Shotgun shooters have their celebrities and heroes, just like anyone else.
Most of us in that group remember the incredible skills of exhibition shooter Tom Knapp, who entertained crowds for years with his fancy shotgun exhibitions. Older shooters will remember Rudy Etchen (Mr. 870) who set multiple records, many of them with a pump shotgun. In recent years, another name in the shotgun world has come to our attention: David Miller.
This isn't the first time I've mentioned Mr. Miller in this space. More than twice, I have taken you along for stories of my hunting adventures with Miller as we went after turkeys in Missouri, pheasants in Kansas and ducks on the Texas coast, and I've also shared accounts of his world record events with a shotgun. I have tried to relate to you about the activities and mindset of a guy who basically eats, sleeps and thinks about shotguns 24/7.
If Dave is not actually on the range shooting a shotgun at the time, he is no doubt thinking about some way to do it differently or better. The energy and drive of this guy is incredible, and frankly it kind of makes me tired just trying to keep up with him sometimes.
Besides demonstrating his prowess with a shotgun as an exhibition shooter for the gun company CZ-USA and competing at a very high level in sporting clay events all over the country, Miller has done something else: He has brought a degree of innovation to the shotgun world that is possibly unequaled.
In late 2009, Miller came on as shotgun product manager for CZ-USA, and over the next few years his foresight and creativity as a shotgunner brought the company to the forefront as a source of competition and hunting shotguns. The All American Trap Combo competition gun, the Reaper Magnum turkey gun, the Swamp Magnum waterfowl shotgun, the 712 G3 and the All-Terrain model shotguns are just some of the innovations that have appeared in CZ-USA's lineup because of Miller's ingenuity.
Besides competing and demonstrating inventiveness on new guns, Miller has raised awareness on shotgun shooting and bringing new shooters into the fold another way. He has created and participated in two Guinness Book of World Records events that may have brought more attention to shotgun sports and helped young shooters more than any other undertaking ever attempted.
On May 16, 2015, Miller set the Guinness mark for most clay targets shot in one hour (3,653). I was there, I saw it, and let me tell you boys and girls, it was a sight to behold. I have been trying to think of something to compare it to, so that I could describe what was going on. I really can't, but imagine a state fair or NASCAR race but with shotguns, and everyone is waiting to see the attempt at some great feat, such as Evel Knievel jumping the Grand Canyon or the like.
Miller was watching TV with his girlfriend, Kelly Lindley, and her two children, Will and Sydney, when they saw a program featuring people attempting to break world records. Will told Miller he should attempt some world record in shotgun shooting. That was all it took.
Miller said he didn't think much about it at the time, but the idea stuck. This was the beginning of months of planning, testing and building to make the idea and the dream come true, and it wasn't easy, brother!
Almost immediately, he took this idea to John Lindquist, who at the time was working with Pheasants Forever, as he wanted the record attempt to be connected to this conservation-based group to help raise money for its shooting programs for young people. This endeavor gained the organization more than $75,000 to help with getting kids outdoors and teaching them to shoot.
Oddly enough, one does not simply call up the Guinness Book of World Records and say, "Hey guys, I shot a couple thousand clay targets the other day, put me down for that record, if you would!" Miller and attorneys from CZ-USA worked with representatives from Guinness and the National Sporting Clays Association as all the rules and regulations had to be worked out, as well as safety precautions. Two of the major rules were one shot, one broken clay — if two clays shatter from a shot, it counts as only one target — and the clays had to travel at least 10 meters before he could break them.
I knew Miller would not rest long on this accomplishment, and in 2019 he set about to break another Guinness record. This time, Miller settled on a different concept: most clays broken by a five-person team in 12 hours. The standing record, 4,602, had been set in 2015 by a five-man team in Kent, England. With careful planning and much training by his squad of hot shot young shooters, Miller figured he could easily surpass this record, and boy, did he!
The really cool thing Miller did here is that he recruited young shooters from all over the country to be his teammates on this historic record attempt. Two boys and two girls were chosen to accompany him on the firing line on Oct. 12, 2019, at the Powder Creek Shooting Park in Lenexa, Kansas. The shooters chosen had to score well at qualifying events as well as write an essay about why they should be on the team that would attempt to break record.
I was also at this event, and again, it was something to behold. I watched these young shooters along with Miller shoot for 12 hours, with what seemed to me very little breaks. In the end, they broke 14,167 targets to easily break the old Guinness mark. The team of shooters shot an amazing 82% of the targets thrown in the 12 hours. Most of us would be very satisfied with that success rate on a few rounds of trap or skeet at our local gun range!
Miller turned 50 on Aug. 19, and if anything, he is going faster instead of slowing down. He is in demand as a shooting coach and teaching coach training seminars with his company, Miller Shooting Sports, and when upland bird seasons start, he will be on the road with his two springer spaniels, Sailor and Guinness. I have hunted with him, and you don't want to be the pheasant that flushes in front of Mr. Miller.
What is next for Dave Miller, and what records will he break next? Stay tuned.
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.