Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of our retrospective at U.S. participation in the historic Lord Wakefield Match.
Wakefield Bloopers and Highlights
No match of the age of the Wakefield can escape the occasional hiccup. Perhaps the worst was a gaffe made by the 1993 British team which lost 800 points after targets were shot at 50 yards, rather than the prescribed 50 meters. The team bounced back in 1994 with a winning score of 5910, which set the bar for winning. Only one score in the ensuing years, a 5896 by New Zealand, has not exceeded the 5900 mark.
Two-time British Olympian Mike Babb became the first person to shoot a perfect 600 in the Wakefield at the 2001 match. It took 10 years for another 600 to show up on a Wakefield results sheet when Britain’s P.D. Parker attained perfection in 2011. The next year he came tantalizingly close to a second 600. After five strings of 100, he dropped a point on his last target for a 599.
A Red-Headed Stepchild No Longer
The Wakefield has been somewhat of a red-headed stepchild of international postals in the United States. The neglect was not intentional, but more a case of benign neglect—out of sight, out of mind.
The U.S. did not have an organized Metric National Championship until 2010, and it was an itinerant activity, sometimes shot at Bristol, Ind., with the rest of the National Smallbore Championships and at other times in conjunction with the Western Wildcat 6400 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, Ariz. As a result, the selection of officials, normally performed by the NRA Smallbore Committee recommendation to the NRA President, was occasionally ad hoc, accounting for some blank spots on the team roster.
Perhaps because it is essentially an ISSF event, the match attracts more teams than the U.S. and British conventional-type events, such as the Dewar or Randle Trophy Matches, which require a 100-yard firing line.
Great Britain, the sponsoring nation, plus the British Commonwealth nations of Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, have been regular participants since the match’s revival in 1991.
The U.S., who won the inaugural event in 1991 with the match record, has been was a sporadic entrant. That all changed when NRA Board Member Howard “Walt” Walter, a member of the NRA Smallbore Committee, noticed the absence of the U.S. and successfully advocated for entry in the 2012 event. Since then, the U.S. has been a regular participant.
The zenith of competition is at the Olympics. Since 1908 there have been 27 Olympics, two of which (1904 and 1928) did not host shooting events. There were no U.S. rifle entries in the 1896 Athens Games, and the U.S. came up dry at Los Angeles in 1932 and Berlin in 1936. The days of Olympic team events saw Willis Augustus Lee win a total of five gold and one silver in various events. Lones Wigger, with two gold and one silver, is the leader in the era of individual events.