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BPCRS - Nationals
NRA Whittington Center
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A Review of the Past 9 National Championships
Places, Writeups, Pictures

2004 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class
2003 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class
2002 BPCRS Championship
- first 5 places by class
2001 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class
2000 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class
1999 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class
1998 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class
1997 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class
1996 BPCRS Championship - first 5 places by class

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Observations about the scheduled 1998 match, and Katha Higginbotham's review of the 1997 match below.

Discussion Areas:

Whittington Center - Silhouette Range Improvement Fund - a competitor driven improvement fund. The Whittington Center is supported only through contributions, NOT the NRA. This page addresses that issue and provides some possible solutions.

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by Tom Berwick
A discussion and observation about the 1997 BPCRS National Silhouette Championship.

        The 1997's BPCRS Nationals, held at Raton, New Mexico, August 9-15, were the first under the revised format of two qualifying matches with a final day match for the National Championship. Backlash from the BPCRS community was apparent by the reduced turnout at this years' match, after several consecutive yearly increases in attendance. Greg Conner and the NRA had this point literally pounded home during a closed door session with several of the movers and shakers within the discipline. It has been decided that next year's format will be similar in that there will be an A & B group of shooters with a 60 shot format. However, the event will be an aggregate match with no following shoot-out on Friday. Therefore, all shots count and you're NOT throwing away a good effort from the earlier matches.
        The Buffalo Match will be back and several shooters will host clinics on the long range events. We MUST find a way to grow this sport and bring young shooters into the mix. Look around! There are very few youngsters involved in our sport, as well as the other disciplines, and this must be turned around. The anti-gunners would like nothing else than to have all shooting disciplines die out from apathy.
         The Wittington Center is NOT supported by NRA funds. All improvements to the various ranges are generated by donations from Wittington Center members by their dues and contributions. We still have an outstanding balance due on the previous range improvements and further expansion and development cannot be implemented until that debt is retired. Possible improvements will include range expansion and more importantly, automatic target resetters. If we can save a tremendous amount of time with automatic resetters which will speed up the match as well as allow for additional relays if needed. Please go to the Whittington Center page for more details on the establishment of a fund earmarked for range improvement debt retirement and future range improvements.
        Well, Texas was again the largest represented state in attendance at the 1997 Black Powder Cartridge Rifle Silhouette Championship with a large turnout from the Yaupon Creek Silhouette Association. High winds, rain and ever changing mirage were in part responsible for some less than spectacular scores not only by YCSA shooters but the rest of the field as well. Two Yaupon Creek representatives made the final day's cut: Jerry Pace and Dave Higginbotham. Jerry improved her first day's score by 10 full hits and hubby Bill could not have been more proud.
        While Dave Higginbotham was within 4 shots of the winner in Master Class during the Friday shoot out, his position was 20th overall, another indication as to why this format will not be repeated. There simply are not enough shots fired so that someone who had a one-day brain spasm will win the match. Our own Jerry Pace ended up as the 7th overall among her Class A shooters. Way to go, Jerry!
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The following report was filed by Katha Higginbotham:
Raton 97


        We’ve been home for a while and have had time to let this year’s "Nationals" soak in. We left on Thursday August 7th and returned 10 days later on Saturday August 16th. Our trip was three-fold; business, vacation/reunion, and competing in the ‘97 Black Powder Cartridge Silhouette Nationals in Raton, New Mexico. It was a great trip, each day filled with good people, and many delightful experiences.
        Don Abrams, David and Donna Beasley, Dave and I caravaned as far as Amarillo, Texas the first day of our pilgrimage. The next morning we visited the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. We were there to examine and make detailed drawings of our new project, the "Gove", a rolling block rifle fitted with an underlever. This museum, operated by West Texas State University, is a must for anyone interested in pioneers and the Old West, and set the mood for the rest of our trip.
        We arrived at the NRA Whittington Center outside of Raton, New Mexico Friday afternoon. Tom Berwick, another of our cabin mates, had arrived ahead of us, and had hung the hummingbird feeder. It seems this has become somewhat of a tradition at Whittington. We unloaded and set up house in a log cabin half skirted by mountains at the mouth of a canyon. The view was spectacular. The valley spread out before us revealing beautiful trees, flowers, and a host of wildlife. We awoke each morning to a breath-taking sunrise, and deer munching in the fields near us. We even had two large bucks with beautiful racks visit us each day. The hummingbirds soon found Tom’s feeder and we watched them jockey for position at the trough.
        Saturday morning we slept late and drove into Raton for a leisurely breakfast, our last I might add. By the time we got back out to the range people were arriving and sighting in. We spent most of the day doing the same. Some of us were sluggish and headachy due to the altitude. I mention this because if you plan to do the Nationals, it’s a good idea to allow yourself a couple of days to adjust to the climate.
        Sunday morning the Lone Star crew set up the booth. Other venders were there; the Ft. Chadborne gang, Treebone Carving, the Shacklerfords, C Sharps, Bison Barrel, Montana Vintage Arms, Shilo Creek, Hagar Optical, Crosno Gun Service, SPG, Badger Barrels, and others. Sharon Cunningham, Rebecca Barham, and Butch Winter of Dixie Gun Works were there, and they had young Alissandro Pietta of Pietta Firearms of Brescia Italy helping them.
        Later that afternoon, Dave broke out the big 16 pound rolling block buffalo rifle he built this year. He and David Beasley designed a bullet for the rifle that shoots like a cannon. Just point it in the right direction and fire. You are sure to hit what you’re aiming at. Some of us took our turn shooting the buffalo at 1200 yards. It was great fun! Later Don and Dave introduced Alissandro to black powder cartridge silhouette shooting. It was a thrill for him to be able to shoot at those distances since there are no outdoor rifle ranges in Italy. Once he got sighted in, he hit a pig at 300 meters Then he bumped off his first ram at 500 meters. Alissandro doesn’t say much, but the big smile that spread across his face gave him away.
        Soon one third of Texas showed up. That third being from the Yaupon Creek Silhouette Association in South Texas, Bill and Jerry Pace, Mathew Carter and family, Mike Westbrook, John Knesek, Billy Mills, Lige Harris, Steve Ueckert, Lee Johnson, Mike Hughes, and Bill Sumpter. Some of these boys have been shooting very competitively all year, but the valley at Raton is a horse of a different color. Some one said during the course of events, "There is something that goes on down there that’s unlike any where else in the world." Even guys like Bill Burger, Rick Jones, Ron Snover or Dave Gullo, who have shot long range all over the world will tell you the range at Whittington is no piece of cake.
        In spite of that, two of our club made the finals, Dave Higginbotham and Jerry Pace, and Lige Harris placed 5th triple A match 1, and Lee Johnson placed 7th triple A match 1. Lee Johnson massacred 5 chickens in a row. It’s sure funny to watch a 250 pound X marine trembling because he shot a few chickens. I was having my share of problems, but Holly Popplewell Long, another Texan, was quick to help me out. She explained how to read the direction and speed of the mirage and how to call each shot accordingly. It took several days of watching wind flags and mirages and listening to shooters and their spotters to figure out what was going on down range. More later!
        Don Abrams has put together some match results. I must interject here that every one who was involved in any way with determining who qualified for the final day of shooting from the contestants of the two groups who shot over the four day period accomplished a next to impossible task. And I want to raise three cheers for Bill Pace who served as an intermediary between the shooters and the BPCS Committee. We understand that as a result of a meeting between the two groups some ideas were discussed that would much simplify next years match. Instead of a shoot off, results would be determined by aggregate of the match scores.
        Anyway, as I was saying, by our statistics here is how things went; Day one broke clear and breezy. The little cannon fired and the Star Spangled Banner played as our great flag lifted into the blue sky. Then the Canadian anthem rang out over the valley as their colors with the Canadian Maple leaf unfurled and fluttered in the breeze. "Shooters to the line!" boomed over the speaker, and people rushed to assemble their equipment on the firing line. To say everyone was nervous would be an understatement. Match jitters were visibly evident, and probably caused many a missed shot. Excitement permeated the shooters, spotters and the crowd. Finally the call for "fire!" was given. Shots rang out and smoke filled the air. The familiar clanks could be heard as bullets found their mark.
        I was spotting for Dave, and Don was spotting for Tom. After the first relay we all breathed a sigh of relief that it was finally underway after a year of preparation and anticipation. Nights of dreaming and dreading were over. Months of working up the best load, and finding a good sight are finished. You now have to dance with the lady that brought you, or in this case maybe the spotter, or more importantly the rifle that brought you. Every range you shoot is different, and all the conditions such as light, wind, and humidity play a part. Now it’s all up to you. How will you perform today? In our case,
        Dave and Tom tallied seven turkeys out of fifteen, not what they are use to getting. It took time for the spotters to decide what was going on down range and maybe this is a lesson for next year, get there early and shoot the day before in order to get a handle on things.
        Robert Domer Jr. won the trophy for day one with a 45 out of a possible 60. Day one ended with a lot of frayed nerves and disappointment. Some of us knew we were out of it already. We hadn’t shot well, and conditions at Raton were different from home. Still, we hoped we might pull it out on day three when we would shoot again. For now the folks in match two would shoot their first match tomorrow.
        Tuesday it rained, and before it did, it blew. David Beasley, Diane Rochelle, Holly Long, Bill Burger, Rick Jones, Zack Taylor, who is the direct descendant of Zackary Taylor, Bill Sumpter, and others had to try to shoot through the gusting winds. We noticed that scores were lower for all of group two. Maybe the gusty winds and forty-five minute delay had a lot to do with that. Plus the temperature dropped about fifteen degrees. We were glad to have had the day off. Steve Garbe invited us for a picnic supper at their camp. Steve said they were having dead elk. When we returned to our cabin a rainbow, arching from one side of the sky to behind our cabin, begin to take form. At first it displayed pale pink, yellow, teal, and violet. Then as it stabilized it’s colors turn to neon. It was breath taking. Then, as if God wasn’t through, a second rainbow running parallel to the first one appeared. At this point no one cared about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but maybe the knowledge that God is still in control is the "pot of gold".
        Wednesday dawned bright and clear. Announcements were made, and the speaker asked all women shooters to bring their rifles and gather for a group picture. We were surprised to see approximately twenty ladies assemble in front of the firing line. I don’t know how well the pictures turned out as we were "acting off" and having a good time. I hear the Garbe’s are cooking up something special for the ladies. I hope it’s not dead elk. Eight ladies faired well and made the finals.. Dyan Rochelle won high woman with a score of 30 in the final 40 round match. Congratulations to each of the lasses for a job well done. The winner for day 3 was E. E. Van Pelt Jr., scoring 46 out of 60.
        Thursday started off clear and bright. The targets looked pretty good. As the morning wore on the breezes picked up. Later the rains threatened, but split and went around the mountains. Shooting in the changing winds did lower the scores for day four. Harold Knisely shot well in spite of the winds and wound up with 47 out of 60. Not bad!
        Day 5, the big day arrived! Those who had managed to make the cut were very nervous. I’m sure most of them hadn’t slept very well the night before. This was for the money. As I said earlier Dave and Jerry had made the finals. Bill Pace spotted for wife Jerry and I spotted for Dave. I had heard this year they were giving a prize to the winning spotter. They earned it. It’s a BIG responsibility. In order to get a feel for things I sat up the spotting scope behind Steve Garbe, and watched and listened as Jim Gier called the shots for Steve. We watched the wind flags and the mirage.
        For those who haven’t seen it, the range is in a valley. On the left, beginning about even with the turkeys, there is a sheer rock face where the side of the mountain was cut away in order to enlarge the range. The wind from behind us seemed to hit the wall and swirl back towards the targets. On the other side of the range is a gully that comes up from behind the shooters again to about the turkey line. The wind follows the gully up and spills onto the turkey and ram line. So which way do you think the flags are blowing? That’s right, they are both blowing inward. But that’s on each end. What’s going on in the middle? The only way to tell is to watch the mirage.
        Earlier in the week, we were told to turn the focus on the spotting scope to the right or left until the targets blurred somewhat. Doing this would make the mirage easier to see. With that, and remembering what Holly had explained, we soon saw how watching the mirage would give a truer indication of what the winds were doing down range.
        Another problem seemed to occur when the shooters left the swinger and went to the standing targets. Almost everyone missed the first shot either over or under. Evidently the rail under the standing targets would cause the shooter to try to include or exclude the rail in their sight picture.
        With all this in mind, we began. Dave started on rams. He sighted in on the swinger. Then he went for score. He fired on the first ram and missed. What a let down, but you have to recoup quickly and prepare for the next shot. I agonized through each call. The mirage was running pretty constant left to right. We stayed on till ram number seven. Then the mirage stopped running and boiled. Where to call? I told Dave to hold center. Some spotters were telling their shooter to hold a little right. I wondered if Dave would trust my call, or listen to the voices around him. He fired and that wonderful "clank" came ringing back, and the ram went down. He quickly reloaded. I watched the mirage. It slowly began to move right to left. I wasn’t sure how fast it would be moving by the time he found his sight picture. Seconds were slipping away and a call had to be made. I told him to hold on the shoulder. He fired and the ram went straight back. It was a center hit.       Then number ten ram loomed in the distance. The mirage was moving a little faster to the right, but how much faster? I told Dave to hold off the shoulder, but it wasn’t enough. The shot went off the rump. I had missed the call.
        You can’t afford to leave many standing at the nationals. The guys you are shooting against are the best. On his next relay Dave was up against the dreaded chickens, and feeling shaky. He said he needed at least 5 chickens. He walked away with only 1. Strangely, shooting only 1 chicken must have had a calming effect. From that point on things seemed to improve. He finished the day with 1 chicken, 10 pigs, 9 turkeys, and 8 rams for a total of 28. And you know what? He was right. He did need those 5 chickens. Four more chickens would have given him a score of 32 and the national championship. Our dream of one of our rifles winning the nationals didn’t come true, but we had a great time and got to visit with friends who have become like family over the years. We missed so many folks who, for one reason or another, couldn’t make it. Ray Smerker and Tina Fitzsimmons, Tom and Ann Silvear, Joe Cashwell, Roger and Marilyn McMillian; just to name a few.
        JERRY VANWEY won the 1997 Nationals. He, Al Sledge, Larry Baker Sr., Brian Chilson, and Ron Long finished with a 31; therefore, they shot off on chickens. Vanwey placed 1st, Sledge 2nd, and Baker 3rd overall. Chilson placed 1st in master class and Ron Long placed 2nd in masters. High Senior was Robert R. Grider with a 28. High Woman was Dyan Rochelle with a 30, and High Junior was Cathy Winstead with 27. We salute all of you as fine competitors and great marksmen.
        I can’t close without saying thank you to Greg Connors. Greg spends many hours before, during, and after the match each year doing his best to provide all that the shooters want at the Nationals. He and the staff at Whittington do an outstanding job. We are already looking forward to next year. From what I understand tentative plans are being considered for a Scheutzen "re-entry" match using BPCRS legal rifles only. Talk to Steve Garbe about this one. A 1000 long range "re-entry" managed by Stallman and Gullo are in the plans too. I heard Garbe called it a "Black Powder Extravaganza". There should be a match to please everyone.
        I believe we should remember the 1st organized competition of the newly formed NRA back in 1874 was the Creedmoor Match. We seem to have come full circle by returning to the long range matches shot with replicas of the same Remington and Sharps rifles first used at Creedmoor in 1874. Maybe it’s because as Arthur Leech called it then, "it’s the poetry of shooting. It’s a science and an art." And the people in this sport are some of the friendliest and most sincere people in the world. I would like to express my deep feelings and close by quoting Charles Hallock, "Ah, how good it is to be a rifleman."

From the Shop,
Katha Higginbotham

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Please submit all questions and comments to tberwick@sbcglobal.net
Page Last Revised:  August 18, 2004