Philip Hemphill of Brandon, MS, is this year’s NRA National Pistol Champion. Finishing a windy week of precision pistol shooting at Camp Perry with a score of 2598-107X, Hemphill also won the Police and Senior Championships.
SFC Adam Sokolowski of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) placed second with a score of 2595-93X. Sokolowski also won the Regular Service Championship.
John Zurek of Alpine, AZ, finished in third place with a score of 2595-89X. In addition, Zurek’s score netted him the Civilian Championship.
Glenn A. Zimmerman of Waterville, OH, repeated his win last year at Camp Perry as Junior Champion with a score of 2513-73X. A force to be reckoned with in the Junior Category, Glenn also won the 2016 .22 Caliber, Center Fire, and .45 Caliber championships. This is Zimmerman’s third consecutive Junior Championship win.
Christopher Miceli of Anchorage, AK, was the Collegiate Champion, winning with a score of 2535-78X.
Brenda Silva of Snowflake, AZ won this year’s Women’s Championship with a score of 2514-73X. Additionally, Brenda was High Woman for this year's Center Fire Championship. Brenda recently retired as a Lieutenant after 30 years with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in California.
The Liberty Aviation Museum’s WWII Navy TBM Avenger, B-25 bomber, Georgie’s Gal, and the Yankee Air Museum’s B-17 bomber, Yankee Lady soared above the crowd at this year’s First Shot Ceremony. Each year, the ceremony serves as the official opening of the National Matches, which have been fired at Camp Perry for nearly 100 years.
Attendees were treated to a great show this year. The warplanes were saluted by a War of 1812 period cannon, a Civil War-era cannon, a modern era 37mm anti-aircraft gun, and Camp Perry’s own 70mm cannon. Each plane did a loop over Lake Erie before flying back through the smoke from the artillery.
Colors were presented by the 555th Honors Detachment of Wooster, OH. This year’s flag bearer was 90-year old Lloyd Boyer, who was an artilleryman in General George Patton’s Third Army.
Philip Hemphill Wins Again
No stranger to the winner’s podium, Hemphill won his first NRA National Pistol Championship at Camp Perry in 2011. He is also a 10-time NRA National Police Champion. In 2007, NRA awarded Hemphill “NRA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.”
For rimfire, Hemphill used a Feinwerkbau AW93 paired with an Aimpoint Micro H1. Prior to this year, he used a Hammerli, but now that is his backup gun. For center fire and .45, he used a Rock River Arms 1911 paired with the same microdot as the AW93. For ammunition, he used Zero Ammunition factory match 185 gr. jacket hollow point.
About his second pistol championship victory at Camp Perry, Hemphill said, “This [win] feels better than any of them. Nobody broke 2600. Sometimes it does not let you shoot to your potential, when shooting outside. To drop 102 points and still win, that is very dang good!”
Hemphill thanked Chuck Larson of Rock River Arms, “for building a fine pistol.” He also thanked Andrea Cerwinske at Aimpoint for his sights, Adam Braverman at Lapua, Fred Stallings at Zero Ammunition, as well as George Brenzovich of Brenzovich Firearms and Training Center.
Hemphill elaborated, “George Brenzovich helped me more with the AW93 than anyone else. He was able to make it shoot better than anybody could.” He also thanked the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. “Without their support, I would not have been able to compete at Camp Perry this year.”
Team Zero Gold won the 4-member team aggregate with a score of 3490-127X. The team consisted of this year's overall champion Philip Hemphill, Melvin Makin, David Lange, John Zurek, James Lenardson and Team Captain Steve Reiter. Team Zero Gold outshot 84 other teams to take home the top spot.
In the 2-member team aggregate there were 23 total entries. The winning team this year was Team Chambers Custom with a score of 1708-55X. Team members were Robert Case, Wes Fleming and Team Captain LTC Alan Toler.
Action Shooters at Camp Perry
For a few years now, Team Springfield’s Rob Leatham has been competing in precision pistol at Camp Perry. In an interview last year with SSUSA, Leatham contrasted the Camp Perry experience with the Bianchi Cup.
“At the National Pistol Championships at Camp Perry, I’m absolutely stunned when I manage to hit the targets. The movement of the gun, when I shoot a rapid fire string in bullseye [precision pistol], sometimes just makes me want to stop, put it down and leave. On the other hand, at the Bianchi Cup, I’m able to control my pace and flinching with both hands on the gun. I know I need to shoot a couple of inches low, but two-handed.”
This year Rob’s good friend, five-time Bianchi Cup and current NRA World Shooting Champion, Bruce Piatt, made his first trip to Camp Perry. “Camp Perry has been on my bucket list for a long time, and this year my schedule allowed it. I shoot 25-yard bullseye at home during the winter informally. I’m using an old Bianchi Gun for Center Fire, [it] even has the shroud still on it,” Piatt said.
This was one of the windiest National Pistol Championships in recent memory, which affected all the scores. On center fire day, there were 35 MPH winds, both day and night. Champion Philip Hemphill commented that, “It was a catfight [between the top shooters], there were just a few points separating us, due to all the windy days.”
On the firing line, winds were calmest in the mornings and usually picked up in the afternoons. Notably, there were no scores over 2600 this year—but all at Camp Perry seemed to enjoy themselves since there was very little rain and mostly sunny skies.
Learn more about NRA Precision Pistol competition at this link: pistol-competition.nra.org.