Walking onto the range the day of the shoot offs, the atmosphere was mixed. Some of the competitors were joyous, sharing greetings, laughs and posing for photos. Others were intense, perhaps seeking a bit of redemption after guessing where they finished in the standings.
For US shooters, shoot offs are not something we get a lot of practice at. The USPSA Nationals hasn’t conducted one in many years. The American Handgunner, an entire match shot in the man vs. man format, is now extinct. If you want to get shoot off practice for IPSC, there are very few matches in the States, meaning you pretty much have to travel internationally to gain true experience.
What makes the shoot off most exciting for me is the crowd. Whether it’s picking personal favorites or supporting national team members, the crowd is very interactive. Applause, cheering, friendly heckling – it’s all part of the game and a lot of fun!
The course features falling steel targets called classic poppers and is set up so that one shooter stands in a box on the left side of the range, the other in a box on the right. Each competitor must shoot down six of the poppers and perform a mandatory reload before shooting the final steel target called a cross popper. These poppers are set so that no timer is necessary. The one that falls and hits the ground first indicates the winner of the bout.
The event couldn’t kick off with anything better than watching Jerry Miculek do his thing against the best revolver shooters from around the world. Watching Jerry shoot is always exciting and entertaining.
It wasn’t long after that I got a chance to participate in the Women’s Production Shoot Off. I was excited to shoot, but also that it meant I had placed in the Top 8 women! That’s a huge honor in and of itself, and knowing that made me even more excited at the prospect of winning a medal in the evening’s award ceremony. Even better? One of my teammates, Sara Dunivin was in it too! 1/4 of our shoot off was from Team USA!
I was also excited to meet some of the other women in the division. Sara, Mira Barinova, Laetitia Daguenel, Andrea Gasic and Maria Guschina were all on my squad in the main match, but the other women who made it to the shoot off were Svetlana Nikolaeva and Kristina Petkova. I was so happy to see Kristina again. She was one of the many dedicated range officers who worked the match. Svetlana was warm and friendly and I immediately liked her. I wish I had more time to speak with them both but the announcer quickly called us up to the line.
My first bout was against the talented Andrea Gasic. I met Andrea at the opening ceremony and immediately felt a connection. Her smile is as contagious as her love for the sport. I knew from watching her compete all week that I would need to shoot well in our bout. I assumed the start position and focused on listening to the first tone of the start signal. My draw went well as I gripped the gun tightly, engaging the trigger for each shot. The reload went smoothly before I engaged the final, steel. DING! I had a great run and was able to secure my position into the semi-final. Immediately afterwards, Andrea and I met up for a hug, sharing our mutual appreciation for each others talent.
In other match ups, Laetitia defeated Maria and elatedly called out “MY REVENGE!” after winning her bout. Svetlana advanced in her match up against Kristina. Sara went up against Mira. It’s impossible not to adore Sara. A police officer from the Phoenix, AZ area, she is a joy to be around. When the buzzer sounds though, she’s all business. I was so proud of her performance. She didn’t end up advancing to the semi-finals, but did very well in her first shoot off ever!
Next up, Laetitia battled Svetlana in the semi-finals with Svetlana securing her place in the finale. I was up against Mira. Watching Mira shoot against Sara, I felt pressure to pick up the pace. I kicked it up a gear and ended up missing too many times to move into the finals but sought out Mira, asking to shake her hand and congratulate her on her shooting.
The finals featured two Russians with different styles – Mira’s calm, cold fierceness vs. Svetlana’s sparkling determination. It was an exciting finale and Mira continued her winning streak, a rare smile finally appearing on her face.
There’s an album on my Flickr with lots of photos from the event and a huge thank you to my brother for taking them. Congrats to all the shooters who made it in the shoot off event and the winners!