Helen Jeavons stands with her feet slightly spread apart aiming her 9 mm at six circular steel plates that are 8 inches in diameter and 4 feet off the ground, spaced one foot apart.
She steadies herself and takes a single shot at each plate, first at 10 yards, then 15, then 20, then 25. For the first round, she’s only allowed 6 seconds to knock down all six plates.
When Jeavons finished her rounds during the Falling Plate event, she had racked up 470 points — a near perfect score.
Jeavons wasn’t even going to participate in the 26th annual Bianchi Cup after she heard several months ago that coordinators decided contestants wouldn’t be allowed to shoot in a prone position except for one part of another event. But when Jeavons learned she had been named to the U.S. women’s team for this week’s competition, she reconsidered.
“I only had three weeks to prepare,” she said.
The National Rifle Association’s Bianchi Cup began Wednesday morning with the sounds of pistols and rifles from six ranges at the Green Valley Pistol & Rifle Club northeast of Columbia. The national championship attracted about 150 shooters from eight countries.
Jeavons is no stranger to the event. She met her husband, Grant Jeavons, when he traveled here from New Zealand in 1988 for the Bianchi Cup. The couple married four years later.
“I started shooting because he was always at the range practicing,” she said.
Of this year’s competitors, 14 are from Missouri, including Andrew and Faye Barksdale, two officers with the Springfield Police Department. “We just like to shoot and have a good time,” Faye Barksdale said.
Joe Roberts, NRA press chief, explained that Bianchi Cup events all fall under the “action pistol” category, which differs from standard competitions. “Action pistol” is based on law enforcement training, he said, which allows for the use of two hands, time limits and sometimes moving targets.
The Green Valley Rifle & Pistol Club used to be called, and is still sometimes referred to, as the Chapman Academy where law enforcement training occurred. The Bianchi Cup began in the late 1970s when John Bianchi, president of Bianchi Gunleather, a large manufacturer of pistol and police leather accessories, contacted Ray Chapman of Chapman Academy.
Within the competition, there are four major events: the practical event, barricade event, falling plate event and the moving target event.
Last year, Doug Koenig of Alburtis, Pa., and Bruce Piatt, a New Jersey police officer, competed so fiercely that the outcome wasn’t decided and Koenig won by a tie-breaker. Both shooters are expected to show off their marksmanship on Friday.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, Carl Bernosky of Ashland, Pa., was leading with a perfect score of 480 and 48 tie-breaking hits. Three other shooters had a perfect score of 480 and 47 tie-breaking hits. Koenig and Piatt were just behind with perfect scores and 46 tie-breaking hits.