal Navy from that naval battle long ago. It took 2 hours for the debris to be cleared away and the competitors would shoot out in the weather. The whole week would be as hard fought as the battle of Lake Erie. There was just a bit more on the line than Metallic Sight titles for the shooters for they would also be vying one of 12 coveted spots on the U.S. John J. Pershing Trophy International Team. At the end of the first day, three competitors remained clean—Reya Kempley, Mike McPhail and Mike Seery.

Perfection would be the key throughout the second day and the Hoppe Trophy, presented to the Metallic Sight champion, was Kempley’s who had not dropped a point over the 2 days.

With Metallic Sights complete, Bill Carter, captain of the U.S. Team, selected his shooters based on score: Reya Kempley, Erik Uptagrafft, Michael Seery, Michael McPhail, Joseph Hein, Katie Bridges, Stephen Angeli, Henry Gray, Robert Gustin, Nancy Tompkins, Matthew Chezem and Shawn Wells would defend the Pershing Trophy.

It was a particularly strong U.S. team. Kempley was the reigning Metallic Sight champion, Uptagrafft and McPhail were members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Rifle Team, Gray and Hein were Pershing and Roberts team veterans, Gustin and Tompkins are well known long-range marksman with considerable Palma Match experience, Chezem was the 2013 NRA Intercollegiate individual champion and a World Cup veteran, Wells and Angeli are NRA Distinguished Prone Rifleman, and Bridges had been tearing up the outdoor circuit becoming the first to earn a spot on all of the international prone matches being shot that year: the Wakefield Trophy, the Drew Cup, the Randle, the Dewar, the Pershing and the Goodwill Randle.

Bridges, Tompkins and Kempley’s Camp Perry experience was particularly memorable as they followed in the footsteps of three other great woman shooters, Janet Friddell, Eliza Bishop and Jamie Beyerle, as all three accomplished a very rare “hat trick” being named to the Dewar, Randle and Pershing Teams in the same year, they doubled the number of women accomplishing the feat in one fell swoop.

2013 Pershing Team at Camp Perry
The 2013 U.S. Pershing Team.


As it had in 1973, 1981, 1989 and 1997, the U.S. cleaned the 50-yard line, Seery and McPhail having 200-20Xs. The British lost five points at short range, but the 2005 Pershing was not far from the U.S. team’s mind. The British are well-known for their skill at long range and that year saw the British make up the difference in points, to only lose the match in the X count. The British, despite a heroic effort, were unable to make up the point deficit and the U.S. won the match 3998-339X to 3987-298X.

The high scorer on the U.S. team was Michael McPhail, whose 400-39X is the highest score ever fired in a Pershing Match, was presented the inaugural David Cramer plaque by NRA President Jim Porter and Cramer’s daughter Janell. Cramer, who passed away at the apex of his career in 2012, was a member of the 2005 U.S. Pershing Team, 2009 U.S. Roberts Team, 15 U.S. Dewar Teams, a national record holder and Distinguished with the service rifle and smallbore prone and position rifles.

The temperature had dropped, and sweatshirts were seldom shed during the Any Sight phase. While finishing in the money just once, Matt Chezem did not drop a point and won the daily aggregate with a one-point lead on the pack.

The Any Sight title, to no one’s surprise, went down to Xs as McPhail, Jason Parker and Chezem all shot 2399s. McPhail was the U.S. Cartridge Trophy winner with 199Xs. With that score McPhail soon hoisted a trophy firearm and the Critchfield Trophy in recognition of winning the 2013 U.S. Outdoor Smallbore Conventional Rifle Prone Championship.

Smallbore prone shooters
Prone shooters at the 2013 Smallbore Nationals firing for the final time at Camp Perry.


In a very touching moment, Bobbi Vitito held the Marianne Jensen Driver Memorial Trophy, presented to her for being the High Any Sight Only competitor in the Championship. The trophy is named in honor of her mother who many consider the Grande Dame of U.S. smallbore prone shooting.

With the brass policed up, gear packed away and the trophies distributed, the departing smallbore shooters took a long last look at the Camp Perry firing line, storing up memories which will have to last them a lifetime. They would never return from a supposed two-year diaspora at Bristol, Ind., a displacement caused by the U.S. hosting the 2014 World Championship of Long-Range Rifle Shooting.

2014

Twenty-nine population centers in the U.S. are named Bristol, the largest in Connecticut and the smallest a ghost town in Nevada. But, for smallbore rifle shooters the only one of consequence in 2014 was Bristol, Ind. National Metric Championship veterans were familiar with the Wa-Ke’-De Range while Conventional competitors found it a new adventure as, for the first time since 1953, the tournament was not held at Camp Perry.

Dan Lowe, a recent pick-up by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, won the Iron Sight position championship. Amada Luoma took the Any Sight championship as Lowe set a high bar as the new Metric champion with 2300-84X.

Bristol Smallbore Rifle
Changing targets in between relays in Bristol.


The shooters were the same but the change of target, from metric to conventional, made many feel that they were looking at the targets through a magnifying glass.

George Norton, the 2014 Metallic Sight Conventional position champion, dropped only four points. A dark horse junior galloped out of Texas to stun the more seasoned competitors. Jacob Buchanan, just 16 years old, set the field back on its heels when his Metallic and Any Sight performance added up the 2014 National Smallbore Conventional Position Champion, the first junior to win this title in its 57-year history.

The Conventional Prone shooting community quickly became aware that winds were different at Bristol. They were not the bold sweeping winds off Lake Erie but devious; swirling and fishtailing in the shadows of the trees which enclose the range. Nevertheless, the first day of Metallic Sights ended with three perfect scores by Eric Uptagrafft, Mark DelCotto and Steve Angeli—with Uptagrafft winning the day.

Buchanan and Nevius.
Buchanan and Nevius.


Uptagrafft won the Metallic Sight phase with the only perfect score. He was in the lead, the best place to be, but breathing down his collar were Delcotto, Angeli and Kevin Nevius, all just a point back.

Proving he was human, Uptagrafft ended up losing a point on his last card at 100 yards as Dan Lowe took the third daily aggregate with a 1200-106X.

Moving into the last day, Uptagrafft, Nevius and DelCotto had 3599s Nevius won the Any Sight championship and his second Critchfield Trophy by two points as the others faltered.

The Metric Prone Championship followed the same pattern as the Conventional Championship. The major difference is the more challenging international target is used over a two-day tournament.

Left: George Norton receives the first Iron Man award from Dennis Willing. Right: Eric Uptagrafft.


Uptagrafft earned the 2014 Metallic Sight championship and was up 10 points on his nearest competitor going into Any Sights. He went on to squeeze out a narrow one-point Any Sight title against Morgan Dietrich. Sweeping both days, Uptagrafft earned the Metric Prone national title.

A new event, the Director’s Award, was awarded to the shooter with the high aggregate for all events in the smallbore championship series. George Norton went down in history as the first “Iron Man.”

2015

Future Olympic gold-medalist Ginny Thrasher edged out Bill Beard by a point to win the Metric Metallic Sight Prone match, the first of the 2015 Metric Championship, and never looked back. She swept the Metallic Sight aggregate in convincing fashion, probably prompting West Virginia University Rifle Team Coach Jon Hammond to sneak a peek at Thrasher's National Letter of Intent and grin. Any Sight competition saw Jacob Buchanan, defending Conventional Position Champion, win the Any Sight title. Thrasher handily won the Metric Position Championship by an astonishing 35 points.

The target changed to the NRA conventional A-23, but the course-of-fire remained and so did winner of the Metallic Sight championship as Thrasher won her second Metallic Sight championships in three days.

Ginny Thrasher and Elizabeth Gratz
Left: Ginny Thrasher and Elizabeth Gratz. Right: A staggering amount of National Records were set in 2015 at Bristol.


The computer spit out the Any Sight aggregate scores and revealed that Elizabeth Gratz was the Any Sight champion. Gratz also nipped Thrasher by three points in the aggregate for the Conventional Position title. Later on the duo would be teammates at West Virginia University.

The 2015 position championships were a youth movement. About three quarters of the competitors were juniors. Plus, all sub and grand aggregates, as well as 11 of the 12 individual matches were won by juniors.

Gusty, variable winds played havoc on even the most experienced Metallic Sight competitors as Conventional Prone opened. The day ended with exhausted competitors scratching their heads over the trying conditions as Hank Gray won the day on Xs, four points down, knotted with Kevin Nevius and Kerry Spurgin.

Day Two of Iron Sights was gentler, but still challenging, and former national champion Paul Gideon took advantage for the daily win. The Metallic Sight Championship went to Nevius, well positioned to defend his title. He held the all-important point lead by one, but his two closest competitors had him by Xs allowing him no room for error.

Bristol Smallbore Rain
Rainy conditions in Bristol for standing shooters.


The Any Sight Championship began with unsettled conditions and so experience played a big role in the day as evidenced by Octogenarian Joe Farmer winning the day with a perfect score. But the leader board had not changed, Farmer and Nevius were tied and Gray was one point back.

The three leaders were perfect in the Meter Match on the final day. Nevius and Gray again shot 400s in the Dewar, but Farmer dropped a point. As the relays changed, Farmer came up to Nevius, wrapped him in an abrazo, and told him that the door was now open for the reigning champion to repeat. Nevius quietly replied that no one was pulling for Farmer more than he. The two great sportsmen then parted to prepare for the final 40 shots. Gray won the day with Nevius right behind, both clean.

Quiet spoken shooting historian Paul Nordquist lost a point in the first stage of the first match, but then ran 220 consecutive 10s and Xs, 2399-186X, for the Any Sight title and the U.S. Cartridge Company Trophy. Nevius won the grand aggregate for a second consecutive year and took home his third Critchfield Trophy.

In 2014, a civilian won the Conventional Prone title and the Metric title went to an Army rifleman who was second in Conventional. Gray had every intention of repeating history as he won the Metallic Sight Championship. The next day Farmer broke his own senior National Record in Any Sights to win the Any Sight title, but his efforts were not enough to fend off Gray who won the Metric Prone title.

Lones Wigger
Lones Wigger next to his eponymous trophy.


The Director’s Award, universally known as the “Iron Man,” was renamed the Lones Wigger Trophy. The Lones Wigger Trophy is a gold-plated Anschutz free rifle originally presented to Wigger by Dieter Anschutz. Wigger generously donated it as the trophy for this special match. It was presented for the first time to Billy Marciniak for the highest aggregate score in the four National Outdoor Smallbore Rifle Championships.

The 2015 National Outdoor Smallbore Rifle Championships began with a youth movement in position and ended with the sport's elders in control of prone and nothing more could epitomize the fact that shooting is a sport that lasts a lifetime.

2016

The return of the 6400-point course-of-fire and selection for the 2017 Roberts Team had competitors at the 2016 National Smallbore Outdoor Prone Rifle Championships fired up. Except for a few sidelined by Olympic preparations, the line was full of the nation’s finest prone shooters, but one. For the first time in living memory Lones Wigger’s name was not to be found on the competitor’s list. Ill health had sidelined The Old Lion, the man who spent more time on the stage accepting awards than most competitors had on the firing line now joined his wife, Mary Kay, laboring in the scoring room, still a force with which to be reckoned, living proof that, as Gandhi said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

The level of competition was quickly apparent as all four matches on the first day went to 400s with high X counts. DelCotto won the first daily aggregate by one X over Matt Chezem. Day Two saw the first of three 400-40X unbreakable ties at 50 yards. Eric Uptagrafft, Katie Bridges and defending National Champion Kevin Nevius all achieved prone perfection as Nevius took the day with a 1600-134X.

Chezem, DelCotto, Gray
Matt Chezem, Mark DelCotto and Hank Gray.


The Metallic Sight aggregate was won by DelCotto who let one slip away at 100 yards on Day One for a 3199-265Xs. Uptagrafft and Gray were right in his rearview mirror, each having shot a 3198 with 277 Xs for Uptagrafft and 267 for Gray. 

The first day of Any Sights saw the second three-way 400-40X tie at 50 yards with Mark Gould, Gray and Shawn Carpenter sharing winner money. Chezem took the daily aggregate. The final day of individual prone competition opened with DelCotto enduring the agony that all leaders feel in a close match where one tiny error can destroy the hard work of 3 days. For the third consecutive day, a trio shot 400-40Xs, with Carpenter and Gray repeating, while Chezem zeroed in on the glory.

At the end of the day there were three 3199s on the board. Chezem had 291X for the daily win followed by Gray and DelCotto, with 278X and 264X respectively. Despite hard holding, Gray and Chezem could not close the gap with DelCotto who emerged the National Champion and possessor of the coveted Critchfield Trophy.

John Pitts opened the Conventional Position Championship with an Iron Sight 400-36X but, the end of the day, George Norton would be the Metallic champion. The next day Norton established a new National Record standing with a 400-28X and set the tone for the rest of the tournament.

Norton rounded out the day with a 399-25X victory in kneeling which gave him an aggregate score of 1199-87X for his second National Record of the day. It was no surprise that Norton would wear the Conventional position crown.

AMU Iron Man Patrick Sunderman
Patrick Sunderman with the Iron Man Trophy.


The course-of-fire was the same for the Metric championship, but the targets switched from the fat A-23 to the rather thin ringed A-50. No stranger to the international target, Norton won the Metric Metallic sight title, his second in 3 days.

Norton opened the Any Sight phase with a winning 398-28X in prone to leave no doubt in anyone's mind as to who would wear the position champion’s crown. The Any Sight championship was a walk in the park as Norton bested the second-place score by 23 points. Norton took home the Metric title to add to the conventional win. The 2016 Iron Man title, which had eluded Norton, was won by Pat Sunderman.

Norton had won the inaugural Iron Man in 2014 and came to Bristol determined to regain the title. Unfortunately, Norton hung a meter target during the yard match on the second day of prone iron sights. Down 200 points, his only worry was that the godfather of the Army team, Lones Wigger, would royally chew him out. He was relieved to learn that Wigger had done a similar thing in 1992 and was not in a position to chastise him.

The highlight of the tournament was not the excellent shooting, which certainly deserves praise. It was the spirit of the shooting sports exemplified by the extraordinary lesson in persistence taught by George Norton. After an early disaster that would have gutted most, he refused to give up. He fought to the last shot and turned defeat into victory.

Scoring smallbore rifle targets
Scoring targets in the Bristol Scoring Shack.


2017

After a two-year hiatus to accommodate international long-range matches, smallbore shooters had expected to return to Camp Perry in 2017, but that was not to be. A rancorous debate between NRA Staff and competitors ended with the decision to abandon Camp Perry. While there were many pragmatic reasons to remain at Bristol, many competitors felt that they had been being cavalierly dismissed.

At a well-attended Competitors’ Meeting, Lones Wigger spoke about the Camp Perry ranges being altered making them no longer suitable for smallbore competition. The Old Lion’s words carried weight and, to some degree, assuaged the hard feelings. That being said, the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Prone Rifle Championship firing line was so packed with the nation’s hardest holders, Olympians, defending and former National Champions, that you couldn’t walk across the breadth of the range without stepping on one.

The Championship opened with George Norton, the first person to win the Iron Man, making his intentions to regain the title clear by winning the first Metallic Sight Meter Match. Hank Gray challenged him, winning the first daily aggregate by eight Xs.

Nancy Tompkins and Lones Wigger, 2017 NRA Smallbore Nationals
Nancy Tompkins and Lones Wigger.


After a look at the weather radar, Match Director Tori Croft declared a three-hour rain delay on the second day. The rain hit just when the match was scheduled to start and stopped just short of 3 hours later, much to the relief of the competitors.

Mike McPhail won the day, a single X ahead of defending champion Mark DelCotto. Gray was third on Day Two, but emerged as the Metallic Sight Champion with a near perfect 2399-201X to earn the Hoppe Memorial Trophy.

Still air, heat and humidity accompanied the start of Any Sights and it was soon evident that it would be a day decided by Xs. With 13 perfect scores fired, McPhail’s outstanding 1200-113X, just a few Xs short of the National Record, took the day. Gray hung on to his overall aggregate lead.

Another hot, humid and windless day, under a threatening sky, marked the final day. Gray was perfect, one of 11 that posted a 1200 score, for the win. Gray, the newly-minted 2017 Metallic Sight Champion, did not falter during the second two days and took the Any Sight Aggregate. After two consecutive years finishing second, Hank Gray proved that the third time could be the charm as he took home his first Critchfield Trophy.

AMU Sweeps 2017 NRA Smallbore Iron Man contest
U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shooters swept the 2017 Iron Man podium. (L-R:) George Norton, Michael McPhail and Patrick Sunderman.


The Army’s Patrick Sunderman opened the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Conventional Position Rifle Championship with a 400-38X in prone and went in to win the National Smallbore Conventional Position Metallic Sight Championship.

Winning two of the three Any Sight matches delivered the Any Sight title to Megan Hilbish. Sunderman’s consistency paid off earning him the Conventional Position title.

Partly cloudy skies greeted the start of the Metric Position Championship, the penultimate match of the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships.

Despite a lunge to the finish line by civilians and juniors, Army shooters ended up sweeping the Metallic Sight Championship having built up enough points early on with Norton winning the championship.

On the final day, thoughts of winning the Any Sight Championship were in the fore, but in the back of everyone’s mind was the Iron Man. Norton won the day. But, when the 2 days were totaled McPhail took the Metric title and the Iron Man.

Megan Hilbish.
Megan Hilbish.


2018

The 2018 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships was an 11-day marathon of position, prone and F-Class shooting that marked the consolidation of all NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships at a single venue, a true Iron Man competition—and the inaugural NRA National Smallbore Rifle F-Class Championship.

The Conventional Three-Position Metallic Sight Championship went to Intermediate Junior Jaden Thompson. Elizabeth Gratz, hovering near the top all day, won the Any Sight Championship as well as the Parsons Trophy as Conventional Three Position Champion.

The youth movement hit a speed bump when 1984 Olympian Bill Beard won the Metallic Sight Prone match, the opening event of the Metric Position Championship. In an odd turn of events, no one who won a match was in play for the aggregate which went to Billy Marciniak. Elizabeth Gratz notched her second aggregate win of the tournament taking the Any Sight title. The Metric Grand Aggregate was won by Gratz who took home the Parsons Trophy. Gratz also handily won the National Three-Position Championship.

2018 Randle Team
2018 U.S. Randle Team.


The prone championship began with Eric Uptagrafft opening the Metallic Sight phase with a 400-40X in the Meter Match, but first day went to Mark DelCotto who shot the only 1200.

Day Two saw Uptagrafft repeat his Meter Match win with yet another 400-40X as DelCotto won the Metallic Sight Championship and the Hoppe Trophy with a perfect 2400-205X. Uptagrafft stuck with iron sights in the Any Sight Championship and led off with yet another Meter Match 400, but with only 38 Xs this time. At the end of the day, Kevin Nevius was on top with a 1200-100X.

The final day of conventional began as the rest had, another 400-40X Meter Match score. Uptagrafft conducted a four-day Meter Match shooting clinic producing an accomplishment of historic proportions. Using metallic sights, mounted on an action he built, with a barrel salvaged from the AMU scrap bin, he hit the X-ring, a 0.393-inch circle, 158 times out of 160 attempts. Five 1200s were posted on the final day, but it was no surprise that Uptagrafft ended up on top.

When the two days’ scores were added up, Kevin Nevius, who had lurked quietly in the background on Day Two, was clean with a 2400-198X winning the Any Sight Championship. However it was too little, too late as Uptagrafft won the Conventional Prone championship—only dropping two points.

2018 NRA Smallbore Metric Position Any Sights Team Champions
NRA Board Member Edie Fleeman with the Metric Position Any Sights Team Champions.


The Metallic Sight Metric Championship opened with a three-way tie at 50 meters won by DelCotto. Uptagrafft took both the Dewar and the 100-Yard Match giving him the Metric Metallic Sight Championship.

Howard Pitts opened the Metric Any Sight Championship shooting a winning score at 50 meters, going on to win the daily aggregate, but not slowing down Uptagrafft, who won the Metric Prone Championship.

You had to be a hard-holding gunsmith who was a member of the 2017 Roberts Team to place in the top three of the Prone Grand Aggregate. Uptagrafft won both conventional and metric titles. Pitts was the silver medalist followed by Nevius who won the bronze.

The hardiest shooters labored through 1200 record shots, 66 target changes, four courses-of-fire and rain. Sun now awaited the award of the coveted Lones Wigger Rifle Trophy. This year the Iron Man trophy was awarded, ironically, to a woman. Elizabeth Gratz, whose skill and staying power enabled her to shoot an 11,799-698X, just eight Xs less than the record set by the first Iron Man George Norton. Gratz received the gold-plated trophy rifle from the hands of Mary Kay Wigger.

Elizabeth Gratz, 2018 NRA Iron Man
NRA Competitive Shooting Director Cole McCulloch and 2018 Iron Man winner Elizabeth Gratz.


In response to the growing popularity of F-Class competition, the NRA sponsored its inaugural Smallbore Rifle F-Class National Championship during the Any Sight and Metric phases of the 2018 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championship. The daily course-of-fire mirrored the sling shooters, 40 shots at 50 yards on the A-50 target, a Metric Dewar, followed by 40 shots at 100 yards on the A-33 target.

David Pessall won the opening 50-Meter Match on the first day with Jim Murphy taking the daily aggregate. Day Two saw Murphy win the day and take a lead over Pessall and Jeff Huehn. Pessall would not be denied and he took home third- and fourth-day honors as well as the second two-day aggregate. However, Jim Murphy’s steady performance made him the first NRA Smallbore Rifle National F-Class Champion. Davis Pessall claimed the silver and the bronze medalist was Jess Huehn.

The 2018 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships were a successful mixture of tradition and innovation. In 2019, the centennial of smallbore shooting in the U.S. was celebrated and competitors were able to take a long look back on the way smallbore rifle shooting has both changed and remained the same making our great sport what it is today.

TSRA ladies dominate 2019 NRA Smallbore
At the 2019 Smallbore Three-Position awards ceremony (l. to r.): Malori Brown, Bella Gamez, Abigail Zinsmeyer, M’Leah Lambdin and Coach Joel Brown.


Read the previous articles in this series:


See more: National Smallbore Outdoor Rifle Championship Centennial

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