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Whitehorse marksman achieves grandmaster status

Whitehorse pistol shooter John Simmons had a shorter competitive season than usual, but it was still a productive one.

Whitehorse pistol shooter John Simmons had a shorter competitive season than usual, but it was still a productive one.

He even hit a target he wasn’t expecting to. Simmons moved up from master to grandmaster, the highest classification of marksman in the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC).

“Because I did so well in May and (had) high numbers prior to that, beating everybody consecutively re-ranked me to grandmaster,” said Simmons. “I wasn’t really expecting that, but it happened.

“I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to hold that position, that I’m not quite there, good enough, but I was and provincials proved it.”

“Though I competed less, I did really, really well in general,” he added of the season.

Simmons achieved grandmaster status by placing in the top five percentile in IPSC competitions, in which both speed and accuracy are measured as shooters move through an obstacle course.

He capped his season with a personal best finish of second place at the 2016 IPSC B.C. Provincial Championships earlier this month in Pitt Meadows. He took third last year and fourth the year before that.

With that finish Simmons ends the season ranked second in B.C. and top 10 in Canada. He also landed a sponsorship from Cape Custom Pistol.

However, the provincials didn’t start out all too promising.

“I took a number of misses on my first day because I was way too hyper. I was going so fast I was actually missing on occasion and it’s pretty rare for me to miss anything. But it wasn’t like a bad shot, it was a total miss, ” said Simmons.

“It was harder than it looked. A lot of people made a lot of mistakes. It was costly for a lot of top shooters. It was well set up, well thought out, and it pushed people to make mistakes.”

Simmons pegged off the grandmaster title right from the get-go this past summer in IPSC B.C. qualifier events.

He took the top spot in back-to-back days at a double qualifier in Terrace in May. Simmons then notched two first- and a second-place finish in a triple qualifier in Vancouver.

For years Simmons has been schooling Americans in practical shooting and this year wasn’t any different. Simmons placed second at the USPSA Sectional Alaska State Championship — using the U.S. version of IPSC — this past July in Fairbanks. He took first last year.

A fluky occurrence caused Simmons to finish second “by an absolute hair” to a grandmaster from Colorado.

“One of my magazines that I don’t use much — I only use when I’m out of country — my ammo did a nosedive in it and actually jammed into the magazine. I had to do a forced reload, which cost me time,” said Simmons. “It’s the first time I’ve had an issue in at least a year and a half.

“It just happened. Nothing you can do about it.”

Simmons attended fewer B.C. qualifier events this year, but the most notable void in his schedule was the Canadian IPSC nationals, which couldn’t have been much farther away in Halifax.

He skipped the championship this year, but it’s not a big deal since he already qualified for next year’s IPSC World Shoot in France with his results from the last two nationals, placing 21st last year and fifth the previous year.

The six-time Yukon steel-shooting champion competed at his first world championship in 2014. At the triennial world championship Simmons placed 162nd out of 367 shooters in the open division and sixth out of 25 Canadians.

As for finishing the season with the grandmaster title, “I’m elated and proud of that accomplishment,” said Simmons. “I’m pretty happy. I look forward to nationals next year (in Calgary) and World Shoot in France next year.”

Contact Tom Patrick at