We saw a change in weather on Saturday. It dawned warm and relatively calm, but the winds picked up in the afternoon as clouds rolled in. There wasn’t any rain though, and for shooters who were sunburned after many days in the Arizona sunshine, the overcast was a bit of a relief. On Saturday, Ben Avery hosted both individual and team matches. All three classes (Sling, F-Open, F-TR) shot two 1000-yard individual matches. This was followed by 4-person Team Matches at 1K. Here are the top five performers in Saturday’s individual matches:
Top Five Competitors in Each Class
Kevan Hoffarth (P), 400-19X
Jerry Iliff (A), 400-18X
John Whidden (A), 399-23X
Peter Church (A), 399-22X
Gary Rasmussen (A), 399-16X
Dan Bramley, 399-28X
Robert Hoppe, 399-27X
Pat Scully, 399-24X
Erik Cortina, 399-22X
John Meyers, 399-20X
Ian Klemm, 394-16X
Bryan Litz, 393-16X
Nancy Tompkins, 392-19X
Peter Ricci 392-13X
Alan Barnhart, 392-9X
In a great individual performance, Kevan Hoffarth, shooting a Palma Rifle, shot clean to beat ALL sling shooters, including those in the “Any Rifle” sub-class. In fact, “Any” shooters took the next four sling places. In the F-Open Division, it was a very tight race, decided by X-Count for the top five places, with Dan Bramley edging Robert Hoppe for the win by one X.
Watch Highlights of Day 4 at the Berger SW Nationals:
What the Berger SW Nationals is All About
When folks usually talk about shooting matches they focus on the obvious — scores and hardware. But the Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) is about much more than putting holes in paper with bangsticks. We’d say this match has become so popular (with 400 entrants) because it offers the whole experience — fun, challenge, a warm-weather escape, and above all, camaraderie.
Some shooters come to Ben Avery for the swag (the prize table is amazing). Others come for the sunshine (think warm 75-85° weather). And even more folks come to try out their shiny new toys and to test their skills against the nation’s best shooters.
But we’d say the number one reason most folks make the pilgrimage to Ben Avery every year is the camaraderie — the chance to connect with friends, rekindling connections that may go back decades. Fundamentally, then, the Berger SWN is about the people. For this Editor, the chance to meet good friends such as John Whidden, Gary Eliseo, Doan Trevor, Nancy Tompkins, Anette Wachter, Shiraz Balolia, Adam Braverman, Jay Christopherson, Erik Cortina, Scott Harris, and so many others, gives me plenty of motivation to make the 7-hour drive from California.
For many of us, this is the only time of the year when we get a chance to meet fellow shooters from distant corners of the USA. And where else will you find a past NRA President (John Sigler) on the firing line, and have a chance to chat with him during a lunch break. The SWN is very special.
The Brain Trust — Experts Galore
The best minds of the shooting world come to Ben Avery every year. Got a question about ballistics? Well, Ballistics Guru Bryan Litz will be happy to answer your questions between relays. Want some expert advice about wind reading? Seek out Mid Tompkins (usually found hanging around the club-house) or Emil Praslick, one of the most knowledgeable wind coaches on the planet (Emil was shooting and coaching this year). And if you have a gunsmithing question, you’ll find some of the top barrel-fitters and stock makers, including Doan Trevor and Gary Eliseo.
Emil Praslick III heading out to the firing line…
Tubegun Chassis-Maker Gary Eliseo was at the match
Compete against the Best
If you want to test your mettle against some of the best shooters in the world, get yourself to Ben Avery in February. Here you can compete, shoulder to shoulder, against the best Sling and F-Class shooters on the planet. Guys like John Whidden (reigning Long Range National Champion) and Kenny Adams (reigning World F-Open Class Champion). If you want to play with the “Big Boys”, Ben Avery is the place. Having said that, novice shooters will enjoy the experience as well, because you’ll find that these top shooters are (almost universally) happy to share their knowledge.
Learn from Top Talents
If you want to improve your game, this is the place. Walk down the firing line and you’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with many national champions. There is no question that you can improve your techniques by watching top shooters, and you can get ideas about hardware by looking at the rigs campaigned by the best. Where else will you find a half-dozen national F-Class champs seated around a table. Or an 11-time National High Power Champion (David Tubb), hanging out at the Lapua trailer in the parking lot.
2015 F-TR National Mid-Range and Long-Range Champion Bryan Litz helps a Junior shooter
Mid Tompkins at Shooters’ Clinic
Gun Gear Candy Store
If you are thinking about upgrading your match rifle, you’ll find plenty of inspiration at Ben Avery. On the firing line you’ll fine the newest actions from Barnard, BAT, and Borden, the latest/greatest optics (see Vortex Golden Eagle below), and the newest most advanced stocks. F-TR guys will find a wide variety of exotic bipods plus the latest generation of sandwich-construction bipod “mats”. (NOTE: These are becoming rigid, elevated platforms with low-friction tops — will the rules be tightened?).
Warm Arizona Weather
When we arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday it was a relatively mild 76°. By Friday it had warmed to a balmy 84°. We didn’t hear any complaints from the Canadians who fled ice and snow to shoot the match. Even while California was getting soaked with rain it was sunny and warm in Arizona. And you can even have a balloon ride right over the Ben Avery range.
Enjoy a Desert Escape
The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is located in a scenic corner of Arizona, north of Phoenix. Get here early in the morning and watch the balloons take off. Head northwest and you can visit the historic town of Prescott. Two hours north is Sedona, famed for its stunning Red Rock scenery. A few hours south you can visit Tombstone and the OK Corral. There’s a lot to see and do in the Phoenix area that makes the trip worthwhile in addition to the gun fun at the range.
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At the Berger SW Nationals this week many of the nation’s top sling shooters will be competing in the Palma (full-bore) class. You’ll see a scores of .308 Win Palma rifles on the firing line in Phoenix. However, we doubt any of those Ben Avery rigs will be more eye-catching than this Barnard-actioned beauty in an stunning Turkish Walnut stock…
In our Shooters’ Forum, there’s a long-running thread entitled Pride & Joy Rifles. There you’ll find dozens of fine firearms — from hunting handguns to long-range benchrest rigs. A while back, Forum member John L. (GunDog64) posted this handsome Palma rifle, built by Chad Dixon.
John reports: “Here is my new ‘Pride and Joy’ Palma rifle. The action is a chrome-moly Barnard supplied by MT Guns. The gun is set up for switch-barrel use with two Medium Palma-contour Bartlein barrels, one chambered in 6CM, the other in .308 Winchester. Both barrels feature 5R rifling. Up front is a Riles 30mm front sight, while the rear sight is a Warner. The stock was crafted from a superb Turkish walnut blank supplied by Luxus Gunstocks in Mt. Orab, Ohio.
Gunsmithing by Chad Dixon — Stock Finish by Owner
All gunsmithing and assembly work was performed by Chad Dixon at Long Rifles Inc., Sturgis, South Dakota. Chad designed the trigger guard, handstop rail, recoil lug, and cheek-piece adjuster. John, the rifle’s proud new owner, completed the finish work on the stock. John reveals: “This project was a year in the making but well worth the wait”.
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The Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) kicked off with a two-day shooting clinic held Monday and Tuesday, February 6-7, 2017. Competition at the Ben Avery range begins with a 600-yard Mid-Range Match on Wednesday, followed by long-range matches Thursday through Sunday. Three classes of competitors will be on the firing line: Palma (.308 Win sling), F-TR, and F-Open. This is one of the most popular matches of the year, drawing competitors from around the nation (and a few foreign countries).
The Berger SW Nationals event has become the premier long-range match of the year in the Western United States. This prestigious rifle competition, hosted at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility, outside Phoenix, Arizona, draws the nation’s top F-Class and sling shooters. Over 360 shooters have already registered for the SWN.
2017 Berger Southwest Nationals Schedule of Events
Monday, 6 – Tuesday, 7 February 2017, 9:00 AM
Shooting Clinic: Two-Day clinic includes instruction in both classroom and live fire settings. Instruction will start at 9:00 AM.
Wednesday, 8 February 2017, 9:00 AM
Mid-Range Match – Three, 20-shot matches at 600 yards.
Divisions: Palma, Any Rifle/Any Sight, F-Open, F-TR
Thursday, 9 February 2017, 9:00 AM
4-Man Palma Team Match – 15 shots for record at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.
Divisions: Palma, F-Open, F-TR
Practice available to those not shooting with a team.
Friday, 10 February 2017, 8:30 AM – Start of Grand Agg
Individual Palma Match – 15 shots for record at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.
Divisions: Palma, F-Open, F-TR
Swap Meet – after conclusion of fire at 1000-yard line.
Saturday, 11 February 2017, 8:30 AM
Individual 1000-Yard Matches – Two 20 shots matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
4 Man Team Match – 20 shots at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
Banquet Dinner – Approximately 5:00 pm at Indoor Range.
Sunday, 12 February 2017, 8:30 AM
Individual 1000-Yard Matches – Two 20 shots matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Any Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Any Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
Awards Ceremony at the Indoor Range.
To help you prepare for the Berger SW Nationals, here are some competition tips from Bryan Litz. Bryan knows the Ben Avery range well. He won the Mid-Range and Long-Range F-TR National Championships there in 2015. And twice he has won the sling division at the Southwest Nationals. Here are wise words from Bryan:
Competition TIP ONE. Improving your scores in long range competition is a constant process of self-assessment. After each match, carefully analyze how you lost points and make a plan to improve. Beginning shooters will lose a lot of points to fundamental things like sight alignment and trigger control. Veteran shooters will lose far fewer points to a smaller list of mistakes. At every step along the way, always ask yourself why you’re losing points and address the issues. Sometimes the weak links that you need to work on aren’t your favorite thing to do, and success will take work in these areas as well.
Competition TIP TWO. Select your wind shooting strategy carefully. For beginners and veterans, most points are typically lost to wind. Successful shooters put a lot of thought into their approach to wind shooting. Sometimes it’s best to shoot fast and minimize the changes you’ll have to navigate. Other times it’s best to wait out a condition which may take several minutes. Develop a comfortable rest position so you have an easier time waiting when you should be waiting.
Competition TIP THREE. Actively avoid major train wrecks. Sounds obvious but it happens a lot. Select equipment that is reliable, get comfortable with it and have back-ups for important things. Don’t load on the verge of max pressure, don’t go to an important match with a barrel that’s near shot out, physically check tightness of all important screws prior to shooting each string. Observe what train wrecks you and others experience, and put measures in place to avoid them.
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In this video, Anette Wachter (the 30CalGal) offers tips for shooting from bipod.
Our friend Anette Wachter, aka “30CalGal”, stars in a smart video from NRAWomen.TV. In this episode of Tips & Tactics, Anette talks about the “mental game” in competition. Specifically she explains how to “visualize success”:
I have found that a lot of my success in competition has come through what I call a ‘mental rehearsal’. I actually visualize every stage of the match and I visualize the success of the match and winning the match.
I actually visualize that round going downrange into the target, and the target coming up with a dead-center ‘X’. I visualize this over and over. If you visualize success you will achieve success.
Visualization is a process of mental preparation that is done before you get to the range. Many of the greatest shooting champions have used this technique to get ready for big matches, and to optimize their performance during record fire. If you want to enhance your “mental game” through pre-match visualization, we strongly recommend Lanny Bassham’s book, With Winning in Mind.
As a competitive smallbore 3P shooter, Bassham developed a mental management system. Using this system, Lanny Bassham won 22 world individual and team titles, set four world records, and captured an Olympic Gold Medal in Montreal in 1976. His techniques have been embraced by professional and Olympic athletes in many sports. With Winning in Mind covers a complete system of “mental management” techniques used by Olympians and elite champions.
About 30CalGal Life is short. Go Shoot! — Anette Wachter
Along with being a talented competitive shooter, Anette has her own Gun Blog, 30CalGal.com, and she writes for several gun publications including GunUp Magazine, Shooting Sports USA, Sure Shots Magazine, and Wide Open Spaces. She also designs and crafts custom jewelry items, sold through her AW Collections webstore.
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This feature story is the third (and final) installment of a three-part series by 2016 National Long-Range Champion John Whidden. In this article John, who runs Whidden Gunworks, talks about the Palma rifle he used at the 2016 Camp Perry National Matches. This unique .308 Win prone rifle features a Barnard “P” action in a converted aluminum Anschutz “Precise” smallbore (rimfire) stock. The combo of Barnard action and Anchutz ergonomics is hard to beat, says John, who told us: “this is easily the best Palma rifle I’ve ever had.”
As a bonus, the Barnard “drop-in” required no modification of the Anschutz Precise stock. This means John can actually swap in his rimfire barreled action and shoot smallbore with the same stock.
Sling Rifle Evolved: The Ultra-Accurate Hybrid Palma Rifle
by John Whidden
The mental component of Long Range competitive shooting is always challenging but having tremendous confidence in the accuracy of your equipment is a huge benefit. There’s nothing to start your Palma match off well like knowing that you are shooting the most accurate Palma rifle you’ve ever owned.
After winning the 2016 NRA Long Range National Championships at Camp Perry, there are always plenty of questions about the equipment used by those at the top. Shooters are always looking to learn what is the best equipment at any given time so that when the time comes to spend our own hard earned dollars we can make the best choices. Even if you shoot an entirely different discipline knowing which manufacturers are making winning gear is very valuable.
Whidden 2016 Palma Rifle
Action: Barnard “P” (three lugs, 60° bolt lift)
Barrel: Bartlein 32″, Light Palma contour, cryo-treated by 300 Below.
Stock: Anschutz Precise aluminum smallbore stock, set up for centerfire barreled action.
Trigger: Barnard Two-Stage adjustable
Whidden’s Wonder-Gun: German Stock, New Zealand Action, American Barrel
The Palma rifle I shot this year at Camp Perry is one that I have been super pleased with. I built the rifle early this year and the major components are a Barnard P action, Anschutz Precise smallbore stock, and Bartlein barrel. The caliber is .308 Win, as dictated by the Palma rules. Palma matches are fired from 800, 900, and 1000 yards utilizing iron sights only. No optical sights are allowed.
The Anchutz Precise stock is so well-designed that once I finished adjusting the details, I realized that my hold was about 1/3 smaller than with the stocks I shot previously. While in recoil the gun will track vertically and fall back down right on my own target just as it should. In the past, with my other Palma rifles, it was frankly sometimes a struggle to get them to settle back on target after a shot.
Whidden Gunworks has installed a variety of different actions in the Anschutz Precise stocks. Though the stocks are designed for the .22 LR caliber 2013 action rifles, we’ve successfully installed Barnard, Kelbly, Bat, Nesika, and Remington clone actions into them. The Barnard Model P makes a particularly simple installation because there is no modification necessary to the stock at all. A competitor can then shoot both his centerfire rifle as well as his smallbore gun in the exact same stock. The location of the trigger and bolt handle on the Barnard are positioned just right to make this work. Other actions do require at least some amount of modification to the stock, and we have found the Barnard works the best.
Barnard manufactures several models of actions as part of their lineup. All of the actions in the lineup use three lug bolts which give a shorter 60-degree bolt lift when opening and closing. All of the critical surfaces are machined after heat treating. This means that they are exceptionally true and square, more so than other actions. The Model P action is most familiar to Palma and F-Class shooters and are commonly seen on the firing line. The fact that Model P actions include an excellent two-stage trigger makes also the pricing very attractive.
Based on my previous excellent experiences, I selected Bartlein barrels for this rifle. When shooting internationally in the Palma matches we are restricted to 155 grain .308 bullets, but I made the unusual choice of a 1-10″ twist for these bullets. I’ve shot this fast twist for some years with the 155s with good success and it’s pleasing to know that Bryan Litz is finding benefits in some cartridges to shooting faster twist rates than we previously thought we needed. The chamber is the 2011 Palma and the barrel is a Light Palma contour finished at 32” length. The barrel was cryo-treated by 300 Below. The point of impact isn’t changed at all by barrel heating and the accuracy is incredible regardless of the temperature of the barrel. This can’t be said of all the barrels I’ve owned.
Get Your Own Whidden Wonder-Gun for $4500.00
Like what you see — but wonder how much it will cost? Whidden Gunworks can build you a rig like this, fitting a centerfire barreled action in the Anschutz Precise stock. John tells us: “The price of a rifle like this one but without sights or mounts would be just under $4500.00. We attempt to keep all of the parts except the stock in inventory, so lead time should be under eight (8) weeks.”
Stock Offers Great Adjustability
One thing that is quickly noticed about the Anschutz Precise stock is its adjustability. The engineers did a very good job of allowing many of these adjustments to be made while in the shooting position, most notably the cheekpiece adjustments. When a shooter picks up a Precise stock for the first time they also notice how narrow the fore-end is. This really contributes to reducing the pain in the forward hand in prone when shooting with a sling. This stock is, by far, the most comfortable sling stock I’ve ever handled.
This rifle was very accurate right away and very comfortable to shoot. I’ve built some really good shooting Palma rifles but this is easily the best Palma rifle I’ve ever had. The Barnard action with its superb quality and excellent two-stage trigger has been the best choice I could have made. When you can go to the firing line knowing that you have the very best, the foundation for success has been set.
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Guest Article By Michelle Gallagher, Berger Bullets
Let’s face it. In the world of firearms, there is something for everyone. Do you like to compete? Are you a hunter? Are you more of a shotgun shooter or rifle shooter? Do you enjoy running around between stages of a timed course, or does the thought of shooting one-hole groups appeal to you more? Even though many of us shoot several different firearms and disciplines, chances are very good that we all have a favorite. Are we spreading ourselves too thin by shooting different disciplines, or is it actually beneficial? I have found that participating in multiple disciplines can actually improve your performance. Every style of shooting is different; therefore, they each develop different skills that benefit each other.
How can cross-training in other disciplines help you? For example, I am most familiar with long-range prone shooting, so let’s start there. To be a successful long-range shooter, you must have a stable position, accurate ammunition, and good wind-reading skills. You can improve all of these areas through time and effort, but there are other ways to improve more efficiently. Spend some time practicing smallbore. Smallbore rifles and targets are much less forgiving when it comes to position and shot execution. Long-range targets are very large, so you can get away with accepting less than perfect shots. Shooting smallbore will make you focus more on shooting perfectly center shots every time. Another way to do this with your High Power rifle is to shoot on reduced targets at long ranges. This will also force you to accept nothing less than perfect. Shoot at an F-Class target with your iron sights. At 1000 yards, the X-Ring on a long range target is 10 inches; it is 5 inches on an F-Class target. Because of this, you will have to focus harder on sight alignment to hit a center shot. When you go back to the conventional target, you will be amazed at how large the ten ring looks.
Also, most prone rifles can be fitted with a bipod. Put a bipod and scope on your rifle, and shoot F-TR. Shooting with a scope and bipod eliminates position and eyesight factors, and will allow you to concentrate on learning how to more accurately read the wind. The smaller target will force you to be more aggressive on your wind calls. It will also help encourage you to use better loading techniques. Nothing is more frustrating than making a correct wind call on that tiny target, only to lose the point out the top or bottom due to inferior ammunition. If you put in the effort to shoot good scores on the F-Class target, you will be amazed how much easier the long-range target looks when you return to your sling and iron sights. By the same token, F-Class shooters sometimes prefer to shoot fast and chase the spotter. Shooting prone can help teach patience in choosing a wind condition to shoot in, and waiting for that condition to return if it changes.
Benchrest shooters are arguably among the most knowledgeable about reloading. If you want to learn better techniques about loading ammunition, you might want to spend some time at benchrest matches. You might not be in contention to win, but you will certainly learn a lot about reloading and gun handling. Shooting F-Open can also teach you these skills, as it is closely related to benchrest. Benchrest shooters may learn new wind-reading techniques by shooting mid- or long-range F-Class matches.
Position shooters can also improve their skills by shooting different disciplines. High Power Across-the-Course shooters benefit from shooting smallbore and air rifle. Again, these targets are very small, which will encourage competitors to be more critical of their shot placement. Hunters may benefit from shooting silhouette matches, which will give them practice when shooting standing with a scoped rifle. Tactical matches may also be good, as tactical matches involve improvising shots from various positions and distances. [Editor: Many tactical matches also involve hiking or moving from position to position — this can motivate a shooter to maintain a good level of general fitness.]
These are just a few ways that you can benefit from branching out into other shooting disciplines. Talk to the other shooters. There is a wealth of knowledge in every discipline, and the other shooters will be more than happy to share what they have learned. Try something new. You may be surprised what you get out of it. You will certainly learn new skills and improve the ones you already have. You might develop a deeper appreciation for the discipline you started off with, or you may just discover a new passion.
This article originally appeared in the Berger Bulletin. The Berger Bulletin blog contains the latest info on Berger products, along with informative articles on target shooting and hunting.
Article Find by EdLongrange.
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Forum member Rick from Louisiana (aka RMulhern) has rigged up a fantastic target for long-range shooting. Rick, a long-time competitive Palma shooter, had a large 72″x72″ steel target fabricated with two separate center rings that are equivalent to the official paper Palma/Creedmoor target. He says he’s “shot a lot of Palma on that target, as well as lots of Black Powder Cartridge (BPCR) rounds”. The big steel target works great when Rick shoots his Sharps 45/110 BPCR at 800 to 1000 yards. The large steel background (painted white) helps Rick see and hear his hits. If you understand the high-arching trajectory of 500+ grain projectiles shot from a 45/110, you know it can take a few rounds to get Point of Impact dialed in.
Rick reports: “These are two of my favorite rifles to shoot: a M1874 Shiloh Sharps in caliber 45/110 (2 7/8) made in Big Timber, Montana by Kirk Bryan and family. The other is a 6.5×47 Lapua on a blue-printed M700 action with 1:8.5″-twist Krieger barrel and F5 McMillan Tactical stock. Many of the shooters that take up BPCR have a tendency to get away from their smokeless powder rifles in favor of the blackpowder game. Frankly I have the best of both worlds as I enjoy shooting both (smokeless and BPCR), although I must admit that I probably spend the majority of my time on the range with the Sharps rifles these days.” (Rick’s pretty good with his Sharps by the way — he recently shot a 95, 96, and 100 (clean) for 3×10 shots at 800 yards.)
Gongzilla: $1000 Worth of Steel with Three Plate Layers
Rick tells us: “Here’s the deal — everything is steel! The large plate is 72″x72″ and the black bull is 44″ diameter. The 20″-diameter central white bull is made from 1/2″-thick AR400 bull-dozer plating. That’s the same size as the regulation Palma/Creedmoor paper target. The white square and black bull are 3/8″-thick mild steel. Plates are off-set 2″ from each other. I welded a 2″ length of square tubing to the back of both plates and the bolt slides through and is attached to the large plate. I used 2 3/8″ upset tubing (oil field pipe) for the holder framing.” Rick says he invested about $1000.00 in metal for the target, but that was 15 years ago. Today the steel would be much more expensive.
Rick says the AR400 armor plate in the center bull is very strong: “You can shoot a .338 Lapua Magnum at 200 yards and it won’t damage the center bull”. The mild steel works well for the cast bullets Rick uses with his Sharps 45/110. Also, Rick says the mild steel is rugged enough for 6.5mm and .308 hollowpoint match bullets, if you’re at least 500 yards away. However, Rick told us, “If I would make [the target] again, I would make the black bull AR400 as well. [That way] you would never have to worry about big dents or beating the plate up at any distance. The AR400 is very tough steel. You can shoot a Sierra or Lapua HP bullet and they will just splatter.”
Rick told us: “I built this target with off-set clanger plates. The white clanger is AR400. Bullets just splatter!” Does he worry about hitting the bolt head? Not at all. Rick says: “When I hit the bolt head, I break my arm patting myself on the back!”.
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This week’s episode of Shooting USA TV features the 2015 Palma World Championships. The World Fullbore Championships and ICFRA World Long Range Palma Team Championship were held at Camp Perry this past summer. The last time the USA hosted the Palma Championship was 1992 in Raton, New Mexico. The event won’t return to the USA for another 28 years. If you want to see the world’s best sling shooters in action, tune in to this episode of Shooting USA on the Outdoor Channel.
This Team Championship is a prestigious match at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards with national squads competing for the prized Palma Trophy (see below). The 2015 Team Championship was secured by the talented United Kingdom squad.
Palma Team World Championships
The Team Palma match is the oldest, continuously-running rifle match in the world. This event was first held in 1876 in Creedmoor, New York as a challenge match to mark America’s Centennial. British Commonwealth nations were invited and the American team won the first title. The Palma World Championships currently take place every four years. This summer the event was held in the USA, with the top eight teams in the world competing at Camp Perry in Ohio. The next Palma Team World Championships will be held in New Zealand in 2019.
“It’s fantastic. It is the greatest honor you could ever get to represent your country. We wouldn’t give it up for anything,” says Australia Palma Team Member, Ben Emms. The match itself takes place over two days, with each team shooting at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards. Competitors shoot a modern target rifle with iron (aperture) sights. All rifles are chambered for the .308 Win (7.62×51) with 155-grain bullets. Wind calls are made by each team’s Wind Coach. “His job is very complex. He’s up there, he’s watching the mirage, the wind flags, and paying attention to the other targets down range,” says American Team Member Amanda Elsenboss.
The top individual shooter in the 2015 Team match was Great Britain’s Toby Raincock, who dropped only one point over two days to finish with 449-55V, a new record individual score that will be very hard to surpass. The next best individual score was the 447-49V by fellow Brit Jon Underwood. The top American shooter was John Whidden, who finished with a 445-45V.
The Palma Team Trophy
Originally named the Centennial Trophy, in honor of the Centennial celebration of the independence of the United States of America, the Palma Trophy was commissioned from Tiffany’s at a cost of $1,500. The trophy was a full-sized replica of a Roman Legion standard, executed in bronze with silver and gold inlay. On the banner of the standard was the legend, “In the name of the United States of America to the Riflemen of the world”. Above the banner was an eagle, bearing in its talons a wreath of palm leaves and a plaque on which was the single word, “PALMA”, the Latin word for palm tree, which was used by the Romans to signify victory, or the ultimate in excellence.
Because the word Palma was so easily seen, the trophy soon became known as the “Palma Trophy”, and by 1878 was referred to officially by that name. The sriginal seven and one-half foot trophy is now lost, having not been seen since at least 1954. Serving in its place is a copy which was commissioned by Dr. Herbert M. Aitken of Eau Claire, WI. The copy was made from the original Tiffany blue-prints at a cost of $32,500. Dr. Aitken has given this copy of the Palma Trophy to the NRA for use in the Palma Match. The trophy is retained by the winning team until the next Palma Match.
In 2008, the Palma Trophy was returned to the NRA, and it was decided that the trophy, once refurbished, will travel to the host nation for the match every four years, then returned to the NRA for safekeeping.
The first competition for the Palma Team was a challenge match for which the British Commonwealth nations were invited. The match was fired in 1876 at the old Creedmoor Range on Long Island as part of the Centennial celebration of the United States. Teams representing Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United States took part. The match is currently fired on a four-year interval.
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Report by Johnny Fisher
Here’s something you don’t see very often — a fullbore shooter with a .223 Remington topped a field of talented .308 Win shooters. Not only that, he scored more points than any F-Class competitor (however, F-Classers shot a smaller target). Bob Gill’s performance proves that, even in an era of high-BC .308 bullets, the little .223 Rem cartridge can still hold its own in the hands of a great shooter.
At last weekend’s California State Fullbore Championships, Bob Gill bested over 30 competitors for the championship with a .223 Palma rifle, only dropping 7 points over the weekend for a 993-56X. The event was sponsored by the California Rifle & Pistol Association and hosted by the Coalinga Rifle Club.
Bob Gill Talks about the ‘Mental Game’
Conventional wisdom when shooting any match is to just stay focused on each and every shot and let the scores work themselves out after all firing is complete. “Two To The Mound” shooting changes all of that, as each competitor is not only aware of their own standings throughout the course of the match – but also of their closest competitor during these pair-fire strings. With this championship never further out than a 2-point lead throughout the weekend, stress was high and every once of mental focus needed to be tapped.
Bob recalls, “The entire match was neck and neck. After a few mental mistakes and a few wind mistakes, with three shots remaining the thought is three shots and a 1X lead. I need to shoot three 10s. Everything else goes away. Shoot three 10s and he can’t catch me.”
Three 10s later, Bob won the CA State Fullbore Championship by one point and one X. Well done!
.223 Remington Accuracy Load — Berger 90gr VLDS, Varget and BR4s
Gill loaded 90gr Berger VLDs in front of 25.0 grains of Hodgdon Varget powder, jumping 15 to 20 thousandths for a 2.708 COL with a BR4 primer inside Lapua brass. Bob uses a Redding Full-Length S-Die to push the shoulders back .004 to match that of new Lapua brass and a bushing chosen to achieve .004 neck tension. He sorts his brass by weight into 0.5 grain lots and each piece is trimmed on a Giraud trimmer after sizing because he says “it grows like crazy”.
Fullbore Course of Fire — Pair Firing on Day 2 at Coalinga
The Fullbore Course-Of-Fire for this match was squadded on the first day by classification for 15-shots string-fire at each yard-line: 300 / 600 / 900 / 1000 yards. These scores were then used to determine “two to the mound” squadding for the second day, when each competitor pair-fired with his closest competitor, and also kept score in between his own shots. In this “pair fire” arrangement, only 45 seconds are allowed between shots after a shooter accepts his shot score. This forces competitors to shoot through condition changes as opposed to waiting for a more favorable pattern.
This video includes interviews with Walt Berger and tube-gun builder Gary Elesio. This is our final Berger SW Nationals video for 2016, so enjoy the highlights from Ben Avery — see you next year.
The 2016 Berger Southwest Nationals are now history. This was a great match, with an incredible level of talent. There were numerous “big names” on the line, including reigning F-Open World Champion Kenny Adams, 10-time National High Power Champion Carl Bernosky, past National Long-range Champion John Whidden, current National Mid- and Long-Range F-TR Champion Bryan Litz, and Derek Rodgers, who won the F-TR division at last year’s SW Nationals. With a strong performance this week, Derek topped the F-TR field again, securing his second straight SW Nationals F-TR title.
Top Five Shooters by Class
F-TR Top Five
F-Open Top Five
Sling Division Top Five
Danny J. Biggs
In team competition, the Michigan F-TR Team scored a narrow victory over tough competition from the USA F-TR Team and the X-Men. In the F-Open Division, Team Lapua-Brux shot superbly at 1000 yards to capture the Aggregate title, finishing ahead of Team Grizzly and Team Berger. The Ethnic Fringe Team from the UK had strong performances in the Sling Division Team events.
With his 2016 victory, Derek Rodgers has secured back-to-back F-TR titles at the Berger Southwest Nationals. He says he likes his new McMillan F-TR stock. View yesterday’s feature video for a revealing interview with Derek. In that video, Derek discusses the best bullet and powder choices for F-TR.
Members of the winning Lapua-Brux F-Open team were all smiles. They deserved to be proud — they set a new SWN record in the 1000-yard team match. Left to right: Bob Sebold, Pat Scully, Erik Cortina, Steve Harp.
Here is F-Open Winner John Myers of Texas, along with Berger’s F-Open Perpetual Trophy. John is interviewed in today’s video, linked at the top of this story. John’s F-Open rifle is chambered for the 7mm Walker, a .284 Win Improved similar to the .284 Shehane.
Sling Division (Palma rifle) winner Patrick McCann is congratulated by Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. Pat has recently returned to competitive shooting after a lengthy hiatus. Pat’s a great competitor who has won the National XTC Championships Twice. Nancy Tompkins lead the “Any Rifle” Sling category. As Forum member Rheurer observed: “No intro needed for the nicest person in the sport.”
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Doan Trevor is a master gunsmith and stock-maker who works in the old style. He still hand-crafts stocks from start to finish, and does all the metal-work on the custom rifles he builds. Starting with highly-figured woods, Doan carves and shapes his stocks largely by hand, with meticulous attention to detail. Each rifle he builds is optimized for its intended discipline, and custom-fitted for the customer.
With the help of his talented wife Sue (who does the photography and builds the web pages), Doan has created a wonderful website, DoanTrevor.com, that is a feast for the eyes. You can see beautiful wood-stocked rifles being hand-crafted. Doan also illustrates how he creates custom metal parts, and how he beds barreled actions into the finished stocks.
While Varget and Reloder 15 remain in short supply, you can often find IMR 4320 powder back in the shelves of local gun stores. IMR describes IMR 4320 as follows: “Short granulation, easy metering, and perfect for the 223 Remington, 22-250 Remington, 250 Savage and other medium burn rate cartridges.” This older-generation powder is more temp sensitive than the Hodgdon Extreme propellants, but in the right application, it looks to be a viable alternative for folks who can’t source Varget, Reloder 15, and even H4895.
IMR 4320 Shoots Well in the .308 Winchester
A while back, German Salazar wrote an excellent Riflemans Journal article, IMR 4320 — the Forgotten Powder. German developed IMR 4320 loads for his .308 Win Palma rifle and competed with IMR 4320-powered ammo at long range matches. German concluded that: “[IMR 4320] appears to be a very useful alternative to some of the harder-to-get powders. The load is working extremely well at 1000 yards. In the  Arizona Palma State Championship, several high placing competitors were using the 4320 load. We got sub X-Ring elevation at 1000 yards from several rifles, and that’s all I’m looking for in a Palma load.”
IMR 4320 Works for Dasher Shooter
Forum member FalconPilot shoots a 6mm Dasher with Berger 105gr Hybrids. Looking for an alternative to Varget, he decided to give IMR 4320 a try. The results were good. FalconPilot reports: “I’ve been looking for other options (besides Reloder 15, which I love, but it’s really dirty). While at a gun shop in Ohio, I ran across 8 pounds of IMR 4320. I had never even heard of it, much less tried it. Getting ready for upcoming mid-range shoots, I loaded five rounds with IMR 4320 to the exact same specs as my winning Varget loads for the 6mm Dasher. This recipe was 32.7 grains of powder, Wolf SMR primer, Berger Hybrid 105 jumped fifty thousandths.” Falcon pilot tested his IMR 4320 load at 600 yards:
As you can see from the photo at the top of this article, FalconPilot had good results — a 1.5″ group at 600 yards. He reports: “This group was shoot during the middle of the day, mirage bad, scope set to 25X. It looks like IMR 4320 is a [very close] replacement for Varget… with a tad bit slower burn rate.” FalconPilot tell us the accuracy with IMR 4320 rivals the best he has gotten with Varget: “This gun has always shot under 2 inches [for 5 shots] at 600 yards, and most of time shoots 1.5 to 1.7 inches.”
For comparison purposes, here are Heat of Explosion and Burn Rate values from QuickLOAD for IMR 4320, and for the popular Reloder 15 and Varget powders. You can see that these powders have similar characteristics “by the numbers”:
Heat of Explosion
Burning Rate Factor
WARNING — When changing from one powder to another, always start with manufacturer’s stated load data. Start low and work up incrementally. Never assume that loads will be equivalent from one powder to another, even powders with similar burn rates.
What Other Forum Members Say:
I was using IMR 4320 in the mid 70s in my .222 Rem. Darned great powder and I never had a load that was not accurate from the .222 to .30-06 with that powder. — 5Spd
A fine powder overshadowed by the nouveau wave of “gotta have the newest — make me a better shot” powders. Try 4320 in a 22-250 — what a well-kept secret! IMR 4320 meters very well and is a flexible alternative to many of the hard-to-find powders so much in demand. — AreaOne
IMR 4320 was my “go to” powder in my .223 for many many years. This powder and Winchester 55gr soft point bulk bullets (the cheapest bullet I could buy at the time) accounted for thousands of prairie dogs, coyotes, and anything else that needed shooting. I still use IMR 4320 in some .223 loads and am very happy with it still. — pdog2062
I’ve been using it in a .308 Win for several years. I think it is very sensitive to temperature and always waited till the last minute to load my ammo with a close eye on the weekend forecast at the range. IMR 4320 Works pretty good for 155gr Palma and 168gr Hybrid [bullets] in my .308. — JayC
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Here’s an early report from the 2015 World Palma Team Championships being held at Camp Perry. After Day 1 of the Team Championships (conducted on August 13th), Great Britain is in the lead with a score of 3551-403. That gives the Brits a 30-point margin over their closest rival. Team USA holds second place with a score of 3521-359, followed by South Africa in third with a score of 3512-339.
Today, August 14th, is the final day of Palma Team Competition. We’ll see if Team USA can come from behind, or whether Team Great Britain can build on its Day One lead. Stay tuned for more updates, including the final results after today’s team matches.
Here is Junior Team USA member Dusty Taylor showing off her USA pride. Today is the final day of the Palma Team World Championships. Dusty says: “Go USA!!!!”
Dusty Taylor photo by Anette Wachter of the U.S. Palma Team. Top photos by Berger Bullets.
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Congratulations to Ben Emms of Australia for winning the World Fullbore Long Range Championship at Camp Perry. Nigel Ball of Great Britain finished second, while another Aussie, Mattthew Pozzebon, took third. There was some amazing shooting done this past week by the top competitors. Here is a report from Anette Wachter, a member of the U.S. Palma Team.
How Ben Emms Won the World Championshipby Anette Wachter (30CalGal.com)
For a while I thought he was not human. Ben Emms of Australia kept powering through every yard line of the Long Range Championship with perfect scores. When the rest of us got pummeled at the 1000-yard line on day 3 he still cleaned the string. He “finally” dropped one point the last day. I guess he is human after all.
But for some dramatic effect he kept us on the edge of our seats during the shoot off. Two crazy shots (a wide two and a low three) were nail biters. His last round for record had to be at least a four to keep the Gold medal from going to second place finisher Nigel Ball from Great Britain. Cheers came from the crowd and especially his team-mates when the final shot came up as a FIVE on the target. Nigel had a beautiful target of centered shots and won the Silver while Matthew Pozzebon also of Australia took the Bronze Medal. Tom Whittaker and Bob Stekettee were also in the Top Ten shoot-off. Tom came home with many awards last night.
The three top Lady trophies went to Sherri Jo Gallagher for the Gold, Trudie Fay with Silver and Jane Messer of GB with the Bronze. We were rooting for Trudie all week as she also was down only one point. Her last string at 1000 was difficult but she still finished in the top 25 in the world. Sherri almost made the shoot-off. She was in 10th place all day until the final results came in at the end and she was pushed to 11th. Although the 11th spot kept her out of the shoot-off, she did stay for the awards ceremony to receive her High Woman Gold Medal and then hit the road for an all night 14-hour trip back to Golden Knights turf for work. Hard core girl!
The Fullbore (Target Rifle) World Championships are now underway at Camp Perry. Held every four years (like the Olympics), the ICFRA World Target Rifle (Fullbore) Championships event is quite possibly the most important long-range rifle competition on the planet. This year the World Championships take place in the USA, at Camp Perry, Ohio. Teams from 11 countries are competing. Here we have some early reports from the August 8th Opening Ceremony…
Report by Ray Gross, Captain U.S. F-TR Team, 8 August, 2015
The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachuted in as part of the opening ceremony for the World Long Range Championships being held at Camp Perry, Ohio. Three of our sister teams, the U.S. Palma Team, the U.S. Veterans Team and the U.S. Under-25 Team will be competing against teams from around the world. Several members of our team, Ray Gross, Steve Hardin, Bryan Litz, and Lane Buxton, are part of the U.S. Palma Team.
The format is very similar to our own World Championships. Everyone entered in the Individuals will shoot 15 shoots for record at 800, 900, and 1000 yards and they will complete that course of fire three times over the next several days. The team event fires the same course twice.
The main difference from our style of shooting is that they will compete using aperture-type target sights and will be using an arm sling as support compared to the scopes and bipods that we use. The rings on our target are substantially tighter to account for the the greater stability and accuracy of the type of rifles that we use.
Report from Anette Wachter (aka 30CalGal), 8 August 2015
Day One of the World Long Range Championships — we had Opening Ceremonies this morning which had our U.S. Army Golden Knights jumping in and the flag raising of each participating country. Sherri Gallagher, former USAMU shooter and now a Golden Knight, led the team as the first and solo jumper. I was sort of hoping she would land in the prone position with a rifle and start the competition. The rest of the Knights fell from the sky and landed perfectly on the X.
The U.S. Fullbore Nationals consisted of individuals and various team events as well as the biggest event, the America’s Match. The USA has never lost the America’s Match at home. We won it three years ago here at Perry and last summer up in Canada. Yesterday was not in the cards. First let me congratulate Great Britain for some outstanding shooting. They lost a total of 17 points for 8 shooters all day and took the Gold. Australia came in second, South Africa 3rd and the USA in 4th. Very humbling yes. One of our coaches had to leave at the middle of the match for a family emergency as well. So I believe the kinks are done and we can move on successfully for this coming week of Worlds. We have the best shooters in the U.S. on our team. Things will turn around. Three women were in the top 25 of the Fullbore Nationals: Michelle Gallagher, Trudie Fay, and Jane Messer. Our Veterans and Under 25s had their World Championship team events as well. Our Veterans took the Gold and the USA Under 25s took the Bronze. The GB kids shot very well and received Gold and Silver medals.
From August 3 through August 14, Camp Perry, Ohio will be the center of the Fullbore (Palma Rifle) universe. From 3-7 August the U.S. Fullbore Championship will take place on the shores of Lake Erie, followed by the ICFRA World Target Rifle (Fullbore) Championships, which runs 8-14 August. The Worlds are a very big deal — just like the Olympics, the ICFRA World Target Rifle (aka Fullbore or Palma) LR Championships event is held every four years. This year the World Championships take place in the USA, at Camp Perry, Ohio. Teams from 11 countries will be competing. The United States won’t host the Worlds again for at least another 25 years.
Our friend Anette Wachter (aka 30CalGal) was on hand for the start of the U.S. Fullbore Championships this week. Here are some images Anette posted from Perry. Many foreign shooters are already in the USA, using the U.S. Fullbore Championship as a “tune-up” for the upcoming World Championships. In addition some of the international events are being held this week such as the ICFRA Veterans World Championship Team Match and the ICFRA Under-25 and Under-21 World Team Championships.
Photos courtesy Anette Wachter. Read Anette’s Shooting Commentaries on 30CalGal.com.
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Story Based on Report by NSSF
American shooters, along with Brownells and Redding, are providing help to the South African Palma (Target Rifle) team members, who will be competing at the Long Range World Championships at Camp Perry in early August, 2015. The ability of the South Africans to compete has been jeopardized by the unexpected seizure of their pre-shipped match ammo by U.S. Customs and ATF. We don’t know why the Feds seized the South Africans’ match ammo, but without it, the South African Team’s ability to participate in the Long Range World Championships has been threatened.
To rectify this situation, American F-TR and Palma shooters, backed by Brownells and Redding, have secured reloading equipment (presses, dies) and ammo components (brass, bullets, powder) so that the South Africans can assemble the needed .308 Win ammo on their arrival in the USA at the end of July.
According to industry sources, the shipment of match ammo for the South African Palma team was seized at the U.S. port of entry by U.S. Customs and ATF agents. When Ray Gross, captain of the U.S. F-TR rifle team, learned about this, Ray contacted Geoff Esterline, Product Category Manager at Brownells. Esterline immediately turned to Robin Sharpless, Executive VP of Redding Reloading, for help.
“I won’t go into the full list of presses and accessories we’ve gathered up, but I can say it’s extensive,” Sharpless told NSSF. “A member of the U.S. F-TR team who lives near Camp Perry has agreed to take our shipment and those from Brownells and the other companies providing brass, powder and bullets so that, when the South African team arrives in the U.S. during the last days of July, they can get started immediately on hand-loading. The U.S. team is even building benches for the press setups, so the South African team should be able to knock this out and get to the more important task at hand, and that is shooting at Camp Perry.”
The 2015 Palma Match and Long Range World Championships will be held August 3-15, in conjunction with the annual NRA National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.
Ray Gross reports: “The folks who deserve credit for this are the members of the U.S. Palma Team, Ryan Henning, Geoff Esterline of Brownells, and the folks at Redding. Members of the Palma team had donated much of the needed equipment within hours of U.S. Palma Team Captain Dennis Flaharty putting the word out.
My contribution was limited to a few emails to Brownells. They coordinated with Redding to provide the remaining equipment. This is a great example of international shooting camaraderie, but my part in it was very small.”
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This Texas Rifle Association (TXRA) Long Range Championship was a match to remember. Despite rain threats, organizers decided to hold the match. On Friday, against the advice of the weather forecasters, the team match was held. The weather held out long enough to complete the match but over four inches of rain fell Friday night. This made for an interesting weekend as competitors had to park at the 300-yard line and shooters and gear had to be trailered to the 1,000-yard line.
The Fullbore (Palma) World Championships will be held at Camp Perry, Ohio this summer. The American squad arrived a bit early — for a few days of team practice. Our friend Anette Wachter (aka 30 Cal Gal) is in Ohio with Team USA and she posted some photos on Facebook. Skies were gray, but that didn’t deter the American shooters who practiced their shooting under the watchful eyes of top wind coaches.
Take a look at the photo above. How many ace American shooters can you spot? Here’s one hint — pulling the black wheeled case is John Whidden, past U.S. Long-Range National Champion.
At right is the first bit of Team USA swag. Anette says there is more to come — team shirts and jackets were sized and ordered for all the U.S.A. shooters and coaches.
Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA) has produced a comprehensive calendar of major NRA-sanctioned firearms tournaments to be held this year. Below are schedules for the major 2015 National Championships. For regional and state events, you should download the full 78-page SSUSA Calendar. This covers Action Pistol, Bullseye Pistol, Air Rifle, Smallbore, Silhouette, High Power, and F-Class events. The Shooting Sports USA 2015 Calendar includes ten pages of important non-NRA events including NBRSA, FCSA (50-caliber), AAFTA (Field Target), IPSC, and IDPA championships.
July 7-12: National Pistol Matches
July 16-22: CMP High Power Rifle and Games Events
July 23-28: NRA High Power Rifle and Mid-Range Championship
July 29–August 2: NRA Long Range High Power Rifle Championship
August 3-7: NRA Fullbore Championship
August 7-14: World Target Rifle “Palma” Championship
2015 NATIONAL SILHOUETTE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Multiple Venues)
March 20-22: Air Rifle Baton Rouge, LA
June 29-July 2: Cowboy Rifle Raton, NM
July 6-7: Black Powder Cartridge Rifle (Scope) Raton, NM
July 9-10: Black Powder Cartridge Rifle Raton, NM
August 2-4: Smallbore Rifle Ridgway, PA
August 6-8: High Power Rifle Ridgway, PA
September 21-26: Black Powder Target Rifle Raton, NM
Program and entry cards for the Nat’l Silhouette Championships will be available online and via paper format after April 1, 2015. To register, write or call: NRA Silhouette Dept., 11250 Waples Mill Rd.,
Fairfax, VA 22030; (703) 267-1474 or silhouette [at] nrahq.org.
2015 NATIONAL SMALLBORE RIFLE CHAMPIONSHIPS — Bristol, Indiana
July 10-11: Metric 3-Position Championship
July 12-13: Conventional 3-Position Championship
July 15-18: Conventional Prone Championship
July 21-22 Metric Prone Championship
Online Registration for the Smallbore Championship starts April 1, 2015. For more information, please email hmoody[at]nrahq.org or lwenzell[at]nrahq.org, or write to: Lois Wenzell, 11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax, VA 22030.
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