Some of the world’s fastest shooters converged at the Southern Utah Shooting Park in St George, Utah, USA, from June 25 to 28 for the 2014 Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championships. In IPSC circles, names such as Max Michel, KC Eusebio, Dave Sevigny, Guga Rebus and Jessie Duff are well known, and they and many other top names come for the title, as well as the prize money of $5000 for the winner. I was fortunate enough to be there to represent the SSAA.
The range had been the site for the USPSA junior training camp just a few days before. Competitor Max Michel had been putting a bunch of up and coming kids through their paces and many chose to stay on to watch and even participate in the Steel Challenge.
The 45C heat kept the practice ranges quiet leading into the match. I was only able to take 5kg of my own loaded match ammunition by air and chose to get my rimfire ammo in the US, which proved to be a mistake. There was a delay with my practice ammo and a shortage of .22 ammo in the US, so after buying literally every .22 round I could find, I had limited training opportunity, until an offer by a complete stranger of 500 rounds of .22 helped me get some extra range time.
Day one was for range staff to shoot Centrefire and the competitors to shoot Rimfire Open or Iron Sights Pistol. Rifle Rimfire shooters were allowed to compete in their own side match. Some amazing looking Ruger 10/22s dominated the top spots.
Max Michel got off to a strong start and being the champion he is, he went on to win every stage and the match with a time of 63.77. My first two stages of Outer Limits and Speed Option were very average. Fortunately, an optional ninth stage called Vanishing Point was trialled at the match. It was not included in the scores, but our squad decided to give it a go, and after laying down some better runs, I was ready for the next six stages. Heath P, John N and I would continue to swap second place for the rest of the day, with Heath finishing on 73.38 for second place and me in third place on 75.54.
Day two was Standard Division and a much closer battle at the top. In the end, Dave Sevigny won on 95.06, over Huston Shaw on 96.11 and Ron Avery on 101.99. Interestingly, Huston is the son of the first ever Steel Challenge World Champion John Shaw, who took the title in 1981. I had the pleasure of meeting and practicing with him, and we even swapped guns for a while! Phil Strader, the president of USPSA, won Production with a time of 99.06. A time of 130 seconds put me 15th, which is not anywhere near what I had done in training, but was a solid result.
Day three was the big day for the Open guns. I got to the range early to practice and was told I had been re-squadded. Being invited into the Super Squad Mid Match is a huge honour and I was very proud to be among those guys flying the flag for Australia. The Accelerator stage was up first. Max got us off to a sluggish start and KC Eusebio started the same. Shane Coley raised the bar until Muneki Samjima of Japan won the stage, and so it went, stage by stage, with the lead often changing. A mobile leaderboard and live scoring via smart devices with wifi linked to the stats room kept us up to date in real time.
Smoke and Hope was the fifth stage and seeing shooter after shooter, run after run, in under 1.8 seconds is something that has to be seen to be believed. KC won the stage and took the lead. Max won Showdown to take the lead back, and then Outer Limits saw Dave Sevigny make his charge, but Max took a one-second lead into the final stage, Speed Option. Dave shot first and had good, solid runs. Next was KC; while his backups cost him some time, he was still fast and still upon Dave.
Fittingly, Max was up to shoot last. One second is about an average draw and first shot on this stage and that was his lead. His first run was fast, the second run solid, the third required extra shots and the fourth had an extra shot as well. The range went silent. Max was clearly feeling the pressure. On string five, he hesitated after his first shot and then blazed through the next four shots. They were all on target. The time was entered and Max won by .42 of a second. KC came second and Dave Sevigny came third. Max’s winning time of 81.23 made it two years in a row for him, but he was six seconds slower than his winning time last year.
I was 20 seconds off my best with 107 seconds and placed 15th overall again. I was disappointed with my time, but happy with the placing. It is an amazing experience being able to represent Australia. The match, the staff and all the people I met at this year’s Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championships were great. Travelling to and around the US with firearms is fairly straight forward and I encourage anyone who has ever thought about shooting a major match in any discipline to go for it.
A huge thank you to Edge Firearms, Zero Bullet Company USA, the SSAA and the SSAA Action Match National Discipline Chairman and team.
by Damien Curtis