PEELTREE — J.C. Jarrell has no idea how he did what he did, but he’s happy he did it.
On consecutive weekends in August, the 68-year-old Buckhannon resident set world records in two different shooting disciplines.
The first came on Aug. 10 during a light-gun benchrest competition at Barbour County’s White Horse Firearms and Outdoor Education Center, when Jarrell became the first shooter to place all five of his shots inside a 3-inch X-ring at a distance of 1,000 yards.
The second came on Aug. 17 during the heavy-gun National Benchrest Championships at Marion County’s Harry Jones Memorial Range, when Jarrell put all 10 of his shots in the 6-inch bullseye and six in the 3-inch X-ring from the same 1,000-yard distance.
The records surprised Jarrell.
“From that distance, you don’t have a clue how you’re shooting,” he said. “You can’t see your bullet holes. You just shoot and wait until your target is scored to see how you did.”
Benchrest shooters, as the name implies, shoot high-powered, precision rifles supported on front and rear padded rests sitting atop a table or bench. The goal is not only to put the bullets in the bullseye and the X-ring, but also to get the bullets to group together as closely as possible.
Accuracy varies with distance. From 100 or even 200 yards, accomplished shooters can place all their shots in groups easily covered by a dime. At 600 or 1,000 yards, the groups are considerably larger — not only because of wind or mirage, but also because the crosshairs of the rifles’ powerful telescopic sights obscure the target’s center.
“There was considerable wind on both the targets I shot world records on,” Jarrell said. “I was just fortunate.”
Fortunate? Possibly. But it’s not like Jarrell’s records came out of nowhere. Before trying his hand at benchrest shooting, he was a force to be reckoned with in the National Rifle Association’s F-Class category. F-Class also involves shooting high-powered rifles at paper targets from distances up to 1,000 yards, but off the ground instead of a bench.
Jarrell got into F-Class in the late 1990s, and in 2010 and 2013 he earned NRA Shooter of the Year honors in that discipline. Along the way, he discovered benchrest shooting.
“In 2007, Stan Taylor of Douglas Barrels and I helped bring the 1,000-yard benchrest event to White Horse,” Jarrell said. “I’ve been shooting benchrest since then.”
His light-gun (17-pound maximum) record came on a hot, breezy day at White Horse, his home range. As he fired each of his five shots, Jarrell had to compensate for wind, and to use a heat shield on his rifle’s barrel to lessen the mirage distorting the target half a mile downrange.
“I shot a 50 with 5 Xs,” he said. “But I didn’t realize what I’d done until my target went onto the [scoring] board and they came and got me. I was amazed.”
One X shot barely touched the outer perimeter of the X-ring, but it counted nonetheless. Jarrell said other people had shot 50s with 4 X-ring hits before, but he was the first to ever score five X shots. His five-shot group measured just 2.83 inches across.
He battled similar conditions during the heavy-gun (unlimited weight) competition at the National Championships, with similar results. All 10 of his shots found the 10-point bullseye, and six of them landed in the X-ring.
“People had shot 100 scores before, but that was the first time anyone had put six in the X-ring,” Jarrell said. “The previous record was four.”
Both of Jarrell’s records are unofficial. They won’t become official until judges from the Global Benchrest Association confirm them. Until then, the targets are kept under lock and key at the respective ranges. Certification should take place before the end of the year.
Records are made to be broken, and Jarrell believes his will eventually be broken, too.
“In this game, records get broken about once every year or so,” he said. “There are several shooters who do what I do, some even better than I do. I just feel very fortunate to have these two records for the moment. I’m amazed.
“Maybe it’s something to brag about, but I can’t because I feel extremely fortunate to have achieved it.”