Bickar Achieves Dual Victories with Late Mother’s Pistol
August 14, 2023Civilian Marksmanship Program▸State Director▸California▸Bickar Achieves Dual Victories with Late Mother’s Pistol
By Jennifer Green, CMP Feature Writer
John Bickar of Menlo Park, California, made his return to Camp Perry after 22 years, competing for the 10th time in the National Matches. He had an impressive performance at the 2023 National Pistol Matches, most notably winning the President’s 100 with a score of 386-13X and taking home the Oglethorpe trophy on his team, CRPA Scarlet, with a score of 1106-21X. Scores like that take work, and he was able to achieve success with training, preparation, support from his team, and a lifelong dedication to the sport.
The 1911 pistol Bickar used in the match holds extra meaning for him. With his personal gun at the gunsmith for maintenance due to 30 years of use, he pulled his mother Judy’s pistol out of the safe to use in practice and matches. His scores kept going up with his mom’s pistol and at a certain point he decided to use it as his main gun. He explained, “It was really meaningful for me to shoot that gun and win the Oglethorpe Trophy with my team, and to be able to win the President’s Match with it.” Before she passed away in 2003, Judy had earned 6 points while pursuing her Distinguished Pistol Badge.
Judy and John weren’t the only Bickars to shoot pistol. John’s dad Frank, who passed away in 1994, was the president of the Canton McKinley Rifle and Pistol Club in Canton, Ohio for 17 years and the Memorial Canton CMP Championship is named for him. John grew up watching his dad shoot in matches, eventually deciding that it might be more fun to shoot than to watch.
While shooting the 2023 President’s 100 and NTI Matches, he noticed some kids hanging around with their dads. It reminded him of the early days with his own father, whose advice carried him through the tough President’s 100 Match. “My father used to say, you don’t shoot for your average, shoot for your personal best every match. That’s what I do.”
In addition, using his father’s wisdom, Bickar was able to utilize his years of training to stay mentally prepared throughout his matches. “I had to manage my expectations and energy level… making sure I’m bringing my best self to the line all the time. Not getting too low or too high.”
John experienced a high point when he learned that he had placed first in the President’s 100 and was waiting for the NTI to start. His teammate Matt helped him stay focused as his adrenaline spiked. “I still needed to bring in a new good number for my team.”
John earned his Distinguished Pistol Badge #1017 in 1993 at the age of 16, the youngest to do so at the time. He continued to shoot pistol in college, competing in International style shooting and moving into the Olympic Training Center where he lived and trained for five years.
During that time, he traveled to many competitions including World Championships, Pan American Games, Championship of the Americas, and World Cup, all while continuing to shoot Bullseye Pistol. He earned his Distinguished International Badge #446 in 2001, adding to his accomplishments, and in 2018, Bickar earned his Distinguished Rifleman Badge #2385. John also earned the .22 Rimfire Pistol Distinguished Badge #25 in 2016.
Although Bickar has many individual accomplishments, deservedly so, he is much more interested in supporting his team. He is a team player through and through, in fact, every time I tried to track him down for a photo after he won the President’s 100, John was busy focusing on his teams, CRPA Scarlet and Ultradot.
Jordan Kramp, Brian Mason, and Matthew Early joined forces with Bickar and set their sights on winning the Oglethorpe Trophy, which is awarded to the highest scoring civilian team in the National Trophy Pistol Team Match. A California team hasn’t won it since 1985, and CRPA Scarlet was determined to break that 38-year streak.
Since the fall of 2022, the team has been training and preparing in northern California. They would text each other with encouragement and keep positive attitudes. When the day of the match came, the weather was less than favorable, raining nearly all day, mostly in a steady downpour. John joked, “Usually it’s called precision pistol, that day we called it attrition pistol.” Even with rain gear everybody was soaked to the bone, squinting through raindrops to see their sights, and relying on their teammates to push through each shot with a positive mindset.
The rain was no match for CRPA Scarlet. They carried on business as usual, depending on each other to do exactly as they planned, “Go up there and shoot, do your job, do what you know how to do and get it done.” The team was victorious, they won the Oglethorpe Trophy and placed second overall, just behind the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Blue Team. John added, “I’m really proud to shoot with these three gentlemen, it was the highlight, more so than winning the President’s Match.”
If you are interested in shooting Bullseye Pistol, John recommends entering matches at your local club. The pistol shooting community is excited to share their passion with newer folks. Just last week, Bickar witnessed pistol competitor, Jonathan Shue, running up and down the line looking for a .22 conversion magazine for another competitor who was having malfunctions. All while he was shooting his own match. “The beauty of this sport is that people will bend over backwards to help you. Just get out there and shoot!”
I’ll leave you with John’s rules. In order, they are: show up, be safe, have fun. Everything else is gravy.
To find a local match or clinic, visit the CMP website at https://ct.thecmp.org/app/v1/index.php?do=match&task=search.