I love the Bianchi Cup! I fell in love with this match from the moment I took my first shots in US Army black and gold. It challenges and humbles me. It teaches me something new every time I compete. In the action shooting sports, it is the one event on the circuit where the results aren’t solely based on competitors shooting against one another. There is an opportunity to achieve perfection – a 1920 (score).
The Cup’s main sponsors truly step up. Support is led by the premiere sponsor, Midway USA. Thank you Larry and Brenda Potterfield for your personal dedication to this match! I was also extremely proud to represent Smith & Wesson a major sponsor. It was exciting to see our logo at the S&W Plate Event, range officers shirts and on every competitor’s shooter number.
The NRA Competition Division has worked very hard to breathe life back into the Bianchi Cup. Suffering from declining numbers over the years The Cup is back in a big way. This year there were 60 first-time shooters compared to what has been a fraction of that number in the past. The NRA’s talented photographers and bloggers were on scene to capture all the action and fun. Of course, a big thank you goes out to the match staff for working long hours to make the event possible.
There are four events at the Bianchi Cup, each 48 shots. The Practical features a weak hand shooting string and shots from 10, 15, 25 and 50 yards. The Barricade event requires competitors to fire from behind both the right and left sides of a barricade. The distances for this event are 10, 15, 25 and 35 yards. A bank of six, 8” falling steel plates make up the Plate Event. Shooters must successfully shoot strings from 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. Finally the Moving Target Event exposes a target that travels a distance of 60 feet in front of the shooter for only six seconds at each pass. Arguably one of the most challenging events in the match, shooters do their best to aim for the 4” X-ring at the 10, 15, 20 and 25 yard lines.
Montana weather and sorting out issues with brand spanking new guns made my preparation for the match a bit challenging this year. Open Division firearms have so many metal parts bolted on them that it can be a significant challenge to get these guns up and running. My new blasters were finicky and because of reliability issues I struggled on the Practical and Plates. Despite the disappointing finishes, I was extremely happy with my Mover where I only dropped one shot outside the 10 ring with a score of 478/480.
This was the first year I used a “stick shift” mover base on my gun with an Aimpoint Micro. I have to say I am thrilled with the combination. The crisp, clear red dot and light weight of the Micro really help keep the weight down on an already heavy gun. The ingenious Warren Moore of Protocall Design crafts a unique scope base that adjusts the optic on the shroud to allow for target lead. The whole set up made me feel more confident than ever going into this match. Steadfast reliability of the Micro and solid construction of the mover base helped me to post my best practice runs this year.
Unfortunately my final score reflected one of my worst Bianchi Cup performances, but was still high enough to place second woman behind the talented Jessie Abbate. Jessie showed potential last year with her 4th place finish and shot a great score to claim the win. Vera Koo had a commanding lead going into her final event and was on pace to shoot a record female score, but after a rough run at the Mover, I slipped past and Vera placed third. Vera competes as a both a lady and senior. She has won more Bianchi Cup titles than any other woman in the match’s 30 year history.
I also witnessed some amazing feats of marksmanship. In the Metallic (Iron Sight) Division, Rob Leatham’s final event was the Mover. The sport’s “Great One” had a fluke jam at the 25 yard line. His first shot landed in the middle, a 10, but then there was a dreaded click. Rob’s blazing fast reflexes allowed him to clear the malfunction and fire off two quick shots just as the target slipped out of view. A ripple of awe went through the crowd gathered to watch Rob shoot. When the target next appeared, his shots could be seen – 10, 8, 10. AMAZING!
This year my teammate Doug Koenig tried something new and competed for the Aggregate Title (Open and Iron sight scores combined). Using a stock Smith & Wesson DK 1911 in 38 Super I had the chance to watch Doug shoot the Plates with this gun. The 10 and 15 yard lines seemed effortless as the steel fell methodically between the start and stop buzzers. When he moved back to the 20 yard line I was shocked to see that, while all the shooters on the line prepared to hit prone at the blare of the start signal, Doug stood patiently. Tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink! Doug knocked plate after plate down at both of the 20 yard strings. He duplicated the performance at the 25 yard position – a CLEAN Plate Event, all from the standing position! WOW!
Of course, the battle on the Mover is one that seems to host the same cast of characters each year. Bruce Piatt and Doug Koenig are always in this showdown as two shooters who consistently shoot clean up to this point in the match. It’s a pressure cooker with a large crowd of onlookers and so much on the line. Doug was first and kept all his shots in the 10 ring. His final match score was 1920 – 179x. It was the first perfect score posted this year. Bruce was next and drilled the X-ring pass after pass until he shot a dreaded 8 leaving Doug with the only 1920 in the match!
There were plenty of highlights after the main event on Saturday. I watched S&W Champion Jerry Miculek engage the crowd with his showmanship and deliver super fast runs in the Production Shoot Off. Kenda Lenseigne tried her hand at the sport in the Celebrity Shoot Off against country music singer Mark Wills. Kenda is an OVERALL World Champion in Mounted Cowboy Action Shooting. In an exciting match up, she defeated Mark for the win. Jim Shepherd of the Outdoor and Shooting Wires also made time in his busy schedule to shoot in the Press Shoot Off against Yamil Sued, Smith & Wesson’s Match Photographer. Yamil took the win but Jim certainly held his own! I had the pleasure to meet mother and daughter team Gwen Cox and Paige Eissinger representing the Women’s Outdoor Media Association. I LOVED the fact that Gwen shared that she recently learned to shoot for the first time in her 70’s. Her words, “You can teach an old dog new tricks!”
At the Saturday night awards ceremony junior girls ROCKED it. I was so proud of my Smith & Wesson teammate Molly Smith for giving Bianchi shooting a try. Molly was the youngest competitor in the match but also won two awards as a New Shooter in Production. The charming Tiffany Piper of New Zealand shot her way to claim the Junior Cup. It’s exciting to see these young women on the range and inspiring others to give shooting a try.
Without a doubt the highlight of the match for me was the opportunity to hear Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Donald “Doc” Ballard speak. Bianchi Cup Coordinator Tom Hughes gave an introduction of Colonel Ballard’s heroic deeds, saving the lives of seven Marines by diving on a live grenade in Vietnam. Tom also shared a wonderful story. When he received confirmation of the Colonel’s attendance he called the Marine Corps Shooting Team and asked its Team Captain if any Marines would be attending the Bianchi Cup. To honor the Medal of Honor recipient, he replied with “Sir, we will send seven.”
Colonel Ballard’s speech will forever leave an impression on me. He celebrated our patriotism but closed by stating that we all have an obligation to our children. As patriots and believers in our Second Amendment Rights it is our duty to ensure that America’s youth understands the importance of pride in our nation and protecting our freedoms. It was a fitting message with Memorial Day just two days away and a perfect end to the Bianchi Cup.