John Simmons is the fastest gun in the northwest.
A Canadian, he beat out all gun-toting Americans competing at a speed-shooting competition last weekend in Alaska.
After his final shot, the American spectators were unusually quiet, said Simmons, who lives in Whitehorse.
“After a long silence I heard someone in the back say, ‘Good shooting John!’” he said.
“I was super smooth and super fast, and I just cleared everything down. It was already over and it was pretty quiet behind me and I was thinking, ‘I just won.’ I couldn’t believe that.”
Simmons won the overall champion title, the Chatanika Iron Man trophy, at the Alaska Speed Shooting Championships held north of Fairbanks.
The only Canadian in the championships, Simmons advanced into the shoot-out segment, qualifying in third place and went on to be victorious through four rounds of head-to-head shooting to gain the title.
“My concern was just making the top-16,” said Simmons. “If I’m in the top 16, I don’t care where I am.”
The final round, which was a best-of-five match, took all five before Simmons secured the win.
“I was pretty sure the Alaskans were confident with this guy – that he was going to take me out in three-in-a-row,” said Simmons. “I beat him on the first one, and then they were a little quieter.
“By the fifth, I remember standing there in my box waiting for the range officer to give the commands and I can hear the crowd of people behind us saying, ‘Come on Bill, go Bill,’- they’re all cheering him on.
“They knew this is the last one – whoever wins this, wins – and he’s up against a Canadian. Now they want this guy to win.”
At the championships, outside-Alaska competitors are excluded from winning divisions such as production, single stack or revolver, but Canadians are eligible for the overall title: the Chatanika Iron Man trophy.
The top shooters from each division are funneled into a shoot-off draw, going head-to-head against other competitors – shooting simultaneously – with the winner advancing and the loser getting eliminated.
“I was so focused when I got into the shoot-offs, I only remember bits and pieces of the entire shoot-off, which was like an hour long,” said Simmons. “It’s not limited to the gun, it’s more limited to the shooter. There are some guys that can beat the best open shooters with a production pistol – they’re just better than them.”
A five-time Yukon speed shooting champion, winning five out of the last six, Simmons recently decided to give his full attention to the sport, purchasing a STI Steel Master 9mm at the start of the year and shooting as many as 500 rounds a week at the Whitehorse Rifle and Pistol Club.
“This is the first year I’ve focused 100 per cent on shooting,” said the 39-year-old. “I’ve shot for probably eight years, more for fun. I was just good at it, but it was more for practice.
“This past fall I was talking with a friend down south and was saying I should probably get a new pistol. I thought, ‘I’m going to get more serious about it.’ I know my hand-eye co-ordination is not going to last forever, so if I want to push to see how good I am, I should think about doing it now or not worry about it.
“So I decided this year to focus 100 per cent on pistol shooting. Obviously it’s paying off.”
Like any activity that demands intense concentration, too much practice can hinder long-term progress, said Simmons.
“You can overdo it and start shooting crappy – you’re just not focusing.
“The top shooters I know down in BC say practice is practice, but you can’t go down to the club and shoot five days a week – it’s not going to make you better. You’re better off spreading it over a couple days a week.”
As a member of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, Simmons is able to compete in any member country, but will nonetheless attempt to defend his title at the upcoming Yukon Shooting Championships scheduled for July 3 and 4 at the Whitehorse club.
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