I have been told that I am the type of person who will take a bite of something and hold onto it and not let go until I have it mastered. I gravitate toward activities and tasks that take a long time to master. I have the stamina and the work ethic to stay committed to that discipline for however long it takes to reach my goals.
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This explains my dedication to my beloved Bianchi Cup, also known as the National Action Pistol Championship, which occurs every May at the Green Valley Rifle & Pistol Club near Columbia, Mo. This year’s competition will occur May 24-28. The Bianchi Cup will serve as a qualifier for the World Action Pistol Championship in November in New Zealand. It is my goal to represent the United States on its team at the world competition.
I have competed at Bianchi Cup for 20 years, and some shooters have competed at the competition every year since its launch in 1979.
Because of the high levels of accuracy required at Bianchi Cup, it is considered one of the most difficult championships in shooting sports. Bianchi Cup joins the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) Nationals and Steel Challenge Shooting Association (Steel Challenge), as the top championship events in action shooting in the United States every year.
I have previously competed at IPSC Nationals and Steel Challenge, but I left those disciplines after seeing that those competitions did not best suit my skillset. IPSC requires a lot of athleticism, and Steel Challenge requires extreme speed. I left Steel Challenge after I saw my ceiling. I had not reached my ceiling, but I saw it, and it was not as high as I would have liked for it to have been. I left IPSC because I knew I was not athletic enough and too old to compete at the level of some of the younger competitors.
I advise shooters to gravitate toward a discipline that naturally suits their strengths. That is how I settled on the Bianchi Cup.
When I was shooting IPSC, I took many classes with the top shooters whenever they taught workshops in my area. In one class, I remember asking one of the top shooters, Todd Jarrett, what he thought about women’s performance in action pistol shooting. He told me that, at that time, some women performed really, really well sometimes, but many were not consistent. He thought accuracy and consistency were the keys to continued success.
I knew I had accuracy.
After I left my gun-training courses at the community college where I learned to shoot, I won numerous bulls-eye shooting competitions in my area. And I knew I could polish my consistency by relentlessly practicing.
That is why I chose Bianchi Cup, because accuracy and consistency are the most important tools necessary to excel there. However, just because Bianchi Cup fits my skillset does not means it comes easy for me, or any other competitor. I have been working on improving for this competition throughout the past 20 years.
Bianchi Cup includes 4 events across 3 days of competition. Competitors will fire 192 shots total, and 1,920 is the top possible score. Competitors might shoot 30,000 to 60,000 rounds during practice for those 192 competition shots. The championship is so close and competitive that it is common for the first-place finisher to be decided by a single point or X-count tiebreakers.
The 4 events are the practical, barricade, moving target and falling plates.
The practical event consists of 4 distances: 10, 15, 25 and 50 yards. Shooters are allowed to go prone at 15 yards on back. The event consists of the shooter engaging with 2 targets. The targets turn at the same time. On the first run, you fire 1 shot at each target. You fire 2 shots apiece at the targets on the second run, and 3 apiece on the third run. The same sequence is performed at every distance.
The practical event was favorite stage when I started Bianchi Cup, because it fell in line with my strength: accuracy.
The barricade event features barricades at distances of 10, 15, 25 and 35 yards. When the shooter is in the starting position, his or her hands are placed on the back of the barricade. When the target turns, you draw your gun and engage for 6 shots. Then you reload and get ready to do the same thing from the opposite edge of the barricade. You perform this sequence at each distance.
Moving targets consists of shooting at a moving target from 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. You must take 12 shots at each distance within an 8-minute time frame. If you exceed 8 minutes, you are disqualified. This is considered one of the most challenging stages, and if you have a trigger-control issue, you will need to practice a lot for this event.
The falling plates event consists of a shooter taking aim at plates from 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. You are required to make 2 runs at each distance, with a run consisting of 6 plates. Going prone is allowed, and I recommend it, because the grounded position helps stabilize the shooter. Accuracy is critical, because missing plates can be devastating to your score.
Why I Prefer this Match
Bianchi Cup has never been about winning trophies for me, and most long-time competitors would say the same. It is a competition with one’s self. We are all there to see how far we can push the boundaries of excellence.
I sometimes think that the Bianchi Cup is like climbing Mt. Everest. Before one can conquer Everest, he or she must first ascend all the smaller peaks along the way.
I have practiced thousands of hours on this solitary competition. Nonetheless, I have not yet reached my ceiling. I will know when I am there, but I am not there now. I am still working on it.
At the Bianchi Cup, the pressure is intense, and the competition is fierce. Ultimately, it is all about desire. You have to want to excel at the discipline and cope with everything that is asked of you along the way. Without passion, the road will be too hard to travel. However, with the right amount of passion, dedication and practice, you might reach your peak.
Vera Koo is a first-generation Chinese American woman. She’s a wife and mother, author, entrepreneur and retired competition shooter. Along with Vera’s fantastic memoir and life story, "The Most Unlikely Champion," she writes her column, Vera Koo, at "Women’s Outdoor News." View all posts by Vera Koo
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