An Overview Of The Famed Bianchi Cup

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The Bianchi Cup
One of the most prestigious shooting competitions in the world is The Bianchi Cup. It has run every year since 1979 and this year, will take place from May 24-28 at its historic home, the Green Valley Rifle & Pistol Club near Columbia, Missouri. Hundreds of competitors will travel from all over the world to chase a perfect score and the title of Bianchi Cup Champion. They will shoot everything from specialized, purpose-built pistols with electronic optics (“Open” guns) to nearly out-of-the-box commercially available handguns.

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Bianchi Open division pistol

The Bianchi Cup is a championship match for the shooting sport now known as NRA Action Pistol. Action Pistol encompasses a number of set stages that are somewhat confusingly called “matches” or “events”, with the aggregate score of several being combined into one “course of fire” to determine winners and placement. Classically, the Bianchi Cup events are the Falling Plates, the Moving Target, the Barricade, and the Practical.
One of the defining features of Action Pistol is that each event is shot on a par time. Instead of scoring based on how fast competitors can shoot the required targets or number of rounds, competitors have limited time, counted in seconds, and limited number of rounds to shoot the best score possible. With most events being composed of strings of six rounds or less, revolvers have a special home in Action Pistol where they can compete on equal ground with semi automatic pistols.
Except for the Falling Plates, Action Pistol events are shot on cardboard “tombstone” targets. The best Action Pistol shooters are able to shoot the 8-inch circle of the 10-ring and the black 4-inch X-ring inside of it consistently at distances out to 50 yards and under time pressure. Bianchi Cup champions in the open division, using optical sights, regularly score a perfect 1920 points, though the perfect 192x to go with it has been elusive.
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A Bianchi “tombstone” target, also known as an NRA AP-1 target

The Olin “Oli” Barjenbruch Falling Plate Event requires competitors to shoot at a plate rack that is a series of six 8-inch steel circles spaced 20 inches apart from center to center. Each plate that falls is counted as both 10 points and an X. With no more than six to nine seconds to draw a pistol out of the holster and shoot six plates, at distances from 10 to 25 yards, the challenge is harder than it looks.
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Falling Plate Event

In the Moving Target Event, competitors shoot at a single tombstone target traveling at a pace of ten feet per second, at up to 25 yards. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s already hard to shoot four-inch groups at 25 yards when the target isn’t moving. With this event, the target moves fast enough that competitors must “lead” the target, shooting ahead to where the target will be by the time the shot travels downrange.

The Moving Target Event, shot here at the 15 yard distance.


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For the Barricade Event and the Practical Event, the target doesn’t move but it does get very far away: 35 yards in Barricade and 50 yards for the Practical. In the Barricade Event, competitors stand in a box behind a small wall that has become so common in all sorts of action/practical shooting events that it is known as the Bianchi Barricade. Bracing against the barricade is not only allowed, but nearly mandatory to assure shooting as many points as possible – but keep in mind that the time necessary to get the gun braced counts against the par time. Open shooters add special “wings” to their guns to brace against the wall, and many other shooters use gloves to help protect their hands when shooting Barricade.

The Barricade Event at 15 yards. You can see the shooter’s barricade glove, used to protect the hand when bracing the gun against the barricade.

The difficulty of the Practical Event hardly needs to be explained, with ideal shots needing to land inside a four-inch circle 50 yards away from the competitor. In addition to excellent shooting technique, the gun itself must be mechanically capable of the accuracy required for a top score. Competitors will often go prone for this event, and may use some equipment modifications to help rest their gun on the ground for increased stability.
Action Pistol doesn’t seem like it would be a very exciting sport, but it’s a true test of marksmanship with easy to follow scoring and lots of drama because a single “dropped” shot outside of the 10-ring can mean a lost trophy. Now that you know what it’s about, you can watch coverage of this year’s Bianchi Cup on the NRA Competitive Shooting Facebook page and the NRA Blog, and keep track of daily results posted on Green Valley’s website.

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