Marysville's Shooting Star
Lisa Munson is an 11-time national champ in the sport of practical shooting
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Lisa Munson of Marysville shoots a custom-built Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun at the Marysville Rifle Club last week. Munson is an 11-time USPSA National Champion.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Lisa Munson holds one of the custom Smith & Wesson 9mm handguns the company created for the “Babes with Bullets” camps Munson conducts for women who want to learn how to shoot.
But when it comes time to draw and shoot, Munson very much looks the part.
Munson, who lives in Marysville, is an 11-time women's national champion in the sport of practical shooting, which is sort of like arcade shooting on an obstacle course. Practical shooters fire at a succession of targets — to make it more challenging, those targets are sometimes moving — and they are scored on both accuracy and time.
It's a sport that combines marksmanship with agility and speed. And to hear Munson tell it, it's flat-out fun.
Practical shooting “is so dynamic,” she said. “When you think of going to a gun range and shooting at a target, it's all about accuracy. You're saying, ‘Can I hit the center of that bull's-eye?' But in our sport, you have to have all those same (shooting) fundamentals, but you're also running around and you're trying to get through this as quickly as you can.
“Every course is going to be different. And because they're never the same, you have to have this repertoire of skills.”
Who likes practical shooting? According to Munson, people from varied walks of life. Military personnel and police officers are often drawn to the sport, she said, although having a career with firearms doesn't automatically make someone a great practical shooter.
Because sometimes the soldiers and cops show up, “and they get their butts kicked,” Munson said.
And, yes, sometimes she's the one doing the kicking.
Munson is one of the elite practical shooters in the United States, male or female. She began shooting as a girl growing up in Seattle — her father, an Air Force major, got her started with a pellet gun when she was 8 — and she met her husband, Eric Munson, at West Seattle High School in the late 1970s because he was interested in shooting, too.
“Our first date was at a gun range,” she said.
She started practical shooting in 1987, shortly after she and her husband moved to Marysville, and she was hooked right from the start. These days she enters local competitions at the Marysville Rifle Club, but also regional and national events from April through November.
Dave Thomas, the executive director for the United States Practical Shooting Association, remembers seeing Munson for the first time at an event in Montana nearly two decades ago.
“She was shooting a (powerful) .45 that was rocking her every time she pulled the trigger, and yet she shot it very, very well,” he said. “And as time went on, she developed the techniques and abilities — and the sponsorships that provided her with better equipment — and she really began to blossom.”
In addition to competing, Munson is a shooting instructor. Sponsors pick up most of her competitive expenses — “It's like having a free hobby,” she said — and the teaching allows her to earn an income from the sport.
Between her teaching and shooting, she is on the road about 120 days a year. In the coming weeks, for instance, she will be at a regional championship in Idaho Falls, Idaho, before heading to Albany, Ore., for a three-day instructional camp. Later this summer she will be in New York, Michigan, South Carolina and Florida.
“I'm busy, busy, busy,” she said.
Wherever she goes, Munson strikes up conversations with people who are curious about her sport. Some are intrigued, but a few simply don't understand why anyone — a woman who's a wife and mother, no less — would be enthusiastic about guns.
“Some people are on the fence, but that's because guns maybe aren't their thing,” she said. “But I've also run into people who say, ‘Guns are evil,' and you're not going to get anywhere with them.”
Munson, of course, has a different opinion. She likens guns to cars — they can be safe and enjoyable if used properly, but dangerous if used carelessly — and says her attitude is “to respect, not fear” firearms.
“I think I might have been more defensive about this in the very beginning,” she said. “But now I'm out there trying to teach people. And if they have questions, I want them to please ask me those questions.”
Years ago, Munson's daughter probably said it best. Talking to a friend, she described her mother as “a gun evangelist,” a job description that still makes Munson laugh.
These days, despite her many national titles and other achievements, Munson is still not satisfied. In every competition and in every practice session, she aims to be a little bit faster and shoot a little bit better.
“I still feel I can improve,” she said. “Because there are no perfect scores in this game.”
Thomas recalls Munson winning her first national championship about 13 years ago.
“I was extremely excited for her at the time,” he said, “but never dreaming where she was going to take it after that. The fact that she's continued all these years at the top — she's still competing and still winning championships — is really an amazing feat.
“I won't say she's the only woman in the sport who's done these things, but she's certainly one of the few,” he said. “And her accomplishments speak for themselves.”