The 2012 MidwayUSA & NRA Bianchi Cup was another great match. Over 200 shooters came to Columbia, Missouri, for a week of shooting, practicing and, most importantly, spending time with fellow shooters. Because of this match’s great history, there are threads that connect each season to the next: friends see each other once a year, connected by their shared experience in the challenging courses of fire; there are banquets, social events, laughter and tears; national championships are won and lost on the weight of a single trigger pull; and many shooters discover their true character and skills. All of this is set against the backdrop of one of the nation’s most significant matches.
For those unfamiliar with the Bianchi Cup, it can seem very simple at first. It is the national championship for NRA Action Pistol—a unique shooting sport sanctioned by the NRA, which combines elements of USPSA, bullseye and PPC shooting into one sport. The Cup itself consists of four stages, each worth a maximum of 480 points. The target is a cardboard tombstone divided into four scoring zones. The best zone is a 4-inch circle at the center worth 10 points and an X-ring hit. Next best is the 8-inch ten-ring and a 10-inch circle worth 8 points. The remainder of the target is worth 5 points. The rules are simple: the best score wins, and if there is a tie, the number of x-hits breaks the tie. All strings of fire on each stage are shot against par times, giving the shooter a fixed amount of time to get their rounds on target. But this only appears to be simple. In the words of BJ Norris, current World Steel Challenge champion, USPSA grandmaster and Bianchi Cup competitor, the “Bianchi Cup is very technical and extremely difficult.”
The game has three divisions, each competing for their own title. The Open division is a full-on anything-goes gun race, in which optics, wings, compensators and so forth are permitted. The Metallic division does not permit optics, wings or compensators, and your firearm’s trigger pull must be more than 2.5 pounds. The Production division is designed for production firearms, does not permit single-action-only guns such as 1911s, and requires that your firearm’s trigger pull be over 3.5 pounds. Each year, the Bianchi Cup also crowns a national Ladies, Junior and Senior champion.
The rules, regulations and scoring create the conditions for bringing out what is truly great about the Bianchi Cup: The people. Without the hundreds of shooters who attend this match, the site would just be another empty range waiting to be converted into another useless golf course for boring people to whack little balls on.
B.J. Norris shot his first Bianchi Cup in 2009. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he related, “because even though I’d been told about the match and how hard it was, I wasn’t really prepared back then for the level of accuracy involved.” In 2012, B.J.
returned to the Cup after taking a year off to pursue other shooting goals. While he’s one of the best shooters on the planet, no one expected him to challenge for the Production division’s title. At the 2012 match, he put together a solid performance that, on the second day, had many considering him the dark horse. Then on the final day, he had a rough match that took his prospects of winning. However, B.J. brought home a top-10 finish that was in of itself an excellent example of training and perseverance—but there was even more. On the second day of practice, it was obvious that B.J.’s wheelgun had timing and trigger issues and wasn’t consistently putting rounds where they needed to be. One of the shooters at the match, a renowned revolver gunsmith, helped fix B.J.’s gun—not for profit, nor any reason other than simple kindness. This is what makes the Bianchi Cup great.