Interview with Tiffany Piper: National Champion Junior pistol shooter

    Tiffany Piper accepting the 2013 Bianchi Cup Junior National Championship title. At left, MidwayUSA Founder and CEO Larry Potterfield.

    Tiffany Piper is an accomplished junior NRA action pistol shooter, hailing from New Zealand as a four-time National Champion. Piper is sponsored by Leupold & Stevens, Inc. and travels the world shooting competitively. When Piper isn’t shooting, she’s horse riding, motorcross bike riding, and studying criminology at the Auckland University of Technology. She has recently broken two New Zealand records in the same day.

    Hi Tiffany, so you’re an accomplished 19 year old shooter from New Zealand, good stuff. And you’re also sponsored by Leupold, as am I. We have good taste! If I had a bottle of champagne, I’d crack it open to celebrate.

    Except I’m not old enough in America!

    Oh right, sorry about that. Well then, tell me a little bit about gun culture in New Zealand, how easy or hard is it for civilians to own firearms?

    NZ is very strict on gun laws, guns aren’t advertised or talked about much on TV, it’s sort of hush hush. But there’s a big hunting community and so guns are more common in that part of our culture.

    In Auckland, the most populous city in New Zealand, there are strict times for shooting, I can only shoot three times per week at my home range (Auckland Pistol Club). Since I’m right in the city where we only have outdoor ranges, there’s a noise control issue. I can shoot Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, but Wednesday I’m at work and university. I shoot on Sundays, but due to gun club scheduling conflicts, there’s only a four hour window for me to practice. So I basically only practice on Sunday. If I have conflicts, then sometimes I’ll shoot on Saturdays. Saturdays are normally allocated to my horse.

    Hours may vary depending on the season, hours may lengthen or shorten. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, and your neighbors are OK with guns then you can shoot 24/7 whenever you like.

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    If you only have three hours per week for live fire, then how else do you practice? Dry-fire, etc?

    In my garage I have a small plate rack with 2” plates where I can practice with my air pistol. On average, I shoot it maybe an hour and a half a week.

    I do a lot of strength training with CrossFit, to build up my “guns” (Tiffany flexes biceps), if you will. CrossFit encompasses a lot of disciplines from other sports and exercises. It helps me with my breathing since you have to a lot of reps and sets, and I have to maintain breathing control. It has helped me go prone much faster, and my weak-hand shooting has vastly improved.

    I used to run up a flight of stairs and get winded, but now I’m barely phased!

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    What does IPSC and competitive shooting sports look like in your home country?

    At my club, IPSC is huge. It’s a conflict at the gun club since the IPSC people need more space. I haven’t been to a proper match in New Zealand yet due to other conflicts, but I’m hoping to shoot one soon. On any given Sunday, we have six stages with around sixty shooters.

    We have steel challenge matches in New Zealand too, which consist of many fast steel matches similar to IPSC, but they are so much FUN!

    What initially got you into firearms? I understand you started shooting air pistol at age ten, what do you remember about that experience and the transition from air pistol to firearms?

    I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but I basically grew up shooting. I was born and carried into a gun club, and after my Dad would shoot he’d come see my Mum and me in the clubhouse. My Dad would take me to the club often, and I shoot because of him. My brother, sister, and Mum all shot for a little bit as well.

    Because I was brought up shooting, my Dad would often let me sneak a few shots from his real guns. I don’t really remember the transition much since it seemed so natural. My Dad purchased a custom .22LR pistol from a friend. It had a scope and a shroud, and that’s about all I can remember since it was almost ten years ago!

    Tell us the good stuff. What kind of pistols and gear do you use?

    I have a Safariland Bianchi Hemisphere holster, a JR holster for my IPSC gun, my production gun is an STI GP6C in 9mm, 4 ¼” barrel, factory sights, completely original (production gun), grip tape on the grip, a Springfield 1911 is my open gun .38 super, Kart 6” barrel, 2.2lbs Zidecki trigger, a Don Golembieski shroud, Piper 5-port comp, Protocol magwell extension and Piper base pad, Leupold scope, STI s7 sear, and Acurails. The gun was custom built by Rodon Arms by Robbie Donaldson. I use my Dad’s STI 2011, Kart barrel, Caspian slide, STI hammer and sear, custom Piper base pad, 6” barrel with custom barrel weight, factory rear sights, front sight by Rodon Arms, What-Ya-Say custom ear plugs, NYX glasses, and Pro Grip hand liquid.


    I’ve also got a Beretta O/U shotgun, 12 gauge, factory stock, 20” barrel which I haven’t shot too much, and I also have an AR-15 .223, 16” barrel, which Dad might switch to a 20” match grade Bushmaster barrel.

    Who are the shooters you look up to, and why?

    Vera Koo, she’s the one who got me into Bianchi Cup. She’s 67 and broke her leg after tripping over a high rope, and she dragged herself on the ground to get to her car to get her phone and call for help. She’s really strong willed, has been shooting for years, and is still going strong. She’s incredible, I want to be just like her.

    If you could be an animal, what would it be and why?

    A horse. I’m obsessed with them, ever since I was little. I’m one of those crazy horse girls who would There’s something about them, they are elegant, when you watch them run, they look so free, and carefree. There’s a wild side which I love, they are free to roam. They are family oriented as well.

    What are some of your primary goals as an action pistol shooter?

    Right. Now this is huge. I want to hopefully be as big as Jessie Duff. I want to have my own TV show. I want to teach young people about the shooting sport. I don’t want it to be a dying sport, and so we have to invest in our youth. I want to educate people so people aren’t as scared of guns as them.

    I’m studying criminology and so maybe I’ll be in law enforcement, criminal law, or forensic science.

    I’ve contemplated the Army, something where I can work with guns and help people. Travel competitively, perhaps have it as a career. I want to be the face of shooting. Is that a pretty big dream?

    That’s an awesome dream, don’t let anyone get in your way! So what is one of your shooting strengths, and one of your weaknesses? How are you addressing that weakness?

    One of my weaknesses was my weak hand shooting. Pursuing Crossfit was my solution. my Dad is my coach and one thing he made me do was repeating the basics, my breathing, my holster work, and he wouldn’t let me stop until I had perfected things. My Dad has always taught me that whenever you have a problem to strip it down to its basics and tackle things one bit at a time.

    On my 1911, I realized that when I would draw to track a moving target, that I would get my sight picture and only then would I turn the safety off. I am still practicing consistently turning the safety off as I am bringing the gun up to target.

    Have the junior divisions changed at all over the past nine years you’ve been involved? Are more juniors getting involved, or is it an area we as a community need to keep promoting?

    No matter how many juniors are getting involved, we need to continue promoting it. There are a lot of kids who aren’t into mainstream sports like rugby, soccer, etc, and so we see people doing a lot of archery which is more of mental game.

    in America, junior numbers have definitely grown. In New Zealand, it’s dying, and it’s really sad. This is my last year and so there’s only two junior shooters left. When you are in a country that is very anti-guns, you can’t promote the sport since the government won’t allow it. Our views on guns have been tainted, and no one wants to give it a chance. People hear guns and they freak out. We don’t have conceal carry, most of our police don’t carry guns, but they have tasers.

    People see American news and New Zealanders freak out since it’s all about gun violence. And it’s all really about people killing people, not guns killing people.

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    Vegemite. Love it or hate it?

    Vegemite is actually Australian! It’s made of meat extract. Marmite is made of yeast extract. It’s more mild and less salty than Vegemite. I love it. Two or three years ago, we had some major earthquakes here and the Marmite factory was affected. I went without Marmite for almost a year, and it was tough. When I was little I used to eat Marmite by the spoonful!

    Ha! I’ve tried Vegemite and Marmite a few times, and simply can’t stomach it. But anyway, to wrap things up, is there anything else you’d like to mention?

    I do want to branch out into other shooting disciplines like 3-gun and shotgun shooting. My Dad doesn’t like me shotgun shooting because 1) I absolutely kick his ass at it and 2) I get really bad bruises and people criticize me saying I’m not holding the gun right, but I just have really boney shoulders.

    Steel Challenge is another interest of mine. My gunsmith is building a new gun for me.

    Thanks for your time Tiffany. Best of luck to you, we here at TFB are excited to keep tabs on your future success!

    Chris Cheng

    Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and author of “Shoot to Win,” a book for beginning shooters. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

    He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. He resides in San Francisco, CA and works in Silicon Valley.