By Chris Collins
Lisa Munson put every bit of her 5-foot-2-inch, 115-pound frame into completing the first of five stages in a competitive shooting match Sunday.
She moved quickly through the course, displaying the skills that have made her a champion — shooting 11 paper and nine steel targets in 23.18 seconds. That was about half the time most of her students took to do the same.
Afterward, Munson was shaking with the adrenaline rush that comes with the Practical Shooters contest. It’s a thrill that hasn’t diminished for Munson even after 26 years of competitive shooting.
Munson and nine other women rotated through four more stages of competition, which also drew men from throughout the region.
The semi-professional shooter worked hard during Sunday’s event to put into practice the lessons she’d been teaching the women. The group met Friday through Sunday at the Powder River Sportsmen’s Club’s range near Virtue Flat about six miles east of Baker City.
Munson is a senior trainer with the Babes With Bullets action shooting camp program. A mini-version of the camp was brought to Baker City by Eris Merritt, the lone lady shooter in the Powder River Practical Shooters Club.
Merritt, 51, is eager to recruit more members — both men and women — to the Baker County organization.
“I want other women to know they can come and do this,” Merritt says.
And the level of competition is up to each participant.
“You can make it as competitive as you want,”she said. “You don’t have to be super competitive, but you will learn how to be a really good shot and proficient with a gun.”
Munson’s expertise with a pistol propelled her into the winner’s circle as the top overall shooter during Sunday’s match and earned her a first-place win in the Limited shooter division as well.
Munson says competing against the top guns — both men and women — adds to her enjoyment of the shooting sport.
Women are in a separate subcategory during the competition, but scores are all added in together for the final results.
“I want to go after the top guys,” Munson said. “How many professional sports can you do that in?
“That to me is a thrill — to have the respect of the male shooters.”
Munson’s camp training lessons focused on economy of motion as she showed her students how to trim seconds from their time in the way they draw their guns, take aim and shoot the targets, all while reloading on the move as they travel quickly through each stage of competition.
“I became a runner,” she told the women as she recounted her transition between two targets in the first stage of Sunday’s match. “I was no longer a shooter.”
Munson said she works hard to maintain that ability to burst into a sprint, which gives her a competitive edge. She attributes it to her training regimen, which includes weight lifting, kick boxing and running wind sprints as well as yoga and Pilates exercises to strengthen her core.
A strong body is needed to repetitively lift a pistol from its holster, keep a steady aim and move swiftly, Munson says.
Her childhood hero, Annie Oakley, was one of the first women in shooting sports to focus on physical fitness, she added.
Turns out the 52-year-old Munson, who even looks like Annie Oakley, shares other traits with her hero, who was a star attraction of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Action Show around the turn of the 20th century.
In addition to the physical resemblance, the two women married their shooting partners and traveled the world on the merit of their shooting skills.
Munson has been to New Zealand, Greece, Bali and other exotic locations competing in practical shooting championships.
She says neither she nor Annie Oakley would have been able to pursue their passion for shooting without the support of their husbands.
Lisa’s husband, Eric, who works as a field engineer for National Cash Register Co., encourages and supports her as she teaches and competes.
The couple, who live at Marysville, Wash., have two grown children.
The Munsons grew up in west Seattle, Wash. They met while participating in junior shooter competitions in high school. Lisa was 15 when Eric invited her to go shooting on their first date.
In their early years together, the couple shot competitively, but Eric soon realized that he preferred trap shooting with a shot gun or plinking targets at the range.
He gives his full support to Lisa, whose competitive nature has led her to 12 national titles over the years and spurred her to help other women improve their skills.
But the competitive shooting game isn’t only for the pros, Merritt says. Women of all ages and all walks of life are drawn to the sport and are welcome to join in the fun.
The nine attending the weekend training ranged in age from 21 to 65. All were eager to take advantage of Munson’s experience and to benefit from the strategies that have led to her success.
The youngest, ToniRae Gardner, a college student from Logan, Utah, joined her mom, Lauraann Price, 47, of Elko, Nev., for the weekend visit to Baker City.
Sharla Smith, 35, of Salt Lake City, is the only woman in the group with a law enforcement background. Smith spent one year as a police officer and has been a victims advocate for the past 15 years.
Like Munson, she enjoys the thrill of the shooting contests.
“This is crazy fun,” Smith said. “It’s a huge adrenaline dump.”
Another mother-daughter pair, Rhonda Gibson, 59, of Boise, and her daughter, Tennille Chidester, 36, of Salt Lake City, also made the trip.
The oldest student at the weekend training was Mikell Galloway, 65, of Middleton, Idaho, a super senior (age 65 and older) shooter. In addition to Gibson, other senior (55-65) shooters were Chris Hubbell, 61, of La Grande, and Inez Collins, 60, of Salt Lake City.
“When I grow up, I want to be just like Lisa,” Collins said after watching her instructor complete the first stage of Sunday’s match.
While trying to emulate Munson’s agility, speed and accuracy in the practical shooting match, the women also brought their own styles and flair to the sport.
Collins shoots a 9 mm custom-made red-white-and-blue pistol and carries matching magazine pouches on the belt of her holster.
Gibson’s manicured hot pink nails were a perfect match with the pink trim of her holster.
As part of the camp, all 10 women sported red T-shirts identifying them as Blazin’ Babes. The back of the shirts proclaimed “The Kitchen Ain’t the Only Thing That’s Smokin’ — Girls With Guns Have More Fun.”
Local Practical Shooting Club
Ray and Eris Merritt of Baker City are out to recruit others to the fun of practical shooter competition.
They are happy to provide more information to anyone who is curious about the sport.
The equipment needed to compete is minimal, Eris says. Shooters need only a semi-automatic pistol or revolver, 9 mm or larger, a belt with magazine pouches and at least four magazines and ammunition. Eye protection and ear protection also are required.
For more information, call the Merritts at 541-403-1951.
The Powder River Practical Shooters sponsor a match the fourth Sunday of each month at the Powder River Sportsmen’s Club’s shooting range on Highway 86 six miles east of Baker City. Newcomers are always welcome.
Information also is available at the Powder River Sportsmen’s Club website: www.prsportsmen.org.
Here are the final results of the June 23 match for all divisions:
1. Lisa Munson
2. Robert Barnes
3. Barney Brooks
4. Farley Collins
5. Ray Merritt
6. ToniRae Gardner
7. Cole Furtney
8. Justin Merritt
9. Mike Gibson
10. Stephen Phillips
11. Lauraann Price
12. Gary Casner
13. Jim Hubbell
14. Rhonda Gibson
15. Tennille Chidester
17. Mike Lunyou
18. Phil Oconnell
19. Steve Furtney
20. Inez Collins
21. Isaac Furtney
22. Phil S.
23. Tommy Thompson
24. Eris Merritt
25. Chris Hubbell
26. Raymond Berryman
27. Dan Weitz
28. Greg Roe
29. David McCoy
30. Sharla Smith
31. Mike Galloway
32. Phil Weitz
33. Darral Easson