Part 1.- A test of Character
But let's take it one step at a time:
I had not planned to go to the Nationals.
Too many things to do and too many demands on my time between family, company, DIANA, and the rest of the world.
I did want to go to Crosman because it is a super-fun weekend where I get to meet all the friends in the NorthEast and sometimes well beyond. My friends Sean and Eric actually prepare the course and organize the whole thing, and this time they got some well-seasoned help from Crosman and Sean could relax a little and shoot. Eric had had a domestic accident that was very scary and harmful a few weeks before, so he was on the recovery path, but he couldn't shoot. Still, we managed to meet at Sean's house for dinner and it was very nice to see him and the wonderful Peggy.
It was while discussing arrangements for Crosman, that I got into going to the Nationals, LOL!
At that point in time. I was still trying to prepare for World's, so I did not register to the Nationals.
We settled on a plan that contemplated Eric and Sean arriving home (Maryland) on Wednesday night and preparing to go out next morning so as to travel Thursday, if possible get some lead downrange, register, and be ready for Friday's proceedings (Eric and Sean were shooting Pistol FT). Having Eric and Sean at home is always a ball, for the kids and Veronika as well.
Then, a week and a half before I was to go to the World's, Mark Kaufmann called about which class I was going to shoot in the Nationals, and a posting was done in the Forum about the Open Piston Class having only 3 registrants,
Precious little time and lots of things to do, but I have always considered Open Piston to be the closest Division/Class to what FT SHOULD be, how it started, and how it should have remained. I also think that it is the most capable division to act as an "Entry class" Class.
Yes there are some sophisticated airguns in the Open Piston ranks, but most are pretty much run of the mill rifles, and you CAN do creditably well with true hunting guns in the Class, so after some discussions that included the BoG, the Host Club, DIANA Airguns and Pyramyd Air, I managed to put together a package that would offer an "enticement" to those shooters that perhaps had some interest but needed a little "extra encouragement". You can read the original invitation to all airgunners to come out of the nooks and crannies here, this invitation was posted on August 15th, on August 19th I was already on a flight to Copenhagen and from there to Krakow for the WFTC's, where I would not only be shooting, but also writing a series of reports for Hard Air Magazine.
Luckily, the experiences afforded by organizing the Minutemen FT League GP's, allowed me to call on previous partners and suppliers and get all the ducks in a row in just a few days. By the time I came back from Europe, awards would be done and shipped, and prizes funded.
And so the DIANA Open Piston Match idea became the driving force for me to go the Nationals.
My REAL FT gun (a DIANA 54 fully converted to WFTF parameters and lodged in a beautiful and practical "Culbertson" stock modified by my friend Art Deuel was still lost in the Polish limbo. I now had friends in the industry helping me out, one in Poland and one in Germany. People that represent many, many thousands of $ of business to UPS. And so I was fairly confident that the gun would be:
-taken out of the "Lost and Found"/to be auctioned category
-sent to a friendly party in Poland
-sent to a friendly party in Germany
and THEN sent home.
UPDATE: Gun arrived to the USA in time for me to shoot the DIFTA Nov 3rd shoot. Results showed that the gun arrived well!
So, out to the Nationals I went with the "Backup" gun. In light of the unexplainable misses and hits at Pyramyd, I gave the gun a good look-over.
And I sensed some play in the closing of the action. I immediately suspected the pin that links the cocking lever to the linkage bar that connects to the compression chamber. It is not untypical for this pin to erode at the points where the cocking lever touches it because the cocking lever is finished in a parkerizing that is hard as ceramic, and so, it tends to erode some pins.
I changed the pin to a hardened steel dowel pin and thought nothing more of it.
My friends Sean and Eric arrived on Wednesday on cue, and after a jolly dinner we adjourned for the night.
Next morning we started by removing the child car seats of our VW Passat.
We had a ton of gear and we needed to get more space.
The drive to NC would take about 3 1/2 hrs of actual driving time. The car is equipped with a diesel engine and it had been fueled up day before. Our "autonomy" on one tank of fuel was about 700 miles of all highway or about 600 miles of mixed highway/city driving.
So, we didn't have to worry about fueling up mid-way and when some friends of Sean and Eric from the Bayou Airgun Club called on the phone we were only about an hour away from Roanoake Rapids, our base of operations in North Carolina and we decided to drive through without stops in order to do lunch with the BAC guys.
Lunch turned out to be a blast, and we were informed that we could register in advance. The directions we got to the Range were less than precise and the sign that warned about live rifle fire in the area was only visible going BACK towards Roanoake Rapids. LOL!
Luckily, we found the place and also Ginger Piatt doing marvelously the ingrate job of registering all the kids, I mean . . . shooters.
So, after a few back and forth's we finally found the entrance to the range.
Next day a large flag would be there, but we were "pre-registering" to call it something as, officially, registrations would not be open till Friday morning.
At the hotel we met the ever smiling Lauren Parsons and we extended the invitation that John Eroh had sent.
Between John, Leo, Ray, and Basil they had rented this HUGE Plantation Mansion, and they had invited everyone for a "get together".
We stopped by a gas station to pick up some "Adult beverages" and went to the address we had been given.
All in all, 20 airgunners congregated there and to say that all talk was about shooting, WFTF, Poland, Portugal, Wales and all the ancillary subjects would be a mild statement; it was HEATED, LOL!
By the time the arguments about Springer vs. PCP had been exhausted, out came the rifles and some targets were set up.
After the shots, of course we still did not agree, but it was a ton of fun!
And so, we adjourned to the hotel, to get some sleep and start Friday with a clear mind.
Friday saw us arriving to an excellently laid out sighting-in range:
I think it was a smart decision. Piston shooters cannot alter easily the ME, and PCP shooters can, so the difference makes sense.
It also saved THAGC of sacrificing one person to the chrono marshalling duties for each day.
Right out of the bat, THAGC had stressed that the main focus of the Championships would be "Sportsmanship" with all that this implies, from safety in the courses to basic etiquette.
Scott Allen had sent excellently worded Emails (4 in total) to all competitors telling everyone in no uncertain terms what would be expected of each and every one of us.
For the most part, I would say we all behaved.
These aspects, laid out from the start, told us that this was going to be an excellently run match.
I shot almost all morning and a good part of the afternoon, but I did take a little time off to go see the "Pistoleros".
The array of "things" you see on the firing line is quite impressive.
My interest, so far is more academic and scientific than practical. Perhaps that will change some day, when I can see a way to "holster" one of the PFT possible rigs. You see? to ME a pistol is a sidearm. If it cannot be holstered, then it is not a pistol.
Many years ago when I hunted with a S&W 29 I liked the fact that the gun was "there" without actually making an effort at it being there. Of course open sights would be completely out of the question in PFT, or ¿Would they?
To have a "looksee" at some of the Pifles (or is it "Ristols" ???) that you can see in PFT:
You wonder ¿no?
as Yoda would have said: mostly scientific, . . . is my interest.
It was clear, though, that everyone WAS having fun, even with some bottlenecks in the course:
Then came the shootoffs for 3rd & 4th:
And then came the clash of the Titans:
After a night's rest, we were all back at it again next morning. A short session in the sight-in range confirmed zero and trajectory, but still something I couldn't quite place was off, and yet the show had to go on.
I was squadded with Amon and Noah Piatt, which would make the shoot very interesting.
We addressed our first lane and unexplainable misses started.
We then went to our next lane, and these are, possibly the only TWO pictures of me with a DIANA in this Nationals. At this very lane, the linkage between the cocking lever and the compression chamber broke and it was impossible to fix, but just for the record: I did start the Nationals with my "Backup gun"
After the breakage, I took some time off to try to gather myself. Amon and Noah went on without me and I went to the registration/score desk to hand in my score card. I was decided to not shoot.
BUT, that is what good friends are for. Ginger Piatt immediately suggested I "borrowed" one of the prize/auction rifles.
Indeed some of them were VERY tempting:
I handed in my scorecard and started walking to the car.
On the way to the car I had en "epiphany": IF I didn't finish the match, there would NOT be 5 shooters in Open Piston, and AAFTA awards would not be given. That kind of felt like a 1-2 punch to the stomach! All the things we had gone through to get the 5 shooters and now I was the one defaulting? NOT on MY watch!
I went back and requested my score card and tried to put my scope onto the HW97, but the ZRMounts would not clear the large objective from the mechanisms tube without a riser block, so I abandoned the idea because all guns with the dovetail rails milled directly on the tube would present the same problem.
So, I decided to borrow one of Eric's LGU's. I located him, asked permission, located the range card that seemed to fit and off I went to get my score card.
I had to wait for two 4 man squads to go by, by the third, I decided to suggest that the 4+1 be split into 3 + 2 squads and Cliff Smith was kind enough to allow me to shoot with him.
Needless to say that I didn't hit much. I didn't know the trajectory and the zero was completely different from what I normally use, also I would not change the settings of the scope on a gun that is not mine, and would be shooting with hold-offs on hold-offs; but, ¡Hey! I was shooting!
Shooting with Cliff is always a good experience, it is worthy of note that Cliff was the AAFTA Meritorious Achievement Award winner for the year 2008. He is a true gentleman and friend.
By the time we had gone almost completely through the course I started connecting, out of the last 3 lanes, I think I missed just 2 targets.
Still, ending with 16 hits was not too bad, after all it could only get better the next day, ¿right?
As we finished and handed in the scorecards and got ready for the evening proceedings, I saw Eric and he was not happy. His gun had been acting on him and he wanted to try the "loaner" gun next day.
So, we agreed to install my scope onto his gun that night so that I could shoot with a scope I could change.
Gunsmithing was done and I felt as ready as I could be for the second day.
Next day dawned foggy and dark. I would be shooting the "White Course" laid out in the right of way of a gas pipeline, it presented NO cover from the sun, so the organizers had setup gazebos. In the early morning hours, it didn't seem to be necessary:
As Eric has put it in his excellent reports for Hard Air Magazine: "everyone was melting", LOL!
The gasline right of way ran roughly North-South, while the targets were set to the right and left alternately, in the early morning some targets presented a backlit condition with the attending glare problem in the glass etched reticles, an interesting test for the sunshades and louvers; to the shooters, it also presented the condition that you felt like a chicken in a rotisserie being "turned over to well done", the shadow of the gazebos was sought out by everyone, and not always completely out of the way of the shooters; it was, probably, the only situation where proper etiquette gave way to survival instincts.
It was, let's say, an "interesting" experience.
Still, I had a ton of fun!
Shooting under such punishing conditions is always a good test of character.
In the end, I posted a 24 that improved on the previous day by 50%, so I was quite happy.
I have to publicly thank Eric for lending me his guns, it was a great gesture that will be remembered and appreciated. I also have to thank Ginger Piatt for allowing me to test the raffle/prize guns to see if my scope would fit, to Cliff Smith for shooting with me the first day, and Scott Allen for allowing me to jump into the match again.
Final results were quite good with an AMAZING performance put up by Steve English in the WFTF Piston Class. Wish he was registering for England 2019!
Part 2.- The DIANA Open Piston Match results
And that thought is shared by the sponsors (DIANA Airguns, Pyramyd Air, and Connecticut Custom Airguns). ¿Why? because we see it at the local level. EVERY FT shooter starts somewhere. And most start with what they feel is an accurate airgun, usually bought from a large department store, a sports outlet, or on the net, always with a view towards price.
And here is where the new management at DIANA has seen fit to listen to the customers, there are now several options to get reasonably accurate and good quality airguns starting at UNDER $300, whether spring gun or PCP's, the new range of offerings is marking the way in the industry.
And there will be more changes to come, but that is another story.
For this entry, let's just say that we would LOVE to make the DIANA Open Piston Match a yearly thing, but that also means that the shooters need to respond. We do not plan on making it a "brand only" competition, we understand the value of getting new shooters into the sport, and we understand that not everyone can spend upwards of $2,500 in a fully set-up-to-go FT rig. Nor would everyone choose to. Some shooters will feel that FT is good enough practice for their other airgunning pursuits and keep to it ,whether steadily or occasionally, but we do need a living class to allow them company. There is little interest and fun in shooting by oneself, and if you are going to shoot by yourself, then why bother driving to the FT Match?
And so, with all these thoughts in mind was that, when prompted by Scott Allen, I took the floor to thank THAGC for hosting the Match, Pyramyd Air, for being a pillar in the promotion of FT, and DIANA Airguns for having supported my idea of creating the DIANA Open Piston Match
And I hope he was happy with this award and prize.
One of the things that I like about Open Piston is that it allows a number of different styles of shooting:
While it allows great stability, it does present problems when the targets are elevated or declined, and sometimes it presents visibility problems when there are low lying obstacles between shooter and target.
My point in these pictures is to show that more than reasonable scores can be attained with relatively little expense: a quality gun a quality scope, some ingenuity and a good knowledge of what works for EACH of US; even counting custom/self-customized stocks and scopes, the rigs here do not exceed the $1,300 to $1,800 range, and, perhaps more importantly, they are eminently practical rifles that no one would hesitate taking to the woods after squirrels. They are rifles to which the non-FT shooter can relate.
I believe firmly that the more rarefied we allow FT to become, and this is my MAIN "beef" with current WFTF leadership (from the Presidency to all the WFTF Reps of the RGB's), the harder it will be to get into a sport that is ALREADY extremely technical and demanding.
To ME (again, a strictly personal POV), it seems that is precisely what the current leadership of WFTF wants, and if my perception is correct, then FT will never grow beyond a mediocre level of participation (not more than 30-50,000 sportspersons worldwide); and marksmanship, because more and more the advantage will come in the expensive gear you can buy because there seems to be an intention of barring/forbidding $15 industrial kneepads, or $6 apps., while allowing $300 jackets and $4,000 scopes.
The First Edition of the DIANA Open Piston Match is now history.
It was truly a pleasure and a privilege to be part of this event.
Let's hope we can make it a yearly thing, as long as the shooters respond, we will.
The rest of the shoot and the awards ceremony has been better reviewed by Scott A in his Official report, and there are tons of photos all over; here I would only like to emphasize the large smiles and brotherhood feeling that permeates all FT events, but moreso this, the National FT "Schützenfest".
Officially, the 2018 AAFTA Nationals closes the 2017-2018 season. All shoots after the Nat's are part of the NEXT season (2018-2019).
Tons of work to do for next season, not the least, get prepared for what will be, for sure, the MOST hotly contested WFTC's ever.
Let's face it: we ARE going into the Lion's Den
And, IF we find that magic batch of pellets that seem to not be able to miss, save at least two tins (1,000) for the WFTC's 2019.
Spring-Piston Team USA will be going as defending champions. England will be shooting at "home", and Hungary will go as well prepared as they can, they always do.
I am starting to see some initiatives that tell me that, at least the Springer shooters, are beginning to think as a Team.
I am sure we will all give it our best!