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The National Matches are here!
by Larry S. Moore
The annual NRA and Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) National Matches are underway. The First Shot Ceremony was July 9 and was attended by dignitaries from across the state. Buckeye Firearms leaders Larry Moore, Sean Maloney and Linda Walker, who is also on the Board of Directors of the NRA, attended the event. Ohio House Representative Ron Maag was among the invited special guests. Maag is well known as a strong supporter of the shooting sports and our Second Amendment freedoms.
Speakers for the First Shot Ceremony included Miss Judy Legerski, who is a Civilian Aide Emeritus to the Secretary of the Army and on the Board of Directors for the CMP. Legerski had the pleasure of introducing the keynote speaker Lieutenant General William E. Ingram Jr. who also fired the ceremonial first shot. Legerski noted, "We are indeed fortunate to have Lt. General Ingram here for the First Shot. He is a 'soldier's soldier' having served his country for more than forty years. He is the son of the North Carolina's thirty-seventh Adjutant General and served nine years as the North Carolina Adjutant General. He is a shooter and enjoys collecting weapons."
Lt. General Ingram noted, "I am honored to be a special guest and have the opportunity to fire the first shot. Each year the National Matches attract the finest shooters in our country. I am privileged to be in their presence. I can't imagine how many shots I've fired going back to my youth in recreational shooting and my Army career. I can tell you that no shot I've fired is more important than this one today. Growing up in North Carolina, I was taught to shoot by my Grandfather when I was probably six or seven years old. I learned firearms safety at that same time."
Lt. General Ingram noted the history of the matches, "The National Guard involvement with the CMP is strong. What is now the Office of Civilian Marksmanship was originally part of the Militia Bureau, which is now known as the National Guard Bureau. Ohio Adjutant General Ammon B. Critchfield saw the need for an improved firing area. He found the current site of Camp Perry while duck hunting in the marshes. His vision was an area where all the shots could be fired from a common line and directed toward the shoreline to maximize the light conditions. He oversaw the construction of the training and shooting facility. Camp Perry held the first events in 1907."
He also noted that there is a great partnership between the National Guard, the CMP and the NRA that has such a long and distinguished history with the National Matches. Even through the period when Congress privatized the CMP by creating a not for profit corporation and the future was not certain, the cooperation and support of all agencies ensured the continued success of the CMP. The CMP is now leader in firearms training, safety and marksmanship programs. It is totally self-funded through sales and has provided surplus revenue for the endowment fund. The CMP supports the armed services at no cost to the government or tax payers. There are over 4800 clubs, teams and organizations affiliated with the CMP. They operate two state of the art air gun ranges. One range is located at Camp Perry and the other at Anniston, AL.
Lt. General Ingram concluded, "Since President Roosevelt's time this competition has grown tremendously. This is the world series of shooting. The competitors here are the best of the best. You inspire others to learn more about marksmanship. You inspire each other to be better competitors. I am thrilled to be part of the event. Thank you again for allowing me to join you at the First Shot Ceremony. I am proud to represent the magnificent young men and women of the United States Armed Forces. May God continue to bless our country, the military and each of you. Best of luck to all the competitors and, to paraphrase President Roosevelt, make every shot count."
Following his remarks Lt. General Ingram, using a M1 Garand, fired the ceremonial first shot sending off the smoke from downrange to indicate a hit and officially opening the National Matches. While government rules prevented the CMP from presenting the M1 Garand used for the First Shot, it was noted that Lt. General Ingram had opted to purchase the rifle for his personal collection and that he did indeed pass the NICS background check!
In addition to the First Shot Ceremony, I joined the media tour of the facilities at Camp Perry. Our stops included the air gun range, EST training simulator range, the NRA Trophy Room, vendors row, the CMP store and the CMP offices which house the CMP trophies. It was an impressive overview of all the operational areas of Camp Perry involved with the National Matches.
The first stop was the air gun range. Simply describing this facility as a modern state of the art air gun range is almost an understatement. It is all those things but the technology incorporated into the facility is nothing short of amazing. The electronic targets not only provide instant feedback to the shooter at each station video screens display the scores to spectators. Additionally, the scores can be posted in real time to the internet so any shooter's family and friends can watch from home. The qualifying for the US Olympic Air Gun Team was held at the Camp Perry range.
The targets are a work of art and science. There is a black paper striking surface behind the actual target. This serves to provide the sound to the four microphones on each target. The sound starts a timer for each target and stops as the sound reaches each microphone. This enables the system to graph the shot placement based on X and Y coordinates onto the video displays and record the shot. The system is accurate to within .01mm, which is considerably more accurate than hand scoring of targets.
We had the opportunity to fire a number of practice rounds and then shoot a simulated 10-shot match for score. It was both a friendly and embarrassing competition. The dot at the center of the target is a puny .5mm. My old eyes strained to adjust to that dot and the air gun target sights. I did fire a score of 90 which included shots pulled into the 6 and 7 ring. Offering the excuse that my eyes got tired didn't do much to offset the display of those shots on the big video units highlight in a bright blue background for all to see. It certainly gives an appreciation of the training, concentration and skill involved to shoot in competitive events. The range record is 599 x 600 which translates as hitting that puny little dot 59 out of 60 shots. Considering that the standard pellet is 4.5mm, the shooter would literally be shooting at a hole in the center of the target as the dot would soon be gone!
The next stop was the EST Range. EST is military speak for Engagement Skills Trainer. The EST is the state of the art elaborate firearms training system designed to provide advanced training for the Ohio National Guard. It can accommodate squad-sized units so teams can train together on both basic and advanced weapons systems capable of simulating the environment to which the troops may be deployed. The Ohio National Guard units now have the ability to effectively train on a variety of weapons systems in a climate controlled system on a year round basis. The weapons utilized on the EST are the actual weapons used in combat. The only difference is they are laser units and powered by air. The operation of the weapon is the same and some recoil is felt. We had an opportunity to fire several weapons including the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW); the .50 cal sniper rifle and the M4. Watching the scenario, covering each other, eliminating the threats with all the additional firing and background noise certainly gave us a small dose of appreciation for the skills of our military in combat. And this was with the EST set to very basic skill levels for the novice journalists in the room. We didn't have to make command decisions or determine friendly or foe personnel.
Other stops included the NRA trophy room, vendors row, the CMP store and CMP offices. Camp Perry is a unique training facility and perfectly suited for the National Matches. Ohio is blessed to have this facility, not only for the National Matches, but for the advance training of our military. The National Matches contribute a very significant amount of money to the Ohio economy each year. Additionally, the Pittman-Robertson federal excise tax on the ammunition is a major boost to national wildlife agencies for conservation and hunter education. Truly Camp Perry, the CMP and the NRA are winners for all Ohioans!
Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.