After two days of driving, I finally made it to Camp Perry, Ohio. On a side note, Chicago is effing crazy. More on that later. The NRA National Matches at Camp Perry is said to be the ‘World Series’ of the shooting sports. From revolver matches, long range rifle matches to pistol matches, people from all over America, and some foreign countries (hello Team Australia) congrigate at Camp Perry, Ohio to participate. Sponsors are the N.R.A. (National Rifle Association), C.M.P. (Civilian Marksmanship Program), the US military (all branches) and a whole host of commercial sponsors like Springfield, Ultra-dot optics etc.
The first day includes a cerimonial ‘first shot’ by the Base General. With an M1 garand, he fired at a target set to explode when shot. He did not miss. The rest of the day is filled with aclimating to the new routine, filling out paperwork, finalizing registration, shopping at the various vendors set up like ‘Precision Shooter Supply’, ‘Ultradot Optics’, ‘Springfield’, the NRA store, etc. The revolver matches, two seperate matches, are held on Monday as well. Being in a time zone which is two hours ahead is somewhat unsettling. After reading some old NRA magazines about Camp Perry and the Bullseye matches, you get a small sense of what to expect. However, those articles focus on the ‘shooting’ aspects of the shooting sport. Nowhere do you see what to expect or how to prepare for a trip to Camp Perry.
First, look at the first word of Camp Perry. Camp… as in bring your own bedding, pillow, soap, towels, etc. I prepared by buying my own wagon to haul my shtuff to the firing line, a shooters box, ammo etc, but neglected stuff like sheets, pillow, towels, shave kit etc. So, after a trip into the town of Port Clinton (Clinton…leaves a bad taste in the mouth saying that word) I got a sleeping bag, pillow and bath mat so my pampered footsies dont hit the concrete floor first thing out of my cot.
The military latrine has everything you need to feel like a man. Simple toilets, urinals, shower and sink. Hot water was nice.
So, after my first day, I was ready for preliminaries, or so I thought!
Day 2. Preliminaries. (picture 4) This is designed to better prepare you for the real thing. You will shoot 30 rounds of each your rimfire (.22lr) your center-fire (32 cal up to and including .45) then your .45 cal. You will be shooting at 150 feet for your 10 minute slow fire, then 75 feet for your Timed fire (5 rounds in 20 seconds, twice) then Rapid fire (5 rounds in 10 seconds, twice). Make sure your equipment is in good working order and sighted in. This is part of the reason for preliminaries.
Now, I have to preface this with a short statement. My parents were adamant about teaching me gun safety and range etiquette at an early age because my dad was a competitive shooter. In the late 1960’s, he purchased a used S&W model 41 to not only shoot competition, but also to teach me how to shoot pistol. My dad is still with us, but he can not shoot due to medical reasons, so I was given the trusty model 41. My dad never let me down, and neither did his 41. I am here at Camp Perry in his honor because he thought it more important to teach me and spend time with me than spend what little money we had for him to fulfill his dream of competing at Camp Perry. Dad, your 41 finally made it. Thanks dad.
At preliminaries, even though I had a bad case of competition nerves AND my back was out of alignment (Dr. Higgins, where are you when I need you?), dads 41 was spot on. Did not misfire, fail to load nor fail to eject. My score is my own to claim. If my back was in alignment and I was not so nervous, I have no doubt that I would have done much better had my back been in alignment and I could calm down and relax. The problem came with my center-fire (which I chose to use my .45) then with my .45. Those two comprise 66.66% of my total score here at the National Matches. During the center fire slow fire relay, I noticed I was missing most of my shots. How could I miss the target that bad ? I then switched to my non-dominant hand because it was not shaking as bad. I noticed no change. It did not seem possible for me to get such a poor score. Then, when I looked down at my scope, I noticed a catastrophic error. The red dot scope was twisted in the rings. The seal had blown and the electronic module was so loose that every shot caused the module to reposition. It would not have made a difference what I did, I was just throwing ammo down range. ( I may have got a better score had I thrown the bullets down range). I did not panic, but grabbed my spare Colt Gold Cup (picture 6) and went iron sights. Other than hammer bite AND that I had neglected to sight in my Colt before I came to Camp Perry, I adjusted for my error and shot. 9 out of 10 in the target. That confirmed it. I took my gun into the Ultra-dot representative after the match and they said there was to much damage and could not fix it here. (They did not have the facilities to repair it here at Camp Perry). It will have to be sent in to the factory. So, I will need a bandage strip for my hammer bite, maybe some mole-skin and sight in my Colt. I am so glad I brought it as a spare.
This is one of the reasons why Preliminaries are so important. Learn from everything. Even a failure is a positive situation if you learn from it. (Where have I heard that before, dad?)
Day 3. There are 3 relays a day. And there are 3 fields with space for 100 shooters per field. First relay is 7:00AM. Second relay is at 9:15 AM and third relay is after lunch at 1:00 PM. Everyone gets a chance to shoot in every relay. I myself, will shoot in relay 2 for the rimfire, relay 1 for centerfire and relay 3 for 45 caliber. I am NOT a morning person. 7:00 AM is really 5:00 AM since Ohio is 2 hour time difference. I was able to get on the practice range and sight in my new Ultradot after I took time to eat a lunch. Well, as best as I could under the circumstances. Afterward, I mentally reviewed my performance for the day.
The problem that I had today was shooter failure. Competition jitters and fear cause the heart rate to go up which causes more misses which fuels itself. So, today, my catastrophic failure was me. That is OK. This is only 33.33% of my score. Tomorrow will be better.
Day 4. Today, I wanted coffee but settled for water as I did not want the caffeine jitters. Since I was sharing a hut with 2 other shooters, I was trying to get ready in the dark and be quiet. Do you know how much noise you make when TRYING to be quiet? I saw the sunrise over Lake Erie and the weather reports predict a great day for shooting. I made it to the firing line and was ?awake? It was no dream that my center fire score was ‘not up to par’. Everytime I went to lift my arm, I felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder. I could not hold steady on target. It was not nerves like yesterday, but it was a pinched nerve. I decided to fire with my non dominant hand. My dad always taught me to practice with my left hand for an emergency. The principles of marksmanship is the same, it comes down to trigger control and muscle memory. While not ‘as good’ as my right hand on a good day, today I was shooting better left handed. I am glad I was able to sight in my Ultra-Dot gen 1 red dot scope yesterday. My wife understood that I needed to replace it and I did get the ‘Camp Perry’ special discount. Still, my score was very disappointing, but you try to shoot a professional shooting competition with your non dominant hand 2 hours before you normally get out of bed. ‘Nuff said’.
Final day. Final relay and last chance to boost your score. I decided ahead of time to shoot left handed for the whole relay. I practiced some dry fire last night to get that muscle memory. The first round of slow fire, I had a group that was about 6 inches wide and 3 inches tall just a little low and to the right. I figured that I could finally get a score close to my normal, considering. The second 10 round relay I had become too cocky and had a grouping that was not as tight and still low and to the right, but off the scoring rings. I need to slow down and not anticipate the shot. My third set of 10 rounds, was like the first. Now, remember that I am shooting left handed at 50 yards at a target that is approx 20 inches by 24 inches with a black center scoring area the size of a one pound coffee can painted black and set on its side at about shoulder level. OK, now comes the timed relay which means 2 rounds of 5 bullets fired in 20 seconds each round. You may panic like I did, but 4 seconds per shot is plenty of time. I took my time and hit the target sheet with most inside the scoring rings. Time for the real test. Timed fire which is 5 rounds in 10 seconds twice. Guess what, after the first shot in the black, my brand new sight turned off. I raised my hand and got an exeption. That means that with equipment malfunction, I get another 5 round string with the worst 10 shots being counted as a penalty. My sight failed again after 1 shot, so I had to shoot blind. Literally looking thru my dead sight and try to remember what the sight picture looked like when the light was on. Upon looking at the target, I had hit the metal frame of the target holder, which is about the size of rebar, 4 times to the left. My target looked like a grenade went off with 4 distinct holes. My score was 18/100. I had to shoot the rest of the match with my Colt 45 left handed.
I refused to look at my scores so as not to depress me and effect my shooting. I can say that this trip was the best Camp Perry experience that I have ever had. Give it a second… I hate Murphy. If anything could go wrong, it did. But I am still classified as a Marksman by the NRA and the CMP. Time for more practice. Ugh!