It took six years and thousands of rounds of ammunition for Upper Arlington resident Omar Ganoom to earn the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge.

It took six years and thousands of rounds of ammunition for Upper Arlington resident Omar Ganoom to earn the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge.

The only person who can strip him of the honor is the Secretary of the Army.

"It's a very prestigious honor, the highest medal you can receive in service pistol competition," Ganoom said. "You know you're in elite company once you get it."

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, those who earn the badge may not part with it without the authority of the Secretary of the Army. That stipulation is not applied to any other award, including the Medal of Honor.

Since 1891, only 40 Ohio residents have earned the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge. Ganoom, 55, is the third Columbus-area resident to earn it since 1986. He completed his six-year quest by earning a silver medal in the Fleet Forces West competition on May 1 at Camp Pendleton in California.

To earn the badge, a shooter must compile 30 or more points and finish in the silver or gold medal range of at least one competition with 36 or more shooters. Competitors are allowed to enter only three Excellence of Competition matches a year, four if they qualify for the national championships.

In a typical 100-competitor match, five shooters receive a bronze medal (worth six points toward the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge), three receive a silver medal (eight points) and two earn a gold medal (10 points).

The stipulation of winning a silver or gold medal keeps many top shooters from winning the badge.

"There's always tremendous pressure to produce in those matches," Ganoom said. "Many people work very hard to get it but never achieve it in their lifetime."

Each match is comprised of a rapid-fire, a timed-fire and a slow-fire round. During the rapid-fire portion, a competitor is 25 yards away from the target and goes through two rounds of firing a five-shot string in a 10-second span at a moving target while holding the pistol in one hand. During the timed-fire round, a shooter goes through two 20-second, 10-shot rounds from the same distance.

In the slow-fire round, the shooter is 50 yards away and has 10 minutes to take 10 shots at the target.

Ganoom said all three rounds pose their own set of challenges.

"The slow-fire stage requires a tremendous amount of accuracy and a great concentration on trigger control," he said. "The timed-fire requires you to concentrate on not jerking the trigger. The rapid-fire is about getting the first shot off in a timely manner and completing the next four shots in the proper cadence and doing all the fundamentals correctly.

"Sometimes I end up getting better in rapid-fire than the timed-fire. Even though you have more time in the time-fire, you overthink the fundamentals."

Ganoom grew up shooting in a sportsman's club with his friends and had the highest M16 rifle score in his company when he was a private first class in the Army from 1976-77.

Twenty years after leaving the Army, he discovered the world of competitive shooting and won several air pistol and sports pistol state titles.

Ganoom found competing with a service pistol a much bigger challenge. The weapon must be similar to the ones carried by soldiers and can't have special sights or targeting mechanisms.

He became proficient with a .45-caliber pistol for the first part of his career, but he reluctantly switched to a Beretta 9 mm pistol when the military started to use that handgun in the 2000s.

"I noticed their scores seemed to jump after they changed to the Beretta and I thought to myself, 'How can I compete with that?'" Ganoom said. "Once I started to go after the Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge, I focused entirely on the 9 mm."

Ganoom said two things are critical to succeed with a service pistol: good sight alignment on the target and excellent trigger control.

"When you start to jerk the trigger, you will be off the paper," he said. "(Shooting is) an explosive activity and the natural body response is to flinch from the recoil. Once your adrenaline gets going, you've blown the match. If you can't stay calm in the match, you can't hold the gun steady.

"It takes many years to learn to focus on making a good shot and letting the gun do what it needs to do."