Competition Report. The PHA Spring Classic, May 27-28 2023
HAM Tester and Contributor Eric Brewer took part in the 2023 PHA Spring Classic AAFTA Field Target Grand Prix. This was held on May 27 -28 in North Carolina. Here he brings us his personal view of the competition.
As you read Eric’s brutally-honest description of the shoot, remember one thing. He was shooting the same Walther LGU air rifle that he has used previously to win the Field Target Nationals! Eric can shoot and so can the gun, but we all have bad days sometimes.
Take it away, Eric…
So I decided to go to the Piedmont Handgun Association PHA Spring Classic in Linwood North Carolina. I have a friend that lives in Concord NC, that made it an easy choice to make the trip down to the shoot.
I drove the 11 hours down on the Thursday so I wouldn’t be whipped for the shoot on Saturday and Sunday. After leaving at 7AM and with a couple stops, I reached my friend’s at around 6:30 PM Thursday night.
There was no Friday event but the Match Director had the registration and sighting at 3 on Friday so I decided to go and get my gun ready.
As soon as I got there, I found out that Rick Vaeth was there. I had no idea he was going to make the long trip and then I saw Brian Van Liew, another North East shooter. I met Artie Claudino the Match Director shortly after that and we talked about what to expect the following days.
There were not any paper targets set out to shoot so I was disappointed with that. But there was a variety of metal targets on a pistol range that you could sit and plink away at. I decided to get what distances that I could to confirm that my gun was in the ballpark of where it was supposed to be.
After about 45 minutes Hector Medina, his wife Veronica and their two kids showed up. It was very nice to connect with them again. You se, Veronica is the person who really got me to shoot Field Target…
I had been invited by a friend to the Crosman Airgun shoot several years back and Veronica was my shooting partner on Day One of that shoot. I had a Crosman Sierra Pro that I thought would clean house with, but I was shown otherwise. (Hey we all have to start somewhere!).
Veronica supported me in my pitiful shooting and taught me some things that would help. I was definitely frustrated on Day One and on Day Two she introduced me to Hector and I decided to by my first of many airguns. Thanks Veronica!
Meanwhile, back at the 2023 PHA Spring Classic…
A little later Artie, Hector and I walked the first of the 2 courses. I was quite nervous about the small kill zones and far distances that the targets were set at.
Artie said the Troyer Factor was set at 36 for both courses. It seemed all of that and more from the looks of things! The layout was really nice with one side of the course rising uphill off the main trail for most of the shots. On the other side of the trail the targets were spanning over a sharp gully. The wind was definitely going to be a major factor the way the topography was for the course.
On Saturday morning I got to the course around 7:30 AM to be ready to get my zero and be set for a good day of shooting…
Having got my zero, I set to shoot all the other distances. Things were a little odd – but mostly good. I ran the gun across the chronograph and it read high at 842 FPS. Everyone said that their result was about 30 to 40 FPS higher than their normal speed.
All chronographs are different. That’s why AAFTA gives a percentage of grace for your numbers.
So I packed up my gun and put it away to wait for the Shooters’ Meeting. Rain was expected so I decided I would get my gun and scope covered with plastic to prevent water in the action or the stock. Neither would be good for the gun or the shooting of it!
Match Director Artie did a good job of explaining the rules and then called out the shooters and lanes for everyone and set us off.
I was paired with a 20-year veteran shooter Doug Vinson who I had never met before.
I was ready to put some hurt on the course and sat down to shoot 4 zeroes. 2 lanes down and not a point made!
OK, I will get done on the next lane… Nope, got a 2. Then a 1 and then a 1 and so on. I had no idea what was happening…
Doug saw my frustration and tried to offer some assistance. But neither of our thoughts made any difference. I got embarrassed with myself and then I got really upset with myself. Grrr…
I found that I was shooting high on most all of my shots so I would aim lower in the kill zone to able able to knock down the target. It worked some of the time but not all the time.
I had thought I was going to kill out there and I was failing. But I had no clue what was going on. By the midpoint of the match, I was extremely frustrated not being able to figure out any pattern to try to use to my advantage so I could get some hits.
That wasn’t doing myself any good with frustration, so I just decided to eat the frustration and try to enjoy being out on a good day in the woods. I finished with a whopping 17. That is worse than the first Crosman match I ever went to!
There was nothing I could do but to try to work it out later…
So, Doug and I shook hands and went to the clubhouse to get lunch.
After a really good lunch and a lot of great conversation among the shooters, Artie did the door prize drawing and raffle as well as auctioning off a nice scope kindly donated by Sightron. So, I was off to the sight-in range to figure out what the heck went on during the match.
Although the paper targets were already pulled, I still could hit some of the metal targets. I sent down several pellets to see where I was hitting and it was definitely high and also right. I peeled the plastic off of the gun and scope to see if that was contributing to the problem and shot some more.
Apparently, the plastic over the scope and down over the stock was contributing to some of the problem but not all of it. I also had to click no less than 14 clicks to the right to get on target. That’s a lot to have to move!
So I shot every distance I could and figured that I would get the rest in the morning.
I decided to go out to dinner with Hector and his family to Outback . Unbeknownst to us more than half of the shooters of the event wound up going there too. So it turned in to an airgun event as well!
On Sunday morning I was hoping for the best and I thought with the plastic removed and a new zero I would be doing OK.
I got to the range abut 7:45 AM for Day Two of the 2023 PHA Spring Classic and sat down to confirm everything was still “on” from the previous evening.
Well, I did have to click a little but nothing drastic…
So I put my things away feeling more comfortable and waited for the safety meeting. Artie was right on time, we got our lane assignments and partners and headed down to the other course.
This time I was partnered with another shooter I didn’t know, David Devine. Another nice guy. Hey aren’t most airgunners?
A little SNAFU with a card winding up on the wrong course slowed us down at first. But once that was taken care of, we were given the hot line signal to start.
With much anticipation I made my first shots, only to find that I wasn’t hitting the kill zone 🙁
Further and further towards the middle of the PHA Spring Classic I just got more upset while trying to figure out what was going on – again!
I was ready to break the gun across a tree and quit. Yes, really!
After getting two zeroes on two lanes, I just basically told myself to shoot down range and just hope to get something because me getting upset wasn’t doing me or my shooting any good.
Again I took a deep breath and told myself “its just a game” – all the while trying to understand what the heck was going on. I checked myself over and over to make sure I was doing everything correctly in my shooting procedure but I couldn’t figure it out.
Was it the gun or me? I don’t know. I ended up with a 27 for the day, another pitiful day of shooting.
For the layout and targets Artie made both courses to be a 36 Troyer. I had initially thought that it was going to be a really hard course and even though my scores were pitiful I found the course to be good. A little on the harder side but good.
There were just a couple of cold lines each day but I don’t think any of them were for failing targets. He did a great job for his first Grand Prix.
I’m looking forward to the 2024 PHA Spring Classic AAFTA Field Target Grand Prix and planning to do better!