The Springsure range in central Queensland was the venue for the 2022 Centrefire Benchrest National Championships and while rising travel costs meant numbers were down on previous years, those who did make the trip were rewarded with pleasant weather, good company and fierce competition.
The four-day event kicked off with the Experimental/Unlimited class which allows for the very heavy rail-type guns to be used with 10-shot groups required at both distances. The 100-yard section brought a deserved win for newly-appointed SSAA Benchrest chairman John Babic with a score of .3310 to resist the challenge from second and third-placed Paul Sullivan and Chris Parry.
The longer yardage proved a bit tougher as the wind and heavy mirage played their part and again it was Babic who took the honours with an aggregate score of .2998 ahead of Dave McKillop and Parry. No surprise then that Babic took the grand aggregate comfortably and collected four valuable Hall of Fame points along the way with McKillop and Parry filling the podium places.
Sporter class for rifles not exceeding 9lbs was next up and shot in conditions which were deceptive at best and downright tricky at worst. Steve Sori took the victory at 100 yards with a tidy .2586 ahead of Keith Sewell and Thomas Thompson while the experience of Paul Sullivan shone through at the longer yardage when he triumphed with a score of .3183 to beat Ray Beavis and Richard Powell. In the overall standings though it was Sewell who came out on top with a score of .3273 ahead of Powell and Sullivan.
In the Light Benchrest category (rifles up to 10.5lbs) tiny groups were the order of the day and while putting five of them together proved difficult for many, 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 Paul Sullivan held his nerve to post a .2742 aggregate and hold off the challenge from Ean Parsons and Fraser, the latter landing the overall title on .2697 ahead of Morrell and Proll.
Up next were Heavy Benchrest rifles (up to 13.5lbs) and after the previous events shooters were eventually getting to grips with the vagaries of the Springsure range with many recording tiny groups including an excellent .094 by Rob Hamilton from Coffs Harbor. The aggregate contest proved a close affair but in the end it was Fraser who came out tops on .2308 from Proll and Parsons.
The final yardage for the 2022 championship proved a tough one as the Springsure mirage made life difficult. Making use of some local knowledge no doubt helped Gavin Marshall win comfortably with an aggregate of .2704 ahead of Parsons and Brendan Atkinson and after his excellent performance at 200 yards it was Marshall who clinched overall victory on .2658 from Parsons and Michael Thompson.
The multi-gun results proved interesting with Morrell winning the 2-Gun aggregate from Parsons and Fraser with the latter taking out the 3-Gun title from Marshall and Beavis. The all-important 4-Gun honours and overall title for 2022 went to Les Fraser in what was a well-deserved victory with Gavin Marshall and Paul Sullivan filling the minor placings. Both Fraser and Babic had amassed enough points to qualify for the Hall of Fame and their patches were duly presented for what is the highest award in Australian Benchrest shooting.
A big thanks goes to the crew at Springsure for putting on a first-class event and while they may be few in number, they certainly get the job done. The 2023 championships will be held at Coffs Harbour next Easter.