Penn State Student Wins Collegiate National Pistol Championship
Not all heroes wear capes, and not all Collegiate National Champions are born on a court, field, or rink. This past July, Penn State junior Brian Hughes won the Collegiate National Pistol Championship while competing at NRA Outdoor National Matches. He was ranked Third Junior Nationally and is currently the two-time Indoor Junior National Champion. Hughes credits his interest and love for shooting to his dad.
“My father used to compete on the Villanova pistol team, and was shooting for almost all his life before that,” Hughes said. Once he became a freshman in high school, he started competing in his local pistol league at the nearby fish and game club.
Although Hughes has had immense success, he trains a surprisingly small amount. There is no facility where he can train while at Penn State, so he is forced to wait until he goes to the New York State match later in the year. In most instances, it’s the first time he’s shot in a few months. While training at school can be a challenge, he makes up for that time during breaks and the summer months. Hughes has a portable turning target system that he sets to different times, and practices firing a differing amount of rounds based on the time set.
“If I want to practice rapid fire, I turn the timer to ten seconds and practice putting five shots on the paper as accurately as possible during the ten seconds the target is facing me,” Hughes said. A training session can last an hour or two, but they’re never as long as Hughes would like.
The National Championship that he competed in this past summer consisted of three days and well over 700 competitors. Each day, the competitors were forced to shoot with a different pistol, as well as in slow-fire, timed, and rapid-fire rounds. In total, each participant completed 90 shots, with ten shots per target on the three different modes of fire.
“Once it was time to shoot, we would place our guns on the bench, go through our pre-shooting routines and once the command was given then the match began,” Hughes said.
He started the competition shaky, struggling with his sight in the rain without a cover. However, his impressive comeback from last place is what made his victory that much sweeter. He described the win as an amazing feeling and something he will chase again this summer.
Hughes attributes a small part of his success to playing first-person shooter games like Halo or Call of Duty, but the majority of his success, he says, is due to his dad. “I have had some of the best coaching from the beginning, most of which came from my father. I learned the proper techniques and strategies early on.”
Although his supporters have high aspirations for his future, like joining the Olympic Team, Hughes wants to continue enjoying shooting for fun. “After all, the reason we compete is to get some sort of joy out of whatever we’re competing in, and a lot of my joy comes from competing side-by-side against my dad.”