|By Katelyn Gendron|
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM This week, Judith Lafreniere and Chris Szczygiel of Feeding Hills will travel to Tulsa, Okla., to compete against more than 600 of the nation's best shooters at the United States Practical Shooting Association's (USPSA) 2008 National Handgun Championships.
The USPSA is a non-profit membership association with over 17,000 members competing in the sport of Practical Shooting. The sport tests each shooter's accuracy, power and speed while maneuvering through shooting obstacles called stages. While using handguns, rifles or shotguns, competitors are scored by the number of points per second reduced by the number of misfired shots.
Lafreniere and Szczygiel will be competing in the Smith & Wesson Limited Production & Revolver Championships first, followed by the USPSA Open and Limited-10 National Championships beginning Sept. 6.
"I got involved in shooting 10 years ago," Lafreniere explained. "I was absolutely terrified of guns and didn't want anything to do with them. When I realized it wasn't going to hurt me I was OK. I don't know what my image was that they were going to jump off the table and shoot me?"
Since her first competition in 1997, Lafreniere has risen to third overall in the ladies' division. She also competed in the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) World Championships in 2005 in Ecuador.
This year's World Championships will take place later this year in Bali, Indonesia. More than 100 USPSA members will be competing in the competition.
Szczygiel said he has been shooting since he was 10 years old, when he got his first BB gun. He explained that he enjoys competing because it helps him to develop his handgun skills.
Szczygiel noted that these competitions are not for novice shooters. "You have to practice this," he said. "You have to develop the skills to shoot this game."
Dave Thomas, executive director of USPSA, agreed, adding that each competition can require a certain weapon or number of usable rounds, which "changes the game dramatically."
He noted that with several hundred people competing in the national competitions safety standards are stringent.
Szczygiel explained that when not competing all guns are required to be in a bag or holster and firearms can only be drawn under the supervision of a safety officer.
"This sport has been conducted around the world since 1976 and there has never been a firearms [related] death or serious injury and there are millions of rounds fired," Thomas said.
Over 280,000 rounds will be fired by the end of this year's nationals on Sept. 13.
For more information about the USPSA go to www.uspsa.org.