© 2017, Pilkington Competition

by Scott Pilkington

This past July saw over 70 members of the US Shooting Team*, nearly half of them Juniors, packing their clothes and gun boxes, boarding planes and heading for Barcelona, Spain, for the 47th World Championships. The World Championships are currently a quadrennial event held every 4 years, between the Summer Olympics calendar.  Most past and present Olympic shooting events are fired, including 300-meter rifle, men’s and women’s strap and skeet, men and women’s small-bore rifle, men’s and women’s standard/sport pistols, men’s rapid fire and free pistol.

In the Air Gun arenas, 10-meter events were held for men and women’s air rifle, men’s and women’s air pistol, and men’s and women’s running target.  Junior competitions were also held for all events giving the under-21 crowd a chance to compete worldwide against their peers.

The flight over was in itself uneventful, but collecting baggage in Barcelona was a little disconcerting for Junior pistol shooter Grant Saylor, and current US air-pistol National Champion, Daryl Szarenski.  Their gun boxes were not on the luggage carousel with all the rest of the team’s guns and luggage.  Nothing could be determined at the airport about the gun-boxes’ location, so off we went to the range for police registration and storage.  The range was at Valles des Mollet, the range used during the ’92 Olympics.

We arrived just in time to find out that the Spanish police had just left for their 2 hour siesta, and we would just have to wait for them to return to check our guns into storage.  So the experienced shooters in the bunch headed for the shade trees, sat down on their gun boxes, pulled out a book and went to reading, realizing that these experiences are a given sooner or later to the international shooter.  Finally the police returned, all the guns were properly recorded and stored in Equipment check; and we were off to our quarters at Villa Universitia, a nice college campus on the North side of Barcelona.  The rooms were nice, had small kitchenettes, but no air-conditining, which certainly would have been nice in the 100+ degree weather.

The next morning, Team Leader Robert Mitchell was again working the issue of the lost guns.  Subsequent phone calls to Air France, our carrier between Paris and Barcelona, revealed that Air Frances had seized these 2 gun-boxes because ‘shipping firearms on airplanes was illegal.’

Why they shipped al the rest of the team’s guns and kept these 2 is a mystery of the French mind.  Air France’s position was that shipment of firearms is illegal, thus only an exemption from the American embassy could get them released.  After the usual, ‘You’re trying to do what?’ responses from the American Consulate in Paris and talking to several different people, a promise was made to look into the matter in Paris, while at the range, Pistol Coach Erich Buhlung and I began making arrangements with the manufacturers to borrow some guns so our athletes could at least compete.  After the US Embassy got into the picture, Air France finally agreed to send the guns and a day later they arrived.  Grant and Daryl’s joy was short-lived however when they discovered their locks had been cut, all pistols had been removed, and not all had been replaced.  Daryl and Grant both shoot Steyr air pistols and Toz Free pistols, and both of these were in their respective gun box.

Unfortunately, Daryl’s centerfire gun, a S&W .38, was missing, as were Grant’s Standard and Rapid Fire pistols.  Further calls to Air France were met with denials of all knowledge and the suggestions that the guns could have been stolen anywhere en-route. Yea Sure! Anyway nothing could be done but to make further calls to the US Embassy and file police reports halfway around the globe for the stolen guns.  As Grant said it, ‘I guess I get to see how good the NRA’s insurance is.’

That was the end of the story we thought, until several days later, out of the blue, the 3 guns showed up via Air France.  I guess the French gendarmerie is not as inefficient as is supposed, once given a stolen gun report.

All competitors except shotgun, shot on electronic targets giving an instant picture and score of the shot. Sius-Ascor also provided large display screens, approximately 4’x8’, divided into 8 squares, so the viewers of the Finals could see the position of each shot even from far back in the crowd. Additionally, the screens could be used display video images from the rolling cameras in front of the firing line, so something other than the backside of the shooters could be seen by the spectators.

Shooting-wise, overall the US Team did pretty good, with a total of 17 medals and 7 quota slots. Quota slots are something each country must earn to be able to compete in a particular event in the Olympics. Then once a country has earned a quota slot, individuals from that country must have fired a minimum qualifying score (MQS) for that specific discipline to be eligible for that event. Of course if there are multiple individuals with MQS from a particular country, then tryouts are held to determine the Olympic Team member.

Since the focus of this publication is airguns, I will focus my report on the airgun events. The only medal won by the US team in an airgun event was in Running Target. Adam Saathoff, a 23-year-old from Hereford, AZ, took the Silver with a Final score of 677.9,  0.9 points below first-place winner Zhiyun Niu from China.  For those not familiar with Finals, they are fired after the normal course of fire, taking the top 8 scorers and putting them against each other, one-on-one.  A total of 10 shots are fired, with scoring done in tenths, thus a perfectly centered 10 is worth 10.9, while a shot that only touches the outside edge of the 10 ring is worth 10.0.  The totals are tabulated after each shot and the rankings can quickly change from 7th to first or vice versa. Thus the pressure is really on, and sometimes those that do very well in the qualifying round succumb to the pressure, dropping points rapidly in the Final.

Adam shot an 8.1 on his last shot of the Final, his worst of the day. Still it was great win for Adam was who finished dead last in this event at the Atlanta Olympics.  Bronze was won by Russian Igor Kolesov with a 579, and 676.4. Armando Ayala, from El Paso, TX, finished 29th with a 564 while fellow Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) teammate Lance Dement finished 38th with a 554.

In Women’s Air Pistol, the winner was Dorisuren Munkhbayar, from Mongolia, who went into the finals in first place with 387, emerging with the gold with a total of 484.1. Second place went to Yoko Inada from Japan who moved up from 5th to take the silver with scores of 383 and 484.0.

Moving from 4th to 3rd was Lolita Milchina from BLR with a 384 and 482.4.   For the Americans, Becky Snyder, a 23 year-old veteran of the Atlanta Olympics from Grand Junction, CO, finished 12th with a 381. Libby Callahan, a Washington, D.C., police officer, and member of several previous Olympic Teams finished 37th with a 376. Rhonda Bright, who won the US Nationals less than a month ago, was having a bad day, shooting a 374 leaving her in a 5 way tie for 56th place. Men’s Air Pistol saw longtime competitor Yifu Wang from China come out on top with 586, 685.3.  Wang incidentally is the competitor who was leading by a several point margin going into the last shot of the Finals during the ’96 Olympics. His last shot was a 7, which dropped him from first to third, and dropped him to the floor, literally, in a faint, when he saw his shot.   Back in Barcelona, there was 3-way tie for 2nd place after the 10th Final Shot, so another round was fired as a shoot-off. Igor Basinski of Belarus won the shoot-off with a 10.3 to take the second with his 585, 684.4.   ’96 Olympic Champ Roberto Di Donna, placed 5th with a Final score of 684.3.

Daryl Szarenski, reigning US Air Pistol Champion for the past 3 years and also an AMU member, finished 16th in Men’s Air Pistol with a 579. Daryl finished 4th in Free Pistol earlier in the week thus earning us a quota slot in that event.   Teammates Bill Demarest and Don Nygord tied for 80th place with a score of   567.

First place in Women’s Air Rifle went to Sonja Pfeilschifter from Germany, who held her first place from qualifying of 397.0, shooting a 102.4 Final for a total 499.4. Poland’s longtime powerhouse Renata Mauer kept her second place with scores 396, 498.1.  Moving from 5th to 3rd in the finals was Jung Kim of South Korea, with a 395 who out shot Sonja in the final with a 102.6 to end up with a  497.6 . Nancy Johnson (formerly Napolski) from Downers Grove, IL, married to fellow teammate Ken Johnson, earned a Quota slot in the event by finishing 7th with a 393, 493.0 final. US Teammates Deena Wigger and Jayme Dickman finished with 391 and a 390 respectively.

Moving from third place into first, Russian Artem Khadjibekov took the Men’s Air Rifle Gold with scores of 594, 696.5. Josef Gonci from Slovakia dropped from 1st into the Silver with a 595, 695.9. Jumping three places to take the Bronze was Keun Bae Chae from South Korea, who had the best final score with a103.1 to finish up at 695.1.   Americans Steve Goff, Ken Johnson, and Glenn Dubis (all members of the AMU) had scores 590, 589, and 583 respectively.

Dubis, who has been on 3 Olympic Teams shooting air rifle, took a piece of brass in his eye earlier in the week when one of his .308 cases ruptured during the 300-meter event. Very fortunately, no major damage was done.

When not shooting, the main diversion on the range was walking up and down the vendors’ displays, looking for something new.  How would you like to have all the famous manufactures in 10 meter shooting, within rock throwing distance of each other, each set up with their full product line, and the factory gunsmiths standing by to service your weapon with all the necessary spare parts?  Well, they were all there, Anschutz, Feinwerkbau, Morini, Pardini, Steyr, Walther, and pellet maker RWS and H&N, and other ancillary equipment such as shooting glasses, clothing makers and targets/training aids makers such as Sius-Ascor, Spieth, and Rika.  Incidentally Rika has a new training device, similar to the Noptel, that is Windows compatible, measures all the usual stuff like wobble, cant, time in the 10-ring, etc, plus the added features of monitoring your heart beat and trigger pressure at every point in the sight picture. All this and it should retail for under $1000, considerably less than anything else on the market. Its also very nice to see that all the manufacturers, even though competing against each other in the market place, have very good relations with one another, both at the match and afterward.

Almost everyone, from the athletes and team officials, to the UIT/ISSF (The UIT has officially voted to change its name in Barcelona to the International Sport Shooters Federation) judges and even the vendors and factory representatives were staying at the same location in the Universitia. Many fine evenings were spent by myself and others discussing past and future trends in the shooting sport as well as more weighty issues such as world politics and of course, the most recent jokes. Joke translation, from whatever the original language, was not always fully accomplished to the total satisfaction of all the non-fluent listeners.

Extracurricular activities off the range for Team members was pretty diverse.  Sampling local brands of cerverza was popular, as was enjoying Cataulyan cuisine, (Barcelonans are quick to tell you that they are not Spanish but rather Catalan), wandering down Las Ramblas, the long open air market street, looking at the street artists and vendors, and swimming at the beach on the Mediterranean (which happened to be a mostly topless beach; good practice for your neck muscles if you happen to be one those Field Target guys who haven’t quite got the scope mounted exactly where it should be). Some even went to see the Rolling Stones one night.  Also, going to the Bullfights on Sunday was also not to be missed the first time, but personally I can’t say that I ever have any desire to go again. Even with the explanation that for the Spanish culture, it is a drama of learning to face Death head on, of being able to side-step it, sometimes with the help of friends, sometimes not; I found it a pageant that was unnecessarily cruel and bloody. If I want pageantry, I’ll go to the local drag races. The tweaked engines and flashy paint at least don’t turn my stomach. Although I would have to concede that from a Conservationist standpoint, a bullfight is much less harmful to the environment than a 500 cubic inches of horsepower propelling a painted chariot down a quarter mile strip. But I digress.

Team leader was Bob Mitchell, currently Director of Operations at USA Shooting and former longtime rifle coach for the US Team. Dan Durben is the current rifle coach, Sergey Luzov the Running Target coach and Lloyd Woodhouse is in charge of our champion scattergun shooters (all 3 Olympic medals won by US shooters in Atlanta were product’s of Lloyd’s talent).  Ian Cartier handled press issues and your humble author was Team Gunsmith.

Dr. Jim Lally, from the Los Angeles area, volunteered his time and expense to be our Team Physician. In addition to many minor problems caused by the heat and excess walking, Doc Lally had a call for a real use of his skills. One of our Junior shooters had to have an emergency appendectomy performed in a Spanish hospital and Doc Lally was adamant
about finding a Barcelona doctor who would allow him to assist. Many Thanks for all your help Jim!!

Even though our Juniors didn’t win anything airgun wise, they did learn something about a major International competition, which has to be part of the learning curve to become  a World class athlete. They did take some team medals in some of the other events. Juniors are the future of our sport, no matter what kind of shooting we do, 10-meter,Field Target, Bullseye, IPSC, or plinking at tin cans.

USA Shooting is one of those organizations strongly involved in this effort. USA Shooting is the National Governing Body for Olympic shooting in the United States and is involved in governing, organizing, coaching and promoting all aspects of International Shooting.  It is a non-profit organization and your donations are greatly appreciated and tax deductible. Contact them at:  One Olympic Plaza, Colorado Springs, CO80909  or by phone at: 719-578-4670