Simmons takes in first trophy at provincials

After numerous competitions, training with a professional and countless spent rounds, John Simmons has something tangible to show for his efforts.

After numerous competitions, training with a professional and countless spent rounds, John Simmons has something tangible to show for his efforts.

The Whitehorse pistol shooter took in his first trophy at the International Practical Shooting Confederation BC Provincial Championship in Port Coquitlam, BC, over the weekend.

Simmons shot his way to second place in the open B division and 13th overall.

“I finally got a trophy for winning something,” said Simmons. “I’m pretty happy with that because it’s taken a number of tries.

“I’m pretty happy with that considering my limited experience compared to a lot of these guys. I was just happy to win something. I put all this effort, time and money into trying to learn this type of shooting, I wanted to make some headway, start seeing some results. I’m finally starting to see some results.”

International Practical Shooting Confederation events like the provincials take good aim and speed shooting to the next level. A timed event, competitors have to manoeuvre through an obstacle course, hitting targets scattered through the complex, often through doors and ports.

“I’m technically not even shooting at B (division level) any more, I’m pushing 80 per cent, so I should be classified as an A,” said Simmons. “Last year at the BC Provincials I shot at 55 per cent. This year I shot at 78, 79 – somewhere around there – and overall I was 20th (last year). This year I’m at 13, so I’m increasing my ability quite quickly.”

If the multiple-time Yukon Speed Shooting Champion is getting better, it could have something to do with some pointers from a pro. Simmons spent a few days training with shooting celebrity Phil Strader, a member of Team Smith and Wesson, in June.

“I can see the difference,” said Simmons. “Just the little things, being able to shoot on the right-hand side and turn really fast to engage targets on the left – my movement is way faster.

“That training definitely helped; I learned a lot. I’m still practising some of the stuff that he showed me. He showed us a lot; it was 2,300 rounds in three days. It was shooting nonstop – I actually had a blister on my hand.”

It was a busy season of competition for Simmons.

At the International Practical Shooting Confederation Canadian National Championships in Kingston, Ontario, at the end of July, Simmons came 25th out of more than 65 of the country’s best in the open category. Breaking into the top-30 was no simple feat. Seven provinces entered “gold teams” of their top four practical shooters, plus there were two professional shooters from the US and Czech Republic. (Simmons was the only Yukoner at the championships that hosted about 250 shooters.)

At the last two Alaska Speed Shooting Championships near Fairbanks, Simmons left his American counterparts dreading a head-to-head shoot-off with “the Canadian,” as he was often called.

At the championships in June, Simmons took first place in the open division and a second in the shoot-off, the reverse of his results the previous year.

At an International Practical Shooting Confederation qualifier event in Terrace, BC, in April, Simmons grabbed second place in the open class.

“I have to thank the Whitehorse Rifle and Pistol Club and the executive for the help, support and letting me do my unorthodox practice methods, which can seem strange to anyone who goes up there and doesn’t know who I am,” said Simmons. “And my work, Yukon Service Supply, Jack and Pam Blackburn, for letting me take time off to go to these competition. Without their support, I would be able to go to these competitions.

“Most people go to a gun club with a handgun and stand there and shoot at a piece of paper at 10 yards. Me, I’m running around barrels and shooting through ports and reload, shoot, reload, shoot, dropping mags all over the place.

“I’m always doing stuff. I don’t just stand there and shoot at a piece of paper.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

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