The 2011 Steel Challenge is in the books, the winners have received their prizes, and now the next “big” Steel Match will be the Nationals in Titusville, FL in 2012. This was my very first Steel Challenge, and it was fitting that my first official Steel Challenge World Championship would be the last one that will be held in Piru, California…which is only an hour or so from where I grew up in “lovely” Lake Los Angeles, California. The 2011 Steel Challenge for me was a great match filled with tough lessons, great shooting, and a lot of skill development to work on for next year.
One of the great things about Steel Challenge is seeing all the different guns that shooters are using in the various divisions. For example, at left you have Randi Rogers from Team Glock running a Smith & Wesson Model 41 with a bull barrel and compensator in Rimfire Open division. Or BJ Norris’ M&P in Iron Sight division.
I competed in two divisions using the same gun, a Springfield Armory XD(M) 5.25 Competition, the newest member in the XD(M) family. Running the XD(M) in IDPA Enhanced Service Pistol, I finished fourth in ESP, missing the top three by just a few seconds, and eighth in Production. For my first World Championship, a Top 5 and a Top 10 are two finishes I’ll definitely take, and that continues my streak at matches this year of not finishing out of the Top 10 in my division. Now, a lot of people are wondering how the XD(M) ran, because it’s a fairly new gun to the market and has a lot of improvements over its brothers in the XD line. I have to say that it ran like a boss, digesting almost 2000 rounds in the dusty California environment without a single complaint over the week was down there. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t want to like the XD(M) coming in to the match, but by the end of it I’d definitely recommend it to anyone interested in a proper competition gun. With the addition of the 5.25 to their lineup, Springfield Armory joins the ranks of Glock and Smith & Wesson by having a competition ready polymer gun out of the box.
The highlight of the match for me was Outer Limits. This stage has always been difficult for me, as I’ve struggled with moving from one box to the other and getting hits on all the plates. I spent a lot of time at Steel Challenge with my buddy BJ Norris, and listening to his advice I was able to take three seconds (a huge amount of time) off my Outer Limits run. Something as simple as not breaking my grip on the gun and starting in a different position took me from an average run of 7.5 seconds to running in the low 6s high 5s. In ESP, I finished 3rd place on Outer Limits. The only ESP shooters that were ahead of me were Rob Leatham and Taran Butler, two of the top shooters in the world, period. I’ll take a third place finish to those guys.
At the end of the week, I’d fired a bunch of rounds, improved my personal best score at Steel Challenge, and generally had a great time shooting. Taking home a Top 5 and a Top 10 in my first Steel Challenge World Championship is a great feeling, and I’m looking forward to heading to Florida next year to try again.
Huge thanks to my sponsors for supporting this match, and of course to Cheaper Than Dirt! I had numerous people come up to me at the match thanking Cheaper Than Dirt! for their support of the shooting sports.