Last weekend marked the end of the prone shooting season in Minnesota. The Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club gave long range shooters one last chance to compete as they hosted the 2nd Annual Palma Fall Classic. This match consists of 2 days of the Palma course; 15 shots for record at 800, 900, and 1000 yards, with a possible score of 450. There have been a lot of great Palma scores shot at this range in the last 25 years, but only two 450’s. With that fact in mind, shooters are always working to add their name to that very short list.
If the weatherman was to be believed, this was going to be a weekend to extend the list. Cool temps, with light winds from 2-4 mph were forecasted for both days – pretty unusual for this time of year in MN. With Eau Claire National Rifle Club hosting a 4×600 just 2 hours away, numbers were down a bit from last year. Nevertheless, competition was fierce, particularly on the sling side.
It was 35º and dead calm as things kicked off at the 800-yard line on Saturday morning. 6 Palma shooters and John Andrus on the F-Class side all shot clean there, with Rick Hunt’s 12x leading the charge. 4 of those 7 kept hope alive at 900, while Steve Naumann and I both dropped a point, ending our 450 dreams for the day. The wind was up slightly at 1000, but still pretty manageable. I managed a 150-7x to win the yard line on the sling side, with Brian Mrnak, Rick Hunt, and Brad Yliniemi losing one each. That left me with a 449-28x for the day. A pretty good score any day on any range, but barely enough to win against this small, but talented crowd. Ricky had the exact same score, but my better score at the 1000-yard line gave me the tie-breaker. As if that wasn’t a close enough finish, Mr. Mrnak was only an x behind us at 449-27x for 3rd place.
John Rykhus followed up his 150-9x and 150-8x on the shorter lines with another 150-8x at 1k to become the first F-Class shooter ever to shoot a 450 at GRRC, and to win the Saturday agg by a mile. Congrats and great shooting, John!
On Sunday morning, the flags were again hanging against the flagpoles, but it was considerably warmer. The wind forecast hadn’t changed, and it looked like it would be another day to shoot big scores. I took that as a challenge, and kicked things off with a 150-14x at 800 to set the pace. Ricky and Brian answered with 10 and 9x cleans to keep me honest. Rykhus had his own 10x, so the possibility of back-to-back 450’s was still intact. Everyone else’s clean dreams were over for 2018.
At 900, Short Pants Mrnak was the only one to leave the firing line with all of his points still intact. Steve Clark was also clean at 9, but his single 9 at 8 had him in the hole already. I lost one, Ricky 2, and Rykhus 3 to bring us all back down to earth. Brian was our last hope.
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Brian lost 2 at 1000 while I lost 1, to put us into another virtual dead heat to be decided by x’s for the 2nd day in a row. My 448-30x just edged out his 448-27x to take the Sunday win. Ricky led the yard line with a cool 149-8x to finish in 3rd place with an excellent 447-24x for the day. John Rykhus’ 443-19x again topped the F-Class shooters by a considerable margin. John also took the 2-day F-Class agg with his 893-44x. My 897-58x was just 4 x’s ahead of Brian’s 897-54x, and 1 point ahead of Ricky’s 896-52x. Crazy.
It is really amazing how intense the competition has gotten in our part of the country. Everyone is pushing each other every weekend, and anyone who wants to compete has to find a way to keep up. I was very happy to finish up 2018 with a win against these great shooters, and I look forward to competing against them again in 2019. In the meantime, we have 4 months to train for the Long Range World Championships and Palma Team Match in New Zealand.
Thanks to Match Director Steve Naumann and GRRC for hosting the match, and for donating the proceeds to the US Palma Team Fundraiser for their trip to the 2019 World Long Range Championships in New Zealand… everything helps.