If you need an extra dose, check out the upcoming first-ever, NRA Freedom Weekend. The festivities start with the crowning of the undisputed World Shooting Champion.
TV’s popular Top Shot program was a good first step, but the victor of those competitions represented relatively small groups of shooters that were hand-picked under a broader set of qualification criteria. The NRA World Shooting Championship aims to bring the world’s top competitive shooters together for three days of intense competition to find out who is the best of the best. The event covers all major shooting disciplines—12 to be exact. Oh, and did I mention that they can also compete in the first Starlight 3-Gun event once the sun goes down? More on that in a minute.
The World Shooting Championship, presented by Magpul, takes place September 24 to 26, 2015 at the Peacemaker National Training Center in Gerrardstown, West Virginia. There’s plenty of incentive to participate (and win), with $250,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs. That cool quarter million is just for the daytime competition. Add another for the Starlight event and $500,000 is on the table. You can be sure all the top dogs will be in attendance.
To keep the focus on shooter skills instead of tricked out gear, all guns and ammunition are provided by the event sponsors. In addition to leveling the playing field, this format also encourages easy participation by international competitors.
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Looking to make shooting competitions as mainstream as other sporting events, the NRA and event sponsors are going the extra mile to make both the day and night competitions spectator friendly. The 2015 NRA Freedom Weekend represents the first deliberate effort to grow the spectator aspect of the shooting sports.
“NRA Freedom Weekend will have a friendly atmosphere as shooters, VIPs and spectators will be treated to a level of entertainment unheard of at any other shooting competition,” reads a post by John Parker on the NRA’s Shooting Sports USA site. “There will be an area with food and drinks, games and music. Spectators can keep up with the competition via live scoring and video feeds. The Peacemaker National Training Center outside Glengarry, West Virginia will keep its high-level shooting focus, but add a new dimension of consumer friendliness as shooters, VIPS and spectators will be treated to a level of entertainment unheard of at any other shooting competition.”
The Starlight 3-Gun event will offer plenty of visual “cool factor,” and is also designed to be spectator-friendly. According to organizer Jim Shepherd, “The Starlight 3 Gun will offer spectator participation areas where adults and children can try their hand at shooting. Children will have a safe-play area where they can burn off some excess energy while their parents check out the competition and exhibits, and all that will be centered around professional concessionaires, restroom facilities, and an entertainment stage.”
Time will tell, but this improved event content and format may be the beginning of increased mainstream coverage of the shooting sports. More coverage equates to more sponsors and competitors, and that’s a good thing for all of us.
The ultimate shooting skill test
The Bianchi Cup, USPSA, and Steel Challenge are good tests of pistol skills. 3-gun competitions bring in sporting rifle and tactical shotgun, but no event has ever captured all of the major shooting styles in one consolidated match. Consider some of the varied skills that the World Shooting Champion must master to claim the top $25,000 prize.
On stage one, competitors will taste a bit of the Old West and engage in some Cowboy Action Shooting. Sponsored by Taylor’s and Company, this stage has shooters scooping up a coach shotgun to engage multiple targets, then transitioning to another table where they’ll pick up a lever-action rifle to nail more distant targets. They’ll finish my unloading a single-action revolver at five additional targets.
Stage three offers competitors a taste of the brutal Bianchi Cup format, with shooters engaging moving targets using a Sig Sauer 1911. Three shots per target, with four passes each, completes a string. After a “sighter” run, competitors will complete two strings of fire from 20 and 25 yards.
When organizers talk about testing competitors across all shooting disciplines, they mean it. Stage five has shooters firing a Beretta Silver Pigeon 12 gauge over/under shotgun at 25 targets from a 5-Stand setup.
Smallbore rifle is represented on Stage seven, presented by Kahr Firearms Group. Using a Magnum Research MLR22AT outfitted with a Vortex Sparc II optic, competitors will engage NRA A-31 targets from a range of 50 yards.
Stage eight will be familiar territory for 3-gun competitors. Running and gunning with a shotgun, modern sporting rifle, and pistol, shooters will engage an extravaganza of 20 different steel targets with all three guns.
Distance anyone? You might like the DMR challenge on stage 10. Starting from a standing position, shooters will drop to a kneeling position and engage steel targets ranging from 500 to 600 yards downrange.
These are just a taste of the skill tests required to win this match. Clearly, excelling in one discipline isn’t going to get one far.
The light and laser show
As if the daytime competitions aren’t enough, competitors can also choose to compete in the dark using lights, lasers, and 3-gun skills. The Starlight 3-Gun Series kicks off when the sun goes down. Inspired by the wildly popular Crimson Trace Midnight 3-Gun Invitational, Starlight aims to continue the night shooting competition at regional events across the country.
As the name implies, it all happens in the dark. As a two-time competitor of the Midnight 3-Gun, I can personally attest to the cool factor of events like it. To find and engage targets, shooters must trick out their pistols, shotguns, and rifles with an array of lights and lasers. Night sights alone aren’t enough, as any given stage might include targets placed in pitch-dark conditions from five to 200 yards away. While it’s a serious competition, it does resemble a rock concert complete with lasers, smoke, and sparks. It’s a must see event.
To kick start the elevation of the World Shooting Championship into the mainstream, the NRA, Magpul, and dozens of other sponsors have really beefed up the awards.
The first-place overall winner will leave with a check for $25,000 and top lady shooter will claim $10,000 in cash. Cash prizes continue through fifth place, with awards ranging from $5,000 to $1,000.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The prize table is also big money, with nearly $250,000 worth of guns and gear up for grabs. The better one places, the sooner they get to choose from the prize table.
Remember, that quarter million of cash and gear is only for the World Shooting Championship. Another quarter million is up for grabs for Starlight 3-Gun competitors.
This article was produced in cooperation with the NRA.
Images courtesy NRA and Tom McHale