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HOME ON THE (SHOOTING) RANGE
In the loneliest part of Henry County lives Jessica Abbate, one of the nation's top female professional shooters.

By Zack Huffman

zhuffman@news-daily.com

It can be easy to get lost when traveling through the back-roads of rural Locust Grove. Not every road is paved nor is every road clearly marked. At the right time of year, if a wayward city-dweller were to choose the right road to drive down, the distant sounds of gun fire might be heard going off in short series of quick blasts.

It is down within these rural recesses in which Jessie Abbate, one of the nations top female professional shooters, lives.

With just a month to go before the Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championships, Jessie Abbate has grown accustomed to her short, daily drive down to the shooting range at the other end of the property on which she and her husband, Billy Abbate, live.

The 200-500 rounds she fires off on a daily basis are what it is going to take if she has any hope of reclaiming her Steel Challenge Open Championship, while also scoring her third consecutive Steel Challenge Limited Championship.

"I usually try to start getting back into the rhythm of it two months out because so much of it is muscle memory. I start training heavy, almost every day one month out," said Abbate. "A lot of rounds go down range when I get ready for this match."

Going through so much ammunition would be costly, if it were not provided to her free of charge as part of her Professional Shooter status as a member of Team Glock.

It was no stretch for Abbate to get involved in competitive shooting. Her father, Clyde Harrison was a professional shooter in the 1980s along with her husband.

"He used to be a pro shooter in the 80's, now he does it just for fun," said Abbate of her husband. "He's taught me everything I know. He's an amazing shooter."

Both her father and husband have earned World and National championships in competitive shooting.

"To learn from them, I feel like I've had the best foundation to learn from the ground up," she said.

The Steel Challenge, which begins Aug 12 in Piru, Calif. includes eight stages of competition where shooters attempt to hit a series of five plates as quickly as possible. Shooters make five attempts at each stage and the best four times are added together for the total time for each stage. The shooter with the best time after combining all eight stages is declared World Champion.

In order to compete for the world title among women, Abbate will likely to have to shoot all five targets in each stage run within an average of just under three seconds.

Abbate competes with three different guns, Open, Limited and Rimfire Pistol Open, all of which are types of .9 mm handguns.

Last year, while Abbate did take first place among women in the Limited Division, she was denied the overall female championship she won in 2007.

According to Abbate, she takes great pride in being able to compete with some of the top male speed shooters in the world.

"In general women have had to prove themselves in this sport. Like most sports you see it's a male-dominated sport," she said. "To be recognized in this sport, it's like we've had to work twice as hard as the men."

With the days of July ticking away and the Steel Challenge coming ever closer, Abbate is looking forward to once again, proving she can go toe-to-toe with the best male shooters she meets.

"It's fun. It's probably my favorite type of shooting out of everything I do, mostly it's all speed," she said.