BRISTOL, Ind. --
In the midst of countless rounds exploding across the firing range, his sights are set on one thing, the target.
To the left and right of him are some of the nation’s best marksmen, but he’s ready. Prepared, he exhales and fires shot after shot hoping to leave his mark on what many consider to be “America’s World Series of the Shooting Sports.”
When the gunfire ceased and the smoke cleared, Lt. Col. Robert Davis, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing (AGOW) director of complaints resolution, won first place in the metric prone grand aggregate category during the 2018 National Rifle Association (NRA) National Smallbore Rifle Championships, in Bristol, Ind.
“It felt great (winning),” said Davis, who has more than 30 years of shooting experience. “I was surprised, because I thought I did pretty well, but I wasn’t sure I was going to rack and stack being that this is only the second time I’ve shot this style of competition, so it was exciting.”
The thrill of victory wasn’t always on the horizon. Davis faced a setback early in the competition that put his determination to the test, but the hardship didn’t rattle him.
“The first day I destroyed my chances of getting aggregate win for conventional prone, because an error caused my first two targets to not count,” Davis said. “But, the only shot that matters is the shot that you’re on, that’s all you have control over. I had to remind myself I don’t need to worry about what’s happened; I can only worry about what’s happening right now and to continue on.
“Murphy’s Law is going to strike when you least expect it, and it’s how you deal with it that matters,” Davis added. “Are you going to throw in the towel, or do you keep going? I carried (this mindset) with me while I was shooting at Bristol, telling myself ‘I’m going to make this the best shot I can.’”
This marksmanship philosophy allowed Davis to propel past his setback, despite a trigger malfunction that nearly derailed his championship hopes.
“I hit a really good target at 100 yards, and I was going to shoot my last 10 shots, but then I couldn’t get my gun to fire,” Davis explained. “We took it off the line, and I had someone look at it; fortunately, he had another trigger to loan out to me. I was able to shoot pretty well, getting almost perfect shots in, because I didn’t let a broken trigger shake me.”
After overcoming many obstacles and claiming his first national championship victory, Davis hopes to win again next year.
“I want to go back to Bristol next year and do even better, being able to come away as a champion (in more categories),” Davis said. “If I tell myself I’ve won this match, it creates a level of confidence that will allow me to win.”
Bringing back the gold to Moody, Davis hopes to pass his experience to base defenders through his expertise in marksmanship and potentially develop a marksmanship clinic.
According to Davis, mental management, confidence and techniques can help defenders become the most lethal battlefield Airmen.
“It’s about being a master of your game, and honing your skills, never resting on your laurels,” Davis said. “There’s ways to improve upon things, that we’re always learning the best way to be the best marksmen. There’s some marksmanship principles we can pass on, even if it’s just wind reading or shooting long distance that could be effective to help them to do (their) job better.”
For Col. Paul Birch, 93d AGOW commander, Davis’ ability to improve others’ marksmanship through his mastery and achievement, speaks volumes of his will to perfect his craft and win.
"To say that Lt. Col. Davis is a good shot is like saying there's a little bit of sand in the Sahara Desert,” Birch said. “This kind of championship drives home that point. I sleep better at night knowing he's in the 93d AGOW and, more importantly, that he's chosen to use his talents in the Air Force and dedicate them to the defense of our nation."