Bang on target
WHEN four-time Australian benchrest shooting champion John Radford conducted an introduction-to-shooting day at Grafton six months ago, he never dreamed he would be teaching a future star of the sport.
But ever since 14-year-old Grafton High student Aaron Smith picked up a rifle on that day, it has been obvious to all that a target-shooting prodigy had been unearthed.
Smith finished second in his first competition at Coffs Harbour last weekend, and came "within a whisker" of beating Radford.
He actually bettered his mentor, Bob Blacklock, who finished third.
"Aaron was competing against a field of top-class shooters, and really made me pull out all the stops to beat him," Radford said.
Smith led the field for the first few targets of the five-target grouping competition, before Radford literally pulled out the big guns to chase down the youngster's lead.
With a $35 box of Xact ammo, Radford was able to reel in Smith with a final score of 0.2998 beating the Grafton young gun's 0.3208.
Benchrest grouping competitions are scored based on how closely together each of the competitors' five shots are to passing through the centre of the first bullet's hole.
Points are deducted for every thousandth of an inch the hole is wider than the calibre of the bullet used.
"I have been interested in guns for a while, like a lot of kids my age, I guess," Smith said.
"I had never really shot a rifle before, but went along to the introduction day because I knew I wanted to be a target shooter.
"Dad and I both got our licences after that and it has just gone on from there."
When Radford returned to his Coffs Harbour home, local shooter Bob Blacklock picked up with Smith's tuition.
But after being shaded by his apprentice on the weekend, that help may be now a little less forthcoming.
"Bob has been a great help to me and after John showed me the basics.
"Bob has really helped with my technique," Smith said.
"Mum and Dad helped me buy a specialist Anschutz benchrest rifle which is made in Germany, and that makes a huge difference."
Benchrest shooting competitions are few and far between, with Smith's next chance to compete coming up in a fortnight at Inverell.
"If young Aaron can keep a level-head, which I'm sure he will, I'm sure he will be a future Australian champion in the years to come," Radford said.
"It is terrific that he has received such a great introduction to the sport from the senior shooters, as young guys like him are the life-blood of our sport.
"We'll all be cheering for him when we see him competing for Australia at the World Championships one day."