Eric Binnion Earns .22 Rimfire Pistol Distinguished Badge #170 in 2021

Eric Binnion Earns .22 Rimfire Pistol Distinguished Badge #170 in 2021

Eric Binnion, 33, of Wichita Falls, Texas, earned .22 Rimfire Pistol Distinguished Badge #170 in September 2021. It was an achievement he had worked unwaveringly to complete in a blossoming marksmanship career that’s only a few years in the making.

“It was actually a bit depressing for me because I wasn’t sure what my next shooting goal should be,” he joked about earning the .22 Rimfire Badge.

Distinguished Badges are the highest individual awards authorized by the U. S. Government for excellence in marksmanship competition. Badges are awarded by the Civilian Marksmanship Program after an individual receives at least 30 Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) points at qualifying matches.

Binnion (right) earned EIC points in both Service Pistol and .22 Rimfire at Camp Perry in 2021.

Binnion had cleared his first points two years prior in September 2019 at the Red River Regional, hosted by the Northwest Texas Field & Stream Association (his primary club), where he used his Marvel conversion on top of a 1911 lower from a Springfield Range Officer. From then on, it became his goal to earn his Distinguished Badge. He switched to a Pardini SP Bullseye pistol during the second half of 2020 and went on to collect his next points at the same club a year later.

After earning more at the National Matches in 2021, Binnion had accrued 24 EIC points overall – just six away from the badge. He knew he had only one more .22 EIC match that he could fire that year, but he also recognized that even if he didn’t go Distinguished then, he’d have more opportunities. All he wanted was to earn the necessary points before the awards ceremony at the 2022 National Matches, where he intended to receive his pin.

In February, Binnion attended the 2021 Desert Midwinter match at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club – competing consistently throughout the year.

“It left me with this feeling that it was inevitable,” he said. “It felt so inevitable to me, that I even remember telling my coach, in discussions around my goals, that I’d rather not focus on bullseye with her in the short-term, since I knew that it was just a matter of time until I went Distinguished for .22 Rimfire.”

It was during another match at the Northwest Texas Field & Stream Association that he reached those final points – coming full circle to complete what he had set out to accomplish.

“When I did end up going Distinguished amongst all of my friends, it was such a great feeling,” Binnion added.

Binnion practices pistol weekly and even attends virtual sessions with a world-class coach.

To gain more consistency in his training, he participates in remote coaching sessions with Dina Aspandiyarova, a world-level athlete. She recommended a minimum of six hours per week of practice, with pistol in hand, to cover holds, dry firing, blank face firing and monthly control matches. Binnion’s weekly routine fluctuates due to a number of factors, including which competitions are upcoming, family activities, pistol league and/or 4-H coaching responsibilities and other work-related items.

“Specifically, how drained I am from work as opposed to how much time I have worked,” he said.

Binnion has also moved much of his training over to air pistol and recently leased a space that is large enough for him to work and shoot in a controlled area. Additionally, he purchased a Sport Quantum SQ10 interactive electronic target that allows him to train during lunch or at the beginning/end of his workday by simply walking to one end of the space.

Binnion appeared at his first National Matches in 2019 with the Texas State Rifle Association’s Precision Pistol team.

“I think that my greatest challenge has been around learning to be more introspective,” he said. “I haven’t quite overcome it, but it is something that I try very hard to be better at by being more curious.”

Up until August 2021, he focused primarily on two things: dry firing several times per week at home and sustained fire once or twice a week at the range.

“My thinking was that dry fire would help me to establish better grip and trigger control, which would then help with both slow fire and sustained fire,” he explained. “With my time at the range, I focused on sustained fire because it is two-thirds of the score for any bullseye-style match, and it’s not something that I could really practice at home.”

Binnion used his Pardini SP Bullseye pistol to reach his .22 Rimfire Badge. Photo by Marla Johnson

His training paid off. Not only did Binnion earn his .22 Rimfire Pistol Badge in 2021, he also claimed his Service Pistol Distinguished Badge #1693 while competing at the National Matches.

“The feelings for my .22 Rimfire Badge were quite different from the feelings that I got earlier in the year when I got my Service Pistol Badge,” he confessed. “I earned my Service Pistol Badge during the National Matches, which is a period of time where I felt like I was on fire . . . I knew that if I stayed on fire throughout the National Matches, that I’d walk away Distinguished.”

Becoming double-Distinguished and also holding a “Master” classification status since the summer of 2021, Binnion has accomplished noteworthy honors that many marksmen take years to attain. And, it all sparked from a humble tour of a local range.

“My background in marksmanship is relatively minimal,” he admitted. “I started a few years ago and dove right in.”

Though he had a few opportunities to shoot during his teen years, it wasn’t until 2018 that his interest was truly piqued after visiting a shooting range in Massachusetts with a few coworkers. There, he was able to sample several different guns, including carry pistols and even an AK-47.

“This is the point at which I remembered how fun and challenging shooting was,” he said. “From there, it snowballed pretty quickly.”

The following month, he convinced his wife to allow him a license to carry and bought a Ruger LCP II centerfire pistol. That fall, he purchased a Ruger Mark IV and joined the pistol league at Northwest Texas Field & Stream Association. Binnion went on to purchase a Springfield Range Officer in .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) ammo in early 2019 to shoot full 2700 aggregate matches as well as a Dillon RL 550C to load his own .45 ACP.

When summer arrived, he was off to the National Matches at Camp Perry – his first of many to come in a sport he has grown to love. For him, the affection toward marksmanship is about more than just the accolades. It also stems from those he’s met along the way.

“There are several things I enjoy about marksmanship, but if I had to pick just one, it’d be the relationships that I’ve built,” he said. “First, the shooting sports are incredibly accessible in terms of meeting those that are, or have been, at the top of the game. And second, there’s just something about being friends with another competitive shooter.”

“At any given competition, I simultaneously want us both to do our best – while I also hope that my best will be slightly better,” he added with a smile.

His advice to others looking for their own Distinguished Badge is simple – put in the work and results will eventually follow.

“Be ready to commit to a goal that may take multiple years to achieve,” he said. “Seek advice from those that shoot significantly, not marginally, better than you. If you focus on execution/process, the score takes care of itself – both at the micro level of individual matches as well as the macro level, which is working on yourself over time.”

About the Distinguished Badge Program:

The Distinguished Rifleman Badge and the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge were created by the War Department in 1884 and 1891, respectively, to recognize and reward members of the US Army for Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) with the service rifle and service pistol. Other Services of the Armed Forces adopted a similar program about the same time, and in 1926, civilians were authorized to participate in the program. Currently, the CMP administers Distinguished Badges for:

  • Service Rifle
  • Service Pistol
  • .22 Rimfire Pistol
  • Junior Air Rifle
  • International Shooter
  • Smallbore Rifle
  • Distinguished Marksman Badge (which allows competitors with a permanent disability or impairment that requires the use of adaptive firing to become eligible to earn EIC credit points)
  • Distinguished Air Rifle and Air Pistol
  • Distinguished Service Revolver Badge

Learn more about the Distinguished Badge program by visiting the CMP website at  https://thecmp.org/competitions/distinguishedbadges/.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.