Written by Sierra Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz
The 2013 version of the IBS 600 Yard National Match has come and gone. For some of us it was over almost before it started. The wind, oh that pesky St Louis wind did its best to derail a big field of excellent shooters over the course of two days, October 25 and 26.
I arrived at the range about noon of Friday with a brand new, unzeroed 6mm Dasher. My friend John Meyers from Indiana was waiting for me. He was already zeroed up and I gratefully accepted his offer to spot for me. He had me on the plate and centered in three shots, so that was that. We both knew that Saturday would be a completely different look as the weather showed a cold start, warming throughout the day with up to 25 MPH gusts. For once they got it right.
They posted the relays Friday about mid-afternoon and I got the first relay, bench number 8. Usually a good sign. Safety meeting at 7:30 Saturday morning and the match begins at 8 AM was the announcement. Shooters were piling in as I arranged my gear and got my cleaning station in order. The afternoon light was fading as I pulled up the hill headed back to town and a good dinner and early to bed.
Saturday morning dawned warmer than Friday and clear as a bell, but already there was wind. Not a good omen.
As I walked out of the motel that morning, I remember hoping the wind died down and the temperature warmed up. After a beautiful drive to the range it was time to get going. I didn’t notice the chill as I setup my bench but as I settled in two things dawned on me, first it was chilly and there was increasing degrees of air movement. As I caressed my new rifle I felt I was about to embark on a successful new adventure. I was abruptly interrupted by the crackly range commands prerecorded for our benefit. Ready on the right, ready on the left, ready on the firing line – commence fire and the match was on!
Even though this was a new day and new conditions they weren’t all the different from the day before so after 6 minutes and 5 or 6 shots the barrel was warmed and I was centered on the sighting gong ready to shoot a course record with my new rifle. As I observed the wind patterns it dawned on me that they weren’t very predictable. With 15 seconds of sight-in left I sent another round down range and it was close to center but left slightly. I corrected and sent another just before cease fire and it was centered. Now I was ready. I shot that target and cease fire. I took a couple of sighters for my second target that looked pretty good but the wind was picking up requiring a slight adjustment again just before cease fire. I took a center hold, trusting my sighters, and sent my final 5 shots for this relay down range. As I hurried to clear my bench for the next shooter I couldn’t help but agonize over what my first two targets would tell me. I found where my next two targets were to be shot and parked my cart then took my rifle to the cleaning table for some TLC. I chatted with Stephen and Tom a little, visited Paul and his son and killed enough time that my targets should be out but nope not yet. The new scorers were a little slower than last year. So I stood around in the parking lot and kicked rocks for a while and watched the wind blow the wind flags then chatted idly with friends when finally the targets were posted. A 2.5” and 3.0” for bench 18 and my Dasher had finally posted its first official targets.
The rest of the day didn’t go quite as smooth, not for me or anyone else for that matter. One top shooter posted a 1.5” group but no score precariously close to the edge of the target and he wasn’t the only one to do that. By the end of the match we all suffered a little “wind burn.” Little guns and big winds are a tough combinations.
So the 2013 version of the IBS 600 National Benchrest Matches are in the books. Congratulations to all the wind blown competitors and hopefully I’ll see you all next season.