When the targets began to rise, I dropped to one knee, planted my left elbow where it should be on the mat, and cycled the bolt on the M1 Garand. The first two shots felt pretty good, except I had a little trouble focusing on the front sight. After the first two shots, the familiar “ping” of the M1’s clip ejecting reminded me to reload, and the process went smoothly. Back on the rifle again, my position was a little squirrely, and I made an adjustment, but the recoil kept bumping me back out of position. I did my best to breathe the rifle up into the target, and pin the trigger smoothly, but I still struggled to see the front sight. I sensed I’d used a lot of time readjusting and began to rush at about the seventh shot. When the clip pinged the second time, I lay there for what seemed like eternity before the targets dropped back down into the pits. I’d rushed through the 70-second string in about 30 seconds, and splattered shots all over the black instead of calmly shooting 10 well-aimed shots.
My match preparation was lacking. I had shooting glasses that were specially tweaked to allow me to focus better on the front sight of a rifle, but when I put them on, they were poorly adjusted and too low to see the sights in prone. I was shooting a rifle I’d never seen until 10 minutes before the match, and I’d had to zero it with the five sighter shots allowed as part of my 15-minute block time for the first stage of the match. My first two shots for record were nines, but then I’d run a string of 10s and Xs with only one other nine. I should have been able to pull off at least as good a score for rapid fire, but plans don’t work well when you’re poorly prepared.
It was Saturday, May 3 and I was shooting the second day of the Eastern CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) Games and Creedmoor Cup: five days of military rifle and pistol shooting followed by five more days of modern high-power rifle competition at the North Carolina National Guard Training Site at Butner, North Carolina. The CMP puts on a series of regional shooting events across the nation every year. The Central Games are held in Oklahoma and the Western Games in Arizona. The games have been a tremendous success, drawing a combined attendance total greater than that of the National Championship.
Eligible firearms include almost any military rifle from the twentieth century and a bit before—Krags, Mausers, Nagants, Enfields, and Schmidt-Rubins are a common sight among the Springfield 1903s, M1 Garands, and M1 Carbines. The first day consists of the Small Arms Firing School with AR-15 rifles and furnished ammunition. Then there are two days of re-entry matches for vintage and modern military rifles, and the final day is the two-man vintage sniper rifle team match held at 300 and 600 yards.
During the event, the CMP sales department puts out ammunition, accessories, and rifles out on the tables for a buying spree open only to competitors. I took advantage of the occasion and bought two M1 rifles. One is a “field grade” gun—a Springfield Armory gun with mismatched parts—but offered at the bargain basement price of $525. The other gun was a “special grade” H&R—a completely refinished and rebuilt rifle with a new Criterion barrel and brand-new walnut stock and handguards. They even put a CMP cartouche on the stock for authenticity.
My rushed-up string of prone rapid-fire produced a modest 93-1x, coupled with my 97-4x for prone slow and a modest 88-0 offhand, earned me a silver medal and an eventual overall placing of 21st out of 229 competitors—and a fourth place finish in the Senior Class of 76 competitors.
For my two days’ effort, I walked away with a couple of fine rifles, a Small Arms Firing School certificate, and a silver medal. I also came home with a big grin.
Hundreds of shooters from almost every state attended the games. The next big meets for the Civilian Marksmanship Program will be the 2014 National Trophy Matches held at Camp Perry, Ohio, July 14 to 23, and the Western CMP Games in Phoenix, Arizona from October 10 to 19.
For full results from the Eastern CMP Games, click here.
Image courtesy Dick Jones