Chosen to represent the USA in the shooting events in Athens, Harvard graduate John Paine set off for Athens via France, where he hoped to recruit his older brother Sumner – who was working in the French capital – to join him.
Sumner later recalled the moment they were reunited: “The last of March I came home to luncheon one day and found my brother, Lieutenant J. B. Paine, sitting in my office. I had not the slightest idea that he was on this side of the pond. "When does the next train start for Athens?" said he. “I don't know,” said I. "Well," said he, "find out, and get your revolvers and we will go there, for the Boston Athletic Association (of which we are both members) has sent a team over, and as there are two revolver matches we may be able to help out the Americans."
Uncertain about the weapons or the number of rounds required in Athens, the Paines packed an entire arsenal: two Colt army revolvers, two Smith & Wesson Russian model revolvers, a Stevens .22 calibre pistol, a Wurfflein, two pocket weapons, and 3,500 rounds of ammunition!
They arrived in Athens the night before the 25 metres military revolver contest, and having obtained a certificate attesting to their amateur status, went straight to bed in readiness for an 8am start on the shooting range.
The competition took place in what Sumner termed “the prettiest shooting house in the world – 200 feet long, and built entirely of snow white marble.” In accordance with the standard protocol they turned their weapons over for inspection by a committee. Unfortunately their .22 calibre pistols were disqualified on the basis that they were not standard issue; instead the brothers had to use their Colt .45 revolvers.
Their target was a black bull's-eye with a white spot inside it, which in the blinding light said Sumner “gave the same effect to the eye as those trick cards with rings painted on them, which seem to revolve when you look at them closely.”
Regardless of the apparent impediments, the Paine brothers were far too good for their opponents. John won with a score of 442, while Sumner took second with 380. The next best performer scored 205. The following day, by prior agreement between the brothers, the first day's winner sat out. Sumner contested the choice revolver at 30 meters as the sole representative of the US team, and he won by the same score his brother had recorded the previous day. Having travelled to Athens with 3,500 rounds of ammunition, the brothers had needed just 96 shots between them to secure their Olympic titles.