City native and his wife are crack shots with air rifles

VERGENNES — A Vergennes native and his wife returned to the United States from a world air rifle competition with some medals in their pockets.
Doug Miller, who graduated from Vergennes Union High School in 1962, and his wife, Vipha, competed for Team USA at the WRABF World Benchrest Championships in Brisbane, Australia, this past summer.
As individual shooters, Vipha Miller took silver overall in the HV (Heavy Varmint) class, and Doug won the bronze in HV. Vipha scored 737 points with 29 bull’s-eyes — one more than the Italian who won the gold. Doug shot 19 bull’s-eyes on the way to a score of 734. Both former Addison County residents were also on the American team; USA-A, with Doug on the roster, earned the team gold medal in HV and USA-B, with Vipha competing, earned the bronze.
In a phone conversation, Doug Miller said his wife made the highest showing ever in world air rifle competition.
“Vipha seemed to be the most popular person at the Worlds … she beat  90 of the best,” he said.
What makes air rifle different from a firearm?
“It’s almost the same,” Doug said.
A pellet is lighter than a bullet — a pellet weights about 13 or 14 grams while a slug from a .306 rifle is 150 grams, Doug said — so it is affected by the wind more than a shot from a firearm.
“That’s the most important part — the wind flag and judging the wind,” he said.
In an air rifle competition, the shooter sits 25 meters from the target and takes 75 shots. A perfect score is 750.
Doug has been shooting air rifle for 20 years, Vipha has been shooting eight. But Doug’s experience goes back to his childhood in Vergennes.
“In Vermont you have your first rifle when you’re young,” he said.
Not that he was a remarkable shot. He said he went deer hunting every year but never got a deer.
“I wasn’t very good when I was young,” he said with a chuckle.
But when he went into the U.S. Army he became a very good shot, scoring some very high scores in marksmanship, training as a sniper and becoming captain of a rifle team.
After his tour in the Army, Doug came back to Vergennes and worked at Simmonds. When the plant experienced job layoffs, the Millers moved to California in around 1970 and now live outside Thousand Oaks.
How did they get to be such good shots? The Millers practice — a lot.
“We don’t play on the computer, we don’t play golf,” Doug said. “When we have free time we practice shooting, we practice the sport.
“We have a lot of fun.”

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