Ian Harford

Date: December 26, 2011

Competition Report: 2011 AAFTA US National FT Championships

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The 2011 AAFTA US National Field Target Championships were held over the weekend of the at the ‘Good Ole Boys’ Field Target Club just outside the town of Pulaski, Tennessee.

The venue is not an airgun club as we would know it, but is actually an ‘FT Oasis’ in the sprawling gardens of championship organizer Roz Sumpter.

A passionate field target enthusiast, Roz decided that he wanted to create the perfect field target utopia and in true American style, he went and built it!

With enough space for two 60 shot championship courses, covered picnic area and not one, but two well appointed zero ranges, the Good Ole Boys Field Target Club would rival the facilities the very best UK clubs have to offer.

As with most other sports, Field Target is very different in the US than anywhere else in the world, but that’s what makes it so cool!

They’ve developed their own system of rules and embraced the option of using higher power rifles than their European cousins.

This has resulted in the creation some of the most distinctive and unique competition rifles I have ever seen. Now while I’m used to seeing highly customized rifles on the BFTA Grand Prix circuit, but there are just as many ‘standard’ rifles in use too. That’s not the case in USFT where pretty much every rifle is unique.

The main difference between the disciplines is that the ‘USFT Class’ allows a 20fpe power limit as opposed to the 12fpe limit elsewhere in the world. It has also traditionally enjoyed the strongest following.

That said, there’s been a resurgence in support of the ‘International Class’, which follows the World Field Target Federation (WFTF) rules and has a 12 fpe limit.

In fact top US shot Greg Sauve won the Veterans Class in the 2011 World FT Championships in Italy earlier in the year. Of course I also shoot the WFTF Class and was expecting a strong field this year.

Although I’ve been really looking forward to this competition all year, my preparation really wasn’t up to scratch. Like always I had far too much on my plate!

Because I was already in the US hunting elk with Wolverine Creek Outfitters in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, I’d asked my long suffering wife Clare to bring my competition gun over to the US for me.

I flew in from Jackson, Wyoming to Huntsville, Alabama on the Wednesday before the competition. The plan was to collect Clare, my rifle & competition gear on the Thursday, book into our hotel and then have all day Friday to get my rig set up ready for the competition on Saturday ad Sunday.

But things never work out how you expect them to… Best laid plans and all that!

Clare’s flight got in very late at about half past midnight and her bags were nowhere to be seen! Her original flight had been cancelled due to bad weather, and the bags had got lost in the ensuing mayhem.

The airline ensured us that they would be there the following day, but they didn’t arrive until 2.30pm! By the time we’d secured the bags and reached the ground, the sun was already on its way back down.

I got to the range at around 4.00pm and had a good couple of hours tweaking my settings and getting set for the weekend’s endeavours.

It was great to see so many familiar faces, although this soaked up even more precious time. I just can’t seem to help myself when it comes to talking guns!

As I’d previously thought, the WFTF Class had one of the strongest field ever seen, with the likes of Greg Suave, 2010 USFT Champion Harold Rushton and the distinctively accessories Ray Apelles all at the top of their game – plus legendary British FT shot Terry Almond making the trip over to stake his claim on the title.

The AAFTA US Nationals competition format works slightly differently from FT here in the UK.  Although targets are positioned from 9 to 55 yards, there is no restriction on the size of ‘kill zone’ meaning you could potentially have a 20mm target placed at 55 yards!

There are also no ‘standard targets’, but rather a variety of innovative themed targets including my favourite – ‘Yosemite Sam’.

Each of the two courses is made up of 15 lanes, each containing 2 targets. Competitors must take 2 shots at each targets for a total of 60 shots. The near target must be shot first, then the farthest.

I woke early on the first morning of the competition to get a good start of the zero range. I was worried about a few settings on my rifle, but every time I changed things, I’d end up moving things back!

Maybe it was just pre-competition nerves… Either way, I started off better than my good pal Harold Rushton. He arrived at the ground in good time, only to split the back of his trousers from belt to bottom!

He whisked his way to Walmart to buy some trousers and made it back to the ground with just enough time to get a few shots in – or so he thought.

As soon as he settled down on the range Roz called out ‘All shooters take your last shot before the safety briefing’. It seems I wasn’t the only one with less than ideal preparation!

I was scheduled to shoot the ‘Red Course’ on Day 1 with top WFTF shots Ray Apelles and my shooting partner from the 2010 AAFTA Championships in Maryland, Greg Vinson.

Ray shoots a bespoke Crosman Marauder Bulpup of his own design. Although it’s not really my type of rifle, Ray certainly made it sing!

The course wasn’t particularly long, with most targets in the 35-45 yard range, but there were plenty of small, reduced kill zones to keep us on our toes.

For some reason I just couldn’t get comfortable and made a host of silly mistakes, missing easy shots, but making the longer ones. It just didn’t make any sense! I eventually finished up on 51 ex 60.

No such problems for 1998 World Champion Terry Almond who stormed to the top of the leader board with an incredible 58 ex 60. Greg Sauve and Ray Apelles were hot on his heels, both on 57.

Although my scores didn’t necessarily suggest it, I certainly felt the Red Course was actually quite easy – funny how things work out!

I think it came down to thoughtful target placement by the course builders and crafty use of angels. Either way, I though the course offered something for all shooters, which is the way it should be!

That said, I was more than a little disappointed by the end of the day. We headed back to the hotel of some much needed R&R and a little emotional therapy from my resident sports psychologist:

“Pull your finger out then” were the gentle words of support offered by me dear wife!

Of course I’m always keen to follow instruction! We got another early start, but things on the zero range seemed even worse! I couldn’t group for toffee and headed over to the safety briefing feeling somewhat sheepish!As it happens, the day turned out to be just fine.

The White Course was set up in the woods and offered a lot of longer targets – much more like those I’m used to. There was also a little wind in the air, so I knew I had a great change to make up some ground on the leaders.

Our groups had been ‘reassigned’ on the final day, with Ray, Greg and Terry all shooing together. I was grouped with Greg Vinson and my old pal Jeff Paddock.

Jeff and I had a dramatic shoot off for second place as the 2010 Championships, and I knew he was a quality shot.

He had also finished the day on 51 and with Doug on 52 we had our own mini championship in progress. I could hear from a distance that Ray Apelles was falling off the pace, but Jeff kept me honest all the way. By the time we approached the last 2 lanes we had both only dropped 3 shots!

I missed a crazy 25mm shot at 20 yards, but Jeff also missed to leave the door open, only for me to miss my very last shot of the Championship!

This cost me the opportunity to shoot off with Jeff for a second year in a row – although this time for 4th place.

The performance of the day went to Harold Rushton with a superb 58 ex 60 in pretty challenging conditions. It wasn’t enough to unseat Greg Sauve who matched his first days score of 57 to finish up on 114, only one behind the high power USFT winner Doug Miller.

With two of the three highest overall scores posted by WFTF shots, it does to show that it is indeed skill that wins championships rather than just power.

I would hazard a guess that the US Team will be putting in a pretty strong performance at the 2012 World Field Target Championships in Norway next August!

I’d like to thank Roz and his team for putting on such a superb event and of course the whole USFT community for making me feel so welcome once again.

The 2012 AAFTA US National Field Target Championships will be held over the 28th – 30th September 2012 at the Ashland Air Rifle Field Target Club in Oregon.

As featured in the January 2012 Edition of Air Gunner Magazine

You can find many more photos from the event in my 2011 AAFTA US Nationals Photo Essay.

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2011 AAFTA US National Field Target Championships Results

USFT PCP Division

Last Name First Name Red White Total Rifle Scope
Miller Doug 57 58 115 FWB P70 DM Nikko 10-50×60
Plauche Paul 56 56 112 USFT Nikko 10-50×60
Roller Walt 55 57 112 AA ProTarget Burris 8-32
Taylor Donovan 54 57 111 USFT #28 Sightron 10-50×60
Yee Kevin 56 54 110 USFT March 8-80x

WFTF PCP Division

Last Name First Name Red White Total Rifle Scope
Sauve Greg 57 57 114 Steyr LG100ZM March 8-80x
Almond Terry 58 55 113 AA Protarget BSA 10-50×56
Rushton Harold 53 58 111 AA EV2 Leupold Comp 35x
Paddock Jeff 51 56 107 AA EV2 Leupold Comp 35x
Harford Ian 51 55 106 Walther LG-300 March 8-80x

USFT Hunter Division

Last Name First Name Red White Total Rifle Scope
Finney Dan 49 52 101 Crosman Marauder Nikko 8-32x
Garvey Charles 49 48 97 USFT Bushnell
Day Bill 47 46 93 Daystate Airwolf Centerpoint 4-16x
Mizell David 40 39 79 Logan Solo Bushnell 6-24x
Smith Lonnie 38 39 77 Daystate Mk3s Simmons 44Mag

USFT Piston Division

Last Name First Name Red White Total Rifle Scope
Bishop Paul 46 42 88 HW98 Leupold Comp 35x
Sumpter Roz 41 37 78 Whiscombe JW50 Bushnell 6-24x
Vredenburg Mike 42 27 69 HW97K Bushnell 8-32x
Medina Hector 32 24 56 Diana 54 Barska 3-12×40
Hyfield Don 24 26 50 AA TX200SR Simmons 6-20x

WFTF Piston Division

Last Name First Name Red White Total Rifle Scope
Vines Steve 43 39 82 AA TX200 Bushnell 6-24x
Smith Cliff 45 32 77 AA TX200 B&L 6-24×40
Gibson Ted 34 43 77 AA TX200 Bushnell 8-32x
Duran Leo 38 32 70 AA TX200SR Bushnell 8-32x
Peretti Tom 31 31 62 HW77K Nikko 10-50×60

 

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2 Responses to “Competition Report: 2011 AAFTA US National FT Championships”

  • 2011 AAFTA US National Field Target Championships « Ian Harford

    December 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    […] a few more images from the 2011 AAFTA US National Field Target Championships in Pulaski, Tennessee. Don’t forget to check out my match report […]

  • Terry Almond

    January 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Good report Ian and it was a pleasure to meet and talk with you for the first time. A real gentleman and a tough competitor. FT can only benifite from having people like you joining its ranks.

    All the best for 2012

    Terry

Pulaski