With Easter this year came the running of the 2022 Centrefire Benchrest National Championships at the Springsure Range in central Queensland and while numbers were down on previous years due rising travel costs, those who made the trip were rewarded with pleasant weather, good company and some fierce competition.
The four-day event kicked off on Good Friday with the Experimental/Unlimited class which allows for very heavy rail-type guns to be used with 10-shot groups required at both yardages. The 100-yard section saw a good win for newly-appointed Benchrest Discipline Chairman John Babic with .3310 ahead of Paul Sullivan and Chris Parry. The longer yardage proved a bit tougher as tricky winds and heavy mirage took their toll though again it was Babic who prevailed with an aggregate of .2998 from Dave McKillop and Parry. Not surprisingly Babic took the grand aggregate award, comfortably in front of McKillop and Parry and picked up four valuable Hall of Fame points along the way.
Sporter Class for rifles not exceeding 9lbs was held on Easter Saturday in conditions which were deceptive at best and downright tricky at worst. Steve Sori took the win at 100 yards with a tidy .2586 ahead of Keith Sewell and Thomas Thompson, the experience of Paul Sullivan giving him victory at the longer yardage with .3183 in front of Ray Beavis and Richard Powell. In the overall aggregate it was Sewell on .3273 with Powell and Sullivan taking second and third.
On Sunday the Light Benchrest rifles (up to 10.5lbs) appeared on the benches and tiny groups were the order of the day. Putting five of them together proved difficult for many but it was Les Fraser who led the pack with a .2164 aggregate followed by Milan Morrell and Andrew Proll. The longer yardage brought a few shooters undone but not Paul Sullivan who finished on top with a .2742 aggregate displacing Ean Parsons and Les Fraser. Overall winner was Fraser on .2697 ahead of Morrell and Proll.
Easter Monday was set down for Heavy Benchrest (rifles up to 13.5lbs) and after the previous days, competitors were gradually coming to grips with the vagaries of the Springsure range. Tiny groups were the order of the day including an excellent .094 by Rob Hamilton from Coffs Harbor with the aggregate being a close affair which saw Les Fraser prevail on .2308 from Andrew Proll and Ean Parsons.
Final yardage for the 2022 events proved a tough one as the Springsure mirage made life difficult, a bit of local knowledge no doubt helping Gavin Marshall to win comfortably with an aggregate of .2704 from Ean Parsons and Brendan Atkinson. After his excellent performance at 200 yards it was Gavin Marshall who took the overall win on .2658 from Parsons and Michael Thompson.
The multi-gun results proved interesting with Milan Morrell winning the 2-Gun aggregate from Parsons and Fraser and the latter winning the 3-Gun from Marshall and Ray Beavis. The all-important 4-Gun and overall title for 2022 went to Les Fraser with Gavin Marshall and Paul Sullivan filling the minor placings.
By the end of the weekend both Fraser and Babic had amassed enough points to qualify for Hall of Fame entry and their patches were duly presented. This is the highest award in Australian Benchrest shooting and is a highly sought-after one. Thanks are due to the crew at Springsure for turning on a first-class event – they may be few in number but they get the job done in style. See you at Coffs Harbour next Easter.