I was wrong about American Marksman

Last week I wrote a post blasting the new shooting competition American Marksmen for their policy that disqualifies many talented amateur shooters from competing. What I didn’t know at the time was who the creative team behind American Marksman was. As it turns out, the driving force behind American Marksman is my friend and mentor, Michael Bane. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Michael, so I emailed him and invited him to comment on the post. Here’s what he had to say:

Hi kids! Caleb, you know I respect your opinion and your knowledge — hell, you wrote for Marshal and I on DRTV back in the Back When — but I don’t think you see the vision we have here. You know my resume…I’ve been involved in the start-up of USPSA, IDPA and NSSF RIMFIRE CHALLENGE…I’ve shot pretty much every shooting sport, including obscure things like Summer Biathon and odd shotgun sports. My goal here, the goal of everyone at OUTDOOR CHANNEL and Kroenke Sports Entertainment, is to bring a huge number of new people into the shooting sports. I have been involved in American Marksman since Meeting 1, and I have been adamant that it would be a shooting completion…not a slingshot, throwing tomahawks or whatever crap TOP SHOT devolved into. Accordingly, I insisted on bring in Mark Passamaneck as the technical director…Mark and I worked together to create one of the first IDPA clubs in the beginning.

Mark is a top 3-Gun competitor, trainer and match director. He has shot USPSA, IDPA, RIMFIRE CHALLENGE, is the founder of Carbon Arms and a lifelong hunter. He has also served for 2 years as the match director of the NSSF RIMFIRE CHALLENGE World Championships. Frankly, he is one of the finest match directors/match designers in the world today.

While I appreciate the work it takes to succeed at a specific shooting discipline, shooters made the choice to shoot those disciples. My goal — my job, if you will — is to “grow the pie,” change the baseline for the shooting sports. My job is not to reward people who worked hard to succeed in sports in which there is no money.

After years of ratings, I am in the unique position of having a “data base” of what people are interested in watching. I can tell you categorically they are NOT interested in “professional” shooters. Not even a little tiny bit. In fact, with a few notable exceptions (ahem…the Miculek family), if I put a professional shooter on the screen, I can hear remotes clicking across the country.

The reason there is no money in “professional” shooting is there are not enough people in the sport to support a professional cadre in any true sense of the word. If you got into the shooting sports for any reasons other than fun, the camaraderie and the personal challenge, with the added bonus of learning a skill that could contribute to saving your life, you are in the wrong sport. IF you want more money in shooting, get more people in shooting…which is, parenthetically, what I’ve been trying to do for decades.

I sat down with Mike Foley, the new Prez of USPSA, this morning to see what we can do to move that sport forward. I am in regular contact with Joyce Wilson at IDPA and NSSF on the Rimfire. This season on SHOOTING GALLERY we’re featuring IDPA, 3-Gun and part of the Precision Rifle Series.

My producing partners Tim Cremin (GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA; THE BEST DEFENSE) and John Carter ( SHOOTING GALLERY and SHOOTOUT LANE) and I will be in charge of the televised finale for AMERICAN MARKMAN…we have more experience than anyone else in the world on producing shooting sports programming. Period. It will be spectacular.

And it will be amatuer.

Your friend,

Michael B

I took the time to read that through and digest it, and I have to say that it changed my opinion on American Marksman. Yes, I still think that Master class and GM shooters should be allowed to compete, but now I understand what they’re trying to do. I think that the ultimate goal of creating an accessible and interesting shooting competition that puts the lens on true amateurs has value. What’s especially interesting to me is Michael’s data backed observation that with very few exceptions, the gun owning public doesn’t care about professional shooters. It’s one of those things that you can easily forget about when you’re deep into the competition shooting world. Outside of the Miculeks, Dave Sevigny, and Rob Leatham, the professional shooting community is basically unknown to the general gun owning populace.

To wrap things up, I was wrong about American Marksman. I wish all the best luck to Michael and his crew with American Marksman. I’ll follow along as the show progresses. I still think if you’re an A-class USPSA shooter and unclassed in IDPA, you should enter! Take a swing at 50k!

American Marksman doesn’t want any actual marksmen to compete

Have you heard of American Marksman? It’s a new shooting competition where amateur shooters have a chance to win $50,000 in an interesting competition. You can read the official rules here; the idea is local shooters can qualify at their home range, then if they shoot well enough they can move up to the national competition, which will be televised and could win $50,000. Seems pretty cool, right? Except for this one little part about eligibility:

If you have ever placed in the top 10%, in any category, at any of the events listed below, you are not eligible to participate in American Marksman.

Amateur Trapshooting Association – AIM Grand Championships
CMP – CMP National Trophy Rifle and Pistol Matches
GSSF – Any GSSF event
ICORE – ICORE National Championship
IDPA – Indoor National Championship, US National Championship
International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association – IHMSA World Championship
IPSC National Championship – Any
Military – Any Branch that picks its member based on marksmanship ability (ex – Navy Seal Sniper)
National Bench rest Shooters Association – Long Range Nationals, SR Score Nationals, LR Score Nationals, Group Nationals
National Skeet Shooting Association – World Skeet Championships
National Sporting Clays Association – National Sporting Clays Championship
NRA – National Matches at Camp Perry, National Small-bore Championship, Collegiate Rifle National Championship,
Collegiate Pistol National Championship, Precision Pistol Competition (National Police Shooting Championships), Action
Shooting National Championship
NSSF Rim fire Challenge – World Championship
Outlaw 3 Gun – Any Outlaw 3 Gun match
Precision Rifle Series – PRS Championship Match
SASS – National Championships Winter Range, Mounted Shooting National Championships
Steel Challenge Shooting Association – SCSA World Championship
US Clay Target Association – USA Shooting National Championship
USPSA National Championships – Multi-Gun Nationals, Single Stack Nationals, Revolver Nationals, Production Nationals, Carry
Optic Nationals, Limited Nationals, Open/Limited 10 Nationals

There’s another piece of their eligibility requirements as well that makes me shake my head:

This tour is built on the idea that amateur shooters should have the chance to compete, improve and win. The guidelines below describe how American Marksman classifies an amateur shooter:
Does not have any level of sponsorship (under a shooting contract of any kind, receive product, cash or match entries from a third party)
Has never placed in the top 10% of national level or higher competitive shooting event in any division or category.
Has never been ranked in the top 10% in any national competitive shooting organizations classification system.
Is not a member of a shooting team that is selected based on shooting skill.

So, it’s pretty obvious that they don’t want any professional or sponsored shooters playing their game, which I guess is fine. I mean, if I was going to have a competition to crown someone “the American Marksman” I’d probably want the best shooters in the country to try out for it, but whatever, it’s not my 50 grand.

So you’re probably think “well, I’m not a sponsored shooter, but I’m a USPSA master, so I could probably dust this competition and make some sick cash!” Yeah, not so fast, bucko. My friend Thomas from Precision Response had that exact thought, so he sent American Marksman an email. Here’s the response he received:

Hi Thomas,

Based on the sponsorship criteria provided me, you are correct. You would still be eligible.

As for the second part of your question, you are also correct. Anyone who is a GM or M in USPSA, or an M or EX in IDPA is NOT eligible for this competition. (emphasis added)

Please let me know if you have any other questions!

Best of luck!

You read that right. No IDPA Masters or Experts, and no USPSA GMs or Masters. That…well let’s be honest, that tells me everything I need to know about this competition, and what it says is they’re not interested in getting good shooters. It also tells me that they don’t know anything about the skill disparity between an IDPA Expert and a USPSA Master. I mean take me for example, at my best in USPSA when I was shooting regularly and training regularly I was a high A-class shooter, and I’m an IDPA Master.

Now, here’s the thing. You know what I want to see? I know there are plenty of talented A-class USPSA shooters that aren’t classified in IDPA, and if that’s the case I want all you people to register for this competition and wreck shop. This is actually your chance to make some money, so I want you to get out there and kick ass. Because that’s the only thing that will lend any sort of legitimacy to this farce of a competition. Because by intentionally excluding the most talented shooters in the nation, they’ve created a competition where the winner gets the best participation trophy ever. I know for a fact I won’t watch it when it gets to TV, because I don’t want to see a bunch nobodies compete for a bunch of money, I want to see the best shooters in the world duke it out. Since American Marksman isn’t interested in showing us that, I want all you A-class sonsabitches to get out and there and register for this. Wreck their curve!