- Provided by Dave Gowan
Welcome to National Match Course Rifle Competition! Since you're reading this, you may be new to High Power Rifle competition. Don't worry about your first score, it's not important. Just handle your rifle safely, listen to and follow the range officer's commands and you'll be fine. For obvious reasons, if you violate a safety rule, you may be removed from the line.
Smaller clubs tend to be more friendly to a new shooter. The other competitors will not look down on you if you don't shoot a great score your first few times out. But there are two things you should be careful about, that will annoy them. You should take care never to shoot someone else's target, and you should be especially careful to follow the directions given you by the Range Officer.
Smaller clubs have a few key differences from larger clubs in the way they conduct the National Match Course. First, they probably do not have a 600-yard range, and may not have a 300 or 200 yard range. They may shoot only at 100 yards, or only at 200 and 300 yards (as we do at the Tallahassee, FL Rifle and Pistol Club.). The second difference is that there may be no one downrange beneath the targets to score them, so you will have to shoot all your shots and then go downrange with everyone to score your target.
A third difference will be how "sighter" shots are handled. Sighters are shots the shooter gets to take to zero his rifle on each target before shooting "record" shots for his score. Sighter shots will allow you to make a sight adjustment before shooting your "record" shots. In some small clubs, 2 sighters are taken before each of the four matches in the tournament; after you shoot 2 sighter shots the line will be made safe and the shooters will go downrange to examine the shots, or one person may go downrange and put "spotter" disks in your bullet holes so you can see from the firing line where your sighter shots went. In some smaller clubs which shoot the tournament at only one distance (say, at 100 yards), all the sighter shots you want may be taken in a single "sighter period" before the match begins.
Excepting differences in distances and how sighter shots are done, the National Match Course tournament in a smaller club has the same four shooting stages: Match No. 1 is 2 sighter shots, then 10 shots for record slow fire, standing, in 10 minutes. Match No. 2 is 2 sighter shots, then 10 shots, rapid fire sitting with a mandatory reload, in 60 seconds. Match no. 3 is 2 sighter shots, then 10 shots rapid fire, prone with a mandatory reload, in 70 seconds. Match No. 4 is 2 sighter shots, then 20 shots slow fire, prone, in 20 minutes. In the slow fire stages (including all sighters) load one shot at a time! Sighter shots are always loaded singly
The rapid-fire stages sound difficult. How are they handled? In the rapid fire stages, we will command the shooters to start in the standing position, ready to load a clip or magazine of 2 or 5 rounds (depending on what kind of rifle you are shooting). On the LOAD command you will insert your clip or magazine of ammunition; with an M1 rifle, the bolt is closed and safety is on!, with other rifles, the bolt is not closed until you commence firing! In a larger club, you will be ordered to go into your sitting or prone position when the targets appear above the berm. In a smaller club, the targets are already in view, so you will close your bolt and begin firing at some other signal, usually a whistle or a horn or a "Commence Firing!" command.
When you get the signal or command to commence firing, go down into your shooting position, shoot the rounds you have loaded, reload the rifle and continue shooting until you hear the whistle/horn blow again. Remember that beginners usually get caught up in the pace of rapid fire to either side, and so they shoot too fast. Try to pace yourself, and get your shots off at 3.5 to 4-second intervals. If you take your time aiming and firing, you should have a good score.
How are the shorter ranges handled in a small club? Using Tallahassee as an example, the ranges are 200 and 300 yards. We shoot Match 1 (the standing) and Match 2 (the sitting rapid fire) at 200 yards, just like the big clubs do. We use the same target at 300 yards to shoot Match 3, the rapid-fire prone. Since we have no 600-yard range for Match 4, we have to shoot the slow-fire prone at 300 yards instead. Do we use the big 600-yard target? No, we use a special target which looks just like the 600 when viewed through your sights, but it and its scoring rings are all reduced by perspective in diameter so that it is as difficult to hit at 300 yards as the 600 target is at 600 yards. Although this reduced-size target is smaller in diameter, in minutes of angle it is exactly the same size as the 600-yard target!
Here are the dimensions of the standard targets.
Feel free to ask for help from any of the experienced shooters, and welcome to our sport. We shoot the first Sunday of every month, we expect to see you!
Dr. Dave Gowan