September 23, 2010
He is "Wig" to his friends. To the shooting world for many years he was simply The Man. Lones W. Wigger, Jr., was recently inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. He is the first shooter to be so honored, and he joined such elite athletes as wrestler Bruce Baumgartner, marathoner Joan Benoit, boxer Oscar de La Hoya and others in the Class of 2008.
Over the course of his quarter-century international shooting career--which included Olympic team berths in 1964, '68, '72 and '80--Wigger won 111 medals and set 29 world records, an accomplishment unmatched by any shooter in the world, ever.
I served with Wigger for couple of years at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, where he spent much of his 25-year military career, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. I remember watching him practice at the indoor range in the winter. International highpower season had recently ended, and we were just beginning to tune up for gallery season--smallbore four-position--and the fact that he'd just spent much of the year competing in (and winning) national and international championships in two disciplines didn't matter one bit.
Wigger would immediately start training for indoor sectionals, regionals, whatever. He'd practice the standing position for hours on end--picking up the rifle, putting it back down, repeating as often as necessary until he could break the perfect shot.
He'd be the first to tell you he's the product of determination and effort, not natural talent or ability. As he told me years later when I interviewed him for an article on his retirement from international competition, the shooter who wins is the shooter who works the hardest. "And nobody outworks me," he said with a grin. His induction into the Hall of Fame is a recognition of that hard work and the domination of a sport few will ever match.
I guess you could say this is a Hall of Fame issue. Check out Jon Sundra's article, "Sporting Rifle Hall of Fame," (Sept./Oct. 2008 RifleShooter)in which he inducts the 10 hunting rifles he believes are the greatest of all time. (And in the cartridge category, I'll bet there are more than a few readers who would nominate one or two of Craig Boddington's retro faves as potential Hall of Famers.)
There may be some debate on Jon's choices, but not many will argue with his nod to Winchester, a theme that's picked up in Rick Hacker's primer on collecting guns from that firm--a great read for those looking for a new hobby/addiction.