September 02, 2004 11:00 pm
IN ELITE COMPANY: La Grande's Larry Cribbs placed second at the recent National Bench Rest Shooter's Association Hunter Rifle Championships. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).
IN ELITE COMPANY: La Grande's Larry Cribbs placed second at the recent National Bench Rest Shooter's Association Hunter Rifle Championships. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Staff Writer

a Grande's Larry Cribbs was not in four places at once.

It only seemed that way to experts watching the recent National Bench Rest Shooters Association, Hunter Rifle Championships in Casper, Wyo.

Cribbs finished second by the smallest of margins to T.K. Nollan of Oklahoma.

Cribbs was virtually perfect during the two-day competition.

But this is only part of the story — three pieces of Cribbs' heart and soul finished between third and 10th. Three marksmen, using specialized bench rest target rifles made by Cribbs, finished behind him in the top 10.

"It did my heart good to see that (the three top 10 finishers),'' the gun smith said.

Cribbs jokingly tells marksmen using guns he made to think twice before finishing ahead of him.

"Go ahead and beat me. It will cost you more the next time ... the price will go up,'' Cribbs tells fellow competitors with a smile.

Cribbs is accustomed to seeing competitors do well with his rifles. At one time six National Bench Rest Shooters Association world records had been set by riflemen using guns made by Cribbs. Three current world records were set by marksmen using Cribbs-made rifles.

A world record requires near perfect marksmanship and that is what Cribbs almost achieved at the National Bench Rest Shooters Association championships. Cribbs had a perfect score of 500 points during the two-day competition, hitting the bullseye on all 50 of his shots, which were from 100 and 200 yards. Nollan also had a perfect score.

Judges then examined how many times Nollan and Cribbs had hit the "X", a one eighth of an inch diameter circle in the middle of the bullseye, for the first tie breaker. Nollan and Cribbs had both hit the "X" 20 times.

The tie was thus had to be broken by comparing the targets the two had fired at. The tie was snapped the first time two targets were drawn which showed one person hitting the "X" and the other missing it. Unfortunately for Cribbs the first set drawn in which the results were not equal happened to have an "X" he had missed.

Cribbs' second place finish was the top one of his career. His previous best at nationals was 11th place. Cribbs credits his wife Shirley with giving him an important tip.

Cribbs previously has been hampered during competitions by an old neck injury. Pain would flare up when Cribbs continually bent over to check his scope. Shirley suggested that her husband elevate his scope slightly so he would not have to bend over so far. Larry heeded his wife's advice and never had any trouble with his neck during the competition, which also included two days of shooting outside the NBRSA national championship.

"I had four days of pleasure instead of four days of pain,'' Cribbs said.

Competitors were on the firing range a total of six hours both days of the national championship shoot. In addition to fatigue marksmen had to deal with the mirage factor because of heat and rain which caused rising vapor. "It is like shooting through a waterfall,'' Cribbs said.

The mirage factor at Casper was particularly bad following several thunderstorms.

"At times it was almost impossible to see the bullet impact point,'' Cribbs said.

Distractions such as noise and other shooters are another factor marksmen had to contend with. Cribbs does not have difficulty dealing with distractions at shooting events. He used a reading analogy to explain why.

"When you are reading a good book, you don't notice any of the things that are going on around you,'' Cribbs said. "My pages and words are the target. I am absolutely focused.''

A spirit of camaraderie prevails at the annual NBRSA championships. Many of the competitors are people who regularly compete in bench rest events.

"You have 100 to 120 people who are talking about absolutely the same topic and the same issues,'' Cribbs said.

Anything but a cutthroat atmosphere exists. But, an underlying competitive spirit still prevails.

"It is fun to see your friends do well, but it is even more fun to come out on top of your friends,'' Cribbs said.