Easter 2014 saw the National Benchrest Championships held at the SSAA Belmont range near Brisbane. Shooters travelled from nearly all states and territories, as this would be the first qualifier for the World Benchrest Championships to be held in St Louis, USA, in 2015. Belmont turned on four days of magnificent weather, with just enough mirage and wind trickery to sort out the field.
The Experimental/Unlimited class was the first event to be contested and there was a good showing of rail guns among those who chose to use their heavy bench rifles. Ten-shot groups are required in this class and this takes a lot more concentration on the job in hand. Right from the first relay, some tiny groups were produced. In fact, the best group of the morning came from the A targets when Bill Jupp (shooting a normal bag gun) punched in a tidy .178 10-shotter. The aggregate however went to Graham Keppie shooting his rail gun and his aggregate of .2678 was a clear winner.
The longer yardage showed groups that were about twice that of the 100-yard ones, but again, Graham Keppie was totally focused with a small group of .341 and an aggregate of .2800 to take both medals. He also received the Ray Edwards Memorial Shield for the 200-yard win.
Having won both aggregates, it was no surprise that Graham won the Grand Aggregate, with David Kerr second and Craig Whittleton third - a clean sweep for the Western Australians.
The lightest of the rifle classes at 9lb, Sporter class takes a bit of skill to control the rifle on the sand bags. There were 48 shooters at the final count and straight away, the sub-.2 groups were coming in. Bill Jupp put down the best of these with a .134, but the aggregate went to Paul Sullivan just ahead of Craig Whittleton.
At the longer yardage, groups less than 0.5” came thick and fast, and it was Barry Edgley who topped that list with a .295 shot on his last target. Barry was also running the shoot, so this was a good effort. The aggregate went to Michael Truscott with a .2936 and this gave him his first ever Hall of Fame point. Michael was also awarded the AD Peake Memorial Shield for the aggregate win.
Now, while all this was going on, Gavin Marshall was quietly racking up consistent groups and it gave him a popular win. Fergus Bailey (our new Benchrest National Discipline Chairman) was second with Michael Truscott in third.
For some, the ‘real shoot’ started on Easter Sunday with the running of the Light Benchrest rifle class, and in fact, there were 60 entries. Being the first leg of the WBC qualifying shoots, everyone was keen to do well. The conditions suggested that small groups would be the norm and to win a relay, one had to shoot a tiny one. The smallest group of the morning came on the C targets when Michael Huebner managed a .115 - good anytime! The aggregate was won by Stuart Foate, with Annie Elliott and Paul Sullivan close behind.
After lunch, it was down to business at the longer yardage and some spectacular groups were seen. Best of these was a .262 shot by Daniel Lynch. The aggregate saw a win to Paul Sullivan, just ahead of David Kerr and Dan Lynch.
With a first and a third in the two yardages, Paul Sullivan won the Grand Aggregate from Annie Elliott and Stuart Foate (on a count-back from Murray Hicks).
Conditions on Easter Monday looked favourable and some good scores were expected. One had to shoot a very low .1 group to win a relay and eventually, it was Paul Sullivan who put down a .110 to take the small group medal.The aggregate saw some very good aggregates less than .2, and it was Nick Leonardis in front from Steve Blaine and Fergus Bailey.
The last aggregate of the 2014 Nationals was a real shoot-out, and a .239 to Nick Leonardis was the smallest group seen. Murray Hicks won the aggregate, from Craig Whittleton and Thomas Spang.
In the final wash-up, Nick Leonardis won the match from Murray Hicks and Craig Whittleton.
This was a very well-run National Championships and we were blessed with fine weather. Craig Whittleton won his fourth straight 4-Gun Championship and is certainly the man to beat at the top level. Next year’s Nationals are set for Canberra.