NATIONAL SHOOTERS LEAGUE
"The World's First Professional Pistol Match"
Bob Dawson drew this picture after shooting in the first National Shooters League match in 1975. Dawson was a superb pistol shooter from Huntington Beach, California. Following Dawson over the next five years were some of the world's finest pistol shooters from more than thirty-two states in the nation. On these pages I will tell you about this most prestigious match.
The Wanted Poster reads:
WANTED THE BEST PISTOL SHOT ALIVE
A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF U.S. DOLLARS WILL BE PAID TO THE BEST GUN HAND AFTER A SHOOTIN CONTEST ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF LARAMIE, WYOMING
WIRE: DOC BURGESS
Bob Dawson, Huntington Beach California
Above is a picture of the official buckle of the National Shooters League. It is numbered and limited to 500 being struck. It is of solid brass and was minted in London, England by Deane and Adams. On the reverse is: © COPYRIGHT 1976, PRIVATE EDITION, WARRANTED-FINEST MINTED BRASS
In this issue of "Shooting Times Handgun Quarterly, September/October 1991 Jim Clark, National Pistol Champion, Camp Perry, 1958, in the column, "The Last Word," wrote about the National Shooters League.
Jim Clark said, "I first became aware of it in 1975 when I received a notice of a money match worth $5,000 to the winner." Clark continued, "I immediately phoned Dr. Burgess and became the first dues-paying member of the NSL. It took more than that to qualify for the match, however. Shooters had to run the complete course three times, with the top 40 advancing to the finals."
Clark shot in every pistol match the NSL hosted.
Jim Clark continued, "Dr. Burgess wanted to create a professional pistol match and a professional shooters class. He spent over $150,000 and paid over $75,000 in prizes with over $60,000 of that in cash. The money attracted the media, but it was Dr. Burgess' direction that worked. He would show a television "stringer" how to film with remote cameras mounted over the targets, bullets comming directly at the lens, and how to follow a shooter around the course. (The cash award of $5,000 in $100 bills being presented to the winner made for good coverage also.)
"He was the first and I salute him. I trust the shooting industry appreciates his contribution as much as I do."
Jim Clark, shooting at the NSL course, 1975
1958 National Pistol Champion, Camp Perry
1975 National Shooters League Champion
Bill Belt, Lt., Englewood Police Dept., Englewood, Colorado
Some Fine Pistol Shooters
Left to right, front row, Bob Sexton, Doc, Royce Weddle, Ad Clark
Back row, Shel Chazdon, Tom Brenner, Duane Otis, Greg Roberts on far right
Duane Otis retired from the San Francisco Police Department in 1999. Duane earned the Distinguished Award, NRA Police Matches & Police Marksman Association Distinguished Award
Photo Taken Recently At The Tioga Creedmore Match
Doc Burgess and his brother, Giff present the first place prize of $5,000 in cash to the 1976 National Shooters League NSL pistol champion, Major Frank Green, U.S.A.F., Ret. Green holds a Silver medal from the Olympic Games and three Gold medals from the Pan American Games. He won the National Pistol Championship in 1968. He is also the holder of many national and international championships. Green is one of the world's masters of the pistol. He coached the U.S. Olympic Pistol Team in 1968.
A view of five of the ten targets
Two shots taken at each target
Above is a photo of the number 7 target. Its distance is 22 yards. Two shots are fired at this target. The bullseye is 2 3/8 x 3 inches. There are no points for a miss.
The shooter must fire two shots at each target. There are ten targets. Time is started when the shooter steps on the first pad. The contestant has 210 seconds to complete the course of fire. The distance traveled is 216 yards. All shots are from standing and two hands may be used. Fourteen of the shots are at a target about the size of a pack of cigarettes. Six of the long distant shots (50, 56 and 60 yards) are at a target about twice the size of the smaller target. No points are awarded for shots outside these small targets.
Shooters from 32 states participated and they were the finest pistol shots in the world. They represented pistol shooting from all disciplines, many of whom had shot on military pistol teams winning championships all over the world. Entering these matches were Olympic medal winners, Gold medallists from the Pan American Games; National Champions from the Camp Perry bullseye matches and participants; police PPC champions and participants; IPSC champions and shooters from all over the country; members of the FBI, the Secret Service, Border Patrol, Sheriffs' departments, the Texas Rangers, including their firearms training officer; Highway Patrol; the Los Angeles Police Department Pistol Team and many policemen from many states; U. S. Marshals and the military from the Army Reserve Pistol Team; the Marine Corps, the U.S.A.F., and a six time winner of the Women's PPC National Championship.
A view of part of the Rule Book
REMEMBERED EXPERIENCES OF THE NATIONAL SHOOTERS LEAGUE 1975 - 1979
I would be very interested in hearing what's happened since the "ancient times" when we gathered by the railroad tracks to beat the course - the likes of which I had never seen - or have seen since. My fellow shooters from our Colorado group have retired as I did a little over two years ago.
I have some great memories of our endeavors at your one of a kind range near Laramie. Participation in these events kind of put most other competitive events in the dust. I still have the guns that I managed to win at the competitions - wouldn't think of selling or giving them away except as part of the items that I'll leave to my sons when my time comes. I continue to disbelieve that so many years have passed since the late '70's and my mind tries to convince me that I could still perform the maneuvers to compete as we did back then, but my body has a totally different message as I approach the 72nd anniversary of my birthday.
What remains fresh in my memory is the gracious and friendly manner that you and your family offered to everyone who came to your competitions. In all those events that I was fortunate to participate in, yours was the most welcoming and professional challenge that I've ever seen. It was fun and humbling to meet and compete with the other competitors from around the world. For most of us, a once in a lifetime experience, and for that I offer my sincerest thanks for providing the opportunity.
Still have the ball cap!! One of my "treasures" from a momentous time!
I look forward to seeing your finished product with submittals from those of us lucky few who had the opportunity to share some fun, some competition and some adrenaline!
Colorado, March, 2013
1977 NSL Champion
NSL National Champion
PPC National Champion
Ron Power, custom pistol smith and maker presents a custom
pistol to Royce Weddle, Norman, OK. Royce holds $5,000.00
cash for taking first place in the 1977 match
Ad Clark, Kalispell, Montana, NSL Champion, 1978 & 1979
If there was a better shooter anywhere in the world I don't know where you'd find him. In 1978 during the match, Ad shot a .44 magnum, Smith & Wesson with full heavy loads. In 1979 he used the same size Smith & Wesson, but in .38 special. Ad Clark had entered four matches over the years. I scored all the runs he had taken over those years that included 3 qualifying runs plus the finals each year. That consisted of 4 runs of the course each year for 4 years, or 16 total runs of the course. He averaged 16 hits out of 20 possible hits for each run over those years. That is incredible shooting over a difficult course at a very small target. Many other shooters did almost as well.
Last year Chris retired from racing after 40 years as a Professional having won the Championship in Grand Am Road Racing
Chris shot in the NSL match winning the 100 yard, $100 bill match where the winner had the most hits in the bill; they were awsome! He also won numerous prizes, including a Jim Clark pistol. Shooting with the LAPD team they won both the National Police Pistol Championships and the Bianchi Cup.
Chris, circa 1955
Chris on a recent outing
Doc Burgess with his co-founder and brother,
Gifford. The beautiful lady on Doc's left is his wife
Bill Jordan wrote the first story about the National Shooters League published in GUNS magazine, April, 1976.
Following Jordan's article were hundreds of magazine and newspaper stories throughout the nation. There were seventy-five minutes of television coverage and many hours of radio coverage including live coverage for the duration of each match.
The purpose of this match was fulfilled and that purpose was to show pistol shooting in a favorable light.
The purse was mostly cash in $100.00 dollar bills totaling tens of thousands of dollars. Each year the winner received $5,000.00 in $100.00 dollar bills.
These shooters were the world's best.
The following winter scenes were taken by Linda Budge for a painting she would do on canvas. Ms. Budge is a renowned painter in oil and a superb sculptress working with bronze. Following these photos is a photo of her original work in oil depicting the # 1 target during the winter.
By Linda Budge
Ida Younger, six times Women's PPC National Champion
Ms. Younger placed fourth in the 1979 match. She is one of
the world's top shooters.
NSL Money Shoot as reported by Massad Ayoob in
"The American Handgunner"
Ayoob said, "...Those were the thoughts in all our minds as we left the range that Saturday afternoon. We had that deep, silent satisfaction of having seen history in the making. Athletes and sportsmen of the day must have felt the same surge of pride when they left Cooperstown, N. Y. after the first 1839 baseball game.
Bob Sexton, Laramie, Wyoming
Gary Lincoln, FBI
Donn Sneddon, Laramie, Wyoming
Dick Weber, FBI
JP Nelson, LAPD pistol team
This photo shows Doc heading for the 4th target. Jim Clark had asked me to run the course and that he would put up the targets. He said he would turn the targets with the bullseye to the back, that is, the bullseye not showing. He wanted to make a point. The target paper meassures 11 x 11 inches. The bullseye is 2 3/8 x 3 inches. I was relieved that I had shot a respectable score. Of course I never entered the match nor did my brother, Gifford. We had run the course while designing it many, many times.
Jim Clark made his point and that is that pistol shooting is trigger control, excellent sight alignment, that alignment being between the rear sight and front sight, with the target being the front sight. One does not have to see the bullseye to hit it, just that one must have a reference, that reference being the blank paper. Too much emphysis, Jim said, is put on the bullseye and not enough on the sights and trigger control.
Frank Green put it a little differently when discussing the selection of his pistol team while he was the Captain of the U.S.A.F pistol team. Frank told me that he required that his shooters must see a 1 inch group, consistently at 50 yards. He used a bench mounted secure rest for his pistol (the 1911-A1 custom tuned by their armorer, Bob Day) The pistol was fitted with a scope that the shooter could not use. The shooter then lined the open sights on the target and Green marked it. After many of these exercises Green scored the results. The shooter had to consistenly see a 1 inch group.
Ralph Gambardella, NYPD
State Champion of many states' PPC matches
Howard Killmer, Littleton, Colorado
Tom Blizzard, Pleasantville, Iowa
Robert Sullivent, Las Vegas, Nevada
Ed Taylor, Bell Gardens, California
Jerry Snapp, Greeley, Colorado
Three of the Nation's best, Ad Clark, Reeves Jungkind and Bob Sexton
Jungkind was the Texas Rangers Firearms Training Officer
Ray Neal, Palm Desert, CA takes two shots at the 50 yard
number 3 target.
Ida Younger heading for home
Many hundred dollar bills on the winner's table
Dick Weber, FBI, Los Angeles, CA
takes two shots at number one target
This bulls eye measures 3 inches across the base
and 2-3/8 inches tall. No points for a miss
Chris Stromberger, Sterling, Colorado
Henry Dock, Downey, CA. Dock is a superb
long range shooter. He put 4 out of 6 shots while standing, in a
hundred dollar bill at 100 yards, the other two nearly in the bill.
Tony Dattilo, Golden, Colorado, receiving a model 29-44 magnum
compliments of Smith & Wesson
Doc points out a target to U. S. Senator Gale McGee
At the NSL range
Six times National Police Women Pistol Champion
1976 Winner N. R. A. Police Distinguished Badge
Bill Green, Montrose, Colorado
Larry Haynes, Gillette, Wyoming
Dave Thompson, Laramie, Wyoming
In Mason Williams' book, "The Sporting Use of the Handgun,"
Williams included 17 pages on the National Shooters League.
He said, "This is not a match for the novice. This match has been
created and developed to present a challenge to the professional
shooter who appreciates the niceties of accuracy, physical condition,
handgun control, and a sound empirical knowledge of handgun shooting.
This is a match that relates directly to professional golf, car racing, football,
and basketball. With its spectator appeal, large cash prizes, and coverage by
TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines, it is definitely on a par with the
other big money spectator sports."
L. H. Groh, Los Gatos, California
Stuart Clingman, Guernsey, Wyoming
Roger Madison, in "Colt 1980 AMERICAN HANDGUNNING ANNUAL wrote, "Shooting the NSL Nationals--It's Tough!"
"The target is a killer. Distances involved are 16, 33, 25, 15, 22, 20, and 30 yards (in order of sequence) for the "small targets," and 50, 56, and 60 yards for the big targets. Those targets appear so small that your first reaction is, "You gotta be kidding." Having shot the NSL nationals, I know."
Bob Sexton, Laramie, Wyoming , 50 seconds to go and 2 shots at 60 yards
Ray Neal, Palm Desert, California
Doc shows U.S. Senator Gale McGee a Jim Clark custom Colt .45 ACP
Don Bower, Aurora, Colorado
Tony Dattilo, Morrison, Colorado
Mark Shearer, Anaheim, California
U. S. Army Reserve pistol team
Robert Merritt, Corvallis, Oregon
U. S. Army Reserve pistol team
Dan Predovich, Littleton, Colorado
Don Jandro, Arvada, Colorado
Dick Webber, Santa Ana, California, FBI
Don Fisher, Colorado
Robert Greenlee, Bellvue, Colorado
Bruce Robertson, St. Cloud, Minn.
Shel Chazdon, Mancos, Colorado
James Jackson, Livermore, Colorado
John Starling, Laramie, Wyoming
Brian Lendzion, Chicago, Illinois
Gifford Burgess, co-founder, shows a custom pistol
donated by Ron Power to the 1977 Champion NSL shooter in addition
to his $5,000.00 cash prize.
Bob Smith, Laramie, Wyoming receives his cash prize
Bob Sexton, Laramie, Wyoming had just shot targets number 1 and 2 and is seen running up the hill to station number 3 for two shots at the 50 yard target. In the background targets 2, 5 and 7 are seen.
Frank Goza, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee receives congratulations and his prize in the NSL competition. Goza, a U. S. Army Reserve pistol team member brought along a newspaper story featuring the NSL match. The article was by the Times Outdoor Editor, Chattanooga. "Goza," the story stated, "a member of the 1107 Marksmanship Unit of the U.S. Army Reserve, has qualified for the competition." "You've got only one run through the course," Goza added, "so the $5,000 first place money will go to that one person who is extremely sharp for 3 1/2 minutes. All targets must be shot while standing, and three of the targets must be fired at with the left hand. They do give the shooter a barricade on the left handed targets, however."
Mel Makin, U. S. Army Reserve Team receives his prize. Makin had recently won 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal in the Pan-American games.
Millard Wood, Master Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps had flown
in from his military base in Kaneohe, Hawaii for this match.
Bill Belt, Englewood, Colorado, 1975 NSL Champion
In this Colt 1980 American Hand gunning Annual Roger Madison
wrote, an article, "Shooting the NSL Nationals--It's Tough!"
The run is over.
In this 25 YEARS Silver Anniversary! edition of "Shooting Times" Bill Jordan, who wrote the first story about the NSL, wrote this, six years after the last NSL match, "One very big change during these last 25 years has been seen in firearms competitions. The idea was sparked by Dr. Robert Burgess, who initiated a "practical"- type handgun competition with important money put up in pots for the winners. He was perhaps a few years ahead of time. He certainly proved there was a place for professional shooting matches."
Several months before the first National Shooters League match I had submitted a brief add that I had hoped would be included in the classified section of the "American Rifleman," the magazine of the National Rifle Association. It was an announcement that I was having the first National Shooters League match near Laramie, Wyoming and that a cash prize of $5,000.00 would be awarded the winner. The NRA refused to accept my add. About three years later, after the NSL was well underway, I attended the national championship match for law enforcement shooters at Jackson, Mississippi. Unknown to me at the time my good friends, Jim Clark and Bill Jordan had arranged a meeting with Harlon Carter of the NRA with the four of us seated at a table outdoors under a canvas cover. I soon realized that the meeting was to sooth the friction between the NRA and me as regards the NRA's refusal to accept my add in their magazine. The meeting solved nothing, because I asked for nothing, I just wanted them to accept my 15 word add.
The NRA went on to sponsor the "NRA Bianchi Cup" which brings me to a story in "Guns" magazine, 18 years after the last NSL match. It is a story by Mickey Fowler, a superb pistol shooter who had shot in my match. He was, at the date of the article, May, 1993, "...the only three-time Bianchi Cup winner..."
In that article Fowler said, "Prior to 1979 (sic) (1975) handgunners competed for trophies. At some of the bigger matches the winner might take home a pistol. In 1977 (sic) (1975), Doc Burgess from Laramie, Wyo., put on a pistol match with a $5,000 first prize. This was a great match that had an extremely challenging course of fire and real spectator appeal. Unfortunately Doc was not able to get the necessary industry support for continued funding and he had to cancel it. (Doc, now would be a good time to bring it back!)"
John Pride, NSL shooter would later win the Bianchi Cup four times. I hope to have pictures of Pride up soon.
• Four times NRA
USA individual practical pistol police champion
• Four times NRA USA team practical pistol police champion
• Over forty Gold medals in the Police Olympics and International Police Olympics
• Nine Gold medals in the California Summer Police Olympics
• Four time Winner, International NRA Bianchi Cup World Action Shooting Championship
• He has set 14 World Records in NRA recognized competitions. Four of them still stand, and can never be beaten, only tied, as they were perfect scores
Major George C. Nonte, Jr., in his book, "Handgun Competition," quoted retired U.S.A.F. Major Frank Green, a 30-year veteran of all other forms of handgun competition, 1968 U.S. Olympic pistol coach and 1964 Olympic medal winner and winner of the National Shooters League competition in 1976, "This is absolutely the most challenging form of pistol competition I have encountered in my entire career, absolutely the best course I have ever known."
If you have a question about the National Shooters League, or if you have shot in this match or attended the match you may reach the NSL at:
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