The clanging started before sunup as competitors took aim at the steel targets in the function fire bay at the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park. That clanging continued through registration and into the evening and would be repeated each morning and afternoon of the competition as thousands of rounds flew down range in preparation for the USPSA Limited Nationals.
The SUSSP is located outside Hurricane and is the first time that it has hosted the Nationals though Match Director Ken Nelson has guided the facility through previous Area 1 Championships, the USPSA Back to Back Nationals would be their largest event. For four years the event had been hosted at the Desert Sportsman’s Club in Las Vegas and the cooler weather in Utah was a welcome change, though the range is prone to significant wind in the afternoon.
Typically the Limited and Production Division have been paired together but this year USPSA President, Phil Strader wanted a separate Nationals for each Division, this resulted in a packed schedule and sadly left a lot of vacant slots for the Limited match. The benefit of a stand-alone Nationals is a wealth of talent at the upper echelons of the sport; Leatham, Bragg, Sevigny, Vogel, Jonasson, Norris, Sweeney, Coley, Jarrett, Smith, Murdock, Miguez, Strader and Avery would be battling out in one of the most hotly contested Nationals in recent history.
The competition was spread over three days and three shooting areas, and the Limited Super Squad started their match in the third of these which consisted of nine stages squeezed onto six berms. The lessons of multi-stage berms seems to have been lost from last year as significant delays occurred particularly on Stages 16 & 17, as the former consisted of two strings.
Nils Jonasson has never won a Championship while shooting on the Super Squad and earlier this year he had shot with the top squad at the Single Stack Nationals and the match did not go well for him, especially as he was nursing an injury at the time. For this match Nils was in the thick of it again, going head to head with some of the biggest names in the sport. It did not start well for Jonasson on Stages 15 & 16 where he suffered from two misses and two no-shoots dropping him down to 78% of the match leader.
“I had just finished shooting the IDPA Nationals the day before the Limited match started, so the only practice I had leading up to this match was with my 9mm M2i custom pistol shooting 131 Power Factor Atlanta Arms Ammunition. It took the first two stages for me to acclimate to the 174 PF 40. Once that happened everything came together for me and I shot a very clean match." - Nils Jonasson
With a field as strong as this one, a start like that would be an excellent excuse to run away. But Nils started his comeback immediately, winning Stage 17 by a couple of points over Dave Sevigny and as the day progressed, so did Nils... Narrowing the gap between him and the leaders on every stage throughout the day. It was an impressive performance and by the end of that first day, Jonasson was back in contention, less than 3% behind Sevigny who had taken the match lead on Stage 22.
The match leader changed five times on that first day. Top contenders BJ Norris, Phil Strader, Lesgar Murdock and Todd Jarrett were competing on other squads which sometimes made it difficult to keep track of the leaders.
There were no range divas on the Men’s Limited Super Squad. As soon as the scoring began the members of this group were out on the stage, resetting & painting steel and taping the targets. They kept the match moving smoothly and in the process took the opportunity to show their integrity, such as Nils pointing out a low call on one of Bob Vogel’s targets that, once resolved earned Vogel an extra point.
Shane Coley of the AMU had started out strong on that first day but later faltered and was unable to make any headway on such a talented squad of competitors. He would need to regain his focus for the subsequent Open match for any chance of a Nationals title. Coley’s team-mate, Matt Sweeney had a better second day, moving steadily up through the field culminating with a win on Stage 7.
Sweeney would earn the High Military Title with a seventy point margin over Coley and Colorado resident Jeff Morgan took the High Law Enforcement trophy finishing 24th overall.
‘Corridor of Doom’ was anything but doom for Nils Jonasson, who tore through it in under sixteen seconds dropping just two points along the way, this big stage win over Shannon Smith put Jonasson in charge of the match for the first time, he would hold this lead for the remainder of the contest. Phil Strader held the lead for three consecutive stages, Sevigny held it for two.
Nils would hold that lead for eight consecutive stages!
"I've reached the point where it's actually beneficial to know where I'm sitting, allowing me to adjust how I'll attack the day. I knew there were 25 points to be made up, and I shot very well the second day and finished with a 30 point lead.”- Nils Jonasson
Against such notable contenders as these, it was a remarkable performance but almost came to a halt on the final day of shooting...
And, in the afternoon of the third day, the wind blew..., and blew and blew. The US flags on every berm were straining to break free of their poles as the dust was being whipped up from the ground and into people’s eyes, cameras, magazines and guns. It was unpleasant for the competitors and doubly so for the range crew who had to wipe down the iPads every few minutes so they could see the screens.
There seemed to be no end to it.
I asked Nils about the range conditions; "The dust didn't make it any easier that's for sure. Ken Nelson does an excellent job running these larger matches, such as Nationals and Area 1 which was also held here. I think it's a little harder to get people here compared to Las Vegas, but the range is much more suited for a pistol nationals."
For Nils Jonasson the wheels were about to fall off, or rather the safety was;
Nils explained what happened; "The sportsmanship we have in USPSA really shined through on stage 12. During my load and make ready, the left side of my thumb safety sheared off, leaving me with no safety and no way to finish the stage let alone the match. I told the RO I had to fix the problem and proceeded to the safety area. Before I knew it, Rob Leatham, Dave Sevigny, Ron Avery, Travis Tomasie and Blake Miguez where there offering me parts of their backup guns. Thanks guys!!"
It was a fine example of the integrity of these competitors as they helped out their fellow competitor - and match leader - to ensure that he was able to continue in the competition.
Manny Bragg took his forth stage win here, narrowing the gap on Nils by 5 points, but Sevigny took the penultimate stage skipping over Manny to snag second place.
“Stage 12 was my least favorite stage, not only because my right knee is jacked up but because of the disadvantage some shooters have with going prone or kneeling during the middle of a stage through an extremely low port. It really detracts from the pure shooting skill tests that this sport should be about." - Nils Jonasson
Onwards to Stage 8 and Manny tore it down finishing over a second faster than any of the top five. It could have been quicker as he had to wait for a slow calm-shell to activate, he still took nine points from Nils, but Jonasson’s lead was unassailable, that steady progression of stage performances that began on the first day had ensured his victory.
He had won his National Title against one the the toughest fields in recent memory and he had won it convincingly.