Simmons shoots into top five at Alaska championship

An explosion of entrants in the open division and an increase in stages made for a tough weekend for John Simmons.

An explosion of entrants in the open division and an increase in stages made for a tough weekend for John Simmons.

The Whitehorse pistol shooter took fourth in the open handgun division and fifth overall at the Alaska Speed Shooting Championships near Fairbanks.

“The competition is getting harder,” said Simmons. “There are more shooters showing up – way more people shooting open. It tripled this year.

“The stages were harder – there were more stages. It was a much tougher competition this year.”

Though top-five finishes are nothing to scoff at, they represent Simmons’ lowest finishes in what was his fourth straight appearance at the championship.

Last year he placed second in the open category and third overall at the steel-shooting competition. In 2011 he took first place in the open division and a second in the shoot-off division, the reverse of his results the previous year.

“I shot fairly well. I know I can shoot a lot better than I did,” he added.

Simmons more commonly competes in International Practical Shooting Confederation events, in which speed, power and accuracy are measured as competitors move through an obstacle course.

Simmons should have switched over from ISPC to steel shooting a little bit earlier to prepare for Fairbanks, he said.

“I should have probably started earlier, stopped shooting IPSC,” said Simmons. “I didn’t give myself enough time.”

Simmons, who is a six-time Yukon steel-shooting champion, has had plenty of successes already this year.

He placed first one day and second the next at an IPSC double-qualifier at the end of April in Terrace, B.C. He then came third and sixth at another double-qualifier in the middle of May in Pitt Meadows, B.C.

“It’s been a pretty good year. I’ve been placing up in the top slots everywhere,” said Simmons. “No more 15th or 20th or any of that kind of stuff. I’m up at the top in everything I’ve been doing. That’s pretty positive … I must be getting better.”

Simmons also competed in his first United States Practical Shooting Association competition – the FAS and the Furious – in Fairbanks earlier this month.

Despite some differences from IPSC, such as larger magazine capacities and different timing procedures, he still snagged third in the open division.

“This year was a late, late start to practice,” said Simmons. “I tried to get out in April and it started out not bad, and then it started snowing again. May was the same thing. So I was a little rustier than I normally would be from lack of getting outside and being able to shoot this year.

“The Alaskans dealt with the same thing this year. They said it was horrible. They were cancelling matches in Alaska for the first time they could remember that late in the season.”

Simmons, who is currently ranked 20th in Canada in IPSC’s open division, now has his sights set on the IPSC Canadian Nationals this August in Dalhousie, Nova Scotia.

He will compete as a member of B.C.‘s Gold Team, taking aim with some top shooters.

“It’ll do nothing but help me,” said Simmons.

This year’s nationals are also a qualifier for the quadrennial world championships next year in Florida.

Simmons finished 22nd out of 68 shooters at the 2012 championship in Brandon, Manitoba.

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