Interview – Konrad Powers –

Once someone takes up shooting competitive National Match Service Rifle, it’s really only a matter of time until they hear the name Konrad Powers… From Illinois, Konrad has been a regular sighting at the National Matches for years. Beyond discussing his bare-bones approach to shooting competitive Service Rifle, his website www.sw-hearing.com/konrad serves as a journal of record for every shot he’s fired in competition since 1998.

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A true source of much inspiration for countless shooters, below are just some of his stats and his interview:

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President’s Hundred Trophy Winner: 2011

Nathan Hale Trophy Winner,
High Civilian, National Trophy Individual Match: 2005

President’s Hundred:
2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015

Elihu Root Medal, Top 6 scoring civilians, National Trophy 6-man Team Match:
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2015

Soldier of Marathon Trophy, Civilian National Trophy Team Match:
2011, 2012 (Illinois State Gold)

Rumbold Trophy, 4-member civilian team: 2012

California Rifle & Pistol Association Trophy, High Service Rifle Team in the Rumbold Match:
2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Coast Guard Trophy, 200-yard Rapid Fire: 2012

Illinois Trophy, High Civilian Service Rifle in the Centenary Trophy aggregate: 2012

National Record Co-Holder, 200-yard Rapid Fire, Civilian: 200-18x

George Bjornstad Trophy, Illinois State Highpower Open Champion:
2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015

Woody Coul Trophy, Illinois State Service Rifle Champion: 2005, 2009, 2010, 2012

Illinois State Short Course Champion:
2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Arneson Trophy (aggregate of the three Illinois State Championships):
2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

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1: What was your experience like when starting out in highpower?

In the beginning I didn’t really dive into highpower. I was in my mid-20’s and just went to matches to spend time with my dad. Three or four matches a year was all I was interested in. As time went on though, I found myself enjoying the outdoors and wanting to compete and shoot better scores.

The matches I went to had shooters of all abilities but there was a group of the best local shooters that usually won. I didn’t know them very well but I knew I wanted to shoot the scores that they shot and I knew that I wanted to win.

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2: Who were your mentors? What do you remember most from these experiences and what still rings true?

There were all kinds of people that have helped me over the years. The person that sticks out as being a true mentor was a shooter by the name of Dan Stone. Dan is well known to Illinois shooters and he was always ready to provide encouragement or to lend a rifle or equipment.

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3: Can you describe some of your most memorable milestones or breakthroughs? Both starting out… and along the journey to competing nationally.

One of my most memorable milestones, or when I thought I had broken through to the next level, occurred in the National Trophy Individual Match in the early 2000’s. With so many good shooters in that match, I questioned whether I had what it took to compete and possibly be the high civilian.

In 2002 I fired a 488 and the following year, a 489. While not record shattering scores, they told me that I could at least get within a few points of what the top civilians were shooting. After a disastrous performance in the rain and wind shortened 2004 NTI, I came back in 2005 to shoot a 494-27x. Those “building” performances in 2002 and 2003 gave me the confidence to know I could compete.

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4: Describe your routine to help you stay on top of your best game? Off-Season, Mid-Season and ramping up to bigger matches?

Because I am so busy, live-fire practice for me is almost non-existent. The only time I might get to a range is possibly for a team practice but that may only be once a year.

Typically, my highpower season starts in April. I shoot 4-P smallbore during the winter and when that winds down I will pick up my service rifle and do some dry-firing in each position just to shake the rust off. Then, it’s off to matches.

During the season, when time allows and motivation directs, I will dry-fire standing using an electronic trainer. I am not really working on improving technique. I am just looking to ingrain the technique I already have. Extracting hold and group size, as well as score, is why I use the trainer in these situations.

If I do any improvement to my mental game it is by visualizing myself performing well and the environment that I will do this in. This visualization is typically done when I am running on a treadmill or going for a bike ride. My focus is mostly at Camp Perry and I will visualize the open range, the blue sky, and the line of targets. This prepares me for the atmosphere where I want to perform. Then I will also visualize breaking good shots, shooting well, and finishing with a good performance.

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5: How important is technique, mental program, and equipment in influencing your performance? What is their proportional influence?

Each of those three aspects are important but they vary in influence depending on a shooter’s experience. Equipment is important early on when a shooter is still gathering the requisite gear. Technique is always something that can be improved. A mental program is the glue that binds your technique into a winning score.

Equipment is probably the easiest to take care of. Having equipment capable of winning any highpower match in the country is within the reach of most competitors. My rifle is built by a gunsmith who knows the needs of the highpower community and my ammunition is loaded to a common recipe that is known to bring good results. Equipment is not a factor in limiting my shooting performance.

Technique is the next most difficult to attain. This takes two things, knowledge of that particular technique and then repetition to ingrain that technique. Since I never had formal coaching I don’t know if my technique is the best it can be but it has been good enough when I can execute it properly. The problem is that technique can come and go from match to match. The technique itself doesn’t get lost but my mind allows bad habits to creep in and corrupt that technique.

Any mental aspect that I have is informal and not what might be called a program. This is certainly an aspect of my shooting that could be greatly improved. It is also the most difficult aspect to master.

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6: What was the toughest match you’ve ever competed in where you held it together? What was that like?

This is a difficult question to answer because most of my wins have not felt very “tough”. By that I mean that I was shooting well without having to really think about it so there wasn’t the feeling of true difficulty. The days when I shoot really well actually fly by so fast that I really don’t have time to enjoy them.

One match that might come close to qualifying was the 2007 Iowa Regional Championship. This is held right before Camp Perry and at that time there were a lot of top shooters using it as a warm-up match. Competing that year were Mid and Nancy Tompkins as well as Mitch Maxberry. With 9 National Highpower Rifle Championships between them, it was certainly a tough crowd.

At the end of the day though, I came in second overall with a 787, just two points behind Mid. In addition, I actually won the 600 yard match outright with a 199. Against such good prone shooters and Palma team members I thought this was quite a feat. It wasn’t a win, but I felt like I performed well against some stiff competition.

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7: If you had to choose only ONE answer, what has helped you improve the most towards your goals in highpower?

There are so many things that have gone into my success in highpower that it’s not fair to have to name one. But if I had pick the most important it would be determination.

I don’t believe that I have any exceptional physical traits to shoot highpower. I also don’t think that I can mentally focus any more than most people. But the one thing that I have had that many others lack is the determination to improve, succeed, and win.

Early on I decided that I wanted to perform, shoot better scores, and win matches. This determination is what kept me shooting matches, dry-firing, analyzing my shooting, and striving to improve. It also kept me going when I stumbled or my scores plateaued. It is easy to give up when you are not doing well or when the climb is getting steeper. Determination helped me to get past the difficulties and work harder.

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8: Why do you continue to stay involved with highpower?

Simply put, for the love of the sport. I have enjoyed my time in highpower so much that I wanted everyone to have that same experience. Whether it is providing advice to a newer shooter or running the best local match that I can, there are always opportunities to help people get more enjoyment out of highpower.

In addition to shooting, I also run matches and promote the sport for my state association. Running clinics, compiling schedules, coordinating with other clubs, and organizing teams for the Nationals are all things that I try to do to keep shooters engaged in the sport. I am also very proud of the statistical program that I wrote to help others who run highpower matches run them more efficiently and with less effort.

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9: What do you find is the best approach to dealing with pressure? Putting it all aside when it’s your turn to the line?

I’m still searching for the answer to this one as I get very nervous right before I go to the line for offhand. In highpower, unless someone is paying you to shoot, the pressure is all internally created. This pressure typically comes from expectations.

I know I can shoot well and I know the scores I’m capable of. Because of this I can set expectations for myself that are very high. When I arrive the morning of a match and carry my gear to the 200 yard line is when the butterflies start. The trigger pull for that first shot in standing is the hardest of the day. I haven’t dropped any points and I want to see how long I can keep that up. Mentally, that is a huge burden to carry. To offset this I try to think of only the front sight and the target. To bring my focus away from the indirect, like score, and to the direct, like aligning and squeezing.

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10: What would you like to talk about that wasn’t covered in the previous questions?

Being so involved with highpower over the years has taken a lot of time and effort, both for my shooting and running matches. At the same time it has also rewarded me with some great experiences and being able to meet some fantastic people. I hope that everyone that participates in this sport is able to have the same enjoyment.

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