CMP Bianchi Cup 2024 Analysis

Caleb Giddings Bianchi Cup Practical 2024 Taurus USA

The 2024 Bianchi Cup is in the books, and this marks my 7th year at the match. I always feel like it’s important to analyze this match a while after I finish shooting it, because it is genuinely intense and it takes me some time to really collect my feelings about how I shot.

2024 Shooting Goals

First, let’s talk about goals for the match. After shooting a 1621 last year and having meltdowns on both the Barricades and the Plates, I had only two goals this year. The first goal was to not let my mental game be the limfact in my performance. Second was to beat my main match PR of 1695, which I shot in 2012 with a Tanfoglio Stock 2 chambered in 38 Super, using Atlanta Arms 38 Super match ammo. I accomplished one of those goals – the mental one. I spent a lot of prep time before the match working on my mental game, and the result was that at no point did I feel like my nerves or the match pressure got the better of me. That’s a first, and something I plan on repeating for other major matches.

The second goal, I wasn’t quite so successful. I shot a 1689, which is my second highest score ever at the main match, but is still 6 points off my PR. Humorously, there was a scoring error so my official score on the CMP site shows a 1679, I was shorted a 10 on the Barricades. But the hand-generated scoresheet reflects my correct score, so you best believe I’m claiming that 1689. Regardless of how you slice it, I shot either 88.9% of the winner’s score, or 89.4%, both of which are reasonable scores and in line with my classification. I didn’t get over a 1700, which would have been nice, because at 25 yards on the plates I thought it would be fun to drop the first three plates on the first string because shooting is hard or something.

Bianchi Cup Gear

Now let’s talk about gear, specifically the gun and ammo combination. I shot a Taurus G3 TORO, without the optic mounted of course. The gun was paired with Hornady American Gunner 115gr XTP, which is definitely going to be my future go-to for match ammo if I’m shooting a 9mm. At 25 yards off a bag, I was able to consistently shoot 2.5 inch groups with combination. While some people aren’t fans of the G3’s unique trigger, I don’t find the long take-up to be an issue. To me, the trigger seems like a Working Man’s LEM, with long travel and a relatively light break combining to give the gun a very nice rolling break. On my trigger gauge the trigger itself comes in at or around 3.5 pounds. If you can’t shoot a respectable score with a 3.5 pound trigger and a 2.5 inch accurate gun, the problem isn’t the gun. I was able to demonstrate that in real time under real pressure by shooting an all time personal best on the Practical, standing at both 25 and 50 yards.

Now, there was one limfact on the gun that I do need to acknowledge, and that was the sights. Specifically, the aftermarket Ameriglo fiber-optic front sight I fitted. I had originally set this gun up to shoot Production/SSP, and had went with the big red fiber because I can basically run that set-up like a red dot in those sports. Put red blur on target, hit trigger, repeat. That…doesn’t work so great for Action Pistol competition, and I wished that I’d had a black front sight that was tuned for a POA/POI hold right over the tip of the front sight. As it was, with my existing set-up, the front sight would completely obscure the 10-ring at 20 and 25 yards. My hold on the plates at 20 and 25 had me put the entire fiber over the plate, which isn’t ideal for precision.

Taurus G3 TORO

The choice to shoot a G3 instead of a revolver with better sights was done based on an injury I’d sustained the previous week, so I didn’t have the time to get an optimal sight set up. However, with that said I’m not at all disappointed with my shooting in the grand scheme of things, because given the limfacts of the fiber optic sights, I still shot a PR on the Practical and almost cracked 1700 with a gun that costs like $350.

What’s Next for Bianchi Cup and Me

That brings me to both my final analysis, as well as a look towards the future. This year, I shot a score that would have been good for 4th place last year, but different talent showed up this year and I only finished 8th. Still not terrible, and I’m not upset with my performance. I had very minimal training for the match this year, and showing basically cold to Bianchi with a gun I’d hardly shot is definitely not the formula for success. But as I mentioned, my mental game didn’t let me down, and my equipment didn’t either. I quite simply got beat by better shooters, and there’s no shame in that.

So where does that leave me for the future of Bianchi Cup? I have a long history with this match that goes back to 2009, and I’m passionate about it and about excellence in this sport. I have a Master class rating in Production in Action Pistol, and yet this year I was 189 points off the winner. To even be competitive for a top 3 in Production I need to be shooting around 1850s. I know exactly how much training that would take and path I’d need to get on in order to get there. Here’s what it would look like:

Training for 2025

Let’s assume for the moment that I’ll be around and available for 2025 and won’t have any Air Force induced disruptions to my schedule in the next year. How I’d start training for 2025 would look like this. My weekly range trips would be nothing but shooting the various Bianchi stages. One range trip would be Plates, then Practical, then Barricade, and I’ve even figured out a way to simulate the Mover on a static range. Rob Leatham once said the best way to train for Bianchi Cup is to get “knee deep in brass” and I’d adopt that philosophy.

From now until October, I’d do nothing but shoot the stages with a gun I’d have optimally set up for Production. I’d learn to go prone on the Practical and the Plates, and I’d build a Barricade set up so I could learn to brace off the Barricade at 25 and 35 yards. In October, I’d shoot the Show Me Cup at Pioneer Gun Club in Kansas City. From November to January, I’d dial the range sessions back to 2x a month instead of 4x. February and March I’m back to at least 4x live fire a month, with another 4x of full stage dry fire sessions using reduced targets.

April brings the Crawfish Cup, the season opener. Shoot that and set a baseline. Then in May, dial my range sessions back to 2x per month, and shoot the Flagler Cup the weekend before Bianchi, stay in Missouri and do my final prep at the Bianchi practice range. To really do it right I’d shoot two-gun, running my Production gun in Metallic division as a “second” gun in order to get a warm-up in match conditions. Then shoot the main match, and see how things shake out.

I took a similar approach to that last year with IDPA’s revolver division, and at the end of the year I genuinely felt satisfied with the results. I felt like I could close that chapter of my shooting career satisfied with my performance, prep, and process. I’d like to do that with Bianchi Cup, but one question lingers:

Do I have the patience for that training schedule? Or will, as has happened to me so many times in the past, I get distracted by chasing a range Pokemon, or a USPSA classification, or a Steel Challenge event, etc etc etc. Almost a week of self-reflection hasn’t provided me an answer to that.

I do know this. I love the Bianchi Cup, and I’m optimistic that with the match in the hands of the Civilian Marksmanship Program it will grow back to its former glory as the most prestigious pistol match on earth. As long as I’m in a position to support the match, I’ll continue to sponsor, offer prizes, and try to encourage participation in whatever way I can.