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2016 EXTREME BENCHREST

On Wednesday October 5th 2016 Doug Noble, myself and Tom Costan left the American Air Arms facility in Acton California to head out 7 hours into the Arizona desert. Our trip had not started as soon as we would have liked as our rifles had literally been just finished that morning setting us back more than 6 hours. I was very excited as this was my first widely followed Airgun event where I was sure to meet some very familiar faces. My goal was to do well in the Big Bore event and to hopefully place well in the small bore 75yard benchrest that was to be very challenging. We arrived in Arizona early that evening where we settled in and made sure we had all necessary components to compete the following morning. The next morning we piled into the van and made our way for some coffee before our arrival to the 2016 Extreme Benchrest event.

We pulled into the beautiful  Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club by 7:30 am where we were greeted by banners and an army of Airguns Of Arizona staff diligently getting the event ready.

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We made our way into the registration area where we were kindly greeted and given our time schedule that included a small bag of goodies along with an 2016 Extreme Benchrest T-shirt. Tom, Doug and I were excited to get some practice in before our 1st afternoon Big Bore event. We unloaded our guns, tanks and pounds of other shooting equipment to the nicely shaded shooting benches.

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We were greeted by AoA’s own Kip Perow who later I found to be quite a great shooter in the Big Bore event. The man sitting was Ron from High Arc Hunting shooting the new Bushbuck .45 monster Big Bore rifle. Doug Noble set up his custom built .338 that he has spent many months preparing to shoot here.

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Other well known names such as Rossi Morreale (below) from the show American Airgunner were practicing for the event. Tom and myself had a great talk with Rossi and were impressed with his love for the sport and his sincerity in trying to make it grow.

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As Tom and I set up our new guns for testing we had Micheal Wendt (below) the new owner of Airgun Nation forum come by to say hello and to check out our new guns. Micheal is a very friendly guy that had some very positive energy behind him and one I was glad to meet.

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I was having a great time trying out my new wood stock EVOL .30 while Tom was using the .30 TAC version. We were practicing with both of the American Air Arms .357 Slayers as well. For me it was quite the adjustment to switch between two completely different power levels. I was sighting in my .30 for the 75 yard event and my .357 Slayer for 200 yards.

img_6924-copy-copyimg_6908-copy-copyMy first event was the Big Bore 200 yard event where we were shooting at 4 military style targets, we had to make 5 shots onto each target. I was shooting horrible not only due to the wind but I had chosen the wrong scope for the application being a fixed parallax. After that disastrous event I headed over to have my Airtank filled where I was kindly greeted by Todd DeOrio (below) Airguns Of Arizona’s fill station expert. He was most helpful and very on his game as I had to visit him quite often over the next few days,never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a fill. Thank you

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The rest of the day we practiced some more and walked around in between checking out some cool guns and even spotting a few more well known shooters such as my friend Tim McMurray of Mac1 Airguns and former winner of the EBR.

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Food and refreshments were available all day long with a great shaded area with plenty of room to sit and chat. Precision Airgun was on hand with its mobile repair center as well as the onsite gunsmith.

img_6964  Day two for us was to practice till about 3:00 where we were to shoot our first 75 yard card.

img_6925-copy-2 I had still been dialing in my gun and practicing the best I could in the wind that didn’t seem too bad as of yet. Tom was shooting the best out of the three of us with his gun, ending with him doing fairly well on his card. I had made the mistake of not using my sighters as often as I should of, ending with me doing very poorly. (no need to post pic)

Day 3 we had or 2nd 75 yard card to shoot, all three of us were in the 3rd relay so we had a good portion of the day to practice. As I walked up to practice I saw another more familiar face such as Ted Bier.

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As the time approached I was feeling confident in my gun and my ability to shoot it well. We all headed down to our lanes to set our bench and to start the 75 yard event. I thankfully used a rear lead bag that proved to work much better for me, good to learn for future competitions. The wind was not as bad as the previous day but was still a bit unpredictable for me. This time I used my sights as needed and filled my gun along with using sorted pellets. For me this was my personal best and was very pleased regardless of how I placed.

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img_6983As you can see, these are very small targets and very humbling when missed. Unfortunately as good as I had done this day my previous card had killed my chance to qualify for the 3rd card at 100 yards.

Day 4 started early for us as our Big Bore event started at around 8:00 where we would be shooting at 85 yards and 200 yards. I was pretty confident with shooting 200 yards but was a bit nervous of the 85 yards as I’m not used to having to hold under. Doug, Kip, Ron and Tom were all shooting great. That Bushbuck is a pretty amazing gun, Doug’s .338 is just plain radical.

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I had a bit of confusion with my 85 yard targets but in the end was very happy with a 2nd.

After the event we had nothing more to do till the banquet so we spent our time plinking with our guns and visiting friends. I was having fun offhand shooting the 200 yard silhouette while Doug was visiting the 550 yard silhouette with his custom .338. My good friend Jim Walton (below) from “Fun Birds Hunting” came by to visit and to do a bit of shooting with us.

img_6947-copyHad some more visitors from Chile “Patagonia Airguns” So nice to see people from all over the world, bringing some very nice airguns to compete with.

img_6958 img_6957My friend Steve Marsh (above) who lives in Arizona and came to keep us company and to show us some killer places to eat throughout the area. I cant wait to come back and do some hunting when time allows. The day was just about to and end with a few Thunderheads in the distance.

img_6991We headed down the road several minutes to a very upscale banquet hall that was overlooking a beautiful golf coarse. This is where we would have dinner, announce the winners and to draw for the raffle prizes.

img_7006Some very nice raffle prizes this year.

ham-raffleThe dinner was excellent along with coffee and dessert, and followed by the awards.

img_7007 Big Congrats to Ted for winning the $5000

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This year had so many amazing competitors,some that traveled from far away places. I see this event only growing stronger and I will say the future is in the young shooters. We all as airgunners need to focus on the progression and to try sharing this wonderful pastime. I want to especially thank the AOA crew for doing such a wonderful job and being so welcoming to me as this was my first year competing. I feel it was well worth the trip and can only help to do better next year. The 2016 Extreme Benchrest has many events that can fit just about any shooters needs. Next year I plan to compete in the American Field Target and Big Bore events. Anyone that’s wanting a fun,family friendly event,this is a winner. Thanks to all who participated. Results can be found here: 2016 Extreme Benchrest

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HUNTING WITH THE .308/.357 SLAYERS

On Thursday June 16th Terry and I set out at 4:30am to make our way several hours North to meet Tom and his son Nick for a two day hunt.We had chosen to get out during the week to allow us to beat the heat wave and to avoid people that frequent the area during weekends. As Terry and I drove down the long dirt road I couldn’t help but to imagine we were in the African Plains going on some kind of wild safari. Part of the excitement for me on trips like this is the feeling of being a kid again,problems and worries just slip away and the thought of adventure takes over. We arrived to find our usual camping area quite empty with the only occupant being a very nice old man who was just traveling through.

He had came over and talked to Terry and I being intrigued by the fact we were using airguns to hunt with. He had even brought up the famous “Lewis and Clark” expedition and was very familiar with the use of the  Girardoni air rifle. I really enjoyed talking to him and to spark someone’s interest in our fine sport. By this time it was 7:15 and we were soon joined by Tom and his son Nick who had decided to join us being he had just gotten on Summer break. The weather was nice and clear with a good solid breeze that kept things cool for most of the day. We all aired up our guns and filled our pockets and gear bags with pellets and water to set out for some Jackrabbit hunting. Terry and I were the first ones through the gate and into the fields where we almost immediately started seeing large Jackrabbits,they were simply everywhere so it seemed. I was using the first prototype .357 Slayer loaded with 127gr pellets provided by nielsenspecialtyammo.com along with Terry who was using his .22 Tapian Mutant Bullpup loaded with his custom made 22.5gr slugs. We hiked around the same locations as our last trip over a month ago that proved to still be full of action after taking 14 of them in two days. It didn’t take long to empty my magazine and exhaust my air supply from shooting at so many Jackrabbits, having a gun that has so much range capability makes it difficult to not shoot at something.      ;D

After an hour or so I had made my way back to camp to get something to eat and to cool off in the shade for awhile waiting for the others to return. Soon Tom and Nick made there way back into camp followed 45 minutes later by Terry, all of them with the same story of  how many Jackrabbits they had seen. Tom had taken a fairly hard fall on a rocky hillside that had knocked his .308 Slayer up pretty good along with his hand. Thankfully he was ok and the gun with only a few noticeable scratches with the zero being questionable. After several minutes of rest I had spotted a large Jackrabbit out in a nearby field, Tom had invited me to use his .308 and take it out as I had not really used it much. The first thing I noticed was the weight difference being lighter with the aluminum shroud and the fact it was a right handed model as I had been used to shooting the left handed prototype. The pellets I was using were 111gr provided by Nick over at nielsenspecialtyammo.com I took the gun expecting to be gone for only a few minutes but being it shot so nicely I ended up being gone for close to two hours. The area I was hunting had many hills that offered amazing views and vantage points to sniper style shooting. The gun was zeroed at 85 yards using a Leapers Accushot 30mms scope with etched glass reticle, one of my favorite scopes for hunting being fairly rugged. The first shot I took felt great with little recoil,similar in feeling to a pellet gun but with much more authority and thump. I was amazed at how flat shooting it was and how much more controllable it felt over the big brother .357 Slayer. The first Jackrabbit I was able to hit was at 60 yards moving through some thick sage,nice solid chest shot that made a clean kill.

Jackrabbit kill .308 slayer

Jackrabbit kill .308 slayer

I hiked around a bit more and found a good spot to sit and rest along with having a good vantage point to sniper a few with the first one taken at 115 yards with a solid hard hitting shoulder shot. The second one was very close to the first only he ran several hundred yards up a hill before stopping towards the top at a little over 300 yards. I gave the gun so much holdover that I couldn’t even see the Jackrabbit in my scope,kinda just guessed but ended up hitting solid throwing him into a backflip where he did the death dance.

I headed back to camp dragging these two kangaroos that get very heavy after hiking with them for several miles,Nick was kind enough to come over and help me get everything over the fence. As I walked into camp my presence had awoken Tom from his afternoon siesta under the giant shade tree. He immediately had concluded that the earlier spill had not effected the POI at all apparently. :o
My feet were sore and the sun by this time was taking its toll making relaxing in the shade seem like the best option along with drinking plenty of water. Terry came back into camp exhausted as the rest of us telling of how many Jackrabbits he had encountered and the few that got away. We pretty much stayed in camp until 6:00pm when we all set back out together to try a new area I had found on Google Earth. The area was about a mile hike South from camp and looked to be very good and one of the few places that were still a bit green.

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We all stayed close together and Tom was the first to make a shot on a Jackrabbit that was foraging in a small clearing,we all stalked the Jackrabbit and eventually all missed him as he disappeared in the thick sagebrush. A few more minutes went by and Tom spotted another running through the sage only to run several hundred yards with Tom and I taking turns trying to hit him. These big bores are simply amazing able to come several feet from hitting a running Jackrabbit at out to 400 yards. The loop we took was several miles through fields and mountains where we ended back at camp by 8:15pm. The night was lit by a full moon and offered us a nice relaxing evening being nice enough to even sleep outside. Later in the night I could hear Coyotes chattering in the distance and a hoot owl perching in the tree above our camp. The next morning had started later than I hoped as we had all slept a bit later than expected being so tired from the day before hunting. Terry and I aired up our guns and set out in close to the same loop as the evening before but ended up going much further. I had spotted a Jackrabbit sitting up in the sagebrush at 25 yards,shot a bit to high only to see a puff of fur from my pellet skimming the top of his head. These Hares are so fast and hard to spot that hunting them can get very frustrating. I can’t tell you how many shots I experience that’s like “How in the heck did I miss?” I followed Terry for a bit as I enjoyed taking pics and to be careful with my air supply and ammo,not having very good luck with any good shots. Terry spotted a good size Jackrabbit at around 30 yards where he was able to connect his shot,from the sound he had hit him hard. The Jackrabbit slowly ran away into some thick sagebrush making it very difficult to find and when you did it wouldn’t stay still long enough to make a shot. We both spent a good amount of time scouring the area to find him with no luck. A few hundred more yards on our hike I spotted a good size Ground Squirrel sitting on a rock that Terry was able to take at 35 yards.

Terry and I kept hiking higher and higher up into the mountains and by this time I had used up all my shots barely missing several Jackrabbits I had encountered on the rocky hillsides. We found a good saddle where we took a rest before we climbed even higher where we had to make it up over the next mountain and back towards our camp. The mountain we were climbing proved difficult with it being near vertical at some points. We too were running low on water that’s never a good thing in the blazing desert sun.

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After making it to the top of the mountain we were both exhausted and had decided to take the easiest straight route back to camp that was thankfully mostly downhill. I was the first to stagger into camp where I found Tom and Nick as exhausted as we were relaxing in the shade. The first thing on my mind was to get some water and to cut open a watermelon that had been on ice. What a hunt,ended with 4 hard earned kills and legs that felt like jello. We all packed up our things and set out down the road till the next time. The best part of every hunt like this is the time spent with good friends and the adventure of exploring nature. Hope to share more soon but until then “Best Wishes” 8)