Thacker-Hanish Split 3GN Championship Prizes
Donations to Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network
By Chad Adams
For most folks, winning the 3-Gun Nation Championship Finale meant one thing—holding up that big check for $50,000 from Leupold Tactical Optics and NBC Sport Network. However, for this year’s finalists, a pair of teammates came in with an entirely different plan.
Tommy Thacker and Mark Hanish are splitting their collective 3GN Championship purse, a check for $50K, a Brownells check for $2,500 and a Barrett MRAD rifle package complete with a Leupold Mark IV and a BORS system. The first and second place prizes combined for a value of approximately $60,000.
And if that isn’t remarkable enough—they’re giving a big chunk of that haul away to charity.
Thacker and Hanish, in the name of Team FNH USA, will donate $10,000 to both the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity FNH USA has worked with extensively, as well as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a favorite charity of 3GN Host and Team FN member Mark Wills.
“We have informed Barrett of our plan to share the first and second place prizes, and make the $20K total in donations to SOWF and CMNH from Team FNH USA,” Hanish said. “Tommy and I were blessed to be at the top of the 3-Gun Nation Finale, and we feel Team FNH USA can do more good by selling the MRAD and using the money to help some great charities. Besides, it would be impossible to split the rifle, and difficult to arrange visitation with both of us living in opposite ends of the country!”
Barrett's Brian James (left) and Brownells' Pete Brownell (right) present 2nd place prizes to Mark Hanish.
The all-FNH final, for Team FNH USA, in effect realized a dream the team members had shared since the company went “all-in” in its support to the game, including its key role as a sponsor of 3-Gun Nation.
“Mark and I decided as soon as it was nailed down that I was in the big show we would split it if we went one and two (in either order),” Thacker said. “We have been a team from the start and there was no reason to move away from that. I was happy with it, as Mark was the one person I didn’t think I could beat in the Shoot-Off format. He is very tough in Shoot-Offs.”
“When Tommy and I both made the final round, we had already won!” added Hanish. “We accomplished what we had set out to do, which was to represent FNH to the best of our abilities and make it an all-FNH Finale. I was focused and determined through the opening bouts, then the Finale felt like another day on the range shooting with my teammate and one of my best friends. After Tommy had won the Finale, I was truly ecstatic for him. He is a great shooter and an even better individual. Tommy has put more into the sport of 3-Gun than anyone over the past couple years, and he truly deserved to come out on top.”
Like most 3-gunners, Thacker and Hanish each have full-time jobs that limit their practice time, making their Shoot-Off runs against an extremely deep field even more impressive. For Thacker, the difference-maker came through focused practice and visualization techniques. Thacker found a “coach” in longtime friend AJ Williams, built shooting boxes like those used in past 3GN Shoot-Offs, took a guess at what the Shoot-Off stage might comprise (guessing wrongly, we might add), and then went through two focused practice sessions that forced Thacker to relearn the way he approached the Shoot-Off, building a base on accurate, one-for-one shooting and building speed from there.
“I stretched and visualized what the run would be, how I would approach it and how it all would play out,” Thacker said of his final practice run in Virginia. “True to form (Williams) would not let me go at it on the first run; instead it was a smooth approach going one-for-one on every target. After that first run I looked at AJ and told him I had a 26-second run in me and I was going to get it today. At that point he said he was ready when I was. I visualized a fast run with all the footing and hits, stretched and asked for the timer. AJ started me with the timer and off I went, one-for-one on the shotgun, one-for-one on the rifle, two misses quickly made up on the pistol and it was over. I looked back at AJ for the time and he was laughing, my first thought ... the timer didn’t work. Well, he was laughing at the time. I shot a 25.36, which is more than 2.5 seconds faster than my best run to that point.”
Thacker and Hanish congratulate each other following the final run of the 3GN Championship Finale.
Thacker then knew he was ready, and after limited but dedicated Shoot-Off practice rounds he didn’t touch a gun again until the competitor practice session in Las Vegas the morning of the Finale.
“I packed up and didn’t touch a gun until the Wednesday practice session,” Thacker said. “Total rounds less than 350, lots of visualization and prayer not only for myself but I prayed for all of the competitors along the way and one last time just before the event. I asked that every competitor have the ability to shoot to the best of their game for the finals. I knew I was ready and I wanted everyone to perform at the highest level.”
Despite intense work schedules, limited practice time and the immense hype surrounding the 3GN Finale, Hanish and Thacker stood out in Las Vegas—not for winning, but in their demeanor all day on Wednesday. After viewing both competitors in their morning practice session, and again interacting with the other competitors leading up to the main event, both of the FN shooters were extremely calm and confident with the largest payday in the history of the sport on the line.
“At the highest levels of competition, especially in the Shoot-Off format, the advantage is gained through mental preparation and conditioning,” Hanish said. “I was very calm during the event because I am confident in my abilities. I had no worries about matching up head-to-head with anyone on the shotgun and pistol, my only concern was the rifle portion. All of the 3GN Shoot-Offs boil down to the rifle, and getting into a good position with the rifle can make or break your run. I stepped in the box knowing that I could win every run by shooting to my ability. I also had an advantage in having more Shoot-Off experience than everyone in the field (outside 3GN) with the possible exception of Mike Voigt. I have previously won the top 16 Shoot-Off at the USPSA Nationals, and the American Handgunner World Shoot Off Championships. Having 15 years of high level Shoot-Off experience was definitely a huge advantage.”
“I was completely stress free,” Thacker added. “I wasn’t shooting for the money, that money wasn’t mine. If I won it I was splitting it up anyway, so there was never any pressure there. I wanted the title, I wanted to prove that I am one of the best shooters out there and that is exactly what I did. Under adverse conditions all season and having an extremely demanding job, wife and four children waiting in the wings, I did it. I accomplished in one season what some will never do, and I did it with prayer, giving, caring and compassion for everyone around me, not by being a paid full-time shooter. My job is not to shoot, it is to keep new products fresh and innovative and making sure that deliveries are on time so our salesmen can deliver them to the market place.”
The 3GN Finale capped what, at times, had been a difficult season for both Hanish and Thacker. After posting some of their worst career finishes early in the 2011 season, each competitor rallied, in his own way, and came into the 3-Gun Nation Championship shooting his best 3-gun of the year. Their late-season runs set-up for interesting stories to watch heading into next season’s highly anticipated 3GN Pro Series.
Team FNH USA's Mark Hanish was pumped up following an early-round victory at the 3GN Championship.
“I am very excited about my 3-Gun future,” Hanish said. “I worked extremely hard to be better prepared physically for 3-gun shooting. I am over 50 pounds lighter than I was at the start of the season. My physical conditioning has paid huge dividends over the course of the year, and now some focused practice and preparation should make for a great 2012. The challenge for Tommy and I is getting the time to dedicate to be prepared for the matches. Many times we shoot a match, pack up the gear, only to open it the morning of the next match—sometimes a month later. We have different roles for FNH, but we are both focused on our primary job responsibilities.”
“What a wild ride this year was for me,” Thacker said. “I have had several of the worst finishes I have ever had in 3-Gun. Several that I was very surprised I even made the top ten and at least one that I didn't. My work schedule has been terrible for the last six months and I couldn’t give up helping the team with whatever it was they needed. I didn't turn that off until the final match when I knew that I had to put work aside and focus on the match. It was my time and I had to give it one good shot to prove my talent to myself. I still made sure the team had what they needed but not like the past. I pointed fingers and basically said there is your stuff don’t ask me anything else.
Thacker and Hanish proved to be a powerful combo in 2011. Can they repeat in the 2012 Pro Series?
“Honestly I thought that the Shoot-Off could very well be my last 3-Gun event, Thacker continued. “With the FNS launch and a lot more involvement in the corporate side of FNH USA, I was thinking that shooting would have to take an even further removed second stage than before. For those who know what I do and how I show up and shoot matches, you think how can you get even further removed and still compete. Well, that was my issue, so I had already decided that I could finish up the Shoot-Off in style and go out exceeding my goal of making the top 16 for the year. Now I am more confused than ever. I am at a tough spot right now. Do I keep on like I am or get serious about the sport and put some real effort into it, now that's a good question...TBD.”
Come March, look for Tommy to be right back in the mix at Ancient City for the first event of the 2012 3GN Pro Series. Just like the all-FN final, for the blue team, it’s all part of the plan.