Bert Fall of Port Clinton on the firing line at the National Rifle Matches M1 Carbine competition
The rhythmic pop, pop, pop from the firing of a hundred guns interspersed with the tower's authoritative commands provide the soundtrack each morning for five weeks in July and August at Camp Perry near Port Clinton. The slightly acrid scent of gunpowder mixes with the fresh, cool air off Lake Erie for a heady aroma that lingers over the country's largest rifle range at the National Rifle and Pistol Matches.
On a breezy and sunny morning last Thursday the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s M1 Carbine Match was held for the eight year since it was reinstated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program. First-time shooters, with their patient coaches, fired side by side with expert marksmen, all cradling the wooden stocks and canvas slings of the classic military semi-automatic weapon used by their fathers and grandfathers from World War II through Vietnam. The M1, known as “the rifle they never let grow up”, now is considered an antique weapon.
The five stages and targets of the M1 competition were sighting, prone slow fire (10 shots in 10 minutes), prone rapid fire (10 shots in 60 seconds), sitting rapid fire and standing slow fire, all at 100 yards. The staccato rhythm of rapid fire and the varied tempo of slow fire alternated with the silence of preparation time and waiting for the next tower's next directive.
Targets were retrieved, brass casings were gathered, scores were compiled, and the next wave of competitors took their place on the firing line. There was one disruption to the orderly dance as a disabled boat in the firing range area of the Lake was towed to safety. Boaters need to take seriously the buoys marking the firing range as the shots from high powered rifles and pistols can travel a mile or more.
The easy camaraderie of shooters and officials, coaches and volunteers from across the country camouflage the serious competition of the shooter-athletes. Few sports provide such definitive results of the blending of skill, practice and equipment.
Ashley Brugnone, writer and editor with CMP, was shooting for the first time, with the coaching of CMP’s Steve Cooper. As to concerns about hitting another person’s targets, known as cross-firing, she said she had heard that, “There are two kinds of shooters-- those who have cross-fired, and those who will.”
Bill and Cindy Bailey from Fairview, OH, also competing in the M1 match, inherited rifles from their Dad. They have been shooting high power for four years “just for fun”. They shot as a team in the Vintage Sniper competition this year and took a bronze medal. In the Sniper competition the targets are at 600 yards. The Baileys are both motivated to get more proficient “before our kids start outshooting us.”
Bert Fall of Port Clinton was shooting an M1 for the first time, but is an experienced shooter. Christine Elder of CMP was his coach. Though he did not win the coveted trophy or a medal, Fall had no problems handling the M1 and shot a respectable score.
AE2 Daniel Hedner of Virginia Beach took vacation time to be part of the Navy team and make the trip to Port Clinton.
Safety instructor for M1 Leon Rutherford of Anniston, AL, was one of the hundreds of NRA volunteers who keep the matches running smoothly.
Douglas Thompson of California earned medals for service rifle and also for pistol. He was one of the elite 100 of the 1300 competitors to medal in the CMP President’s 100 match. Thompson echoed the opinion of many of the shooters who look forward all year to coming to Camp Perry. He said, “I am not new to the Matches, just new at doing good. As soon as my grandkids are old enough, I will be bringing them here. This is the mecca, a national treasure.”
The National Rifle and Pistol Matches continue at Camp Perry through Aug. 14. For information on the Civilian Marksmanship program, go to www.odcmp.com. For a schedule of events for the remaining matches, go to www.competitions.nra.org.