Twenty-sixteen was an unusual year in many ways. Major events such as Brexit and the US election shook up the political and international spectrums, regardless of what side you supported, but shooting has provided a good form of escapism, and there have also been some stand-out performances – from highlights of the Olympics down to the local club circuit. New shooters have joined while others have improved and some have become world beaters, and while 2016 is unlikely to go down as a year of dominance for British shooters, there were some huge moments that will not be forgotten.
The year began in earnest with the conclusion of Royal Berkshire’s high tower endeavour. Now an annual draw, the 2016 competition saw Stratstone of Mayfair sponsor the event for the final time as part of a three-year agreement, with support from Browning. The result was not dissimilar to the first year Stratstone offered the top prize, with Bisley Shooting Ground’s John Heagren coming away the victor, but sadly without hitting the magic number to win a car for life.
We then saw the international Olympic scene kick off with a fantastic bang, as first-time Senior World Cup shooter Ben Llewellin scored a silver medal in Men’s Skeet.
Then the Sporting scene picked up the pace with George Digweed overcoming a horrific personal home invasion by bouncing back at Hepworth Hall to win his seventh Essex Masters. Brody Woollard continued his successful early career by picking up the year’s crowning young-shots title – the Clive Stanton Memorial Trophy at the British Schools & Young Shots Championship – and Jess Allan repeated as the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club Award winner.
Paul Chaplow kicked off the DTL season much in the same way he finished last year’s, with an emphatic win at the Fauxdegla Grand Prix. And the Double Trap UK Championship was picked up by Britain’s Olympian Steve Scott, with Rachel Parish claiming the women’s title. Jeremy Bird secured the Olympic Skeet UK Championship with Sian Bruce conquering the Ladies division. And rounding out the Olympic disciplines, Caroline Povey won gold at the Trap UK Championship, and Adam Gutteridge beat Aaron Heading in the men’s division.
Sporting shooter John Lee headed to Nottingham & District Gun Club to pick up the English Open Double Rise trophy, and tied for the highest score in the British Open but wasn’t present for the shoot-off and left it for Austin Coxhead to claim. However, a bright spark from this event was the emergence of Izzy Thurnell, who smashed the Colts category in both events, and won both Ladies trophies.
Chris Childerhouse showed his ability to not back down during the big events to pick up the English Open, while Martin Myers stormed to another Benelli Sp’Auto win.
Matthew French managed to beat a few Olympians at the Double Trap English Open, while in the domestic Trap scene, Matt Panter beat an Olympian rival of his own in Ed Ling at the ABT British Open – and Kirsty Barr scored the Ladies trophy.
Martin Myers then travelled to a favourite ground of his, High Lodge, for the Clay Shooting Classic Sporting, and he knocked off the three-time champion Mark Winser.
Away at San Marino, Amber Hill picked up a bronze medal in the Olympic Skeet World Cup.
The DTL Weekend at Bywell saw shooters from around the country arrive from all corners of the UK for the English Open, the Dougall Memorial and the final selection shoot. Jim Doherty won his third consecutive memorial trophy and for the fourth time in total, while Michael Turner won his second consecutive English Open.
The FITASC European Championship would see the nearest miss for a Brit winning a major Sporting international. Mark Winser tied for the top score with Mattieu Delmas in the Frenchman’s home country. A shoot-off ensued for the title but scores were marked incorrectly and while many people present felt that Matthieu won, Mark was announced the winner. Mark, however, demanded the head-to-head be re-shot and the Brit missed his targets on purpose to give Matthieu the win – it was a disappointing end to a good competition, but a mark of sportsmanship from Winser. Carl Bloxham finished in third and Cheryl Hall picked up the Ladies title.
On the domestic Skeet scene, Natalie Bales became the first female ever to win an overall High Gun at the National Skeet English Open. Her 100-straight saw her head to a shoot-off against five other perfect shooters and come out victorious.
The Olympic Trap English Open saw Caroline Povey return to the upper echelons again by picking up the Women’s High Gun, and Mike Wixey topped the Men’s category.
The Krieghoff DTL saw Paul Chaplow collect his second title in the competition’s history, and a few weeks later he won the first British Open of his career as well as the DTL Welsh Open, and Leanne Powell took the Ladies title in Wales.
John Lee was back on top of another competition, but this time in his usual Sporting specialism at the Beretta World. He overcame a tie by beating Richard Bunning and Carl Bloxham in a shoot-off for the title, winning the event for the third time in his career.
Matt Coward-Holley shot well at Double Trap in the European Championship to pick up a bronze medal, while Rachel Parish won gold in the Ladies event and the duo picked up team silver. Theo Ling won a medal in the Junior Olympic Trap competition.
At the Olympic Skeet English Grand Prix, James Rounsevell shot fantastically well to continue Britain’s ushering-in of a new generation of top Skeet youngsters, while Victoria Humphries did the same in the Women’s competition.
It was up to the older generation at the FITASC World Championship, as Britain’s Veterans took team gold and John Bidwell won the Super Veterans individual High Gun in Italy.
The World English Sporting Championships took place at EJ Churchill and while Britain’s top shots fought hard, for the first time in the event’s history, an American, Anthony Matarese, took the top prize, but Cheryl Hall proved her dominance in the Ladies international category.
Off to Rio for the Olympics and Britain could take pride in its five shotgun shooters in Brazil as four of them secured a place in the top six. Ed Ling and Steve Scott went slightly further and picked up a brace of bronze medals between them, with Steve overcoming a challenge from his teammate Tim Kneale.
At the DTL European Championship, Jim Doherty picked up the trophy, and Australian Matt Schiller topped the World Championship a few days later.
Dave Morgan won the Skeet Welsh Open while Joy Hirons topped the Ladies event. And shortly after, the British Open was conquered by Andy Parsons. Meanwhile, Skeet of the Olympic variety headed to Ireland for the Home International, which saw home-favourite Gareth McAuley take the top prize.
FEDECAT well and truly arrived this year with several grounds set up to host Trap and Sporting competitions around the country.
An important date for Clay Shooting magazine was the first Clay Shooting Classic DTL, which saw Paul Chaplow finish with the trophy, but Kath Bright beat him in a shoot-off to win a Perazzi High Tech shotgun.
The Compak World Championship came to Britain, but Hungary’s Tamas Jeri shot the lights out to secure victory. Britain won gold in Ladies, Veterans and Super Veterans.
Mark Winser picked up his first British Open title while Hannah Gibson shot the lights out to beat perennial threat Cheryl Hall in the Ladies event.
On the Olympic Trap scene, Wales’ Jonathan Davis topped the lot at the Home International, but he couldn’t lead his team past England in the Seniors and LJVSV team categories, which was led by captain Caroline Povey, who won the Ladies individual trophy.
The Sporting Home International also saw a Welshman come out on top in Rob Claybrook, while England just about finished ahead in the team event, and Wales’ Janine White took home the Women’s top honours. It was a different situation in the Skeet Home International as England swept to team victory with Andy Parsons finishing as competition High Gun, and Scotland’s Allison Brown stopped an England sweep in the individual categories to win the Ladies.
James Rounsevell was back to winning ways at the Olympic Skeet British Grand Prix, beating Ben Llewellin, and Amber Hill returned from a successful trip to Rio to pick up gold.
Back at the ABT World Championship, Phil Morgan took the top prize, and in another domestic Trap discipline, the Gamebore Grand Prix saw Austin Coxhead come away with the title. At another Gamebore weekend, this time Sporting, Mark Winser picked up the Gold Cup while Josh Bridges won the White Gold Challenge.
The FITASC Home International saw Sporting stalwart from Scotland Stuart Hart take the High Gun trophy up north, while in the Olympic Trap Grand Prix, Ian O’Sullivan put his name on the trophy for the first time.
South Wales 2000 hosted the clay events for the European division of the Commonwealth Shooting Federation – affectionately known as the mini-Commonwealth Games. Wales was victorious in Men’s Skeet, and Women’s Skeet and Trap behind Ben Llewellin, Elena Allen and Sarah Wixey, respectively. Double Trap and Men’s Olympic Trap was dominated by England shooters, Matt Coward-Holley, Rachel Parish and Keith Kilvington, respectively.
The Olympic disciplines also had some events to wrap up, as the Double Trap shooters visited Nuthampstead for the British Open, which went the way of Matthew French and Rachel Parish.
Some final international events took place to conclude the ISSF World Cup and the Hélice World Championship. And back on home soil, the National Skeet National Inter-counties saw Chris Bethell top the charts with just the third 100-straight of his career.
While there are still events taking place, the time for major clay shooting competitions are over. We now begin to look ahead to 2016, during which the UK will once again host a Sporting World Championship, the Double Trap shooters have their Olympic recognition challenged and, yes, a whole bunch of clay targets are going to be broken.