We knew that Smith & Wesson’s world-class shooter of everything imaginable, Jerry Miculek, was going to make yet another attempt at breaking a world record at SHOT Show’s Media Day at the Range. The A1F team of NRA Country’s Morgan Mills, our own Guns & Gear Editor Frank Winn, and I planned our schedule accordingly; we wanted a front-row seat to see America’s greatest living shooter in action live, instead of on YouTube.
We arrived at the Smith & Wesson pavilion early and immediately bumped into Dennis Willing, director of NRA Competitive Shooting. Dennis is a quadruple distinguished shooter in High Power Rifle, Conventional Pistol, Police Combat Revolver, and Police Combat Pistol; a fixture at Camp Perry matches, he came out of retirement to head NRA’s program. After 30 seconds of greeting, he asked for a favor: “I need a back-up timer for Jerry’s world record attempt.”
Let’s see … I get to stand 12 inches away from Miculek as he goes for the gold in exchange for holding up a timer. Frankly, I would have held up a Wal-Mart.
Miculek was going to shoot one of Smith & Wesson’s new competition AR-15s in a course of fire of his own creation, one he named STL (Share The Love). It consists of three USPSA metric targets in a V-shape. Jerry would shoot four rounds in the body A of the center target, followed by 2 rounds in that target’s head A, then two rounds in each of the flanking targets. I haven’t shot this arrangement, but I would consider anything under 5 seconds a personal triumph. Jerry would be attempting to break his own record of 1.76 seconds.
It was a cold and windy morning at the Boulder Rifle and Pistol Club; we had manipulated our conversations into the sunlight all morning. It wasn’t freezing, but our trigger fingers were not at their optimum settings. “He’s shot thousands of rounds getting ready for this,” his wife, Kay, told me. “But not in this cold.”
But you wouldn’t have known it from watching Miculek bound from one foot to the other, bantering with the crowd and greeting old friends like nothing special was going to be required of him in a few minutes. As Dennis and Jerry set targets, a small army of videographers, photographers and gunparazzi recorded his every move. By the time he stepped up to the fault line, you couldn’t move six inches without bumping into a video camera, GoPro or smartphone.
This is Jerry’s world; he revels in the challenge. The more public, the better. His act is inclusive; he and the crowd are in this together. As he prepared to take a couple of dry-fire practice rounds, he took an unfamiliar, overhand grip on the handguard. Kay told Frank that recently, “He came into the house like a little kid, saying ‘I found a new way to grip the gun!’” The world’s greatest living shooter is still experimenting.
“OK, I’m going to take a little dry-fire practice.” And it was over—so fast I couldn’t follow his muzzle. I literally had to slow down Frank’s cell phone video later before I could follow his target order. I can’t move my rifle muzzle that fast without pressing the trigger, no matter how I hold the handguard.
Dennis and I flanked Jerry, squeezing past cameras on both sides. “Shooter Ready; Stand byyyy …” Beep! 1.64 seconds; Jerry had bettered himself on the first run.
But that wouldn’t be enough fun. As long as we were all gathered together, Jerry wanted to move further into uncharted territory.
Jerry took run after run at the record, each one on the jagged edge, but each one fell a mite short, either by miss, timing or just stopping short of 10 rounds. Jerry announced splits to the crowd, explaining what he needed to improve. Standing inches away, I marveled at how he had time to force the rifle at the last target; that new grip may acquire some followers.
After about a dozen tries, Jerry ripped one that felt right. He stepped over the fault line, counting holes in targets; as he stepped back, he relaxed. Dennis stepped forward to confirm, and the crowd erupted as he gave the thumbs-up signal. Time: 1.59 seconds. My work here was done.
Beaming, Jerry graciously accepted congratulations and stood for interviews. Teammate Julie Golob wrapped up the show with a rousing recap; she makes a terrific ringmaster. The crowd began to disperse, moving on to other attractions of SHOT’s Media Day. But I suspect they all knew that, whatever else was happening that day, it would all be a little downhill from here.