Preparation for the Bianchi Cup Experience

   05.21.12

When you read the text of the course of fire for the Bianchi Cup, it seems harmless enough. The fastest course of fire per shot is six seconds at six eight inch plates from the holster. It just doesn’t seem that hard. Of course, I’ve never been a speed pistol shooter and most of my pistol experience came three decades ago on metallic silhouettes with a time limit of five shots in 2.5 minutes.

Last year, I got an invitation to shoot the ‘Cup and, with a borrowed gun and holster and ammunition bummed from Remington, I ventured to Columbia, Missouri, to shoot it out with the big boys. My original invitation was to shoot the Colt Celebrity Challenge and cover the match but, in the spirit of George Plimpton, I decided I’d learn more from shooting than from watching. This turned out to be an excellent decision for my ability to write about the event, but a poor one for my ego.

My first stage in the Bianchi was the Practical. This stage involves both precision and speed, beginning at the seven yard line with two targets to shoot. When the timer goes off for the first time, you have three seconds to draw and fire one shot each at two targets. My average time to get the first shot into the target is 2.5 seconds so you can imagine the difficulty. Shooting at four yard lines and eventually getting to the 50 yard line, the match requires precision as well as speed.

The next stage was the Barricade Event. In the Barricade, the shooter has six shots to fire in five seconds but at least they’re all at the same target. When the targets turned for the first string, I got off three shots. I was badly rattled. When they turned for the second string on the other side of the barricade, I put the front sight in the black and blazed away. About three seconds into a very short time, it occurred to me that I had no idea how many shots I’d fired. I fired a few more and over shot the count by two shots. Eventually, I settled down and shot fairly well. When we got to the fourth and final yard line for the Barricade, we shot two strings of six shots in eight seconds, at 35 yards. This is not an easy game.

In the Falling Plate Event, I could have renamed it the Non-Falling Plate Event. I was so nervous I left multiple eight inch plates standing at the spitting distance of ten yards. The constant “pop, clank” of the other shooters is maddening when you’re only making “pop” sounds. I think I looked over my gun on every shot and didn’t really start shooting until we got to the 20 yard line with half the stage over. I hit more plates at 25 yards than I had at ten.

While it’s possible to look at the above stages and think they’re not too hard, I can’t imagine anyone who’d have that reaction to the Moving Target Event. The “Mover,” as it’s called, moves 60 feet in six seconds. At ten and fifteen yards, the shooter has six seconds to shoot six shots from the holster. Ten feet per second is running speed. At 20 and 25 yards, the shooter has six seconds to fire three shots. It’s generally the stage that stumps shooters who can potentially clean the Bianchi.

So, how does a mediocre pistol shooter like me prepare for a grueling four day exercise in humiliation? You put the best equipment you can afford together and practice as much as you can. Having worked at it now for about six weeks, I know I’m still going to get waxed, I just don’t want to be waxed as much as I was last year. Watch here for a running account of my prep and progress in the most prestigious pistol match in America.

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