column By: Zack Taylor | June, 21
No brag, just fact. For the Black Powder Target rifleman, the Desert International Black Powder Long Range Championship Match was and is the biggest such match in North America and as far as I know, on planet Earth. Muzzleloaders, cartridge rifles and vintage sniper rifles are all welcome. Sponsored by the Arizona Western International Shoot (AZWINS - Bill Loughrige, president), its stated purpose is to provide the competitor with a high-quality shooting experience that is enjoyable and fun to shoot and AZWINS has consistently delivered.
Having shot Black Powder Target Rifle (BPTR) Long Range at Sacramento, Lodi, Missoula, Tucson, Byers, Raton and Capitan, it is obvious to me that the venue most favorable for such long-range matches is the Middleton Tompkins (1,000-yard) Range at Ben Avery Shooting Facility (BASF) in Phoenix, Arizona.
Planning for the 2021 match began during the 2020 competition and continued up until the “green light” was finally given in December 2020, to actually hold the March 2021, match. Needless to say, the global pandemic held up authorization to hold the competition and dramatically affected the ability of many shooters to attend. Without the persistence and expert maneuvering of Bill Loughrige, I suspect the 2021 match would not have taken place. Thank you, Bill.
Once it was announced that the match would take place, a flurry of entries arrived on a “first-come, first-served” basis and everyone sending in their entry in a timely manner was squadded to shoot. Riflemen came from Nevada, Wyoming, Minnesota, Florida, Indiana, Colorado, Washington, Idaho, Oklahoma and of course, Arizona, to shoot in the biggest and best BPTR match there is. There is no requirement to join or be a member of any group or organization to compete. Just show up and shoot.
The “target building team,” headed up by target builder emeritus Skip Burks of Illinois, also included Chip Mate, Steve Farringer and Zack Taylor, began arriving at BASF five days early to ensure new targets for all competitors shooting in the target matches. Target building continued up until the first day of shooting, with repair and refacing after each day’s shooting. The hallmark of a quality match is good targets, and they don’t get much better than the targets provided to the shooters in this match. Thank you, Skip Burks.
Larry Wilkes of Flagstaff, Arizona, presided over the two-day BPCR Silhouette match for 30 registered shooters. Conditions were typical for BASF set against a saguaro-studded mountain background. It was a fun match and a great time was had by all, in spite of the infamous “ducking” chickens. Prevailing after two days of shooting was Blair Svihra – 1st (48/80), Steve Farringer – 2nd (46/80) and Jim Dodson – 3rd (44/80).
Day three of shooting found 22 intrepid shooters gathered on the 800-yard firing line, squinting at some very bright sunlight for the first day of Long Range Target competition, and compete they did. Two strings of 15 shots for record is a maximum score of 300. Leading the pack at the end of the day were three relatively new shooters to BASF and Long Range BPTR shooting; Dennis Armistead – 1st Ironman (243), Steve Farringer – 2nd (241-1X), Steve Fogler – 3rd (239-4X) and Dave Gullo – 4th (232-3X). Imagine, shooting in winds steady at 15-20 mph, gusting to 40 mph. Yep, and what fun it was.
At this point and going forward, we need to remember two very important considerations when shooting a long-range black-powder target rifle. First, is that the wind is your friend and it is up to you to make friends with it. Second, is that the only way to learn how to shoot well in the wind is to shoot in the wind.
Day four also dawned bright and those 22 hardy souls reported to the 900-yard line ready to take on the challenges of the day. Again, two strings of fire for record, 15 shots to the string, maximum possible score 300. Apparently, “Mariah, the Goddess of Wind” was displeased with the success the shooters achieved the day before and she started shaking her skirts (wind flags) early. Not to worry folks; several shooters cozied up to Mariah and distracted her long enough to shoot some respectable scores considering the conditions of strong gusts with fishtailing winds; Steve Farringer – 1st (255-3X), Dave Gullo – 2nd (247-1X), Don Johnson – 3rd (236-3X) and Chip Mate – 4th (234-3X).
Onward and upward to day five and the first day of the Steve Rhoades World Championship 1,000-Yard Match. Three strings of record fire, 10 shots each, for a possible score of 300. It was another one of those days for sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen. Such is March in Phoenix, with temperatures rising into the mid-80s. There were 23 intrepid souls assembled early on the 1,000-yard line in hopes of catching a fairly good relay at least once during the day. When the smoke finally cleared, Dave Gullo placed 1st with a 243, Steve Farringer – 2nd (232), Dennis Armistead – 3rd (221-3X) and Don Johnson – 4th (206). You guessed it, Mariah showed up early and stayed late, treating everyone to a cloud of dust.
Day six of shooting was day two of the Steve Rhoades World Championship 1,000-Yard Match. Again, three strings of 10 record shots each, fired from 1,000 yards. Not intimidated in the least by Mariah’s rudeness from the previous days, all shooters arrived with big smiles and wind straps on their headgear. Surprise, surprise; Mariah teamed up with her sister “Mirage” to put on quite a show for shooters and spotters alike. Both took on the roles of quick-change artists and Mariah, in particular, put up such a ruckus that verbal communication between shooter and spotter was difficult. Not to be denied, all shooters held fast to their shooting mats and spotting scopes until the last shot was downrange. From the dust and flying gravel emerged the winners; Steve Farringer – 1st (223-2X), Dave Gullo – 2nd (214), Chip Mate – 3rd (209-1X) and Don Johnson – 4th (201-1X). The windage adjustment screws really took a beating! I want you to know folks, that those four shooters are some of the very best trigger pullers around, so that fact should give you a pretty good idea what day six was like.
Now for day seven and the third and last day of the Steve Rhoades Memorial 1,000-Yard World Championship. Rules are that the first shot to hit paper is sighter shot number one. The maximum number of sighters is three and shot four is the first record shot of 10 record shots. The time limit for two alternating shooters is 45 minutes. The shooter has no spotter, only a scorekeeper. Two strings of 10 record shots equals a maximum of 200 points toward the championship aggregate. As an old Wisconsin dairy farmer once commented, “This is where the cheese gets binding.” As Rick Gray called, “Rifles to the line,” one could feel the anticipation. This is where the Black Powder Target rifleman demonstrates his abilities, and for several shooters present, a world championship hung in the balance. Wouldn’t you know it, Mariah played hob with the conditions as did Mirage, which caused several riflemen to struggle mightily just to stay on paper. When the final scores were tallied and long before the dust settled, the numbers were added, checked and rechecked. Emerging in 1st place (no surprise here) was Chip Mate with a 166-1X, Steve Farringer – 2nd (164-1X), Dave Gullo – 3rd (160-2X) and Zack Taylor – 4th (141-1X).
However, as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” With the last shot downrange for the Steve Rhoades Memorial 1,000-Yard World Championship, the scores stacked up like this for the aggregate: 2021 World Champion, Steve Farringer from Columbia City, Indiana, with a 619-3X, followed uncomfortably close by the world-famous Dave Gullo from Sand Point, Idaho, placing second, with a 617-2X, while third place went to Chip Mate from Elgin, Arizona, with 566-2X and fourth place was Don Johnson (intermittently from Idaho or Arizona) with a 546-3X. That’s right friends; after three days of intense competition, only two points and one “X” separated the two front runners, with a rifle in .45-70 rising to the occasion.
That night, the awards presentations and banquet were held at Manuel’s Restaurant in Phoenix, where we shooters were accommodated in grand style and feasted on traditional Mexican food with a grand time had by all.
Over? Oh no, it is not over. Not yet. Still on the agenda was day eight and the .22 Target Match and, of course, days nine and 10 to decide the Ironman Champion.
On day eight, when gathering on the 200-yard firing line, the .22 targets looked almost close enough to reach out and touch compared to what we had been seeing the past five days, even though the scoring rings were only a fraction the size of the long-range targets. Most of the shooters assembled had never shot these reduced targets simulating the 200-, 300- and 600-yard midrange targets, yet all shots are fired from the 200-yard line. The 200-yard winner: Dave Gullo (200-10X), the 300-yard winner: Jim Eckard (187-3X) and the 600-yard winner: Zack Taylor (187-3X). The 60-Shot Aggregate winners were: Sherman Brownlee – 1st (566-12X), Zack Taylor – 2nd (563-8X), Chip Mate – 3rd (562-11X) and Dave Gullo – 4th (552-15X). All shooters totally agreed they wanted the .22 match added to the 2022 match schedule.
Now, starting down the home stretch, on day nine, the 500-yard M-65 reduced scoring ring target was on the menu for day six of the Ironman Match. The match was three relays of 10 record shots with only three sighter shots each, from 500 yards, and both Mariah and Mirage promised that this day would be memorable, and so it was, as wind flags began pointing upward early. By relay two, winds from seven to five o’clock at eight to 12 mph steady and gusting up to 22 mph. But, when I took my rifle out of the case to shoot relay three, measured gusts were up to 42 mph. About that time, I was on my third record shot, the winds picked up dramatically and began blowing small gravel. Presently, I felt my rifle case hit my feet, roll up my legs and over on to the next shooter’s mat and then downrange. Lots of equipment was travelling downrange and when I finished my last string of fire and went to retrieve my wind indicator and rifle case, I had to struggle to walk against the wind and back to the firing line. It is conditions like this when a dead wind zero pays dividends as you keep passing zero in one direction or the other about every shot; and it is in conditions like these when your spotter earns his keep. First place was won by Blair Svihra (263-5X), Steve Farringer – 2nd (263-4X), Dave Gullo – 3rd (260-4X) and Zack Taylor – 4th (254-4X).
Now, the grand finale. On day 10, (day seven of the Ironman Match), it is time for the familiar 600-yard midrange target. Again, three sighters before 10 record shots, repeated three times for a 30-shot aggregate and the final leg of the Ironman. After yesterday, we were all hoping Mariah and Mirage would “sleep-in” today. But no, they just couldn’t resist tormenting the assemblage on the last day. Once again, the prestigious championship hung in the balance until the last relay of the last match on the last day. What a horse race it turned out to be! On this last relay, I was spotting for Steve Farringer and we had whittled down the rounds in his cartridge block to only two remaining when Mariah and Mirage pitched a fit. Two shots were left and we both knew that they had to be good because at the moment we suspected Steve was not in the lead. Patience, patience – wait, wait – then it became clear it was time to shoot and show. Wind guessing took over and we agreed on a sight setting. Boom, target up, pinwheel “X.” Oh my, now what? The conditions changed. Very little time left on the clock. I gave Steve my best guess, Steve looked at me quizzically, put on the sight change and broke the shot. It seemed forever and time ran out as the target came up and it was a 10…hard into the 10-ring. Jubilation, as we knew with his last two shots being an “X” and a 10, Steve was still in the race and relieved that it was finally over. In the final analysis, from 600 yards: Chip Mate – 1st (265-3X), Dave Gullo – 2nd (261-3X), Steve Farringer – 3rd (259-3X) and Blair Svihra – 4th (250).
Now to compile the Ironman scores. Combining 800 yards, 900 yards, three matches at 1,000 yards, along with 500 and 600 yards; seven days of black-powder target rifle matches to determine who wins the prestigious Ironman Match. By the time the last shot was fired, we were forced to retreat to the pits to escape the ever-increasing winds and await the official tabulation of scores.
Steve and I were correct; those last two shots at 600 yards were the “make it or break it” shots for the Grand Aggregate. The Ironman winner: Steve Farringer – 1st (1,637-14X), Dave Gullo – 2nd (1,617-13X), Chip Mate – 3rd (1,534-14X) and Don Johnson – 4th (1,454-13X).
The Desert International Black Powder Long Range Championship is scheduled at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility March 21-31, 2022. The course of fire may be similar to 2021, but will be principally determined by those that shot the match in 2021. Come on down!
Top 10 Shooters:
Steve Farringer: 1874 Shiloh Sharps .45-70, 32-inch Shiloh barrel, 1:16 twist, 540-grain Buffalo Arms grease groove Money bullet, 1:12 alloy, SPG Lube, 57.5 grains Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 150M primer, Starline brass, 8x DZ Arms scope.
Chip Mate: Remington Hepburn .45-90, 34-inch Badger barrel, 1:18 twist, 450-grain Buffalo Arms grease groove Money bullet, 1:20 alloy, SPG Tropical Lube, 80 grains Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 210M primer, Starline brass, Montana Vintage Arms sights.
Zack Taylor: 1878 Sharps Borchardt .44-90 Remington Straight, 32-inch Krieger barrel, 1:16 twist, 515-grain Buffalo Arms grease groove bullet (447520M2), 1:16 alloy, NAPA lube, 68.5 grains Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 150M primer, Starline brass, Montana Vintage Arms rear sight, Distant Thunder aperture front sight.
Tim Galligan: CPA Stevens 44½ .40-65, 32-inch Badger barrel, 1:16 twist, 415-grain Paul Jones grease groove Money bullet, 1:20 alloy, 50/50 beeswax/olive oil lube, 60.5 grains Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 150M primer, Starline brass, 8x Montana Vintage Arms scope.
Brad Sullivan: CPA Stevens 44½ .40-65, 32-inch Douglas barrel, 1:16 twist, 420-grain Buffalo Arms grease groove Money bullet, 1:20 alloy, SPG Lube, Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 150M primer, Starline brass, 6x Montana Vintage Arms scope.
Glenn Gipson: 1874 Shiloh Sharps .45-70, 32-inch Shiloh barrel, 1:18 twist, 520-grain Buffalo Arms grease groove bullet, Knoell lube, Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Starline cases, Montana Vintage Arms rear sight, J. Vanwey front sight.
Don Harvey: 1885 Browning High Wall .40-65, 30-inch Badger barrel, 1:16 twist, 410-grain Saeco 740 bullet, 1:20 alloy, SPG Lube, 60 grains Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 150M primer, Winchester cases, Montana Vintage Arms sights.
Ed Keller: 1885 Browning High Wall .40-65, 30-inch Badger barrel, 1:16 twist, 410-grain Brooks grease groove bullet, 1:25 alloy, Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 150M primer, Remington brass, 6x Montana Vintage Arms scope.
Jeff Krumm: Remington Hepburn .40-65, 30-inch Remington barrel, 1:14 twist, 400-grain grease groove Accurate Molds bullet, 1:20 alloy, 62 grains Swiss 1½ Fg powder, Federal GM 150M primer, mixed cases, Montana Vintage Arms rear sight, Baldwin aperture front sight.
David Heintz: 1875 C. Sharps .45-70, 30-inch Badger barrel, 1:18 twist, 520-grain grease groove Saeco bullet, mixed alloy, 71 grains GOEX powder, CCI-200 primer, Starline cases, 6x Montana Vintage Arms scope.