Californians survived the riots, extinguished the fires, endured the earthquakes. We found alternate routes around the collapsed freeways for millions of cars. But after the riots subsided, the fires were out. and the aftershocks calmed, another kind of disaster struck the California shooting community, and a new band of heroes emerged to deal with the problem.
Late last winter, only a few months before the scheduled events, the NRA withdrew its sponsorship of the 1994 Pistol Silhouette Championships!
The reasons given were related to finances and the priority of near-term political battles vs. match sponsorship. I can’t argue the priorities: nothing is more important to shooters than maintaining our Second Amendment rights.
But the timing of the NRA’s decision was disastrous, and their handling of the issue left a bit to be desired. Over the next year, I’m sure that the parties involved will find a way to make silhouette shooting more self-supporting.
Following the stunning announcement, a group of shooters and match directors, led by Ron and Lee Cottriel, decided they could indeed put Humptey Dumptey together again. First, they reached an agreement with the NRA that the Association would at least sanction the match even if they could not afford to sponsor it.
Second, they turned to their longtime industry supporters for help, and they were not disappointed. Thompson/Center donated two Contenders for fund raising raffles. Freedom Arms donated one of their .357 Magnum revolvers that raised $4,000 dollars from sale of raffle tickets.
Wesson Arms donated one of their .357 “Maxi” Super Ram revolvers that come from the box all ready to win silhouette matches. And Jim Rock of RPM donated his very first, brand-new XL Hunter Model in .356 Winchester. This beautiful single shot was topped with a variable power 2-6x pistol scope courtesy of Bausch & Lomb. Numerous other prizes were donated, but these were the big ticket items without which the match would not have taken place.
Throw in a few hundred man-hours of range preparation work by lots of southern California shooters, and the matches were on.
Match Goes On
There were a couple of differences between the ’94 matches and those of previous years caused by the NRA’s withdrawal of sponsorship. First, attendance was down due to shooters who could not change schedules again after the initial NRA announcement of non-participation caused them to cancel their original plans to attend.
Second, the Down Under contingents from Australia and New Zealand were unable to get their schedules reorganized during the confusion of the on-again, off-again championships. If you’ve never had a chance to socialize with and compete against these tremendous people that spend their lives walking around upside down on the bottom of the world, you can’t appreciate how much they were missed. Not to mention that a number at U.S. shooters had been waiting a year for a chance to get e\ t on a couple of tear: matches!
Third, running the matches consecutively at one location with volunteers made for a grueling two-week stint at the Los Angeles Silhouette Club range for the match officials.
All personnel concerned did a remarkable job maintaining their enthusiasm and cheerfulness despite the signs of fatigue that were visible toward the end of the matches. It was a remarkable achievement!
Last, and most important, I missed annual barbeque! Worse than that, the menu had been expanded to include ribs as well as beef and chicken. Worst of all, the deliciousness of everything was explained to me in great detail later, and not a single scrap was left. Needleless to say, this must not be allowed to happen again next year!
I think there’s an old axiom to the effect that when good shooters get together, you see some good shooting. There was a lot of good shooting at the Nationals, but the two individuals who emerged from the dust and smoke as Grand Aggregate Champions were Bob Vaughn for Long Range (big bore) and Marvin Tannahill for small bore.
Bob’s consistency is remarkable. He didn’t win a single individual event, but his aggregate score for the six events was nine points ahead of the next closest competitor, who just happened to be Marvin.
Marvin really is a bit of a marvel. In addition to winning Grand Aggregate in small bore by a whopping margin of 21 points, he took second overall in Long Range beating his nearest competitor by five targets.
Marvin dominates the standing events, and provided the match’s touch of deja vu. Two years ago. Marvin missed the first perfect score in Standing Unlimited with a 79 out of a possible 80. The story line: he was distracted by a fly that landed on his scope.
This year in Unlimited Standing, he left a ram standing for another “almost perfect” 79. Folks, could this be The Fly: Part Deux or maybe Son Of Fly.
What makes Marv’s achievements even more impressive is that he only took up the free-style events in the last year having previously shot just the standing matches. Obviously someone needs to take him aside and explain how difficult this sport is.
Despite a cumulative lack of sleep from weeks of working round the clock to make this match a reality, the Cot-triels still managed to win their share of championship trophies. Lee won the Ladies Grand Aggregate in Long Range, and Ron won multiple free-style events as well as the Freestyle Small Bore Aggregate.
The “Iron Young Man” award— more accurately called the Junior Grand Aggregate Long Range Champion trophy— went to Eric Raisch. Freestyle Aggregate Long Range Champion was Krista Morris who is still not quite as big as her smile, and doesn’t yet shoot the standing events, but shot a pair of equivalent back-to-back 39’s in Long Range Unlimited to fall only two points short of a perfect score.
Brett Henry took the freestyle Small Bore Aggregate Award while Joyce Robertson dominated the ladies small bore events taking both Grand and Freestyle Aggregate awards. Gene Grant captured the Senior Grand Aggregate in both Small Bore and Long Range matches, while Bob Brissette took Senior Freestyle Aggregate for both matches. Yep, good shooters shoot good scores!
There was an incident during the shootoffs involving a protest and subsequent ruling by the committee that left a bad taste with some of the competitors. I don’t have all the facts, nor was I aware of events at the time, so it would be inappropriate for me to discuss it.
But I would offer this comment. I have the utmost respect for the silhouette shooters who conducted and participated in the 1994 Nationals at LASC. Given the NRA’s last minute withdrawal, the efforts of these individuals were truly Herculean. If a bad decision was rendered at the end of those grueling two weeks of matches and months of preparation, I would certainly suspect fatigue, and not any “hidden agendas.” as the contributing factor. I salute all involved for an outstanding achievement!
Published: American Handgunner – May/June 1995