From the vault: Coverage of the 2003 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships, as published in the November 2003 issue of Shooting Sports USA. That year at Camp Perry, Maj. Michael Anti of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit topped the 3-Position leaderboard and captured the Frank Parsons Trophy. Anti—a four-time Olympian who earned a silver medal at the 2004 Games—is currently the assistant coach of the U.S. Air Force Academy rifle team.
Smallbore’s Big News: Anti, Gideon and the Acorns shake up the smallbore shooting world at the 2003 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships
Story and Photos by Joseph B. Roberts, Jr.
The NRA’s Smallbore Rifle Championships for 2003 got underway at Camp Perry, Ohio, on July 25, amidst excellent weather for shooting. The events ended on August 1, only after several unexpected turns and with a list of familiar but largely unheralded winners.
Maj. Michael Anti of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Georgia, was an exception. He is not new to the podium. Anti, a veteran of national championship-level rifle competition, returned to the winner’s circle at the NRA’s 2003 National Smallbore Rifle Championships. It is a spot he first occupied in 1994.
Anti began the two-day race for the 3-position national championships slowly. His score for the first day’s firing, the metallic-sight championship, was an 1146 of 1200 points possible, with 51 hits inside the center ring. His tally left him in the number-two slot behind Jamie Beyerle and her 1147-39X. Beyerle, a native of Lebanon, Pa., is a student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where she shoots for Anti’s former teammate, Glen Dubis. One of Anti’s current teammates, Spec. Trevor Gathman, held down the number-three slot at the end of the metallic-sight contest.
Day two of the championship saw Anti pick up the point he had yielded previously to Beyerle and then gain another eight. Gathman stayed in the game at 1147-43X and a former Army team member, Steve Goff posted the third-place winning 1146-42X. At 1145-43X, Beyerle, who shoots only metallic sights—even in any-sight competition—placed as high junior, high collegiate and high woman for the any-sight championship.
But the overall high aggregate score was all Anti’s. His any-sight total, an 1151-49X, earned him both the title for that championship and the overall 3-position championship at 2297-100X. Gathman, with 1147-43X, took second in any-sight competition, and with an aggregate 2292-93X, second in the overall contest. Beyerle also shot an aggregate 2292, but at 82 Xs, had to be content with third in 3-position.
Beyerle’s 3-position score had also netted her wins in women’s and civilian competition, as well as in junior and collegiate categories. Smallbore 3-position champions were named in five other categories: intermediate junior, sub-junior, intermediate senior, senior and military service member. Anti, an officer in the U.S. Army, became the service champion. Intermediate junior honors went to Jason Dardas, of Essexville, Mich., with 2239-65X. The sub-junior crown was taken by 12-year-old Justin Pentz of Rockton, Pa., with a score of 2197-62X on the 2400-point course. Intermediate senior laurels went to John Funk, from Murrysville, Pa., with a total of 2175-61X.
It was the team events that really made news. For the first time in the history of the 3-position championships a junior team won both team matches. The Acorns, a team with more than a half-century history of attracting and training championship level shooters, established beyond doubt it still attracts champions. Now the Optimist-Acorns Junior Rifle Club—the team is sponsored by the Arlington County (Va.) Optimists—the winning shooters Kristina Fehlings, Emily Houston Thomas Knight and Brian Watson, along with team alternate Dan Peterson, put together an effort of 2206-50X to win the Hercules Trophy for the top metallic-sight team and a 2189-50X to take the top slot in the Caswell Trophy Match, for any-sight teams. It was the first time in more than 15 years a civilian team won either trophy, and it was the first time ever a civilian team has won both in the same year.
“I’m very proud of these young people,” said their coach, retired Marine Lt. Col. Floyd Houston. “They have worked hard, both together and as individuals. They have traveled all over, shooting matches together, and July 27 was their day. They won. They swept the competition. They performed their jobs, executing one shot at a time, flawlessly, under difficult conditions and against legendary competition like the United States Army Marksmanship Unit. They are an outstanding team—all five of them.”
Team events ended the 3-position matches and led directly over to the prone championships.
Fired annually since 1919, the prone championships are NRA’s oldest smallbore rifle championships and the most celebrated. Prone spans five days—four of individual firing and one of team matches. This year, prone, like 3-position, was full of surprises.
While the score-watchers in the prone championships were watching recognized performers—Anti, Gathman and Beyerle among them—a few unknowns were establishing a pace of their own.
The who-to-watch list was shredded in the metallic-sight competition when Tony Lincoln, who was visiting with his British teammates, won the championship and the Hoppe Trophy. Lincoln’s score, a 3198-239X, was six tie-breaking hits ahead of the score posted by Carolyn Millard-Sparks, of Atlanta, Ga., and a point ahead of Anti’s third-place 3197-253X. Near the top of the rest of the pack was a shooter from Gambier, Ohio, Paul Gideon.
When he completed the first stage of the 2003 NRA National Smallbore Prone Championships with a score just three points away from perfection, Gideon, a generally unheralded yet skilled veteran rifleman, knew he had a chance to finish near the top. “I have a terrible problem with astigmatism,” Gideon said, who once coached the Ohio State rifle team and is now a specialist on aging with the state of Ohio. “And my scores fired with conventional peep sights are always lower than I’d like. But this year, with a 3197 in metallic, and with the any-sight stage [in which telescopic sights are permitted] still to go, I knew I could place high.”
He did place high—right at the top. When the smoke cleared after four days of grueling competition, Gideon had finished with an any-sight-winning 3200 points of 3200 possible and a 6397 for the tournament. His X-count stood at 507, two hits higher than his closest challenger. Gideon had won the 2003 NRA National Smallbore Prone Championship crown.
Second place went to Sparks, who posted a 3199-270X in any sight and won her honors as high-scoring woman in that championship. Sparks, who won the prone championship in 1993, posted an aggregate of 6397, to tie Gideon, was out-Xed with 505. Anti took third overall with a 6396-530X.
Team competition in 2003 produced several remarkable results. As in the 3-position championships earlier, civilians outpaced military teams for American team championships and an American team shot its way back into the winner’s circle in the Dewar International Postal Team Match.
In metallic-sight team competition—40 shots (20 at 50 yards and 20 at 100 yards) each for four firing members—a quartet of ladies representing a nationwide society of top-level target shooters, the Black Hawks, posted a team aggregate 1557-67X. The score not only beat the Army’s effort by a point, it set a new women’s record as well. Then, following the ladies’ lead, a team of senior-category Black Hawks won the any-sight team match with 1560-80X. Again, the winners’ effort topped that of the Army by a point, and again they set a record this time for senior-category teams in the event.
The Dewar International Postal Team Match, also known simply as “the Dewar,” has been fired, with interruptions, since before World War I. Team members are selected based on scores fired in the prone metallic sight championship. Of late, the British team has had the upper hand, winning the annual competition on a regular basis. Not so in 2003.
This year, the American team put up its highest total score in recent history, a 7820 of 8000 points possible, topping the British effort by 14. Likewise, the 2003 Randle Team—10 ladies chosen for their shooting in the any-sight phase of the prone championships—posted a very competitive 3989 points of 4000 possible, plus 288 Xs. The Randle Team, like the Dewar, is an international match, fired by competing teams on their various home ranges.