Yukoner schools Alaskans at shooting championships

With last year fresh in mind, Alaskans kept a wary eye on Whitehorse's John Simmons at the recent Alaska Speed Shooting Championships near Fairbanks. In fact, many dreaded a head-to-head meeting with the quick-draw Yukoner.

With last year fresh in mind, Alaskans kept a wary eye on Whitehorse’s John Simmons at the recent Alaska Speed Shooting Championships near Fairbanks.

In fact, many dreaded a head-to-head meeting with the quick-draw Yukoner.

“Most of them now know who I am, so they weren’t joking around as much,” said Simmons. “I know, during the shoot-off, when they are putting the names on the chalkboard, of who’s shooting against who, when they saw my name next to their name, they were like, ‘Awe, man, really? I don’t want to shoot against the Canadian.’”

Once again the only Canadian at the competition, Simmons was on aim – and fast – en route to a first -place finish in the open division and a second in the shoot-off, the reverse of his results last year.

“I don’t consider myself the state champ because I should have won the shoot-off too,” said Simmons. “If I had won both, that would have been unreal. I look forward trying again next year.”

Unlike a marksman competition in which every shot is recorded and scored, speed shooting is about knocking down five steel targets in as little time as possible. On the way to the open division win, Simmons shaved about 28 seconds off his already fast time from last year’s competition.

In the head-to-head shootoff, which pits the top-16 shooters against each other in a draw format, Simmons made a mistake that cost him the win. Having to shoot through a port – a small opening in a wall – Simmons was misled by his International Practical Shooting Confederation training.

“In IPSC we are taught you never stick your gun into a port to shoot, you always keep it outside of it,” said Simmons. “But this port was so narrow, I didn’t realize when I was aiming through, standing on the outside of it, that I shot through the wall.

“I should have stuck the barrel into the port a few inches to shoot, but I was taught different.”

Though a six-time Yukon speed shooting champion, Simmons only really began to focus on the sport last year, purchasing a STI Steel Master 9mm and shooting as many as 500 rounds a week at the Whitehorse Rifle and Pistol Club. His results in Fairbanks last year helped Simmons garner the Yukon Shooting Federation’s Most Improved Shooter title.

With two successful competitions against gun-totting Alaskans under his belt, Simmons will soon try his hand against Canada’s best at the IPSC Canadian Nationals in Kingston, Ontario, at the end of next month.

“I’m pretty excited. I’ve never been to a competition that big,” said Simmons. “My goal is to win first place for B class open division.”

In Kingston, Simmons should be even harder to beat, having just completed a training class with shooting celebrity Phil Strader, a member of the Smith and Wesson shooting team, firing off 2,000 rounds in three days.

“I have a blister on my hand from my gun, from just drawing it out of the holster and shooting so much,” said Simmons. “I can’t even shoot for a few days, my hand is so sore.

“He showed me how to drive to the target faster, to actually swing the gun faster towards the target without over swinging.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com