Jack Concannon: Always shooting to be the best
Jack Concannon looks down the barrels of shotguns and muzzleloaders pointed directly at him. What gives?
One of the basic rules of shooting with hunting guns is never point at another person.
But as a gun dealer who has specialized in hunting guns since 1968, Concannon looks down the barrel at the person who has shouldered the gun as his primary means of making sure the gun fits. He has to see the eyes looking down the barrel.
In the market for a new shotgun, I visited Jack at his home along the upper reaches of the Nanticoke River, near Seaford, a few weeks back.
My brother-in-law Sam gave me a Remington 870 - a pump shotgun - for Christmas about 45 years ago.
It's been a good, reliable gun through the years, but I wanted to up my game and get a gun that truly fit me.
Not too heavy, not too light, not too short, not too long - just right.
Jack came highly recommended by local hunters and sporting clay enthusiasts. Sporting clays are clay disks about five inches in diameter thrown from machines to mimic duck, goose, rabbit, quail, pheasant and dove hunting conditions.
Shooters compete against one another to see who can break the greatest number of targets in rounds of 50 or 100.
I came away from my meeting having purchased a semiautomatic Beretta and garnered plenty of information for a column.
Jack had me shoulder eight different guns. Before I took each gun, he showed me very carefully that the gun was not loaded.
When I put the Beretta up, stock against my cheek and eyes down the barrel, he took a look and said only two words. "Dead nuts."
Clearly he thought the gun was perfect for me. I've shot it, have a couple of geese in the freezer; I'm happy with the gun.
So, Jack knows guns, knows how to fit them, and also does custom shotgun work to improve performance for competitors.
But does he know how to shoot?
Plenty of evidence
Take a look around his man cave; take a look around his shop.
In both is plenty of evidence that Jack Concannon is an accomplished hunter and among the world's elite sporting clay competitors.
Brass trophies, medals, gold belt buckles, patches, shooting jackets and shirts, crystal bowls, decoys and wildlife art, the heads of impressively antlered bucks - all testify to his shooting ability.
He has been on the All-American sporting clays team for the past 16 years including 2016 when he was team captain. What about 2017? Members of that team haven't been announced yet.
He has won seven world championships, six United States Open championships, and two national championships as well as numerous state championships.
He is the current Delaware champion.
Hunters of this caliber often break 50 of 50 targets to win competitions, and 98 out of 100 targets as the competition stiffens.
In his years on the All-American team - typically three or four members from around the country plus one alternate - Concannon has shot in the 55-65 Veteran category and in recent years in the 65-75 Super Veterans category. In many of those championships, he recorded the highest scores of any shooters of any age.
He has won world championships at shoots in England, Wales, Italy, Australia and Ireland as well as the U.S.
When he won the world championship in Portugal in 2014, his prize was presented by Mrs. Beretta, matriarch of the Italian shotgun manufacturing family.
In his cluttered shop, a dozen or so mounted buck heads look down on the machining tools he uses for his custom shotgun work. There are also stacks of unopened boxes. "More trophies," he said. "What do you do with all of them? Many of them haven't even been opened. Over the past 10 years I've won 79 shotguns and thousands of dollars in prize money. It's great. The prizes pay for my trips." There are typically at least 1,500 to 2,000 shooters competing in these events.
In another section of his shop lie wooden pallets loaded with cases of shotgun shells. They're the reason why Concannon has won so much and keeps on winning.
"I work at it. There are 100 cases of shotgun shells on each pallet. I shoot 10,000 to 15,000 rounds each year. That's a full pallet," said Concannon.
"I shoot every week at different clubs and ranges up and down the Delmarva Peninsula. Salisbury, Bridgeville, Greenwood, Kennedyville. It's my passion. You have to want to do it well to do it well."
For 25 years, Concannon would load his equipment and camper each year and drive out to the national trap shooting championships in Vandalia, Ohio.
"I was into it. I rented a building where I leased space to other vendors and did my custom fitting and shotgun work."
Eventually he became a certified shooting instructor for the National Sporting Clays Association and moved full bore into competition.
Hunting since he was 14, Concannon has always lived in rural settings.
During his career in public utilities in New Jersey, he lived where he could bow hunt and shoot.
After retirement he moved to the Delmarva Peninsula, first near Crumpton on the upper reaches of the Chester River and now, for the past 16 years, in a woods along the Nanticoke in Sussex.
He can shoot ducks and geese along one waterfront section of his property and deer in another wooded section.
"I don't shoot much here, out of respect for the neighbors. And I'm very selective when it comes to deer. But I feed plenty of them and enjoy them. It's all part of what I do."
At 74, Concannon's justifiably proud of what he's accomplished, but he's still not done. "I'm thinking about going to the 2019 world championship shoot in England, and I'll probably head west this winter for some national competition.
"Even though I'm an old man, I'm still there."