My Trip to the 2016 National Matches at Camp Perry, OH
By David Baalman
It’s been suggested to me that a few words regarding my recent trip to the National Matches at Camp Perry might be beneficial as encouragement to new and old shooters alike. With that in mind I’ve decided to take a few minutes to put some thoughts together, hopefully others around me, especially TCMSA members, will find it useful.
For those who don’t know me, I’ve been an active member of TCMSA for many years, and I’ve been shooting competitively for nearly 20 years. The majority of that time has been somewhat informal competition, mostly local fun matches etc. In the last couple of years I’ve decided to get serious about service rifle and sporting highpower, and have had some success in each, but I never considered the possibility of going to the National Matches until late last year. Another competitor strongly suggested that I go; he said “it’s something every shooter has to do at least once.” I had plenty of excuses in my own mind about why I shouldn’t go, it’s expensive, I don’t like to travel, it’s my busy time at work, etc., but I eventually decided to look into it. Expense wise, the expensive part is the lodging and rental car, which can be reduced by teaming up with other shooters to split the cost. While it is my busy time at work, they got by without me just fine. I still don’t like to travel, but it wasn’t that bad. In the end I really see why they say everyone should do it once. I went figuring it’d be a once in a lifetime trip, but I’m already figuring on going next year.
At the main entrance to Camp Perry
A little history of the base
Panoramic view of Viale and Rodriguez ranges at Camp Perry. There are close to 250 firing points between them and I couldn’t have imagined the scale of the place until I went there.
I went for the CMP week (July 25-30, 2016), and arrived early enough to take advantage of some of the other opportunities available, including the US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Small Arms Firing School (SAFS), which happened the weekend before. This is an event that that includes classroom instruction and live fire, with a coach for every 2 students firing on the line. This event culminates in an Excellence in Competition (EIC) match where the top 10% of shooters in the match get 4 “leg” points toward the distinguished marksmanship award. If you are unfamiliar with the distinguished program, suffice to say it’s one of the top awards in service rifle shooting, and to date less than 2400 civilians have been awarded the honor in the 100+ year history of the program. The history of the program is well described in this article: https://thecmp.org/wp-content/uploads/In_Distinguished_Company_Culver_2000.pdf In my case I was not eligible for the leg points (for this particular match), because I’ve already been awarded 6 points for a match here in Washington State earlier this year, but I greatly enjoyed the class, got several very useful tips both in the classroom and on the range, and I got a real dose of what Camp Perry can dish out in the way of weather during the EIC match. We were forced to evacuate the range during the match due to a thunderstorm (lightning actually hit one of the water towers on the base), and during the walk out we were hit by a rain squall that was nothing like any rain I’ve ever seen before. I’ll leave the particulars of my rain gear out and just say I was soaked. We eventually returned and got to shoot, and other than a shortened program (my relay didn’t get to shoot the standing stage, the entire stage was dropped for all relays to make it fair), I enjoyed the shooting greatly. On a high note, I had the top score of the day (298/300), but as I remarked earlier, I wasn’t in competition in the match so it was all just for fun and bragging rights.
This is but one of many educational opportunities at the National Matches. Remington and Bushmaster put on an advanced highpower class, the CMP has many clinics on maintenance, shooting, collecting, etc. Camp Perry is also home to one of the premier air rifle ranges in north America (the US Olympic trials were held there earlier this year), with events and open practice going on all week. I entered the Air15 challenge, which is a 20 shot “reentry” match, where you can enter as many times as you like, and your best score counts toward the match. The top 20 shooters then fire side by side in a final shoot off on Saturday. I was 13th in this event with a score of 195/200, but alas the final conflicted with my flight home, and I didn’t get to participate. Note for next year, bring my own air rifle and make sure the flight home doesn’t get in the way!! I also participated in a sporter reentry match and another Air15 reentry match; both were fun as could be. The CMP has air rifles on site for rental if you don’t have your own, and you get unlimited sighters before your match to get dialed in before you shoot for record.
This is a view inside the Gary Anderson Competition Center at Camp Perry. State of the art electronic targets make it one of the premier air rifle ranges in North America.
Monday the 25th began the individual and team championship matches. Monday is the President’s Match, 30 rounds for score with no sighters. The first stage is 10 rounds standing at 200 yards, then 10 rapid fire prone at 300 yards, then 10 slow fire prone at 600 yards. The top 100 shooters are awarded the “President’s 100” medal, and the top 20 shoot in a 10 shot final side by side at 600 yards, all live on the ‘net. My standing score left me well out of the top 100, let alone the final (match nerves got me good), but I had fun finishing 384th out of over 1100 shooters, and I met up with some people I know from Oregon, including one who was in the final. It was really fun to be able to root for someone I knew in the final.
Here is a picture of the final of the president’s match. All shots are on a fixed time cycle, each shooter fires shot #1 before anyone fires shot #2, etc. Every shot is plotted for the whole world to see, it’s a whole different type of shooting if you’ve never practiced it!
Tuesday the 26th was the National Trophy Individual match (NTI), 50 shots “across the course”, the same course of fire we shoot the first Saturday of every month at TCMSA, except instead of shooting against my good friends at reduced yardage, I’m shooting against over 1000 of my “closest friends” at full yardage to see who’s the top service rifle shooter in the country. Surprisingly my match nerves went away, and I had a pretty good match. I had good scores standing, sitting, and slow prone, my only bad stage was a 92/100 in rapid prone. I finished up with a 469-5x, just missing the cut for 10 leg points (cut score was 469-10x, but at least I wasn’t the guy who shot the same score as the cut but got beat on the second tie breaker!!) One point or 5 x’s would have netted me 10 more leg points, but I walked away happy and confident, what else can I ask for?
Wednesday the 27th is the Hearst Doubles match. This is the same course of fire as the President’s Match, but instead of individual competitors, you compete as 2 person teams, pair firing the slow fire stages (alternating between shooters), and coaching for each other every shot. I’ve only had one other experience with pair firing and coaching rapid fire stages, so it was a somewhat new experience for me for sure. I teamed up with one of my friends from Oregon, Jason LeCorre. Jason had just gotten his last 10 leg points the day before to become a Distinguished Marksman! We both managed a 278, but I got him with 5 x’s to his 3 (take that distinguished guy!!), good enough for 96th out of 300 teams.
Myself and Jason LeCorre on Viale range after finishing the Hearst Doubles Match.
Thursday the 28th was the 6 person team match. I didn’t wind up finding a team, so I served as official scorer for the Oregon team. As official scorer you move one firing position to the right and score for another team, I found myself scoring for the Wisconsin Garand Collector’s team, another group I’m acquainted with through a TCMSA member who’s originally from Wisconsin (small world). Turns out one of their shooters recently moved to Oregon, so I was able to facilitate some introductions, I think by the time the match was over she was a member of the Oregon association, so my time was not wasted!!
Friday the 29th was the National Trophy Infantry Team match (NTIT), also known as the “Rattle Battle”. Each team of 6 shooters gets a total of 384 rounds (the contents of one ammo can of ’06 back in the day), to fire at silhouette type targets from 600, 500, 300, and 200 yards. Hits at 600 yards count for 6 points, 5 points for 500 yards, etc, and there is a bonus for any targets with 6 or more hits on the target. It’s an interesting match to watch, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. In the history of the match only 2 civilian teams have ever won it, the Nebraska civilian team back in 1930, and the California Grizzlies junior team in 2009. If you’ve never heard of the California Grizzlies, look them up online. They have a heck of program, even more so considering the politics of the state in which they reside! I made a point of watching at least one of the Grizzlies teams (they fielded a couple from what I saw) and got to see several Garands in action too. All in all it was an interesting experience, and I hope to get to participate in the match next year.
Besides these matches I either participated in or watched there are several more events. There is a junior team match (Washington’s junior team, the Washington Warriors, was well represented), and several other junior events. For adults and juniors alike, there are several vintage matches, including a vintage sniper team match, a Garand match, an M1 Carbine match, and others. The CMP really puts on quite a week. The following week is the NRA highpower championship, a 2400 point match over several days, and then a long range match again over several days. Before CMP week is the National Pistol Matches, again over a week. All in all it’s a month plus of shooting if you were to shoot every discipline.
Commercial row is also very impressive, dozens of vendors, each in their own air conditioned building, selling everything imaginable for competitive shooting or shooting in general. You could literally show up with nothing and buy everything you need to shoot all week, and get it all at a pretty good price too!
As I wrote before, I never dreamed I’d ever attend the National Matches, and when I decided to go this year I assumed it would be a once in a lifetime trip, but by the end of my time there I was certain I want to go back again next year. If you are interested in this type of shooting, don’t hesitate, get involved! The reduced yardage matches we shoot at TCMSA were the foundation for my skills, which I continue to build upon every month. Beyond our club matches, there are full yardage matches right here in the Tri-Cities, several every year including the state service rifle championship, at Rattlesnake in Benton County. Many other matches are offered at a reasonable driving distance, including Spokane, Paul Bunyan (Puyllap), Cascade (Ravensdale), Douglas Ridge (Portland), Nampa (near Boise), and others. If you are interested in the Small Arms Firing School, there’s one at Perry every year, plus one at the CMP Western Games at Ben Avery (Phoenix AZ) in early October, plus at all the other CMP Games events throughout the country.
Many people enjoy shooting, but seem to be intimidated by a formal competition. I can tell you that there is nothing to be concerned about. At any match I’ve ever attended, in any discipline, there are always several competitors willing to help out, loan out gear, give out advice, answer questions, etc. (myself included). I can also say from experience that the best way to get over match nerves is to shoot at bigger and bigger matches. After you’ve been to a State Championship or the Nationals, you realize that there is very little to be nervous about, and you should just relax and have fun! So if you are interested, please attend a TCMSA match, or at least come out watch one and ask lots of questions!!