Generation HC Member: Jacob “Jaco” Hetherington

“Generation HC,” or the “High Caliber Generation” is what I’ve begun calling young people I’ve come into contact with in the world of shooting sports.  These “kids” are extremely focused, mature, and disciplined – but they have a lot of fun, as well.

You can read about previous Gen HC members Allie Barrett and Leslie Cernik below, but now it’s time to hear from our first male shooter, Jacob “Jaco” Hetherington, a 14 year-old IDPA and USPSA/Steel Challenge competitor from Prescott, Arizona.  And Jacob doesn’t just compete in these challenges, he wins.  He has achieved Master class in Stock Service Pistol in IDPA, “A” class in single stack, and Master class in Production in USPSA.

He told me of his love for all types of shooting, and of his family, by saying, “My family is really supportive.  I have an older sister, Madeline, 16, and a younger brother, Craig, who is 11.  My dad shoots with me sometimes, but it is mostly only me.  My mom doesn’t shoot anymore, but when she did she was a good dove hunter.

My sister doesn’t shoot competitively, but loves to shoot, and is really good with bolt-action rifles.  She also shot shotgun clays with me when we were younger for two years.  My younger brother loves to shoot also, and is a beast with an AR 15!  He shoots with me in steel challenge rarely.

My entire family hunts and has been successful.  My brother, though, holds the record for longest hunting shot, 346 yard perfect vital shot on his first deer.”

As with many young competitive shooters, Jacob’s entry into the world of shooting began early.

“I shot my first gun when I was two years old.  My dad had a 10/22 on a bench rest with a red dot sight and I shot frozen gallon jugs.  I was pretty much born into shooting. When I was nine, I started dry-fire practicing with my mom’s Glock 19, and when I was ten and a half, I started shooting competitive pistol. I shot an IDPA match and was hooked.”

Jacob’s location in Prescott is practically ideal for any shooter, as he is within close proximity to some wonderful shooting venues.

“I live 30 minutes from my local shooting range (Whispering Long Tree Range/Prescott Action Shooters) and shoot almost every weekend.  They hold a sectional match for USPSA called the “NAZC” (Northern Arizona Classic).  I live two hours from PRGC (Phoenix Rod And Gun Club), which is an IDPA range, and they hold a sectional IDPA match and the Arizona State Championships.  I also live two hours from Rio Salado Sportsman Club, which is a USPSA club.  It is also the local range of Rob Leatham, Nils Jonasson, and Cody McKenna, who are all [Grand Master] shooters and always try to help me out.  All in all, I would not want to live anywhere else.”

I asked Jacob the same questions I asked the ladies, and here are his answers:

Q.  What three life lessons have you learned from shooting?

A.  “I have learned to take extreme amounts of pressure, and make it disappear. I am more mature, because I have more responsibility, and I have high confidence, because you can’t doubt yourself when you shoot.”

Q.  How has shooting played a part in how you relate to your peers?

A.  “My friends think my shooting [is] awesome.  Most of them don’t really know about competitive shooting, but I try to teach them.”

Q.  What is your favorite type of shooting competition?

A.  “I don’t have a favorite type of shooting, but USPSA and IDPA are the most common types I shoot. All shooting is great, so it is hard to choose one. I also hope to shoot 3-gun someday.”

Q.  What is your favorite firearm?

A.  “I have shot tons of firearms.  I have shot M&P’s, Springfield XD’s, Ruger SR9’s and 1911’s and shot very well with them, but right now my Glock 34 is my favorite. I am happy with it, but I look forward to competing with other guns, too.”

Q.  How has your schooling affected your shooting “career,” if at all?

A.  “Well, I think shooting has made me a better person, overall.  It has helped my attitude toward school. I am a 4.0 student, and it is hard to keep [that level] when I leave for major matches. Homework holds back my practice, but I have to do it.”

Q.  What is it like to compete against people older than yourself?

A.  “Well, when I first started out, I thought that I was at a super disadvantage, but I now realize that it was just an excuse. I have won many matches against adults. I only have two years of USPSA experience, so I don’t have as much experience and confidence as older shooters. I enjoy learning from better shooters, and take what I learn from everybody and combine it with what already works for me.

I also like it when I meet a person that thinks that I am not a good shooter because of my age, and I blow their mind, and I get instant respect.”

Q.  What would you like to tell new shooters – young people who are just getting interested in shooting?

A.  “I would tell them that if you want to be good, you need to dry fire; and that reading books on competitive shooting is a good idea. Also, that you are going to hit bumps in the road, but if you are determined you will bounce back up.

As Rob Leatham said to me “Shooting is simple, aim shoot aim shoot move aim shoot,” and I would add that shooting is 95% mental, in my opinion. Also, major matches really help you improve fast.”

Q.  How do you see yourself involved in shooting 20 years from now?

A.  “I see myself as a great shooter that is really trying to help others win matches. I would like to be more of a contributor to the sport of shooting, than just a competitor. I hope I have a good reputation as a good shooter, and [that I’m] very helpful to my sponsors.”

As for his future career plans, Jacob said he hopes to get into a military college, or to get a scholarship to another college/university; but that if those plans do not work out, he will enlist in the military and then use the GI bill to get his college degree.  He plans to major in law enforcement and become a Police Officer, then a SWAT officer.

“That is my plan, but it is always changing; and if the military and law enforcement aren’t for me, then I want to go into the hunting guide business.”

From the sound of it, Jacob should have no problem achieving whatever goal he sets his sights on.

You can read about our previous Gen HC’s by clicking on:  “Allie Cat” Barrett, or Leslie Cernik, aka Western Rose.  I know you will enjoy meeting all of our High Caliber Generation members, and we wish Jacob all the best in his future endeavors!

Interview: “Allie Cat” Barrett, A Top Junior Shooter

As stated in a previous blog post, I have become very impressed with the young people I’ve met through the world of shooting sports lately, the ones I call the “High Caliber Generation.”  These young shooters seem to be extremely mature, focused, dedicated, and disciplined – and I know they have a lot of fun, as well.

Recently, I read more about Allie “Allie Cat” Barrett, a 15 year-old, Stockton, Missouri, high school sophomore, who is on her way to becoming one of the top female shooters in the country. Allie placed 3rd in the Ladies 2011 World Champion Ruger Rimfire Competition and came in 4th overall in the Junior Competition. And besides her many other accomplishments (and there are many), she is an NRA Certified Apprentice Pistol Instructor and helps her parents (Tim and Heather, along with her brother, Andy) at their family-owned shooting range, Midwest Tactical Firearms Academy.

During the 2011 season, Allie was sponsored by Sportsman Paradise Gun Shop, MTFA Range, and recently, Volquartsen Customs in .22 rimfire competitions. She is also sponsored by Hodgdon Powders, Dan Burwell Gunsmithing, Strader Solutions, Rudy Project Shooting Eyewear, and Zero Bullet Company.

I asked Allie some questions recently, and thought I would share her answers with you from her own pen. I think you will see why she qualifies as a member of “Generation HC.”

Q. What three life lessons have you learned from shooting?

A. Three life lessons would be to try your hardest, even when it might not work out; just because you’re smaller than the rest, it doesn’t mean you can’t win; and live life to your expectations.

Q. How has shooting played a part in how you relate to your peers?

A. Shooting does get in the way of a social life, but its way worth it in the end. My friends support me in everything I do.

Q. What is your favorite type of shooting competition?

A. My favorite type of competition is USPSA [United States Practical Shooting Association] and Ruger Rimfire.

Q. What are your favorite firearms?

A. My favorite firearms are my Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Pro that I shoot for USPSA, Steel Challenge, IDPA [International Defensive Pistol Association], and other centerfire matches. I love my Volquartsen firearms. They are pretty sweet! Volquartsen has been an amazing sponsor, and they have given me awesome support.

Q. How has school affected your shooting career, if at all?

A. Shooting does get in the way of some school activities sometimes, but I always seem to work everything out. School does come first, but I always catch myself day dreaming about shooting matches when I’m in class. 🙂 On some weekends I feel the need to get out and practice, but sometimes I can’t, because I have a mountain of homework, or my mom and dad need help on our family’s gun range teaching CCW or junior shooting lessons.

Q. What is it like to compete (and win) against people older than yourself?

A. I think it’s fun shooting against adult shooters. It challenges me to shoot the best I can and makes me want to win even more. I get more satisfaction winning High Lady Overall than High Junior.

Q. What would you like to tell new shooters – young people that are just getting interested in shooting?

A. I tell new shooters that come out to work with me, to just try their best and just have fun. I emphasize that safety comes first, that they need to learn the fundamentals of shooting first. Speed comes later, with experience.

Q. How do you see yourself involved in shooting 20 years from now?

A. The world is full of opportunities, and if you have the drive and the right attitude you can accomplish anything. In 20 years, I will be 35; I see myself following in my Dad’s footsteps and going into Law Enforcement, be on a SWAT Team, and still competing in USPSA competitions. Firearms will always be a part of my life. I am very thankful for the 2nd Amendment. It seems that kids my age don’t even realize what freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and how some people want to try and take away those freedoms. I plan on living my life to the fullest and taking it just like shooting a match – one stage at a time.

* Photos courtesy of Allie Barrett

I’ve Got A Thing For The Ping!

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that [ping]…”

Oh, I got the ping, and now I’ve got a thing for Steel Challenge shooting!  Coming in at #1 among only two women who used a centerfire pistol with iron sights (9mm, no scope), I might not have swept the field with my shooting prowess, but I definitely had fun and found out I really like shooting this event.

I set out recently on a quest to try all of the different styles of handgun sports, and am now placing Steel Challenge at the top, probably because, unlike Bullseye shooting, I can score relatively well with an off-the-shelf gun and no modifications.  Of course, trigger modifications may come into play as I progress with my Steel Challenge skills, but you can shoot well and enjoy the sport with a standard, factory firearm.

My firearm of choice for this match was a Glock 34, which my awesome husband bought specifically for me to use at these events.  It has a long barrel, which makes for less kick and more accuracy, and the trigger can be easily modified to get those rounds off much faster.  Right now, I’m focused more on accuracy, so I’m not worried about speed as much; but then, without the speed, you won’t do well in the rankings, so the two go hand in hand.

Steel Challenge is an event where the shooter stands in one place, in a square drawn on the ground, in fact, and shoots at targets set up at various distances.  The targets are generally ten-inch steel plates (although some plates are even larger).  When said steel plates are struck by the beautiful brass of a bullet, they make a lovely “ping,” sounding a bit like wind chimes, and letting you know you hit your mark.

At first glance, the course looks really easy, since the target stands are set at pretty reasonable distances, some even only a few yards away.  “Oh, that’s going to be easy,” I thought.  And while it’s not hard, there are several factors that come into play to make this sport, as its name implies, a challenge.

Anyone with test anxiety may have a difficult time with Steel Challenge just in the fact that everyone else is watching you shoot.  Unlike a shooting event where everyone is shooting at the same time, in Steel Challenge, only one shooter is shooting each stage, so all the other shooters in that squad are waiting patiently for their turn to shoot – and are watching everything you do.  That can be a bit un-nerving for those of us who are new and maybe a bit self-conscious.  And I was nervous.  I didn’t properly seat my magazine twice and it fell out on the ground, which has never happened to me before; but I gathered myself together and pressed on, trying to put all of those observers out of my mind.

Another challenge for me was that since I was using a 9mm, I had to draw from a holster, which I wasn’t used to at that time.  Only centerfire guns are drawn from a holster; rimfire shooters start from the ready position and do not use one.  Most of my shooting time has been straight target shooting, where my gun can be laid on the table in front of me when it is not in use.  And even at the Bullseye Match, the guns are laid on the table, so drawing and shooting from a holster – heck, even wearing one – was new to me.  I felt like I was at the OK Corral, my hand hovering in mid-air near my holster, twitching, waiting for the buzzer to allow me to try to find the gun and draw it quickly and smoothly – which sometimes actually happened :0)

Also, it’s not the distance of the targets that makes it difficult to shoot the stages, it’s more the transitioning between them – trying to hit every target as quickly as possible, moving on to the next target, and remembering to shoot the stop plate last.  Each stage has one target that is the “stop plate,” which must be hit only at the end.  If it is hit before any of the others, there is a three-second penalty added to every unhit target – and seconds really matter in this game; in fact, tenths and even hundredths of seconds matter.  Most stages can be shot in three seconds, or less, by those more experienced.  Others of us, though, only dream about those times.

The Steel Challenge course I participated in consisted of five stages, each with four or five targets set up in various configurations and at various distances.  Each shooter enters the shooting area (think batter’s box) and when the buzzer goes off, shoots through the course as quickly and accurately as possible.  Then they show clear and/or reholster their gun.  The same shooter shoots each course five times in a row, the highest score is thrown out, and the remaining scores are totaled.  Lowest score wins.

Steel Challenge has many categories for shooters, which makes it easy to find your niche.  The first division is Rimfire: any pistol firing .22 Long Rifle ammo, with either iron sights or optics.  The next division is Centerfire:  any pistol firing 9mm/.38 special ammo, or larger.  Under the Centerfire division are several different categories, such as:  Open (all legal firearms are allowed, scope or iron sights); Iron Sight (any pistol without optics); Production (any double action or safe action pistol on the USPSA Production gun list); Optic Revolver, Iron Sight Revolver; Cowboy Single Action; Steel Master (competitors with the lowest score in a combination of three categories); and Long Guns.

And while all shooters compete for overall placement in a match, according to the Steel Challenge Shooting Association website, participants may also choose to compete for category-specific awards.  Those categories are:  Lady, Law Enforcement, Military, Pre-Teen (under 13), Junior (13-17), Senior (55-64), and Super Senior (65 and older).  Basically, if you can’t find your niche in Steel Challenge shooting, you’re just not looking hard enough.

So now I’m searching the websites and calendars for my next opportunity to shoot this fun sport.  Next time, I will not allow myself to become as flustered with the audience and the time factor, will slow it down just a notch, improve my accuracy, enter both the Iron Sight and the Lady categories, and listen for that lovely ping when my brass finds its mark.  Come join me!