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1st Annual Challenge - 1997
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Don Abrams
Captures 1st East/West
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On Thursday May 9, Don Abrams, David Beasley, Dave Higginbotham, and I drove to Kansas for the first annual East/West match. The contest was held at the BPCR Range outside Miller in the flint hills. The country side was beautiful with long, low rolling hills spotted with small lakes and cattle. We couldn’t help but visualize the range as it once was with buffalo as far as the eye could see. We tried to imagine what it would be like to shoot a buffalo at a thousand yards. Soon we learned that even though you could see the buffalo clearly, the wind was a big factor.

 

Friday morning dawned bright, clear, and windy. Ron Harris, the match director, and I might add one of the nicest gentlemen you would every want to know, was coordinating range preparations. We were soon setting and painting targets, and chasing cows off the range. It seems like herding cattle is a prerequisite for shooting black powder silhouette everywhere.

When everything was ready, we got down to the serious business of sighting in. Everyone was surprised at how much the gusty, shifting winds were affecting the bullets. Billy Mills arrives, and by the time Steve Garbe and Jim Gier of Montana Vintage Arms flew over, we all knew this was going to be a tough match.

Ron picked Steve and Jim up at the local airport and soon, Steve, with Jim as his spotter, was trying to site in. Even Steve, who is used to high, gusty winds in Montana, was looking a little concerned. Dave told Steve, "Steve, it’s probably the lube, that’s what I always blame my misses on." Does Dave know how to win friends and influence people?? Jim Gier was showing us a new sight card he has designed with some very interesting new front inserts. As the day ended and the sky turned to fiery pink and brilliant gold, we headed to town for dinner, all knowing that tomorrow was going to be a tough day.

Sure enough, day one dawned bright, clear, and windy. The chickens, pigs, and turkey were very dim. Rams were a little better. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the white targets began to stand out a little better, but the wind conditions did not improve as the day wore on. An example of the what it was like was when I was attempting to shoot chickens: I was leaning back into the wind, and just as I fired at chicken number 3, the wind suddenly lulled and I shot chicken number 2. By the end of the day, the scores reflected the difficulty the shooters had faced. Ron Snover of Pennsylvania was leading our own Don Abrams 28 to 27, and Steve Garbe was right behind them with a 26.

That night, shooters gathered at Carlos O’Kellies Mexican restaurant (go figure) for dinner and visiting. Tips and problems were shared, but the main topics for discussion were wind, sight picture, and wind. Oh! Did I mention wind? We are hoping for hurricane force winds down in Texas so we can practice for next years’ match. Seriously, when it come to BPCS shooters, whether they are from the East, West or around the world, they are all a great bunch of guys, and everyone enjoyed getting to know each other.

Stormy weather was forecast for noon the second day. The front that was forecast was visible all morning. Remember, there is no pollution in Kansas: therefore, you can see for miles. We held our breath as we set up for the first relay expecting the bottom to fall out at any moment. Then, the folks from Kansas told us not to worry, it would be hours before the rain would arrive. The strong front was sucking in ever changing southerly winds for about the first two relays. Clouds passing overhead were changing light conditions every few seconds and made it nearly impossible for spotters to call the shots. Then, as the third relay began, the winds shifted to a steady twenty miles per hour. It became totally overcast which improved visibility somewhat.

Dave was as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs by the time it was time for Don to shoot rams on his last relay. Ron Snover was out of it due to the luck of the draw on wind and sight conditions on his relays. Steve Garbe was the man to beat. He had finished already with a total of 51. Beasley and I were nervous, and praying for Don to to the best he could. Dave was watching the targets with one eye and the wind flags with the other. He would give a call and then quickly change it as the wind would shift from straight-on to easterly, then back. Each call and each shot was difficult, and nerve racking to watch. They managed to get four rams on the first bank. Cease fire was called, targets were reset, all the while the fouling crusted in the dry barrels. Shooters were called back to the line. Dave made the call, taking into consideration the crusty barrel. Don fired and the ram stood. Dave’s shoulders fell as he knew he had made a bad call for Don.

To his credit, Don didn’t let it bother him. He gave Dave a nod of the head to let him know it was OK, and let’s go on. Beasley and I knew Don must take the next four rams to win with a 52. We prayed our way through each shot. Don took the next 3 rams with center hits. The last ram stood ominously. Don blew through the barrel and loaded another cartridge while Dave gauged the wind Don aimed, Dave made the call, and Don fired. We heard the clang of the bullet impact, but it seemed as if everyone held their breath for a full minute before the ram slowly began to fall. Don had managed another center should hit. You can imagine the elation of the four us as we yelled. Everyone was jubilant for Don. He had won the match under the worst of conditions while maintaining good scores for both days.

When all was shot and done, Don Abrams, shooting a Lone Star Rolling Block, was the overall winner by 1 point over Steve Garbe who was shooting his High Wall. Diane Rochelle had beaten out the other three lady shooters, and Justin Scott won the junior division with an impressive 50. The traveling trophy donated by Steve Garby was taken home by Don Abrams of Texas.

There were 55 total shooters, but only seven from the East, so the directors took the first seven from the East and West to determine the winning team. The West won with a total aggregate of 339 against the East with a total of 248. Ron Snover was the top shooter for the East. I must say, the East team was made up of the best darned Yankees I ever met. A special thanks must be extended to all the folks who donated many nice prizes for the match. Dave donated a Lone Star Rolling Block. Don passed the prize to Steve Garbe and Steve donated it as a prize for next years’ shoot. A BIG thank you to all who helped organize a great match. We are looking forward to shooting this match again next year in the windy flint hills of Kansas. Perhaps there will be a better turn-out from the East next year.

From the Shop!

Katha Higginbotham

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