Those who say rifle isn’t a sport never knew about the National Smallbore Rifle Championships. A marathon in its own right, this 12-day stretch of rifle competition is where shooters tackle position, prone and F-Class shooting at the outdoor Wa-Ke’De Rifle Range in Bristol, IN. It’s a true Iron Man competition with the highest-scoring person, who competed in every event, claiming the title on the final day.
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Smallbore Nationals and the enthusiasm was apparent from the shooters—especially those vying for the Lones Wigger Iron Man Trophy. To commemorate the occasion, a special Daisy shooting range was set-up and run by volunteers so juniors and seniors alike could test their marksmanship. The highest-scoring junior and senior each day won a 100th Anniversary Daisy BB rifle.
The first day of the National Matches began with Metric 3-Postion Metallic Sights. Shooters began the day with prone followed by standing and kneeling. Michelle Bohren came out on top for the first round on the first day to win prone, followed by Malori Brown claiming first in standing and Natalie Perrin in kneeling. The overall aggregate winner for the Metric 3-Position Iron Sights Championship was Malori Brown posting an 1142-38X. The Team winner for the Metric 3-Position Iron Sights was the Texas State Rifle Association headed by Malori Brown with a score of 2257-61X.
The second day of the matches commenced with temperatures predicted to be at 90 degrees with the heat index forecasted at 110 degrees. Storms loomed in the background as the shooters began their course-of-fire. The Metallic Any Sights Prone winner was once again Michelle Bohren, followed by Malori Brown in standing. As the shooters prepared to shoot kneeling, the storms finally rolled in causing the match to be postponed until the lightning passed. With only a 15-minute break, they began again in kneeling as the rain played a steady, soothing or annoying—depending on the shooter—song on the tin awning over the firing lines while the competitors fired their final 20 shots. Malori Brown claimed the Metric Any Sights win with 1156-48X. However, the team match did take a turn with the match winners being team Unicorns Blue with 2258-73X followed by the Texas State Rifle Association with a score of 2230-68X.
As the two days of Metric came to an end, Malori Brown was the 3-Position Metric Champion winning the Frank Parson Trophy Cup Plaque with an overall score of 2298-86X.
Day three of the National Matches started with a bang—literally, as a canon is fired before Colors—and it was again another scorcher with a heat index of 105 degrees. The cool breeze was a welcome relief and yet an unwelcome challenge when trying to place the perfect shot. It was as if Mother Nature was mocking all those in attendance. For Conventional Iron Sights, Megan Hilbish was the prone winner followed by Malori Brown in standing and Domingo Otero in kneeling. Coming out on top to win the Iron Sights aggregate for Conventional was once again Malori Brown with a score of 1193-62X, receiving the William Krilling Trophy Plaque as well as the High Junior title. Other winners included High Senior Domingo Otero taking the Meister Trophy Plaque and High Collegiate Morgahn Warner winning the Foster Rennie Plaque. The team that claimed victory for the Conventional Iron Sights match winning the Hercules Trophy Plaque was once again the Texas State Rifle Association with Team Captain Malori Brown.
Also, on day three the Whistler Boy was shot in the afternoon. Steeped in tradition, it is the only match that is just for junior competitors. Teams of two juniors from a state or club association compete in the 3-Position course-of-fire along with a Dewar course-of-fire. The playing field is leveled by the fact that all competitors shoot the same ammunition and each team is allowed to have their coach on the firing line with them. The highest-scoring team with 1959-86X was the Texas State Rifle Association.
Day four of the Championships brought the Conventional Any Sights winners for each position, which included Megan Hilbish for prone and kneeling, and Malori Brown for standing. Brown was dethroned by only 5 Xs with Hilbish reigning supreme as the winner of the Any Sights aggregate for Conventional 3-P with a score of 1192-78X compared to Brown’s 1192-73X. The team claiming top honors for Conventional Any Sights was the nearly undefeated Texas State Rifle Association winning the Caswell Trophy.
Additionally, the Drew Cup was shot on the afternoon of the fourth day before the evening awards. A postal match against Great Britain, the 12-member team is made up of junior competitors with a mixed team of 10 and two alternates, one three-member women’s team and a three-member men’s team. The match consists of 60 shots in prone at 50 meters using an ISSF target. Winners will be announced later this year.
As the two days of Conventional came to an end, Malori Brown was again the overall National Champion for the Conventional 3-Position Championships winning the Frank Parsons Memorial Bowl Plaque as well as the Cobb Trophy Plaque for High Junior. With Brown as Captain, the Texas State Rifle Association also won the overall Team Aggregate for Conventional 3-Position. Additional trophy winners included William Beard for High Senior with the Robert K. Moore Trophy Plaque, Paula Lambertz for High Intermediate Senior with the RWS Trophy Plaque, Morgahn Warner winning the Volunteer Trophy Plaque for High Collegiate, Natalie Perrin for High Intermediate Junior with the Putman Trophy Plaque followed by Rylie Passmore as High Sub-Junior with the Stark Position Trophy Plaque.
On the evening of the fourth day, there was an elegant awards ceremony to honor those listed above as well as to announce the overall winners of the National 3-Position Smallbore Rifle Championships. The overall match winner was Malori Brown with a total score of 4683-221X, earning a National Championship belt buckle and subsequently winning the High Junior honors. In second was Megan Hilbish with 4613-201X and in third was Claire O’Neel with a total score of 4603-177X. Both received a silver championship belt buckle as well.
Arriving before the match starts to set up gear and staying until the final match has ended, it’s clear that smallbore rifle shooters love their sport. They devote their summers to train by competing in these matches—with the chance of winning medals and titles—and some are Olympic hopefuls or seek a chance to get spotted by college rifle coaches, like Newt Engle from Akron. Competitors often use gadgets like timers and wind gauges to know the exact moment of placing the perfect shot. Some individuals even position themselves to get the optimal stance by having one foot under a shooting mat because the firing point was at a slight incline. Others like to include a lucky charm next to them on the firing line.
But it’s not only the shooters who express their fondness for the sport. It’s also the parents and friends of the competitors as well as the many volunteers it takes to put this match on. The supportive family and friends of the shooters sit with their folding chairs and scopes, each as dedicated as the next as they anxiously look to see how their competitor is doing. That support makes it all worth it.
And it doesn’t end there. The volunteers are proud and happy to be there too, as they assist with scoring targets and making sure the firing line is safe. One such volunteer was a gentleman named Joe DeCosta, who has been associated with the National Matches for 50 years. A retired Marine, he was a range engineer at Camp Perry for close to 35 years before retiring from that. He enjoys every minute of volunteering for the National Matches and it is also a family affair for him with two of his daughters also being volunteers.
Be on the lookout for more results from this year’s National Smallbore Rifle Championship, as well as updates for next year at Camp Atterbury.
Note: Be on the lookout for our coverage of the 2019 Smallbore Prone Nationals in a future issue of the digital magazine.