October 2011 Cover Page

  October 2011
  
The Rifleman's Journal
A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics


This Month:
Hap Rocketto - Hap's Corner
Hap Rocketto - A History of the Palma Match
Lead-Free Primers - Amy Courtney and Michael Courtney
Rod Vigstol - F-Class Nationals
Germán Salazar - Rifles and Reloading


15 Cents 

Equipment: A Rare Krieger Mistake

A Rare Krieger Mistake
by  Germán A. Salazar



"Where did that one go, Chuck?"
"Another miss, right over the target."
"The last one was under the target and left of it and I only adjusted a little..."

Disaster
That brief snippet of conversation is representative of the exchange between Chuck Gooding and myself yesterday during a completely futile, 43 shot attempt to zero in my BAT as an F-TR rifle with a new Krieger .308 barrel. It was a long morning...

We were in Mesa, Arizona at the Rio Salado Sportsman's Club for the club's monthly 500 yard match and nothing was going to plan. I often go to a club match with a new, unfired barrel. With a scope on board, as was the case yesterday, zeroing is usually no problem at all; bore-sight, watch the trace, adjust as needed and usually within three shots we're right in the X ring - not this time.

It wasn't just the barrel that was new, the Nightforce scope on top was also new to me; I bought it used, though nearly new, from the estate of another shooter. After the first twenty or so shots - none of which connected with the target - I removed the Nightforce and installed my trusty Leupold BR24. No joy, shots were still scattering all around the point of aim, sometimes as much as 50 feet away. Although I initially thought the scope might be at fault, once I switched to a scope that I know to be good, that possibility was dramatically reduced. After all, what is the probability of two scopes coming apart at the same time? Not zero, but small.

Clearly, it was time to pack it in. I went to the pits and pulled my three strings, mulling over what had just happened. After the pit stint I did my scoring for a couple of strings and then it was time to go. I skipped the usual post match lunch with the group because I was very eager to tear the rifle apart to see if there was a detectable cause for the problem.

Beginnings
Let's back up a bit, just a few weeks to be exact. As I recounted in a series of articles, John Lowther and I put a lot of effort into getting my Borden actioned CSS tubegun ready for F-Class shooting. We eventually solved all of our problems, principally scope and bipod mounting, but at one point, I began to wonder if that would ever happen. Additionally, I had an opportunity to buy the Nightforce and frankly, I was very curious as to whether there was a benefit to be had with it. However, neither the tubegun, nor the Gilkes actioned rifle that I used earlier in the season would meet the 8.25 kg. F-TR weight limit with the Rempel bipod and the Nightforce. The Rempel isn't going anywhere, I consider it a "must-have"; therefore, either the Nightforce would remain an unfulfilled desire, or I would have to put a lighter rifle together.

The BAT 3-lug rifle sitting patiently in the rack seemed to be the ideal candidate. The 6XC barrel it currently wore would have to be replaced, of course, and it needed a scope rail as it had previously only been used with iron sights. I ordered a rail from BAT which they delivered within a few days, and shipped the action to Clark Fay with a request for a medium Palma 1:11" twist Krieger chambered with my long-throat reamer. Clark was aware of the pressing timeline for load development with the Arizona Palma Championship looming in early December and turned the work out quickly with one of the many Krieger blanks that he keeps in inventory.

Post-mortem
After the long drive home from Mesa I took the rifle apart. The first possibility I considered was that the action somehow hadn't seated properly into the bedding, perhaps something was under the recoil lug. Examination revealed no foreign objects and the action was, in fact, properly seated and torqued.

The scope base was also examined (as it had been at the range) and no looseness was detected. The scope base screw holes on a BAT action are blind and don't go through the action, thus eliminating the possibility of a screw bearing on the barrel threads or locking lug. No problems here.

I checked the fired brass, no unusual marks and the headspace measurement was exactly the same as my other .308 chambers. Primers had a nice edge radius and there had been no indications of excess pressure while firing. The crown looked fine, no visible damage or burrs.

Just as I was scratching my head over the lack of visible causes, the phone rang; John Lowther was calling to check in the rifle dissection. As our conversation progressed, we began to home in on the barrel's rate of twist as the only remaining possibility. Clark keeps a good supply of barrels on hand, and this one was supposed to have a 1:11" twist.

As the photo above of a new, un-chambered barrel shows, barrels have the rate of twist stamped on the breech end by the manufacturer (the photo is of another barrel, I took it this morning). Although it was possible that Clark had mistakenly used a 1:13" twist barrel, even that would stabilize the 175 gr. Berger bullets I was shooting, so that seemed unlikely. Besides, I know Clark checks the stamp, he even marked the barrel with the rate of twist (see photo at left).

Slow Twist
As unlikely as it seemed, I decided to check the rate of twist. I put a tight-fitting patch on the jag and pushed it through the barrel, watching the rotation of the rod.  It sure didn't seem to be turning like I expected...  "The jag must be loosening," I thought. Pull it out, tighten the jag, repeat - still turning slowly. Changed patches, same results, changed jags, same result. In fact, by my measurements, the barrel has a 1:18" rate of twist. Just to confirm, I followed a single groove with the borescope, measuring how far the borescope went down the bore for a full revolution. That procedure confirmed what the jag was telling me, as did a visual comparison to a  new 1:11" twist barrel that I had on hand.

Obviously, a .30 caliber 1:18" barrel is a specialty item for Benchrest for Score shooters - and they don't use a medium Palma contour. This barrel was clearly made in error as this contour and this rate of twist just don't go together. I have no doubt that it was mis-marked, because Clark wouldn't miss seeing an 18 where he was expecting to see an 11.

Getting a mis-marked barrel from Krieger is about as rare an occurrence as I can imagine. In fact, in over 25 years of buying barrels from them, I've never had it happen before. The unfortunate part is that all of Clark's work on this blank is down the tubes, there is no earthly use for a 1:18" twist, long-throat .308 medium Palma contour barrel - it is nothing but expensive scrap. Time to start over...

F-Class Nationals: A Greenhorn's Perspective

This article by our good friend Rod Vigstol is a recount of his experiences at the F-Class Nationals in Lodi, Wisconsin. This was Rod's first trip to a national championship match and one of his first experiences shooting at 1000 yards. I hope that any shooter considering going to his first big match will take away from this article the feelings of excitement, joy and satisfaction that Rod clearly felt and will make it to his own first big match. - GAS -

A Greenhorn’s Perspective
by Rod Vigstol




Prologue: August 2011
Rod V. “Well Russ, is my season of shooting in the North Dakota winds going to help me at Lodi?”
Russ T. “Nope, not at Lodi.”

Sunday morning, September 25th
I'm all packed and ready to make the 8 hour drive from my home in Fargo, North Dakota to the F-Class Nationals Championships in Lodi, Wisconsin. After giving my wife and girls all the necessary hugs and kisses to last me a week away from home, it was Eastbound and down - I was on my way.

Now, of course, I wasn’t 15 miles away from home before I began to worry about what I may have forgotten. Well, if you know me, you know I am one of the meticulous types that have printed out checklists and I use ‘em. So after a brief scare, I found my checklist, or one of the 5 or 6 I was using at the time, and reviewed it one last time before I could really relax.

It was time to drive and get to Lodi in one piece. After an uneventful drive with only a brief pit stop in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area of Minnesota for gas, I found myself pulling up to the clubhouse of the Winneaquah Gun Club of Lodi, Wisconsin, looking for the club campground. Not quite sure at that point what I was expecting; maybe some sound effect that you hear on a movie soundtrack that causes a visceral gut feeling signaling that I have arrived at a place of significance. I sat there for a moment looking for my friend’s camper and waiting for this sound effect to occur, when I saw the camper. I pulled up and got out, I was here… at Lodi, attending the F-Class Nationals and shooting alongside the Top-Shooters in the country! Oh man, what did I get myself into…


But those fears were quickly forgotten as my good friend Bob Pastor from Gobles, Michigan and my other roommate for the week, Mike Warner of Latrobe, Pennsylvania stuck their heads out from around the camper and hollered it was time to eat. Nothing allays the fear of competition like the smell of a T-bone sizzling on a grill! I have known Bob for close to 10 years, Bob talked to me about Mike for the past year and said that we would get along great. Heck, once I found out that Mike bought enough steaks for all of us, for the entire week, I knew he was going be my good friend, at least for a week. After a good meal, catching up on all the scuttlebutt and a walk through of the range, it was time to call it a night and be ready for a 0700 roll call at the range stat house.

Dang, it was just like Christmas eve when I was a kid, I couldn’t fall asleep. Okay, what did I forget? What kind of greenhorn mistake am I going to make tomorrow? Sure as heck I’m going to knock somebody’s gear over and it won’t be another noob’s stuff, it will belong to someone like Shiraz Balolia. But eventually I fell asleep, even with all the first day jitters flying thru my head, the driving time took its toll and I crashed hard.

Monday morning, September 26th
Coffee is brewing and I am ready to roll. What the heck is that sound? NO! Not more rain… Oh well, glad I brought rain gear; it was right next to my extra biohazard suit - don’t ask why I had one of those, but I was prepared just in case. I suited up, got a fresh cup of coffee and went off to the stat house to figure out just what the heck was going on for the day. I guess if we were to shoot in the rain, I was prepared for that too. After all, it was practice day with informal matches at 600, 1000, and 1200 yards.

The stat house was full of folks milling around, chatting and smiling. I wandered over to a table that had some free samples and business cards on it. I thought cool, something to read and some cool decals for the shooting box to take home. Well, my browsing at the table, kind of carried over to the next table and I picked up a barrel to fondle, thinking wow, now this is one heck of a free sample table. Somehow, when I asked the burly guy sitting there if these barrels were free samples, the intended humor was lost in the early morning hours. He failed to even crack a smile. Dang, some folk just aren’t morning people. It was announced shortly there after that practice would be delayed until 1100, provided the weather cooperates.

 
Well, by 1400 the rain had let up enough for those of us who wanted to verify zeroes. We each got 15 minutes at 1000 yards. Earlier Bob told me to make sure I had my cleaning rod in my gun case when I went to the line. Of course, I wasn’t worried, I never yet had anything go bad on me that I couldn’t handle discreetly on the firing line. I don’t need my cleaning rod right behind me on the line… Well sure as heck, my turn on the line and I cannot chamber a round. Instant panic, why did I not listen to Bob! Luckily Mike did listen and I used his cleaning rod to knock out the patch that I am sure someone else had left in my barrel - because there is no way I could have done that...
 
After a few shots down range, the targets went down and came up, the scoring disc was in a respectable spot; I was ready to go, confidence restored, let’s go shooting! Unfortunately the rain was coming back and after 30 minutes, it was time to go back to the camper and wait until tomorrow. Another fantastic T-bone steak from my new best buddy, Mike Warner, and it was time for bed. This time sleep came a lot easier. I did not knock Shiraz’s rifle into the mud and I had my greenhorn mistake out of the way. I can sleep restfully now.
 
Tuesday, September 27th
0550, I found myself making coffee and looking for food. Dunno what it is, but I cannot function 5 minutes in the morning without food. Thankfully, I listened to the wife and brought some of those foo-foo diet-breakfast shakes she bought for me, as they actually do a good job of filling me up for a couple hours. Now, who’d have thought to listen to his wife when she says, “Honey, I bought you some breakfast shakes for breakfast, you need to keep your nutrition up.” Wow, go figure, she was right! I’ll have to add those to my checklist.
 
After roll call and figuring out my squadding assignments, I found that I begin my day in the pits, shoot and then end my day in the pits. Fortunately, Mike and I were teamed together on a target, as his rotator cuff is damaged and I am really good at providing grunt labor; so we made a natural team. Next to us (two burly manly men, I might add) were two high school age, young ladies that were part of the volunteer target pullers for those that couldn’t. I thought it was pretty cool that they took the week off to earn some extra cash. Sure they were wearing “Criterion Barrel” hoodies, therefore they must know something about the shooting sports or they wouldn’t be here.

 
Well I am here to tell you, those two young ladies (Dani and Dee-Dee) are the most proficient and efficient target pullers I have ever seen. They were each single-handedly pulling, marking, scoring and putting back up a target frame in half the time it took two of us burly manly men to do the same thing. Wow - I was impressed! After spending more time with them, I became more and more impressed by their skills, knowledge and maturity. They are definitely top shelf young adults! And it was my pleasure to tell them and their mother that. Never did catch their last name, but their Mom (Betty) was a Range/Line Officer (R/O) and their Dad was involved at Criterion Barrels.
 
Pit change came soon and I found the tension building on the bus ride back to the line, “What am I going to screw up this time?” Admittedly, I was concerned about getting my stuff to the line safely and with plenty of time to spare, so I could compose myself. The moment the R/O said “Relay 5, you may bring your gear BUT no rifle to the line”, I was there. And in all honesty, I was ready to shoot at the beginning of the three minute prep period, but now it was time to sit and wait. In retrospect, I think I really got caught up in the self-image issue of wanting to make sure I at least looked like I knew what I was doing. No one will notice at first if I can’t shoot, but as long as I look like I can, it will be alright.
 
Well, with all that said and done, the 600 yard matches went off pretty average for my skill level, 145, 147, 145, dropping 13 points. But the question of the day was: “What is with all this vertical dispersion?” I came to find out, that’s Lodi!
 
One of the many first day highlights was meeting Mr. Charles F. Clark of Denver Colorado. Charles came over to our camp site and quickly became the target of many of our childish verbal pranks. Considering the skill with which we implemented them, we certainly must have impressed him because Charles became a regular fixture at our campsite after shooting hours the remainder of the week. Come to find out Charles is a very accomplished shooter with a long history of both Smallbore and Palma. Eventually I come to figure out that, ya know, I should really pay attention to his shooting because this cat hits what he aims at. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. After another fantastic steak supper, (supper is when us rural raised folk eat today’s dinner), compliments of Chez Viper, it was time to crash and be ready for tomorrow’s matches. Three adult men in a pick-up camper isn’t too bad… yet.

 
Wednesday, September 28th
1000 yard shooting today, yee hah! I am in the big time now. Prior to this day I had only shot in one 1000 yard match and that was in 2004 with a borrowed rifle. The dang butterflies were building in my belly, so off I went scavenging for food.
 
Squadding assignments had been posted and were very favorable to me. I found myself in a familiar spot on the line and with plenty of time to wake up and appreciate the experience I was gaining, learning, and hopefully taking home. Shooting at 1000 yards simply rocks! I am hooked and love the challenge. Everything was coming together well, I sure as heck wasn’t going to break any records or be in the hunt for awards, but I wasn’t at the bottom of the list. I set my goal earlier and it was simple: place in the middle of the pack. I had a chance of doing that, so life was good.
 
Today brought me a few more new friendships. I found several folk from Minnesota and by the luck of the draw, I was teamed with them in the pits. I got to meet Brenda and Gary LaValley of Phoenix Precision Target Sights in Elk River, Minnesota. And well, I guess you either have to be raised in Minnesota or be of Scandihoovian heritage to fully appreciate the fun we had. And fun we certainly did have. Only another Scandihoovian would understand how dang funny it is to hear someone try and tell an “Ole and Sven” joke, by starting out with “Didja hear the one about O’le and Seven”… I also met Adam Shilda and Ben Winget from the Twin Cities area. Both are up and coming shooters, with more skill than I possess that’s for sure.

 
Adam has a Celstron Regal 65 ED glass spotting scope, the model I had be eyeing for the past month or two. He let me play with it most of the week whenever I wanted to. He was just one of those nice guys, maybe he saw me as one of those responsible guys, but I tend to think he was nicer than I was responsible. Anyways, my eyes found that scope to be a great deal for the money. Over the course of the week, I had the chance to look through some lesser scopes that cost more and yes, some better scopes for much, much more money. The resolution, sharpness and fantastic fine focus function makes this spotter a great deal. It is now on my wish list. Thank you Adam!
 
Pit duty ran very smooth as the club had two very qualified individuals running the pits. “Johnny and Billy” were viewed by some as bungholes, but I found them to be your basic “No nonsense, this is serious stuff” type of folk. They possessed a familiar but unique sense of humor, not unlike your typical Uncle who has to be seen and taken seriously, but not without a sense of juvenile humor. I, like many, caught heck from Johnny when I had it coming and some when it wasn’t deserved. In those cases, I threw it back at him and saw a glimmer of a smile form, he was digging it. I knew right then that these guys were good folk. The remainder of the week in the pits proved that time and time again. It was a blast.
 
Pit duty was safe, efficient, and fun. Professionally directed and administered. And for that, all the credit goes to unsung volunteer leaders, Johnny and Billy! Top shelf guys, as were the local youths that helped out, good kids that the Winneaquah club enlisted.
 
However after a great day on the line and in the pits, interesting fun was still to come. Oh yeah, baby! It was the carnivore hour at the Viper’s campsite. Can one really tire of eating steak? Not I. Bud Williams, a friend of Bob and Mike’s from Pennsylvania, stopped by with a new gadget. I was busy cleaning my rifle “traditionally” when I began wondering where everybody went. Using the investigative skills I use in my daily life, I found them shortly on the other side of the camper standing around a table watching Bud use what appeared to be a pressure washer on Charles’s rifle. Yes, it was a pressure washer.
 
As Bud explained, he bought this rig, a portable high-pressure steam cleaner, specifically geared to do rifle barrels. I cannot recall the pressure involved, but would guess in the 100 psi to150 psi range. The wand was a hollow brass rod, of applicable bore size with several outward-radiating holes in the end, next to where you attached a standard bore brush. My first impression was, what the heck has “RonCo” come up with now? But after some thought about what it does, my opinion was that there was no way hot, steamy water and a little psi is going to hurt my barrel. For the record, I still stand by that statement. It might affect some bedding compounds, as it does get to dang hot to handle, (hot enough to generate steam), but I wasn’t worried about my bedding because I use Devcon Plastic Steel.

 
Well, as Bud explained, it was not the “one-stop, cure all” for cleaning barrels; but it sure made for some quick work of loosening the crud in your barrel. And, after a few comments on how Charles’s barrel had now been annealed and his bedding melted, Bud asked me if I wanted it done. I said “sure”, I had just finished cleaning and oiling my barrel, but was game to play with the new toy. Well, I thought I had it clean. After a half a dozen or more passes, the water coming out of the muzzle finally changed from gray to clear. Bud handed me his Hawkeye Borescope and I took a look at the leade - throat area - “Wow”, sparkly and shiny clean! My impression of this neat gadget was that hey, it’s a great time saver and the barrel sure got squeaky clean. But I am not signing up to get one just yet, only because I still have a spotting scope and a borescope to get and couple of more rifles to build before I start spending money on dedicated pressure washer for my barrels. But if I hit the lottery, I’m in!
 
Time to crash and get ready for tomorrow’s team matches, but I come to find out my team bailed on me; taking the day off to recuperate. We had been dealing with wet and dampness off and on for the previous 2 days, I couldn’t blame them. I ran down the stat house and penciled my name on the board for team member wannabes. I came here to shoot and am going try to get in as much shooting as I can. Time for bed! “Mike, remind me to bring an air rifle to shoot out offending lights in the campground next time.” “Sure Rod, shut up and go to bed.”
 
Thursday, September 29th
Man, this getting up at 0545 to go shooting is getting old. Wait a minute, it’s raining. Hmm, maybe I should take a down day instead of shooting in the rain. Two minutes later I was running down to the stat house to cross my name off the team wannabe list and crawled back into bed, with a smile. I think my smile scared Mike, but I was too tired to explain.
 
Woke up a couple of hours later, refreshed, enjoyed fresh hot coffee and some oatmeal raisin cookies. Ahh, oatmeal raisin cookies from my daughter: breakfast of champions. I threw on my rain gear and wandered on down to the stat house. There were a fair amount of disgruntled shooters down there.

 
Mother Nature was not cooperating, nor could she make up here mind. To make a long story short, the team matches did not look like fun and from the scowls and howls from the participants, it wasn’t. But hey, that’s shooting, right? What’s for supper? Oh yeah, Steak!!!
 
Friday, September 30th
Last day of shooting and at 1000 yards again, Schwing! I am really digging this 1000 yard stuff. Up early, gassed up with coffee, a foo-foo diet shake from the wife and cookies in my pocket. I am off to the stat house for squadding. It’s going to be a decent weather day, but once I looked at the wind flags down range from the firing line, I said its going to be a very interesting day, that’s for sure.
 
Backing up a bit, earlier in the week, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Ricky Hunt. Thanks to Charles, he introduced me to Ricky. Prior to meeting him, the only thing I knew about Ricky was that he was a wind coach and conducted “clinics” around the Midwest on the subject matter; of course clinics I couldn’t attend at the time. But knowing nothing more than the positive accolades I had heard from such accomplished shooters as Russ Theurer and Charles Clark, this guy was somebody I wanted to meet and hopefully learn something.
 
I know I said earlier that my goal was to place in the middle of the pack; well, my primary goal (besides having fun and meeting folk) was to learn something about reading the wind and effectively shooting in it. Here was my chance to meet someone who likes to teach such arcane phenomena. My impression of Ricky, he is a top-shelf professional with a great sense of humor. I had a great discussion with him and it appears I did not offend him. So there is hope for me to learn something from this guy. I look forwards to attending one of his upcoming clinics and even “pre-volunteered” to be the guinea pig. Adam Shilda, told me that he attended one of Rickys clinics and was the guinea pig - and he was very glad he did. I wanna be a guinea pig too…
 
Alright, back to the match, the last match of the week. I drew first relay and middle of the field for a firing point. I was stoked because I finally had a chance to shoot in the desired first relay in the morning (conditions, conditions). But, what the heck are the flags doing? Two are pointed straight East, three are flopping around in all directions and three more are in the general westerly directions. “Oh well Rod, pick a condition and go for it, you only learn by doing.”
 
I get my gear to the line, set up, start to relax, await commands and look down range. Wait a minute, there is no mirage to speak of, the fog has lifted. “Can you believe I got flipping cannon smoke hanging the air?” After the morning flag raising and canon firing, the resultant smoke just decided to hang right on the ground in the low spots. actually making it difficult to clearly see the target frames with your eyes. My initial reaction was, “I now have the most unique excuse for an errant shot.” I just took it as a good omen and prepared to shoot.
 
Well, the wonderful Lodi vertical was in great form. I couldn’t figure a dang thing out and kept chasing my spotter. I’m pretty sure I shot a 143 for the relay, not great, but not bad for me. Bill Gravatt was scoring for me and said, “Good Shooting, Rod, that was a good score from what I saw others doing”. Cool, my confidence restored and a compliment from Bill, it was going to be a good day! But, like a whole bunch of others, I went on to chase the spotter the rest of the day. However, the day was not over.
 
The last relay was called to the line and this awesome experience was almost over, but not without a little interesting, I should say great, shooting. The command was given to load and to fire when your target appears. You have 22 minutes to complete the match. Well, after 4 minutes of firing, 90% of the relay had completed their shooting; two competitors had not yet fired. After 7 minutes, only the two were left and they had not yet fired. It was down to Jim See and Charles Clark. Two very knowledgeable and competent shooters and they are just kicking back, watching the clouds, the flags, the light, just looking around with no outward appearance of being in any hurry. I am thinking: “Cool, these guys are onto something here and if I pay attention, I may just learn something of value.”

 
The whispers are going: “Why aren’t they shooting? What’s going on?” Once again using my highly developed investigative skills, I determined that Jim and Charles were just waiting for this cloud to pass; it was a big and dark one and it significantly affected the conditions. Oh yeah, the ambient air density is affected due to air temp changes, due to the ambient lighting change and the resultant change is significant enough to change the point of impact at a 1000 yards. Ahh pshaw, most folk would say. Well, I am now a believer. These two shooters already knew that, and were just waiting for the cloud to pass. Cool, one more thing learned and another factor to confuse me with. And of course, they finished with 4 or 5 minutes to spare and I think they only dropped 2 maybe 3 points for the string. Good Shooting guys, but an awesome display of observation and discipline.
 
I dropped 27 points for the day, not bad for my second time at “real” 1000 yard shooting. Can I do better? I sure intend to. Could I have done worse? Heck yeah. But it was fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. All that is now left is the award banquet, a non factor for me, but there is to be plenty of food, count me in.
 
Overall, I had a blast and learned a lot. But what made this match so fun and special to me was the people. I got to hang out with my great friend Bob Pastor and made another great friendship with Mike Warner just by showing up at Bob’s camper and not getting kicked out.
 
It was very satisfying to get to meet a lot of the “Who’s Who” in the shooting world and some took the time to just chat with me. Folks like Bill Gravatt, Charles Ballard, Charles F. Clark, Ricky Hunt, Dean Morris, Monte Milanuk, Ken and Earl Liebetrau, and many more. These folks were there to do the same thing I was, to shoot and enjoy themselves. It was simply cool to chat with these guys (glad I didn’t ask for autographs though, that may have scared a few away). I got to meet and establish a friendship with some great International shooters that came to participate, like Bruce Condie, Terry Perkins of Canada and Alan Canavan of the UK.
 
To our hosts at the Winneaquah Gun Club, the members at Lodi, the Liebetrau clan (especially Karin and Mark) and our sponsors Brux Barrels, Criterion Barrels, Center Shot Rifles, Savage Arms, I thank you for a great experience. But to the rest of the attendees, thanks for making my first outing at such a large National event special!
 
Rod Vigstol



History: Palma Match Results 1876 - 2011

THE PALMA MATCH
by Hap Rocketto


TEAM RESULTS

Year - Venue - Victor - Remarks

1876 - Creedmoor, New York, USA - United States - Inaugural Palma

1877 - Creedmoor, New York, USA - United States - Last Palma at Creedmoor and end of The Age of Blackpowder

1878 - Creedmoor, New York, USA - United States (footnote 1) - Unofficial Palma

1901 - Sea Girt, New Jersey, USA - Canada - Only Palma at Sea Girt and first of The Early Epoch

1902 - Rockcliffe Range, Ottawa, Canada - Great Britain - 1st Palma in Canada

1903 - Bisley Camp, England - Great Britain, United States (footnote 2), 1st Palma in Great Britain

1907 - Rockcliffe Range, Ottawa, Canada - United States

1912 - Rockcliffe Range, Ottawa, Canada - United States - Last Palma at Rockcliffe

1913 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States - 1st Palma at Camp Perry

1924 - Connaught Range, Ottawa, Canada - Canada - 1st Palma at Connaught

1925 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States - Unofficial Palma

1928 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States - Unofficial Palma and end of The Early Epoch

1966 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States - Preliminary Palma and the beginning of the Modern Era

1967 - Connaught Range, Ottawa, Canada - Canada

1968 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States

1969 - Connaught Range, Ottawa, Canada - United States

1970 - Bisley Camp, England - Great Britain

1971 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States - NRA of America Centennial

1972 - Connaught Range, Ottawa, Canada - Canada

1973 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States - Last Palma to use service rifle

1974 - Bloemfontein, South Africa - South Africa - 1st Palma in South Africa

1976 - Camp Perry, Ohio, USA - United States  - Centennial Palma, US Bicentennial, Last Palma at Camp Perry

1979 - Seddon Range, Trentham, New Zealand - Australia - 1st Palma in New Zealand

1982 - Connaught Range, Ottawa, Canada - Canada

1985 - Bisley Camp, England - United States - NRA of Great Britain 125th Anniversary

1988 - Anzac Range, Sydney, Australia - Australia - 1st Palma in Australia, Australia's Bicentennial

1992 - Whittington Center, New Mexico, USA - Great Britain - 1st Palma at Whittington Center

1995 - Seddon Range, Trentham, New Zealand - Great Britain

1999 - Bloemfontein, South Africa - South Africa

2003 - Bisley Camp, England - Great Britain

2007 - Connaught Range, Ottawa, Canada - Great Britain

2011 - Belmont Shooting Complex, Brisbane, Australia - Great Britain


1. The United States was the sole competitor as no nation accepted an invitation that year.

2. The United States Team used rifles that did not meet service rifle specifications and returned the trophy to Great Britain. The NRAGB did not reverse the win but simply held the trophy until the next match.



THE HENRY FULTON TROPHY

The Henry Fulton Trophy was placed into competition in 1988 by Arthur C. Jackson in honor, and memory, of Major Henry Fulton. Fulton was a notable shooter in the United States at the time of the first Palma Match. He was the captain of the first United States Palma Team. The award is presented to the highest scoring individual, regardless of country, in the Palma Team Match.

Year - Winner - Team - Score

1988 Stan Galinski, Australia - 222-19V

1992 T. Antony Ringer, Great Britain - 449-26X

1995 T. Antony Ringer, Great Britain - 879-44X

1999 W.A. Botha South, Africa - 892-39X

2003 A.J. Luckman, Great Britain - 893-50X

2007 Mrs. G.D. Webb-Enslin, Australia - 896-53X

2011 Nigel Ball, Great Britain - 446-44V



THE PALMA MATCH RECORDS

Match records for the Palma are difficult to determine because team sizes and targets have changed over the years. However, it may be said that in 1995, with the standardization of the target, the team size, and the course of fire the era of modern Palma records began


Team Record-2007 Great Britain 14,200-766X

Individual Record (90 Shots NRAUS LR Target)-Mrs. G.D. Webb-Enslin of Australia -896-53X

Individual Record (45 Shots NRAUS LR Target)-T. Antony Ringer of Great Britain 449-26X




PALMA VICTORIES

United States-14 (does not include 1878 and 1903)

Great Britain-6

Canada-5

Australia-2

South Africa-2



TEAMS WHICH HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE PALMA

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • The Channel Islands
  • Cuba
  • Continental Palma Team
  • France
  • Germany
  • Great Britain
  • Ireland,
  • Jersey
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Namibia
  • Natal
  • New Zealand
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Peru
  • Rhodesia
  • Scotland
  • South Africa
  • Sweden
  • United States
  • West Indies
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

History: A History of the Palma Match (2011)

We have previously published Hap Rocketto's excellent A History of the Palma Match. However, as the teams gather in Australia, we believe it is appropriate to bring it back for newer readers, and Hap has graciously updated it from the last version that we published. It's an article worth readong more than once. - GAS -

A History of the Palma Match
By Hap Rocketto


For any shooter who has lain, swaddled and sweating, in a leather shooting coat on a hot August afternoon at Camp Perry while frantically searching through the mirage for a target 1,000 yards away, the irony of the site's present use is not lost. Today the hulking red brick buildings that loom over Long Islands' Union Turnpike, about 15 miles east of New York City's Central Park, house one of the Empire State's largest mental hospitals: Creedmoor.

The Centennial
On September 13-14, 1876 Creedmoor, a long distance shooting range on Long Island, was the venue for "The Great Centennial Rifle Match". As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the independence of the United States, the fledgling National Rifle Association of America hosted eight man teams from Australia, Canada, Scotland, and Ireland for the first meeting of what would become the longest continuously running international rifle match in history. The National Rifle Association of Great Britain had been slow to acknowledge the invitation. Realizing, too late, that all other invited national associations from the British Empire had entered teams individually, and it was now impossible to field a British Team, the English declined.

They came to contest for honor and a trophy modeled after a Roman legion's standard. The trophy was a custom product of Tiffany's of New York. The famed jeweler crafted a unique award built around an ornately adorned steel shaft a full 7 ½ feet tall. At the top was perched a spread eagle, made of copper and holding a silver laurel wreath. The noble bird sat upon a panel bearing the word PALMA instead of the ancient Roman Legion's SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus- the Senate and People of Rome). Latin scholars, referring to the writings of the Roman orator, statesman, and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, believe the word implies victory or honor or glory. The Romans often used the palm interchangeably with the laurel wreath as a symbol of victory. A second panel bore the words, "In the name of the United States of America to the riflemen of the world." The rest of the trophy is a baroque collation of scrollwork, fasces, friezes, and fringes. A great chain, holding discs to be engraved with the winner's names, was draped from both upper corners. It did not take long for both the trophy and the match to be referred to as The Palma.

The competitors took the line to shoot 45 record shots apiece. Each man would discharge 15 shots at each of the three yard lines: 800-900-and 1,000. There were no lighters. The target was a six by ten foot frame of canvas that had a 36 inch black five ring, or bull's eye, and a 54 inch four ring printed upon it. The remainder of the inner six by six foot section, outside of the rings, was worth three points. A two foot wide panel ran down each side and was valued at two points. In the 1920s, a 20 inch V ring was added to the center of the five ring in order to break ties. This target would remain virtually unchanged until the introduction of the decimal target at the Centennial Palma in 1976.

Early Equipment and Technique
Prior to this 1876, event targets were constructed of iron plates bolted together. Weighing as much as 1,000 pounds the targets were embedded in, or set upon the ground. The three foot square black painted bull's eye was valued at four points. They were tended by target boys who huddled in protective culverts or bullet proof huts adjacent to each target. A hit produced a clanging sound that was readily audible on the firing line! Each shot's value was indicated by a disc fitted onto the end of a long pole. A brush was affixed to the back of the scoring disc and the target boy used it to dab paint over the bullet smear on the marred target face. It would have taken a pit crew of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Hulk Hogan to manhandle one of those iron monsters, if they could be installed on a modem style counter balanced sash frames.

The Palma Matches quickly became the preeminent long range international shooting event. However, it would be a misnomer to refer to these early events as prone matches as many of the shooters fired from the popular back position. Lying supine, with their feet pointing towards the target, the shooters would rest the rifles upon their legs or feet and blast away. The long barrelled rifles and the tall vernier sights of the time favored this seemingly ungainly, but strong, position making it a less formidable task to shoot than it looks. The 32 to 34 inch long barrels and sights mounted close to the butt gave shooters an incredibly long sight radius, the advantage of which has recently been rediscovered by modern prone shooters who use the "bloop tube" barrel extension to increase sight radius while minimizing weight.

The American team fired breech loading cartridge rifles made by Sharps and Remington while those teams from the British Empire preferred Rigby or Mefford muzzle loaders. The American rifles were chambered in 44 caliber with 95 to 105 grains of black powder pushing a massive paper patched 520 grain lead bullet. The teams fired twice across the 45 shot course in two days and when the billows of black powder smoke had cleared the home team had won the first Palma Match.

In 1877 Palma Match was again fired at Creedmoor but on this occasion, in contrast to the larger field of the previous year, it was the United States against Britain. A single team comprising the finest riflemen from England, Ireland, and Scotland faced off against the hosts. After two days of intense competition the final results were a resounding victory for the United States, 3,334 to 3,242. L.C. Bruce, of the United States team, fired the record individual score of 219 x 225 on the second day using a .45-100 cartridge with a 550 grain paper patched bullet.

An 1878 invitation from the sponsors to compete went unanswered. The United States fired the match without competition and the Palma Match soon faded away until after the turn of the century. Thus ended the brief era of international long range black powder rifle competition.

Early Epoch
In 1901 the Palma competition resumed at a new site, Sea Girt, New Jersey. A new venue had to be found after the closing of the Creedmoor facility in 1892. Canada accepted the invitation and beat the United States 1,522 to 1,492. The American team used the .3040 Krag-Jorgensen rifle bolt action rifle which loaded five rounds of 30 caliber ammunition through a magazine gate located on the right side of the action. The 220 grain bullet was jacketed with cupro-nickle and had a muzzle velocity of about 2,000 feet per second. It was also equipped with a sling that could be used to steady the rifle during firing. The Canadians fired the 303 caliber Lee Enfield in their successful bid to win. These were the first modem rifles using smokeless powder and jacketed bullets employed in the Palma and the first of the many service rifles that would be used in the years to come.

The following year, 1902, the United States team journeyed to the ranges at Rockcliffe, Canada located outside of Ottawa, in an attempt to regain the trophy. The eight man team again used the Krag rifle almost exclusively. Two of the shooters fired experimental 30 caliber rifles that spat out a 220 grain bullet at 2,300 feet per second. The experimental rifles were based upon the 1898 Mauser design and featured a redesigned firing pin and a magazine cutoff, as well as other changes, and was manufactured at the Springfield Armory. They were the prototypes of what would become the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903 that would serve the nation so well for nearly a half a century. Great rifles or not, the United States did not finish in first place. The team from Great Britain won the match, and according to match rules, were to host the next match at Bisley Camp.

The National Rifle Association of Great Britain's national ranges were relocated to Bisley when Wimbledon, like Creedmoor, closed in the early 1890s. Today, Wimbledon Common includes the world famous tennis courts and golf facilities. Bisley, in the words of the computer generation, is not "user friendly". Shooters who have competed there and at Camp Perry make a simple comparison; a bad day at Perry is a good day at Bisley. Whereas Viale Range at Perry is flat, hot, and humid; Stickledown, the high power range at Bisley is on a terraced hillside, cool, and most often damp. United States teams, be they smallbore or highpower shooters, have a healthy respect for the Bisley ranges.

The 1903 match saw a field of seven teams square off for the trophy. The competing teams had agreed that each country would use a service rifle and ammunition. This policy would continue unbroken through 1967. In 1973 the use of the service rifle of the host country would briefly surface when the United States provided M14 rifles. In 1903 the United States team again used the Krag-Jorgensen but with a new twist. The rifles were barreled by legendary persnickety gunsmith Harry Pope and used a rifling twist and bore configuration that was not the same as the issue rifle. As a result, although the United States bested the Mother Country by a 15 point margin, the match victory was under a shadow because the United States used rifles that did not meet service rifle specifications. Not wishing to damage the reputation of the match the United States returned the Palma Trophy to Great Britain. The British refused to claim a victory, and simply held it until the next Palma.


Four years later, in the fall of 1907, four teams met at Rockcliffe, Canada to see who would emerge as the world's long range champion. The United States team (below), with its .30-40 Krag-Jorgensen rifles now conforming to standards, ran away with the match, a full 41 points ahead of the second place Canadians.



My apologies for the crooked picture, but that is all I have and better than not seeing it at all. - GAS -

The seventh Palma Trophy match was again held at Rockcliffe in 1912. The United States team came outfitted with Springfield '03s and they again finished ahead of the hosts, but this time it was a mere eight point difference, 1,720 to 1,712.

The 1913 Palma was the first of many shot at Camp Perry. Five teams met on the shores of Lake Erie and the United States team, using their '03s with precision, finished 30 points ahead of the nearest competitor. Unexpectedly the silver medal team, armed with 7.65 Mausers, was from Argentina! After this match the Palma Match suffered a hiatus while the various nations that had competed against each other in friendly competition now allied themselves to racer over their rifle sights at the Kaiser's forces and employed their marksmanship skills with more lethal intent.

Between the Wars
As the physical, emotional, and financial carnage of The Great War began to fade into memory the Palma reemerged again. In 1924 the Canadians hosted the United States at the new home of the Dominion of Canada National Rifle Association, Connaught Range, near Ottawa. Both teams shot the 303 caliber cartridge out of issue Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles. A year later three teams met at Camp Perry and all fired the Springfield '03. It was the United States' rifle, range and victory. In 1928, with both teams using the .30-06 Springfield rifle, Cuba would be matched against the United States and lose to the North Americans by 31 points.

There is some controversy concerning the matches fired in 1924 and 1925. While they were international matches fired under Palma conditions were they The Palma Matches? There are arguments for both sides of the debate. The match regulations had been continuously changed, amended, adjusted, and tweaked by the various national association that made up the governing board so that almost each match finds itself running under altered conditions from the last. However, both the National Rifle Association of America and The Dominion of Canada Rifle Association have agreed that these matches are unofficial Palma Matches.

Lost Trophy
There is some additional mystery surrounding these matches as they were the last at which the original Palma Trophy was seen. The massive trophy, as tall as the center on a National Basketball Association team, was known to be hanging outside of the office of the Secretary of War during the 1930s. At this point in history it vanishes as completely as gun smoke on a windy day.

Extensive searches conducted by the National Rifle Association, in cooperation with the old War Department, its successor agency, the Department of Defense, and the Smithsonian Institution, have failed to turn up any clue as to its location or even its existence. There is some speculation, put forth by fans of the Indiana Jones movie trilogy, that it was crated up and lies stored, and uninventoried, next to the Ark Of The Covenant in a huge and dusty secret government warehouse in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, perhaps on the fringes of the presidential retreat at Camp David. Considering that the time frame of the movie and the last known date of the location of the trophy coincide, this romantic theory is as plausible as any. The trophy's disappearance closed the early epoch of the Palma Match.

Modern Era
The mysterious disappearance of the trophy may have been a wet blanket on the competition as no matches were held from 1928 until 1966. However, it is more likely that the world wide Great Depression and World War II placed Palma competition on the back burner. In 1966 the National Rifle Association of America and the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association revived the match. Agreeing that a match was needed to establish procedures they planned a "preliminary" Palma, as opposed to an official or unofficial Palma. Meeting at Camp Perry, with both teams firing the M14 rifle, the United States emerged victorious. This resurgence marked the start of the "modern Era" of Palma competition.

For the next eight years, 1967 through 1974, there would be a Palma fired each year. At these matches the host team provided both rifles and ammunition for the matches. The idea was to make conditions as even as possible for all comers. In reality it probably gave the home team an additional advantage. Match results from this time frame show the home team winning all but one match.

The United States hosted four of these eight matches. In 1973 the shooters were provided with M14s and 7.62mm National Match M118 ammunition. In 1968, 1971, and 1976 the National Rifle Association commissioned Winchester Arms Company to create special 308 caliber Model 70s. The 1968 rifle was marked "PALMA TROPHY MATCH". Less than 100 of these rifles were built and few exist in the original condition. In the late 60s good bolt actions were hard to come by and many of the Palma rifles that stayed in the United States were rebarrelled and restocked as "across the course" guns. The 125 rifles manufactured for the 1971 match were marked "NRA Centennial 1871-1971" on the barrel to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Rifle Association of America.

South Africa 1974
In 1974, Palma competition left the familiar shores of North America and England for the first time. Hosted by the South Africans the Palma shooters converged on Bloemfontein where they fired the Musgrave rifle. The South Africans are avid long range shooters and, in this first match fired south of the Equator, took full advantage of range and rifle and won the 18th Palma.

Camp Perry 1976
In 1976 the Palma returned to the United States for the observance of it's centennial. For this anniversary match, Winchester built 140 special Model 70 Ultra Match rifles in their custom shop. Each rifle was stamped "PALMA MATCH 1876-1976" on the right side of the barrel. They were engraved to recognize the Palma Centennial and special ammunition was loaded and boxed for the event.

Winchester-Western produced 25,000 rounds of specially boxed and headstamped .308 ammunition. The cartridge had a nickel plated brass case and its head-stamp read "PALMA 76" on the top half circle and ".308 WIN" on the lower half circle. The two notations were separated by a pair of upper case Ws, representing Winchester-Western. The case was topped with a 190 grain hollow point boat tail match grade bullet. When fired the bullet was clocked at 2,550 feet per second. The ammunition was packed 20 each in a specially commissioned red, white, and blue box that bear a gold circle enclosing a line drawing of the trophy. The ammunition, as well as all three rifles from 1968, 1971, and 1976, have become highly prized collector's items.

Like the two prior Winchester rifles, the 1976 edition was equipped with ¼ minute Redfield International Match receiver sight and a Redfield Big Bore front aperture sight. For some unexplained reason the 1976 rifle's front sight was mounted on a two step smallbore block. Even after moving the sight to the lower step shooters found themselves having to crank on almost 60 minutes of elevation, which is the limit of adjustment. The rear sight was so high that it was unstable and this provoked dark muttering from all involved. The ever present armorer's vans soon were doing a land office business as United States shooters lined up to have the military gun plumbers and the lone Redfield representative attempt to make things right. Not having access to the technical support available to the United States the other teams took things into their own hands and ended up looping rubber bands around the sights and the stock on either side of the trigger guard. To this day shooters from other countries are bothered by this turn of events. Veterans of the British 1976 Palma Team wear a rubber band around their Palma Team ties in remembrance.

Other than the sight issue, the visitors were very impressed with both the rifle and the ammunition. The shooters were issued Lake City 7.62mm M118 National Match ammunition to get rough zeros and then switched to the issue Palma Match ammunition to fine tune sight settings. They thought the ammunition quite superior to what was available to them at home.

Even though faced with strict customs, tax, and firearm laws in their native lands many of the Commonwealth shooters were determined to return home with one of the classic American firearms. These rifles would be rebarrelled, in many cases, to handle the local 7.62mm ammunition.

However, some of these rifles would stay in the United States. Each Palma shooter was entitled to purchase the rifle they used at cost. Some foreign competitors purchased their rifles and sold them to waiting collectors and shooters. The going rate was about $400, which represented a fair price.

New Zealand 1979
At the conclusion of the 1976 event the National Rifle Association of America and the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, who controlled the conduct of the match at that time, decided that the Palma would be fired every three years and the site would alternate between the United States and Canada. However, should a national association ask to host the Palma, and the National Rifle Association of America and the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association agree, then the normal rotation is suspended to honor the request. Three years later, in 1979, New Zealand hosted the match at the ranges at Trentham about 20 miles north of the capital city of Wellington on the North Island. The hosts provided the competitors with Omark Sportco M44C rifles and the Australians used them effectively, beating all comers in the 20th Palma.

It is worth noting that no commercial 7.62mm ammunition is manufactured in New Zealand. As an indication of the deep and sincere personal feelings many have for the Palma, a New Zealand family volunteered to handload all ammunition required for the match, using Australian components.

The matches held in the southern hemisphere are always a bit unsettling to the shooters from the opposite end of the globe. The seasons are reversed and the hardholders from the north have usually not had the time they might wish to train and work up ammunition and equipment for this major event. Of course, the same is true for those down under when the match is shot in Europe or North America.

Canada 1982
Canada's Connaught ranges were the venue for the 21st Palma in 1982. Because there were no commercial match rifles manufactured in Canada in the quantities required for the match the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association purchased Omark Sportco M44D rifles from Australia for this, the last match requiring all teams to shoot the same rifle. These rifles were marked "DCRA Centennial 1982 Palma Match" in celebration of the event, However, they were of such poor quality, the team from Great Britain finished the match with only six of the 20 issued rifles usable.

The Canadians won the match with a 27 point margin over the second place Australians and 44 points over the third place New Zealand Team. After this Canadian home turf win the Palma Council, which replaced the National Rifle Association of America and the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association as the controlling body of the Palma Match, met to discuss some changes in the rules. The first of which, as a reflection of the Sportco disaster, was that host countries would no longer provide rifles but rather make them the responsibility of the firer.

Although the course of fire had not changed since 1876 the general rules underwent many changes since the inception of the match. Team size has varied from eight to 20 shooters, equipment regulations fluctuated from bring what ever you have to having the hosts provide the rifles and ammo, the use of sighting shots changed, and even the selection process for the match site varied over the course of match history.

Bisley 1985
Often the Palma is a focal point at major national celebrations. It started with the inaugural match during the celebration of the United States Centennial in 1876. In 1971 the National Rifle Association of America hosted the Palma as part of its 100th anniversary observance. Five years later, in 1976, both the Bicentennial of the United States and the centennial of the Palma fell at the same time. The 125th birthday party for the National Rifle Association of Great Britain was observed at Bisley in 1985 and the Palma was present when the Australians celebrated their 200th anniversary in 1988 in Sydney.

In 1985 the match rules required that each shooter be responsible for providing a rifle meeting the requirement of the target rifle as laid down by the host country. The rules of the National Rifle Association of Great Britain were generous and allowed for a bolt action rifle weighing as much as 12 pounds with a trigger pull slightly over three pounds. The rifle had to be chambered for the 7.62mm NATO round, our .308 Winchester cartridge. The match officials control this by allowing only ammunition issued on the line to be used in matches. The standard British service rifle ammunition at that time was L2A2 Military Ball. It is a cartridge that is similar to the United States issue M80 Ball and, like its American counterpart, not designed for target or long range use. All shooters are issued ammunition from the same lot to insure that conditions are as uniform as possible.

Long range shooting styles differ. In the United States the standard practice is to assign a single shooter to a firing point where they fire at a speed consistent with the shooter's comfort, range conditions, and the pit service. The Commonwealth nations, on the other hand, put either two or three shooters on a target and they fire in rotation and score for one another. Because there is such a relatively long time between shots shooters become very adept, out of necessity, at keeping track of conditions and record keeping. When translated to team shooting the quick firing Americans usually have an advantage. This, coupled with the change of rifle rules, helped the United States win the 22nd Palma held at Bisley, in 1985, in honor of the 125th Anniversary of the founding of the National Rifle Association of Great Britain.

Australia 1988
The first Palma match fired in Australia, in 1988, was a triumph for the home team and something close to a disaster for the United States. Finishing fourth was not a familiar location for United States Palma teams. The Anzac Rifle Range can not support a 900 meter (984 yard) firing line. As a result there was a deviation in the distance of the three stages shot. One stage was shot a 700 meters (765 yards) and two at 800 meters (874 yards). With occasional wind gusts strong enough to require 24 minutes of adjustment at 800 meters, and three rifles that had but 24 ½ minutes windage available, United States shooters would have to hold on a target upwind of the one assigned to them in order to strike the correct bull's-eye at 900 meters. While this circumstance is not unheard of, it is a situation that can easily turn into a can of worms.

During the first stage the Australians moved to the front and never looked back. They won each yard line and then the match handily. Great Britain won the silver, while New Zealand took the bronze medal. Finishing fifth was a team from The Channel Islands and when one realizes that the largest of the four major islands is only about 25 kilometers across, it is amazing that they can find a place to shoot long range at all. Bringing up the rear was the team from Kenya.

New Trophies
Despite the disappointing finish for the Americans they were able to provide several bright moments during the match. While the mystery of the disappearance of the original Palma Trophy has never been solved, a search of the Tiffany archives in New York fumed up a few of the original drawings. Dr. Herb Aiken generously donated $40,000 to produce a two-thirds scale reproduction of the original. The original was paid for by public subscription and was valued at $1,500. Considering that the replica is two thirds the size of the original and cost almost thirty times as much is a remarkable note on the value of the American dollar.

The new trophy was created under the supervision of the late Creighton Audette. Audette stands as one of the giants in United States long range shooting. The talented Vermont artificer was a shooting Renaissance Man: capable of building a rifle, working up a load, testing both, shooting them to win, and then telling the tale for the enjoyment of all. The new trophy sits upon a massive wooden block covered with brass plaques engraved with the names of the winning teams. From the bottom of the base to the top of the eagle it stands some six feet tall. It serves to inspire all who participate in what has become the World Championship of Long Range Shooting.

Henry Fulton Trophy
Arthur C. Jackson, a veteran of a half century of shooting that encompasses the Olympics Pan American games and three Palma Teams, presented the "Henry Fulton Trophy". This trophy named in memory, and honor, of the high individual scorer at the first international match fired across the Palma course between the United States and Ireland at Creedmoor in 1874 is presented to that shooter regardless of which country, who replicates Major Fulton's feat. Fulton was also captain of the United States team in the first Palma in 1876.

Raton 1992
The United States would not just sit around licking its wounds. The 1992 Palma Match would be contested in the United States. The National Rifle Association's 33,000 acre Whittington Center is the most recent of four recent sites in the United States that have hosted the Palma. It may possibly become the permanent home of the match in the United States. The new ranges were in the best of shape, the Sturm Ruger Arms Company manufactured special rifles for the home team, and team officials were working hard to ensure that the home team would win the maiden match on the home court. Fifteen nations would participate in this match with the nations from Africa and Europe forming composite teams.

While the traditional Palma format would be followed in the team event a dozen fired individual matches and aggregates comprising the World Long Range Individual Rifle Championship, would be added to the program. Shooting two of the Rugers and an assortment of Winchester Model 70s and Remington 700s and 40Xs the United States got off to a fine start in the individual matches. However, when the team match began the British took firm control. Perhaps smarting from the loss on home turf in 1985, they were determined to win. After the first stage it was obvious that the British were the team to beat. In the end, wielding rifles built around Paramount actions and Border barrels they won in a walk with a 59 point margin over the second place Canadians. New Zealand again found itself in third place. The United States ended up a disappointing fifth behind the Australians.

In part, the failure of the United States to do well was our different style of shooting and method of team selection. The other national teams fire a good deal more long range team matches together as a team than does the United States. Palma rules allow the coach to move sights, a practice forbidden until a change was published in the 1996 rule book, by National Rifle Association of America rules. As a result of permitting coaches this freedom there is little time lost in transmitting sight corrections, verbal confusion is cut to a minimum, and the shooter can get off a shot within seconds of a sight change, cutting down on the effect of rapidly changing wind conditions.

Moreover, here is no rapid fire competition in high power shooting outside of the United States, except for the service rifle, so the distraction of learning two styles of shooting does not exist for the majority of competitors. As a matter of fact, Eric Pintard, who won the bronze in the individual phase of the 1995 World Long Range Championships, has simply given up shooting the National Match Course. Beginning in 1992, his training and resources were devoted solely to long range prone shooting. He finished the best of all United States shooters in the individual events and nothing supports an argument as well as success.

The teams from the Commonwealth countries, Britain in particular, spend considerable time building a team. The United States team is selected, as required, on a match by match basis. Despite the talented shooters and coaches, we are lacking a strong and cohesive team that has worked together for an extended period of time. Learning from the previous two Palmas the United States team officials were determined not to make the same errors and started immediately to plan for the next Palma to be fired in the austral summer of 1995 in New Zealand.

New Zealand 1995
January 1995 may have been cold and blustery in the United States but it was just as blustery at the 25th Palma Match in New Zealand. Each day, for two days, the teams went over the 45 shot Palma course. During the first two stages the United States team fired quickly and accurately amassing a good lead that they held on to through the end of the first day. The second place team from Great Britain was a force not to be ignored. They were experienced and, just as sailors vying for the America's Cup, they had spent considerable time in New Zealand charting the winds and building a data base during the previous two years.

On the second day the British gained eight points on the first stage. The British had done their homework and inexorability gained points throughout the 900 and 1,000 yard stages. In the end it was the experience working as a team, long term preparation, and hardholding that lead the British to their second consecutive Palma victory by a staggering 99 point margin! The United States' hard work over the last several years paid off. They slugged their way back onto the awards stand, after two previous disappointing showings, to earn the team silver. Host New Zealand again medaled, winning the bronze medal for the third Palma in a row.

Legends
The heart and soul of United States Palma shooting lies in a shooter who is a legend among United States long range shooters. The man who is deserving of the title "Mr. Palma" is Middleton Tompkins of Prescott, Arizona. Mid has been associated with Palma Team shooting for three decades. Although he has won the National Rifle Association's High Power National Championship six times, his real passion is for long range shooting. So much so that the National Rifle Association's Long Range Highpower Rifle Champion is awarded the Tompkins Trophy, which he endowed.  In thirty years he has served in every capacity possible on 15 Palma Teams! He has been the driving force behind the developing long range shooting facilities and in restructuring the United States Palma Team's philosophy concerning training, coaching, and equipment.

The Palma tradition is strong in the United States. For some 20 years there has been an annual "Mini-Palma" fired between a team representing the New England states and one from the Canadian Maritime Provinces. It is not surprising that New England should be involved in this type of shooting and help maintain the long range spirit. A quick glance at the roster of Palma veterans reveal a high percentage of shooters from this region. The list includes, among others, Creighton Audette, Jim Gomo, Bob Reil, Albert and Peter Laberge, John Kamisarek, Mo Defina, Bill Brophy, Art Jackson, and Larry Racine. The long range shooters in the southwest have a similar tournament called the Rocky Mountain Palma Match. The likes of Middleton Tompkins, Bob Jensen, Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher, and David Tubb all gather at the Whittington Center to shoot individual and team matches.

It has been said that money is the mother's milk of any activity. To assist in fostering and supporting long range shooting, and Palma competition in particular, Dave Fiehtner and the late Bert Rollins formed Palma Promotions, Inc. Fiegtner is a holder of the Distinguished Rifleman's Badge earned while shooting for the U.S. Navy. Rollins, also holder of the Distinguished Rifleman's Badge, was a Palma alumnus. Palma Promotions, Inc. is a nonprofit amateur sports organization and may be contacted at P.O. Box 441, Mineral, Virginia 23117 or via http://www.palma.org/ .

South Africa 1999
Twenty five years after South Africa hosted the 1974 Palma and World Championships returned to the General de Wet Range in Bloemfontein on the 23rd and 24th of April, 1999. Named after the famous Boer military leader and politician who, serendipitously, is mentioned in Rudyard Kipling’s poem about the Royal Artillery fighting in South Africa at the turn of the 19th century, Ubique, the range greeted teams from Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada, Namibia, Kenya, the Channel Islands, Germany, Zimbabwe, a Continental Palma Team-a composite team made up of riflemen from Europe France, Holland, Belgium.

The host team and Great Britain were on close competition throughout the two day, six match event. However, South Africa made it clear that, while it was a most generous and gracious host, it was determined to win at home. It was quickly noted that 13 of the16 scores posted by the home team in the first 800 yard match were 150 x 150s and ten cleans were posted on the second 800 yard stage. With a solid base they were able to with stand the ups and downs of the longer ranges and a valiant, but unsuccessful, stern chase from Great Britain to catch them. The final results were South Africa in first with 14,081-599X, Great Britain second with a total score 14,073-598X. New Zealand was a distant third with a score of 14044-568X. The United States score of 13,958-588X was good for a disappointing fifth place.

Bisley 2003
Bisley was the venue for the Palma’s 27th iteration in 2003. The match turned out to be a battle between the two teams with the most victories in the series, host Great Britain and the United States, who lead the ten team field. The United States was still smarting from the pummeling it took in South Africa and worked hard for primacy. The two top teams were fairly well matched but the British took advantage of the home field, and a strong tradition of long range team firing, to keep the lead tantalizing close to the United States but always just out their grasp. The 14,121-646X posted by the victorious British was 65 points better than the second place United States. The winning difference amounted to about 2/3 of a point per shooter per match. Close, but not close enough. South Africa was in third place with a 14,013-563X. The team from the United States left home looking forward to the 2007 matches scheduled for the Connaught Range outside of Ottawa, Canada. The team was showing improvement, the leadership was gaining experience, and the trip to Canada would be a less exhausting trip.

Canada 2007
Loaded for bear the United States showed up in late August at the 28th Palma which was to be conducted on the first two days of September 2007. Expecting to be competitive they were rocked back after the first 800 yard stage when the reigning champions from Great Britain posted an astonishing perfect score of 2,400-189X, just 51 Xs short of absolute perfection. The South Africans lost just two points and the Australians twice that. It didn’t look that grim, as the United States was only seven points behind the leader but the British team had certainly put their stamp on the match. Over the next five stages the leader board hardly changed. Britain was in front and stayed there while the South Africans, Australians, and United States trying desperately to gain on them. It seems that there was little more than an occasional swapping of places from time to time among the challengers as the British juggernaut steamed straight on through to a second Palma victory on as many attempts.

In the end the hard holding British added to their strong of Palma victories with a score of 14,200-766X. Second place South Africa was able to close the gap but little had changed, after the first day they were second after the first stage and remained second after the sixth stage on the final with a team score of 14,175-709X.. Australia, 14,172-727X, and the United States, 14,115-724X, followed suit. It seemed as if the die cast in the first stage would be used to punch out the final standings for the top four positions. The chastened United States Palma Team retuned home and went through some serious introspection followed by a re-evaluation of men, material, methods, and money in hopes of returning to its former grandeur in the long range community. Only time will tell if the extensive re-tooling will work, but the team leadership is to be congratulated for its efforts to remake the Unites States Palma Team into a serious threat in the future.


Australia 2011
The disciples of the arcane discipline of long range shooting will gather again in Australia in October 2011 to see who can best execute a shot and read the wind.  For almost a century and a quarter hard-holding marksmen and sage coaches from almost two dozen countries A, Australia, to Z, Zimbabwe, have peered through haze and mirage in search of excellence.  Those who have been successful have carried off the trophy. However, all have been winners who, meeting on the field of friendly strife, learn, teach, and establish lasting friendships and strong bonds between nations.


A note on sources: The article, written in 1996 and updated in 2008 was extracted from discussion with Palma Team members, the author's experiences, and articles and information published by The National Rifle Association of America in NRA Trophies, American Rifleman, Shooting Sports USA, and Insights and Precision Shooting. Larry Moore's article, "The Palma Team Match" published in May-June 1986 Rifle magazine was the source of valuable information on both the rifles and ammunition used in the Palma. Arguably the authority on the Palma Match is The History And Records Of The Palma Match (The World Long Range Rifle Team Championships) by Colin C.C. Cheshire. If one is looking for greater detail than this simple historical review provides, you are directed to these sources.



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