For many of the 13 years that Cooper Firearms has held the One-Shot Competition in Montana, Gary Hamilton of Farmingdale has been something of a legend.

Hamilton started going in 2004 only because he was going to carry Cooper rifles at his store, Neilson Sporting Goods. And it seemed like good business.

Today the Maine firearms enthusiast is also well known in the Montana shooting circles.

And now the owner of Cooper Firearms wants to bring the One-Shot Competition to the East Coast — to Maine.

“We’d like to do it on the East Coast. We have customers throughout the country. I thought they might like one on the East Coast. It might be a nice thing to have,” Hugo Vivero said from his headquarters in Branford, Conn.

The One-Shot Competition sounds like the kind of unusual shootout that would have taken place in the Old West.

It is actually a creation of the folks at Cooper Firearms, which has been making exclusive firearms since 1990.

There are only about 40 top shooters from around the country allowed into the competition. To compete, groups of five to eight shoot at small round paintings from 150 yards away, all of them using a Cooper rifle.

Shooters get one shot at a bull’s-eye, and must hit it or be close to it without using spotting scopes.

The dot is only a quarter-inch in size and painted on a target that is only 2 inches in diameter.

The closest shooters win the painting and advance, along with the second-place finisher, to the final round where the finalists compete for a Cooper rifle.

Shooters have traveled from California, Washington, Florida and Wyoming to compete in the One-Shot Competition.

“They are very good shooters. Extremely good, when you consider the diameter of the target and the fact the bull’s-eye is the size of a pencil eraser,” said Barb Gibson at Cooper Firearms in Stevensville, Mont.

Hamilton, 59, has won five paintings and two rifles. His son, Brock, 22, has won two paintings.

A lifelong hunter, Hamilton said his marksmanship is a result of channeling his love of firearms into shooting competitions. He used to deer hunt more, but after he battled cancer in 2000, he deer hunted less — yet still wanted to know he was a perfect shot.

To know he could take his prey with one shot became the ultimate test.

And so there is no other firearm competition for Hamilton like the Cooper one-shot.

“I like the competition and I like the people. And I like going out and shooting at that level,” Hamilton said.

That’s why he wants to help Vivero bring it to Maine.

Hamilton envisions the .22 rifle match held in the Augusta area at a range big enough to hold some 40 competitors and spectators.

“Maybe in the first year it wouldn’t be big, but I think it would grow over time,” Hamilton said.

He thinks Cooper gun owners from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut would travel to the competition, because Hamilton said those states have a lot of dealers.

But Hamilton even thinks Cooper owners would come from as far as California because, like him, they want to prove they are the best shot, even when they have only one.

“Other shooters might come from Montana. There’s quite a bit of interest. But I guarantee you they’ll come,” Hamilton said.


Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]