Monday, April 20, 2015

World champ praises SA sponsor

Six-times practical shooting world champion Eric Grauffel appreciates his South African sponsor.

Not even a $5-m offer will lure him away from sponsors like South Africa’s Rescomp Handgun Technologies (RHT), top-selling European gun manufacturer Tanfoglio or Phillipine  brand Armscor, says Eric Grauffel, 6-times world champion of the International Practical Shooting Confederation. These companies not only provide products manufactured to suit his needs, but made it possible for him to turn professional as a after he won his first world title as a 18-year old in 1999.
Eric Grauffel with Lise Snyman and Marcel de Wet on the RHT stand at the Africa championship.
Marcia and Tazio Resca (right) at the popular RHT stand.

“RHT treats me like part of their family,” he says of the South African company who manufacture and supplies the CR Speed Gear belt and holster he uses. “They listen when I have a question or suggestion and are there when I need them. They always come with a solution to any problem I may have, which is very important for a shooter.”
In competitive shooting, he says “if your equipment is not perfect, it is like killing yourself.”

A shooter relies on perfect equipment says Eric Grauffel.

He therefore did not hesitate when the Resca’s, owners of RHT, invited him to come to South Africa to participate in the Level 4 Africa Practical Shooting championship in Kraaifontein at the end of March. It was also a good opportunity to introduce the new brand they’ll be bringing in, Tanfoglio, used by Grauffel for the past 18 years, to the South African shooting public. Besides, the standard of the competition, with close to 300 participants from 11 countries, was sufficiently high to interest him, says Grauffel.

The standard of the competition was high enough to attract world champion Grauffel.
Sixteen years ago when Grauffel won his first world title, there were no holsters specifically made for the Tanfoglio guns that became associated with his winning performances in practical shooting. A holster that allows a super-fast draw and a firearm that never jams, does not break and is reliable through thousands of rounds, are essential gear for someone aiming for a top performance in this energetic shooting sport where speed counts as much as accuracy.

RHT sponsors Protea Classic Division shooter Albert Wessels and junior champion Carmen Sales (below).

Late in the 1990’s RHT custom-made a belt and holster for the youngster, then on the verge of greatness – one of several international and local shooting champions who have been wearing their CR Speed Gear since 1992. Among them are David Sevigny, US and world champion tactical shooter, and Kaci Cohran, US practical shooting ladies champion.
Companies like RHT and Tanfoglio not only provided Grauffel with the equipment, but also offered a sponsorship that enabled him to turn professional and concentrate only on shooting – which won him an unprecedented six world titles, 250 President Medals and numerous national championship titles. 

Shooting is all he thinks about, says Grauffel.
This was achieved through hard work. “A lot of work,” says Grauffel, who practices shooting at least two to three hours a day, every day, apart from doing fitness exercises. “When I wake up, I think of shooting, when I go to sleep, I dream of shooting. It is all I think about.”
His father, Gerard, was trainer of the French practical shooting team, and he therefore grew up in a shooting environment. He was eight when he first shot with an air gun, at ten he was shooting with a pistol, at 11 he started competing, at 15 he was the French national champion and at 18 he won his first world title. 
His involvement with Tanfoglio is far more than just attaching his name to a brand, says Grauffel. He is employed by them to test and advise on new weapon developments and he believes they now produce top standard products that are also kind to the pocket.

He is also very grateful that they allow him the freedom to work from his home in France. With all the travelling to competitions – between January and the end of March this year he was booked on 15 international flights – the time spent with his wife and two children (5 and 7) is precious.
The timekeeping Range Officer has to run to keep up with lightning-fast Eric Grauffel.
Grauffel won his first five world titles in the Open Division, where customised firearms with scopes etc. are used, but the most recent one was in the Production Division, where off-the-shelf pistols are used. These models are currently among the best-selling pistols in Europe. The Tanfoglio Production Division team now consists of most of the top shooters, he says, and predicts that they will be making waves at the next World Championship in 2017.
He is also training up and coming shooters, including promising youngsters of both sexes. The sport is becoming younger in Europe, he says. “When I started the top shooters were 36-40, now the top shooters are aged 25-35.” It is also growing rapidly: within 48 hours of a competition’s entries opening, all 800 slots will be filled. “Even a bigger competition with 1 000 entrants will be full within 2-3 days.”
It is his fourth visit to South Africa – the previous one was in 2002.
Every stage of the course offer different challenges.
The Africa Level 4 competition where he added another title is the highest standard in a national competition. Only shooters who are affiliated to a club and members of the governing body, the SA Practical Shooting Association (SAPSA) may participate, explains RHT’s Tazio Resca, who has been competing for about 4 years. His wife, Marcia, has been competing alongside him for the past 2-3 years.
Men (21-49), seniors (50-59), super seniors (over 60), ladies and juniors all compete together in a squad of 12, which rotates between the different stages over a two, three or four day competition period. The different divisions (open, production, classic etc.) also compete together in a squad, because in the end it is the most accurate shooter in the shortest time that gets the highest ranking.
Safety is of prime concern and any safety violation will get you sent home, says Marcia. That includes any form of unsafe gun handling, like moving with a finger on the trigger, sweeping or pointing at a busy part, pointing at more than 90 degrees down range or working on a loaded firearm, are among the many violations.

Young Carmen Sales was introduced to the sport by her father and brother, and became a champion in her age category. She  won the Ladies Overall title in the Production division.
At a Level 4 competition, the course has to be set up so that the shooters will fire a minimum of 400-500 rounds over 20-odd stages, explains Marcel de Wet of RHT. While it is still a male dominated sport – only 8% of the competitors in this event were ladies and 4% juniors -  interest is growing among women and younger people.
Marcia Resca of RHT has been shooting for about three years.
There are more than 30 practical shooting clubs affiliated to SAPSA, with the Golden City club in Johannesburg  with about 200 members the biggest. “But not all the members necessarily participate in leagues or competitions, and are therefore not all affiliated to SAPSA,” says Marcel De Wet. “Many just shoot for the enjoyment.”
Everybody involved with the sport says interest is growing at a rapid pace.
Tazio Resca of RHT belongs to two shooting clubs and therefore practices twice a month.
The combination of action, movement, concentration and shooting skills attract participants, explains Tazio. Every stage is different: in some you have to run between obstacles while shooting at targets, other targets move up and down or slide, some targets alternate between high and low, some are partially hidden, some react when hit, in some stages you have to kneel ... the variety is endless.
“It is purely sport, not an imitation of the military,” says Grauffel, “because it is all action that requires mental and physical fitness. You have to be very fit, because the days are long and you have to stay alert till the last stage.”

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