Records fell like dominos at the 2020 World Speed Shooting Championships, held at the CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park in Talladega, Ala., Sept. 23- 27. At the match, Steel Challenge reinforced its reputation as the “drag-racing” discipline of action shooting, with all 13 divisions represented across all eight stages of fire. With a grand total of 104 possible division and stage world records, 38 became new benchmarks of the fastest of the fast. That’s over one-third of all division and stage times. While several familiar names came out on top, there were a few first-time World Champions crowned.
The CMP team aided in setting up the MGM targets with the help of the USPSA team—laser-leveling every single target to the exact height and dimensions. After all, if world records are going to be recorded, the stages have to be exactly the same and perfect for the competitors. The shooting conditions for the match were ideal, with most days being partly cloudy with temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s—a stark contrast to the match that was held two weeks prior. A welcome enhancement of the match was a newly created “Vendor City,” which was located in the middle of the all the action. Every competitor was able to visit with vendors who donated to the match. It was a great break from the competition to shoot a fully automatic .22 LR.
In the modern Steel Challenge era with eight stages and 13 divisions, there is one goal many have chased after for years—breaking 60 seconds in a match. The 2019 World Speed Shooting Championships indicated that the competitiveness in the sport was enabling this lofty goal to be realized, with Kolby Pavlock scoring a 60.61 in Rimfire Pistol Open. In previous years, KC Eusebio and Max Michel logged similar times, getting close to breaking the barrier to reach the 50s. There were promises this time the record would fall, with three competitors logging sub-60-second times earlier in the shooting season, but could it actually be done on the biggest stage for Steel Challenge? The answer was an unequivocal yes. This year, five competitors shot six times under 60 seconds.
Chris Barrett, Rimfire Rifle Open—56.57
Grant Kunkel, Rimfire Rifle Open—57.52
Nate Gibson, Rimfire Rifle Open—58.17
KC Eusebio, Rimfire Pistol Open—58.43
Cole Busch, Rimfire Rifle Iron—58.86
Chris Barrett, Pistol Caliber Carbine Iron—59.48
The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. At the 2016 World Shoot Speed Shooting Championships, there was only one person who shot in the 60s. This was the legendary pistol shooter Max Michel. All other times were 70.x and over. At the 2020 World Speed Shooting Championships the top 46 times were in the 60s. As the popularity of the sport has increased, so has the desire for the competitors to be named the fastest in the country in their respective divisions. In 2020 we saw the first times shot in the 50s. Chris Barrett’s time of 56.57 is the fastest time ever shot in any Steel Challenge match, let alone the World Speed Shooting Championships. How much faster will this sport get in the next 12 months? Is a 54 possible? Will we see times in the 40s at some point? As long as the competition grows, there will be those of us who will continue to put in the time to be the fastest.
The five days of shooting concluded with 630 guns shooting for score. Prior to the awards ceremony, there was a buffet served as the sun set on the match. The appropriately timed awards ceremony was facilitated by Mike Foley with Troy McManus congratulating everyone on their achievements. Competitors then had their pictures taken to memorialize the event. Shortly after, a well-run prize table process was facilitated by Jeff Jones.
The biggest story from the match is the dominance from the younger generation of shooters who cemented their names in the history books as world champions. Twenty of the top 22 placements were 21 years of age or younger. Chris Barrett won an impressive four world titles. Emily Cunningham won multiple Ladies' titles. Cole Busch took top honors in Rimfire Rifle Iron. Ethan Inocando won the prestigious title of Steel Master. Additionally, Neal Norman is now a world champion in Rimfire Pistol Iron.
If you are looking for a family-friendly action shooting sport to try, grab your gear and head to a local Steel Challenge match. Who knows, maybe you will find a passion for the game and you, too, will become a world champion.
Photo (starting from left): Grant Kunkle (Rimfire Rifle Open), Cole Busch (Rimfire Rifle Iron) and Chris Barrett (Rimfire Rifle Open, Pistol Caliber Carbine Iron) at the 2020 World Speed Shooting Championships.
Article from the November/December 2020 issue of USPSA’s FrontSightmagazine.