The best shooters in the world centered their crosshairs on the Cody Shooting Complex Aug. 2-4 for the Wyoming Magpul Governor’s Match, the northwest territory championship for the United Shooting Sports League.
Cody resident Bob Hardesty, a first-time shooting competitor, may not be one of the world’s elites or a Governor’s Match champion, but he may have shown some of the most significant improvement over the weekend.
That’s thanks to the firing aid he got from world champion 3-Gun shooter Diane Muller, who was also in town for the event.
“Diana took me out to the range with (her) loaner shotgun and my handgun and my rifle and said, ‘we’re going to practice transitions,’” Hardesty said. “She put me through the drill.”
The next day he quickly loaded his gun in between shooting points, yet struggled when forced to return to his own shotgun, shooting consistently high above his targets.
Muller quipped to Bob’s partner Sharon Swanson, “Well I guess we should have had him practice shooting instead of loading.”
But she was such a commendable teacher her student was able to beat her on one stage in the open division.
“And I heard about it (from her) as soon as it happened,” Hardesty said with a laugh.
Spread out over 12 different stages the match tested competitors’ ability to fire from a variety of distances and terrains.
Stage 7, also known as “Cowboy Hill,” featured an uphill menagerie of targets spaced between small bushes and sage brush.
As the sound of pinging bullets rang out throughout the hills, people may have thought they were in the middle of a war zone, but with a quick scan around it was evident a well-organized, world-class competition was taking place.
“I haven’t heard a person who’s mad except to say, ‘why haven’t I been here before?” organizer Pete Rensing said.
The competition featured seven different divisions: tactical optics, limited, 2X4 open, 2X4 tactical, 2-gun, open and pistol caliber carbine.
A team made up of current and retired law enforcement officers and military veterans also took to the course, led by coach Shawn Streeter, a Sublette County sheriff’s deputy in Pinedale.
“I’m helping them out, but I’m watching,” Streeter said. “Each shooter has something in his tool box here.”
Streeter, thick beard adorning his face, managed his shooters’ every detail, from what they shot with to how they planned. He even removed potential tripping hazards like sharp rocks and sticks from the shooting platforms, what he called, “ankle biters.”
“I throw them out of the way,” Streeter said. “If they blow an ankle that’s game over for them.”
Around mid-afternoon on the second day of the competition the sun’s fury was blazing in full effect, with no respite at the predominantly treeless Cody Shooting Complex. But Streeter’s people didn’t seem to have lost a beat, yelping out “whoos” and casting playful jeers onto their service-member teammates.
But Streeter said he found the Governor’s Match to be much more than your typical weekend competition, a valuable tool for law enforcement training tactics.
“That’s one of the biggest things – (pro shooters) don’t stumble when their gun doesn’t fire, they make it work,” Streeter said. “I’ve seen guys on the range – law enforcement – it blows them up when their gun doesn’t fire.”
As the shooters prepared for their stage, they ran through it, shooting invisible rifles while running between the different shooting points.
“I like the field work because it’s a lot more active than static stuff,” said Jimmy Cataline, a southern California police officer. “I go to two or three of these (shooting competitions) a year and it’s been one of the more fun, well-thought out.”
The Cody Firearms Museum was also on-hand with a few different historic guns like a Jukebox field rifle and a 1944 M1 Carbine military rifle. Jeff Leisy, president of Wyoming Arms, helped organize stages and course design. His locally-based company was a headline sponsors for the 244-person event.
“It’s expanding the tourism,” Leisy said. “That’s a lot of hotels, that’s a lot of meals – all of the things Cody does everyday. There’s a lot of businesses downstream.”
International participants came from far and wide, from places like Saskatchewan and Australia, all for the chance to shoot in Cody.
“It’s my third trip to the states and we’re spending four weeks this time,” said Bill Wood, a resident of southern Australia, “but it’s the first time we’ve had the trip based around a shooting competition.”
The Governor’s Match is already scheduled to return next summer at the Shooting Complex, which anticipates opening a 228-acre expansion in early 2020.