They come from everywhere-old hands who have been part of the shooting industry for decades, fresh new faces just getting started and even a few professional shooters. During the July 19th weekend some 313 competitors, along with 74 industry partners descended on the Cody Shooting Complex outside Cody, Wyo., to compete in the 2013 Shooting Industry Masters tournament. This was the 11th time the tournament was held-it moves each year-and its purpose is to generate money to support a variety of shooting programs throughout the country.
“The generosity and support from the people in our industry is astounding,” said Randy Moldé, chairman of the event and vice president of business development for FMG Publications.
Between the tournament and a Gunbroker.com auction, a total of $81,250 was raised to support the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s First Shots program and the USA Shooting Team.
The NRA fielded a team led by John Bailey, director of Membership. John said that he has been attending the tournament for about eight years, and about four years ago he put together a team from NRA.
“We’re happy to help support NSSF and its shooting programs,” said Bailey. “Anything that can bring new shooters into the fold and encourage them to participate benefits the NRA as well.”
Rounding out the NRA team was Darren LaSorte, Randy Clark and Kyle Crew. Out of 80 teams competing, the NRA boys finished 12th in the Industry Division.
Each year the course of fire changes, so no one knows the specifics of the course until arriving at the match site. This year featured a miniaturized version of a cowboy action shoot where the contestants started with two revolvers, moved to a lever-action rifle and finished with a side-by-side shotgun. This stage was shot against the clock. It’s more difficult than it looks at first, and those who were not as familiar with the wheelguns discovered just how challenging it can be. There was a rimfire pistol stage as well, again shot against the clock.
The Cody Shooting Complex has a challenging sporting clays course, which was another stage for competitors. I overheard several competitors mentioning that it was one of the tougher courses they had shot.
Over on the rifle range, contestants had a rimfire challenge with a Ruger 10/22 and a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22-both using iron sights. Starting with the Ruger, the object was to hit 10 steel plates at varying ranges out to about 30 yards, then switch to the M&P and shoot the same string. Once again, this is a timed event, and it was as much a test of shooter endurance as it was a torture test of the rifles. The Cody Shooting Complex pressed many of its members into service as range safety officers, magazine loaders, timers and occasionally, ersatz gunsmiths when the rifles started to stutter. With more than 300 competitors running through these courses as fast as possible, it’s no wonder some of the guns needed a sporadic shot of lubricant and a quick wipe down.
Finishing up the rifle event was a stage featuring Browning/Winchester lever-action rifles. Winchester’s new reintroduction of its iconic 1873 rifle in .38 Spl./.357 Mag. was paired with a Browning reproduction of the 1886 lever action chambered in .45-70. Each contestant shot two 10-round strings at steel plates with a ’73, then finished it with a single shot from the ’86 at an iron bison set at 100 yards, and, of course, this was a timed event.
Along with the regular course of fire, there were 17 side matches sponsored by industry partners, both local and national. There were long-range contests, archery contests-including one using flying discs launched from what looked like a clay target thrower on steroids-sponsored by Freedom Hunters, an organization that helps our military veterans to get back in the field. Benchmade Knives sponsored a tomahawk throwing contest. Colt brought out its 1877 Gatling Gun for some go-fast shooting fun.
Evenings included a special tour of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center museum, a dinner in Old Trail Town-an outdoor museum of the Old West-and the Saturday night banquet and awards. At the awards dinner we learned that Team Browning, consisting of Scott Grange, Rafe Nielse, Nick Schafer and Tennille Chidestar took the Industry Class championship, followed by Team Smith & Wesson with Tony Miele, Stan Shiparski, Jerry Stroup and Gary Zukowski. Team Versacarry with Justin Sitz, Brad Thomas, Evin Galbraith and Travis Noteboom rounded out the top three.
In the Open Division-where the professional shooters compete-Team Hornady, consisting of Tate Moots, Bennie Cooley, Rick Porter and Jeff Cramblit, were high overall, followed by Team Shooters Supply with Jack Jawor, Steve Griffin, Jimmy Johnson, Mark Itstein and Frank Thompson taking second and Team FNHUSA with Larry Houck, Ken Pfau, Mark Hanish and Ernie Beckwith winning third place.
Top individual shooter in the Industry Division went to Team Oneida’s Jared Milinazzo, while the Open Division top individual shooter was Jim Clark of Team DPMS/PolyOne. Tennile Chidestar of Team Browning was the top Industrial Division lady shooter, and honors for the top lady in the Open Division went to Susan Sledge with Team P2K Shooting Range.
As John Bailey said, “Most of the time we [within the shooting industry] only get to see each other in business events wearing coats and ties. This gives us all a chance to get together in a more casual atmosphere and do the very thing we all have in common-shoot!”
Sign-ups for the 2014 Shooting Industry Masters are already underway. That’s a pretty good indication of the popularity and prestige this even has earned.