Mar 30, 2011, 11:18 AM EDT
MESA, Ariz. – An impromptu victory lap of high-fives and celebration electrified an already raucous crowd, providing a fitting snapshot that captured one competitor’s impact on the 3-Gun Nation Shoot-Off—lightning can, indeed, strike twice.
Practical Shooting Academy’s Keith Garcia defeated Taran Butler in the final round of the FNH USA 3-Gun Nation Shoot-Off, Presented by SureFire, following the Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun here March 27, taking home $5,000 courtesy of Gun Vault.
Garcia, who won the inaugural 3GN Shoot-Off at the same venue last year, became the first competitor to defend a Shoot-Off victory, as Event 3 on the 2011 3GN Tour made its first repeat stop in Mesa. And to do so, Garcia was forced to navigate through an immensely difficult field, one of four shooters to qualify out of Tactical Optics, which boasted nearly 200 competitors alone.
Garcia then drew Kelly Neal, out of Heavy Metal, a potentially exciting match-up that fell short as Neal’s shotgun ran empty with a target still standing, allowing Garcia to cruise through the rifle and pistol arrays to the win. However, the tension amped up considerably in the semi-finals when Garcia stepped to the line against arguably the most dominant shooter in the game today, U.S. AMU’s Daniel Horner.
In that match-up, each competitor laid down tremendously fast shotgun runs to pull virtually even heading into the rifle arrays, where Garcia pulled a full plate lead going into pistol. However, Garcia seemingly struggled to disengage the external safety, allowing Horner to blow past through the pistol speed plates.
Normally, that would have sealed Garcia’s fate. But in a rare loss of precision, Horner missed his last plate as Garcia roared past to the stop plate. Ultimately, the match-up was a full scale roller coaster ride of emotion for both competitors, leaving Horner stunned and Garcia intensely animated.
Meanwhile, Butler’s first round match-up paired him against Clint Upchurch, who has quite suddenly cemented himself as the man to beat in Open with his third consecutive major victory. Butler defeated Upchurch before knocking out Heavy Metal Optics’ Adam Popplewell in an exciting semi-final match-up, setting up the showdown with Garcia.
And in the finals, after battling even through the shotgun arrays, it was Butler who jumped out to the first lead on the rifle plates, gaining a two-plate advantage and seemingly headed for his second 3GN win before he hung up on one rifle plate. That was all the opening Garcia needed, as he settled in, cleaned the rifle plate rack, and outlasted Butler through the pistol poppers to the stop plate and the victory.
In the remaining first round match-ups, Popplewell cruised past Heavy Metal winner Jeff Gross, who was making his 3GN debut, while Horner cruised to an easy opening-round victory over Chris Sechiatano. The entire Shoot-Off field, from 2nd through 8th place, received cash payouts totaling $2,400, courtesy of AP Custom.
Preceding the main event, 3-Gun Nation also debuted a new format with the inaugural 3-Gun Nation Team Event, presented by Brownells. Taking the top overall Lady and Junior competitors as Team captains, and then drawing at random to complete two, three-person teams, the first 3GN Team Event featured Team Kay Miculek (Lady) versus Team Katie Harris (Junior).
Harris, who also took top Lady honors in Tactical Optics, remarkably drew two other women, FNH USA’s Dianna Liedorff and Tasha Hanish, to complete her team. Meanwhile, Team Kay was filled out with Ernie Beckwith and Chris Temple.
In the Team Event, it was all Team Katie, as the team captain sprinted out to the first position and laid down a smoking shotgun run to give her team the early lead. Hanish maintained a slight edge over Miculek through the rifle, before Liedorff cruised through the pistol arrays to give Team Katie the win. For their performance, each member of Team Katie received a check for $500 from Brownells, while Team Kay was presented with three Brownells 3-Gun Bags.
The eight-person 3GN Shoot-Off is a format like no other, where competitors take on reactive shotgun, rifle and pistol targets in a race to the stop plate. To level the playing field, contestants fired Ruger SR9 semi-automatic pistols, Stag Arms AR-15 rifles and FNH USA SCAR 16s, SLP shotguns and FNX-9 semi-automatic pistols. Each rifle was fitted with SureFire Muzzle Brakes and Suppressors, as well as Leupold Mark 4 HAMR optics. Each firearm ran ammunition provided by Federal Premium.
The next stop on the FNH USA 3-Gun nation Tour, Presented by SureFire, is during the DPMS-Bushnell Blue Ridge Mountain 3-Gun, April 29-May 1. The next Shoot-Off venue is the MGM Ironman, June 5-11, in Parma, Idaho.