We had the opportunity to catch up with Springfield Armory Team Captain Rob Leatham at the recent NRA Annual Meeting. In between winning everything that there is to be won in the action shooting sports, Rob paused to share some war stories with us…
My Gun Culture: We’re here at the NRA Annual Meeting with TGO! TGO stands for “The Great One”, Mr. Rob Leatham, world class shooter and Captain of Team Springfield Armory.
Rob Leatham: TGO is Mr. Wayne Gretzky! And before that, who was the first TGO?
MGC: Oh, I should know this…
Rob: Jackie Gleason!
MGC: At least you’ve got good taste in comedy! So Rob, you’ve been shooting forever. You grew up in Arizona, right? In the desert? Tell our readers a little more about how you got started.
Rob: Well I don’t remember not shooting! As a kid we lived in Mesa, Arizona and just 15 minutes out of town in any direction we could shoot – as long as we weren’t in a farmers field! There’s a lot of alfalfa growing out there you know. The shooting range where I now shoot was there when I was a kid, but I never had to go that far to shoot.
MGC: We’ve dug in to your past and we found something called the 5 yard game. Do you want to tell us about that? Or is it still a sore subject?
Rob: You know I keep hearing rumors about how my sister used to beat me at this game, but I have no recollection Senator! When I was about 12 or 13, my grandfather made us 12 inch diameter steel plates on posts. We would stick them in the ground and shoot at them. So my dad invented a game where everybody would shoot – my whole family shot and it was all pistols for this – and you shoot at the plates. If you hit them, you get to move back 5 yards. So everybody would keep moving back until you didn’t hit the target, then you were out. And it’s funny I still use that as a training drill in my classes when we have enough distance. But now I can go a couple hundred yards and still hit the target. But again, my mom and dad like to tell stories about that but I have no recollection of being beat on a regular basis…
MGC: Don’t worry, we’re going to be validating some of those stories to “help you” remember. Yesterday we were here in the booth and saw the new XD-S .45 ACP with a 3.3” barrel. Rumor is that you are going to be shooting that as your primary competition gun next season. That seems a little challenging to me – you know, shooting a compact gun like that for competition. Do you care to comment?
Rob: (Laughs) Yeah that’s a challenge I don’t think I’m ready to come up against. Yeah, the 5.25s I’ll shoot in competition, but the XD-S is the polar opposite of what a competition gun is designed for. The XDS is designed to be the thinnest, smallest, flattest concealed carry gun and the XDM 5.25 is designed to be the biggest – it barely fits in the standard box!
MGC: Do people actually call you “TGO” to your face and live to talk about it?
Rob: No, I don’t really like that. It’s a long story how that came about. A friend of mine, Brian Enos, we got into shooting at the same time. Sometime after he quit shooting he just started calling me The Great One, then it just became TGO. Then a co-worker named Vickie started in on it. So she and Brian are completely responsible! I don’t really fight it anymore… What can you do?
MGC: No worries, this conversation is just between you and me. And the Internet.
Rob: So everybody knows that cell phones, the Internet and all that stuff – it’s never gonna catch on.
MGC: I think that your distinction of being the only one to ever win the Triple Crown is still holding right? That’s kind of weird because I always thought the Triple Crown was for horses. Can you explain?
Rob: In the early days, back in the 80s, there weren’t different categories shot at the matches. Everybody shot the same category and the three major tournaments for action shooting were The Steel Challenge, which was the super speed shoot, The Bianchi Cup, which was the super accuracy shoot, and the IPSC Nationals, which was supposed to be a combination of everything. In 1985 I won all three of those. And so that’s where the whole Triple Crown thing came about. Now, I’m not sure that other people have not won them all in other categories since then. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
MGC: So you’re implicitly saying that no animals were harmed in process of winning the Triple Crown?
Rob: Basically, yeah. Not in that endeavor anyway.
MGC: Tell our readers what it’s like to be Captain of the Springfield Armory Shooting Team. Is there a lot of butt kicking, screaming, yelling, pushups, and so on?
Rob: No, it’s actually easier than that because the Springfield Armory Shooting Team is just me! Over the years I’ve managed to take care of the competition by getting rid of all of them! So now I’m not only the senior member and the captain, but I’m also the newest member of the Springfield team!
MGC: We’re hearing rumors that The Justice League of America is going to be entering The Bianchi Cup next season…
Rob: You’re correct, WE are! We ARE joining the competition next year.
MGC: One more question. We’re going to be doing feature stories on a couple of Springfield Armory products. We’re going to feature the XDM in .45 ACP, but the other thing we’re going to do is a feature on a Springfield Armory 1911 for every day carry. In the Springfield line, what would you steer the average Joe or Jane towards in a 1911 format gun?
Rob: Well I like the EMP style carry guns, but they come in 9mm and .40 S&W. If I were going to get a small 1911, I would probably choose an EMP. That model is the best gun for that use. Now, if you’re a dyed in the wool .45 ACP shooter, I gotta be honest with you, for carry I would get an XDS. I doubt anybody is a bigger 1911 nut than I am, but there is no doubt that I would carry an XDS. It’s the best gun in that size, weight, length, caliber combination.
MGC: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Rob: Take a kid shooting! My big drive right now is getting the children shooting. It’s our responsibility to take a kid shooting. The average kid can’t go on their own – they need someone to take them. Adults may not be able to get into my class, but if you’re 14 years old, I’ll take you shooting!
We’d like to thank Rob and the Springfield Armory folks for helping us to arrange this interview. Rob talked at length about the new XD-S and it seems to be a pretty impressive gun. We can’t wait to get our hands on one. These will be shipping soon – keep an eye out on www.xdspistol.com for the latest news.
This article originally appeared on My Gun Culture.
Image copyright My Gun Culture/Tom McHale