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October 15, 2010 > Bay Area sharpshooters prepare for showdown in the desert

Bay Area sharpshooters prepare for showdown in the desert

By Kevin Yin

Last weekend saw the curtain open on the 2010 Smith & Wesson United States Practical Shooting Association National Handgun Championships. The competition, held in Las Vegas from Saturday, Oct. 9, through Saturday, Oct. 16, will host more than 580 shooters, and the Bay Area will be well represented among that group.

Listed in a press release sent out by the USPSA were 23 shooters from the Bay Area. Shooters compete in one or more of the following selected divisions: Open, Limited-10, Limited, Production and Revolver. Competitors in each division will face 18 separate firing stages over four days of action.

"It's actually described as run-and-gun, where you're simulating drawing a gun, shooting multiple targets, sometimes you have reactive targets," said shooter John Bagakis of Livermore. "The speed of it, it's almost drag racing with guns ... As fast as you can go accurately, is the best way to describe it."

Bagakis will compete in the Revolver division, at which he is graded as a grandmaster, the highest possible proficiency mark. He will be sponsored for the event by Smith & Wesson.

The championships render Bay Area shooters with two distinct opportunities: to showcase their skills in a highly competitive environment, as well as be exposed to some of the best shooters in the country.

"When you go to these matches, everybody shows up," Keith Garcia of San Ramon said. "Every sponsored shooter, a lot of professional shooters for whom that's their job."

Garcia is another Bay Area grandmaster, and will be competing on the Production division's elite "super squad" in Las Vegas.

"You're surrounded by a lot of grandmasters," said Rogers Anderson of Pittsburg. "You get to see just how good these shooters are, just how fast they are."

Bay Area shooters consider the region a hot spot for the sport. One of the most prolific action shooting clubs in Northern California, Richmond Hotshot's, is located in the Bay Area. Bay Area shooters going to the national championships say the level of competition found in local clubs is challenging.

"I have to say, I think we are very fortunate," said Tom Chesterman of Moraga. "We have some of the finest shooters in the nation kicking around the Bay Area here."

"We're one of the better areas in the country as high level competition goes, so I expect our guys will do well," Tom Frenkel of Daly City said. "I don't think we have anyone in running for a championship, but we have half a dozen who will do well.

All of the shooters interviewed stressed the attentiveness to safety that is given by all participants in the sport.

"It's a very save sport, and all walks of life come into it," Anderson said. "We have law enforcement, doctors, lawyers, military, female shooters, we have teenagers shooting ... you would think it's all ego, you know, people walking around in John Wayne mode. Actually, it's a very safe, family-oriented sport."

Included in the group of Bay Area shooters are three from Fremont: Frank Chen, Jenny Chu and Danilo Mabalo, and one from Hayward, Mark Van Zevern. None of the four could be reached for comment.

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