Competing against various skilled shooters and custom-built rifles, all it took for Walter Wilkinson to win two of four events at the Fifty Caliber Shooters’ Association (FCSA) 2018 World Championships was an out-of-the-box Steyr HS 50 equipped with factory bipod.
Granted, Wilkinson isn’t just any shooter. He is a retired Army Special Forces Sgt. Maj. and also a current instructor at Gunsite Academy. Still, the results speak for themselves; especially since most shooters were firing custom-built rifles from mechanical rests atop concrete benches.
Steyr HS 50 Results
The championships were held July 5-7 at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, N.M. Wilkinson took two of the four individual score-based, 1,000-yard championships — the Light and Hunter Classes.
Wilkinson, shooting from the ground in the prone position, posted the championships’ highest score, beating out shooters in the Unlimited, Heavy Gun and Light Gun Classes.
“I couldn’t do anything wrong,” Wilkinson said. “It was like every time the wind changed, I knew exactly where to hold. And the bullets just kept going where I wanted them to.”
Hailing from Edgewood, N.M., Wilkinson shot a two-day aggregate of 290-10X for the Hunter Score. Meanwhile, his Light Gun Score total of 291-7X was the highest of any shooter in any class. This marks his third World Championship in the Hunter Class with his Steyr HS 50 since his first win in 2012. It is his first Light Gun Score World Championship.
Day One Recap
Nestled at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Whittington Center’s 1,000-yard range plays host to notoriously fickle winds, especially in the afternoons.
On Day One, Wilkinson was squaded on the afternoon Relays, 3 and 4. Wind coming from behind the shooters was switching from 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock and back again, often changing within seconds. Shooting prone, Wilkinson was able to quickly make wind judgments and adjust his hold accordingly before taking the shot. He ended up dropping only five points in each class; culminating for a Hunter score of 145-5X and a Light Gun score of 145-4X at the close of Day One.
“The highlight of the day was the last two strings of fire in Hunter during Relay 4,” Wilkinson said. “I shot a 50-2X with a 9 3/4-inch group and a 49-2X with a 7 15/16-inch group. The 10-ring is right at 1.15 MOA. When you keep them all in that, it says something about your rifle and your load.
“During both of those two strings, I changed from holding on the right side of the target to the left side during the string. That was very satisfying,” he added.
Day Two Recap
Wilkinson was on Relays 1 and 2 to start Day Two. While the winds had improved, the thermals coming off the six berms between the shooters and the targets at 1,000 yards required much more attention to elevation adjustments. Wilkinson kept on his fluid game of adjusting his position to match the conditions while firing — often firing within a split second of establishing his final hold — to finish the day with 145-5X in the Hunter Class and 146-3X in the Light Gun Class.
In addition to his two individual world championships, Wilkinson was also a member of the winning four-shooter team. He placed third in Hunter Group with an average group size of 11.823 inches. He also placed fourth overall in the 2-Gun Aggregate, which factors the scores and the average group sizes from both class for a final score.