Sixteen of the last seventeen Bianchi Cups have been won with a perfect score. It’s possible to drop a shot outside the ten ring and win, but highly unlikely. The last day of the 35th MidwayUSA & NRA Bianchi Cup began with six competitors still maintaining a perfect score. On Friday afternoon, in the sun drenched arena of the lower mover bay, the showdown began. In the end, only two shooters maintained their clean status through the moving target event, thought by many to be the toughest event in the Bianchi.
In the end, Doug Koenig, who shot his first Bianchi Cup in 1987, once again pulled out the win. It was his 15th since he first hoisted the cup in 1990 with the first perfect score in the Bianchi. In fact, he’s only failed to clean the match once in that whole time. His score in this year’s championship was a 1920-183x, meaning he only missed the four-inch X ring nine times in 192 shots from 10 to 50 yards with times as short as three seconds for two shots. Second place went to Carl Bernosky, with another clean score of 1920-178x. Third was five-time Bianchi winner, Bruce Piatt with a 1918-176x. Jessica Duff clinched her women’s class Bianch Cup with a 1893-142x. Tiffany Piper was second with a 1885-143x and Cherie Blake was third with a 1881-141x. Rob Vadaz took the Metallic top honor and Enoch Smith won Production. Tiffany Piper also took the Junior Class.
There are four different events in the Bianchi course of fire, each with four yard-line stages. In the course of firing so many shots, anything that can go wrong likely will go wrong. On Friday morning, there were six clean scores. I witnessed two of the heartbreaks that pared that number down. Five-time Bianchi champion Bruce Piatt dropped a single shot outside the 10 ring on the last yard line of the last match. I was shooting photos and, as Bruce shot one of the passes of the mover on the 25-yard line, I noticed him shake his head. He knew the shot wasn’t centered. It leaked about an inch outside the 10 ring at seven o’clock.
A tiny lapse in concentration can mean disaster. While Bruce leaked a shot outside the 10 ring, other lapses in concentration can provide the same results, sometimes much worse. A few relays before Bruce Piatt, Kevin Angstadt forgot to shift his Stick Shift to provide the proper lead for the direction the mover was traveling. The Stick Shift is a movable scope mount invented by Warren Moore. The mount has a shift lever that compensates for the movement of the target, allowing the shooter to center the sight on the bull’s-eye instead of providing an estimated lead to allow for the speed of the target. There is a lever on the back of the mount that is shifted from left to right to set the proper lead. When Kevin missed his shift, he as shooting behind the target instead of leading and the result was three misses. You can’t be competitive in the Bianchi and shoot a single miss, much less three.
With the championship proper over, Saturday morning was the Colt Speed Challenge where champions, celebrities, and media members shoot a series of one-on-one matches. The eventual winner was again Doug Koenig, in spite of a faster time posted by many time favorite, Rob Leatham. The Colt Speed Challenge is a fun event with a lot of ribbing and fun. The highlight was a grudge match between Jim Shepherd, who represented the media, and Robby Leatham, who represented the champions. Robbie vowed to not draw until Shepherd fired his first shot. When the buzzer blew, Shepherd never moved. Both stood there, a kind of Mexican standoff until Shepherd eventually fired his first shot when Leatham promptly caught up and beat him. I had the dubious pleasure of shooting against my wife, Cherie, and therefore, there was a lot at stake. Fortunately, I did manage to best her in two of three runs, though she pushed me hard and took the second one.
Saturday afternoon is the first free time of the championship but while the competitors clean up their gear and take a nap, the staff is busy getting ready for the awards dinner. A great part of the Bianchi is the social scene after the shooting is over. On Wednesday night, there’s a reception with appetizers and free wine and soft drinks. I say appetizers but everyone makes a dinner out of it. On Friday evening, there is a barbecue. This year, we had ribs and brisket and I walked away stuffed. Saturday night is the Awards Banquet, which winds down with the drawings for guns. I don’t have the exact count but I’m sure there were over 50 guns given away on Saturday night.
While the National Rifle Association staff, the volunteers, the Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club, the generosity of the sponsors, and the accommodations at the Holiday Inn all contributed to a truly world-class event, what really defines the Bianchi Cup is the spirit of the competitors. The 35th MidwayUSA & NRA Bianchi Cup was a celebration of shooting, a reunion, a trade show, a party, a place to make new friends, a learning experience, a tough competition, and a hard thing to leave. As Cherie and I pulled out of the Holiday Inn parking lot and onto Interstate 70, we drove for the first hour talking about how much fun we had and we planned our strategies for our next Bianchi Cup.
Image by Dick Jones