By Kyle Jillson | August 11 2012 07:30

Going back-to-back brings Carl Bernosky his tenth NRA title

2012 NRA High Power Rifle Champion Carl Bernosky during the Awards Ceremony in Camp Perry, Ohio

Port Clinton, Ohio - Winning the 2012 NRA National High Power Rifle Championship was more than just a repeat of last year's win for Carl R. Bernosky — it was his tenth overall title.

Hailing from Ashland, Pennsylvania, Bernosky came into the competition with more than 30 years of shooting experience. All that time at the firing line has allowed him to develop an effective training schedule for the yearly match.

"July 4th, that's usually my day to start shooting," Bernosky said. "At that point I shoot a lot of standing. I start off with three or four nights the first week and then just about every night after that. The week before Perry I'm ready and hungry to get out here and at it."

Preparing for High Power Rifle at Camp Perry

That takes care of rifle shooting mechanics, but Camp Perry is notorious for its weather conditions. How does one prepare for shooting in the rain?

"You know it's going to be hot and windy and everything out here," Bernosky explained. "Whatever the elements are [at the range], they are."

2012 NRA High Power Rifle winner Carl Bernosky taking air during the Camp Perry competition

"I try to stay used to the heat. That last month, you try not to put the air conditioner on in the car every time you go somewhere," Bernosky chuckled. "If you're in air conditioning all the time and you come out here and put a coat on you're going to die."

Now that the rifle championship is over, Bernosky is putting his worries about acclimating to the intense heat aside. "I'm going to turn the air conditioner on whenever it gets hot now for the rest of the year," he added with a laugh.

At the start of the High Power Rifle Championship's final day, shooters lined up for the Crescent Cup, a slow fire match shot in the standing position from 200 yards. It was wet, windy and every other inclement condition you could imagine. Each shooter had a rough time with their rifles. And for added pressure, Bernosky was stationed right next to Sergeant Sherri Jo Gallagher of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. Gallagher last won the NRA High Power Championship in 2010 and the two had spent the week wrestling back and forth for the lead.

On Friday morning, the two were tied for points. Bernosky, however, was hanging on to a five-X lead.

"It was the kind of a day where you just had to shoot good shots because you couldn't give any up," Bernosky explained. "Just stand up and shoot. That's where [the championship] was going to be made; right there in the standing match."

NRA High Power Rifle Champion Carl Bernosky stands with his rifle at Camp Perry in 2012

The final day of NRA's 2012 High Power Rifle Championship in Camp Perry, Ohio

Bernosky tied a National Record during last year's Crescent Cup by shooting a 200-15x. He wasn't so fortunate this year, pulling out a 197-10x, but the weather had a greater affect on Gallagher as she posted a 195-2x.

Now up by two points and eight more X's, Bernosky had created a cushion at the top spot. But you're never safe here at Camp Perry. A stray shot, a gust of wind or drop of rain could drop your score in the blink of an eye. Would that lead be enough?

In the following match was the Cavalry Cup. Both shooters garnered perfect 200s while prone at 300 yards. Though unable to make headway on the point differential, Gallagher did diminish the X gap by shooting four more than Bernosky.

Down to the last match of the championship, Sherri need three points to better Carl or two to tie. But with a tie, she would also have to make up the 13 X deficit. A tall order for for any competitor and their rifle.

"I knew I had at least a one point lead and then I probably had X's," Bernosky explained. "I didn't exactly know where we were cause I wasn't watching [the scores]."

When the match tower announced that shooters could fire when their target appeared, Carl started on the last 20 shots of this year's NRA High Power Rifle Championship. There was a three point cushion. It was practically over. Just maintain the lead. With the black bullseye in his sights, he pulled the trigger - a nine.

"I shot the first shot and thought 'well that was way too many [already],'" Bernosky chuckled. "That was not where I wanted to drop a point."

A little shaken, Bernosky refocused on the task at hand. Firing one perfect shot after another, he secured the high power rifle championship with a 199-13x. "I just knuckled down and shot the rest of them in," he said.

2012 NRA High Power Rifle Champ Carl Bernosky shooting from a sitting position

Ten High Power Rifle Championships at Camp Perry

Ten NRA National Championships places Bernosky in the pantheon of Camp Perry greats. But was any one title better than another?

"They're all special," Bernosky said. "Any time you can win a national championship it's a good thing."

But the championships have been coming a little harder in recent years.

"The scores we've been shooting the last three years, with the Army stepping up and match gun shooters stepping up; it's really making you have to shoot good," he said. "The bar is raised. I think that's fun to have the bar where it is. It also makes it more of a nerve-wracking week because you can't drop points. Five or six years ago you could have a bad match and come back from it, but you can't do that anymore. You have to be hard all the way through."

Congratulations Carl. You earned this one just like all the others: one shot at a time.

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