HALLSVILLE — Phil Strader wipes the sweat from his forehead. The summer sun beats down upon the hundreds of people ambling around this Hallsville, Missouri field. All around, people casually engage in intermittent conversations, interrupted by what sounds like children prancing around on amplified bubble wrap.
It's the 2010 MidwayUSA/National Rifle Association Bianchi Cup National Action Pistol Championship and Strader is perfectly comfortable.
Strader, last year’s champion in the Practical Event Metallic Division, is competing in the Bianchi Cup for his fifth time. He was introduced to the sport 13 years ago as a police officer and hasn’t looked back.
“When I started, I just wanted to be a better gun handler for law enforcement reasons...the next year, someone told me about competitive shooting and I tried it and liked and became good at it.”
Strader has been a member of Team USA and his pistol shooting has taken him on a world tour.
“He’s one of the best in the world,” said a Deputy Range Director Bill Martin, mentioning that he had seen him compete on The Outdoor Channel, three days earlier.
“This is just something I happen to do really well at, I don’t know why,” said Strader. “I just started doing this, I’m still very young at this sport...I’m the Idiot Savant when it comes to shooting.”
Strader practices live fire once per week, firing approximately 4,000-5,000 rounds yearly, but hones his reaction time by “dry shooting” or loading, unloading and drawing the gun “pretty much everyday.”
“I started shooting competitively for different reasons ... but then I started realizing that I’m a very competitive person. I wanted to do it so I could win, to be the best, that was my goal. It takes a very determined personality to do it,” Strader said as he shifted in the Saturday afternoon heat.
“Comradeship,” said competitor Craig Ginger of Australia, who is competing for his 12th year. “The fact that you can get along with all your friends, all shooting together.”
“All the years we have been coming here, all of us had made so many good friends and so its great to come across them, see everybody every year,” said Strader.
The event draws athletes from places such as Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Germany. In fact, nearly a quarter of the those competing in the 2010 Bianchi Cup are from outside of the United States.
“It takes a lot of time and work and effort, but it’s worth it,” said Strader.
Strader participated in the Production Division this year, despite winning an event last year in the Metallic division. He failed win this year.
“It’s just fun for me,” said Strader. “I’m truly blessed to have the abilities I have and to be able to do what I do with them.