Junior Pistol Athlete Highlight: Tanya Chowdary
October 10, 2023Civilian Marksmanship Program▸State Director▸New Jersey▸Junior Pistol Athlete Highlight: Tanya Chowdary
By Ashley Dugan, CMP Staff Writer
“It’s hard to express what exactly draws me to pistol, but I believe it has to do with the dedication and intense focus needed to shoot an X on a bullseye,” junior markswoman Tanya Chowdary explained. “Shooting a perfect shot requires adherence to a flawless routine and the self-discipline to repeat the same action every time you pick up your gun.”
And Tanya has the repetition down.
Though only 17, she has already collected several successes through bullseye pistol competition. At the 2022 National Matches, a renowned event in the marksmanship world held each year at Camp Perry in Ohio, Tanya earned the High Junior Any Sight title with a score of 2542-71X – leading the next highest junior by over 50 points. She was also the fourth highest woman.
Affiliated with the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) and representing the New Jersey State Junior Team through the junior program at Somerset County Fish and Game Protective Association (SCFGPA), Tanya returned to the National Matches in 2023 to earn the High Junior title again and moved up to the third highest woman overall.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve had an ambitious nature, especially when it comes to sports,” she said.
A native of Belle Mead, N.J., Tanya first learned about the National Matches when she joined the junior program at SCFGPA club in 2020 and saw pictures of junior teams from prior years. It got her excited, and she decided she wanted to give it a try for herself.
It wasn’t until 2021, when she was 14, that she was able to attend her first National Matches and instantly fell in love with the atmosphere at Camp Perry.
“It was a different experience for me, shooting alongside hundreds of shooters from all around the country when I was used to shooting with 20 to 30 at New Jersey matches,” she said. “I performed decently, but it gave me determination to come back stronger and really compete the next year. I also got a lot of advice from fellow shooters, which I took back with me and integrated into my practices.”
Though she was thrilled to return to the National Matches in 2023, recreating her successes from the year before made her uneasy. The pressure of outdoing herself caused Tanya to fumble on the second day of competition. Then, when one of her matches was unexpectedly cancelled, she realized she was in the midst of a new lesson: sometimes, not everything goes as planned.
With a new outlook, she picked herself up during her remaining matches, which tested her ability to keep her concentration through windy and heavily raining conditions. She stayed focused and gave her best efforts – reaching the objectives she had set for herself.
“My only goals coming into this year’s match were to concentrate solely on my process for each shot and to not leave the range with any regrets – both of which I achieved, so I’m happy with how I did,” she added.
Tanya has come a long way for someone who, at first, wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about marksmanship when she began in rifle almost a decade ago.
“I lacked any interest in the sport,” Tanya admitted. “On one hand, I was terrible at shooting and could not hold the rifle steady, and on the other hand, it bored me. A lead bullet piercing an X on a sheet of paper was just not a big deal to me at that age.”
At age 9, she started in a junior rifle program at her local gun club, Citizens Rifle & Revolver Club (CRRC). After two years, her dad asked her if she wanted to try out pistol. She joined the junior program at CRRC in 2017 where she shot her first pistol – a pink Browning Buck Mark.
“It was definitely more interesting than rifle,” she said. “I struggled with one-handed shooting for the first couple years, but as I got better, I began to like it a lot. I was looking forward to shooting every Sunday afternoon and seeing how I was slowly getting better at the sport.”
Over the years, she has faced various challenges that have led her to learn more about herself as a markswoman and as a person.
“That includes coping with pressure before and during a match, dealing with countless disappointing targets and learning the discipline to stay focused while shooting,” she said. “The challenges made me into a process-oriented person.”
“I enjoy the person I become when I shoot, especially when I concentrate and push myself to do better at each target striving for perfection,” she went on. “There is a great deal of perseverance required for this sport, but it’s all worth it once you see the results.”
Tanya practices every Monday evening with the junior pistol team at SCFGPA and practices at the CRRC range one to two times a week before matches. She maintains a shooting journal full of details about her process for each gun and type of fire.
“Looking through my journal, I can remind myself of what thoughts or songs keep me happy, and what my tendencies are when shooting, that way I can fix my form quicker,” she said.
For .22 caliber, Tanya uses a Pardini SP Bullseye model, which she likes because of the bolt slide and front weighting system that stabilizes the pistol in sustained fire. As for the .45 caliber, she uses the Accuracy X Series pistol – her favorite.
Tanya credits her dad for teaching her, and her sister, to work hard to become the best at anything they do, and Tanya believes that’s what allows her to stay so competitive in the large field of talented competitors.
“For me, the key to keep winning is to enjoy what you are doing and at the same time never let your guard down, which is very difficult to do when you are shooting well and start to get over-confident or when you are shooting bad and feel uncertain,” she said. “I try to maintain my emotions and thoughts to remain the same, because it prevents shooting emotionally – a skill that I’ve learned to use in intense matches.”
Another challenge she faces: the overwhelming majority of bullseye pistol competitors are male.
“Being a junior female participant is an oddity, and I definitely get a few puzzling looks at first if they do not know me prior,” she said. “Most shooters in the sport are very passionate and experienced, but when they see a young woman shooting next to them, they mistake me for a kid who might not be serious and are worried about how I would score them and if I know the rules.”
“Once the match begins, and they see me shoot, they start talking to me and I can sense the surprise and disbelief of how they misjudged me,” she went on. “By the end of the match, they become friendly and respect me as an equal.”
The camaraderie on the range has allowed Tanya to meet many wonderful people from the places she has competed. She now wants to take what she has learned to encourage others to join in on the positive experiences found within pistol competition.
“I would like to be able to inspire more young girls to start shooting and find confidence within themselves as they learn the sport,” she said. “It is without a doubt a difficult sport to achieve success, and it needs dedication and discipline to accomplish.”
For her own goals, Tanya, simply, wants to keep getting better and to achieve Master status before the 2024 National Matches in July. She also wants to keep going to Camp Perry even after she graduates high school. After all, it’s a place that helped her become the confident young woman she is today – along with those who have championed her career along the way.
“I could not have done any of this without the tremendous support I received from Mary and Ray Badiak, who run the junior pistol program at SCFGPA,” she said. “I owe them a big thank you for all the time and energy they dedicate to the juniors.”
For the future, Tanya plans on majoring in business finance or law in college and, of course, to keep up with the sport she loves whenever she can.
“I hope to keep shooting as an active hobby throughout my life,” she said.
Interested in Bullseye Pistol Shooting? Visit the CMP website at https://thecmp.org/competitions/cmp-pistol-program/ for more details and information.