This is my third year covering the National Pistol Championships at Camp Perry, and now that I've been around for a few years, I figure it's time to pick my ponies for who could be named Champion in 2011. With 10-time National Champion and favored pick Brian "Gunny" Zins out of the running, the door has opened for many of our shooters to step to the top of the podium.
The Crossover: Philip Hemphill
If the saying “Always a bridesmaid never a bride” related to the National Pistol Championships, then it would certainly apply to Hemphill. A strong and consistent shooter, Hemphill holds 10 titles as the Champion of the NRA National Police Shooting Championship, but the title of NRA National Pistol Champion has always eluded him with many a top-five finish. With his law enforcement background providing him with a steady hand and a cool head, 2011 could be the year that Philip Hemphill finally gets the win he’s been trying for and help him complete the crossover from law enforcement champion to a national title at Camp Perry.
The Newcomer: SSG Patrick Franks, United States Army
With the same names seeming to top the leader board each year at Camp Perry, I’ve decided to include a shooter who I think could see the spotlight in 2011. Franks joined the Army Marksmanship Unit in 2009 and made his first appearance with his new teammates at Camp Perry in 2010, shooting a strong score of 2583-103X. In the past year, Franks has been putting up consistently impressive scores at matches around the country and his innate talent coupled with a hunger to win could push him to the podium in 2011. Even if he doesn’t clinch the championship this year, Franks is definitely one to watch and is a name that we’ll get used to seeing.
The Previous Champion: SFC James Henderson, United States Army
Henderson has consistency working in his favor as competitor that has shot consistently high scores. One of the more experienced competitors on the Army Marksmanship Unit’s Service Pistol Team, Henderson was named Champion in 2009 and back in 2006 when he ended Zins’ five-year winning streak. The good news is that Henderson has proven he can take top honors two times here at Perry, showing that his wins were no fluke. He’s also riding high following a win at the Interservice Pistol Championships held last month at Ft. Benning. The bad news is that he’s established a pattern of winning every three years, meaning that he wouldn’t have his year again until 2012. I say that patterns, much like rules, were meant to be broken.
I'll be keeping you posted with scores and updates throughout the National Pistol Championships, so keep checking back with NRAblog for the latest information here at Camp Perry. The competitors are taking to the range this morning for practice, and this afternoon we'll see the Harry Reeves and Distinguished Revolver Matches.