Shirley Jarvis a sharp black-powder rifle shooter
For a woman not much taller than the black-powder rifle she shoots, Shirley Jarvis of Grand Junction certainly stands tall on the firing line.
During the National Rifle Association’s 2012 Black Powder Target Rifle Championships at Raton, N.M., Jarvis outshot her competitors to claim eight gold medals in the sharpshooter mid-range competition.
“I was really surprised I did so well,” said Jarvis, still a bit shocked by her performance, during a recent conversation. “I was sitting there, listening to the awards ceremony, and they kept calling my name.”
The black-powder championships are held at the NRA’s Whittington Center south of Raton and include three different matches: Prone Championship, Position Championship and the Creedmoor Championship.
The prone and position championships are shot at ranges of 200, 300 and 600 yards (the mid-range championship), while the Creedmoor is the long-range competition shot from 800, 900 and 1,000 yards.
The prone round is shot lying down, while the position round offers the option of shooting off-hand (standing), sitting/kneeling or prone.
Each day competitors shoot 30 shots, 10 each at 200, 300 and 600 yards.
“My first day was difficult, I was so nervous,” Jarvis said. “I wasn’t set up properly, so that night I thought about it, and the next day I was right there.”
She also found the other shooters very supportive, offering advice on learning how to “call the wind,” for which the Whittington Center is well-known.
Plus, Shirley had her husband, Butch, as her spotter to help her place her shots in the gusting conditions.
“A good spotter is 50 percent of a shooter’s success,” Butch said. “There’s no way a shooter can keep track of the wind by herself.”
Surprisingly, considering her rifle weighs 13 pounds and the crossing wind is usually a factor, Shirley prefers shooting off-hand (standing) to shooting off a bench rest.
“I don’t know why, I just feel more comfortable shooting off-hand,” she said.
Also memorable were the identical scores of 99.03 (out of 100) Shirley shot on two consecutive days in the prone championship at 200 yards.
“I was only one point away from a perfect score, and then to shoot the same score the next day, well, I’ve never done that,” she said, her face lighting up at the memory.
By the final day, she was feeling the stress and exhaustion from shooting nearly 12 hours a day.
“That last day, I was thinking, ‘I’m glad this is almost over,’ ” she recalled. “Your whole body aches after spending 12 hours on the range.”
Plus, between their time on the firing line, shooters score and run targets for the other competitors, which means very little rest time during the match.
Her lowest score came on the final day, when she shot a 75 at 600 yards while fighting a wind Shirley described as “going around in circles.”
The swirling wind confounded all shooters, with most competitors scoring 20 points or more below their previous totals.
“There are 24 flags along the target line, and that day very seldom were two or three blowing in the same direction,” Butch said. “I don’t think anyone did very well.”
Shirley still finished with an aggregate prone score of 545.09, easily enough for yet another gold medal.
Two of her gold medals were specially cast in solid silver by Montana Silversmiths of Columbus, Mont.
The Jarvises’ next adventure is a buffalo hunt this November at Fort Peck, Mont.
“I can’t wait, it’s a real buffalo hunt,” said Shirley, who already has harvested elk, deer, caribou and pronghorn with her black-powder rifle. “But I’ll probably be setting up in a snowbank.”
At least she’ll have the memory of eight gold medals to keep her warm and her aim steady.