Crimson Trace

June 1, 2011

Between The Berms

The Wheelgun Nation is gathering in San Luis Obispo for this weekend's 20th Annual Smith & Wesson International Revolver Championship. And why not? With 107 sponsors and upwards of $200,000 in cash and prizes, it's the single biggest event on the revolver competition calendar with 251 shooters signed up as of Sunday. In talking to match officials this weekend, I learned that the structure and schedule of the match means there is still room to enter, and they'll even be able to take walk-up entries. Not bad if you're a local shooter or just a short, cheap commuter flight away from San Luis Obispo, California.

The world's greatest revolver shooter, Jerry Miculek looks to win his 19th IRC. Photo: Yamil Sued
But, if you do decide to jump into the match, here's what you're up against. Jerry Miculek - maybe you've heard of him - is the umpteen-time defending champ in the Open division. He's shot the match 18 times and won 18 times. But, if you think this is your year and that Miculek is ripe for defeat, ICORE's got an open slot just waiting for you. Good luck, Don Quixote.

Also in the Open division, Ron Williamson is going for the 3-peat among the Senior+ shooters while Janae Sarabia is poised to make it two in a row in the Junior Open contest.

In Limited, John Bagakis will be going for his 4th consecutive title. Elliot Aysen is going for his 3rd consecutive Senior Limited title. Molly Smith is looking to repeat as the Junior Limited champ - and probably take a run at Women's defending champ, Annette Aysen who's going for a 4-peat.

In the second year of the Classic division (called Retro last year) Craig Buckland is going for a second win while John Maxwell is looking to repeat as the Senior+ Classic champ.

14-year-old Janae Sarabia is hoping to beat the boss and stop a Julie Golob 3-peat. Photo: Yamil Sued
However, I think the most interesting match-up to watch at this year's IRC is in the Women's Open division where Julie Golob, the captain of Team S&W and 2-time defending champ, will face her teammate, the 14-year-old Janae Sarabia. Last year Sarabia was beating 'her boss' until the Far & Near standards stage - which is the make or break stage in the match - when Golob's extensive championship experience paid off. What will happen this year? It's hard to say but, while Golob has a knack for winning (a lot), Sarabia is fast, and only getting faster. She's an up-and-coming shooter that will be moving into the women's super squad very soon...something Golob was counting on when she recruited Sarabia for Team S&W.

Texstralian Mark Itzstein, seen here talking with OWDN publisher Jim Shepherd, will be one of the many shooters with a thick Aussie accent at the IRC.
It's like an Australian invasion... With 21 wheelgunners from Down Under at this year's IRC it really does seem that America's immigration policies could use an overhaul. Actually, the Australians are a big part of ICORE and hosting a regional championship later this year back home in Brisbane. Their participation here puts the 'international' in IRC and is warmly welcomed by ICORE. In addition to the 21 visiting Australians, there's also the lone Texstralian - an Australian living in Texas - Mark Itzstein, who shoots for the Secure Firearm Products team. There's definitely an immigration joke to be made at Mark's expense but considering he's a pretty big guy I'll stay away from that one.

Shortly after arriving at the San Luis Obispo airport junior shooter Jesse Wills was put to work painting stages at the IRC. Photo: Wheelgun Nation
If the 107 sponsors, the big money prize table, the opportunity to hang with the Aussies and the chance to get creamed by Jerry Miculek weren't enough to get you interested in the match, consider that the IRC is a 'friends and family' kind of event. The friends part is obvious as wheelgunners are a pretty tight community. Many of the shooters at the IRC have been competing there for several years and have built close bonds with their fellow wheelgun devotees. The family aspect can be found everywhere you look on the range. There are husband and wife duos competing together. Brothers shooting together. Dads shooting with their daughters and entire family units squadded together. If you go to the match without your own family you'll likely find one there. That's exactly what's happening to Jesse Wills - half of the famed Wills Brothers. Jesse, whose younger brother Lee just competed in the USPSA Single Stack Nationals where he picked up a new sponsor (EGW), made the solo trip to San Luis Obispo on Monday. As a 16-year-old junior shooter on his own he has to rely on others to help him out at the IRC, and before making the decision to send her son out to the match alone, Karla Wills had to make sure he'd be taken care of. Not a problem for the Wheelgun Nation. An email here, a phone call there, and the next thing you know a whole support network springs up. Close family friend (and top shooter) Cliff Walsh is acting as Jesse's guardian. Art and Janet Leach of ICORE are giving Jesse a place to stay. Sue Irish is arranging to squad Jesse with her and the rest of the Irish clan. And Apex Tactical's Scott Folk is handling airport pick-up and shuttle duties, while being his usual entertaining self. In mid-April Karla Wills was worried about imposing on strangers. Now she's got an extended family on the opposite side of the country. Of course, all that support comes with a price as word came yesterday afternoon that Jesse has been drafted into the painting work detail, prepping stages for the match... Welcome to San Luis Obispo. Now grab a paint brush and get to work!

Good luck to all those competing in the 20th Annual Smith & Wesson International Revolver Championship. For those of you looking to follow the action from home, you can find updates from the match on Facebook on the ICORE page, on the Wheelgun Nation page, over at Apex Tactical's page and on the Hogue Action Pistol Range page. Final results will be posted on the ICORE website early next week.

- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network

Got shooting sports news? Send us an email at info@shootingwire.com.