Monday, May 30, 2005

Can the Bianchi Cup Survive?

First, let me say congratulations to Doug Koenig for his sixth consecutive victory at the championships of NRA Action Pistol, the Bianchi Cup, Memorial Day weekend in Columbia, MO. Here are the top three scores — the scores on the four stages, followed by the overall:
1) Doug Koenig 480-48Xs 480-48Xs 480-41Xs 480-48Xs 1920-185Xs
2) Bruce Piatt 480-43Xs 480-46Xs 480-42Xs 480-48Xs 1920-179Xs
3) Mike Voigt 478-45Xs 480-47Xs 480-36Xs 480-48Xs 1918-176Xs
Essentially, the shooters fire 192 rounds in four stages, barricades, falling plates, moving target and practical; high score on each target is an 8-inch 10-ring. Inside the 10-ring is a 4-inch "X" ring. The "Xs" were originally conceived as the tie-breakers, because a perfect score of 1920 was thought to be impossible. For the last few years, a perfect 1920 has been not only possible, but necessary to win.

Doug Koenig's performance in this year's Cup was, for all intents and purposes, as close to perfection as any pistol match ever shot in the United States! It matches and exceeds John Pride's legendary 1920-179Xs in 1995, the first perfect score ever.

He shot perfect scores — 480-48Xs — on three of the four stages, dropping only 7 Xs on the mover! BTW, Koenig was second on the mover; Bruce Piatt dropped one less "X", 6 Xs, on the mover. Only six shooters shot a perfect score on the mover, and other than Koenig and Piatt, all dropped 12 or more Xs.

Both Koenig and Piatt bettered their performances over last year's Cup (2004 scores showed Koenig at 1920-177Xs and Piatt at 1918-181Xs). I assume (my scoresheet isn't broken down by division) high metallic sight goes to Rob Leatham, in 10th place overall, with 1910-153Xs and high woman, also for the sixth time, to Vera Coo in 22nd place overall with 1894-149Xs.

Again, I stand in awe of this level of shooting ability. To say the bar has risen to levels none of us could have anticipated 25 years ago is a vast, vast understatement. When I talked to Doug and Bruce on Thursday, both of them were calm, enthusiastic and for lack of a better word, light-hearted. They seemed to be having a great time as opposed to being locked in this amazing competition.

The real shocker here is Michael Voigt — President of USPSA, former World Champion in IPSC Standard Division competition and multiple time national champion in 3-gun. He's never been known as a "accuracy" shooter — just screaming fast. He changed those perceptions at this match. BTW, Voigt and I were once friends, and we do indeed have problems for which there is probably no solution. Still, this is a breath-taking exhibition of talent on Mike's part, and he has my sincere congratulations.

SOOOOOOOOOOO...after all these accolades, why is the title of the post about whether this match will survive? Again, the numbers tell the story — 147 shooters competed the match, a steady decline over the Cup's 26 years. Sponsorship was simply not NEARLY what it should be for an event of Bianchi's standard. Of the numerous gun magazines, only the NRA's SHOOTING SPORTS USA attended (there may have been "correspodents" from the other mags there; I didn't quiz everyone!). I was there for AMERICAN RIFLEMAN TV, and Jim Scoutten was there for SHOOTING USA.

In short, for the most part the industry gives it a big ole shrug. As a former match director myself, I can't imagine how I could run a match of Bianchi's quality on 150 shooters...I simply could not make the spreadsheet work!

What's the problem (s)? IMHO:
1) The lack of a comprehensive marketing plan for all the shooting sports
2) The lack of marketing/public relations help on a national level
3) The Balkanized landscape of the shooting sports, where the sports routinely snipe at each other over tiny slivers of market share
4) A lack of commitment on the part of the industry to growing the shooting sports
Unless we all start putting pressure on the industry, we're going to continue to see the some of the gold standard matches leach away, and we will all suffer for it!

So congratulations to Doug, Bruce and Mike! And fingers crossed for next year...


Michael Bane said...

AMEN to pvtdick!

It broke my heart when the F.I.P.T.--the first big match I ever shot in back in, like 1980 -- went down.

There is talent out there who KNOWS how to salvage the Bianchi Cup!



Anonymous said...

Michael, SSDD man. For those not included in our usual conversations here is what should be done. STEAL FROM OTHER SUCCESSFUL EVENTS. It's that simple.

First, be like the Steel Challenge which has grown by $100,000 in cash and prizes in two years. "The Mikes" run the best match in shooting sports and have a growing list of industry sponsors to prove it.

Second, hold your match where somebody might actually show up. USPSA holds their matches in the great Megaopolis of Berry, IL. Bianchi is in "Nowhere," MO. How are we supposed to have spectators at matches if they are in small to tiny media markets? Steal from the ESPN Great Outdoor Games an hold your matches in larger cities.

Third, get a real PR plan in place. If you aren't sending out press releases on all your competitors prior to the match and then again on results from the match then nobody knows your match occured except for the 140+ people that shot it. That doesn't grow the sport. Again, steal from ESPN GOG which has an excellent PR machine set up, even if the Mouse doesn't like guns and won't let them shoot on Disney property.

Finally, don't look to industry if all you want is money. Ask for the things that make a difference. Don't know how to do a PR plan or have access to the media lists needed to execute one? Then contact the NSSF. But don't expect them to do YOUR work. Instead ask them to assist you and meet them half-way.

The future of the Bianchi Cup is limited because it is hard to train for since the match cannot be easily replicated at the local range. It is frankly boring since each year the question isn't who will win but how well will Koenig do. And new shooters aren't likely to get started in it if they know nothing about it. It was once a great match but that was then and this is now. Time to change in order to grow or be content to let it die off.

Anonymous said...

FWIW: Doug Koenig shot the first perfect score back in 1990. In fact, a perfect score has been made in all of the Bianchi Cups after this with the exception of Mickey Fowler's win in 1996.

Anonymous said...

Bianchi Cup was my chief concern for a number of years. Having run major matches, around the world, it was never hard to figure out the problem and it goes like this...N..R..A. You cannot run the World Series of action shooting while the regular season is broken. Fix the regular season, get a program in place, and the numbers come back.

The number of action shooters has declined in proportion to the number of entries at the Cup. Check it out and you see I am right and that is no coincidence. Imagine the Super Bowl with no regular season and see what interest that would bring about.

The problem that match faces, and it is a great match, it the organization that runs the event. That organization is interested in politics and money. Shooting is not even in the equation. Give to someone else to run - before it goes away.

Unknown said...

I've shot about ten B-cups back to as far as '85... I found out that there is a lot of favoritism and shenanigans going on,,, I still made the top ten back when 250 shooters attended. Many large sponsors like Barsto left because of crap that people like Fowler pulled and things like tht pissed off many participants. Also, Ray Chapman told me that NO-ONE shoots on the Bianchi Range after May 1rst,,but let some Canadian shooters practice three days before, cause they took a few of his courses. Crap like this pushes people away. I personally dry fired my gun the first time I shot the plates. The RO told me, do it again, and u will be history. Day after, I watched Rob Leatham Clikity clitiky click at the plates and nobody said nothing. Not to mention the upstairs mover sucks and u can't see any rings on the target.. They tell u it doesn't matter, well if it doesn't matter, then why don't u push the super squad up there and let them shoot the upper mover. UNFAIR.. At CAmp Perry, all High MASTERS shoot the course of fire at the same TIME>>> I made some great frines there,, local Missouri boys, who I still treasure, but much of what goes on there, I don't miss. The big boys don't scare me, nor doese the trigger pull rule, or prone thing. It's the BS that u shouldn't have to put up with. Hell, at least now its easier to make the top ten, since there are only 38 high masters shooting,, LOL, LOL, I live in the Northeast where its tough to get practice in, Somewhere else, later in the year, centralized would be good, I got tired of practicing the mover in snow storm. Hope it survives, but don't really care now, probably never will go back,, 80,000 rounds a year practice got to be a job. C-ya

NRABianchiCup said...

Good Morning all,

I know that our comments are a little late, but these comments were just brought to our attention.

The Bianchi Cup, as it is today is not only surviving but growing at full speed!

We here at the NRA have done exactly what some of you have suggested, we contacted former and current competitors, sponsors and most importantly it's Founder - John Bianchi. All of them have joined us as a "Team" to turn this Championship back from the ashes.

We have turned this Championship back the way it started, using the vision of John Bianchi & Ray Chapman. We have a great deal of work to do still, and nothing good ever happens over night, but all of us should realize that behind the National Matches at Camp Perry the Bianchi Cup is the second longest running Pistol Championship in the World. Money can buy a lot of things, but it can't buy history!

This year we were very lucky to have over 200 competitors, $132,000 in Cash support and a total of almost $500,000 in total prizes given out. With the continued support from our Title Sponsor - MidwayUSA, Event sponsors Colt, Safariland, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson and non-shooting industry sponsor Universal Coin & Bullion, and the over 55 other industry sponsors that support the Championship.

If any of you were at the Championship this year, you will have noticed more people, more press, more vendors & more competitors. You continue to witness the best shooters in the World all in one place, Columbia, MO and yes it has been there from the beginning, and again you can't buy History, this Championship, John Bianchi and every competitor that has competed at the Bianchi Cup has joined a small group of people that have become a large piece of shooting history.

We will continue to solicite information to make this Historic Championship grow beyond even John Bianchi's vision, if you have constructive idea's to make it better for all, please let us know, we would love to hear from you.

The Bianchi Cup is back, and it is bigger and better then ever!

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