column By: Steve Garbe | October, 17
We, the collective shooting community, have been diminished of late by the all-too-soon deaths of some good friends. Gregg Simon, Larry “Buz” Coker and Stu Harvey have all gone on to the Big Range and have left a huge hole in the single-shot community.
Gregg Simon was well known at the matches in the South Dakota area. Unfortunately for me, I was not around Gregg as much as many people were, so I’m not going to say that I knew him well. Saying that, we did have many mutual acquaintances, and what always impressed me was that I never heard a bad word about Gregg. He was highly respected for his shooting and gunsmithing ability, as well as helping new shooters. In short, Gregg was the kind of guy that made the shooting sports – especially black powder cartridge shooting – the welcoming and enjoyable competitions that they are. We will always be short of Gregg Simons, as he will be a hard act to follow. However, we can draw inspiration from Gregg’s life and work to fill those boots.
If you went to the Quigley match at Forsyth, Montana, you couldn’t help but meet Buz Coker. If you met him, you were immediately impressed with his down-to-earth demeanor and pleasant personality. He was the Man In Charge at Quigley, and a most remarkable thing was that as such, he maintained a quiet competence and friendly attitude. Try running a huge rifle match the size of the Quigley some time and see if you don’t get a little edgy. Buz ran the Quigley because he loved the match, the people and what it gave back to so many. In this day of “entitled” people who always have a complaint about their life, this sort of selflessness is truly remarkable. Buz was what is known in Montana as a “good man”; he will be sorely missed by all that knew him.
Stu Harvey, I’m proud to say, was a good friend of mine for many years. I met Stu early on at Raton when he began to shoot BPCR Silhouette, and we immediately recognized each other as rifle cranks. I treasure now the times that we shot together, discussed new ideas and projects, or simply enjoyed a “cool one” watching those great New Mexico sunsets. Stu was one of the most interesting and avid riflemen I have ever met; his shooting interests ran the gamut from Schuetzen to BPCR Silhouette, to precision long-range, high-power matches. No matter what Stu was into, you could bet he was figuring out ways to improve his shooting; because of that, he was the holder of many records. He was also a consummate gunsmith, doing all his own work, as well as work for select friends. If you are fortunate enough to own a Harvey-built rifle you know that it is “best quality.” Combine all these abilities with a great sense of humor, plus a gentlemanly attitude, and you will have some idea of the man. To say that I will miss him is a huge understatement.
We lament the passing of these friends, of course. But the larger takeaway from their passing is that the time is now to enjoy the company of like-minded shooters. Once a match has come and gone, the chance for good camaraderie and catching up with old friends is over; you can’t get those opportunities back.
I’m as guilty as the next person for letting things get in the way of enjoying a good rifle match, and sometimes, quite frankly, the complications that come up in life can trump taking in a competition. The thing to be wary of is using those same complications as convenient excuses. The experience of an enjoyable match shot with old friends and new acquaintances, and the learning that invariably accompanies it, is money in the bank. I’ve never regretted going to a rifle match, but I have regretted staying home.
There’s a saying I’m fond of that goes, “You teach best what you most need to learn.” I’m going to remember that and make more of an effort to enjoy the company of friends before they are gone. I hope you do too. The time is now. – Gut Ziel