My relay mate was Harry Harrison from Corona, California, and he was not having a good day, and for that matter, he wasn’t having a good week. Having traveled all the way from California to shoot the National High Power Rifle Championships, Harry was having gun trouble. His second sighting shot at the 200-yard rapid-fire jammed up his rifle with a stuck case. The rules allow a shooter with rifle problems to have a re-fire of the stage, but the NRA Volunteer was trying to help Harry get his gun going again so the re-fire wouldn’t be needed.
Soon, another volunteer was there and he called for an armorer to check out Harry’s gun. Both were genuinely concerned about Harry’s problems and doing everything they could to get him back into the match. It was not an unusual situation; it was simply the way NRA Volunteers work. I’ve competed in over two dozen NRA National Championships and I know just how nice the folks who work for free to see the competition happens are. They’re among the nicest folks you’ll find anywhere.
Every year, hundreds of volunteers come to Camp Perry for the National Matches. They come from all over the United States. They work long hours, starting early and finishing late, standing in hot sun and pouring rain, and they do it all because they love shooting and the people who compete. This year, there were 83 volunteers for the Pistol phase, 115 for Smallbore Rifle, and 140 for the High Power Phase that’s happening now.
Volunteers who work the National Matches have to be schooled in what to do and where and it’s the job of Gail Hogan to make this happen. Gail is the NRA Volunteer Coordinator for the National Matches and besides training them for their assignments, her job is to take care of her charges’ needs with lodging, meals, and anything else they need.
NRA also puts on a Volunteer Dinner during every phase where they recognize those who’ve reached milestones in service. This year, the longest-serving volunteer was Judy Boyd, widow of past National Champion, D.I. Boyd. Mrs. Boyd has been serving for 37 years and everyone in the room stood and clapped when she was recognized. National Championship season draws people from all age groups; the age of the volunteers varies from the youngest being 15 and the oldest 82.
At the dinner, there were door prizes, a great meal, and a lot of jovial fun. Mike Doy of Springfield Armory also was there to donate a 1911 Springfield Armory pistol as a door prize. Doy praised the work and dedication of those in the room without whom there could be no National Championships.
I shoot the third day of the Championships today. My luck for the first day didn’t hold out. My equipment, consisting of a Rock River AR-15, a Bushnell Elite Tactical scope, and 77-grain Black Hills match ammo is doing fine. I made a dumb mistake yesterday and shot an X on another competitors target at the 600-yard line, but that was my fault rather than my gear; a thunder storm interrupted the match and caused it to end a little late. Tomorrow is another day and whether I shoot well or not, shoot my own target or someone else’s, or even if it rains all day, I know I can count on the real heroes at Camp Perry, the volunteers, to be there and make sure everything happens as it should.
Image by Dick Jones