Davie County man part of world champion U.S. rifle team

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Photo credit: Winston-Salem Journal

Photo credit: Winston-Salem Journal

Photo credit: Winston-Salem Journal

BERMUDA RUN, N.C. — Phil Kelley Jr.’s accuracy of hitting bulls’ eyes with his rifle from long distances has earned him international recognition.

Kelley, who lives in Bermuda Run, was a member of the 2013 F-Class U.S. Rifle (Target) Team that won the world championship in that category of shooting. The U.S. team competed against teams from 14 other countries Aug. 23-27 at the National Rifle Association’s Whittington Center in Raton, N.M.

Kelley, the president and chief executive officer of Salem Printing, finished fourth in the world in the individual competition. The U.S. team won by 12 points over Team Canada, Kelley said.

“I was thrilled doing it,” Kelley said of the U.S. team’s victory. “To win the gold medal with the USA on my back was pretty special.”

Members of each eight-person team fired a total of 90 shots at targets at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, Kelley said. He used a .308 caliber rifle built by Precision Rifle and Tool LLC in Mebane. Kelley was named to the top U.S. team 1½ years ago.

F-class shooting is a growing sport in the nation in which people fire at targets at long ranges, Kelley said.

Kelley began shooting competitively in 2009 at the North State Shooting Club in Butner, according to his biography on the team’s website. He has won the past two N.C. Mid-Range Nationals.

Shiraz Balolia of Bellingham,Wash., the captain of the U.S team, said that the international long-range target shooting competition is held every four years. Last month’s event in New Mexico was the first time it was held held in the United States, he said.

Balolia described the U.S. victory as a hugely significant event. The American team prevailed in a competition with 420 registered shooters, he said. About 150 spectators, including spouses, friends and supporters, attended the competition.

The competitors are long-range shooters who do it as a hobby, Balolia said. Some are former members of the U.S. armed services.

“They all have the same love, a love for shooting,” Balolia said.

Janette Kelley of Winston-Salem said she was proud of her son’s accomplishment.

“I am real excited for him,” Janette Kelley said. “(It’s) a chance of lifetime to be on the national team, and to win the world championship is incredible.”