Warrant Officer Jim Sandall hopes to make it to the Olympics with his shooting skills. He recently won first place at the Canadian Airgun Grand Prix. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

WO Sandall wins another shooting title, has sights set on Olympics

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, July 20, 2017

Warrant Officer Jim Sandall is an extremely good shot.

He would have to be considering that his ultimate plan is to make it to the Olympics one day as a target shooter. It isn’t a far-fetched goal either - this member of 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (450 THS) has been sharpening his skills for two and a half decades. He has travelled all over the world shooting at both military and civilian events.

“The concepts are the same,” said Sandall. “The firearms and targets are different but shooting is shooting.”

At the Canadian Airgun Grand Prix, he competed against Olympic calibre athletes and proved himself to be just as good. He went into the finals in seventh place and managed to climb to first place with a 4.1 lead. To do so required both speed and accuracy, something he has in spades.

“You have 50 seconds to fire one shot,” said Sandall. “It appears to be a long time, but when you are shooting something the size of a pinky fingernail, it’s not.”

His victory didn’t come without challenges.

He suffered a shoulder injury that pushed some of his aspirations back. Despite the support of his chain of command, he has also had to cut down on some training due to the military’s high operational tempo and his responsibilities as a Warrant Officer. Yet he refuses to let anything hold him back.

In fact, he finds that shooting is very much a mental game. Skill and a fine eye are necessary, but there is a certain level of calmness required, lowering one’s heartbeat as much as possible. Stress, pressure and nerves can be just as much a challenge as aim.

“Pretty much nothing phases me anymore,” he admitted.

He even had his pistol break at his very first International Military Sports Council (CISM) competition. Instead of panicking, he made his way to his coach, got another gun and continued competing.

“There is a whole mental management piece,” said Sandall. “It is like a mindset that the day before a competition that I switch into. There is a routine that I try to follow.”

One of his tricks is to get into a zone, where it is just him, the gun and the target. Many of his competitions are also on the weekend, so he doesn’t need to worry about his passion interfering with his job. To avoid the match pressure, he also believes that every shooting opportunity is equal.

“I try to treat every competition the same,” said Sandall.

Sandall will be competing in the 2017 National Championships in late July and early August.