When lifelong Saugertesian Auguste VanEtten hurt his back in a work-related accident in 2008, the injury effectively ended his favorite hobby of competition archery. So after recovering from spinal-repair surgery in 2009, VanEtten redirected his sporting energies to shooting targets with a pistol. It was less demanding physically than drawing a bow.
Last month, VanEtten came in third place at the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiast’s (ICORE) New England Regional competition, a major speed-shooting championship.
Over the years, as an archer, VanEtten had won “just about everything locally there is to win.” He’d also placed seventh in the International Bowhunting Organization’s amateur division, an impressive accomplishment.
He bought a custom-made .38 special from Pinnacle Firearms in Pennsylvania and fired thousands of rounds. As it turned out, the skills he honed in archery gave him a good head start — which is to say he’s now an amazing shot with a pistol. His particular prowess in action events, which gauge both accuracy and speed, impressed even the best marksmen at the Saugerties Fish & Game Club, of which he’s a third-generation member.
“It filled a niche in my life,” said VanEtten, a former electrical process controls technician.
He’s now acknowledged as the best pistol shot at the Saugerties club, which counts active local and state law enforcement officers and military veterans among its roughly 500 members. His friends and admirers believe the hazel-eyed, wide-shouldered, preternaturally calm and safety-oriented sportsman has the potential to become a pistol-shooting legend, following in the footsteps of his hero, Jerry Miculek, one of the fastest revolver shooters in the world.
Miculek, a competition shooting instructor, currently holds five world records. He’s sponsored by Smith & Wesson, who created the S&W Model 625JM in his honor. VanEtten is currently single, has never been married and doesn’t have any kids. Miculek is married to Kay Clark Miculek, herself an accomplished shooter, holding numerous national and world titles. So all you single female Saugertesian shooters out there, you might want to get him in your sights.
On Thursday nights, VanEtten runs an informal “steel challenge league” for members of the private gun club. About 20 men – and one woman, a cop’s wife – gather regularly to shoot steel targets while being timed. After two months, their six best weekly scores are tallied up. In four divisions, prizes are awarded for placing first to third, so “four people get crowned,” explains VanEtten.
Steel shoots can be organized in a variety of ways. All present a happy challenge according to VanEtten.
“The plates are different sizes, at different yardages, and in a different pattern; I like them all. I just like shooting steel,” said VanEtten.
VanEtten is the match director for the upcoming Steel Handgun Shoot. It will be held Sunday, July 15, rain or shine, at the Saugerties Fish & Game Club. Participants will hit five static steel targets while being timed, repeated five times per turn, so it’s a 25-shot minimum, not accounting for any allowed extra shots to make up for misses. Shooters must be at least 21 years old and have a safe handgun, plus a permit. Cost is $5 for the initial turn, $2 thereafter, for each division (there are two), and half the proceeds will go as cash prizes to the divisional winners.