Walter Wilkinson crowned world champion in the FCSA Hunter Class Score with his Steyr HS.50.

Using his out-of-the-box Steyr HS.50 long-range precision rifle, Walter Wilkinson,…

Using his out-of-the-box Steyr HS.50 long-range precision rifle, Walter Wilkinson, 56, of Edgewood, NM, bested a field of 31 competitors—most using highly customized rifles—to take the Hunter Class Score World Championship title at the Fifty Caliber Shooters’ Association World Championships at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, NM, held July 1st and 2nd. This marks the second year in a row that a competitor with an off-the-shelf Steyr HS.50 has won the Hunter Class, as Eduardo Abril de Fontcuberta walked away with the championship title last year.

Wilkinson, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant major and current Gunsite Academy instructor, ran up a two-day aggregate score of 274-6X out of a possible 300, beating his next closest competitor, Lee Rasmussen, by two Xs. With his Nightforce NXS 5.5X-22X 56mm scope and the HS.50’s stock folding bipod in place, Wilkinson’s rifle weighed in at just about 30 lbs. in a class with a 50-lb. limit. The Hunter Class is a 1,000-yd. course of fire consisting of six, five-shot strings, with three strings shot on the first day, and three strings shot on the second day. Due to the wildly varying winds on this range, competitors who shot in the morning of the first day were required to shoot in the afternoon of the second day, and vice versa, to equal the playing field.

Slotted in the first afternoon’s fourth relay, Wilkinson’s consistency, solid wind-doping and holding skills paid off as the winds made an especially tricky display with a 180-degree shift as thunderheads came over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Heading into his morning relay on the second day, Wilkinson found himself in second place with nothing to do but hammer the 12-inch 10-ring to work his way into the championship title.


Wilkinson, who purchased the Steyr HS.50 in 2007 and soon thereafter topped it with a Nightforce scope and a two-tone coat of Krylon paint, began working on load development as a main priority in order to compete in this type of long-range match.

“As I was working up a load for the HS.50, I shot groups that amazed me,” Wilkinson said. “They were the best groups that I have ever shot in my life—and they were with the .50 BMG!

“This didn’t make sense to me,” he said. “With my experience with the performance of the same cartridge overseas, I didn’t expect that kind of accuracy out of it. I was getting groups of .214 MOA at 220 yards, and I didn’t know what to think. All the bullets were going in the same hole, and it was like ‘Wow, I’ve really got a rifle that can shoot here.’ And since then, with working up different loads and knowing what the gun likes, I have become extremely happy with the HS.50.”

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  • Fletcher Wilson

    Being around Walter growing up I knew he always shot a little out of the box. This is a direct result of his caliber.