Mark Winser wins the Essex Gun Masters

Mark Winser receives his prize gun from Neville Jay and John Dyson

John Dyson had done it again on the Essex Masters targets, and a top quality competition ensued, reports Don Brunt 

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The Essex Gun Masters is a shoot that has grown in popularity over the years and it seems likely that it will draw a large and competitive field for the foreseeable future.

With an enormous entry of nearly 2400 shooters there is nothing on this side of the Atlantic that can come close to it. John Dyson’s Hepworth Hall shooting ground reverberated with just short of 500,000 shots over the duration of the week as the competitors tackled the 26 stands of the two courses, Black and Red.

Speed and angle are Dyson’s trademarks and there was plenty of both in evidence. The Black course was situated on the southwest end of the ground and ran anticlockwise.

Anyone who was expecting stand one to be a pair of ‘gimmes’ was to be disappointed. Over the footbridge a going-away and quartering crossing rabbit were perhaps a little friendlier, while a right-to-left quartering and left-to-right quartering battue were fairly straightforward.

A couple of stands later and a close quick rabbit twinned with a left-to-right quartering caused a few problems for some. The half way point was at the base of the disused railway line but sadly this year it wasn’t in use, so the course did a U-turn at this point.

A going-away bird had to be shot in a small window amid some straw bales, which was harder than it looked, though its companion bird was friendly enough. Some rapid snap shooting was then required on a pair of loopers that appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye, but those who were smarting after that would have been soothed somewhat by the incoming pair that followed.

Next up a strong midi crosser needed a decent gap, while the penultimate stand saw an away/quartering sim pair. A single rabbit and teal were presented on Stand 13 followed by a pacey crossing left-to-right tower bird that also needed plenty of forward allowance. 

The Red course was up at the northeast end of the ground. It began with a crowd pleasing pair that most mastered, however smiles were something of a rarity after the next stand, which was awkward whichever way you tackled it.

Shooting over water is one of the signature features of the Essex Masters

A right-to-left/left-to-right pair of quartering birds on Stand 3 were there to be hit while a sim pair of incomers were another confidence booster. Neither the rabbit or its partner target demanded much of a gap on the next stand, though the quartering tower bird that went with the midi teal needed some daylight. A rabbit that hopped along the surface of the water proved to be one of the layout’s separator stands.

By contrast the overhead and quartering left-to-right that followed suited most people. A quartering mini proved very easy to shoot in front of, as did its white, crossing report bird.

Then it was back to the water’s edge for the next stand where a ‘bouncing bomb’ upside-down target caused some head scratching (though the low, white looper that went with it caught plenty of lead). A crossing climbing midi and overhead were up next.

The rabbit on Black 2 was perhaps there to bolster morale after the first stand made it clear that nothing could be taken for granted

Most coped well enough with this but then final stand saw the wheels come off for a few; a long battue that turned over late in its flight was tricky, while the edgy quartering away bird that followed was as tough as you would find anywhere.

Fortunately, the weather was mostly dry over the week – although sun tan lotion wasn’t needed and there was a bit of a chill in the air at times. As it was the first major shoot of the year there was an undeniably friendly atmosphere around the barn area.

One of the things that separates the Essex from other majors is the high turnout from unregistered shooters, who make the event an annual pilgrimage. It really does add to the character to the event, as Ben Husthwaite was quick to agree.

“The Essex masters is the club shooter’s major,” he said. “It’s a fantastic event that caters for the forgotten. John and Nev do a fantastic job and fill a void left by others. Long may it continue.”

Ben Husthwaite’s score of 193 was the equal of the winner

The course also seemed to agree with Ben, as he blitzed his way round it to finish on an excellent 193, overtaking Tony Coulstock who had been out in front on 191. Phil Gray nearly matched him on 192, but in the end it took the talented Mark Winser to mount a successful challenge, equalling Husthwaite’s score and taking his third Essex title by default, as Ben had already committed to clients overseas for the Sunday. 

In the categories it was B Cummings who won through in Colts ahead of D King and R Harrison while Josh Bridges pipped James Bradley Day to the Juniors win with a 190 while T Mcgregor was third. 

Cheryl Hall started her 2019 campaign in style with a 176 ahead of B Elmore and Sarah White, while in Veterans it was G Hunt who won through followed by R Gray and Adrian Balham. 

All the traps, clays and electronics for the event were supplied by Promatic

In AAA it was a four way tie with Richard King, Aaron Harvey, Tim Webster and Josh Keeble all managing to make the 190 mark. AA was won by T Coulstock’s 191, with T Oldman the runner up on 189.

C Monahan won A Class with a 185, with O Williams and M Haffenden tying for second on 179. B and C Class were won by A Vine on 184 and J Fraser on 162 respectively, with G Halls and A Hedelcock the runners up.

With the ongoing support of Neville Jay and the team at Essex Gun, as well as an array of top line sponsors such as Gamebore, Pilla, Promatic, GMK and RUAG, it looks likely that John Dyson might have to haul even more clays out for next years season opening Essex Masters!

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