Any time you undertake a challenge, you have to prepare to meet your goal. This year, I’m shooting the Bianchi Cup, the National Action Pistol Championship. I have only shot in a few local plate matches, but I’ve attended the last few Bianchi Cups and I’ve seen just how much fun the competitors are having. Last Christmas, my friend Michelle Cerino and I made a pact to compete this year instead of just watching our husbands have fun.
There’s a lot of preparation involved in it for me to succeed. In the last few weeks, I’ve been putting all the equipment together to allow me the best chance for success while practicing the techniques that I’ll be using in the match. I’ve decided to use the .357 Magnum Performance Center Smith & Wesson M&P R8 revolver for the Bianchi Cup competition. My carry gun is a revolver and I like the simplicity. When I first handled one, my first impression was just how good the gun felt in my hands. The trigger is smooth and the weight is just right. I expected it to be too heavy for me to be accurate with, but I was wrong. The gun feels good and the extra weight will help me manage recoil in the short times on some of the stages.
The R8 is a very good revolver right out of the box but everything can be improved. We decided to take the gun to Jim Henricsen, at Western Gunsmithing in Lexington, North Carolina, to lighten the trigger even more. I decided I also wanted a red fiber optic front sight.
The Bianchi Cup is an action pistol match and all stages begin from the holster. My choice is the Bladetech OWB with offset. I like it because the offset makes grasping the gun easier, it’s easy to draw from and the rake of the holster is adjustable. We decided a forward rake allowed me fast access to the gun and made the draw and reinsertion of the gun safer. My equipment was starting to come together like a well-oiled machine.
Kim Page from Packing in Pink is the captain of our team so we’re wearing jerseys made special just for this competition. We’ll be wearing black and pink everything, from holster to hat. I love the idea of black for the slimming aspect but I feel like it makes us look like we might know what we’re doing. There’s a definite three to the team but possibly four members. None of us have any history in pistol shooting so it’s totally about the fun. Gear-wise I’m 100 percent ready–I know I’ll look like a real shooter but my scores will be another matter.
I also got prescription shooting glasses to help me pick up the front sight and hold a strong focus on it. For older eyes, the trick is to order glasses with one half to one full diopter more than you normally use for distance in your shooting eye and leave your other eye‘s prescription as normal to allow you to see targets in peripheral. We order our shooting glasses from Zenni Optical because we can get low-cost glasses with whatever prescription we need. I have trouble leaving both eyes open while shooting–I see a ghost image of the front sight that’s distracting, so I‘ve put a small piece of translucent tape at a critical spot on the left lens to block the view and I’m training myself to leave both eyes wide open.
Loading a revolver in action pistol can be problematic. The R8 is moon clip-friendly but I decided to go with speed loaders from 5 Star Firearms. They make speed loaders and reloading trays that facilitate fast filling of the loaders. I ordered their Range model. It’s a beautiful green aluminum tray with two green speed loaders. We added a couple of silver speed loaders to the package as well so I’ll have plenty to get me through each relay. The loaders are solid billet aluminum and polished like jewels. They’re made with O rings and are internally lubricated for years of trouble-free service.
I have my equipment, gun, holster, and speed loaders. I also have the glasses I need to see the front sight. Of course all this gear will need organization. I bought a Rubbermaid tote tray that reminded me of the one Jerry Miculek uses. I’m making a shower cap type cover to keep my gear dry in the event we get rain. There’s plenty of room for all my gear and I put some stickers on it to make it easy for me to spot. I’m geared up.
Of course, there’s more to shooting well than just gear. I’ve been doing a lot of draw and dry fire exercises. We practice the barricade, plates, and practical match every chance we get and my shooting is getting better. For action shooting, you need to analyze what you do and eliminate the issues that slow you down and emphasize the things that make you more accurate. We’ll also be participating in the Pro Shooter Clinic that happens two days before the Cup begins. We’ll be getting tips from the best shooters in the country and I’m looking forward to that.
So, why am I shooting in the most prestigious action pistol match in the world when I know I can’t win? I’m shooting the Bianchi because I can. I’m shooting because I want to know how it feels. I’m shooting the Bianchi because I’ll be spending four days with some of the nicest folks I know and because it’s fun.
Images courtesy Cherie Jones