Keith Garcia Overtakes AMU Champion on Final Stage of Match.
By Chad Adams
ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida –-(Ammoland.com)- Keith Garcia knows how to start a 3-gun season.
For the third consecutive year, Garcia has kicked off the 3-Gun Nation season with an amazing run against the very best the sport has to offer.
In 2010 and 2011, Garcia survived the 3-Gun Nation Shoot-Off at Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun, knocking off top names such as Mike Voigt, Taran Butler and Daniel Horner, taking home two cash payouts totaling $10,000. But this year was something different.
Garcia posted a time of 30.20 seconds on the sixth and final stage, outlasting AMU’s Daniel Horner by a mere 0.3 seconds to pick up the match win at the 2012 3GN Pro Series Tour at the Ancient City Shooting Range here March 31.
To mark the inaugural 3GN Pro Series, where 64 of the country’s top 3-gunners will battle in Tactical Optics for the entire season, 3GN enlisted pro shooter Rob Romero as the new Director of Competition. Under Romero’s direction, 3GN unveiled a new match format, designed specifically to showcase the top talent in the game in wide-open, challenging stages, built for television that provided a mind-boggling array of choices for the shooters.
“You guys hit a home run with the format,” Garcia said. “The option of shooting different guns was brilliant. Each stage had its challenges but they were all fair.”
Competitors were forced to form their own route through each of the event’s first five stages, and the stage breakdowns were as varied as the competitors themselves. With shooter’s choice on targets—square steel taken by shot or pistol, round targets, including paper, with rifle or pistol, and clay birds by shot only—figuring out what gun to shoot when, and the route taken to get there, proved extremely challenging for the field.
Midway through the one-day match, severe weather moved into the area, prompting a cease fire on all ranges. However, after a full reset, and in some cases rebuild of stages, shooting continued in the afternoon and the entire field was able to get in the first five of six stages slated for competition. However, the field was cut to only the top ten for the sixth and final stage, which provided immense drama.
Before a crowd of competitors and spectators, the top 10 commenced their walk through as rain poured down heavily for the second time of the day, leaving more than a few shooters less than enthusiastic about shooting in the downpour.
“Sitting in second was a good feeling,” said Garcia, who trailed Horner by 3.4 seconds heading into the final stage of the straight time (plus penalties) scored event. “Looking at the rain and the potential for lightning did not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. As the rain cleared I got my head straight and was ready to shoot.”
The weather broke with just enough available light left in the day, and the top 10 proceeded to put on a show, highlighted by every spectator knowing exactly how fast each shooter had to run the stage via the 3GN Big Board, which showed each competitor’s current time along with the time needed to take over first place.
Stage six was shot in the prescribed order of rifle, pistol, shotgun, with competitors taking on 10-inch rifle steel, along with six paper targets on alternating sides of the stage. Ten pistol targets, broken into groups of five on each side of the lateral fault lines preceded nine clay targets at the end. In all, the shooters covered nearly 50 yards, shooting their way to each dump barrel and ending with a furious shotgun flurry. Stage 6 represented run-‘n’-gun 3-gun at its finest.
Patrick Kelley set the tone. Qualifying in tenth place, Kelley had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, and his shooting reflected his situation perfectly, as Kelley was fast on the rifle, solid on the pistol, and then finished with a wickedly fast shotgun run, with Kelley running completely in the red. He dropped two birds and had to reload from bolt lock, but the sheer speed of his run was one of the highlights of the day. As such, Kelley’s time of 33.07—after what might have been as much as a five-second reload—enabled him to jump two slots and finish eighth.
Clint Upchurch, James Casanova and Kalani Laker all hooked up with sub-30-second raw times, with Laker posting the first sub-four minute final event score at 3:59.70, establishing the early lead. Sitting in third place after five stages, Taran Butler needed 32.33 to move into first place. Butler delivered with a clean run of 31.88, bumping Laker from the top slot as the tension built. But it was Keith Garcia, in second place after five stages that stepped to the line with a legitimate chance of overtaking Horner. And he looked to a 3-gun legend for a little advice on how just to approach this new format.
“I asked my good friend Bennie Cooley, ‘Should I shoot balls out, conservative or my normal speed?’” Garcia said. “Bennie said ‘Shoot your normal game and it will be fast enough.’ I took his advice and shot it at my speed.”
Garcia’s speed was more than fast enough. In what turned out to be the second fastest time posted on stage 6, Garcia effectively pushed hard and delivered, despite the rain, the crowd and in front of 3GN cameras. Like Superstition Shoot-Offs before, Garcia was ice as he stepped into the box.
“No concern at all for the crowd,” Garcia said. “When the time comes to shoot I step into the role of shooter and focus on the task at hand. You may have noticed I like attention so when people watch I get fired up!”
But despite Garcia’s solid run, Daniel Horner, the country’s best all-around 3-gun competitor, remained. Garcia had ensured Horner would need a solid time, but one well within his wheelhouse—a time of 33.62 was needed to bump Garcia and win the match. To put that in perspective, five of the previous nine shooters had bettered that time. And even though light was low, and fading fast, most in attendance surely thought Horner would deliver as he nearly always does.
“Daniel has the potential to burn down any stage,” Garcia said. “I knew there was a very good chance he would run a great stage. I already had $3K in the bank, so it was a win-win for me.”
With darkness falling, Horner went to work. He was smooth through the rifle paper before taking the rifle steel from a closer position at the dump bucket where he needed a few pick-up shots to hit the 10-inch round steel. From there, he made solid work with the pistol steel, again with a few pick-up shots before finally transitioning to the shotgun. In what appeared to be a slight bobble loading an extra shotshell into the magazine tube, Horner was uncharacteristically measured on his shotgun run—a run that appeared safe and extremely close to the time needed for the win. All eyes turned to the 3GN Big Board as the R.O. reported the score.
Ultimately, the Big Board lit up with a time of 33.89, putting Horner 0.3 seconds off the pace, giving Garcia an electrifying win—his third 3GN victory, second only to Horner in career 3GN wins. For their performances, Garcia picked up a check for $5,000 from Stag Arms, while Horner received a cash payout of $3,000 from Stag Arms. Butler’s third place finish netted the final Stag Arms prize—$2,000.
Though he wasn't thrilled to shoot in pouring rain, Garcia was all smiles following his come-from-behind win.
The remaining competitors divided a cash pot of $16,000, paid from slots four through 40. All total, $26,000 in cash prizes were awarded at Ancient City. A select number of sponsor prizes were also up for grabs, with one grand prize awarded to each stage winner. For winning stages 1 and 5, Taran Butler received a Safariland gift certificate for $500 and a Stag Arms 3G Competition rifle. For winning stages 3 and 4, Daniel Horner received a Ruger SR40 Compact and a Samson Manufacturing 3-Gun Upgrade Kit. For his run on stage 6, James Casanova won an FNH USA Five-Seven pistol. And for winning stage 2, Keith Garcia received a prototype 3-gun rifle from DoubleStar.
The next event on the FNH USA 3-Gun Nation Pro Series Tour, Presented by Federal Premium, takes place April 20-22 in Austin, Texas at the Larue Tactical Texas State Multi-Gun Championships. Along with 3GN Pro Series point, 3GN Semi-Pro, Amateur, Lady and Junior divisions will also earn points in Texas.
3GN Pro Series Ancient City Results
Top 10 Overall
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 Stage 6 Overall
1 Garcia Keith 49.37 38.63 27.53 41.53 46.66 30.2 03:53.9
2 Horner Daniel 46.94 48.61 23.64 36.03 45.07 33.89 03:54.2
3 Butler Taran 44.72 43.68 33.01 41.08 44.88 31.88 03:59.2
4 Laker Kalani 54.46 40.05 24.11 43.03 45.99 32.07 03:59.7
5 Casanova James 51.18 46.33 26.23 46.36 46.2 24.36 04:00.7
6 Popplewell Adam 49.38 39.83 26.89 42.8 51.04 35.75 04:05.7
7 Upchurch Clint 50.05 44.83 29.09 41.22 51.14 31.9 04:08.2
8 Kelley Patrick 52.18 46.68 27.75 45.28 50.73 33.07 04:15.7
9 Burkett Matthew 52.93 43.51 28.31 45.96 48.86 36.26 04:15.8
10 Hanish Mark 48.59 46.15 27.02 46.52 46.61 41.61 04:16.5
COMPLETE RESULTS …