Rising Shooting Stars: Cole Shanholtz

The shooting sports sustain and unite this father-son duo ... what an NRA Family!

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posted on May 1, 2024
Cole Shanholtz Lede (1)

The 2024 NRA World Shooting Champion, Brian Shanholtz, is still in shock.

Not only did he claim the title--and $25,000--over some big names, but his 15-year-old son, Cole, joined him on the podium as top junior. “I’m more happy about that than I am winning the [whole] thing myself to be honest with you,” Brian said. “That was so cool, for especially his first year, and he was super nervous about it building up to it from the time we left and even when we were out there shooting…. [It was an] indescribable experience to have me and him both up there on that stage.”

Cole had been eagerly watching the scores throughout the match and knew it was between him and one other junior for the title. “I was a little surprised,” Cole said, “but I knew I had shot well.” What shocked everyone was the father-son duo taking the podium together. “I really liked how much everyone was cheering for us and stuff when we went up there,” Cole recalled.

The father-son duo is a regular pair on their home range in Maryland. It all started with groundhog hunting and a Crickett .22LR. Neither father nor son remembers the full details, just that they have been shooting and hunting together for as long as they can remember. Brian did his best to expose Cole to a variety of disciplines. Cole started competing in steel challenge when he was about 10 years old, but quickly fell in love with shotgun sports. He now competes on the Mt. Airy Sharpshooters SCTP team with his dad as a coach.

“I like trying to get the best score I can in trap rather than getting a time in steel challenge,” Cole said. Besides this, Cole didn’t have much of a reason for his specific passion for trap other than he just likes shooting shotguns. (And that's more than enough.) He also has a number of friends on the team.

Cole excelled in baseball growing up, but he didn’t like its culture. “He used to play baseball and he was the top on the team, made the all-star team every year,” Brian explained. “It was an ‘everybody wins’ type thing and as soon as he got introduced into shooting where you could actually progress on your own merit, that definitely appealed to us … It wasn’t something I forced him to do, he was just like ‘Dad, I don’t want to do this no more because no matter how good you do, you don’t get the recognition'.” Shooting allows Cole to excel on an individual level while being a part of a team.

In his first competitive trap shoot, the 2020 AIM Maryland Pumpkin Shoot, Cole came first in his age group. The next year he placed 10th in his age group in skeet at the Nationals. In 2023, he won the entire Pen-Mar Regional Youth Trap Shoot with a 99/100 and came in first for his class in the 2023 Maryland SCTP championship. Though shotguns are his first love, Cole also competes in occasional PCC matches. He won top junior in 2022 and 2023 at the PSA shootout. The preliminary 2024 results indicate he’s turned this into a three-year streak.

Perhaps his biggest accomplishment to date is his top junior finish at the 2024 NRA World Shooting Championship, which earned him a $1,000 check. It’s also important to note he didn’t just finish well among the juniors; he came in fifth place in the amateur division, beating a number of accomplished shooters ... including former Marine Corps shooting team members.

Looking towards the future, Cole is incredibly competitive and wants to continue to improve. He aspires to shoot 100/100 in trap and win as often as he can. He currently competes with a Browning Citori 12 Gauge with Winchester AAs. He listed his Shamrock leather shell pouch and L&M shooting glasses as “must-haves” on the range. He is currently sponsored by Vortex Optics, Frog Lube, JP Enterprises and Hunters HD Gold with plans of trying some USPSA matches.

Sadly, not everyone around Cole has embraced or celebrated his success. An elementary school assignment to write about the past weekend’s adventures turned sour when Cole’s teacher prohibited him from writing about shooting. Brian called the school and protested, letting them know that not only was this uncalled for, but potentially harmful. “Don’t make my son feel like he’s doing something wrong,” he said. “This is our way of life ... Just because you don’t politically agree with it don’t ostracize my kid for it.” Practicing and devoting time to any sport can be challenging without others trying to make it more difficult.

Outside of trap, Cole enjoys hunting, particularly turkey and wing-shooting. He also enjoys fishing and riding four-wheelers.

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