Texans Strut Stuff In Two National Events


By Bob Brister
Houston Chronicle
Sunday, July 9, 1989

Houston-area national shooting champions, from left, are Bob Brister (USSCA Senior Champ, Runner-Up Senior NSCA); Sandi Nail (national women’s champion of both the USSCA and NSCA); Sue King (Runner-Up USSCA Ladies) and Bray Vincent, (Class A Junior Champion USSCA, Runner-Up NSCA Junior). -Photo by Sandy Brister


Take more than 500 top-notch shotgunners from the U.S. and Europe and put them into competition for the American Championship of two different sponsoring organizations, two separate “field trials for hunters” in widely varying terrain that can simulate the shooting of game birds anywhere in the world.

Make sure those tests include clay targets thrown at every conceivable angle, speed and distance-from behind, in front, and doubles coming straight over so fast, through a short window of visibility that many contestants can get off only one shot.

Vary the terrain from the lakeside woods of Minnesota to the rolling hills and gullies of Missouri, and make sure each course has some targets crossing out near the edge of range while others disappear behind trees almost as soon as they can be seen.

Set up these tests one week apart so that gluttons for punishment-or serious students of the shotgun-can attend both.

When the smoke settles, the fallout comprises a data bank of information on the latest guns, loads, chokes, and shooting tricks that would be difficult to document any other way.

This is the start of a new chapter in American shooting history, the year Sporting Clays really “arrived” in America.  Although the games got going right here in Houston in 1984 and has spread nationwide since, it’s always been considered “the coming thing.”  Now it’s here.  And just as it has in England, it may someday become the most popular of all shotgun games in this country.

The United States Sporting Clays championship July 1-2 near Weston, M0., was by far the largest SC event ever held in America with more than 430 shooters, including some of the world’s best from England and Europe.  It was also an outdoor carnival of guns, shooting accessories and demonstrations of a computer-controlled portable shooting range with targets so fast they swooshed the air in passing.  I mean, fellow hunters, this was a sure-enough event.

So was the National Sporting Clays Association championship the week before, likewise a colorful tent city of exhibitors swarmed by shooters and with $30,000 in cash prizes, twice the cash offered by the longer-established USSCA.

Like boxing, Sporting Clays now has two associations competing with each other.  And competition has a way of bringing out the most in people or organizations.

The new NSCA, a branch of the National Skeet Shooting Association, has been in full-scale operation only about two months but produced one of the best-run championships in this country so far.  Their nationals at Prior Lake, Minn., June 24-25 attracted 150 competitors and jammed the grounds of Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club with spectators.

Certainly neither event is going to challenge the Grand American Handicap at trapshooting in August.  This is the world’s largest single participation sports event, with more than 5,000 competitors on the firing line. But the “Sporting” championships will have much more bearing on game shooting, which directly affects millions more hunters than all clay target games combined.

Sporting particularly can help hunters learn to handle the technique of making difficult shots on game and to select the most advantageous guns, chokes and loads for doing so.

Some of the items I perceived, after participating in both national championships, may be surprising to many local birdshooters.

For example, the trend around here in recent years has been toward over-under shotguns, perhaps because so many Sporting Clays shooters have been winning with them.

At both national championships, approximately 90 percent of guns used were over-unders. Yet at both nationals, the high over-all winners shot relatively plain and inexpensive autoloaders.  Jim Jamison of Los Angeles shot 164 X 200 to win the NSCA title (and $5,000 cash) with a model 1100 Remington.  David Bleha of Los Angeles took third and $2000 with a Beretta 303.

Presumably the reduced recoil of gas-operated autoloaders, and their longer sighting plane relative to weight, are sufficient advantages to offset their cluck-de-clunk function and apprehension over jamming.

In other words, if you hunt with an autoloader, you aren’t necessarily giving up a thing to the guy with the elaborate over-under. And a high percentage of youngsters, women, and recoil-sensitive males could probably shoot better with a well-balanced gas gun.  Among shooters of same (who were hitting well with them at the nationals), the favored model seemed to be the Beretta 303, which has a light and lively feel to it.

Recoil very obviously has more effect on shooting-in actual or simulated game hunting situations-than most shooters realize whether they are even aware of “kick” or not.  Out hunting, most of us don’t keep score as to blown chances for quick second shots. But at Sporting, they do indeed keep score, and apparently a high percentage of top-level shooters have realized they can hit more with the new breed of “lite” traploads and skeetloads than with the heaviest loads that might appear to be an advantage.

The realization has come about mostly over the past year as shooters become sharper at the new game.  USSCA President, Bob Davis, said sales of cartridges at the recent nationals had changed from a preponderance of heavy traploads to light loads, with Winchester’s Super Light most purchased at the event.  Many shooters brought their own loads, but I noticed far more fired cases of “lite” traploads such as Federal’s Extra Lite, Fiocchi Lite, Winchester Super Lite, Active Ultra Lite, etc., than the previous years.

How these new technology loads with their remarkably soft recoil can possibly hit as hard at long range as harder-kicking loads relates to the relationship of lower muzzle velocity to reduced atmospheric drag on the load is the subject of a column to come.

Sporting shooters, far more than game hunters so far, have learned to carry two types of cartridges to vary pattern spread as needed.  They use 9’s to open patterns in close-range situations, trapload 8’s or 71/2’s on the long shots.

Although some crossing shots had to be taken out around 50 yards, the majority of shooters used not tighter than modified choke and most used nothing more restrictive than improved cylinder-at least on crossing shots where the target passes through the shot string.  Carlisle, who shot the highest score in the history of U.S. Championships (93 X 100 the first day, 86 X 100 the second at USSCA) used improved cylinder on long-range targets. The average hunter would expect to require full choke.  Most hunters use more choke than they can handle.

An indication of the difficulty of the national championship courses, as compared with many events staged around Houston, is that the average number of hits per national-level competitor (NSA figures) was only 61.6 percent. I suspect the USSCA average would be about the same or lower.

That puts into better perspective the shooting job done by the Houston-area housewife Sandi Nail of Pinehurst and junior competitor Bray Vincent of Houston.

Nail won the ladies’ title at both national championships by averaging just shy of 70 percent at NSCA and 74 percent of USSCA. Vincent defending the J.S. Junior Champ won the 100-target Class A USSCA junior title with 74 X 100, and was junior runner-up at NSCA with 150 X 200.

Americans are coming on fast at this difficult game that’s still new to them, and in a few more years they could be dominating it.  This is the first year in which top European shooters have been beaten by a U.S. shooter in our national championship.

Carlisle, who moved some years ago from the Houston area to Norco Calif., where he operates a shooting school, trounced by five targets world record holder Marc Polet of Belgium, who shares with A.J. Smith of England the world mark of 190 X 200 in major competition.  Both hold numerous European and world titles, but they finished second and third respectively at USSCA.

Carlisle, 33, holds the world international trap record at 200 X 200, is the only shooter ever to win world titles at both trap and skeet and is an Olympic medalist at trap.  Now he’s given up international trap and skeet to concentrate on Sporting, going for the gold of recognition as the world’s best all-around shotgun shooter-at least at internationally sanctioned clay targets.

“I’ve been lucky at international trap and skeet, now I’m looking toward the world championship at Sporting, which is probably going to be the hardest of all,” he said. “I love this new game.  It’s the toughest challenge I’ve found since South Texas doves in high wind.”

Texas tradition for marksmanship was upheld at the United States Sporting Clays Championships at Weston, Mo., last weekend.

Olympic medalist Dan Carlisle, 33, a native of the Houston area who now operates a shooting school and sporting-clays course at Norco, Calif., took the national title with a record-breaking 179 X 200.

Houston-area housewife Sandi Nail of Pinehurst won the championship with 148.  The women’s runner-up was Houston shooting instructor Sue King (137).

Bob Brister of Houston won the national senior championship with 145.  Ralph Cramer of Midland was runner-up with 131.

Houstonian Bray Vincent, 18, took the national Class A Juniors title with 74 X 100, and Gil Stroube, 14, of Corsicana, took the Class B Juniors title with 75 X 100.  The Juniors division was based on 100 targets  Vincent won the U.S. Juniors title last year.

The USSCA championship was the largest sporting-clays event staged in this country, with 430 competitors, including some of best from around the world.

International champion Marc Polet of Belgium was second overall with 174, and third was A.J. “Smoker” Smith of England with 171.  Polet and Smith share the world record of 190 X 200 in international sporting-clays competition.

Nail not only defended the USSCA championship she won on the same grounds last year, but became reigning female champ of both American sporting-clays organizations.  She took the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) title June 24 at Prior Lake, Minn., and her score at the USSCA nationals was the highest fired in this country by a woman in national competition.

Carlisle, a former member of the U.S. Army skeet and trap teams and twice a member of the U.S. Olympic team, has won world championships at both skeet and trap and holds several world records, including a perfect 200 X 200 at international trap.

His win last weekend was worth more than $6,500 in cash and merchandise prizes.


Sandi Nail is presented with awards. -Courtesy of Sandi Nail’s personal scrapbook.

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