The treachery of a pulsating artery or a pulsating wind could foul up Ransford Triggs's chances in the upcoming national matches, but the prospect never worries him. Over the years he has experienced a good number of odd twists in the game. Four years ago, going into the last match, Triggs stood even with Alonzo Wood of Elbridge, N.Y.; each of them had dropped only seven shots out of the 320 that counted for the title. In the last match, each man had one shot seemingly nipping the 10-ring. When the shot holes were gauged by officials, Wood's shot was in the 10-ring by 1/50th of an inch, Triggs's was out by as much. Six years ago, when his gun was accidentally left in the hot sun between matches, the heat cooked the fouling in the barrel. In the next match his shot group opened up, the shots falling all over the 9-ring. Out of one 20-shot string, Triggs dropped eight. He lost the title by seven.
Triggs has, in fact, won the title only once, long ago, in 1941. This is typical of the sport—John Moschkau of Waterloo, Iowa, for another example, came within three points of winning in 1940 and never came so close again until he took the title last year, dropping only eight shots out of 640. It is in considering the scores of all the top men through the years—the superaggregates of their scores, as it were—that Triggs stands somewhat in a class by himself. Triggs has usually ranked in the first 10; in 13 championships in the past 20 years he has fired 4,960 shots and dropped only 208 outside the 10-ring—a record for consistency that will not be equaled often or easily.
Triggs has long since given up caring whether he wins or not. "If I felt I had to win," he commented recently, "I wouldn't go." Triggs's interest is in firing as clean a score as possible, with little concern for how he ranks in the competition. He cannot, in fact, recall with any certainty what he scored in prior matches, and he is reluctant to dwell on the bad luck and near misses that have spoiled his scores. Every man on the line, he figures, gets his share of misfortune, and the man who alibis too much too loudly is soon rated by his rivals on the firing line as the biggest bore in the small-bore field.
This month, almost concurrent with the national matches, the world shooting championships take place in Moscow, and it is the oddity of the sport that, because of their devotion to prone shooting, many of our best men never represent us abroad. For while the U.S. has stayed on its stomach, international competition has trended toward position shooting of a highly specialized sort. The extent of specialization in both types of shooting is somewhat apparent in the display of rifles shown on the preceding pages. Second from the left in this display is the Winchester High Wall rifle, now extinct on the firing line but in its day used both for prone and position shooting. The modern target rifle at the left, Remington's 40x Rangemaster, is the sort popular for U.S. prone shooting. The gun at the extreme right, the Finnish Lion, with thumb hole and palm rest, is typical of the arms used in position shooting. Second from the right is a Winchester experimental rifle which carries the U.S.'s hopes in international high-power competition.
It will be a surprise, however, if U.S. shooters do well internationally so long as the essential interest here is in prone shooting. In several ways, by incorporating position shooting in the junior qualifications and by promoting a special position competition at Camp Perry, the National Rifle Association is trying to get the U.S. rifleman up off his stomach. There has been some progress, but not enough. At Perry, for example, while Triggs and about 650 more will enter the small-bore prone matches, probably not more than 300 will try position shooting. Triggs himself prefers prone shooting, where the refinement of the weapon and the doping of conditions are the foremost challenges.
PRECISION AND MORE PRECISION
Triggs is by profession a printer, vice-president of Triggs Color Printing Corporation, which produces book jackets and inside color work for many large publishing houses. His work involves the precise care and feeding of great presses that thump and rumble through the day like caged brontosaurs. After a work week of exact, millimetric precision among the presses, it would seem that for recreation Triggs would seek out some chaotic, haphazard game, something on the order of flamingo croquet as played by Alice in Wonderland. But, says Triggs, "I shoot because I am a tinkerer at heart. All small-bore men are tinkerers at heart." At tinkering, Triggs is the ultimate. The gun he holds in the picture at left is like no other. It is a Triggs gun. Every part of the barrel, action, stock and sights was cut by Triggs from raw material, machined, drilled, tapped, threaded, reamed, milled and finished by him in his cellar. The 30-inch barrel is the end product of 18 such barrels that he drilled and rough-reamed. Twelve of the barrels he discarded because the tensions released by drilling produced warp. The remaining six barrels were then placed on his house roof for six months of weathering to release any further tension. The best of these six became his barrel.
It is not, however, Triggs's contention that a successful shooter need make his gun from scratch. In the welter of guns in his house, Triggs has good proof to the contrary—a Model 52 Winchester, the standby of the firing line, which he purchased in the late '30s. In the years since, he has put 200,000 rounds through the barrel; the Model 52 groups as well today as it did when he won the national title with it 17 years ago. The essential, Ransford Triggs concludes, is that the man must be the complete master of his target gun whatever its origin.