Meet Rhys Ireland, F-Open Junior shooter
Meet Rhys Ireland, F-Open Junior shooter.
Rhys was introduced to shooting in North Carolina at the age of 6 when he met his coach and mentor, Charles Armentrout (Distinguished-Shooter.com). Charles introduced Rhys to many aspects of shooting sports, including pistol, shotgun and rifle. Rhys learned to respect firearms and was groomed to be respectful of fellow shooters and the sport. Charles also had Rhys strength train with various calisthenics and encouraged him to run for cardio training. Rhys was always eager to go to the range and try new guns. By the age of 8, Rhys began shooting F-class mid-range using a JP AR-15 223 with a muzzle break and Harris bipod. He did well and wanted to shoot at 1000 yards, not just 600. He was so disappointed that his gun could not shoot accurately at 1000 yards. Charles let Rhys use his Remington 700 308 rifle on a Harris bipod. Rhys loves to tell the story of when he shot this gun at a match at Camp Lejeune, after every shot he had to belly crawl 6 inches back onto the line with the gun for the next shot. He was too small to shoot an entire two-day match. We put F-class on hold and Rhys began focusing instead on shooting pistol. He took up action pistol (Bianci Cup) competing first with a .22 pistol, then moving up to a STI 9 mm. He set 12 NRA National Junior records. After competing for 4 years he expressed a desire to return to F-class shooting.
In the fall of 2012, Ray Bowman (Precision Rifle and Tool) built Rhys a F-Open rifle in straight 284, (PRT Low-boy stock, Barnard Action, Jewel trigger and Brux barrel). A decision to shoot F-open rather than F-TR was made due to Rhys’ size at the time. He was still only 80 pounds and well shy of 5 feet. Ray Bowman and Stephen (Rhys’s father) felt the recoil of the open gun would be less for Rhys than a return to a dedicated F-TR gun.
Rhys’s first match with his new gun was the Iron Man match at Camp Butner in December 2012. He shot 3 192s in the snow and was wind coached by John Friguglietti (a TR shooter at North State Shooting Club) to a clean score in the team match that weekend. Rhys began shooting as many matches as possible at Camp Butner. Rhys won High Junior at the Sinclair International Eastern Regional Full-bore Match in the spring of 2013, setting three NRA Junior National Records. Rhys began travelling to other ranges to compete leading up to him participating in August 2013 at the US Nationals and World F-Class Championships at Raton, New Mexico. Rhys won High Junior F-Open at both events at the age of 13. New Mexico was a wonderful experience for Rhys as he got to shoot with shooters from Scotland, Netherlands, Italy, Canada and many from across the United States. He also met shooters from Great Britain, Germany and many members of the Canadian team. He also met other junior shooters for the first time. He had up to this point been the only junior shooter at most events he attended. Shooting in New Mexico presented new challenges and learning experiences, as the wind and mirage were different from where he shot on the east coast. He returned to North Carolina and continued to shoot very well, wining the North Carolina Resident State Championship in January 2014.
Rhys competed at the Berger Southwest National match in February 2014, setting a new junior record for the competition. This was a wonderful experience as on the last day of the tournament, he shot with the US Junior FTR team and had his first experience shooting with fellow junior shooters. A FTR gun was ordered for him to consider shooting FTR again.
Rhys continued to shoot as many matches as possible, setting more NRA Junior records, obtaining High Master classification for mid range, Master for long range and expert in Full bore. He was also awarded American High Power Rifleman Award Certificate for Outstanding Achievement in High Power Rifle Competition F-Class Mid-Range.
The family relocated to Toronto, Canada in June 2014. One week after arriving in Canada, Rhys was competing at the Eastern Canadian Regionals at the Connaught Range in Ottawa. He was warmly welcomed by many of the Canadian shooters, some he had met in Raton, and many individuals were new faces for him. It was a wonderful experience for him to be welcomed and respected for his accomplishments. He competed well, placing fourth overall and was very fortunate to participate on the gold winning team with Gord Ogg, Jim Farrell and Star Shooters own, Fred Harvey.
Rhys was invited to join the Canadian Junior team and shot with them at the Canadian Nationals and the America Cup match. The kids did an amazing job of getting together and looking out for each other especially during the team matches in less than stellar conditions. Their sportsmanship and professionalism was remarkable.
Rhys returned to Ben Avery in Phoenix for the Arizona regional match (he placed 14th overall) and the US Nationals. Rhys won the junior open title again, second year in a row. Rhys was fortunate to shoot with fellow Canadian shooters on a team with Steve Baardsen. Bruce Condi and Glen Taylor.
Rhys has just returned after winning High Junior (F-Open) at Sinclair International East Coast Full-bore match for the third year in a row, setting 2 new NRA records. He did this using both his 284 and his new gun WSM300 (Bat action, Precision Rifle stock, Brux barrel) built by Ray Bowman. At this match, Rhys had an opportunity to meet the USAMU team encouraged Rhys to try target rifle. Amanda Elsenboss, an AMU team member got Rhys jacketed and slung up in her rifle and encouraged him to stay in touch.
Rhys is as enthusiastic as ever about shooting and is looking forward to a busy summer that will include matches in Grayling, Lodi, Camp Perry, Connaught and Ben Avery.
Rhys feels shooting sports are great for kids, teaching them many valuable life lessons while truly having loads of fun. He’s thankful for all the support he’s
received from his fellow shooters and hopes to help other juniors who want to come out and give it a try.