As young children, Serena Juchnowski and her sister were part of the Indian Princesses program with their dad, where they both shot BB guns. Having already been taught firearm safety, at age seven her parents bought both her and her sister their own BB guns.
In 2013, Serena handled what she considers her first firearm. Her “adopted grandfather” Chuck Malone brought over an Uberti .22 LR and asked if she would be interested in shooting. That night, after she quickly learned the basics of the standing position, her dad set up a small chicken silhouette, about the size of a half-dollar at 25 yards. To their surprise, Serena knocked over the silhouette numerous times, offhand. She was hooked!
Over the next few years Serena often shot the monthly buffalo silhouette shoots at the Tusco Rifle Club. In 2015, she discovered South Cuyahoga Sportsmen’s Association’s Junior High Power Rifle Team. She enjoyed the challenge of shooting. It proved not only fun—but educational. That same year she attended the Small Arms Firing School and earned her first EIC (Excellence in Competition) points towards her Distinguished Rifleman’s badge. Since then she’s been competing nearly every weekend in local matches, special EIC matches, and the National Matches. As a high power service rifle competitor, she shoots an AR-15 at 200 yards, 300 yards, and 600 yards, from the standing, sitting, and prone positions. (Competitors fire standing and rapid fire sitting at 200 yards, rapid fire prone at 300 yards and slow fire prone at 600 yards.) She discovered the first night she shot high power that it was something she wanted to do more of and is continuing in her quest towards both the CMP Distinguished Rifleman’s badge and NRA High Master Classification.
In 2017, Serena placed high junior in the CMP 2400 Aggregate Cup Match. Late last fall she switched from iron sights to optics and her scores nearly immediately improved. She earned master qualification in high power service rifle and her expert qualification in high power mid-range prone. Her greatest shooting accomplishment was placing high woman and high junior at the 2018 Ohio State Championship Match and third overall in service rifle.
For her range bag, Serena uses a green Cabela’s Catch-All Gear Bag. It’s small and compact but can fit a lot in it. It has a number of compartments so she can separate various items, such as glasses, without them getting scratched. Plus a lifetime warranty!
Her teammates have teased her about keeping nearly everything she might need in her range bag, including sunscreen, bug spray, band aids, extra glasses, lens cleaner, gloves, a data book, a small raincoat, and wet wipes. The last item usually gets some odd looks until shooters start pasting targets in the pits and find that the glue and black dye won’t come off their hands!
For competition Serena shoots a Rock River A4 NM AR-15. She has two uppers, one dedicated for matches and another for practice. The reason is to not burn out a barrel at 200 yards that one needs to perform at the 600-yard line. She uses a Geissele trigger, Magpul adjustable stock, and Turner leather sling with a Leupold scope on both of her uppers, the White Oak Mark AR Service Rifle Scope on one, and a customized Mark AR Mod 1 on the second.
Besides her rifle, her greatest asset is her Creedmoor shooting coat. She struggled to improve her scores with ill-fitting borrowed coats for a while. During the process she discovered that her skills had advanced to the point where her equipment was a hindrance. Creedmoor worked with Serena to make their first custom coat and did a wonderful job fitting it to the female shape.
For new shooters interested in learning high power or seeking to gain a better understanding of competitive marksmanship and firearm safety Serena recommends the Small Arms Firing School. The clinic, taught by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and other certified coaches, is conducted at the National Matches every year. Other resources include rifle and pistol clubs who put interested shooters in contact with those running high power junior programs and matches.
For those new to competition shooting, Serena has some insightful tips.
“Never stop learning—be open to advice of those who have excelled in whatever discipline you are involved in. Also, do not get caught up in only thinking about winning or ‘being the best.’ For me, as it is for many other shooters, competing is all about self-improvement, learning, and fun. Full attention should always be paid to firearm safety of course, but each person should compete against himself or herself first and foremost. If your best score is not even as good as someone else’s worst score, forget about that. Focus on the fact that you improved and have set a personal best for yourself. Each person is different, has different obstacles, and different things going on in his or her life.”