Almost 100 airgunners met at the Tusco Rifle Range in Dennison, OH, to battle the elements, themselves, and the MD’s cunning ways.
To say that it was a ton of fun would be a great understatement.
For the third year in a row the Pyramyd Air crew from the owners (Val and Josh) down, go all out to host what has become the most important Airgun Schützenfest of the year.
Other shoots are mostly, if not exclusively, FT oriented; none have the diversity of events, participants, and contests as the PAC. This is important to FT because the shoot draws people that wouldn't normally go to a ‘pure’ FT shoot and exposes them to the degree of shooting proficiency that is developed through FT.
One anecdote illustrates this:
A novel shooter approached one of the organizers and told him flat out that he was there to win the ‘Gunslynger’ (a speed shooting event that involves shooting at 1/10th scale metallic silhouettes at longer than normal silhouette distances).
He quickly lost his first round and so devoted some time to watch the other shooters in the FT course.
By the end of the day he came back to the same organizer to say: "I thought I could shoot but, dude, these guys REALLY know how to shoot, I’ll practice and come back next year"
Hopefully, the fun, camaraderie, and sportsmanship always present in FT will draw him into this, the most fun and challenging of airgun sports.
The sport has much to thank Pyramyd Air for its constant and unswerving support, both of this great event, and of FT Team USA
This year I owe the title word of this blog entry to my friend, Ken Hughes, undoubtedly one of the best FT’ers in the Nation. We both missed a 50’ish yard hornet, setup on a mast atop the range’s berm. And after the match was done, we met at the Hornet to try to bring it down with a well crafted shot (I had to take two more shots to finally elucidate what was happening with the wind at that height). It was then that he commented he had ‘redeemed' himself’.
That comment stuck in my mind all through both flights back home and, indeed, is the perfect title. So, thanks, Ken!
PREPARATION.- For me, the 2016 PAC started just after my return from Lisbon. My atrocious performance there justified an all out effort to do better this time and, so, my rifle received a new spring (by Titan Springs, now available in the US from Ct. Custom Airguns) with a custom made guide, and new seals; and we started the search for a more suitable pellet. Clearly the JSB 8.44 Exacts were not compatible enough with the barrel to give the necessary accuracy AND precision.
It was a race against the calendar. There was less than a month to get this done, and I only have an hour, maybe two, every other day available for these pursuits.
With patience and a disciplined method we tested what pellets we had on hand paired with different lubes to come up with the best combination possible.
This quest ended selecting the FT Premium 8.44 pellets from JSB at 790 fps with a VERY close second being the Express’s 7.9 at 820 fps.
Team USA had already tested the Premium pellets and results had been less than impressive but you have to approach each re-build as a completely different gun, so we tested them and now they surprised us.
The spring had already been under tests, and so, there was no question it had set and would be stable for a long time.
The guide, however, was different, and I wanted to put in at least 500 shots before the competition. By the time I arrived at Tusco Rifle Range I had about 200 shots with the new guide in an, yet, untested & new design.
But I was relatively confident. ½” 5 shot AVERAGE O-O groups at 35 yds (32 meters) from the FT position is nothing to sneeze at.
And so the trip started on Wednesday, when Veronika, Daniel and myself went to stay over the night in Brooklyn, where Veronika and Daniel were to spend the end of the week and the weekend with Oma and Opa.
I’m blessed in having a wife and in-laws that help as much as the Brooklyn to Connecticut distance allows and are always happy to have the grandson over for the weekend. This allows me to take less expensive flights out of NYC, as opposed to those that originate in Hartford, or White Plains.
Great thanks are owed by us shooters to those family members that, even if they do not understand our passion in detail, go out of their way to help us. So, thanks Oma and Opa!
By Thursday early morning I was at LGA airport checking-in the rifle to the usual astonishment of the girls at the counter and the unending mirth/scorn of the Port Authority police that sees our airguns as very expensive, and bothersome, toys.
Checking-in done, I resigned myself to an hour’s flight South to Atlanta, only to come North to Canton-Akron the same hour and change. Ah! The result of a late decision to come to the Cup and the ‘Hub’ structure of all airline route programs.
I will try to program better next year, but G’d knows I’m gonna be busier than the proverbial one legged man in an a** kicking contest.
I finally arrived into CAK and it took as long to rent the car as it took to fly from ATL to CAK!
By the time I rolled into New Philadelphia, everyone had had dinner and so, I found myself at the Texas Roadhouse having a steak.
Early next morning I started meeting other shooters at Denny’s and we all headed out to the range.
By noon, I was all sighted in and the trajectory surprised me. The resultant BC calculated by PP-Calc exceeded any expectations, but the results support the calculations. How can a short, chubby pellet have such an excellent ballistic coefficient can only be attributed to a good shape and a smooth, vibration free release from the barrel.
Now that I have a lot more shots, I am even happier about it as the consistency of these pellets across batches makes them a very good choice. I tested the trajectory and the POI with three different lots of Premium (a few that were left from the original Team USA test, a box I won at the 2016 Canadian Nationals' Raffle in Port Colborne, and a new lot purchased from Pyramyd Air, and the results were impressively consistent.
I still need to get them all out of their pretty packaging to lube, and then I am too lazy to put them back in, so I just dump them in a transport tin made with a 500 ct. 0.20 cal tin lined above, under and on the sides with protective foam.
I guess I need to make a shaker that will space and orient the pellets properly so that I can reinsert them into their protective packing that is excellent once cut to the 50x4 format of a World’s shoot.
Of course I will also need to do this with the Expresses, LOL! Never leave any stone unturned.
THE PAYDAY CHALLENGE.-The day wore on and the Payday Challenge came around.
This is a fun competition where you are given a gun, pre-sighted in by the MD for each of three stations.
Station 1 required 5 shots from the bench at a FT 40 yards away.
Next station required 3 shots at a FT at 25 yards, offhand.
Station 3 required 2 shots offhand at a FT that is 15 yards away.
In total, 10 shots.
Rifle for station 3 was an HW100; for station 2 was a TDR; for station 1 was a Condor.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to sight in a rifle for someone else with precision. Whether the shooter uses glasses or not, or if his eyes are a little more tired than the sighter-in or the angle of the face and how he holds the rifles, all factors that are important in being consistent when shooting precision riflery literally are different for every person. But it was all in good fun and the competition started.
I missed my first shot on the Station 2 standers, but the shot felt good and I used that info to correct the aim on the TDR for the next two shots, which hit the mark.
I then went on to the Condor of Station 3 and got those two shots.
When my turn came for Station 1, Tyler instructed me as to how to aim, same instructions as he was giving to everyone else.
At that moment high score was Ken Hughes’ 9. So I couldn't miss a single shot in that station if I wanted to be in the run. In the Payday Challenge there is no second place winner and in the past editions of the Cup, there had never been a tie.
Took the first shot and hit the paddle, but the paddle was so shot up by then that I couldn't see my impact.
Next shot also hit the mark.
On the next (third) shot, I felt the release to be good, but the shot missed.
I was out.
Next shot was also a miss, but I scored the last shot as a point of honour.
By the end of the day, three shooters: Ken Hughes, John Eroh and David Hitchcock were tied with 9 points and so a shootoff was arranged. Tyler decided to make the shootoff an offhand affair,
For half a dozen rounds, they all missed!
I’m sure that in more than one shooter's mind a question arose about the ‘luck factor’ in shooting. Since the public was getting impatient, Tyler decided to turn the screws back a little and allowed them the kneeling position. For two rounds no one connected.
In the end, Ken Hughes took the shot and missed, John Eroh connected to the delight of the audience that had grown somewhat impatient.
BUT then Dave Hitchcock also hit the paddle!, and now the three way tie was STILL a two way tie.
After two more rounds of misses, Tyler gave up and then Kristen decided to ask if the shooters were willing to declare a tie.
They were and, so, the prize was split.
After a little more (OK, a LOT more) BS’ing we agreed on an early dinner and we adjourned.
Nice and rewarding day with friends at the range.
And, again, the Texas Roadhouse didn't disappoint.
The sight-in session had been successful, as it validated all previously collected information, and so I felt good about tackling the course.
Squads were posted and scorecards distributed.
I will not chronicle the FT shoot target by target, suffice to say that I made some pretty stupid mistakes (like sitting on a reset string or using the wrong aimpoint in my reticle! LOL), and that fishtailing winds of 7 to 13 Mph that can swing for your 6 to your 3 and then back to your 9 in about 3 seconds are no picnic.
Gavin scored a 4, which is about par, even for experienced shooters on their first FT Match. Gavin and I agreed to meet at the sight-in range after lunch and go over his gun and his shooting form.
I have to say that I think highly of the young man. As pummeled as he was getting by the rifle (a full power Diana 48), the wind, and the course, he didn't give up and showed his mettle.
We went over a few basics, corrected some details and I gave him ‘homework’ to do while I was shooting the Gunslynger.
I had no expectations about that competition. The new guide requires careful cocking and I was matched against one of the quickest shooters in the competition. On top, the MD had decided to change the normal distances and, while the trajectory was known, habits are hard to change. 45 years of shooting silhouette sort of conditions the mind.
Anyway, Keith Waters displayed his usual speed and excellent form, and I was out after my first match.
When I found Gavin again, we went over his work and I calculated his trajectory using PP-Calc.
When I told him to write down the table, he looked at me as if I was ‘loco’ or something and he asked me if I could Email him the table. I felt REAL OLD, LOL!
A lesson in the millennial generation gap! For them, connectivity and data interchange is just a natural, and expected, fact of life.
Guess it is good to interact with youngsters, you learn something new.
The day ended with the customary excellent dinner with all the shooters, the vendors/exhibitors, and the crew, a good opportunity to meet them outside the range and their range duties.
I would like to point out that this year LEAPERS was present as exhibitor, as well as the ‘new’ Diana brand, that now has three importers into the US market (Pyramyd Air, Airguns of Arizona, and UMAREX), also present were Hawke and Predator Int’l. We missed the usual Crosman table.
At dinner I had the chance to get to know better Brad Bonnar, from Hawke, and, maybe, I will look into their ED scopes early next year. What I saw at the range opened more questions than provided any answers, but you cannot really evaluate a scope of FT complexity in 3 minutes. So, we’ll see if we can arrange for a test.
We also missed Josh’s usually colorful speech, ;-) But Val made up for it with brevity and conciseness.
After food and the raffle, we all went home happy and contented, if not too full.
I was decided, and committed, to put my best effort forward.
Most of the targets were going down and even though I made a few stupid mistakes (as usual), I was on an excellent track.
By the last two lanes I had only dropped 8 points of 40 and I was ‘right chuffed’ about it.
Then disaster struck. Skunked one target and missed the first shot of the second, so I took a faceplate hit to see where I was hitting. The gun seemed to have moved POI to the left, a full ½ mrad.
Tried that on the last lane and skunked it again. 8 points dropped in the last two lanes!
“That is something I’ll need to look into in detail before Nationals come around!” I thought to myself.
Still, the performance of the system, up to that point, had been very good and I cannot really complain. What I have discovered since is that I had two problems: one was the new design of the guide, it didn't survive the pounding that I subjected the gun to in the Gunslynger. A new guide has been made in a more traditional way and was tested at Falls Township and will be further tested in the Long Island Championships. The other problem was the scope mounting protocol I use. With ordinary mounts it works well forever. I use plastic tape as interface between scope and rings. It prevents slippage and protects the scope finish. It will also allow a LITTLE bit of compensation to be placed in the rings.
With the ZR Mount that is unnecessary, and as time went by, the tape compressed and the scope started rubbing on the mount's watertable.
I have, since, milled the mount a little more and created a 0.010" clearance between the scope's saddle and the mount's watertable.
The whole system worked well in Falls Township but that, as they say, is another story ;-)
It was a pleasure and a privilege to see Rob Seiden and Eric Brewer go ‘mano a mano’, and to witness Greg Sauve shoot it out with Bill Rabbit.
Excellent shooting by any standards.
It will imply taking two guns to the PAC, but the stress that spring guns are subjected to when the competition is that fierce, does require a specially built machine.
The Gunslynger event was animated by Rossi Monreale, of American Airgunner. It is always fun to hear and see his shenanigans.
I should also congratulate the American Airgunner crew, they have learned how to film and take meaningful pictures of the event without interfering too much. I am sure their efforts were appreciated by more than one. Thanks Guys!
Ken Hughes and Tom Holland contested the second place in WFTF PCP, and Rob Seiden with Brian Vanliew shot it out for first place in Open PCP.
Both shootoff's were thrilling to the ‘Connoisseur’, but I have to admit that the Gunslynger has a lot more spectator appeal and TV potential.
Perhaps we should suggest to Pyramyd Air that the FT shootoff's are carried out before the Gunslynger’s finals.
The awards ceremony was simple, conducted by Tyler in his usual informal manner.
First places of all Divisions were called to receive their cups and to select a prize from the table. Then second places, then thirds.
Then the Gunslynger places and, finally, Tyler closed the shoot by thanking everyone: attendees as well as crew; and he received a heartfelt applause from everyone there.
Greg Sauve placed top of all classes and so he got first dibs at the prize table.
We learn more from our failures than from our successes, if for nothing else than because they hurt. But that is life and, as my Father used to say: A champion is not a champion because he never falls; he is a champion because if he falls 20 times, he gets up 21.
The PAC gave me a chance to redeem myself, and it reminded me of why I love FT so much and that is more important than any prize.
Thanks Pyramyd Air and thanks to all the shooters that MADE the event.
Keep well and shoot straight (except when there is wind) !