If a Jamaican bobsled team can qualify for the Winter Olympics, then certainly a gunslinger from liberal Newton has a fighting chance in a rigorous shootout below the Mason-Dixon Line.
That cool gunner is Jay Hirshberg, 41, who this weekend will compete among 350 snipers from across the planet in Covington, Georgia, at the 2010 United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) Area 6 Handgun Championship.
The competition is like out of a Starsky & Hutch episode: a bad-dude obstacle course in which the shooter has to pop off both moving and stationary targets. But Hirshberg, an MIT grad and computer-software CEO, won’t feel too out of his element in Dixie, as a significant number of the 19,000 USPSA members nationwide live in New England. (Dozens of regional clubs also host shootouts in the Northeast each year.) Still, the ominous-sounding Area 6 — a Southern swath that includes Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia — is, as one might expect, a sort of warm-weather NRA Graceland, and a Mecca for the sport.
“It’s going to be a tough match,” says Hirshberg, who placed second in his high-novice division at a match in Texas two weeks ago. Though he started shooting competitively only this past year, Hirshberg is training seriously, and on Saturday will fly from Covington to Houston for a subsequent event. “I’m trying to get as good as I can while still having a day job.”
“Not only will the skill level be extremely high,” says USPSA Executive Director Dave Thomas of the Area 6 showdown, “there will be people from at least six countries there competing for a seriously big table full of merchandise.”
While Thomas has low expectations for himself on account of being “63, fat, and out of shape,” Hirshberg is aiming to make a name for himself down South. “We don’t have any super top shooters in the Northeast at all,” says Hirshberg. “When I’m out there at these competitions, you bet that’s in the back of my mind the whole time.”