Competitive speed-shooting champ Mike Gallion is fast. Blisteringly fast.
Five targets, five shots, three seconds or less — that’s his average. Not only is that swift enough to rank him among the world’s quickest senior shooters, but it’s earned the Sunlight Beach-area resident dozens of national and international awards over his 15-year competitive career, so many that he’s lost count. Some hang on his walls, others lay in forgotten dusty stacks on the living room table and some are who knows where.
“It must be 40 or 50, I guess,” said Gallion with a smile and a shrug.
It’s easy to lose track, he says, when you’re hitting a different competition across the state nearly every weekend, nine months out of the year. Competition season begins in spring and runs through fall.
“This week I’m here, this week I’m somewhere else,” he said.
Gallion recently returned from the World Speed Shooting European Championship in the Netherlands, where he earned top marks. He took first place in the senior rimfire division and third in a team rimfire event. Despite the lower placement, the latter was especially gratifying. By luck of the draw, his team was made up of seniors — a German, Dutchman and an American (Gallion) — in what was an open-age event.
“We were shooting against the top pros in the world and three old guys managed to sneak into third place,” Gallion said.
They dubbed themselves “The other guys.”
Gallion also took home an unexpected appreciation award. This is his “sixth or seventh” trip to the competition, and his promotional efforts have increased American participation from just one, himself, to about 10 U.S. shooters.
Naturally, the award is a small wooden shoe after the design for which Holland is famous, and is one of Gallion’s new favorites.
If you’re still not impressed, know that Gallion is 70, has 20/450 vision without his glasses and suffers from presbyopia, a condition that results in the gradual loss of the eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. He’s the founder of the International Steel Shooters Association, a non-profit corporation that works to promote, facilitate, and fund new shooter, junior, and firearms safety programs across the globe.
He’s also a long time South Whidbey resident, and former longtime president of The Fishin’ Club. He put down his club gavel last year, however, and focuses most of his time these days on competitive shooting. He got into the sport by accident after buying an old .22 caliber handgun. It was missing parts, but getting “one more thing to tinker with” was part of the appeal.
In short order, the gun was ready to shoot and he headed up to a Coupeville range to give it a go. As fate would have it, a competition was being held that same day and he left with a second place win. For those who know him, that’s no surprise.
“He has a natural talent,” said Larry Davis, a Selah resident.
Gallion and Davis, 67, met about five years ago at a range near Yakima. Davis was just picking up the sport and Gallion took him under his wing, serving as a mentor.
Today, they’re both friends, and “competitors.”
“He’s the only guy who beats me regularly,” Gallion said. “I keep telling him he has no respect for his elders — namely me.”
According to Davis, one of the cool things about speed shooting is people’s willingness to share their secrets. Gallion exemplifies that giving spirit, from his founding of the steel shooters association to his knack of keeping even the toughest competitions light with his sense of humor and fun personality.
As for Gallion, he said competitions have taken him all over the world but it’s the people that make the sport so enjoyable. He called it a “fraternity or brotherhood” of friends who share a common love of speed shooting. And when you’re only trying to beat your own personal best — Gallion’s personal approach to competitions — sharing secrets and knowledge is easy.
“It doesn’t matter where I go, I always have the same competition,” Gallion said. said.