It was the last stage of the National High Power Rifle Championships. I was tired, though I felt better today than the first two days. The wind was light for Camp Perry, coming in from the north and running about one quarter-value. It was changing a little, but not enough to move a good shot past the nine ring. I was feeling very good. It was my eleventh clean shot for record and this was my best 600-yard string for the week.
My offhand that morning hadn’t been too good. My first two sighter shots were Xs and I hate shooting an X for a sighter in offhand. My method is to shoot the first 10 I see, and shooting an X for a sighter makes me too picky. I thought about this before I shot the first shot for record and tried to put it out of my mind, but it was to no avail. I ended up with a 184 of a possible 200. A reasonable goal for me on offhand is a 192.
Prone Rapid Fire was better. I cleaned the first string with a 100-5X and shot a 99-3X on the second. Now I was smoking hot and clean over halfway through the last match of the championship. I wasn’t in line to win anything, but I was well on my way of making my goal for the match, to break 2300 in a match with a possible of 2400.
I cross-fired and shot an X on the wrong target the first day, but I’d also had some surprisingly good breaks otherwise. Now, I was sure just finishing this string well would put me over my goal. The next shot came up a nine on the left side. I wasn’t disturbed, I didn’t expect to shoot a perfect 200. The next came up a seven on the left side. I realized I was thinking more about my end result than what I was doing and I hadn’t noticed a wind change. I was rattled and shot the next shot on the edge of the eight ring on the right side of the target, compensating for the wind that had pushed my last shot into the seven ring. I broke the trigger and the shot came up exactly where I was holding, an eight on the right side. The wind had let back off and in my panic, I hadn’t noticed the change.
Though the shooting continues with the Long Range Championship, the 2013 National High Power Rifle Championship is over. Hundreds of riflemen from all over the country, and for that matter, the world, are now home or returning home from the culmination of their shooting year. Of course, only a few come to the National Matches with a reasonable expectation of becoming the champion, though I suppose a few mediocre shooters come with delusions of lucking into the win. Of course, there are also opportunities to win awards in classifications and categories and there are medals and prizes for those, but I think only a few competitors really put much importance on this.
What really brings people to the National Championships, I believe, is the feeling of being a part of a grand pageant of shooting. Every morning begins with the firing of the cannon and the National Anthem. Every acre of the Camp Perry base is steeped in history, from the crude WWII POW huts that competitors have stayed in for decades to the distinctive checkerboard water tower and the expansive brick arcade building with tanks and jets arranged around on the grounds, Camp Perry is history.
The National Championships are a celebration of marksmanship, both military and civilian. They are a reunion of old friends from all over the country only seen once a year. They are a place of sacred reminiscence for the memory of those beloved friends who have passed on. They are the place where young people develop a reverence and respect for the values of the Second Amendment and where those young people often make the decision to make the military their career. And finally, they are the ultimate test of the Marksman’s skill in pitting his ability against so many other skilled shooters in the largest venue availible.
I didn’t quite make my goal of 2300. I wound up a few points short at 2293 in the Championships and just one spot off getting a medal in the Springfield Armory M1A match. I thought this was pretty good, considering I only shot one match and one practice in preparation this year and I used borrowed equipment. My Rock River AR-15 performed flawlessly, shooting almost every shot on call. My average for prone rapid-fire, a real test of rifle accuracy, was 99 percent. I shot the Rock River just as it came from the box, only adding the scope that put me in Any Sight/Tactical class, and a foam strap-on cheek-piece that put my head in a better position for prone.
The Black Hills 77-grain OTM ammunition performed just as well. My groups off a bench were around one inch for 10 shots at 100 yards, and the 100-5X in the first 10 of the last 600-yard stage attests to the long-range capability of this load.
I used a Bushnell Elite Tactical 5-15x scope for the championship and it was an excellent choice. I used 8X magnification for the 200-yard line and 10X for the 300. This allowed me to clearly read the number board during rapid-fire. I could also see enough mirage during the rapid-fires to manage the wind with right or left favors. At 600 yards, I used 15X and was able to see changes in wind conditions in the mirage pretty well. The clicks were positive and I never felt there were issues with repeatability.
Those who think you have to have special equipment to shoot NRA High Power should consider that my rifle, scope, and ammunition were all used just as they came over the counter with no modifications at all. I can look back at my mistakes and poor performances and see at least 40 points I squandered. It’s a testament to the quality of the products that are available to the gun enthusiast today that off-the-shelf equipment can perform to this level.
So, how did I enjoy my week at the National Rifle Championships? The Rock River A4 National Match rifle cost $1,415, the Bushnell 5-15x Elite Tactical scope $429, and the Black Hills 77-grain OTM ammunition, $49.99 per 50 rounds. But shooting the National High Power Rifle Championships–that was priceless.
Editor’s note: Staff Sergeant Brandon Green of the United States Army Marksmanship Unit took the national title of the 2013 High Power Rifle Championship in a close tiebreaker with defending champion Carl Bernosky. See more results from the competition here.
Images by Dick Jones