We all got to enjoy Tony Burillo’s article (Success, Sept-Oct 2000) on the Smallbore effort at Camp perry, well now its my turn to tell you all about the highpower effort!
For years, the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association has been sending a pretty strong Junior team to the Highpower Rifle portion National Matches at Camp Perry Ohio. Our Junior team is noted for doing especially well, winning the Rattle Battle (properly called the National Trophy Infantry Team match) for most of the last 20 years!
For those unfamiliar with the terms “Rattle Battle” or “Infantry Trophy”, It is a 6 man team match shooting very rapid fire from 600, 500, 300 and 200 yards at 8 targets. No sighters, walk to the line, get down, “Load and Be READY!!!”.
Traditionally, numerous juniors and adults would compete at Camp Perry. I joined the effort for the last 2 years.
In the months prior to leaving for the matches which occur during the first 2 weeks of August, the Arizona Juniors and a few adults would meet nearly every weekend and a few weekday mornings to hone their skills. Under the sun at the 600 yard line at Ben Avery, or under the covered firing points at South Mountain or Rio Salado, the Junior would practice the various stages of the National Match course of fire, and gain a tolerance of 110 degree heat that would leave us Arizonans laughing at the groans and complaints of the easterners when the mercury hits a balmy 90 on the wind swept shores of Lake Erie.
Speaking of 110 degree heat, there is a group that doesn’t get mentioned often, and whom I am going to thank first for their dedication to Arizona’s Junior Shooting team. That’s the Parents of the Juniors! Juniors can start shooting as soon as they can hold an AR-15, usually that’s about 3 years before they can get a driver’s license! That means for many of them, its a Dad or in at least one case, a Mom, who drives them to the range and then without pay and hardly any thanks (till now) works in the pits, pulling and marking their targets for them!
Charlie Bombardier, John Martin and the folks at DGF made the Rio Salado, Phoenix Rod and Gun Club and Ben Avery ranges available for practice on demand. While John Wilder and John Bombardier dedicated an enormous amount of their personal time to serve as experienced coaches. Together with John’s wife Natalie and Don Johnson and his wife, they took vacation time and at their own expense accompanied the kids to Perry, so the Juniors could have full time dedicated coaches and some adult supervision while we adult shooters had fun shooting!!!!
A number of us Arizona shooters even made a trip in early July to Raton New Mexico for a regional match there!
Enough of the obligatory Thank You’s and on to the matches!!!
The National Matches have been held at Camp Perry for most of the last 100 years! There is usually a brief write up every summer in the American Rifleman or Shooting Sports USA. They start out with muzzleloader matches, pistol matches, smallbore and finally highpower!
Highpower consists of two and a half weeks. The first week is matches put on by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, formerly and Army function, now it is “incorporated” just as is the Post Office or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. These matches begin with a very basic “Small Arms Firing School” put on by the Army Marksmanship Training Unit and include a LEG match to try to get points towards the prestigious “Distinguished Rifleman” badge, the President’s 100 match, and 2 team matches including the aforementioned “Rattle Battle”, and for the last 3 years, the John C Garand Match. Only the US service rifles may be used in these matches. For the main matches, this means the AR-15.
The second week is “NRA week”. Starting with a team match it is followed by 4 days of individual match shooting. Either the Service rifle or the Match rifle may be used. With the exception of two REALLY fine shooting young ladies from Prescott, to the best of my knowledge, all the Arizona Juniors used Service rifle. After NRA week is 3 days of Long Range, followed by Long Range Firing School, unfortunately, the long range matches overlap the start of classes in the Scottsdale Unified School District, so I have not been able to stay for that part of the match. And Frankly, after focusing on the front sight and concentrating on trigger squeeze, for 2 weeks, it was time to head home.
Its a LOOOOOOOOOONG drive to north central ohio from Arizona. Fellow Rio Salado regular Tom Kirby and I left Friday morning and after 2 grueling days and a visit to the Air Force museum near Dayton, we arrived well before dusk on Sunday. Several others drove, but still others flew out. John Bombardier even flew his own plane out! Don Johnson earns another hero’s accolade for filling his van up with 3 juniors (OK, 2 of them had the same last name as him, and the third as me) and pulling the club trailer which was absolutely PACKED with equipment, I mean the door was bulging and the weather stripping didn’t touch all around!
Additionally, Since some of the worlds best competitive gunsmiths ply their trade in Arizona, they too travelled to Perry, Accuracy Speaks, B. Jones Sights and Medisha Firearms had tables this year, and while Phil of Arrington Accuracy did not set up a table this year, he was there, camera in hand helping to coach an Air Force team (See his web site for photos! http://www.arringtonaccuracy.com/ )
This year, we had by my count sent 13 junior and an equal number of adult shooters to the high power matches. I may have missed a few.
Most everyone had to arrive in time for Small Arms Firing School. While first time shooters are expected to attend the Army’s basic version of Small Arms Firing School at the start of CMP week, the Marine Corps shooting team puts on an advanced version which imparts usable pointers even on master class shooters. It is only open to Juniors and all the returning Arizona juniors attended!
On Monday as SAFS wrapped up there was a practice session for competitors, and Tuesday the match began with a blast of the cannon and the raising of the flag to the tune of the star spangled banner, and to quote Derrick Martin, “They don’t do that at golf” (although when I asked him how he knew that, he said he sometimes clicks through golf games while searching for car races on TV).
First Day’s Match is called the Presidents Rifle Match, or Presidents Hundred. This is one of the most prestigious awards in the nations shooting community. Of the roughly, make that exactly, 1230 shooters, only the top 100 get to wear the President’s 100 badge. It is rumored that in the past they received a letter from the President, but times have changed. While other Arizonans have made it, in the past, This year, I see the names Ron Fuchs and Tom Albinito. With no sighters, they went to the line and fired 10 offhand at 200 yds, a 10 shot rapid string prone at 300 yards and 10 shots prone at 600 yards, and beat over 1100 others! Shooter number 100 had a 284-9x out of a perfect 300.
The second day is the National Trophy Individual Match, Also known as an Excellence in Competition or simply “Leg” Match. Shooters are vying for a position that will earn them yet another leg in their journey to Distinguished Rifleman status. Only the top 10% the non-distinguished of this year’s 1205 competitors made the cut, which this year was 471-9x. Arizonan Tom Albinito (yeah, I noticed, his name appears a lot when you start talking about good shooters!) had already made Distinguished in New Mexico a few weeks earlier so he joined Ron Fuchs and Tom Scarboro as the distinguished competitors from Arizona in the match. But Arizona Junior Chris Orr shot a 478-11x and earned a silver medal and 1/3 of the leg points needed to go “distinguished”. In this match, a perfect score is 500-50X, it is the standard “National Match Course” of fire, consisting of 10 shots standing, slow and 10 sitting rapid at 200 yards, 10 prone rapid at 300 yds and 20 prone slow at 600 yards. No sighters, all with the iron sights on a service rifle. And, you have to get 3 to 5 “legs” to get the badge.
I have been told are more individuals who have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor than there are “Distinguished Riflemen”. Truly a well earned award.
Day 3 is a day of rest.... well for us adults anyway... we don’t have
to shoot. It is the “Whistler Boy” Match. A 2-man (OK, “2-kid”) team match
for juniors only, shooting the standard 50 shot NMC. It is named after
its trophy which depicts a boy, whistling. There were about 100 teams.
The Arizona Gold team of Liana Bombardier and Chris Orr came in a very respectable 10th place with a 944-14x. Other teams representing the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, the Rio Salado Sportsmans Club, The Phoenix Rod & Gun Club and Flagstaff Rifle and Pistol Club participated.
When I said we adults don’t have to shoot, we got to do something to truly show our support for the Juniors and the great job their doing (and to thank them in advance for the lawns they’re gonna mow, dishes they’re gonna wash and brass they’re gonna trim when we get back home!) We pulled targets for them!!! About half the adult contingent went to the pits and spent a day in the drizzling rain and half the adults stayed on the line and helped with coaching, scoring and photography detail.
Speaking of photography? did any of you dear readers catch the edition of American Shooter on TNN a couple weeks after Perry? Our very own little (or our very little own) Andrew Johnson was interviewed during this match and starred on TV.
After Whistler Boy is the 6-man National Trophy Rifle Team match. Again, a standard 50 shot with no sighters. The Arizona Adult team consisting of Tom Albinito, Tom Kirby, Bill Poole, Larry Weidel, Ron Piotrowski and Derrick Martin came in 19th civilian team with a 2783-44x , But the Arizona Juniors, Liana Bombardier, Chris Orr, Jake Quamme, Jay Jose, Eric Scott and George Piotrowski were 2nd place junior team with 2802-44x. Note, the Junior score was better than the adult score. Be advised, this is a very common condition in this state!
The next day is the National Trophy Infantry Team Match, also known as “Rattle Battle” This is described above. In this match, According to our mentor Derrick Martin, you need to have good zeroes and good luck. Well......... we had good zeroes (when we turned the knobs the right way!). OK I’ll admit it, in this one, us adults fell flat on our faces. The adult team members were Tom Albinito, Tom Kirby, Bill Poole, Gary Smith, Ron Piotrowski and Derrick Martin, with alternates coaching: William Stevens and Larry Weidell. We all made it to our 4 or so practice sessions (and always someone brought enough extra ammo for the ones of us who forgot!) and we worked out our zeros and practiced cadence (you try getting off 26 aimed shots with a magazine change in 50 seconds at 500 yards!). We were ready for anything, except an elbow slipping on the wet grass, blowing the position and sending all the shots low and right, maximum length bullet seating in a minimum length magazine, and yeah you guessed it crank that sight knob around the wrong way! Our goal of nearly 1380 points turned into a disappointing 828 for 28th place out of 54 teams. USMC won it with a 1432 by the way. However! look what the kids did!!! They were (again) first place junior team with a 1204! That earned Liana Bombardier, George Piotrowski, Jake Quamme, Jay Jose, Eric Scott and Chris Orr, along with coaches John Wilder and John Bombardier a few minutes on stage during the awards ceremony!
During and after the Rattle Battle match there was the John C Garand Match. This is a new match to honor the inventor of the M1 rifle.It is a 30 shot, all at 200 yards, but ONLY origional as-issued rifles may be used, and only the M1 Garand in .30-06, the 1903 Springfield and a few others like the Johnson, the carbine, and the Krag. Since the rifle must be as issued you cannot get any advantage in this game by helping your local gunsmith with his car payments! Many of the 1058 shooters are relatively new to competition. It was won with a 289-6X, and at least 7 Arizonans participated with Tom Albinito and Tom Kirby winning Gold Medals and Bill Poole winning Silver. Fourteen year old Billy Poole (shooting the M1 Garand his mother earned by shooting in a Rio Salado M1 clinic) was the only Arizona Junior this year.
I said that the Garand match occurred during and after the rattle battle match. Camp Perry was origionally set up with 4 ranges. They are named after Medal of Honor winners. Petrarca on the east end is used in smallbore and as a sighting in range to 300 yds. Next, Rodriguez extends to 600 yards has roughly 100 firing points and is in use during the nationals. Young with now overgrown target pits at about the 800 yard point is not used except as a buffer between “Rod” and Viale (it is NOT pronounced “vale” its vee-ah-lee). Viale has nearly 150 firing points to 1000 yards. The ranges were origionally built that way to take advantage of the curve of Lake Erie’s shoreline, just yards beyond the firing pits, and to allow shooting at different distances to safely occur simultaneously.
Each competitor is assign a relay and a target number and range name. Typically, you spend all week on the same range, and it may not be the same as the guy sharing your hut.
We do not park behind the firing line as in the ranges here, but in the parking lots, even back by our huts. Its only a few hundred yards from most of the huts to the firing line, there are shuttle carts pulled by tractors to ride on, or it makes a very enjoyable morning walk pulling the wheeled cart full of gear most of us use. (But for some reason it is much much further walking back in the afternoon.)
Sunday is the first day of NRA week and it starts with a 4-man team match, which is jointly sponsored by NRA and CMP and is called for civilian teams the Rumbold Match. It is a 50 shot NMC with sighters.
Arizona’s Juniors have not been shooting Rumbold, they’ve opted instead in recent years for the roller coasters and amusement park at Cedar Point. But the adult Arizona Rio Squad team consisting of Rio Salado’s regular gang of four, Larry Weidell, Bill Poole, Tom Kirby and Tom Albinito, did its best and came in 4th master class local club with 1858-37x. Arizona Flagstaff, which as I recall consisted of Ron and George Piotrowski, Frank Lucero and Paul Seyler came in 6th expert class in the combined state association and local club division, with a 1798-23x. A number of other Arizona shooters shot on combined military teams.
While roughly half a million bullets went down range during highpower week, the only real danger at Camp Perry is Commercial row. Warning, do not enter! or you will run up a really big credit card bill! Commercial row consists of about 15 buildings filled with 50 or so independent vendors selling everything related our type of shooting. Someone described it as having everything you could ever want and some things you didn’t even realize existed but now you cannot live without! As I mentioned Arizona’s major gunsmiths were there, as were the biggest names in competitive shooting gear retail, Otto Weber, Champions Choice, Champions Shooters Supply etc.
The first day I got there, there were no 80 grain Sierra MatchKings to be found! (a true crisis for a highpower shooter) OK Weber assured us he was expecting some on Tuesday. Well sure enough, Late Tuesday afternoon a Semi-truck shows up from Sedalia, MO. It took several guys a huge pallet jack and a couple of hours to unload what must have been several tons of bullets. There was no more shortage of bullets on commercial row for the duration of the match. (By the way, where can I get a new set of leaf springs for my truck.......)
The final stretch of the National Matches consists of 4 days of individual
matches. In these matches, unlike CMP week, the competitors are competing
in their classification and may use either the service rifle or a match
rifle. Each match is named after a trophy, and consists of a specific stage
of 20 shots plus 2 sighters. Each of the familiar stages, standing, sitting
rapid, prone rapid and prone slow are fired 3 times over the course of
the week. With 3 different matches fired each day and a total of three
80 shot aggregates and a grand aggregate worth 2400 points.
There is NO Way I am going to make it through the entire 178 page results bulletin and not miss a few Arizona winners here and there. So accept my apologies, I will not sort thru and list the names, scores and matches of every Arizonan who won something during NRA week.
It appears as though every match has someone from Arizona, either Junior or adult who won or placed in their division or classification.
It had rained off and on on us during the week, fortunately not bad enough to cancel a match but it left such a huge lake on Rodriguez range that the 300 yard match fired with our muzzles almost hanging over a body of water extending for nearly 100 yards forward of the firing line, was most appropriately named the “Coast Artillery” Trophy match.
At the end of one rainy day early in CMP week, I walked past the juniors’ hut and looked in the window to see four teenage boys busily cleaning their rifles. I had never seen any of them put that much effort into equipment maintenance. It seems it had rained so hard that empty hard gun cases were floating on the puddle of water that came in under the door and several of the rifles developed rust spots and one seemed to have its bolt siezed shut and had to be opened by a gunsmith, who immediately gave them the instructions to keep their rifles cleaned and dry. Apparently they listened! (How did you do that Derrick? and can you get mine to clean his room?)
We even saw a little lightning, in fact one of our junior shooters was standing at the doorway of his hut during an evening lightning storm and a bolt struck nearby and there was enough electricity floating around to actually throw him across the room.
Well, Camp Perry is the culmination of a years worth of local and state level matches. Its a long ways away, so we can’t all make it every year, but we do have a LOT of highpower shooting going on here in Arizona, especially in the Phoenix area. I try to maintain a pretty good list of match schedules and club info on my web site: http://arizona.rifleshooting.com/ see below for more web sites.
For this coming year, we will try to put even more emphasis on team preparation and practice. We will try to be practicing as a team at least once a month all year long. We are always looking for members.
Some of the Camp Perry team matches require that at least one firing member of each team be a first time Camp Perry competitor. Where do we find them? well, put down this magazine and go look in a mirror! Then go get your AR-15 and dry fire a little and come out to the next match! If you’ve never tried competitive highpower rifle shooting, I highly recommend it. Nearly all of the serious competitors came either through a junior program or an M1 clinic. Rio Salado has a very strong program to introduce new shooters to the sport. You can read about it at: http://arizona.rifleshooting.com/m1clinic.htm or by contacting Bob Pultz at 480-965-8318 or M1clinicrio@hotmail.com. These “clinics” are set up to introduce new shooters to Service Rifle Competition, using the M1 Garand Rifle, since the club has several for use in the clinics and since individuals can purchase an M1 through the CMP and get started. Or, just show up to watch a match and ask to speak with one of the team captains.
If you are, or know someone who is, 20 years old or younger, and want to get involved in the junior program, contact John Martin at 480-962-8391 if you what to shoot at Rio Salado in east Mesa or Charlie Bombardier at 623-846-6236 if you want to shoot at Phoenix Rod & Gun at South Mountain, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This game is open to every safe shooter who is willing to give it a try! I hope to see you all on the firing line!
Web site of clubs or businesses mentioned in this article: