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Lahaina policeman a sharp shooting champion

By Staff | Jun 18, 2009

LAHAINA — Contrary to what you might think, sharpshooter Barry Aoki’s involvement with firearms began long before his ongoing — 20 years and counting — career with law enforcement here on the Valley Isle.

A lifelong Lahaina resident, Sgt. Aoki is approaching his 18th anniversary with Maui Police Department’s Traffic Division after serving two-and-a-half years with the Sheriff’s Department, but he took up sharp shooting as a teenager years before he began packing a firearm in his line of duty.

Today he is the reigning Hawaii State USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) champion after winning the overall title recently at Ukumehame Firing Range.

Young Aoki, a 1978 Lahainaluna High School graduate, began shooting guns in his teen years — hunting at Polipoli and target shooting at the Olowalu cinder pit — and then came under the tutelage of policeman Barry Kim.

“He (Kim) was the one who got me started with serious target shooting and safety issues with these weapons,” said Aoki last week. “I shot a .357 revolver at the time, and we would use old hubcaps and cans as targets at Olowalu. This was when I was 18 to 19 years old.”

At age 21, Aoki became legally eligible to purchase a firearm and thus began a very serious involvement with shooting.

In 1986 he helped organize the Valley Isle Sport Shooters Club, and he has been a firearms instructor with MPD since 1994.

“These efforts were for promoting safe gun handling and gathering to shoot,” he explained. “At first we used the police firing range in Wailuku, and later on we moved on to Ukumehame.”

Aoki has been competing in pistol shooting competitions for 23 years now, and his recent state win was his fourth, including three straight titles from 2005-07.

He said, “We alternate with Oahu to host the event, and this year we had 48 competitors from across the state. There are three divisions (Open, Limited-10, Production), each having more or different modifications like scopes and compensators, and scores are based on 257 required shots… “

At last month’s event at Ukumehame, Aoki was the Open and overall match winner, with fellow Maui policeman Derrick Recaido taking the Limited-10 division and Derrick Hipol of Oahu winning the Production category.

As the state winner, Aoki will move on to the national championships to be held in September at Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Guns can be a good thing if used in the right way,” said Sgt. Aoki. “There needs to be the right mindset and emphasis on safe gun handling. The competitions are a good challenge, and we’re hoping that more people will get involved in the sport.”