Steel was flying and falling at the 2021 NRA Rifle Silhouette National Championships, held at the Ridgway Rifle Club in Ridgway, Pa., from August 8–14. Shooters traveled from 23 states, along with a few that came from Mexico, to compete in both smallbore and high power rifle events.
The smallbore element, held August 8-10, saw competitors tried their best to hit targets at 40, 60, 77 and 100 meters shooting from the offhand position with a .22-caliber rifle. Winning the standard rifle category was Cathy Winstead-Severin of Team Lapua, shooting 110 out of 120 targets over three days of competition. Second place went to Kelly Engel-Gullatt, while Team Lapua’s Mark Pharr took third.
2021 Smallbore Standard Rifle National Championship Leaderboard
- National Champion: Cathy Winstead-Severin, 110x120, Joplin, Mo.
- 2nd Open: Kelly Engel-Gullatt, 107x120, Washington, D.C.
- 3rd Open: Mark Pharr, 107x120, Round Rock, Tex.
- 1st Master Class: Luke Johnson, 107x120, Mansfield, Ohio
- 1st AAA Class: Jose Gonzalez, 96x120, Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico
- 1st AA Class: Hunter Santiso, 94x120, Ridgway, Pa.
- 1st A Class: Thaddeus Gardner, 71x120, Ridgway, Pa.
- 1st B Class: Paige Sikora, 54x120, Avonmore, Pa.
As for hunter rifle, this championship was shot in the same format. This year was decided by a shoot-off between Luke Johnson and Laura Goetsch, who both shot 110 out of 120 targets. After an intense five-shot shoot-off with all of the competitors watching, the hunter rifle champion was Luke Johnson, manager of the Lapua Rimfire Performance Center in Marengo, Ohio. Laura had to settle for second place, while third place went to Team SK’s Erich Mietenkorte of Ephrata, Wash.
Not only did Luke win the hunter rifle championship, but he accrued enough points in the aggregate between the two smallbore rifle categories to win the Smallbore 2-Gun Aggregate National Championship.
2021 Smallbore Hunter Rifle National Championship Leaderboard
- National Champion: Luke Johnson, 110x120, Mansfield, Ohio
- 2nd Open: Laura Goetsch, 110x120, Greenbrier, Tenn.
- 3rd Open: Erich Mietenkorte, 105x120, Ephrata, Wash.
- 1st Master Class: Cathy Winstead-Severin, 104x120, Joplin, Mo.
- 1st AAA Class: Jose Gonzalez, 100x120, Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico
- 1st AA Class: Hunter Santiso, 86x120, Ridgway, Pa.
- 1st A Class: Joseph Iacobucci, 67x120, Falls Church, Va.
- 1st B Class: Mason Bartley, 51x120, Milesburg, Pa.
August 12 was the first of three days of high power rifle silhouette comeptition, with shooting at distances of 200, 300, 385 and 500 meters. Similar to its smallbore counterpart, all targets are shot standing, without support in the offhand position—a true test of marksmanship skills. A favorite saying in the silhouette community is “the bench proves the rifle, standing proves the shooter.” Many shooters came to prove their marksmanship skills in both the standard and hunter rifle categories.
The standard rifle championship went to Team SK shooter Erich Mietenkorte, shooting 100 out of 120 targets. In addition, Luke Johnson secured second place with a score of 95, and Chris Cawthorne took third with 94.
2021 High Power Standard Rifle National Championship Leaderboard
- National Champion: Erich Mietenkorte, 100x120, Ephrata, Wash.
- 2nd Open: Luke Johnson, 95x120, Mansfield, Ohio
- 3rd Open: Chris Cawthorne, 94x120, Woodlands, Tex.
- 1st Master Class: Dustin Flint, 91x120, Baton Rouge, La.
- 1st AAA Class: Curtis Kesler, 73x120, Salisbury, N.C.
- 1st AA Class: David Gillsipie, 68x120, Reedsville, W.V.
- 1st A Class: Kaleb Santiso, 69x120, Ridgway, Pa.
- 1st B Class: Stan Morgan, 47x120, Lewis Run, Pa.
Hunter rifles in silhouette are lighter and require a minimum two-pound trigger pull weight, which can increase the level of difficulty when shooting offhand. However, that did not seem to deter Team Berger’s John Mullins from shooting 97 out of 120 targets to win the hunting rifle championship. Team SK’s Erich Mietenkorte was one point down, which gave him the runner-up spot. One point below him was Luke Johnson in third place.
2021 High Power Hunter Rifle National Championship Leaderboard
- National Champion: John Mullins, 97x120, Maricopa, Ariz.
- 2nd Open: Erich Mietenkorte, 96x120, Ephrata, Wash.
- 3rd Open: Luke Johnson, 95x120, Mansfield, Ohio
- 1st Master Class: Dustin Flint, 94x120, Baton Rouge, La.
- 1st AAA Class: Matt Pavlik, 79x120, Russelton, Pa.
- 1st AA Class: Kaleb Santiso, 67x120, Ridgway, Pa.
- 1st A Class: Joe Selesky, 58x120, Northern Cambria, Pa.
- 1st B Class: Carrie Clever, 28x120, Scottsboro, Ala.
Mietenkorte’s victory in standard rifle and second-place finish in hunter rifle gave him enough points to also win the High Power 2-Gun aggregate. Mietenkorte also shared his high praise regarding the Ridgway Rifle Club as the host venue.
“The Ridgway Rifle Club is a great place to shoot silhouette. The passion the Ridgway Rifle Club personnel has for the silhouette discipline is amazing and can be seen in the way they run a championship match. At times, it felt more like a family reunion than a rifle match. The way they make competitors feel welcome and the support they have for junior shooters is beyond reproach.”
Original Silhouette Target Presentation
In addition to the three days of exciting smallbore shooting, there was a special presentation by Daniel Salazar of McAllen, Tex. Daniel did extensive research into the origin of silhouette as a sport, which began with the use of high power rifles. Through his research, he began a dialogue with the Club De Tiro Caza Cananea in Sonora, Mexico, who created the first silhouettes for high power rifle shooting. In the beginning, the shape of an ewe was used as the 500-meter target. This later evolved into the ram silhouette that competitors shoot at today.
Through his conversations with the club in Sonora, Mexico, Salazar discovered that the original ewe targets made in the early 1950s still exist. One of the original ewe targets was brought to the U.S. and presented to the Ridgway Rifle Club to honor their ongoing efforts to promote rifle silhouette in the United States. The presentation was met with surprise, excitement and tears—as well as an overwhelming sense of appreciation for this piece of competitive shooting history.
Team Lapua Silhouette Clinic
Competitors also had the opportunity to attend a silhouette shooting clinic hosted by Team Lapua’s Cathy Winstead-Severin and her father, the legendary coach and spotter, Chris Winstead. With the assistance of Master-class shooters such as Laura Goetsch, Luke Johnson, Team Berger’s Dustin Flint and John Mullins, as well as Team SK’s Erich Mietenkorte, attendees were able to ask questions and receive one-on-one coaching from top-level shooters.
Competitors are already looking forward to next year’s silhouette season, where they will have the opportunity to compete in the inaugural Lapua Monarch Cup. For this prize event and points total championship, points are earned by shooters at smallbore rifle silhouette events held in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. in 2022. Visit lapuamonarchcup.com for more information.
Read more: Results: 2021 Missouri High Power Rifle Silhouette Regional Championships