Imagine finding a lifelong passion just because you missed a deadline. Nineteen-year-old Ethan Clark first started shooting at four years old. “My grandfather wanted me to understand and appreciate the importance of proper firearms safety and appreciate the fun that shooting can be as long as it’s done safely,” he explained. When he was in elementary school, Ethan missed sign-ups for the local kids’ wrestling program. Ethan’s grandfather decided his six-year-old grandson needed something to occupy him over the wintertime, so he introduced him to an air pistol league. This served as a stepping stone into Bullseye.
Bullseye, or precision pistol, is an especially difficult sport. You do not see as many juniors participating as you do compared to sports like Smallbore or 3-Gun. Ethan fell in love with it and said “the biggest thing that has made me pick Bullseye as my main sport over anything else is the difficulty and mental focus it takes to shoot it. The X-ring is — I believe — 1.4", and the ultimate goal is to manage to put 270 shots within that 1.4" at both 50 and 25 yards with time constraints. That kind of challenge keeps me in the sport, because if you can follow your shot process and do all the right steps to shoot an "X" once, you should be able to do it 270 times.”
Between CMP and NRA competitions, Ethan uses five guns. For NRA, he uses a .22 LR Pardini SP 5” and Mountain Competition Pistols .45 1911 (centerfire/.45 matches), both with Ultradot optics. For .22 EICs, he shoots a Walther GSP; for service pistol, a Kimber Classic National Match; and for service revolver, a 70’s production Colt Python. All fit neatly inside his shooting box, which also includes ammunition, ear and eye protection, a chalk bag, hand towel, bug spray, pen, Sharpie, stapler, staples and target pasters. Ethan tries to keep his range equipment to the absolute necessities, but he says the single most important piece of equipment he has never makes it out to the range: his Dillon 650 reloading press. “Without it, I wouldn’t be able to shoot a third as much as a do,” he says.
Practice has paid off. This year, Ethan became the first ever Triple Crown Winner, a grueling grand aggregate of three 2,700-point matches, claiming the Sharpshooter class at all three events. He also claimed high junior for the event. This year he was also high junior at Cardinal’s 4-Gun Showdown and the Frank J. Bickar Memorial Tournament, repeating his 2022 performance. Last year, he also won high overall and high junior at the Ohio Governor’s Cup match. Ethan’s greatest accomplishment to date came in 2021 when he claimed High Junior at Camp Perry’s National Matches. He also lists shooting the Junior Olympic National Qualifier at the Olympic Training Center as a high point in his shooting career.
Ethan is currently a student at the University of Akron pursuing a mechanical/engineering degree. He dreams of designing/manufacturing competition firearms one day. “A large part of my world,” Ethan said, “revolves around working on firearms, building firearms, and understanding and learning their history. I love learning the history of old military surplus firearms, who the designers were and what their intentions were behind their designs, and just the heritage and impact old firearm designs have on current production guns. And I love building and working on firearms, because I like to push the envelope and see what will work and what won’t, and seeing if I improve something for the better.”
Being around guns has taught Ethan a number of things, reaching beyond their history and into everyday life. “Marksmanship has taught me a lot of lessons, some of them harder to learn than others. Shooting in an organized discipline has taught me how to focus, balance time, be patient, take constructive criticism, be organized and so much more. Organized shooting can teach a person so much more than they could ever imagine, and every lesson it teaches is just as valuable on the range as it is in day-to-day life.” He particularly enjoys competing against himself and seeing what he can do better the next time. He relies heavily on a shot plan and the fundamentals, working hard not to let bad shots or bad days negatively affect his mindset on the range. Comfort is also important to Ethan. He’s rarely seen without his UGG slippers, his favorite shooting shoes!
Moving forward, Ethan plans to continue to push himself in marksmanship and towards a career centered around it. “I would like to win overall up at Camp Perry and hit the classification of High Master, but otherwise I just hope to keep being able to shoot and spend time with my friends out there on the range!”