Airman shoots, lives up to legacy

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachelle Blake
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
Gunsmithing is an art that dates back centuries and in its beginnings was often passed down from one generation to another as a family trade. Although it is not as common today, it still occurs.

For one Airman, it began two generations ago.

"It started back with my grandfather who was an Armorer in the National Match Pistol and Rifle Program at the Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, Illinois, from 1967 to 1976," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Mallette, 55th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment craftsman. "They built and tested the 1911 45 Pistol, the M-1 Garand and M-14 Rifles used by all branches of the military as well as civilians in national competitions. He also worked highly on the M-15 General Officers Pistol which there was 1,008 short slide 1911 .45 custom pistols produced for sitting Army Generals from 1971 until end run production."

In 1976, his grandfather retired due to health conditions and decided to open his own store where he continued to build and maintain service pistols and rifles as a gunsmith.

"During this time, my dad was growing up and he showed interest in shooting and repairing firearms," Mallette said. "He learned the ins and outs of the 1911 pistol and many other guns. When my Grandfather passed away in 1997, my dad took over the business. Since then, he has developed his skills and continues to learn more with each project he takes on."

Like his father, Malette began to take interest in weapons at a young age. He said he began shooting when he was 10.

"My dad taught me the basics of shooting and then became more trial and error and mentoring," Malette said. "He would give advice saying 'hey why don't you try this' or 'I saw this happening that might fix that issue.' He let me build my shooting profile and then gave me advice on how to make it better, more consistent and easier to repeat."

The pair visited the range at least once a week, working on anything from sight picture and alignment drills to timing drills. So it came as no surprise when Mallette found himself on the Air Force National Pistol Team.

"The best memory of shooting with my dad was my very first National Matches trip to Camp Perry, Ohio, in 2010," Mallette said. "I met a few of my current Air Force teammates and inquired about being a part of their team. I was able to put all of my dad's words of wisdom into action."

With coaching from his father, Mallette shot his personal best that year and in 2012 became a part of the Air Force team.

"Mallette was shooting bullseye before even joining the team," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Terrence Sears, Air Force National Pistol Team NCO in charge. "He just walked on and was shooting well enough to shoot on the primary team. He also fit in well with the other personalities on the team, which doesn't always happen."

The team's members are all active duty and are spread across the globe.

"We meet up three times a year as a team," Mallette said. "Once is for team camp, which is a week of shooting. During this time we are at the range from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. That is really the only training time we have as a team."

The other two occurrences are for competitions.

"We shoot the Inter-Service Pistol Championships and the National Matches," Sears said. "Inter-service is fired down in Fort Benning, Georgia. All the Armed Forces participate to see who the best of the best is. Nationals are fired at Camp Perry, Ohio. This competition is between civilians and military competitors."

Although Mallette has taken his talent to a professional level, he and other members of his team still look to his father for coaching.

"He works on and builds our competition pistols, helps out with equipment, and helps with mental training," Mallette said. "I really enjoy having him as part of our team. He has many insights that some of us younger shooters might not think about trying. He's able to help with anything that might come up like ammunition problems or gun malfunctions. I get to shoot with him again and he makes me strive to become a better shooter."

Mallette has yet to commit to the gunsmith trade, but he is all in when it comes to his team.

"I plan on being on the team as long as they will allow," Mallette said. "It's a great feeling to be a part of something and represent the Air Force."

For more information on the Air Force National Pistol Team or to try-out contact Sears at terrence.sears@us.af.mil, Mallette at richard.mallette@us.af.mil, visit the Facebook page or http://airforceshooting.org/.