Honoring Michelle--The Pink Rifle
Memorial 6 PPC Rifle to Benefit American Cancer Society
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Our featured rifle is a unique project, built to honor Michelle Sutton and her service to the sport of Benchrest. Michelle passed away in 2007 after a long, courageous fight with cancer. This special custom 6 PPC was built in order to raise money to fight cancer. On August 15, 2008, at the 2008 IBS Nationals, the rifle will be awarded at a special drawing. Individuals who make a $20.00 contribution to the American Cancer Society will have a chance to win the rifle, Leupold 45X Comp scope, and a vast array of shooting accessories. We're proud to showcase this unique rifle, and we hope many readers will donate, in Michelle's memory, to help find a cure for cancer.

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Michelle Sutton--Her Contribution to Benchrest Shooting
by Jim Borden

Michelle Sutton contributed signfificantly to the growth of Benchrest shooting in general and the International Benchrest Shooters in particular. She was involved in Benchrest shooting from an early age, attending shoots with her family (P.J. and Kaye Hart, Clyde and Mickey Hart). She was an active competitor in her early years and then later provided her leadership, labor and planning skills to make sure that shoots were conducted in an efficient and effective manner. As time passed, she gave up her personal shooting to schedule and plan shoots and to provide the target scoring at matches for 3 to 4 different clubs. It was during her measuring of targets that her famed and sought-after "Smiley Faces" were developed.

Michelle made a practice of hand-penciling a Smiley Face on very good targets. (Sometimes she handed out a "frowney face" when someone did themselves grievous harm with one shot.) It came to the point that you could hear on the firing line: "I just shot a small one--I hope it's small enough to get one of Michelle's Smiley Faces."

Michelle spent over 15 years as the Chairperson of the IBS Records Committee and she was an instrumental part of the Group Committee, including chairing that Committee for almost 10 years. She and her husband Jack developed the ideas and plans for the four Benchrest Shooting Schools and she led the planning and running of those training programs. She was instrumental in helping a number of the clubs organize and run the IBS Shooters Championship matches.

Michelle battled cancer for over 10 years while at the same time attending to family, friends, business, and the game of Benchrest shooting. She was always an upbeat person and was a joy to be around. Her strength and character set an example for the rest of us to follow.

The Michelle K. Sutton Memorial Rifle Project
Shortly after Michelle's death in August 2007, Gerry Malerba started organizing the creation of a special rifle to honor Michelle's memory. The rifle would be the Grand Prize in a Sweepstakes drawing and all net proceeds would support efforts to fight cancer. Gerry enlisted the help of Jim Borden, Mike Mastrogiavanni, and Ward Tarasek to make the project a reality. Thanks to many generous individuals and companies in the shooting industry and Benchrest community, a spectacular custom 6 PPC rifle was built, with a complete inventory of matched shooting accessories.

How to Contribute to the Cause

If you wish to participate in this worthwhile project, with a chance to win the Sutton Rifle and accessories, make a $20 contribution to The American Cancer Society, c/o Gerry Malerba. Send donations (certified funds only) no later than August 1, 2008. ALL donations are to be made payable to "The American Cancer Society". Gerald has set up a P.O. Box to receive donations.

Gerald Malerba
P.O. Box 2114
Syracuse NY 13220

All contributors will receive a special receipt. On August 15th at the IBS Nationals at the Kelbly's range, there will be a drawing of the names of those who have provided contributions to the Cancer Society. The winning contributor (drawn at random), will receive the Sutton Rifle and associated shooting accessories. The collective value of all the rifle and gear is well over $7000.00. If you have questions, contact Gerry Malerba via email: gmalerba [at] verizon.net.


Nick Coppogreco provided gold-plated cases with silver-plated bullets, all housed in a custom, fancy wood cartridge box provided by John Petteruti and Fred Weing. The box has a special engraved message, "Magic Bullets to Cure Cancer" with Michelle's signature "Smiley Faces".

Remembering Michelle -- P.J. Hart's Little Girl

I guess my best recollection of Michelle was back in 1971 or 1972. (How time flies....) I saw this little slender girl at the matches at South Creek. I was there with Frank James and some other noted shoooters. Michelle was going to shoot the junior match. Here dad P.J. Hart was coaching her. In those days the 222 Rem was king and Michelle proved her shooting skills right away--she took first place, winning a silver tray.

I remember the photo session. The little girl with Popsicle legs and big pink glasses and a pretty pink dress. She was a sweet child. I remember how proud her dad, P.J. Hart, was of her.

After that I saw little of Michelle. Once in a while I would see her at Hart's shop or at a match with her grandmother Mickey Hart. Michelle was at the age to excel in her studies and I saw very little of her until she started working at Hart Rifle Barrels some years later.

She met Jack Sutton and they married. They had quite a lot in common. Both of them loved to hunt and fish--the perfect match. As time passed, Michelle had some medical problems. The "Big C", cancer. This was very bad news. She fought the disease fiercely. I would ask her from time to time how she was, on my visits to the shop. Her reply would be "I'm OK". She never complained, even though she felt terrible. Jack would say very little but you could tell he was deeply concerned. He fought the illness with her, always loyal and faithful by her side. They were a team, and hoped to beat the cancer together.

She tried her hardest to beat this. I remember the last match she scored, at Camillus. I was so proud of her. Even though she was quite sick, she wanted to score for our club.

She was very special... we miss her so much. -- Gerry Malerba

The Michelle Sutton Memorial Pink Rifle

How the Rifle Came Together
Gerry Malerba explained how the project got started: "I was shooting at Canastota Conservation Club last year. We had lost Michelle recently, and that was the 'last straw' for me in a series of losses to cancer. I vowed to do something about it, so I decided to build a special rifle to raise money to fight cancer. I figured if we could double the build cost of the rifle I'd be happy.

I approached Joan Borden about getting a gunsmith's price on an action and a Robertson stock. Joan indicated her support for the idea. I was prepared to buy the action and stock, but before long, folks were donating key components. I mentioned the project to Paul Ryan, who donated a Jewell trigger, saying: 'count me in, I have lost a lot of family to [cancer].' Then David Apple generously donated a certificate for a new Borden action and Harley Baker kicked in a new Hart Barrel. We were in business!"

Smithing the Pink Rifle
Jim Borden started on the action and was getting it ready when he called Ian Robertson about the stock. Ian not only donated the stock, he put the special pink color (Michelle's favorite), in his line-up. I guess Michelle was everyone's friend.

Jim Borden also installed the trigger and bedded the rifle. His son Jim Borden, Jr. donated a butt plate and Jay Lynn Gore did a beautiful 100% coverage engraving on the buttplate. The barrel was sent to Hart and special fluting was done by Michelle's brother in law Billy Sutton. Michelle's brother Jim Hart did the chambering job. Many other special items were donated for the rifle, as listed below.

All the Pink Rifle Components were donated:

The Rimrock Right Bolt, Left Port, Right Eject Action was donated by David Apple (via certificate). The action carries serial number MKS007. The action was polished by Jim Borden, and Michelle's Smiley Faces have been engraved on the receiver. Paul Ryan donated the Jewell Trigger fitted to the action. Jim and Joan Borden also donated a polished trigger guard.

Robertson Composites donated the special Pink/Black Robertson Rimrock pattern stock. Ian Robertson created this new color expressly for this benefit project and has added it to his inventory.

The one-of-a-kind pink and black anodized Leupold 45X Competition Scope was donated by Leupold & Stevens through Allen Tucker. Kelbly Inc. donated the coated Rings.

The Hart Barrel Blank was donated by Harley Baker. Michelle's brother in law Billy Sutton did the special fluting and her brother Jimmy Hart did the barrel fitting and chambering.

Jim and Joan Borden donated the polished trigger guard and polished bases. Jim also donated his labor for the inletting, bedding, and action glue-in.

Jimmy Borden donated the polished buttplate. The plate was elaborately engraved by Jay Lynn Gore, with Michelle's well-known Smiley face in the center of the engraving design.


Treasure Trove of Shooting Gear

Donated shooting accessories and gear include (left to right):
Sinclair Hand Priming Tool (donated by Mike Bryant), Sinclair Reloading Press and Neck-Turning Kit (donated by Sinclair Int'l through Fred Sinclair), Big Foot Rear Bag and Front Bag (donated by SEB and Paul Schmid), 1000 BIB 6mm bullets (donated by Randy Robinette), Farley Coax II Front Rest (donated by Farley Mfg.), Pink Bore Guide (donated by Russ and Martha Haydon), Certificate for 3000 Berger Bullets (donated by Berger Bullets through Eric Stecker), Custom Cartridge Box (donated by John Petteruti and Fred Weing), 100 Lapua 220 Russian prepped cases (donated by Glen Jackson), Gold-Plated Cases with Platinum-Plated Bullets (donated by Nick Coppogreco), Redding Competition Die Set (donated by Redding Hunter), Edgewood Front and Rear Bags (Donated by Jack Snyder).

Other donated accessories not shown in photo include: Jackson/Borden Farley Bag Containter (donated by Jim and Joan Borden), Aluminum Rifle Case (donated by Gerry Malerba), Action Cleaning Kit (donated by Dave Short), Wind Flag set and Carry Case (donated by David Halblom), Wind Flag Poles and Carrier (donated by Randy Perkowski), Gun Tent/Bolt Folder/Stock Boot, Pink with Smiley Face (donated by Bill Gammon).

Jack Snyder of Edgewood Bags crafted custom, 'hot pink' Front and Rear Bags. Farley donated its $775.00 Coax II Front Rest, and the Bordens donated a Jackson/Borden Farley Bag container.


Topics: American Cancer Society, Cancer, Michelle, Michelle Sutton, Jack Sutton, Hart Barrels, Robertson Stocks, Ian Robertson, Robertson Composites, Jewell Trigger, Jay Gore, Jim Borden, Borden Rimrock Actions, David Apple, Leupold, Competition Scope, Kelbly Inc., Pink stock, Fluted Barrel, Engraved, Engraving, Donation, Gerald Malerba, Berger Bullets, Farley Manufacturing, Farley Co-Ax, SEB Rests, BIB Bullets, Randy Robinett, Redding Dies, Sinclair International, Fred Sinclair, Edgewood Bags, Jack Snyder, Mike Bryant, Bryant Custom, Gammon Wind Flags, 6PPC, Lapua Brass.

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