5-Time Olympian Started Shooting To Avoid Details


QUANTICO — Lt. Col. William McMillan, now tuning up for his fifth Olympics as a member of the U.S. shooting team, can thank his distaste for work details for launching his extraordinary career as a pistol marksman.

The 43-year-old Marine, captain of the Corps shooting team here, earned his 1972 Olympic berth in the pistol trials of the 12th U.S. International Shooting Championships in Phoenix last month.

But it was with a rifle, not a pistol, that McMillan got his start in competitive shooting in the late 1940s.

"I was assigned to the rifle team at the time of the 1949 Eastern Division Marine Corps rifle and pistol matches at the Brooklyn Navy Yard," he recalled.

"In the morning the rifle shooters would fire and in the afternoon the pistol shooters would take over. In between, anyone on the rifle team who was not also assigned to the pistol team had to participate in police details and maintenance."

No relishing the idea of the details, McMillan, then a young sergeant, asked if he could try his luck with a pistol.

"I did fairly well with the pistol that year. It was as if it was made for me," he said.

THREE YEARS later he had qualified for his first Olympic team and in 1958, McMillan, then an officer, won the center fire match in the World Shooting Championships in Moscow.

In Rome for the 1960 Olympics, he won a gold medal for the rapid fire pistol competition.

"It was quite a thrill," he said. "At the end of the actual course of fire, I was tied with a Russian and a Finnish shooter. I shot real well the second time, though."

When they re-shot the course, McMillan topped the runner-up by five points.

He went on to qualify for Olympic competition two more times — in 1964 and 1968.

WHILE HE has concentrated mostly on pistol shooting in his career, McMillan didn't give up on the rifle after the 1949 matches.

He won the Marine Corps rifle crown twice — in 1955 and in 1959 — and he is the only five-time winner of the Lauchheimer Trophy given to the competitor with the highest combined rifle and pistol score during the Marine Corps annual matches.

As he prepares for the Munich Olympics, McMillan is marking his 20th year of international shooting and his 23d year of Marine competition.

Expecting to retire before 1976, the 25-year veteran said, "This was my fifth time to qualify and probably meant a little more to me than anyone else."

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