FARMINGDALE — A signature rifle bearing the name of Neilson’s Gun Shop owner Gary Hamilton is on the way after he achieved a once-in-a-lifetime feat in June 2018 — what could be the first perfect target of its kind at a shoot in Augusta.

Hamilton, 68, of Farmingdale, shot the target June 24, 2018, during a rimfire ammunition, bench-rest, sporter class .22-caliber rifle shooting match at the Capital City Rifle & Pistol Club’s range.

The judge of the competition, Donna Grant, of Sidney, said it was a world record and the first of its kind.

Because of that achievement, Hamilton will be outfitted in his own gear after signing a sponsorship deal with Cooper Firearms of Montana. Hamilton said his gun will likely be available by spring 2020 and a range of other goods bearing his name will be available after that.

Gary Hamilton holds a Tony Larson .22-caliber sporter rifle Friday at Neilson’s Sporting Goods in Farmingdale. Hamilton used the gun to shoot a 250-point 25X target next to him. The round wildlife paintings above him are some of the many prizes/targets from the Cooper Firearms of Montana One Shot contests that Hamilton has won over the years. Cooper Firearms will be bringing out a signature line of Hamilton 25X rifles soon.

Looking around Hamilton’s shop, it is almost divided into two parts: The retail store with guns and a space littered with spare scopes and barrels and tools to affix and detach them to guns. The target sits near his workbench, framed atop a stack of boxes at Neilson’s. The official score was 250 25x, which means he hit the quarter-inch-wide center ring of the target — worth 10 points — 25 times.

Further, each bullet made contact with the bulls-eye — only a small dot — in each of those shots.

Hamilton said he is the only person ever to do it with a sporter class rifle, which must be lighter than 7 1/2 pounds, outfitted with a six-power scope, which magnifies the target six times, in the same game.

He said someone else has shot the same score, but it was using a scope that magnified the target 50 times.

Hamilton said the perfect score came down to a combination of good equipment, perfect weather and, of course, his own skill.

“I say it’s a lot of luck, but you’ve got to have the talent,” he said. “Everything has to fall into place, (but) there’s a lot of people, no matter what you give them, could never do it.”

He felt no different before the shoot than any other event, Hamilton said, except he knew that he was shooting good ammunition. Hamilton pulled a red box of Eley ammunition and turned it to its side. He explained that through a number on the box, he can tell which machine at the factory manufactured it and when it was made. If he finds a good batch, Hamilton said, he buys as much of it as he can find.

Ammunition is only one facet of a successful shoot, he said. Wind and humidity have to be studied by shooters before firing. Hamilton said humidity drawing moisture out of the ground can move the bullet while it is in the air, so being aware of every weather condition is important.

He said the wind stayed steady throughout his round and he shot the target in six minutes, which is faster than usual. All of the targets must be fired on within 30 minutes and Hamilton said he usually takes about 25.

Gary Hamilton shot this 250-point 25X target June 2018 in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Grant said she saw Hamilton “literally shaking” in disbelief after shooting the target, which is out of character for him because “he doesn’t ruffle very easily.”

“I overnighted (the target) to the league so they could verify it,” she said. “The judges took one look at it and said that was a record.”

Officials from governing bodies of the sport, IR5050, American Rimfire Association and Auto Bench Rest Association, were all unavailable for comment for this report.

After shooting the target, Hamilton said acquaintances told him he would be hearing sponsorship offers in the near future. He said he received six offers, but ended up settling on Cooper Firearms of Montana, a company with which he was familiar.

Hamilton said the terms of the sponsorship took about a year to iron out, but now he is in the process of designing his signature gun, dubbed the Hamilton 25x.

“I’ve shot Coopers for years,” he said. “There’s not a better production gun being made today. You could go and buy a Cooper right now and you can come to the range and shoot and compete. There’s not another gun you can do that with.”

Hugo Vivero, owner of Cooper Firearms, said he has known Hamilton since 2009 as a customer and a competitor in company-sponsored shoots. As soon as he heard Hamilton shot the perfect target, Vivero said he offered to sponsor him.

He compared Hamilton’s achievement to that of Lionel Messi, who was recently voted the best soccer player in the world for 2019, if he never missed a shot. Grant said it was like shooting a hole-in-one at a major PGA tournament. Hamilton said it was the “most amazing shooting achievement ever.”

“Just think, it can never be beaten, only tied,” he said. “I think that’s all anybody needs to know.”

Hamilton’s line of gear, he said, will start with a bench gun, but will later expand into ammunition, cleaning products and hunting rifles.

When asked if his fellow shooters at the Augusta range would be tough on him if they beat him while he was using his own gear, Hamilton said he would take it in stride.

“Some people like winners and some people like to hate winners,” he said, motioning to New York Yankees memorabilia in his store. “I don’t care how good you are, you can always be beat. You gotta learn how to win and learn how to lose.”

Grant said Hamilton was an encouraging presence at the club, adding that he supported her when she first began shooting. She said he would let her borrow some of his spare equipment for years at a time.

“He was always incredibly patient,” Grant said. “(He has) a devotion to shooting and has (the) willingness to share and give support to newcomers.”

Hamilton said his only regret is that he achieved the perfect target after the death of his mother and father, who would have been proud of him.

“My parents would’ve been happier to see me with (my own) gun than a pocketful of money,” he said. “My father always knew I was a gun nut — and a pretty good shot.”


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