It’s been over a week now since I returned from the 30th Anniversary Bianchi Cup in Columbia, MO – and it’s honestly taken me that long to properly gather my thoughts on the experience. If you followed my coverage of the match, you know that I was constantly “on-the-go”, from the practice range to the match range, with my camera or gun handy, depending on whether or not I was shooting targets or shooting pictures.
During the week, I was very busy, and when I finally got home a week ago, I was completely gassed. The week of activities had taken its toll on me, and by the time I was driving home Sunday, I was pretty much spent with a capital “S”. If I had to pick one thing as a negative for the Cup, it would be the length of the match. Drawing it out over the course of four days takes a toll on the competitors and the staff running it, a toll which was evident by Saturday. In a perfect world, if you’re only shooting one gun at Bianchi, it could easily be done in 2 days, which would decrease the cost involved in attending the match, as well the “wear and tear” on the shooter.
Honestly though, that’s the only criticism that I’d have. NRA does an excellent job of running the match itself, and the volunteers at the range are very skilled at running things efficiently. Obviously it helps that the weather cooperated, but the match itself ran very smooth – not once did I have to wait past my appointed time to shoot a stage, which was very nice.
Of course, the real focus of the match, and of much of my brain sweat since the match has been the new Production division, and what it holds for Bianchi Cup. After shooting the match and getting a taste of just how challenging it is, I can say that the Production division has tremendous potential for the game. Potential because if it’s not nourished and managed carefully, it will fizzle out. See, the danger that I encountered, and that I believe will continue is an improper management of expectations. Production shooters should not come in to the match expecting to shoot 1880s and 1900s – the match winner, Dave Sevigny shot an 1806, and he had an excellent match (even if you weren’t totally happy with your performance, Dave). The Production guys should come to the match expecting to leave some plates up, and expecting to drop some shots – of course you should train to knock everything down, but it’s important to have realistic goals for Bianchi.
Production also needs to be grown – in both USPSA and IDPA, their various “Production” or “Stock” divisions are the most participated in divisions. In its first year, Production at Bianchi had 30 shooters, which is a solid start, but it needs to grow from there. I would hope that NRA would send invitations next year to the top 20-30 shooters from both the USPSA Production Nationals and from the SSP division in IDPA. That way you can bring in talent that’s going to be competitive in the new division, and at the same time maintain the prestigious quality of the Cup itself by inviting these top ranked shooters.
BJ Norris (who I swear can read my mind) has his thoughts up, which focus more on the competition side than I am here. He is absolutely right though in that Bianchi requires a ton of mental discipline – unlike ICORE where I can make up for a B-zone hit by running faster, if you toss a shot in Bianchi, that’s it man. There are no second chances.
I think the real question though is “did I have fun”? The answer to that would unequivocally be “yes”. This is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done with a gun in my hand, and the feeling after shooting it was rewarding, and at the same it presents a challenge to go out there and shoot even better next year. I will definitely be back in 2010, and I hope to see even more improvements and a deeper field in Production than I did this year; and I’ll do what I can to campaign for the new division as well.