By Dave Anderson
The shooting sports lost one of its great champions recently. Mike Voigt passed away from cancer far too young at the age of 59. Trying to list all the matches he won would fill a column in itself, but a few highlights include his three IPSC world titles, seven IPSC Team world titles, two IPSC Continental handgun championships and two USPSA national championships.
Equally adept with rifles and shotguns, Mike won two IPSC Continental shotgun titles, five International Tactical Rifle championships, and an incredible 14 USPSA Multi-Gun titles. His wife, Maggie Reese, is a USPSA National handgun champion, three-time Multi-Gun champion and twice a member of the National Team at the World Championships. I wonder how they found room to display all their trophies?
His truly exceptional shooting skills were just a part of Mike’s contributions to the shooting sports. He served from 2000 to 2012 as USPSA Regional Director, an era in which USPSA expanded its number of shooting divisions, making the sport accessible to a wider range of potential competitors.
He continued USPSA’s tradition of encouraging and recognizing female competitors and was a proponent of programs to encourage junior shooters. His good humor, warm personality and profound knowledge made him a wonderful ambassador for the shooting sports. After leaving office he spent more time as a coach and instructor, mainly for members of the military and federal agents.
Mike Voigt at a weekly club match in the ’90s wearing street
clothes rather than a sponsor uniform.
My best memories of Mike are the good times after a match, or just hanging out at the practice range. One of my favorite memories was after a match in Reno. Most of the competitors had headed home, but a few of us had flights the following day. I remember the evening in a casino with Mike, Brian Enos and Jack Weigand.
Brian Enos had been studying ways to improve the odds at blackjack. I’ve no interest in gambling but I know Brian is around genius-level smart. When Mike suggested we all toss in 20 bucks and let Brian try a few hands I was happy to comply. Darned if Brian didn’t triple our money! Well, it’s not exactly The Hangover, but there were lots of stories, lots of laughter, and a whole lot of fun as always when Mike was around.
From all of us at American Handgunner, our sincere condolences to Maggie Reese and to the rest of Mike’s family. Looking over some of my old photos of Mike reminded me of a scene from the classic series Lonesome Dove. Gus McCrae sees an old photo and raises his glass to the memories: “Here’s to the sunny slopes of long ago.”
With a little help from Mike on the trigger press, my wife Simone was shooting
consistent A-zone hits. She was amazed and said, “I can’t shoot that well!”
Mike just laughed. “The Target doesn’t lie.”
Mike Voigt at the 2008 USPSA Nationals. It was always fun watching him shoot a stage,
especially one requiring lots of movement. He still was as fast as any of the young guns.
The Right Time
Mike Voigt got into competitive shooting at an auspicious time, just as it became possible to make a living as a professional shooter. In the 1970s and early ’80s a few champions — Ray Chapman, John Shaw, Mickey Fowler, Mike Dalton and J. Michael Plaxco, for example — were doing well in the industry, though it meant much of their time was spent teaching or building guns rather than practicing.
Years ago I recall chatting with Mike Plaxco about the increasing skill level of top shooters. Plaxco commented along the lines of “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” He forecast manufacturers sponsoring shooters at a level where they could train full-time, with access to the best coaching, both physical and mental training, and top-end equipment. His prediction came true as major manufacturers began offering top shooters not just equipment, but cold hard cash.
It’s easy to list Mike Voigt’s accomplishments, the reasons he’ll be remembered as one of the all-time great champions. What’s harder to convey is why losing Mike has hit so many of us so hard. Maybe it’s the sense of unfairness, of a good man gone who deserved a lot more years. Maybe it’s intimations of mortality, a forcible reminder no one has promised us tomorrow.
Mostly I think it comes down to Mike Voigt’s outgoing personality. Hundreds, no, thousands of people considered Mike a friend, and they were right. There have been other great champions, other industry builders, but no one in the shooting world was better liked or more fun to be around than Mike.