October 2004

Short Shots: 10/04

U.S. Olympic Team Comes Home Light on Medals
It is no secret that USA Shooting had huge expectations for one of the most experienced Olympic Teams it has seen in a long time. With a goal of six medals going into the Games, USA Shooting wanted to reiterate just how strong this year’s team looked.

Kim Rhode collected a gold in women’s double trap, an event that has been eliminated.

But the Olympics are their own type of animal, one that can’t be predicted or controlled. And although earning three Olympic medals — two gold and one silver — is a very successful showing for many countries, it’s an underachievement for the United States.

USA Shooting had a few blatant disappointments throughout the very intense eight days of Olympic competition in Athens.

For the shotgun team, National Shotgun Coach Lloyd Woodhouse said, “With the right team, we could win six Olympic medals just within the shotgun discipline.” Within the first days of competition, it was evident they were not going to make that mark.

One of the favorites to medal, three-time Olympian Lance Bade (Vancouver, Washington), had insisted this was the year for the gold. Bade started strong, shooting at the top of his game and battling through the windy conditions. Even after the qualifying round, the U.S. watched comfortably as Bade walked into the final tied for second place in the men’s trap event. But after missing an early target to stay tied with Italy’s Giovanni Pellielo for silver, Bade dropped three more targets. Bade finished in fifth after the finals and missed the medal stand by two targets.

A surprise performance from 17-year-old Collyn Loper (Indian Springs, Alabama) kept the American’s hopes alive. Loper shot her way to a fourth-place finish in women’s trap, marking the USA’s highest finish to that point in some of the windiest conditions. Loper shot a score of 82 out of 100 targets.

But then it was back to disappointment, as the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team found itself in another tough position, as it failed to qualify for one of its more successful event finals — men’s double trap. Three-time Olympian Sgt. First Class Bret Erickson (Bennington, Nebraska) finished 13th, while the reigning World Champion and two-time Olympian Glenn Eller (Houston, Texas), finished 17th.

On the fifth day of competition, three-time Olympian Kim Rhode collected the U.S.’s first 2004 Olympic shooting medal, a gold in women’s double trap. Rhode, of El Monte, California, came into this event trying to shake off the disappointments of her team members and ended up tying the final Olympic record by hitting 148 out of 160 total targets. The three-time Olympian can now be referred to as a legend in women’s double trap. Her event has only appeared in three Olympic Games, and Rhode has used this short-lived event to catapult herself into the history books, becoming the most decorated U.S. women’s shooting athlete, with two gold medals and one silver.

The U.S. Olympic Pistol Team’s performance was one of the harder disciplines to predict. The U.S. hadn’t won an Olympic medal in pistol since 1988. But going into the Games, it was thought that if any group of pistol shooters could break that streak of bad performances, it had to be this team. With three-time Olympians Libby Callahan (Upper Marlboro, Maryland) and Rebecca Snyder (Grand Junction, Colorado) shooting in the women’s events, and two very accomplished men’s shooters taking aim at the air and free pistol medals, the U.S. was very well represented.

But when it came down to it, Callahan and Snyder just couldn’t connect in either event. And the two most experienced U.S. pistol shooters, Sgt. First Class Daryl Szarenski, of the Army Marksmanship Unit, and Jason Turner, an Olympic Training Center resident, came away empty handed.

The Olympic Running Target Team won’t get another chance. Athens marked the last Olympic Games for the entire discipline, and although the U.S. has never won a medal in the current event — men’s 10m 30+30 — Adam Saathoff (Sierra Vista, Arizona) definitely thought that he would change all that. The three-time Olympian found himself tied in second place after the first day’s slow-fire runs. After the second day’s fast-run qualification round, the three-time Olympian fell from the top of the leader board to eighth. Saathoff scored a 90 in his second series of 10, finishing with a 281 for the day and a 575 for a two-day total.

The most successful discipline for USA Shooting was in rifle. The U.S. Rifle Team found its way to the medal stand twice, once in men’s prone and once in men’s three-position.

Major Mike Anti won a silver medal in three-position rifle.û

Matt Emmons (Browns Mills, New Jersey), the first U.S. rifle triple-qualifier in more than 40 years made a name for himself in the smallbore events. He won the gold medal in prone, and finished by leading the men’s three-position down to the very last shot. Emmons proved himself the best shooter overall in both events, but could not seal the deal in three-position after he cross-fired during the final, marking a zero on the last shot of the event. He fell from first to eighth with that shot.

Major Mike Anti (Fort Benning, Georgia) won the silver medal in that three-position event for the U.S. Anti had gone into the finals in seventh, six points out of first. But in the finals, Anti shot a 98.1, the best score on the line, to overcome Christain Planer of Austria by three-tenths of a point for the silver medal.

Anti accomplished both of his long-term goals in that one short finals match. He not only shook his string of bad finals, finishing with the highest finals score of the group, but also won his first Olympic medal in an event he has shot for 25 years.

Our Take: We’ve already heard grumbling from shooting-industry members about a possible restructuring of USA Shooting, but we’re not sure the organization is the problem. Looking at swimming, women’s softball, and track, to name three very successful venues for the U.S., should provide the blueprint for greater Olympic shooting success. Keys: Development of more young shooters who can progress through junior programs into NCAA programs and onto national teams. Right now, shooting in the U.S. simply lacks depth at practically every level.


Lawsuit Dismissal Affirmed
The Missouri Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of the St. Louis Municipal lawsuit against several firearms industry members. The case was originally filed by the city on May 24, 1999. In affirming the trial court’s dismissal of the case, the three-judge Appellate Court panel stated that it relied upon Missouri law, which expressly reserved the regulation of the manufacture and sale of firearms to the state legislature, not the city:

“This decision, the latest in a long line of defeats for attempted misusers of our tort system, is significant in two ways,” commented Sturm, Ruger President Stephen L. Sanetti. “It affirms that elected legislatures, not judges or creative plaintiffs attorneys, are supposed to draft our nation’s laws and regulations.

“Also, it demonstrates the need for effective national legislation to preempt such lawsuits to stop wasting both taxpayer money and the resources of an industry which is a vital national-defense asset.

“All the city accomplished was to force both sides to waste a lot of money, and nothing constructive was accomplished.”

Our Take: The industry is winning most of these toxic suits, but at great expense. We’re seeing the costs of this litigation built into firearms prices.


I Was Lost, But Now I’m found
A professional hunter in Southern Austria inadvertently performed the longest, most realistic, environmental test on a riflescope in history.

On a chamois stalk in September 1977, a Jaegermeister (professional hunter) climbed to the top of Kometeralpe, a 2,500-meter-tall mountain. After shooting a chamois with his Mannlicher Luxus 6.5x57 topped with a Kahles Helia 6x42 riflescope, the PH rested his firearm against a boulder and ascended to where the game was taken. After field dressing his animal, he returned to the spot where he believed he had left the rifle. Unfortunately, the PH couldn’t find his rifle. In the ensuing days and weeks, he regularly returned to the area, searching for his rifle, but was unsuccessful. Weeks, months, years, and decades passed. High above the timberline, rifle and scope rested upright against a boulder, being abused by the harsh elements of nature at this high elevation.

Almost three decades later, a young Jaegermeister from Obervellach, a small village in the Austrian Alps, ascended the same mountain on his own chamois stalk. After making a good shot, the hunter proceeded down the slope to a chamois he had downed. To his amazement, leaning against a gray boulder, was an old rifle. The rifle’s stock was rotten and bleached by the elements, and all of the steel parts were rusted throughout.

But the scope was another matter. The optics still showed a crosshair standing out crisp and clear against a sharp, bright image. The steel surfaces were rusty, yet all of the aluminum parts were unharmed. The mechanical parts, including both elevation and windage, still worked.

Our Take: We have to tip our hats to Kahles. Our upcoming tests of optics won’t include a 30-year torture test.


Steel Challenge Winner Can’t Own Firearms
Tatsuya Sakai, a 33-year-old computer programmer from Kanagawa, Japan, won the Steel Challenge handgun competition. This is an amazing feat, in part because Sakai’s homeland prohibits the ownership of private firearms.

Sakai edged out defending champion K.C. Eusebio by 0.59 seconds. J.J. Racaza took third just 0.05 seconds behind Eusebio. Sakai, who trains using air-soft pistols until he arrives in the U.S., also claimed the Limited title.

Our Take: Sakai is reported to have shot 20,000 rounds of live ammo once he arrived in the U.S. to train. This is one of the most remarkable wins we’ve ever heard about.


Anti-Gun Group to Watch
CeaseFire, Inc., is a New York City-based organization that’s actively working to discourage gun ownership. Formed in 1995, its stated mission is to “reshape the gun violence debate in America.” Infused with money from Courtney Love, the widow of rock star Curt Cobain, who committed suicide, the organization signed on the numerous high- profile celebrities and business people listed below to their advisory panel. CeaseFire runs TV Public Service Announcements with celebrities and runs print advertising in major newspapers and magazines with the message that guns are dangerous and gun ownership is a threat to family and friends. Their stated goal is to promote “handgun-free homes and families” by claiming that gun ownership is a public health threat.

Such organizations are a dime a dozen these days, but this group’s non-politician supporters form quite a phalanx of influence that gun-owners should be aware of. Here are some of the folks who think you’re stupid because you own a gun:

• Reginald Brack, Chairman, Time, Inc.
• Stephen Brobeck, Exec. Dir. Consumer Federation of America
• Doug Carlston, Chairman and CEO, Broderbund Software, Inc.
• K. Kaufer Christoffel, M.D., M.P.H., Children`s Mem. Hospital, Chicago
• Walter Cronkite, Journalist
• Barry Diller, Chairman, Silver King Communications
• Millard Drexler, CEO, Gap. Inc.
• Michael Eisner, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Co.
• Susan Estrich, Professor, The Law Center, The University of Southern California
• Tom Freston, Chairman, MTV Networks
• Keith Geiger, Pres., Nat`l Education Association
• Gerald Grinstein, Chairman, Burlington Northern
• Alan G. Hassenfeld, Chairman, Pres. and CEO, Hasbro, Inc.
• H. Michael Lemmons, Exec. Dir., Congress of Nat`l Black Churches
• Edward Malloy, Pres., University of Notre Dame
• Ron Perlman, Pres., Revlon, Inc.
• Roberta Copper Ramo, Pres. American Bar Association
• Steve Rattner, General Partner, Lazard Freres & Co.
• Matt Rodriguez, Superintendent, Chicago Police Department
• Howard Stringer, Chairman and CEO, TELE-TV
• Stephen Teret, M.D., M.P.H., Director, John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research
• James Todd, M. D., Executive Vice-Pres., AMA
• Jann S. Wenner, Chairman, Wenner Media, Inc.
• Lois Jean White, Pres.-Elect, Nat`l PTA
• Jay Winston, Director, Center for Health Comm., Harvard

Our Take: If you see one of these fine folks at an Upper East side cocktail party or the company Christmas party, you could point out that gun ownership is a civil right, ranked only behind the 1st Amendment. But don’t call us when you get fired, because, sadly, the 1st Amendment doesn’t always apply to the 2nd Amendment.