An Interview with Art Fleener, the new Long Range Team Captain
May 13, 2020
Art Fleener is the new Captain of the USIMLT Long-Range Team. His combination of accomplishments as a long-range shooter, including a World Record at 900 yards, plus his managerial experience as a board member of the largest black powder shooting organization in the U.S. uniquely qualify him to lead the team. He sat down with John Ciccone, the USIMLT Website manager and Board Member, to give us some insight into his planned effort to advance the Long-Range Team.
John: You are the new Captain of the USIMLT Long-range Team. One of the biggest concerns is how do we make the team grow?
Art: Our team did very well at Bisley, England, the site of the 2019 Long-Range World Championship. The downside is we only had 7 shooters who went there. That said, our shooters are getting older and some of them are getting to the point where traveling overseas is more and more problematic for them…and we need to make sure that there are not even fewer going to the next World’s match.
We are not growing like we should. There needs to be some new blood on the team. So, one of the things I am doing is reaching out, personally talking to long-range shooters who have not shot with us especially younger ones and try to bring them into the fold. Our seasoned shooters can be great mentors for our new folks.
John: So, where do the long-range shooters come from? I know we have made appeals to cartridge shooters, but is there a pool of long-range muzzle loading people whom we can attract?
Art: Black powder shooting is a niche. Long-range muzzle-loading shooters are an even a smaller niche. And there are reasons for that, naturally…travel, time, expense, etc. However, Rick Weber runs the largest match for long-range, muzzle-loaders in the United States, [Held annually in March at the Oak Ridge Sportsmen’s Association near Oak Ridge, TN.] He has given me the list of attendees at the event and occasionally there are new shooters among the competitors and they represent a reservoir that can be explored for the US team.
John: What kind of a road map do we have to find potential muzzle-loading competitors?
Art: One of the things I want to do this summer, assuming Covid-19 is no longer an issue, is to hold a shooters’ clinic. I want to have sections to work on mental management, reading the wind, mirage, shooting position, load development, etc. For example, a shooter might say “I want to have some help on reading mirage,” so we’d put him together with someone who is strong on that. Then we’ll shoot with him to see what his group is like.
So, in the clinic we can begin with classroom time and then get on the range to see if we’ve made improvements. The problem we have in the United States is that we are such a very large country and getting everyone together is a problem.
John: You need to get a range and a classroom to do this…where?
Art: I was planning on having a clinic at Friendship [Friendship, Indiana, the location of the National Muzzle Loading Association headquarters]. Friendship is fairly centrally located for most shooters, we have the facilities…an air conditioned classroom and a 500 yard range, and as a Board Member there, and as an officer, it’s pretty easy for me to take a look at a calendar, choose a week, and schedule it. We may not have a thousand yards, but we can work hard at 500 yards and on where your weaknesses are.
John: I’ve been to Friendship, and in nearby Lawrence there are a number of affordable hotels.
Art: We also have access to some cabins, each of which can sleep several people. My goal would be to house people on site, have a cook-out at night and provide an opportunity for people to develop friendships and comradery as a team. And, this would be open to people who have not made a firm decision to shoot for the team. The idea is that we can get them there, work with them and pique their interest in shooting and joining with us.
John: That sort of a clinic would be of a great benefit to members of the short-range team who shoot prone.
Art: Yes, and they would be welcome. Another aspect of the clinic is that we can have a 45-minute overview program of what the short-range team does, including pistol, long guns and shotgun. The idea is that we can provide a platform for recruitment for all of the disciplines in which we’re involved.
John: One aspect of participation in the Long-Range National match is the question; “Where will it be held?”
Art: Yes, and that has a big effect on turnout. At this point I am thinking of having a match mid-country. That would make it possible for more, and different shooters…those with an interest as well as regular team members will be able to make it.
John: When did you first starting shooting a long-range muzzle loader; what got you into that?
Art: At first I was mainly interested in short-range, but I was also developing an interest in long-range. While I’d never met Tom Henley in person, I did meet him over the Internet. He challenged me, he pushed me. He put some questions in front of me and said “What are you going to do with this? As things developed my interest in long-range peaked…it intrigued me. It was 2009, my first International long-range match. I’d never shot at 1000 yards. In fact I’d never shot past 500 yards in my life. My goal was to get a medal. I ended up getting a medal because I was part of the U.S. team and we placed third at long range. In 2015 at Camp Butner, I set a new World Record at 900 yards with an original rifle beating the World Record for an original rifle and my score also was higher than the replica World Record as well.