Frank Tirrell, 74, who lives in the southeast part of the county, was world champion in center-fire competition.
The first time he shot in national air gun competition, he came in third. About six or seven years ago, He shot his first “perfect” .22 target.
To qualify for the U.S. team, he had to outshoot riflemen from all over the United States. He had the second highest score.
This is even more remarkable when you consider the bullseye is only .060 of an inch and the target is 25 yards away.
And he shoots guns he builds himself. The one he will take to the World Championship was designed by him on a napkin at his kitchen table.
“I deal with nothing but extreme accuracy,” he said. Competition air guns are anything but common. They are not like the ones you may find at a discount store or gun shop.
The gun he will be taking to South Carolina has a Steyr barrel and action, made in Austria.
He said Austrians and other Europeans take their air rifles seriously.
He made the stock and the trigger and assembled it himself.
An expert on triggers, he made a trigger for David Griffith of Gilmer, who is proficient in .50 shooting. (See The Gilmer Mirror, May 6, 2011.)
It is designed so barrels can be switched out—air guns come in both .22 and .177 calibers, and both can be used in competition.
This gun he built was influenced by the model the Russians, who are current world air gun champions, use.
The stock is made out of solid (not laminated) pine, and was painted in “hot rod” colors by Wayne’s Auto Body of Gilmer. Decals on it were made to his design by C&C Trophy, also of Gilmer.
Terrill said stocks are commonly made of wood, fiberglass or carbon fiber. He and many other shooters prefer wood because it absorbs vibrations—important when the dot in your 36-power scope measures 16 minutes—half the size of the bullseye!
He shoots from a concrete bench rest. He said that is the best base from which to shoot.
The gun fires pellets at 775 feet per second, with a variation of only 3.46 feet per second.
Moveable weights circling the barrel “act like an adjustable carburetor,” Tirrell said—moving them helps adjust accuracy and redistribute the weight.
Two aluminum pillars hold the barrel to the bedding.
Unlike common air guns, which are fed from cartridges, this gun has a reservoir which is filled from a scuba tank.
When the reservoir tank is full, there is 3,000 pounds per inch of pressure to put behind the pellet.
While most firearms had trigger pulls of up to several pounds, his gun had a pull of 1.8 ounces. The trigger swivels, so that it perfectly matches the contour of a finger.
Tirrell, who used to be a building and design supervisor for Savage Arms Co., said that manufacturers put high-strength trigger pulls on their guns for liability reasons.
When fired, the gun sounds like a .22 magnum, even though there is no gun powder involved.
The 36-power scope is by Leupold, which makes some of the finest optics around. It alone costs about $1,000.
A set of mounting brackets for the scope, machined from a solid block of aluminum, cost $100.
(The gun costs about $4,000 to build, counting the time Tirrell invests in it.)
The assembled gun weighs 12 pounds.
Tirrell has been building “super accurate” guns since 1965. A few years ago, he sold one to a friend in Finland.
Air gun shooting is “the most precision form of shooting there is,” he said.
Recently, a number of 4-H Clubs have gotten into air rifle shooting, and so has the Jr. ROTC.
He recently formed the United States Air Rifle Association, and “it’s going like gang busters.”