By Kyle Jillson | March 12 2013 12:45

Navy off to early lead, grabs first title at 2013 NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships

Midshipman Czerta Frank, United States Naval Academy, winner of the NRA Free Pistol Individual Championship

Columbus, Georgia - The NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championship's started this morning with a victory by the United States Naval Academy in Free Pistol. Despite being left off the Naval Academy team, it was Midshipman Czerda Frank who ended up the day as our individual championship with a score of 615.2.

The Free Pistol Championship, as the name implies, comes with a few restrictions on the type of pistol used.

The matches are shot with a .22 caliber rimfire pistol. The firearms must have open sights, cannot have grips that come into contact beyond the wrist and feature no limit on barrel length. There are no restriction, however, on sight radius or trigger weight.

A .22 caliber pistol used in Free Pistol matches

Competitors have two hours to fire 60 shots from a distance of 50 meters. After the opening round, the top eight shooters gather for a ten shot final. That was all the Naval Academy needed to get on the winners board.

The United States Naval Academy came into the Championships with the goal of defending last year's title. Their efforts were rewarded after narrowly beat out longtime rival Army for the back-to-back win.

At the end of the day, only two points separate the two military academies. Navy with 2006, Army with 2004. Winner of sixteen Free Pistol titles, Navy is the all-time record holder in this particular event.

NRA Free Pistol Championship competitors at Fort Benning, Georgia

The individual championships provided an equal amount of excitement.

At the end, it came down to a shooter from North Dakota and a shooter without a team. That shooter, Naval Academy Freshman Czerda Frank, found a way to make it work.

Left off the Naval Academy team for the Free Pistol Championships, Frank put the snub aside and fired his way to a semifinal total of 521. That was enough for a first place finish. But he wasn't alone.

Sitting at his side was Matthew Pueppke of North Dakota State University. A respected shooter in his own right, Pueppke had every intention of heading back north with the title. Luckily for both, Olympian Nick Mowrer is no longer here ... and his signature 26-point lead wasn't either.

As the finals progressed, shot by shot, the two jockeyed back and forth for the top position. It wasn't until the final shot, taken with a cool, calm demeanor, that Frank grabbed the lead for good. Besting Pueppke with a final score of 615.2 to 609.3, Frank was suddenly surrounded by his Naval Academy brothers. Now a team, they lifted the Midshipmen over their heads in celebration.

Cadet Stephen Bowden of The Citadel at the NRA Free Pistol Championships

Exhausted physically and mentally from the demands of the match, teams quickly departed the range. Some to relax, some to review their earlier performance, and some to grab a quick lunch. Most will return this afternoon at 2:00pm. Return to cheer on their teammates scheduled to compete in the Women's Air Pistol Championship.

The championships are just getting started.


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