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Quigley 2014

By Bob Anderson

In the 1870’s a man rode out of the west and boarded a sailing ship bound for Australia to ply his trade as a rifleman. The man was Mathew Quigley and his rifle, the Sharps model 1874, already famous for its long range capability.

Fast forward a 150 years and watch that journey played out in reverse. 602 competitors from 36 states and 3 countries set out on a similar journey of their own. Their paths, some hundreds and for many, thousands of miles long, culminate on the Al Lee ranch just out of Forsyth, Montana. Unlike Mathew Quigley, though, the end of their journey was met with true Montana hospitality and friendship.

Sponsored by the Forsyth Rifle and Pistol Club of Forsyth, Mt, the match was attended by 602 competitors and their families from 36 states and 3 foreign countries.  The match consists of 8 shots fired at six targets ranging from 350 yds offhand to 805 yds off cross sticks.

DRRC was represented by 5 members, 1 member’s grandson and an honorary member from Alberta, Canada.  Jack Regele, Steve Irving, Bob Anderson, Jim Kendall, Dave Kendall, his grandson Tad and Bob Powell, a rancher from Canada whom we have shot with for several years. Expert Shooter Bob AndersonJack shoots a Shilo 1874 Sharps in 45-90, Steve shot a Farmingdale Shilo Sharps in 45-70, Bob a 45-70 Shilo Sharps, Dave a 45-70 Sharps, Jim a 45-90 1885 Winchester, Tad shot the same rifle and Bob Powell shot a 45-110. Our top shooters were Jim Kendall and Tad who both shot 32 out of 48. Tad broke the tie.

Our journey, this year, began in Portland, Oregon at 6 a.m. on the Sunday before Father’s Day. The weather this time was good and I made good time stopping in Tri-cities and Missoula for gas and arriving in Butte at 6 p.m. plenty of time to go to our favorite barbecue place. Steve ordered an 18 oz. Rib eye steak and Jack stepped up to a 16 oz. Rib eye. I, however, showed incredible restraint and only ordered a 10 oz. NY strip medium rare and cooked to perfection, as were the others. Fred’s Mesquite Grill is the place to go in Butte.  The night was spent at the Finlen Hotel, a 5 star hotel built at the turn of the century and recently restored.

The next morning, it was off to Bozeman for breakfast and Belgrade to visit Montana Vintage Arms the black powder sight maker,  Then it was off to our Mecca, Big Timber, Mt. The home of Shilo Sharps and C Sharps, both manufacturers of fine Sharps rifles. We stopped first at Shilo since they are first on the street. C Sharps is a block away. Jack had Shilo install a new MVA sight on his Sharps and he and Steve went on their annual buying spree. I am not certain how many shirts they purchased, but I am certain it put Shilo into the black for the next two years. We, of course, had to drool over their wall display of high end Sharps.

We then cruised down the street to C Sharps and picked up brass, books, and more hats and shirts. They had a beautiful, fully engraved 1874 sharps for sale in 45 caliber, waiting to be chambered in your choice of calibers. It was only $25,000.00 and no matter how many times I counted the change in my pocket; I couldn’t come up with more than a couple of bucks.

We always stop in Billings for fuel at Costco and get rejuvenated at Cabela’s and then we were off to Forsyth and the Howdy Hotel, circa 1906. You have to check in at the bar and the lady pulling the taps didn’t know anything about us and we told to check in later. So, what does one do when they have two hours to kill… go to Dairy Queen and get a strawberry blizzard, stop in at the local hardware store and the IGA for snacks. At 4:30 we checked back and the regular bartender was on duty and she had all the information on us and our room was ready.

The rooms are not fancy, but very clean with kitchens and beds for three of us. The bathroom had an advantage if you are a drinker; there is no way you could fall over because the room is so small.

Tuesday, we headed to the range. It was sunny, 85 degrees with a 10 mph wind out of the east. We were able to zero in all the rifles by 3:30 p.m. It started to rain at 4 p.m. and we hurried up and cleaned the black powder residue out of our rifles. We also registered for the match which was the coming Saturday and Sunday. Then it was off to sample the Chinese Restaurant.

The next morning, Wednesday, it was 53 degrees and raining like crazy. We call it an “Oklahoma Frog Strangler”. We decided to go to Miles City, 40 miles east, and look for parts for my shooting cart. After seeing Miles City, we headed to Broadus which is 85 miles south. Broadus is a huge megalopolis of about 400. They have an incredible taxidermist there and got a tour. We saw how they stitch and stretch hides over the forms. If you hunt, it is worth seeing. There is also an awesome museum there. You had better plan on a couple of hours to see it all.

Thursday was nice again and we went out and shot a few confirming rounds and then decided to spend the day visiting with old friends and shopping on vendor’s row. We then drove to Colstrip for dinner, another 50 mile drive. Since the speed limit is 75 mph it quicker that driving 10 miles to downtown Portland. Colstrip is a company owned town, I believe, and is spotless. You can see the huge drag line a few miles away and the coal travels an enclosed conveyor to the plant. We ate at a small restaurant across from the city park. We ordered hamburgers and were pleasantly surprised when ½ lb. burgers arrived with fries and a drink. The patties were homemade and were spectacular.

Friday morning we were on the range by 8 a.m. and watched the firing of the bowling ball canon. They had been warned that there were cattle over the next hill, so the first shot reminded me of the old M-79 40mm blooper. It literally made a bloop sound and could have gone a 100 yds. A few minutes later, there was a sharp crack and they fired again. This time the bowling ball was really flying.  You couldn’t see it, but you could certainly here the wind whistling through the finger holes. We fired a few more shots and spent the rest of the day visiting with friends.

That night dinner was a “milk can” dinner put on by the Kiwanis. It was ok and only cost $10…. I had to tease the guys about making me eat a pop can or beer can dinner.

Saturday morning we arrived early at the range and the first thing we noticed was the wind had reversed itself. All windage settings had to be changed to accommodate the reversal.  We were to start on target number 5, 417 yds. I am shooting a Farmingdale Shilo Sharps in 45-70. It was originally a business rifle with a 28” barrel with a globe front sight with a pin post. The rear sight was a hunting Vernier. No windage and no numbers on the short mast. It was also a straight butt stock with a curved steel butt plate. A couple of years ago I put an MVA globe front sight with spirit level and a “parts unknown” rear sight. I upgraded to the stock to a pistol grip stock with a shotgun butt. (So if you want a mint straight Sharps stock with a curved, color case finished butt stock, let me know.) My load is an R-P 45-70 case, Remington large rifle primer, 67 grains of Goex Cartridge, and a 525 grain Postel cast lead bullet.

We started to set up in our position and the rain started. I mean really started and the folks with the smart phones could see the storm stretched clear to Billings. The match was halted until noon when the sun came out and the mud quickly disappeared. I had to reverse my windage to 10 ½ minutes left to right. I was able to hit 6 out of 8 and was really pumped.

We then moved to target 6, 350 yds offhand.  I was only able to hit one. Ugh! I attacked that target Indian style. I surrounded it and used up seven shots scaring it to death and then connected on the 8th shot.

Since this is a shotgun start, we moved to the far end of the range and engaged target 1, 805 yards. Now I usually do reasonably well on this one, but since we had a three hour delay, we were running out of daylight. My 68 year old eyes knew where the buffalo was, but it was in the shadows and my spotter could not see where I was hitting.  My 8mm Kowa let me down. Hah! So, I got Maggie’s Drawers on target 1.

It was 8 pm by the time we got to town and the local restaurant had prime rib on the menu. I was looking forward to a decent meal. It took forever and by the time we were served, the meat looked like an old boot sole. Tasted like it to.

Sunday morning we started on target 2, 600 yds. I was able to hit 6 of 8 on this one as the wind hadn’t changed and it was sunny again. Target 3, 530 yds yielded 5 hits and target 4, 405 yds. and that was 4 hits.

I had scored 22 out of 48 and placed 357 out of 602. The awards ceremony lasted into the evening before we headed for home. I was able to make it to Billings at 1 a.m. The next morning I drove all the way to Portland. I was amazed that my 2005 Chevy Silverado crew cab, Z71 was able to get 18.5 mpg.

What sets the Quigley Match apart from any other competition is not the targets or the distance, which are fairly straight forward, although the diamond can be difficult. I always hit in the nonexistent corners. What sets it apart is the weather and the large, irregular ravine that you have to shoot over. The wind does some very strange things over that ravine. Winds vary from 0 to gusts up to 45 mph. The direction can change on a whim and you can be drowning one minute and burned to a crisp 15 minutes later. It’s Montana.

If you want a challenging but low stress, friendly place to compete, join us in Forsyth 2015.