I’ve been wanting to attend the Southern Side by Side Championship and Spring Classic in North Carolina ever since I read an advertisement for it years ago.

It’s held every April at the Deep River Sporting Clays and Shooting School. The Parker Collectors Club and the LC Smith

Collectors Club compete every year in a classic clay target event. Other events include shotgun collectors’ clubs shooting everything from old black powder hammer guns to early side-by-side shotguns from the first few decades of the 20th century.

When we arrived at the shooting grounds, we noticed several huge tents and lots of cars but mostly pickup trucks in the vast parking lots. When I expected to pay for tickets, an attendant pointed instead to a parking lot with several red trucks. He told us we could park there and said there was no charge.

Our son, Cris and his son, Max, and I parked and walked up the hill and into the big tents, where we chatted with exhibitors, just setting up their tables.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Parker shotguns in one place before, but there were a lot of other manufacturers represented, including several modern hand-built shotguns.

Not all the tables under the tents were filled yet because, even though the Classic is advertised as a four-day show, only three days would be filled with exhibitors and shooters. The day we visited was more or less a practice and set-up day.

We walked down a broad gravel path to where we heard shooting and found two courses set up especially for the event. It is where the various clubs compete, and as we watched, shooters were shooting black-powder shotguns at clay targets launched from six or seven different traps.

Max asked how I knew they were shooting black powder, I told him to watch the puff of smoke from the barrel after each shooter shot. Modern powders don’t leave a powder trail like black powder does. As we watched, he commented about some shooters who held their shotguns like rifles and leaned back instead of the fluid motion I taught them, with a short step forward as they shouldered their shotguns.

He noticed most missed the fast-moving orange clay discs, whereas shooters who held their guns low, bringing them up after calling for their targets. Soon another group walked onto the second course with LC Smith shotguns. We noticed some were pretty good while others weren’t, although no one seemed to care, they were having fun.

We walked past a table with about 50 old Parkers and one stood out. It wasn’t in mint condition, and it wasn’t the best Parker produced, but it had a price tag for $900,900. When I pointed it out, Cris commented that the vendor probably didn’t want to sell it.

Max seemed interested in one exhibit of European shotguns and the vendor took time to explain the unusual shotguns with rifle barrels instead of two shotgun barrels. He said he’d been collecting and shooting the old guns for years, hunting plains game in Africa along with flushed birds.

We ran into a couple of old men sitting on a bench with a pair of Parkers. The one fellow said he was from Hellerstown, Pennsylvania, and the other was his cousin from near Raleigh. They planned to shoot the one Parker that belonged to their fathers together. The cousin said he had not seen it for 40 years.

I think I would like to attend next year, when all the exhibit space is filled and all the shooting competitions are going on. Maybe our schedule will permit it. If you think you’d like to attend, it’s in late April each year and is held at the Deep River Sporting Clays and Shooting School in Sanford, North Carolina. Be sure to attend on the weekend and not the Thursday before.


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