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Millisecond Molly: Bianchi Cup — Tips for women

Julie Golob was attending in spirit!

Julie Golob was attending in spirit! Photo courtesy of Brian Marks

This weekend marked the closing of the 2013 MidwayUSA & NRA Bianchi Cup! For those unfamiliar, this match is a prestigious competition focused on action pistol shooting — and, as many competitors confess, the most difficult pistol competition in the world. One thing that a shooter expects in this match is consistency. Since 1979 the four stages of the course of fire have stayed the same: falling-plate event, barricade event, practical event and moving target event.  This year, two hallmark female shooters could not attend. Julie Golob was spending time with her newborn and Vera Koo injured her leg earlier this spring. Although they were not there, their spirit of competition motivated us.

In honor of the ladies who could not attend and to encourage more women to try out this incredibly rewarding match, I want to present some obstacles women (and men) may face and how those obstacles can be overcome.

Upper Body

Women do not have the same amount of natural arm strength as men, and in some ways we must compensate. We can do different, small things to put us on a similar field as the men. Leaning forward while shooting and exerting weight toward the target helps keep your torso stable and maintains a steady hand. It also trains muscle memory not to lean back on your hips, and that is something many females commonly demonstrate as they first start to handle firearms. The problem with that stance is that it not only makes the shooter’s base less stable, but also makes the shooter look over the sights, leading to inaccurate shots.

Team Smith & Wesson's Trevor Baucom and Molly Smith shoot together during the Bianchi match.

Team Smith & Wesson’s Trevor Baucom and Molly Smith shoot together during the Bianchi match. Molly has her lucky red sneakers on. Photo courtesy of Brian Marks

At Bianchi, you can go prone about a quarter of the time. If the woman is capable, I highly recommend taking this position — belly-down on a mat. This is incredibly stable and a great way to increase your point-in-take. And if you’re lucky, you’ll do that one arm push up on the way and be able to keep your gun directed at the center of the target. Just kidding!

Weather

May in Missouri seems to have two options: storms or heat. Sometimes both, simultaneously.

In heat, the most important aspect is to keep cool! That means lots of hydration and electrolytes to keep you going. A common complaint is “Well, I started off great, but …” and chances are, that person is exhausted. That means that a break is needed — water and shade and lots of healthy snacks

Stormy weather is a lot more difficult to deal with. Rain leads to mud, so rain boots are a great idea, along with rain jackets. As long as it’s safe, I don’t mind shooting in that condition simply because it may rain on the match day. There is no cancellation in that circumstance.

Struggle

Molly Smith and Randi Rogers finished second and first in Lady Production, respectively. Photo courtesy of Brian Marks

The physical aspect is less than half of what makes up the sport. Mentally, you must be in tip-top shape to give an equal performance. I’ve often heard it said that women do better on the plates because they are more patient; I have not found this to be so for me. The second day of practice, I struggled on the plates. Exasperated, I asked Randi Rogers for advice, and she told me, “Sharp sight, fuzzy plates.” That doesn’t mean to sharpen the sights and make the plates a sweater, but to focus your eyes on the sights, leaving the plate blurry. That was the best advice she could give because at that point, she knew I had to get back to the basics of shooting.

Shoes

The biggest problem I’ve faced in my years of coming to the Bianchi Cup is actually an issue with attire — shoes. At the end of the competition, there is a formal banquet to honor competitors and winners. It presents one huge challenge — to find the cutest dress/shoes combo. I’ve tried many looks, including black-and-white, sparkles, and a cotton candy dress, but this year has been my favorite because of the shoes. A mutual friend of mine and Vera Koo’s once told me in Chinese culture, red is lucky. So this match I wore red tennis shoes, and at the banquet, I rocked ruby red heels! This is my interpretation of an aspect which Vera communicates and presents so perfectly — classic feminism in a male dominated sport. Vera Koo is an inspiration for all female shooters, encouraging manners, great shooting, a wonderful attitude and the excitement of the dress up.

These tips have gotten me though my fourth Bianchi Cup, and hopefully it encourages others to give this wonderful action pistol match a try!

Vera and Molly at the 2012 Bianchi award ceremony.

Vera Koo and Molly Smith at the 2012 Bianchi award ceremony. Photo courtesy of Rose Davis

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