Whitehorse shooter cleans house at Alaska championships

Just last year the Alaska State Handgun Championship switched from a steel-shooting competition to a practical shooting one. And a Yukoner has already won it.

Just last year the Alaska State Handgun Championship switched from a steel-shooting competition to a practical shooting one. And a Yukoner has already won it.

Whitehorse’s John Simmons shot his way to first place at the USPSA Sectional State Championship over the weekend just outside of Fairbanks.

“I’m kind of surprised actually, I didn’t think I’d take first place,” said Simmons. “The next top shooter shot 92 per cent to me – that’s a significant gap.”

Not only did Simmons take first place in the open division, he registered the top score overall out of all shooters, across all divisions at the pistol championship.

Simmons, who was the only Canadian at the event, won two of the competition’s eight stages and placed second in three others.

The master-level shooter even scored higher than a grandmaster – the captain of the Glock team – who was in the production division.

“There was beautiful sunny weather all weekend in Fairbanks. There were great stages, well planned, well set up. Everything went smoothly,” said Simmons.

“I felt very, I wouldn’t say confident, just very calm. Even if I felt I didn’t do as well as I thought I should on a stage, I didn’t think about it or let it bother me. If someone beat me, I didn’t worry about it, didn’t think about it at all.”

Though Simmons placed first in the open division in 2011 when it was a steel shooting event, the move to make it a U.S. Practical Shooting Association competition suits him just fine.

The USPSA is the American version of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), in which speed and accuracy are messured as competitors move through an obstacle course, and Simmons is one of the top-ranked IPSC shooters in the country. He placed fifth out of 66 shooters in the open division at last year’s IPSC Canadian nationals.

“(USPSA) has a little bit different rules, not that different but different,” said Simmons. “Their targets are a little bit of a different style, but in general the idea is still the same.”

In fact, Simmons is going to have a bit of a leg up at next month’s IPSC nationals. After he won his third IPSC qualifier event earlier this season, Simmons was accepted to B.C.‘s Gold Team for the national championships this August in Toronto. He’ll therefore be shooting with the best in B.C. and will be able to map out strategy with them for each stage.

The six-time Yukon steel-shooting champion also took fourth at the B.C. championships last season before heading to his first world championship in October. At the IPSC World Shoot Simmons placed 162nd out of 367 shooters in the open division and sixth out 25 of Canadians.

As the winner of his division over the weekend, Simmons won a pistol made by Glock, one of the event’s sponsors.

“I actually won another gun in a draw at the banquet, but I gave it back. I had them redraw it for just four people who did a huge amount of volunteer work to make this match happen. I put the gun back in the hat for those guys … and I drew it for one of them.

“The Alaskans were pretty impressed that I would do that.”

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