This week, I figured something out. Some of it was good news and some was bad news. The good news is that, at 60 years old, I can shoot an M1A rifle as well as I could at 32. The bad news is, I couldn’t shoot an M1A very well when I was 32.
It’s a little more than two weeks ‘til the NRA High Power Rifle Championships and the Springfield Match. This is a match Springfield sponsors to celebrate the many years the M1A and M14 rifles dominated NRA Service Rifle Competition. I’m no stranger to the Springfield Armory M1A. I earned my Distinguished Rifleman badge with one in 1991 and achieved High Master status with one in 1993. I continued to shoot the M1A until 2000, my last year of competition in the CMP Matches at Perry, when I got a Silver in the National Trophy Individual, one of only a handful of M1A shooters in a sea of AR-15s.
This year, I’m scheduled to shoot the Springfield Match again and I don’t want to embarrass myself too badly. I practiced this week and the experience was humbling. My normal score on an 800 aggregate was somewhere around 780 when I was shooting well. This week, I shot a dismal 740. True, I have a few excuses that hold some merit. I haven’t shot the rifle at all in two years and only three or four times since that Silver Medal in 2000. I really was establishing a zero, having lost the data for this particular rifle, and of course best of all, I’m old.
For those who’ve never shot an M1A, I advise you to put shooting a good one on your bucket shooting list. The old Springfield M1A I earned my medals with began life as a bare receiver, common practice in those days. I used a Hart barrel, a heavy maple stock, and Alan Hurt of the All Guard Rifle Team built it for me. It would put ten shots in two inches at 200 yards off a test cradle and was probably capable of well under minute of angle, had there been a good way to test its ultimate accuracy. I won two regional 1,000 yard championships with it and, like an idiot, I sold it, thinking I’d never shoot it again when AR-15s began to rule the roost.
In 2007, Springfield Armory sponsored the first of the Springfield Matches held during the NRA High Power Championships and I instantly regretted my decision. With $25,000 worth of prizes and cash awards, that first-ever match proved a huge success, drawing over 500 shooters. . In 2010, I decided to shoot the match and borrowed my friend David Motsinger’s McMillian-stocked Springfield M1A. I shot a practice match and my score was a stunning 484-17x, good enough to win the previous matches. I shot the match and my lack of conditioning and time on the range bit me hard. I finished in the mid 450s.
The NRA/Springfield M1A match takes place Sunday, August 5. This year, match organizers also expect hundreds of shooters, who will compete for cash awards, as well as Springfield gun giveaways. Equipment rules allow pretty much all types/grades of M1As in the match. The one-day course of fire consists of 50 shots for record and five sighters at 300 yards on the NRA MR-65F target, as follows: 5 sighters; 20 shots slow-fire prone; 10 shots rapid-fire prone; 10 shots rapid-fire, kneeling or sitting; and 10 shots slow-fire standing.
This year, the match is even richer with total prizes of $27,000. The Match Winner will receive a prize of $2,000. First, second and third place Civilians get $1,500, $1,000 and a Springfield M1A Rifle respectively. High Military, Woman and Senior receive $500 and a Springfield pistol each. The High Junior also receives $500 and an additional $500 is donated to their Junior Club. Also, the High Grand Senior will get a Springfield 1911 Milspec Pistol. For everyone else who hasn’t already won a prize, $200 will be given out to 25 competitors using Lewis Class scoring.
It’s going to be fun getting out on the range with an M1A again. I have a couple of weeks and some ammunition and I will be practicing again. I don’t expect to win, but I really would like to get one of those top 50 medals. Who knows, I might pull off the Senior win. All I need is to get myself shooting like I’m 42 instead of 32. That shouldn’t be hard, should it? Maybe you should come and shoot with me; all you need is an M1A, 55 rounds of ammunition, and a 300 yard zero…well, maybe a spotting mat, a shooting coat and a mat would help.