Match Report: 2017 Spirit of America Fullbore Rifle Prone National Championship

Every September 11, the Bald Eagle Rifle Club hosts the Spirit of America Fullbore Rifle Prone National Championship at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM. For high power prone enthusiasts, this is a must-attend event.

The Spirit of America Matches are an official NRA National Championships and unlike other high-power prone events, those competing with target rifles (sling and iron sights) are limited to either either a .308 or .223 with ammunition that use bullets under 156 grains or 92 grains respectively. F-Class rifles are free to shoot either F-Open or F-TR under NRA F-Class rules.

For those unfamiliar with fullbore, all matches are shot prone and at midrange (300, 500, 600 yards) and long range shooting (900, 1000 yards) distances. The first 3 days of this competition are team matches only. Teams consist of 4 shooters, a captain, and a wind coach. The course of fire is 10 shots plus 2 convertible sighters at 300, 600, and 1000 yards string-fired under the guidance of a wind coach. Shooters are brought to the line in pairs and must complete their shots in under 27 minutes. The combined aggregate score of all 4 shooters for all three days determines the winner.

The team matches are followed by 4 days of individual matches. The course of fire is 10 shots plus 2 convertible sighters at 300, 500 and 600 yards pair-fired followed by 15 shots at either 900 or 1000 yards string-fired. Pair-firing is when two shooters are assigned to a single target and alternate their shots, scoring one another until all firing is complete. Shots must be made within 45 seconds after recording the other shooter’s previous shot. The challenge of pair firing is that wind calls must be made quickly as there isn’t time to wait for a condition change. For those who need to hone their wind reading skills, pair firing is an excellent addition to your training regiment.

PVGC member Ben Lucchesi attended the SOA matches with high hopes, but as the saying goes, “The best-laid plans of mice ‘o men….”

In the team competition Ben arranged to shoot with US National team member Trudie Fey, world-class shooter Oliver Milanovic, and fellow recruit Fuller Kemp. On day one, Ben’s team missed first place by 1 point loosing to the US National Veterans team. On day two they duked it out for first place the US National Veterans team again, tied on points, but lost on X’s. On day three they couldn’t make up the 1 point deficit as the US National Veterans team pulled away with a 10 point lead to take first place again. Unfortunately second place isn’t awarded in this game. The US National Veterans team was definitely well prepared as they’ve been training together in preparation for the 2018 Wold Palma Championships.

For the individual matches, everything started great. On the first day, Ben dropped only one point in the first 9 shots at 300 yards and then cross-fired an X on his 10th shot. He went on to clean all remaining targets for the day finishing with a score of 439-24. Had he not cross-fired, he would have finished in 2nd place overall for the day. On day 2, Ben finished with a 441-18 after getting beaten up by the wind a bit at 1000 yards. Day 3 started Ben’s front sight broke and he was forced to shoot with backup sights which changed his zeros and caused 2 dropped point at 300 yards. This, combined with treacherous wind at 1000 yards resulted in a score of 432-15. Finally, Ben got his act together on day 4 and everything came together. After cleaning the first 3 targets (300, 500, 600 yards), he went onto drop only 4 points at 1000 yards, which secured him 1st place for the Master class and 3rd overall for the day. Regardless of the good finish, it wasn’t good enough to move any higher in the aggregate standings than mid-pack. Unfortunately, when shooting at this level, a cross-fire is almost impossible to recover from. The match winner, Trudie Fay, only dropped 12 points the entire match.

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The following are a few pictures of the Whittington Center, the range, views from the cabins, and targets while scoring at 1000 yards.