The Camp Perry Rifle National Matches begin. Today’s President’s 100 day. I made the mistake of bunking in a room with a Marine. He was out of bed at 4:00 AM. I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. After 30 minutes of trying I gave it up and got up too. The rooms where we were staying were real hives of activity as everyone prepared for the day. As everyone else made their way to Camp Perry, Dan and I found ourselves alone at 5:00 AM with our gear loaded and ready to go. Hopefully, the rest of the team will calm down as the week wears on. At about 5:15 we gave up and decided that we might as well go too. We did want a decent parking place behind Viale Range where we were both squadded today.
It’s 5:30 and we’re parked within ten spaces of the ideal location near the road to the firing line on Viale. Time left for a nap. It’s going to be a long week. Traffic into the parking lot starts to pick up after 5:45. Around 6:00 we unload our gear and start the 800 yard walk to the 200 yard firing line. There’s fog on the range, a clear sky and no wind. Looks like a good day to shoot.
As I make it my firing point I discover that I’ll be surrounded by Texans today. These are people I’ve shot with for years on both our home ranges. I’ve drawn relay six so I’ll start off in the pits. That’s fine with me. Early on the targets will be dark today with a bright sky behind them and the sun coming up in the northeast. I’d rather chance the wind picking up and have a little more light on the targets when I shoot.
The light is much better when I shoot standing. I manage to shoot about my average. If you can shoot your average during the first string of the first match at Camp Perry you’ve got a chance. I’ve certainly done much worse here.
The different relays fire and move their gear to the 300 yard line for prone rapid fire. The Civilian Marksmanship Program’s rapid fire rules require the bolt to be closed on an empty chamber and a magazine containing two rounds inserted into the rifle while the shooter is standing. When the targets are run up out of the pits the shooter assumes a prone position and cycles the bolt to load the rifle. My rifle fails to chamber a round as I work the charging handle. No problem, I’ll get another chance to fire on the alibi relay. I remove my gear from the line, recheck my equipment and load the magazines again. All of the other relays finish firing the 300 yard prone rapid fire string and the alibi relay is called to the firing line. During this string magazines that I’ve used for years and that worked fine on the way to Camp Perry at the Illinois Regional let me down again. I save a round at the 300 yard line.
Things never seem to break in practice and the bigger the match the more likely it seems that equipment problems will occur. I shot an M1A for years and earned my distinguished badge with it on this range. It malfunctioned exactly twice, both with broken firing pins, once on this range during a team match and if I’m not mistaken, at the 300 yard line.
We all move our gear back to the 600 yard line where I score for the other shooters first. After a pit change it’s my turn to fire. The winds out of the right. It picks up and lets off quickly. Frequently it will change in the time it takes to shoulder the rifle after checking the mirage. The longer you take to fire the shot the more likely it will have changed. I decide that shooting good shots quickly is the best answer for these conditions and I finish my string of ten in about five minutes. Again I shoot close to my average. With a saved round that’s nowhere close to making the President’s this year.
Relay six is done for the day so I pack up my gear and now have only 400 yards to go to make it back to the parking lot. Once there I grab something cold to drink out of the ice chest and make my way under a shade tree to wait for Dan who is in the pits and will be until the match is over. In the shade I have a conversation with a Dad who’s son is firing at Camp Perry for the first time as a junior.
After we make it back to where we’re staying we get on bit of good news. The Marine who gets up at 4:00 has made the President’s 100 for the first time. Everyone else has a sad story like mine. Their’s might be that “I shot a nice little knot out at 3 o’clock into the 9-10 ring” or something like that but we all let this one get away.
That’s okay. Tomorrow’s the National Trophy Individual “Leg” Match. We’ll do better.