PEARL, Miss. (WCBI) – For a state that’s number one in many undesirable rankings, one particular ranking can give residents a sense of pride in it’s law enforcement.
A little out of our area in Pearl tryouts were held for one of the nation’s most decorated pistol shooting teams, The Mississippi Highway Patrol.
“It’s always been highly talked about and rumored and elite to even be a part of it,” said team member and Troop G Patrolman, Matthew Stewart.
In this case, the rumors are true.
Since it’s creation in the 1960’s, the Mississippi Highway Patrol Pistol Team has made quite a name for itself.
For over 50 years, this firing range in pearl has seen some of the finest marksmen in our nation’s law enforcement.
“We used to hold championships here from about 1969 to 1981, and that’s when we really began to put some emphasis on it, and we had some wonderful teams back in that era,” said retired MHP Lieutenant Colonel, Pat Cronin.
After ’81, the championship was moved to Jackson and later moved to Albuquerque in 2005.
In that time, MHP racked up awards.
“Well, the team itself has won 10 four-man-team national championships over the years,” said MHP Range Director, Dan Rawlinson. “In 1978, Jim O’Cain was the first Mississippi trooper to win the national competition. In 1991, Ken Dunlap won it, and then since then or during that time Phillip Hemphill won it 10 times.”
“Without question, Phillip Hemphill was the best police combat shooter in the world for some time,” added Cronin.
To keep up with the competition, as well as their own standard, MHP shooters have to keep a steady practice routine.
“We practice for several hours every Tuesday, shoot several hundred rounds a day: revolver, automatic, about 6 to 7 different types of pistols,” said Stewart.
“It’s mostly handguns,” said Rawlinson. “We do shoot a shotgun match during the nationals, and occasionally when you go to some regional matches you might shoot a patrol rifle.”
For these teammates, a lot of training is an out-of-pocket expense.
“These are all personal guns that we compete with, so these guys have had to buy their own… a lot of their own equipment to compete with,” said Rawlinson.
“Some of the Federal agencies have a lot of support, you know, financially and are able to go to a lot of matches,” said Cronin.
But every year, MHP’s finest go toe-to-toe with names like the U.S. Border Patrol and the Chicago PD.
Going into the competition, these shooters already have targets on their backs.
“You really have to keep your pride in check because you get out there and if you’re not careful, if you don’t focus… good trigger control and breathing, you’ll really get it handed to you,” said Stewart.
“It can kind of weigh on your nerves a little bit, but once you get there and just start practicing a little bit you kind of calm down,” said Rawlinson.
Trophies and plaques are good for the shelves in an office, but the image and reputation given to the state in the competitions gives this team a sense of accomplishment.
“You know what people think about Mississippi and some other places, but we’ve tried to dispell anything that’s negative and make sure that they understand we’re there to compete,” said Cronin. “We want to beat you, but we also want to fellowship with you. We want to show the good southern hospitality. It’s just a wonderful feeling to be a part of a team such as this.”
Cronin told us that the city of Albuquerque might be giving up the opportunity to host the national championship in the future, and the NRA is thinking about bringing it back here, to our state’s capital in Jackson.