As I help a new competitor prepare for their first trip to Camp Perry, the questions I am answering are giving me flashbacks to 1995 and my first trip to the National Matches. At that time I was still a Marksman, shooting my recently accurized M14, and had never shot past 200 yards. Despite all the advice and experience of many around me, my head was pounding with nerves and questions. I had only fired my first firearm three years earlier, an M1 Garand, and shot terribly, yet here I was poised for this 500+ mile trip to Ohio. Here I was, trying to compete, learning to reload, and hoping I had all the proper gear to survive the trip and competition.
In 1995 there was no real Internet yet, no DVD’s and only a few videos to turn to. One of those videos, “Service Rifle Competition Basics” by Jim Hill, was available to borrow from a local gun shop and I must have viewed it five times. With all of the free videos now available on YouTube and other places it does not sell much anymore, but it has stood the test of time. While today’s new competitor is just as nervous and curious as I was back then, it is now often more because of too much information than a lack of information.
So what advice do I give to the 2018 first time Camp Perry service rifle competitor?
Relax! While Camp Perry can be a bit intimidating, you will be surrounded by Service Rifle competitors! Coaching is of course not allowed, but there will be no shortage of people willing to help you, to the extent of lending you their rifle should it be needed.
Prepare! Make sure you have all the needed gear and ammo now, not later. This includes a cart of some kind unless you feel like carrying all your gear hundreds of yards. Personally, I use the Creedmoor Range Cart, but in that first trip back in 1995 I used a standard granny shopping cart and it worked out fine. Find what works best for you.
Yes, this can be an expensive sport, but there are options from basic to deluxe, such as the new Creedmoor Deluxe Hardback Coats, so make sure you have the gear you need. You will at a minimum need a shooting stool, glove, coat, hat, and hearing protection.
AMMO: Let’s talk ammunition. If you do not reload, or do not have someone doing it for you, there are plenty of sources these days for first rate match ammunition, most with either Sierra or Hornady match bullets. Creedmoor manufactures their own and also carries other brands, but you can also now often find good ammunition in your local gun shop.
In 1995, there was little option beyond reloading, so there is no excuse for finding the right ammo to use. Remember, this is the National Matches. If you were to fire in all the events except for the Rattle Battle, NTIT, you will need less than 500 rounds of ammunition. Prepare properly and do not show up on the line carrying hundreds of rounds of ammo (yes, I have seen this!).
Zeros: Yes, zeros! With the exception of the new CMP Cup matches there are NO sighting shots during the National Matches. The first shot you fire in the President’s 100 and NTI will count for record, so make sure you know the zero for you, your rifle and the distance being fired BEFORE you get to Camp Perry.
Equipment: Make sure your firearm is in clean and working condition. There are no alibis for equipment or ammunition issues, so get it right the first time. You should keep a second magazine nearby loaded with eight rounds during rapid fire strings just in case you have any issues! For the time spent pulling targets, think of bringing a camp chair and a 4-6’ length of rope to help with pulling. Electronic targets are on the horizon, but not in 2018 (except the Cup events).
Personal gear: Water, and even coffee is provided on the line at Camp Perry, but DO bring your own hydration and food for the day. There are no lunch breaks. Remember, it is usually hot, so I recommend that you eat smart and light. I have on too many occasions seen huge meals being eaten in the pits, so prepare properly. These will be the longest days you have ever spent to fire 30-50 rounds, but typically firing is complete by early afternoon, so save your big lunch for then. There is good BBQ and other food available right on post.
Rain gear: Make sure you have rain gear for both YOU and your equipment. Even if the forecast says otherwise, bring it! We shoot off of Lake Erie and weather can often change on a dime.
Know the program: Don’t obsess, but know the match program, pit rotations, etc., and make sure you arrive at the correct range and firing point, and on time!
Know the rules: You will get a CMP rule book when you check in. If you do not know or are unsure of specific competition rules, read up on them. You may not win a match by knowing the rules, but knowing them can keep you from losing a match or points.
Relax and Have Fun! You are here because of your love for shooting, as are most of us. Get all your preparation out of the way and allow for this to be a FUN week!
–Ira Ruderman, DR #1641 (earned on my birthday!)