California State Pistol Team Competes At National Championships, Camp Perry, Ohio

by Steve Killingsworth

For the first time in many years, the California Rifle and Pistol Association fielded a California State Pistol Team at the National Pistol Championship Matches, held on July 7-13 at historic Camp Perry, Ohio, on the green and beautiful south shore of Lake Erie.

The 2014 State Pistol Team was selected based on the match results of the CRPA- and NRA-sponsored State and Regional Championship held May 31-June 1 at Sloughhouse in Sacramento County. The Team was comprised of two Master Class shooters, one Sharpshooter, and one Marksman: Captain and Coach Steve Killingsworth, CDR, USNR (Ret) of Coronado; Roy Sasai of Union City; Reid Thompson of Guinda; and Eugene Berman of Foster City, respectively.

The National Matches have a great, over 110-year-old tradition and have been held at Camp Perry since 1907. The Camp is named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who in 1813 sailed from these shores to engage and ultimately defeat a superior British naval force in the hard-fought and decisive Battle of Lake Erie just a few miles offshore.

The National Matches are conducted by the NRA and the CMP and hosted and supported by the Ohio National Guard.

In six uninterrupted days of pistol shooting, about 700 competitors fired in the full spectrum of environmental conditions, from the occasional bright, sunny morning with a light breeze; through howling, 25-mile-per-hour-plus winds; through pounding, extended heavy downpours from the Midwestern thunderstorms rolling through (ask anyone on the unlucky 3rd Relay of the CMP “Service Pistol Warmup” Match!). These are the National Matches, the “best of the best” of pistol competitions. The sport is Bullseye Pistol.

Bullseye is fired all one-handed; both Slow Fire at 50-yard targets and Timed and Rapid Fire on turning targets, under time pressure, at 25 yards. Perfect sight alignment and excellent trigger control are critical. With match pressure and the accompanying “match nerves,” not to mention high winds moving one’s gun on and off target— one can imagine the challenges the shooters face. These are some of the nation’s toughest shooting conditions, testing hard the competitors and their equipment.

Nearly every day at Camp Perry was filled with shooting both individual and team matches. Guns used were .22, Centerfire (any), and .45 caliber. There were two very popular revolver matches as well; .38 caliber revolvers were used. Additionally, the challenging CMP Service Pistol matches were fired with one’s choice of the National-Match grade, 9mm alloy-frame Beretta M9, or the hard-kicking, steel-frame, tried-and-true 1911 .45, both firing ball ammunition. These have always been the toughest of the matches, and were fired in very tough wind conditions to boot.

On some days the California Team excelled; on other days they “got good training,” as we like to say; all part of the Perry experience.

For essentially a “scratch” team assembled a couple of weeks before the National Matches and never having trained and competed together as a team, the California State Team turned in a very good performance. They were pitted against some two dozen very seasoned state association teams who had trained and competed hard for years in the extremely competitive State Association Expert Class.

The Team’s high point was taking Third Place in the State Association Sharpshooter Class 3 Man Preliminary Team Match, turning in a solid 775-5x score out of 900 possible points. Things got tougher after that as a 4-man team in the Expert Class, but the Californians still repeatedly beat several other state association teams in successive matches.

The State of California’s big, bold, and colorful Bear Flag flying in the stiff Camp Perry breeze was far and away the most handsome and noticeable of the state association flags seen flying at the National Matches.

The mere presence of a California State Pistol Team at the National Matches definitely drew attention. Many other shooters approached the California State Team members, incredulous that a state with such severely restrictive, numerous, and nonsensical gun laws could have a pistol team. They would then learn of CRPA fighting every week the hard legislative and legal battles, in the State Capitol and in the courts, to preserve our gun rights. They would also learn of the considerable numbers of matches in all shooting disciplines held monthly all throughout the state— quite possibly more than in any other state.

There were notable individual accomplishments among the California State Pistol Team members. Eugene Berman, with 9th-, 8th-, 5th-, and two 2nd-place finishes in individual matches, finished an impressive Ninth Place out of 87 shooters in Marksman Class (Civilian), taking home a staggering 49 NRA award points. Roy Sasai enjoyed a simpler victory, quite happy through his determined training and essential mental preparation to get rid of his trigger-jerking habit (a common ailment, as we are all painfully aware) with the 1911 .45 Service Pistol and, for the first time, put all 10 shots in each stage of fire in the scoring rings, firing a very respectable score in the National Trophy Individual Match. Reid Thompson turned in excellent .22 scores shooting his Beretta .22 conversion kit mated to a match-grade Beretta M9 Service Pistol frame; a very accurate and reliable .22 pistol which at the same time provided valuable training for the challenging Service Pistol matches later in the week. Team Captain Steve Killingsworth shot his 1911 .45 Service Pistol well, earning his fifth President’s Hundred medal and certificate as one of the nation’s top 100 Service Pistol shooters, placing 63rd out of 487 competitors in windy conditions in the tough President’s Pistol Match.

The California State Pistol Team shared in the all-encompassing air of camaraderie among shooters at the National Matches. Long-term friendships are renewed and continued, and new ones are forged there. Top shooting achievements past and present are re lived and regarded with esteem. Ask a top shooter how to fix a certain problem that may be giving you trouble, and he or she will give you their best solution— just as they will give you the exact loading recipe details for their favorite load. To the California Team members, the feeling of competing at Camp Perry was one of having fun out shooting with a few hundred friends-- a good frame of mind for relaxing and shooting good scores. And if one feels there is room for improvement— there is always next year to excel at Camp Perry.