Airman sets sights on shooting championship

  • Published
  • By Navy Seaman Ted Green
  • U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs
You are in the bathtub. You hear a sound. Suddenly you jump up and run to the nightstand. There you grab your pistol and immediately begin firing.

Does this sound like a scene out of a crime drama, or a night at home gone very wrong? No. It is just another day at the range for Maj. Roger Sherman.

Major Sherman, a space operations officer in the U.S. Strategic Command’s global operations directorate, has captured the title of top military shooter in the production division for stock handguns at the U.S. Practical Shooting Association National Championships for the past two years. But the title is only a stepping stone to what Major Sherman said he hopes to accomplish next -- the title of World Champion Practical Shooter.

The major, who has been competing in the sport for more than four years, said he hopes to compete on the U.S. team in the World Championship XIV in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from Sept. 21 to 28. The four-person team is selected from the best competitors in the country to represent the United States in the championship, which takes place every three years.

“Last year, and this year, I’ve been focusing only on [the production division] to try to make the U.S. team,” Major Sherman said. “[In] the production division, you’re supposed to just buy a gun at your local gun shop, a holster, magazines and ammo, and you can participate.”

Practical shooting is a situational-based action-shooting event where competitors engage targets in a scenario of the course designer’s choosing. The course is never the same, and that is what Major Sherman said he loves about the sport.

“I’ve tried very little with the other shooting disciplines. It’s just a little too boring. This sport is just more athletically inclined. It’s sort of like soccer with handguns,” he said.

The 34 year-old New Orleans native also enjoys the variety practical shooting offers.

“You’re not just standing in one place. You’re running; you’re jumping over things; you’re crawling -- you know it’s never simple. They make it fairly challenging. So I like that aspect of it because there’s some problem-solving involved -- something that you might actually see in the real world,” he said.

At the 2002 World Championship, located in South Africa, Major Sherman started out in the cockpit of a jet fighter. His weapon was on the dashboard of the jet and on the start signal, he grabbed the gun, loaded it and began shooting. Another competition required shooters to start in a bathtub and retrieve their weapons from a dresser drawer. He said in a typical course varies in time from 1.5 to 30 seconds, and he will shoot anywhere from six to 32 rounds.

Even with numerous equipment problems, Major Sherman still placed 59th out of 1,200 competitors.

Since then, he has been honing his skills in preparation for a second shot.

“The shooting [in the World Championship] is a lot more difficult than what we would shoot here in the U.S.,” he said. “The targets are much smaller, and the scoring areas are much more difficult to hit.

Major Sherman said he knows the sacrifices this will require. Competing and being a father to his 2-year-old son, Reid, and a husband to wife, Miranda, have posed some challenges.

“We’re still negotiating and trying to figure out how much is enough, depending on what my goals are,” he said.

“[In 2002] when I was getting ready for the world championships, I was shooting from as soon as the sun crested over the horizon ‘till eight o’clock in the morning,” Major Sherman said. “Then I worked from eight in the morning ‘till six that night; (I) went back to the range until dark, (then) went home, cleaned guns, loaded ‘till about midnight, and then started all over the next day,” he said.

Major Sherman said his interest in shooting came naturally. The son of a 26-year veteran peace officer, he was comfortable with guns and shooting, but had never competed in anything structured. He had been reading about practical shooting, then called combat shooting, since the mid-1980s, but never had the opportunity to compete until he was assigned to Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., in 1999. There, he had a job that allowed him to pursue the sport and has not stopped since.

“I was hooked from the moment I shot it,” he said.

A shooting scenario can be broken into pieces, Major Sherman said. For example, competitors will always have to grab the pistol, whether it be from a holster or inside a drawer. This can be practiced without firing the weapon. He said he also puts himself through a series of drills designed to bring his speed up and make his actions smoother.

“One of the things I’m working on is trying to get rid of the conscious thought and just get to the unconscious part of the sport. You’re much faster when you’re just relaxed and let it happen,” he said.

All of this is important because scoring in practical shooting covers three areas: accuracy, power and speed. Major Sherman said he is already fast, but he would like to improve his accuracy.

Major Sherman also uses the competitions he attends as another form of practice. At the 2004 U.S. Practical Shooting Association Handgun Nationals from Sept. 12 to 18 in Barry, Ill., he competed against many of the same shooters he will encounter at the World Championship.

“This was my best finish to date. I was seventh overall, and then became the U.S. National Military Champion for the second time in a row,” Major Sherman said. There were 596 shooters at the competition.

Major Sherman said shooting at nationals helped him on several different levels.

“One, I was actually shooting at the same time as the best shooters and was able to see how they operate under pressure,” he said. “Having the best in the business watch you shoot and make comments, it showed me how I could stack up under pressure.”

Despite the tennis elbow he has gotten from reloading the more than 75,000 rounds he fires each year, Major Sherman said he cannot say enough good things about the sport.

“I would tell anybody interested in any sort of handgun shooting to come out and try this. You will never have so much fun with a handgun. I have never shot (in) a sport that can be so challenging and just so much fun.”

Major Sherman next participates in the Florida International Invitational Open from Feb. 18 to 20. There he will face nearly 1,000 shooters from around the world.

“I’ve got some work to do, but I think with an equipment change and more dedicated training, I’ve got a real good shot [at the World Championship],” he said. (Army Maj. Randi Steffy contributed to this article.)