Author: Bruce Firth
Photos by: Oleg Volk
As Summer turns to Fall, competitors from all over the United States gather for the annual 2-day NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Championship match. This year, over 220 competitors faced a technically challenging course of fire consisting of 8 rifle stages and 8 pistol stages. The match was hosted by the excellent range and staff of Cavern Cove Rimfire in scenic Woodville, Alabama. For two days, the air over the range was filled with the sounds of 22 rimfire reports and the infectious sound of bullets striking steel targets. By Sunday afternoon, Kolby Pavlock had defended his 2015 NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Champion title and was recognized as the 2016 World Champion.
What Is Rimfire Challenge?
If you’ve never been exposed to NSSF Rimfire Challenge competition, the NSSF describes Rimfire Challenge as follows. “The NSSF Rimfire Challenge is a .22 rifle and pistol program created to introduce new people to the shooting sports and provide a pathway to shooting competition. The NSSF Rimfire Challenge can provide individuals, or families, with a fun and exciting first-time competitive shooting experience.” Rimfire Challenge matches consist of several stages of steel targets, of various sizes, that are set at various distances from the shooter. Stages for both rifle and pistol are included in each match. Competitors must complete all competition stages in order to complete the match. Example stages, also referred to as courses of fire, can be viewed in this NSSF prepared document. http://www.nssf.org/Rimfire/files/CoursesOfFire.pdf
Typical Rimfire Challenge stages have 5 to 7 steel targets and competitors are limited to 11 rounds of ammunition per stage with which to score a hit on each target. Competitors start on a signal and the total time required to complete the stage is recorded. The faster the stage is completed, the better the score. Competitors shoot each stage 5 times and the longest time of the 5 is dropped. The remaining 4 times are added together to determine the competitor’s overall score for the stage. The competitor’s score from all stages are added together to determine their total score for the match.
Special Equipment and Prior Experience NOT Necessary
Rimfire Challenge matches are intended to be accessible to shooters of all skill levels. As long as the competitor adheres to the strict code of safety established for handling firearms and ammunition during the competition, the novice shooter and seasoned competitor compete on a level playing field. Specialized firearms, ammunition, or prior qualification are not required to take part in any Rimfire Challenge competition, including the annual World Championship match. The Rimfire Challenge Rulebook can be viewed on the NSSF Rimfire Challenge website. http://nssf.org/Rimfire/files/RimfireChallengeRulebook2016.pdf
Competitors are divided into two distinct classes based on the firearms they use for competition. To keep things as simple as possible, the Rimfire Challenge match competitors are classified as Open or Limited. Limited Class competitors use iron sights and are prohibited from using any muzzle brake or compensator. Open Class allows competitors to use battery powered optical sights and muzzle brake devices.
Trophies and Prizes
Trophies are awarded for Match Champion (can be either Open or Limited) as well as the first three places within each class (Open and Limited). Additional Category trophies are awarded to special recognition groups within each class. For example, Youth and Junior shooters. Even Mechanical and Cowboy shooters have a place in Rimfire Challenge with additional trophies available in their Categories.
Prizes are distributed by random drawing with all competitors having an equal chance of winning anything available on the prize tables.
2016 World Championship
The venue for the 2016 NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Championship was Cavern Cove Rimfire in Woodville, Alabama. Just a short drive from Huntsville and a short walk from Cathedral Caverns State Park, the facility is an ideal location for a match if you enjoy a little scenery with your shooting. The match staff and volunteers working the shoot were fantastic and full of Alabama hospitality. I have nothing but praise for the folks that gave of their time so freely to assure the match ran so smoothly. We also had decent weather with just a threat of rain on Sunday morning that never materialized.
The match consisted of 16 total stages that were evenly split between rifle and pistol. We shot all of one gun and part of our second gun stages on Saturday. We came back on Sunday to complete the remaining stages of our second gun. Most squads were done shooting by 11am on Sunday. Two scorekeepers were assigned to each squad. Dan and Mary, our squad’s scorekeepers, were excellent at keeping us organized and knew exactly where we were supposed to be as we moved from one stage to the next. A dedicated Range Officer was assigned to each stage to familiarize us with the course of fire, monitor safety rules as we handled our firearms, and also record our stage times.
Jeff Blackwell, the Match Director, designed the courses of fire set on each stage. Everyone agreed that the stages were challenging to get through quickly, but still easy enough that novice shooters could complete the stages with little difficulty. Jeff did a great job setting the stages for a match that everyone could enjoy, yet still challenge the most experienced shooters.
I signed up for a squad with several other shooters that were competing in both Limited and Open class. Per NSSF Rimfire Challenge rules, this is permissible as long as the Open class stage is shot before the Limited class stage. I knew some of my squad by reputation, but I was really meeting them all for the first time as we shot together on Saturday. We were a diverse group with some from the East Coast, West Coast, and several areas in between. Our skill and experience levels were also quite diverse, but that didn’t matter. We were all there to support each other and do our individual best. Personally, I learned quite a bit by observing the other members of my squad. Tenths of a second matter in Rimfire Challenge events and watching how others engaged the targets helped me shoot the stages a little faster than I normally would have.
Several shooters in the squad ended up winning individual Class and Category awards. Paul Dandini was Limited Class Champion. Lorne Shackford, Kim Susor, and Analeah Dunaway all won one or more Category awards in Limited or Open Class. I ended up a little higher than the middle of the pack for both Limited and Open classes. I was happy with that. The placements were much improved from the previous two World Championship matches I attended and proved to me that the time I’ve invested in practicing is paying off. I will do better next year.
While I waited for the last few squads to finish shooting on Sunday, I took a stroll down Vendor Row and shot some of the latest firearm releases from Remington and Smith and Wesson. Both manufacturers had sent demonstration firearms, representatives, and ammunition to the match so attendees could give their latest models a try. The match kept us busy, but that couldn’t keep me from trying out the new S&W Victory and Remington RM380 pistols.
Immediately after lunch it was time for the distribution of prizes and awards. As previously mentioned, the prize table is distributed by random draw. Prior to the drawing, I had taken a quick peek at the impressive array of gear on the prize table. Someone said there were over 50 firearms included in the prize table loot. Based on what I saw during my recon mission, that seemed about right. In addition to the firearms, there was a vast assortment of shooting related items. The match Organizers and match Sponsors did an excellent job putting together the most impressive prize table I’ve ever seen.
With the prize table distributed, the recognition of Class and Category award winners took place. Kolby Pavlock defended his 2015 Rimfire Challenge World Champion status to become the 2016 Rimfire Challenge World Champion. Trenton Mitsuoka claimed the Open Class Championship, and Paul Dandini was crowned Limited Class Champion. Congratulations to all the Class and Category award winners.
As you scan through the pictures Oleg Volk took during the match you will see a representative group of individuals, couples, children, and families that participated in the World Championship match this year. Some had previously attended local, state, and regional Rimfire Challenge matches while others were participating in their first Rimfire Challenge match. The family-friendly and “All Are Welcome” nature of this competition series always brings together a great group of people. If you don’t make a new friend or two at Rimfire Challenge matches, you aren’t trying because everyone is always very friendly and approachable if you strike up a conversation with them.
If you have any desire to dip your toe into the world of competitive shooting, I highly encourage you to start with NSSF Rimfire Challenge. I don’t think you will find a more approachable and helpful group of competitors in any other shooting competition. Getting together the basic equipment you need to compete is much less costly than other types of shooting competition. Lastly, the NSSF Rimfire Challenge Program continues to grow each year with additional opportunities to compete being added at local and regional levels. Be warned, the sound of ringing steel targets can be addictive. Once you start competing, you just might find yourself at the 2017 NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Championship. I’ll see you there.