DPMS Shooter James Darst Wins 3GN Shoot-Off, $5,000
FORT BENNING, Ga. – He threw his hands up in celebration. He sighed in relief. And all the while, he wore a smile that seemed to warm up an otherwise frigid winter day.
Such was the range of emotions displayed as DPMS’ James Darst won three breathtaking match-ups on his way to the most closely contested Shoot-Off to date on the FNH USA 3-Gun Nation Tour, Presented by SureFire. The win netted the veteran 3-gunner a check for $5,000, courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).
“NSSF is proud to support 3-Gun Nation,” said Chris Dolnack, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, NSSF.
“Three-gun competition is quickly gaining popularity with new and experienced shooters nationwide and 3-Gun Nation is the perfect vehicle to promote this fast-growing sport. We hope our partnership with 3-Gun Nation only will further its success in captivating a broad audience with the fun and excitement of the shooting sports.”
Darst’s remarkable run began with a first-round match-up against Noveske’s Rob Romero, winner of the 3GN Shoot-Off following FNH Midwest 3-Gun in May. At the horn, Romero exploded out of the start box and was first to the gun table, cleaning the rifle rack and building an early lead he maintained through shotgun and into the final pistol plate rack. But Romero stumbled, just slightly, missing on a pistol plate; and that’s when Darst came roaring on by. Darst went one-for-one on the pistol rack, before missing the stop plate once and then knocking it down just a fraction of a second before Romero—an incredible finish.
In the second round, it was more of the same, as Darst faced 3GN newcomer Greg Jordan, who qualified out of Tactical Optics. This time, it was Darst who raced out to the early lead as Jordan struggled on the rifle. However, Darst dropped one shot on the shotgun as Jordan pushed the pace and ran the shotgun portion cleanly. Darst dropped one plate on the pistol rack as Jordan continued to close the gap; but Darst had just enough of a lead, as he knocked over his stop plate a mere half-second before Jordan. The finish left Darst visibly spent as he walked off the firing line before a roaring crowd.
With two narrow escapes under his belt, Darst stepped to the line for the final run against Taran Butler. Racing even to the gun table, Darst opened up an early lead by cleaning the rifle plates first. But then Butler accelerated through an amazing shotgun run, narrowing the lead to an easy closing distance going into the final pistol rack. Butler, known as one of the fastest pistol shooters in the country, with several USPSA and IDPA titles to his credit, was now in contention.
But Darst, known more for his rifle skills than his pistol shooting, as he had in his two earlier match-ups, laid down a phenomenal pistol run of his own, missing only one plate as Butler narrowed the gap. Darst transitioned to the stop plate first, a half-second ahead of Butler, who ripped four successive shots at his own stop plate in an effort to pound it past Darst’s already moving plate. But in the end, it was Darst’s plate that fell first, giving the Texan his first 3GN victory.
Darst’s first win on the 3GN Tour couldn’t have come at a better time: the 3GN Shoot-Off, co-branded with Fort Benning 3-Gun Challenge’s already successful shoot-off venue, saw an impressive prize table. Not only did Darst walk away with a Lancer lower for placing second overall in the Open division, but his Shoot-Off performance netted him a DPMS 3G1 rifle fitted with a Leupold 1.1-8X CQBSS, along with a SureFire Muzzle Brake and Micro Fast-Attach Suppressor—all in addition to the $5,000 check from the NSSF.
Butler, who also claimed the rifle package for finishing second, qualified for his record sixth 3GN Shoot-Off by winning the Tactical Optics division in the Fort Benning 3-Gun Challenge. His road to the finals included a first-round win over Bryan Ray, winner of the Heavy Metal division, and a second-round win over Robby Johnson, which provided a bit a drama.
On their first run, Johnson jumped out to an early lead on rifle, cruised through shotgun, and was first to the stop plate. But upon inspection of the targets, Johnson failed to break one of the clay birds, thereby voiding his run. But Butler, assuming he was defeated, stopped midway through the pistol rack, not finishing the course of fire. Range Master Daniel Horner and Match Director Aaron Hampton consulted, and a re-shoot was granted. And on the second run, it was all Butler, who used his second chance to advance to the final round of the 3GN Shoot-Off for a record third time.
In another twist, Tactical Irons winner Kurt Miller, who had been battling the flu all weekend, decided he was too ill to perform in the FB3G-3GN Shoot-Off. So he turned over his slot to Katie Harris, an up-and-coming 14-year-old junior shooter from Georgia. Harris, who drew Johnson in the first round, was impressive in her 3GN debut, racing first to the rifle and building a small, early lead over the former U.S. AMU soldier. But Johnson prevailed, setting up his second-round match-up with Butler.
In the consolation rounds, Romero knocked off Open division winner Clint Upchurch, and Bryan Ray defeated Harris, to win a pair of HK P30L 9 mm pistols. For advancing to the semi-finals, Johnson and Jordan took home a pair of 12-gauge FNH USA SLP shotguns.
The eight-person 3GN Shoot-Off is a format like no other, where competitors take on steel rifle, shotgun and pistol targets in a race to the stop plate. To level the playing field, each competitor uses the same firearms. At the Fort Benning 3-Gun Challenge, those firearms included: DPMS 3G1 rifles topped with Leupold 1.1-8X CQBSS riflescopes and fitted with SureFire Muzzle Brakes and Micro Suppressors; shotguns were FNH USA SLP’s; and pistols used were HK P30L’s.
The next stop on the FNH USA 3-Gun Nation Tour, Presented by SureFire, is Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun, March 25-27, 2011, in Mesa, Arizona. Superstition will mark the third qualifying event on the 2011 3GN Tour, before the following points matches: Blue Ridge Mountain 3-Gun, MGM Ironman, JP Enterprises Rocky Mountain 3-Gun, Adams Arms Ozark 3-Gun Championship, and USPSA Multi-Gun Nationals. The Tour will conclude following the FNH USA-3-Gun Nation Championship, which is set for Nov. 10-12, in Glengary, W.V. As in 2010, competitors will be vying for enough points to qualify for the 3GN Championship, where the winner will take home $25,000, courtesy of Leupold Tactical Optics. Multi-gun, or 3-gun, is a unique sport within the discipline known as practical shooting. Considered the fastest growing segment within the shooting sports, 3-gun challenges competitors with rifle, pistol and shotgun, maneuvering through unique stages of fire as fast as their skill will allow.
The National 3-Gun Association, through media properties “3-Gun Nation Television,” and 3GunNation.com, was formed with one mission: to promote practical shooting by shining a light on amateur and professional shooters alike, as well as the guns, gear and lifestyle that define the high-octane sport of 3-gun competition. Bringing never-before-seen cash payouts to the table, 3-Gun Nation is quite simply changing the game. 3 Guns. One Champion.
3-Gun Nation Television airs Mondays at 7:30 AM EST and Thursdays at 3 PM EST on Versus through December. Beginning July 2011, 3GN moves to Sunday mornings at 7:30 EST and Thursdays at 10:30 AM EST. For more information, visit www.3GunNation.com.