Rifleman return to Camp Perry with a mission to beat America
Neil Gibbons and Jon Leech, Captain and Coach of the 2013 Great Britain Rifle Team. The team is taking part in the Pershing Trophy Match this year at the NRA Smallbore Championships in Camp Perry
Port Clinton, Ohio - Fifteen members of the Great Britain Rifle Team descended upon the Viale Range at Camp Perry this week in preparation for the John J. Pershing Trophy Match. Sporting red team shirts and a touch of British swagger, they're lead by by a man known as Jon Leech. A veteran of the sport, Leech is there to share his decades of experience to this new group of hopefuls.
"They're not juniors, though some have taken a while to mature," he said with a laugh. "But they're bringing with them a lot of experience."
The Pershing Trophy Match takes place every four years. Every time its shot, the location alternates from the United States to Great Britain. When shot in Great Britain, it is known as the Field Marshal Earl Roberts Trophy Match.
With ten shooters per team, competitors take to the line and fire 20 shots at 50 yards and 20 shots at 100. The first match, shot in 1931, was won by the Brits. Since then the Americans have picked up the pace and lead the race by overall 13 to 4 count. Leech, along with captain Neil Gibbons, are here to turn that tide.
"This team was put together specifically for this match," explained Leech. "This is my fourth time at Camp Perry. First in 1979 to shoot smallbore. I've come here just to coach this year. Pass on some knowledge to the folk who came over. We have 15 people in total - 3 officials and 12 shooters - that we'll get that down to 10 shooters so we can beat America."
A broker at the famed insurance house Lloyds of London, Leech brings a colorful background to the smallbore shooting world. A fencer at first, it was a flukey bit of chance — and a little of the Lloyd's magic — that introduced him to the world of rifles.
"I was at Lloyds and noticed a guy sitting next to me with a collection of targets. I asked 'Where did you do that?' to which he replied 'In the range underneath our building.' I didn't even know there was such a range. I started shooting there in 1972 and kept at it."
It's been a whirlwind ever since. Spending his youth shooting in tournaments throughout Europe, he now finds himself behind the shooter rather than behind the trigger ... at least when it comes to international competitions. And, as an official with the International Shooting Sports Federation, his passport includes stamps from Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen and Croatia. Just another example of where this sport can take you. Not to mention the people you meet along the way.
"We really do enjoy our shooting together," commented Leech. "Traveling as a shooter, I've met some fabulous people which is a lot of what shooting is all about. This is Band of Brother stuff."
Hopefully they'll feel the same way after today's match.