08/05/11 — Jerry Kittrell - The shootist

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Jerry Kittrell - The shootist

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 5, 2011 1:47 PM

When Jerry Kittrell pulls the trigger on his Colt 1911 it is almost second nature.

There is no fear, no hesitation and no doubt about where the bullet will wind up.

Kittrell, a retired United States Air Force senior master sergeant, has been shooting for too long to think twice. He made marksmanship a career in the military and now his passion as a civilian.

His lifelong efforts culminated in an award-filled year in 2011. Kittrell was given the Distinguished Revolver shooter's certificate and became just 109th person in the six years that the award has been available to meet the certification requirements.

"That is the one thing I am most proud of in all of my shooting," Kittrell said from his office at VIP Tax Service. "It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to shoot a revolver accurately from both 25 and 50 yards."

Kittrell's journey to the pinnacle of the shooting world began 50 years ago as a young gunsmith in the Air Force. He was transferred to Goldsboro following a tour in Vietnam and immediately fell in love with the area. After a second lengthy tour to Okinawa, Japan which began in 1973, Kittrell got his wish and was relocated back to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in 1976.

"I considered myself to be pretty fortunate that I got to come back here," Kittrell said. "I was glad to be home and glad to get back to doing what I loved, which was shooting and teaching people how to shoot."

Working as a shooting instructor on the base was not always the most glamorous position. After the old firing range was condemned and eventually cleared to make room for storage building security officers who wished to, or needed to, work on their shot were forced to travel by bus to Camp Lejuene or Fort Bragg.

"For a while we used to drive down there all the time because those were the two closest places to fire multiple kinds of weapons," Kittrell said. "It was not very convenient."

Kittrell helped resolve the situation at Seymour Johnson by drawing from his past experience during other assignments. He proposed that the hangar used to clear the guns from World War II-era planes be converted into an indoor shooting range. The idea quickly found legs and Kittrell oversaw the process until the new shooting range was completed.

After 21-years of distinguished service Kittrell retired from the Air Force, but his love of guns and his affinity for shooting would not be quelled. He continued to work on his shot at local gun ranges and began shooting in competitions directed by the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

It was not long before Kittrell was being noticed by other shooters and advancing to bigger and more prestigious events. All of his practice and preparation culminated with a breakout year in 2011 at the age of 69.

"I have always been a pretty good shot," Kittrell admitted. "I know that I am too old to ever be a national champion, but for my age I am one of the better competitors in the senior division."

Kittrell competed in the Eastern CMP Games at Camp Butner in May and earned a Silver Excellence-in-Competition badge. One week later he won a Gold medal with a score of 265-05x. With his second win in as many weeks, Kittrell earned the necessary points to garner the Distinguished Pistol Shot badge.

No small feat for a competitor of any age.

The Distinguished Pistol Shot badge originated in 1891 as part of the U.S. Army marksmanship program and to this day only 1486 civilians have earned the designation. The Distinguished Rifleman and Distinguished Pistol Shot Badges are the highest honor that most military and civilian rifle and pistol shooters can aspire to earn.

Kittrell was also recognized as one the "President's top 100" during a competition in June at Camp Parry in Ohio. President Theodore Roosevelt began the tradition of sending letters of congratulations to the nation's top competitive shooters in 1904. The tradition lives on today, only the certificate no longer carries the current President's signature.

"It's kind of like going into the Hall of Fame for shooting," Kittrell said. "To be one of the people that has reached the distinguished level is really a great honor."

Despite having reached the summit of the marksmanship mountain, Kittrell has no plans to slow down. He will turn 70 years old before the 2012 Eastern CMP Games which will allow him to compete in the "Advanced Senior" division. Until that time he will continue to practice as well as shoot in local competitions at both the Sir Walter Gun Club in Creedmoor and the Durham Gun Club in Maybin.

"I still love to shoot," Kittrell said. "It's always been a big part of my life and I don't think that's going to change any time soon."