Practical shooting is a sport of speed, accuracy and power though we may want to add reliability to that triumvirate since malfunctions played such a large part in the 2014 Single Stack Nationals, which were once again held at the Pike Adams Sportsmen's Alliance (PASA) Park in Barry, Illinois.
Last year the match was decided at the chronograph when Dave Sevigny was bumped into Minor by the tiniest margin, he had no issues this year but Manny Bragg suffered that fate instead; It is not impossible to win this contest shooting Minor, Dave almost did it last year but he was still thirty-six points behind the winner, but it's a mountain to climb, not unlike the dreaded 'hill' at PASA which can take the wind out of even the fittest competitor.
Todd Jarrett was the first to suffer from a malfunction on the very first stage of the match when, after missing a target, he had to perform a standing reload that locked up his gun so much that he had to stop, leaving the last target with a single hole instead of the obligatory two. Already down 30% of the leader, Jarrett would be playing 'catch-up' for the rest of the match and despite some impressive stage runs, that single miss and another malfunction later on Stage 5 where his magazine would not drop essentially ended his chances.
A standing reload for Nils Jonasson on Stage 2 dropped him down the leaderboard nearly seven percent behind Dave Sevigny who had settled into the match with two solid runs on the first stages. After Manny Bragg received the bad news about the velocity of his rounds at the chronograph it was onwards to Stage 3 where Nils took control of the match for the first time after beating top Junior, Jacob Hetherington by five points. Jacob would have an incredible match, winning Stage 10 outright and finishing in the top ten on another six stages! It was in impressive performance that pushed Alex Larche into second place in the Junior Category though Alex had four stages in the top ten. The future of our sport is looking good with Junior shooters such as these two.
Alex Larche was joined on his squad by Taurus team-mate, Jessie Duff competing in only her second Single Stack Nationals she is also the defending champion, they were joined by Lisa Munson and TD Roe. Julie Golob was a no-show this year, as was Maggie Reese who was competing in a 3-Gun contest. Julie's Smith & Wesson team-mate Randi Rogers had competed on Thursday along with previous champion Sara Dunivin, both shot in separate squads in much cooler temperatures than those enjoyed on Saturday.
Of the top four women, Sara shot the cleanest match, suffering only a single miss but her times were no match for Jessie who despite more peripheral hits was able to consistently beat Sara on eight of the fourteen stages performing particularly well on the steel targets which is no surprise considering Jessie's achievements in the Steel Challenge.
While Jessie was running away with the Ladies match, things were getting tighter on the Super Squad; A miss on the first of two back-to-back speed shoots cost Jonasson the match lead and opened the door to an unlikely leader, Phil Strader. Another solid run by the USPSA President on Stage 5 allowed him to keep that lead despite a stage win for Jonasson. Sevigny dropped some extra shots on the steel while Leatham suffered from a time-consuming malfunction that cost him over 32 stage points when his gun jammed after the first shot!
Usually malfunctions and misses can be made up on the larger field courses that make up the majority of stages at many USPSA matches. The Single Stack Nationals is different, there are more shorter and medium courses which limits the opportunity for competitors to garner a slew of points on an exceptional run, the smallest mistake at this competition can essentially end the match, unless every other top competitor makes a similar mistake elsewhere. Leatham's malfunction may have cost him any chance at winning, he would have to count on a mistake by Jonasson to allow him to make up those lost points.
The match had shifted after these stages, from this point on only two people would hold the lead, Nils Jonasson and Phil Strader. Nils took the lead on Stages 6 and 7, and then the wheels fell off as Nils suffered two misses and a no-shoot on Stage 8. Here the gun started loaded on a table, with the competitor facing up range, seated in a chair. There were only three targets requiring two hits each, a mandatory reload and then re-engage, weak-hand only. The issue for Nils was the center target exposed only the 'A' zone and was surrounded by no-shoots. A fast time allowed him to escape with 21 points but it handed the lead once again back to Strader though Jonasson redeemed a few of those points with a blinding run on Stage 9. It also bought Rob Leatham back into contention.
Nils took the lead again on Stage 10 where he finished just behind Jacob Hetherington, and followed it with another win on the standards where he dropped only 18 points, only narrowly beating Mike Seeklander.
While the men were headed over to the Standards, Lisa and Jessie were tackling the all-steel Stage 12 and Jessie tore it up, beating all the other women and about 300 other competitors as well, indeed she was only one second slower than Dave Sevigny.
As the Super Squad moved on to the final three stages, Strader dropped away from the second place spot, and Leatham began to challenge for the lead. Rob took a stack of points from Nils on the all steel stage for a win, and then they headed over to the 'memory' stage.
A variety of shooting positions gave a lot of options to the competitors and the entire squad took full advantage of the walkthrough period to figure out the best plan. Both Rob and Nils approached the stage differently, Nils shot one target from further away and thus avoided stopping at one of the openings which seemed a better plan, Leatham struggled with a reload as he moved from right to left across the stage and that extra stop for one of the targets cost Leatham valuable time, while some extra shots on the steel left Sevigny with a standing reload that ended any chance of a comeback.
Jessie and Lisa finished their match on Stages 1 & 2 by which time Jessie's lead was insurmountable and it would be her second consecutive win at this Championship, beating Sara Dunivin by a comfortable margin. Lisa Munson finished in third place and the only one of the top three that was shooting Major.
Todd Jarrett took the final stage of the match and did so convincingly as Nils suffered a miss and was nearly three seconds behind Jarrett who must have been lamenting those two malfunctions which almost certainly cost him a shot at the championship. Nils Jonasson's performance had earned him his second Single Stack Championship, Rob Leatham had to settle for second place less than twenty points back, Phil Strader was third and Dave Sevigny finished in fourth.