As the tussle became fierce between the champion pistol shooter Jitu Rai and an unknown from the Bareilly-based 20th battalion Jat Regiment, Manjit Singh, even the range officer at the jury table could not restrain himself from gesturing towards the packed gallery to create noise and add to the drama unfolding in the closing moments of the Men’s 50m Pistol final at the 60th National Shooting Championship at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

The multiple medal winner at the continental and World Championship level, Rai looked a class apart, lifting his marksmanship. However, the 29-year-old Indian Army shooter’s firing accuracy dropped in the last three rounds with poor scores of 8.7,8.5 and 8.2 and he virtually gifted a first senior national title to the bespectacled 25-year-old from Hissar, Haryana.

Just five years into the shooting in 50m Pistol event, Manjit did not celebrate at all, but he allowed a couple of team-mates to hold him in warm hug. After qualifying for the eight-card finals with a score of 552 from 60 shots and from among 330 shooters, Manjit finished with a winning score of 187.4 ahead of Rai's 185.7.

Manjit's victory in the 50m Pistol event was a positive moment after the nationals began with the tragic death of the Chief Range Officer and national pistol coach, Syed Wajid Ali, at the range on Monday evening.

He gave up kabaddi and wrestling once the army centre chose him for shooting after seeing him fire at an army tournament in Mhow. "I won the 50m title of the junior nationals in 2011. This is my first individual gold medal at senior level; I had won the team medal in Pune. This is the fifth time I qualified for the senior finals."

Manjit said that he decided to fire shots early after sighting the target. After being among the top two at the conclusion of the second round of three shots, Manjit maintained his position and upstaged Rai with compelling scores in the last three shots. "I was always focussing on my technique. I had a good training for the nationals. Practising with the army shooters, most of whom are Olympians — including Jitu Rai has helped me. It has become a habit to practice with them. We do physical training together and I did not feel anything new in the finals. I was given a new weapon four months ago and the barrel testing was also done. The army is giving us all facilities."

Trailing behind Rai did not prompt him to fire or think differently in the last four shots. "I decided to fire the shot in the same manner, early; did not event think of changing my style," Manjit said.

Result (Men’s 50m final): 1. Manjit Singh (Army) 187.4; 2. Jitu Rai (Army) 185.7; 3. Omkar Singh (Navy) 164.8; 4; Om Prakash (Army) 146.0; 5. Amanpreet Singh (ONGC) 124.2; 6. Deepak Sharma ( Air India) 106.4; 7. P.N.Prakash (Karnataka) 85.9; 8. Monu Tomar (Air Force) 63.0.