Wednesday, December 24, 2014

During the year

 I went nuts and shot umpteen jillion rounds for score, and X 3-4 plus God only knows how many bricks of .22LR for practice I went to matches in a several state area.

I was trying to see if I had the talent to actually get anywhere as a competitive service rifle shooter and really went for it.

I did OK but my offhand scores kept me out of the winner's circle which seems to be the story of my life. A couple years after when I mentioned this during a routine physical the doc offered me a pill and as I am inclined to do, I refused the medication.

Anyway, I shot at God knows how many sportsman's and shooting clubs that were CMP affiliated.  Some of the smaller ones were not used to having non-club shooters show up and once in a rare occasion I would be questioned. 

A couple of times I'd hear someone ask the range officer ask what I was doing to the match. Actually it was a reasonable question. Most of these were private clubs and guest policies varied widely. When someone asked the RO he'd generally explain that the CMP match itself was open to all CMP shooters regardless of membership.

The guy that asked the RO would generally nod in understanding. It was obvious the question was just curiosity and not belligerence of any kind.

Generally the guy that asked the RO about me would come up to me and welcome me. Often they would watch me to try and learn something. For example, I had a brass deflector to enable me to pick up my brass at the end of each string. The deflector made the brass go straight down instead of flinging it all over. They would make a note of it and often asked me where I had gotten such a thing.

The clubs generally had the same course of fire, the National Match course and depending on the size of the range the targets were reduced accordingly. A very few actually had pits where targets were pulled up and down.

Some clubs had a somewhat serious CMP program, some not so serious. I'd just show up with my gear and when I was scheduled to go to the firing line I'd set it up.

While some of my gear is hand made (my shooting mat is made of a leopard skin print couch cover, for example. Thanks to my niece. Chicks dig it.) most is pretty professional. In some places people would look at it and wonder, never having seen a real shooter's rig before. Other places the guys had the full setup. It was all somewhat hit or miss.

The firing range commands varied somewhat but were all pretty much understandable. In the smaller or more disorganized clubs the rules were not adhered to as much as they were in clubs with a serious program but that was OK. I'd adapt quickly to their ways.

I showed up to one small-club match and the RO seemed a little sheepish when he explained that the program was relatively new and asked me for help. I had a spare copy of the rule book with me and I gave it to him. He looked shocked asked me to run the match!

I ran the range for the first relay and shot the second. By that time he got the hang of it. He was a Marine veteran and realized he already knew what he had to know, having learned in boot camp. The commands are pretty much the same as they are in boot camp. Any Marine vet remembers them well.

I recall I did okay that year and only had one situation where the host club was at all rude. It was actually pretty funny, looking back on it.

I had been advised by someone to ask directions at the local police station and was glad I did. It was some dopey little East Podunk club out in the middle of nowhere and I drove through ten miles of bad roads to get there only to find the range was little more than a cut between a pair of piles of some kind of mine trailings.

I arrived early and ssaw the clubhouse. It looked like some kind of mine company leftover. It was rough.

Someone else was there already and I helped him set things up. Apparently I was the first outsider that had ever shown up for a CMP match. The guy also gave me the lowdown on how things worked. It was one of those deals where the guy that owns the land 'just happens' to be the club president. I was warned that he could be  jerk to outsiders.

When I asked if I should shove off he said I should stick around because the program was open to all.

When the president of the club showed up and saw me and my gear he announced that it was a private club. I in turn asked it it was CMP affiliated. He said it was.

I told him that the match was then open to any CMP shooter that was qualified.  

"But it's a private club," he repeated.

"When you shoot a CMP sponsored match the match itself is open to the public, private club or not," I replied.

One of the other members spoke up. "He's right," he said. "The match itself is open to the public, Jimmy. When you accepted the CMP rules you opened any CMP matches to anyone that wants to shoot them. It's in the charter and I explained it to you before you signed on."

"Yeah, well I still don't like it," said the president.

"If you don't let him shoot and he reports it you'll lose your charter and have to return everything," said another member. "Including the 5000 rounds of ammunition you bought from CMP."

When he heard the part of having to return the ammunition I realized at once what the deal most likely was.  The president had probably ordered a large quantity of CMP surplus ammunition and was selling it at a huge markup.

I shot the match and did rather well. I smoked the president of the club and listened to him mumble about an outsider with a trick rifle.

"Nothing trick about it," I said, conversationally. "Want to trade rifles for a couple spotters and ten for score? You'll see for yourself there's nothing trick about it."

He looked pretty uncomfortable when I offered. I had been careful not to have a snotty tone in my voice when I made the offer. His attitude needed an adjustment and I wanted the chance to give him one but he refused.

"I'll take you up on that offer," said the guy I had met when he arrived. His tone of voice was simply a guy that wanted to try my rifle.  I handed it to him, showed him the proper way to sling up and coached him through ten rounds. We had agreed not to shoot for score, but for group size.

Then the dam broke and a number of the guys wanted to know more about the CMP matches elsewhere, especially at Camp Perry. I answered as many questions as I could and showed them some of my gear that they were unfamiliar with.

I told them to round up their scorecards and to print up a march results bulletin because at the time having one served as proof of CMP involvement and was a requirement to get a Garand from the CMP.

The president looked pretty uncomfortable when I explained how to get a government issued Garand. When I saw the look on his face I knew he probably had been getting CMP ammunition and reselling it. Now he'd have to make it available to Garand shooters.

A couple of years ago at Perry I met two of these guys at the John C. Garand match. They grinned and thanked me for showing up and letting them know they were eligible to purchase Garands. They also let me know the president of the club was still a jerk but was at least giving them ammo at cost like he was supposed to.

One of them had quit the Podunk club and had joined another club some distance from his home.

The shooting had stopped at around noon and it was after two when I got to leave and go home. If I recall I got home a little after 1800 and went straight to the reloading bench and started reloading my fired brass for another match.

The next match was a local weekday match that didn't count for anything. It was sponsored by the Marine Corps League. I went and mentioned my experience to the Range Officer, whom I have known for years. He was surprised but did say he had heard rumors that there was a club somewhere that didn't like outsiders. He commented that their CMP charter ought to be yanked.

Still that was an exception. Generally when I shot matches at other clubs they opened the clubhouse for all CMP shooters. Often they had free coffee and sometmes doughnuts. At a couple clubs I got breakfast for a song, and in one or two cases, free. 

A couple of clubs hosted a barbecue after the match which I thought was great. It was astonishing that they could do this for a ten or fifteen dollar match fee.

One of the things I liked about that year was all of the people I met that were so kind and helpful.

Over the years at Camp Perry I met a few people that I had run into during that year and more than one told me that I had convinced them to show up. A few said that I had dispelled the rumors thay had heard about how you either had to be in the military or in a state association to attend. They didn't realize that the nationals are open to all shooters.

It was one of the most interesting years of my life and also one of the most fun years, too.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

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