11 August 2022

Trick Shooting. Exhibition shooters: between skill and showmanship

Conceived as an expression of the Frontier world, the Trick Shooting phenomenon, i.e. exhibition shooters, became popular in the United States at the end of 1800s and found fertile ground in our country as well.

A situation perhaps favored by the traditional Latin temperament, as well as by the technical role that Benelli has given to this exhibition shooting.

Trick Shooting: a bit of history

Back in the day, when Western films were a thing, in that wild and dusty West, the typical American phenomenon of Trick shooting was taking shape.

The inventor of this type of show was no less than William Frederick Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, who appears halfway between myth and history, whose biographical features are confused with those of a legend.

His notoriety also crossed the Atlantic, thanks to the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, a circus show that in 1890 even came to Italy, where he held around fifteen performances.

The “numbers” in which the ability to shoot with firearms was exalted were the highlight of these events, demonstrating how the spectacular dimension has always been a feature of this acrobatic shooting discipline.

Since then, shooters have spread performing on itinerant shows, often organized in the suburbs of cities and countries of the United States.

Trick shooting's fame was sometimes tied to winning a record.

So over the years, different athletes tried out Trick Shooting

For example, Ed McGivern, who in 1934, during a public performance, shot 5 shots in 0.40 seconds in a revolver on a target set at 4.5 meters; the five holes could be covered by a playing card.

Interestingly, Ed McGivern's performance was only surpassed in 1999, when Jerry Miculek set a series of speed records for shooting, again with a revolver.

And how can we not mention Bob Munden (1942–2012), an extraordinary shooter who, in 1980, the Guinness Book of World Records called “the fastest man in the world with a weapon”?

Munden's favorite was the Single Action revolver who, in a 2010 episode of American television documentaries Stan Lee’s Superhumans, pulled from the holster and shot two balloons 1 meter and 80 centimeters apart in less than a tenth of a second!

In more recent times, the most popular performance shooter, partly due to numerous television and live shows, was Tom Knapp (1950–2013).

Bob Munden and his skill

Bob Munden was a modern Minnesota cowboy with a big mustache and gentle eyes, whose histrionic temperament was perhaps surpassed only by his ability to Trick Shoot.

His favorite weapon was the smooth-barreled shotgun. In 1993, Benelli sensed the potential of Trick Shooting – not only in the United States – and hired Tom Knapp: a marriage that lasted many years and was full of emotions, show after show and, above all, record after record.

Already in that first year, Tom managed to hit 9 clay pigeons, hand-thrown by himself, before they hit the ground in 2.2 seconds with a semi-automatic Benelli M1 Super 90.

The second world record came on July 19, 2000: 8 clay pigeons thrown and shot in the same way in 1.87 seconds, but with a pump shotgun, a Benelli Nova.

Finally, in 2004, he managed to reach 10 clay pigeons again in 2.2 seconds with another semi-auto shotgun from the Urbino company, an M2 Field. All these shotguns were in 12 gauge and used pellet cartridges.

Beyond world records, Tom Knapp will be remembered as a great showman: the wonder at the lively numbers of his performances was always accompanied by the sincere and amused laughs of the audience - with those people he would be constantly talking and sometimes even involved them in his incredible performances.

One of the funniest tricks, the so-called “Benelli Barbecue”, was to shoot at the base of a bucket full of water at a distance of ten feet: as a result of the shooting, it would come out and be thrown up forcefully... a rubber chicken, which Tom could hit seven times before it hit the ground!

Tom Knapp's performances in Italy helped spread this activity in our country.

Dynamic Shooting: the Italian Renato Lamera

Indeed, an Italian shooter, Renato Lamera, inventor of the Dynamic Shooting and also athlete of Benelli Trick Shooting (both with semi-automatic shotguns and with the Nova pump shotgun).

In 2005 he set the record at Knapp to 11 clay pigeons; the performance was held on Wiener Neustadt's shooting range, 20 km from Vienna, during the opening show of the Compak and Sporting World Championships.

Renato Lamera's performances differed from Knapp's because of their increased technicality, probably because Lamera, born as a skeet shooter, had kept his imprint, while becoming one of the best trick shooters.

Davide De Carolis and the Italian School of Trick Shooting

An important legacy that of Knapp and Lamera, today collected by Davide De Carolis, which is a worthy representative of the Italian school of Trick shooting.

Born in Anagni (FR), born in 1988, hunter and shooter, he personally raised the dogs that he brings to the wild boar hunt for which he uses Benelli's semi-automatic endurance BE.S.T. refile.

Because of his particular affinity with this type of weapon, Davide De Carolis has been several times Italian champion and 2016 European champion in the wild boar silhouette shooting.

Then, the move to the Dynamic Shooting (Trick Shooting): he took his first steps with a Benelli M2, thanks to his innate talent Davide was able to learn the technique and take it to such levels that he achieved four world records.

A peculiar feature of De Carolis as a shooter is his extreme versatility, as he can virtually use any type of shotgun, from over-and-under to semi-auto in 12 or 20 gauge, from bolt action to semi-automatic refile.  

So we have seen him perform with almost all of Benelli’s production: with semi-auto M2 SP, M2 Speed and Vinci in 12 gauge, with the over-and-under 828 U Sport in 12, with semi-auto Endurance BE.S.T. and Argo And Pro, both in .308 Win., and even with the latest addition to Benelli, the bolt action Lupo.

Davide De Carolis surprises us every day with his tricks, which are characterized, compared to the traditional numbers, by a particular rigor mixed with a curious originality: how to shoot the clay pigeons (hand-thrown) with a refile, in this case an Endurance BE.S.T., or use a smartphone not to take a selfie, but as a mirror to aim at a clay pigeon thrown behind you and hit it with the semi-automatic shotgun resting on your shoulder and the barrel facing back!

Benelli M2 Speed
Benelli M2 Speed

Davide de Carolis’ records

His Trick Shooting world records are also very original, with a mixture of creativity, focus and extreme skill.

In 2020, for example, Davide with his 828 U Sport 12 gauge hit a clay pigeon that was launched vertically (candle-shaped) from a skeet-throwing machine 150 meters away.

Benelli 828 U Sport
Benelli 828 U Sport

An almost unimaginable distance for a smooth-core rifle, loaded with just one cartridge.

Or the last record in chronological order, the one obtained with the bolt action Lupo.

Imagine two red balloons placed on the sides of a metal blade and Davide standing 110 m apart.

The air is charged with the electricity typical of those who feel that what they have worked for with total dedication is about to happen.

Lots of afternoons, lots of training sessions, everything for that one moment.

The bullet is fired and the moment seems to expand, almost holding your breath with everyone present.

Then the ammunition passes through the space, travels along those 110 meters with decisive determination and, with almost inevitable look, hits the blade.

Precision is absolute, such a precision that the nose cone is divided into two equal parts, which in turn are pushed to the sides and cause the two balloons to explode.

And the thrill of excitement that follows, that's just it.

Passion, enthusiasm and method are the ingredients of Davide's success, who has met fans since March 2022 at Trick Shooting Camp, a staged tour organized by Benelli to spread this discipline more and more, through various meetings, with lessons on correct shooting technique and correct mental and physical set-up.

Davide's approach to Trick Shooting is highlighted by one of the phrases he loves: “The result is a figment of your imagination.”

Like telling yourself that the only limit we have is in our minds. The only question is, what tricks will his fervent imagination hold for us in the future…


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