Friday, April 17, 2015

The Springfield match at Camp Perry.

A few years back I shot the Springfield match and also what I consider to be the best string I ever fired. While maybe not my highest score, it was my best moment as a shooter. It was a real train crash as a Marine NCO later put it. I came out of it smelling like a rose.

I was on the firing line, loaded, slinged up and ready to go. The bolt was back and as the order was given to commence firing the lens of my shooting glasses fell out!

I had checked them countless times and now it fell apart on me! I bent over, snagged it and popped it back in. My scorer was putting his sticker on my scorecard to record that he was my scorer. I reached down, took his sticker and used it to tape my lens in. Then I hit the dirt, got into position, slammed the bolt home and started sending rounds downrange.

I was playing catchup and I knew it. I can also count and know that a 5 is better then a held round. There are no refires on this course of fire.

Like Sergeant York, I put the front sight on the sweet spot of the target and snapped it off. As soon as the rifle settled down I worked the bolt, put the tip of the front sight on the target and as soon as it got aligned I snapped anothe shot off. I repeated this three more times.

 My the end of my first five rounds I had caught up! I relaxed slightly as I reloaded my next five rounds only to have my well waxed and inspected stripper clip fall apart on me! My rounds were on the mat!

I picked them up as fast as I could and stuffed them into the magazine, slammed the bolt home and started shooting. Just as the cease fire command was being given and the targets were starting to come down I lit off my last round.

When the smoke cleared and the targets came up for groups and scores I didn't believe my eyes. My score read like this:


The spotters told me the pair of nines were tight...very close to the ten-ring. The eight was mid-ring at 12 O'clock but I knew it was because the target was going down. 

I was astonished!

My scorer that had been watching my rounds impact through his spotting scope opined that my last round would have likely been another X or at the very least a tight 10 had not the target started dropping.

Then it was my turn into the pits to pull targets.

Normally this is about a 2 or maybe three hour job but the Gods were not with me that day. It was a hot day and some damned hippie was out in Lake Erie on a Jetski. 

Lake Erie has served as an impact area for rifle fire for years and there has been little or no enviornmental impact. Yet for some time small groups of people have driven Jetskis and boats int the impact area during live fire exercises and have delayed the matches.

One year the National Guard sent a helicopter out to chase a sailboat out of the impact area. The rotor wash gave the boater a little more wind than he wanted and the pilot simply blew him out of the impact area with the downwash.

The boatowner later called the base demanding compensation for damage to his boat. The base people told him to stop by and promised he'd be taken care of.

He was, too. When he walked in to the headquarters building he was promptly placed under arrest by the MPs who held him for the feds. This is additional evidence to the old adage that you can't fix stupid.

I never heard what happened in court. 

This year they returned with Jetskis and were giving the Naval Militia a run for their money. The firing line, of course, had to shut down until the National Guard and Naval Militia could run them off.

I, of course, was at the time sitting in the pits baking in the sun on a 105 degree day. My canteen ran dry as did everyone else's and the CMP water cannisters ran dry, too. 

We had already been sweating it out faster than we could pour it in but now we had nothing to replace the sweat with. 

The comments in the pits were ranged between downright angry and bitter to truly funny. Many of us started getting a little punchy.

Finally the impact area was cleared and the match resumed. When it was over we had spent practically six hours baking in the Camp Perry sun. Most of us were punchy as all hell. We stumbled to the stairway exhausted and spent.

Then it happened. Out of the middle of the daze and punchiness a voice sounded out.

"Well, Boys," said the voice that I just KNEW came from a nasty little foul mouthed runt of a man.  If they made a movie about this guy he would have to be played by none other than Danny DiVito. "Time to head up to the firing line, pick up our medals, take 'em downtown and trade 'em for pu$$y!"

It came out of the middle of the pack and from nowhere at the same time and hit the dog-tired punchy crowd like a shotgun blast. Virtually everyone there split right open laughing. Everyone. The handful of women in the crowd laughed right along with the men. As did one man that I knew was very religious and usually easily offended.

The laughter was crippling and the line came to a complete stop as people started falling over each other laughing themselves silly. .

While a comment like that was probably worthy of a chuckle in normal circumstances, actually it was sort of stupid. But to people as punchy as we all were it was downright disabling. His timing was perfect.

Of course, we all wanted to beat the hell out of the nasty little bastard. Maybe grab his ears, toss him in the air and punt the little dweeb thirty or forty yards but we were helpless to do so.

It was a thousand plus yard  walk to where the tables were set up to pick up prizes and T-shirts and most of us had to stop every fifty feet because the laughter returned. We'd just double up and laugh.

Many of us were still laughing when we got to the table. You couldn't shake it no matter what you did. People wanted to know what was so funny but you could not explain it to someone that wasn't there and heard it firsthand! If you did, they would look at you like you were stupid. 

I picked up my T-shirt and left for the barracks.

I gotta say that what goes around comes around.

The day before I had dropped off a couple of cases of PBR at the Marine barracks. As I  was staggering back to the barracks I heard a voice call out to me.

"Hey, Pic! Incoming!" shouted a Marine.

I turned, let go of my cart and caught what proved to be an ice cold PBR. I drained it in a single gulp and the Marine laughed. "Want another?"  he asked.

"No. It'll knock me on my ass, but thanks, Mac!" I replied.

He grinned when I called him 'Mac'. He knew what I was doing. It was a WW2 term for any GI and I occasionally use it on younger servicemen. Sometimes they take the bait and get fooled into thinking I'm of the WW2 generation.

"You still look dried out," he said. Then he walked over and handed me two bottles of cold water. I drained both of those, too. I was truly grateful.

The next day I bought the Marines another case of PBR.


After I showered and recovered I ran over to the Marine barracks to commiserate with Marines that had not shot well.  

This actually means everyone because unless a Marine on the rifle team shot a perfect score (and nobody does) it generally turns into a humorous gripe session.

I once sold a corporal a pretty good excuse for having a lousy day for $10. I took his money and whispered to him that 'Tomorrow's excuse is that you were still pissed off over having been cheated out of $10 by a mean old man'

He was too embarrassed to ask for his money back. I simply used it to buy beer for the guys so no foul.

Few if any Marines shot in the Springfield match back then. Some do now if they are not slated with another event. Many of the Marines there were not familiar with the 1903 Springfield as then they generally only shot a government issued M-16 type service rifle.

My gripes, of course, were greeted with hoots and laughter. A laughing Staff Sergeant looked up laughing and said, "A real train crash, huh?"

Then a Master Sergeant looked at me and said, "Mr. Piccolo, I do believe there are maybe -and that's a big maybe-but one or two of our guys that could have come close to doing what you did."

That turned heads, including mine.

"Think about it," he said to us. "How many of you guys could pick up an obsolete WW1 bolt action rifle and do that well? Especially under his circumstances. Few of you if any have ever even shot one. Hell, some of you haven't even seen one."

He turned to me. "Mr. Piccolo, you did just fine. You did yourself right proud."

As he was leaving one of the guys looked at me and said, "Yeah, but we're gonna bust your balls anyway!"

The Master Sergeant heard it, turned and grinned shook his head as he walked off and I felt like a million bucks.

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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