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Burning River 120 A.A.F.T.A. Grand Prix Field Target Match 2019 Recap

(Match Report by Tyler Patner)

The Northeast Ohio Airgunners hosted their first AAFTA Grand Prix match on September 20-22, 2019. Hosted at the Twin Oaks Air Rifle Range in Chagrin Falls, Ohio just outside of Cleveland, we were blessed with good weather to accompany good friends and some tough courses. Before we get into some details about the match, I’d like to acknowledge a few folks from our club that helped make the event a success.

Bill Rabbitt, Larry Justinus, Dave Hitchcock and Tim Baylor collaborated to come up with the awesome awards for the match. Plaques adorned with flaming accents and laser etched writing were really fantastic and some of the most unique awards I have ever seen. Well done fellas!

custom awards

Jeff Paddock and Kristen Coss worked on our shirts and logos for the match and turned out logos that we were all impressed with and excited about. In addition, Kristen Coss also handled organizing and delivery of two fantastic lunches for our shooters on Saturday and Sunday that were enjoyed by all.


Rick Smelko, Bill Rabbitt and Jeff Paddock (along with yours truly) for marshalling while shooting the match and handling any cold lines and shooter issues that came up.

Gary Palinkas, Joe Tricomi, Rick Smelko, Roger Barker, Dan Putz, Jim Donahue, Bill Rabbitt, Jeff Paddock, Dave Hitchcock, Tim Baylor, Larry Justinus, Keith Walters, Jeff Little, Ted Andro and Jim Miller all assisted at some point with the organization and setup of the event. If I am missing anyone, my apologies. Thank you to all who assisted with the event, we truly could not have done it without each one of you!

Lastly (and probably the most important), the biggest of THANK YOU’s to Anne and Ashley Reily, the property owners of the Twin Oaks Air Rifle Range. The Reily’s graciously allow us to use their amazing property for our matches and Ashley was nothing but excited when we asked him to OK the use of the property for this GP match. To help ensure the events success and improve the courses, Ashley even helped spread wood chips around the woods course to clean up a few of the muddy spots and really make the trail easy to navigate. He went above and beyond to help us out, and for that, we are all grateful. Thank you again for your hospitality and assistance!

Onto the match report! We decided to host the pistol portion of the match on Friday afternoon on our woods course. We were able to employ many new tree stands for both the pistol and rifle courses that helped add some variety and challenge to many shots. We had 20 shooters come out and test their skills on the pistol course. The course was a mid-level difficulty, coming in at a 32.7T rating. The average target distance was about 24 yards, so I would say it was on the longer side, and it proved challenging for everyone.

Hunter division had 15 shooters take on the course, with two in Limited and three electing to shoot “hands only.” With many seasoned pistol shooters in attendance, there were sure to be some high scores and tight competition at the top of the leaderboard. Eric Brewer shot his Crosman 1720T and turned in a fantastic 35/40 to secure top placing in Hunter. Followed closely by Keith Walters running his purple and black Thomas Pistol and finishing on 34. Right behind them was newcomer Don Baum and Bill Rabbitt, tied at 33 for third place. Shoot-offs were held on Sunday with Don and Bill squaring off on the windy sight-in range with two custom flame targets set at 33 yards. It was a quick one as Don dropped the target on his first attempt and Bill could not match him. In Limited, Tyler Patner and Jeff Paddock shared their highly customized Crosman 1701P. Tyler turned in a match high score of 36, with Jeff just a few shots behind on 32. And in “hands-only”, Leo Gonzales bested John Eroh and Jeff Hemming with a 7. Not too shabby for running a 10m Alfa Proj pistol and a red dot!

On Saturday morning, the attention turned to the rifle match. With 28 shooters in the Hunter PCP class, they were able to occupy the woods course on day one, while Hunter Piston, Open PCP, and WFTF Piston and PCP took on the field course. The Field course had some additional tree stands added, including a few 16’ tall stands that gave shooters a completely different look at the wind compared to the shots on the ground. As usual, we utilized a number of cross lane targets, requiring shooters to consider varying angles of wind as well as change positions between their first and second targets. In the woods, a number of new target placements were used in an effort to create some interesting lighting and angles. Both courses featured 15 targets over 40 yards, and 11 of those over 45 yards. The Woods course sported a Troyer rating of 32.2T and the Field course was a 31.9T. Bear in mind, this is without lighting, wind or any other factors taken into account. And particularly in the field, the wind was absolutely a factor!

A relatively light 3-5 MPH wind passed through the field from time to time. Enough to move your pellet around a bit and really get you thinking. In the woods, the conditions were calm, but the sun and shade made it quite difficult to range a number of targets. As scores came in, things were very tight at the top of Hunter PCP, with Dennis Himes and Jeff Little both posting impressive 57/60. Sean McDaniel was just one behind of 56 and Bill Rabbitt was one behind him with 55. In Hunter Piston, Dan Putz and Eric Jones emerged from the field a number of shots ahead of their competitors with Dan posting an impressive 49 and Eric on 44. In Open PCP, Gary Palinkas continued his current hot streak, shooting a 51. Tyler Patner posted the top score in WFTF PCP with a 53 and John Eroh was just one behind on 52. And the top score out of the field was Leo Gonzales shooting an unreal 54 in the field to take a commanding lead in WFTF Piston.

We enjoyed some delicious Mexican food after the match, and had a good number of helpers to re-paint the targets in the field and the woods. Thanks to all that assisted. Later that evening, about 25 of us met up at the local Cowboy Food & Drink for dinner. We laughed, shared stories from the day and compared notes with most calling it an evening pretty early to rest up for Sunday.

On Sunday morning, we were greeted with sunshine and temps in the mid 70s. It was a beautiful day, but the wind forecast was less than beautiful. Winds up to 15 MPH were predicted, and those predictions came true about halfway through the match. Even in the woods, there was enough push from the wind to move your pellet at 45+ yards. With over a third of the targets on both courses over 45 yards, the wind was a huge factor throughout the day, amplifying the difficulty of both courses. In the field, Bill Rabbitt seemed to hold his nerve the best and played the wind well, coming off with an impressive 54. He was able to overtake Dennis Himes by just one shot, as Dennis posted a 51 in the field. And Jeff Little followed closely behind with a 49, securing third place in the division. From the woods, Leo Gonzales emerged with a 47, edging Zach and George Harde of Canada by three shots and securing the win in WFTF Piston. Gary Palinkas held strong, shooting a 55 to secure another Open PCP title. In Hunter Piston, Keith Walters posted a 49 in the woods, followed by Eric Brewer on 44 and Greg Shirhall and Dan Putz at 42. But because of Dan’s lead from day one, none of the others made up quite enough ground to catch him. Dan took the top place, with Eric Brewer in second and Keith Walters in third. In WFTF PCP, Tyler Patner produced a near perfect 59 to take the division. Jeff Paddock was just a few behind with a 56 to leapfrog John Eroh and take second place.

We were treated to a fantastic Cleveland favorite, Sokolowski’s, which is known for their authentic Polish food. Sauerkraut balls, potato pancakes, pierogies and corned beef sandwiches were enjoyed by all. Shortly after lunch, awards were handed out, accompanied by $50 gift cards to Baker Airguns for division champions, graciously donated by Dennis for the match. Many shooters stuck around to help tear the courses down, and we were done in no time at all. Just like that, NOA’s first GP match was a rousing success and we are already looking forward to doing it again in 2020! A big thank you to all of those that helped organize the match and make it possible, and thank you to the 47 shooters that traveled to spend the weekend with us. None of this is possible without you and we appreciate your support more than you know.

Until next time, shoot safe and we will see you on the lanes!

Eric Brewer 1st place Hunter Pistol

Bill Rabbitt 1st Place Hunter PCP

Dan Putz 1st place Hunter Piston

Gary Palinkas 1st place Open PCP

Tyler Patner 1st place WFTF PCP

Leo Gonzales 1st place WFTF Piston


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