COLUMBIA, S.C. - Columbia Police Officer Anna Bailey has a target in her living room.

Don't worry. She doesn't shoot live rounds indoors.

At night, she and her husband - a Richland County Sheriff's deputy - practice loading their pistols, setting their sites and dry-firing their guns.

The constant practice has served Bailey well.

This year, she was named the top shooter in the NRA Governor's 20 Program, which recognizes excellence in police combat competitions. She was recognized at a banquet earlier this month.

"To get really, really good and really, really accurate, you have to focus on the minute stuff," Bailey said.

The title is a big deal, especially since Bailey knocked off reigning champion Marion Baker of the State Law Enforcement Division, who has held the top spot for years.

"Nobody has been able to beat him," she said. "I beat him by, like, .333 points."

Bailey also won two first place awards and two second place awards at a recent competition at the S.C. Criminal Justice Training Conference in Conway.

Bailey, 35, grew up in Chapin. Her family enjoys firearms, and she said both parents are good shots. So was a grandfather.

But she never thought about shooting competitively until she joined the Richland County Sheriff's Department. Word spread that she was a good shot, and pretty soon she was recruited to the department's pistol team.

Bailey left the sheriff's department to work at the S.C. Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole. But interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago recruited Bailey to the Columbia Police Department, in part to start a pistol team. At the police department, Bailey works on the fugitive team.

A pistol team helps with recruiting and morale, Santiago said. Years ago, the department had a well-regarded shooting team but a city budget crisis led to cuts that included the team.

Santiago decided to bring back the team, but members still spend a lot of their own time and money on ammunition, practice and travel to competitions.

"We're always looking for ways to build teamwork and at the same time hone the skills that are critical to being a police officer," Santiago said.

To become the best, Bailey practices a lot.

Hence, the target in the Baileys' living room. Her husband, Richland Deputy Chris Bailey, is on his agency's pistol team.

At the recent Conway competition, he scored more points. Bailey said she was more accurate but her husband is a fast runner and made up the difference in the competitions that involved running.

Bailey said she shoots at least every two weeks. She used to shoot more often but a national ammo shortage has made bullets elusive and expensive when they are available. She and her husband make much of their own ammo at home.

Bailey's favorite weapon is a .38-caliber revolver with a 6-inch barrel. The pistol, which weighs about five pounds, was custom-made by a Michigan gunsmith.

"It won me the Governor's 20," she said.

At most competitions, Bailey and the other officers shoot several types of weapons - revolvers, automatics, shotguns - from several distances.

When Bailey steps up to the line, a mantra runs through her head.

"Front sight. Squeeze the trigger."

"Front sight. Squeeze the trigger."

"Front sight. Squeeze the trigger."

The self-issued advice works.

"If you let loose too soon, you get a lot of jerking motion," Bailey said. "It throws your shot."

She also knows not to look at the target of the competitor standing next to her. It causes her to lose focus when she needs to concentrate on her own target.

"A lot of this is mental," she said.

Santiago said the entire department is proud of Bailey and her reputation across the state as an expert marksman.

"It really is a competition against yourself," Santiago said. "You're trying to outdo yourself. Anna Bailey has not only outdone herself but she's outdone everybody in the state of South Carolina."