12 Competitors to Watch at the 2015 NRA Bianchi Cup
Tom McHale 05.18.15
What is arguably the most prestigious event in shooting is right around the corner. From May 20 through 23, 2015, the best action pistol shooters in the world will converge on the Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club in Columbia, Missouri to shoot it out at the NRA Bianchi Cup. Sponsored by MidwayUSA, the Bianchi Cup is arguably the top shooting event of the year as it places a premium on accuracy in a variety of shooting scenarios.
The event is grueling, and competitors won’t be able to claim top honors by focusing on a single discipline. Comprised of four “matches” including Practical, Barricade, Moving Target, and Falling Plates, shooters must excel at short range, long range, steel plates, shooting prone with handguns, and moving targets.
Bianchi rewards accuracy, so speed alone won’t improve the x-ring scores. Each of the four events offers a perfect score of 480 points with the opportunity to gain 192 tie-breaking x-ring scores over the entire match. If you reverse engineer the scoring math, you’ll note that the event represents just 192 shots. It’s not unusual for a number of people to shoot perfect 1920 scores, with winners determined by the number of X-ring hits within the 10-ring circle. Just to clarify, NRA Action Pistol scores are recorded as Total Points followed by the number of X-ring hits. For example, the winning score in 2014 was 1920-171x.
Who’s going to win this year? That’s up for grabs. Let’s take a look at some of the top prospects to take home the trophies, in no particular order.
The name Doug Koenig is practically synonymous with the Bianchi Cup. Being the first competitor to attain a perfect score back in 1990, he’s continued his dominating run with championships 13 of the past 17 years. He has a total of 15 Bianchi wins in his lifetime—so far. In 2014, he was edged out by Kevin Angstadt, who shot a perfect score of 1920 with 171 x-ring hits. As a side note, Koenig shot perfect scores in all 13 of his recent Bianchi championships. You can bet Doug is motivated this year after being edged out in 2014.
This year, watch out for the guy who’s been thinking “if only I hadn’t pulled that one shot…”
Team Smith & Wesson shooter Julie Golob has won the Bianchi Ladies Division three times. This year, she’s battling back injuries, but I wouldn’t rule her out. This lady has more positive attitude than Luke Skywalker. Besides, it would be foolhardy to rule out a competitor who manufactures her own caffeine. Yes, Julie roasts her own beans, and with blends like Double Tap Roast and Powder Burn, you know she’s really focused on her shooting game.
The last time that Leatham won top overall honors at Bianchi was 1985, the only year in which the Practical Event was temporarily replaced by the 60-shot, 600 points International Rapid-Fire Event. Does that tell us something about Rob’s preferred shooting style? Maybe. But then again, in that year, Leatham won the unofficial Triple Crown of shooting: Bianchi, the Steel Challenge, and the IPSC Nationals.
I’m old enough to remember watching Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. With his new “bionic” knees, Springfield Armory Captain Rob Leatham might just reassert his ownership of the well-deserved moniker “The Great One.” When I asked him about that nickname, he humbly informed me that the real “Great One” was Wayne Gretzky, and before that, Jackie Gleason. Don’t let the humility fool you though, this guy has won 24 USPSA National titles and infinity others. Oh, and he won the Production Division at Bianchi in 2014.
In 2014, Kevin Angstadt achieved his top two goals. The first was to shoot a perfect score at Bianchi. The second was to win the event. Many years, being “perfect” isn’t good enough, you have to edge out the competition with more tie-breaking x-ring hits.
They say the hardest accomplishment in sports is to repeat a championship the following year. With his perfect 1920 score in 2014, Angstadt has his work cut out for him in 2015.
Jessie has been on quite the tear this year and has won the Ladies Division in 2013 and 2014. Fresh off a win at the USPSA Single Stack Nationals earlier this month, you’ve got to give some weight to the momentum factor. Besides, she’s already conquered the challenge of repeating a championship. Duff was the only 2013 Bianchi champion to retain the title in 2014.
When she’s not busy shooting, you’ll find her on the NRA All Access program hosted by Outdoor Channel.
A multi-discipline shooting instructor and coach for the US Border Patrol and US Marine Corps, Worrell is always a force to be reckoned with. Last year, Kevin Worrell captured his first Metallic Sight title with a score of 1907-127x. Shooting since the age of six, he’s always in the running. At Bianchi 2014, he also placed fifth in overall Lawman and 19th overall. That sounds like a distance finish, but only 13 shots outside of the 10-ring kept him from the winner’s circle.
You may know Team Colt’s Maggie Reese from season two of History Channel’s Top Shot. You also might know here from her National USPSA and 3-Gun Championships. A Master Class shooter, Reese took ninth for Ladies overall in 2014 with a score of 1841-110. She also claimed High Lady for Event IV, Falling Plates in 2014.
Maggie has serious momentum, coming into Bianchi with a first-place showing at the USPSA Multi-Gun Nationals in the Ladies Open Division held at the end of April.
I met Team Smith & Wesson’s Junior Captain Molly Smith for the first time back at SHOT Show 2013. At the time, she was a junior in high school with her sights set on becoming a constitutional lawyer and eventually a Supreme Court Justice. Still on that track, she’s balancing studies at NYU with a competitive shooting career.
I asked her about the (then) upcoming 2013 NRA Bianchi match. “It’s a very difficult and challenging match. It makes my head hurt, and it’s fantastic, and I get so much out of it. It’s the most difficult match I’ve ever heard of, and I love it!”
In 2014, Molly finished 19th in overall Ladies, fourth in Ladies Production, and fourth in overall Junior.
Last year, Tiffany was nipping at the heels of Ladies champ Jessie Duff with a score of 1891/142 to Duff’s 1893/135. Will one more year and another hundred grand of practice rounds be enough to propel her into the top spot? We’ll soon see. Based on the recent photos of her mover and barricade targets, she’s shooting in top form.
Not to take away from his mom and dad, Michelle and Chris Cerino, Junior shooter Colton finished second in Junior Division last year to Louis Surgi with a score of 1791-106. As I’ve seen the entire Cerino family at every event I’ve been to, I know he’s working hard to move up the ladder.
Speaking of the Junior Division, Louis Surgi won it last year with a score of 1838-111x. Recently, he shot a 2014-topping 1875-129x at a regional action match, so you know he’s seriously training for the NRA Bianchi event. A repeat in 2015? Perhaps.
Dogged determination counts for a lot when winners and runner-ups are separated by fractions of an inch. While eight-time Bianchi champion Vera Koo has not won the title since 2008, she’s focused for 2015. A serious skiing injury earlier this year would have kept most from even thinking about competing, but she’s determined not only to recover in record time, but compete for top honors.
With somewhere north of $500,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs, the 2015 Bianchi Cup promises to bring out the competitive streak in all of these shooters and many more we didn’t have space to mention. While the money arguably makes this event the richest in competitive shooting, it’s hard to top the prestige that goes with an NRA Bianchi Action Pistol Championship win. Stay tuned.
This article was produced in cooperation with the NRA.