Have you ever had that moment in life where you push all of your chips in, you gamble on it all and hope it pays off? Well, it is tempting to do in the shooting world. This past weekend, I reached a milestone in my shooting career winning my 60thcareer major win at the 2019 Georgia State Steel Championship. There were competitors from all over the US from at least 10 states. At 321 entries, it will undoubtedly be one of the largest, if not the largest, level II Steel Challenge match in the country this year. It was not long ago shooting below a 70 second time in any division was rare and a feat to be seen. At this match, there were 7 entries shot under this watermark.
As we entered the final day, a 66.25 was posted in the Rimfire Rifle Open division. We have seen some times such as this in the past, but for a level II match it has been scarce to see this low of a time. This time put me immediately into a defensive position, and I started questioning how I was ever going to shoot anything close to this time. I have never shot below a 67 at a major match and how could I possibly make a run at it? I just put in a new trigger, from Powder River Precision, in my Tactical Solutions Xring and did some light testing the week before. I had to come up with a game plan.
I could not remember where I squadded to start the last session of the match, and when I found out it was Smoke and Hope I was concerned. I was concerned that I was either going to have a shot at a great match or I was going to throw caution to the wind and let it all hang out. After all, I felt more prepared this match than any other in the past by shooting six of the last seven days. As I arrived to the shooters box, I had a level of uneasiness I have not felt in a while. Then suddenly a calming sensation came over me as the ‘Make Ready’ command was given. I took my dry sight picture going through the stage fast but yet controlled. I saw my Vortex Razor on every plate with a slight jerking motion of the optic as I often do when I push my limits of how fast I can shoot. I vaguely remember the buzzer going off and the final shot went off, and it was quiet. I then heard the time: 1.22. I then realized I was in the zone, and my subconscious took over. I can’t even recall seeing the dot on any one of the plates, but I did see a shot in the middle of the stop plate.
I proceeded to change mags and prepare for my next string of fire. The buzzer went off again, but I forced the stop plate. I cannot recall if there was one or two make-up shots on the stop plate and a 1.64 was called out. I could hear some chatter from the gallery. I quickly blocked out the background noise and prepared for my third string. As I did, I reminded myself to let my training set in and to let it go—here goes everything. As I pulled the last shot, my audible senses erupted and I heard a 1.20 and people talking in the background again. A small adrenaline rush came over me, and I allowed it to subside and told myself. I needed to do this one more time to have the fastest stage time I have ever shot. Everything became very quiet… a familiar RO voice said ‘are you ready’ and then ‘standby’. At this moment it felt as though everything around me disappeared, and the only thing I could hear was in my own mind. I heard the ‘b’ in beep of the timer, and I was on the first plate. It was over. The sound rushed back and a 1.19 was called out. I was confident I did not stop on any plate. I don’t recall seeing the stop plate, but I did see a 4thmark on the plate at 2 O’Clock where half of the .22 ELEY bullet had made a distinct impact. I had done it, I shot 5.25 on Smoke and Hope!
As a good friend once told me, in order to achieve results you have never seen, you have to do things you have never have done. I have never taken this type of risk before at a major match. Not sure I will again, but sometimes you have to get outside your comfort zone and say ‘Here goes everything..’ This time it resulted in a personal best and one of the fastest times ever shot in the Rimfire Rifle Open division of a major match 65.69.
See you out on the range soon