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George Farr And His Famous 70 At The 1921 National Matches

 

 

One of long range shooting’s greatest feats by a civilian shooter took place during the 1921 National Matches at Camp Perry. Ohio. Two men would ultimately be pitted against each other in a shoot-off during the 1000 yard Wimbledon Cup Match. The winner of the match oddly enough fell into virtual obscurity, The man who came in second would go on to be remembered  even to this day.  The trophy ended up being named after him and for his accomplishment that day.   Friday Septemeber9, 1921.   That man who came in  “first loser ” was of course Geroge R. Farr.


 

George came to the National Matches that year at the age of 62. He was a member of the Seattle Rifle and Revolver Club and the Washington Civilian Team.  He used a simple no frills kit. A sight micrometer and a old pair of binos he sawed in half to use as a spotting scope.   The winner of the match,  USMC Sgt. John Adkins, used a heavy barreled special rifle made at Springfield Armory for the USMC shooting team.  It was sighted with a Winchester telescopic sight and he fires Remington commercial ammunition.  This combination he had already used to win a  900 yard 1,000 yard match and was the odds on favorite to win the 1,000yard Wimbledon match.

The 1921 National Matches  had two other noteworthy events that year.  One was the appearance of” the Springfield Armory’s new model 1903 National Match rifle that could be purchased by civilian shooters.  There were brought about through the work of then major Julian Hatcher of the Army Ordnance Department and Soringfield Armory’s Al woodworth,  The Armory, at their urging, “decided to make a special effort to supply the American rifleman with a service rifle whose equal had never before came from a government manufactory..”

Another first was the use d “Tin can ammunition” produced by Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, PA.  Col. Townnsend Whelan developed this ammunition. “Based on information from a study done by French artilllerists, showed that by mixing tin with the powder charge , copper fouling by the cupro-nickel bullet jacket could be greatly reduced and much more easily cleaned from the bore.   A slightly different approach was used by Whelen as a solution to the metal fouling problem. Instead of incorporating the tin into the powder charge, the 170gr flat based bullet was coated with a .0003″ layer of tin,  This “tin can”  bullet, as it came to be known did eliminate the copper fouling and  also gave improved accuracy.”  The downside to this use of this tin was to “cold solder” a bullet into the case neck.   This welded the bullet into the case mouth so tightly that 300- 600 pounds or more was needed to pull the bullet and break this seal.    When shot in a clean dry chamber this normally not  much of an issue.  Shooters being shooters, some of them ignored warnings not to use grease on the bullets and ran pressures as high as 75,000 p.s.i. when the grease eventually got onto the case necks and kept them from expanding while fired.  Of course several accidents happened and the War Department canceled the use and production of the “tin can” ammo. The reason the shooters  would grease the bullets on their ammo at the time is a tale for another time.

Early in the shooting for the Wimbledon that afternoon were a list of 18 names of the shooters that had dropped only one point,a nd 29 who  had a score of 98 from 690 entries for the match. There were 2 possible scores of 100, one of which tiedthe previous years record and one that was 100 plus a 4 bull’seyes.  The previous year the match saw its first possible when 21 bull’s eyes won it,  In the event that a possible was made, the competitor would continue firing for record until he would finally miss a bullseye. At this point he would go out of the match. These so called “shoot offs” could go on for long periods of time”

John Adkins took his place on the line at about 2:30 that afternoon. With a wind blowing a 1 o’clock, it seemed as if Adkins would likely not make a  possible.  “After finally scoring his possible he settled down and began to put the 180 grain rounds down range and steadily began a string of bullseyes.  On Adkins 40th shot the gathered crowd though he was finished as the target remained down for longer than normal time. When it   reappeared the shot was scored just inside the bull by the slimmest margin.  AS his string of bullseyes grew, there was much speculation as to whether he could break his own record of 71 bullseyes set during the Remington Match that was held on the first day of competition. After 72 bulls eyes were scored it was wondered how long Adkin’s string would continue.   It wasn’t long before his scored his last when the 76th shot was out of the black.”

While Adkins was still in the middle of his string, the range officer called up an old fellow  whose teammate had nicknamed “Dad”.   AS opposed to Adkins, George used an “As issued” 1903 national match springfield rifle with service sights and the 1921 national match ammunition that was issued to him.  It was not a personal rifle used over years and known as well as he knew himself.   “George came to the firing line that afternoon with only an educated guess for his 1,000yard elevation.  He had shot last  as the 600 yard range and in fact used his 2 sighters that  were allowed in the Wimbledon Match to sight in his ’03 at the 1,000 yard range. His first sighter was fired at about 4:30  and he scoped that shot through  his sawed off half binoculars. ” He saw the first shot was a three,  He used his sight micrometer to adjust the slide on the 03 and fired his second sighter down range. This time the spotter showed a hit inside the black bullseye for a five.   His first record shot followed.

It was reported that George  appeared to have little concern as if he was shooting a string of rapid fire, and would load a clip of 5 rounds at a time instead of loading singly as was customary.

Nineteen shots found the black of the 36inch bull of the 1,000 yard “C” target when George appeared to become a bit nervous. He later explained that, “When that nineteenth shot scored a bullseye, I just happened to think that if my next shot got in I’d make a possible. I’d never made a possible at 1,000 yards not even a 10 shot one, and I just though I’d be mighty proud to make one at the National Matches. So I was a little  bit shaky, but I looked around and nobody seemed to be paying any attention to me, so I fired.”

The scorer called out “Mr. Farr’s twentieth shot for record a five” Then to the surprise of all. George proceeded to arise, gather his gear and strode from the firing line.

“Wait a minute; keep on firing ” said the range officer.

“What for?” Farr asked.

“Well you might win something” answered the range officer.

“All right; I reckon I can shoot some more, only I haven’t got any more cartridges”, replied George.

“Here are some”, the  range officer said, offering him two more clips.

“I reckon one of them will be enough,” George replied as he got back into position again.

“As the range officer was kept busy finding  a supply of more of the  “tin can” ammunition Farr had been using, George began to shoot as quickly as he was able as the light now was starting to lessen in the late afternoon sky. Reports sid that the frequency of his shots was remarkable, considering the range, but he did not get quick service in the pits. Had he received better pit service and the light had held out longer that afternoon could have spelled and entirely different outcome to the days events.”

By now  a small crowd had gathered behind him as George continued to put rounds down range and into the black of the bullseye. The group he produced grew from left to right across the target , and at times the shots would climb a bit but they remained in the black. .  “The light held failry good until George reached his 60th shot, then it rapidly began to fade. By the time his 65th shot had been fired, the light had gotten very bad.  Geroge began to hold down on the butts with his 66th shot, and with added elevation this only allowed him 4 more bullseyes. On his 71st shot, at 6:10PM, he scored a four and ended his string  of 70 consecutive bullseyes to give Adkins his closest call of the match.”

At the conclusion of the match the officials asked Farr if he would like to purchase  the rifle he used that day.    A price at that time through the DCM of about 41 dollars.   But George did not have the money.  His 70 bullseyes  that year at the National Matches had already started its journey into shooting history and impressed the competitors present that they took up a collection and purchased the rifle for him.

The following year the NRA donated and ornate silver trophy to commemorate Farr;s shooting feat, known as the Farr Trophy and it is awarded to the high scoring service rifle shooter int he Wimbledon Cup Match.

In 1922, the 1000 yard C target was changed with the addition of a tie breaking   20 inch diameter “V” ring to end the time consuming “shoot offs” when the 20 shot possible was reached. Due to this fact, it is George’s claim to fame that he still holds a virtually unbreakable record for the Service Rifle during the Wimbledon Match.”

 

Quotes and sources

Bill Bentz- The Last Post   Part 121 Final Resting Place of Famous Rifleman

Precision Shooting Magazine April 2006

American Rifleman

Pictures of Farr’s rifle  litter the web, I have no real idea who took them.  But will credit  photog  if he or she happens to show up  and let me know.

5 thoughts on “George Farr And His Famous 70 At The 1921 National Matches”

  1. An excellent article from a different time. Riflery was such a gentleman’s sport. I wish I could have hunted elephant in Rhodesia and shot the National Matchs at Perry around that time.

    Reply
  2. The 1903 Springfield and the 1903A3 were excellent rifles for marksmanship. Lots of people think that services rifles can’t hold a group, but 1903’s did a decent job when fed good ammo.

    The Swiss K31’s are probably the one rifle better than the 1903’s.

    Reply
  3. Most of the detailed photos of the rifle have come after our family donated the rifle and photos to the NRA, so I imagine credit should go to them. At the end of his life he was a gunsmith in Seattle, WA., after having spent many years as a Civil Engineer, who helped survey the Canadian Pacific Railway, and also co-owned a lumber company in Skykomish, WA

    The following obituary appears in the August, 1935 issue of American Rifleman magazine:

    For George R. Farr, one of the Nation’s most picturesque and inspiring riflemen, “cease firing” has sounded; and this grand old sportsman of Washington, after a life of 76 years of vigorous activity and worthy accomplishment, now rests tranquilly among the hills of his beloved Evergreen State. “Dad Farr,” as he was affectionately known to his thousands of friends and acquaintances, was one of those outstanding characters among men. His cheerful and magnetic personality drew men to him, while his sound philosophy and exemplary leadership held their loyalty through the passing years. Few men, through their marksmanship, have or ever will impress youth as he did at the age of 62, when in 1921 as a member of the Washington State Civilian Team he startled the shooting world by making a world’s record of seventy-one consecutive bulls-eyes at 1000 yards in the classic Wimbledon Match at Camp Perry, and that with the Service rifle and its iron sights. Only the failing light from the sun below the horizon prevented an even higher score. As a result of that marvelous example of superb holding, aiming, and concentration the 2,000 riflemen assembled for the National Matches acclaimed Farr as a hero, and by voluntary subscription donated a massive silver bowl to be known as the George R. Farr Trophy and open to users of the Service rifle in future Wimbledon Matches. Not only was Dad Farr a distinguished range shot, but his marvelous long-range shooting at game is a legend in the Pacific Northwest, and far exceeds the accomplishments of the popular riflemen of tradition. He gloried in long shots at mule deer and mountain goats among the rugged peaks of the Cascade Mountains; and as indicative of his sportsmanship, his aiming-point was always the neck, so that his shot if not a clean kill was an equally clean miss that enabled the quarry to escape uncrippled. The National Rifle Association has lost a distinguished life member, and the rifle fraternity an inspiring example of superior sportsmanship; but those of us who have hunted with him, and have been blessed with an intimate association, have lost a friend that can never be replaced.

    Reply
  4. I think the many NRA photographers should get most of the credit for the rifle photos as they were taken after the family donated the rifle and photos of great-grandpa to the NRA. He was a gunsmith in Seattle when he passed, and as a Civil Engineer helped survey much of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and was also co-owner of a lumber company in Skykomish, Washington, where he hunted and fished to his hearts content.

    The following obituary appears in the August, 1935 issue of American Rifleman magazine:

    For George R. Farr, one of the Nation’s most picturesque and inspiring riflemen, “cease firing” has sounded; and this grand old sportsman of Washington, after a life of 76 years of vigorous activity and worthy accomplishment, now rests tranquilly among the hills of his beloved Evergreen State. “Dad Farr,” as he was affectionately known to his thousands of friends and acquaintances, was one of those outstanding characters among men. His cheerful and magnetic personality drew men to him, while his sound philosophy and exemplary leadership held their loyalty through the passing years. Few men, through their marksmanship, have or ever will impress youth as he did at the age of 62, when in 1921 as a member of the Washington State Civilian Team he startled the shooting world by making a world’s record of seventy-one consecutive bullseyes at 1000 yards in the classic Wimbledon Match at Camp Perry, and that with the Service rifle and its iron sights. Only the failing light from the sun below the horizon prevented an even higher score. As a result of that marvelous example of superb holding, aiming, and concentration the 2,000 riflemen assembled for the National Matches acclaimed Farr as a hero, and by voluntary subscription donated a massive silver bowl to be known as the George R. Farr Trophy and open to users of the Service rifle in future Wimbledon Matches. Not only was Dad Farr a distinguished range shot, but his marvelous long-range shooting at game is a legend in the Pacific Northwest, and far exceeds the accomplishments of the popular riflemen of tradition. He gloried in long shots at mule deer and mountain goats among the rugged peaks of the Cascade Mountains; and as indicative of his sportsmanship, his aiming-point was always the neck, so that his shot if not a clean kill was an equally clean miss that enabled the quarry to escape uncrippled. The National Rifle Association has lost a distinguished life member, and the rifle fraternity an inspiring example of superior sportsmanship; but those of us who have hunted with him, and have been blessed with an intimate association, have lost a friend that can never be replaced.

    Reply

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