The Lord Wakefield Match History (Part 2)

posted on January 4, 2021

Be sure to read Part 1 of our retrospective at U.S. participation in the historic Lord Wakefield Match.

Inaugural Wakefield

The Swedes won the inaugural event, but it was not quite an even matchup. The British team used its scores from the RWS Challenge Trophy, an international postal match among the teams from the U.S., Great Britain and Germany, sponsored by the munitions firm of Rheinische-Westfalischen-Sprengstoff.

The RWS trophy teams were of ten who fired 40 shots per man prone on the international 50-meter smallbore target, five minutes for each series of five shots, with any .22 rimfire smallbore rifle with metallic sights and a 2.2-pound trigger pull.

On the other hand the Swedish rifleman used, according to October 1933 issue of the SMRC’s official journal The Rifleman:

[R]ifles with very heavy barrels and hair triggers. Moreover, whilst we had to rely on the limited selection of shooters at Bisley the Swedish Association had no gathering comparable with our Bisley and were they allowed to shoot on the club ranges of their men and at a time selected as and when each man could, but under special witness. In view of the facts that their team won the International Team Championship at the Open International at Grenada and that most of their winning team were selected for this match, it will be seen that a great concession was made to them by meeting their convenience in this way.

In its typical British stiff upper lip sporting manner, The Rifleman went on to say, “Nevertheless, the Swedish Team is to be heartily congratulated on their fine victory…”

Not mentioned in the article was the painful fact that the sporting British, after being defeated by the Swedes 3910 to 3882, also lost the RWS to the U.S., 3935 to 3882.

Sweden Fades

After 52 years, Sweden was unable to field a team. The match was uncontested, and in 1985 it went into hiatus. The final record was 27 to 19 in Great Britain’s favor. Rather than have the trophy sit in a case gathering dust at the Roberts Centre, the NSRA decided they would place it back into competition in 1991, under similar match conditions, inviting the U.S. and Commonwealth nations to participate.

The opening match, of what may be called the modern Wakefield, was contested by Great Britain, New Zealand and the United States. With a team of four current or future Olympians and supported by a cast of world and national champions, it was no wonder that the U.S. won with a record score of 6945x6000—a record which stands to this day.

The Revised Wakefield

The current iteration of the match features the English Match, in keeping with its international inception, 60 shots prone, on current International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) targets, but clothing does not need to conform to ISSF regulations.

The Wakefield is fired in three relays of 20 record shots and unlimited sighters in 25 minutes each. Sighter shots may be fired at the start of each relay, but the shooter may not fire any additional sighters after the first competition shot has been fired. The target change-over break between each detail shall not be of less than ten minutes duration. Each competitor is allowed a wind coach.

In addition, the rules allow disabled shooters in International Shooting Committee for the Disabled (ISCD) category SH1, competitors that do not require a shooting stand to compete.

Team Selection

Great Britain’s team is selected from the leading aggregate scores over the first five rounds of its 50 yard/50 Meter Summer League. Selected team members then shoot the match on their own home ranges under the watchful eye of a witness during a period of one week in September, much as the Swedish Team did in 1933.

The U.S. selects its team from the top twelve shooters from the iron sight phase of the NRA National Smallbore Metric Prone Championship.

Covid-19 Pandemic Does Not Halt 2020 Wakefield

Last year, the worldwide Covid-19 Pandemic interrupted the traditional ebb and flow of competitive shooting, causing the NSRA and NRA to cancel the Bisley Meeting and NRA’s inaugural smallbore championship at Camp Atterbury.

With the 2020 shooting season in shambles, the two organizations discussed the possibility of conducting the four major international postals. In a flurry of emails between Mike Chapman, chairman of the NSRA Rifle Committee, and Patti Clark, chair of the NRA Smallbore Committee, it was agreed that the match conditions for the Wakefield would allow it to be shot as normal, with a few pragmatic time extensions. The same would hold true for the Drew.

The NRA Smallbore Committee directed the 2020 Wakefield Captain and Coach, Hap Rocketto and Shawn Carpenter, to move forward with team selection. Faced with time constraints, and the Covid-19 restrictions, the Wakefield leadership contacted Wakefield alumni who were active competitors. 

The pool was small, about 30 individuals, and became smaller as some declined because of lack of range availability or other commitments. Invitations to shoot were then tendered to the remaining candidates based on the average of past Wakefield scores, high to low until the roster of 10 was filled.

The NSRA took its traditional approach of conducting trials for their team, attracting 84 applicants, before shooing the match. 

Part 3 of our look back on the Lord Wakefield Match is coming soon.

Read more: 2020 International Smallbore Postal Results


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