Monday, August 15, 2011

Nation Defense Match at Camp Perry

I shot the NRA’s new National Defense Match last weekend at Camp Perry, Ohio, and the day was brutal.  Perry has little or no shade and temperatures were in the 90s.  The only saving grace was the occasional zephyr of wind.  We were out in the sun from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  I took 90 ounces of water and brought back 10.

How was the match?  I’m still thinking about it.  (In all honesty, I came in last in my classification.  That has to color my opinion.)  I expected the shooters to have “gun-show” grade rifles, you know, AR, Rugers, and AKs, maybe even the venerable M-1. With inexpensive optics, scopes and sights.

What I found were free-floating barrels, high-power scopes, bipods, custom grips, micro-dots on scopes and suppressors.  (The shooters claim the suppressors give them longer barrels, higher velocities and tighter groups… I like the less noise factor.)

Supergun - bipod, sandbag, free-floating barrel, high power scope, surppresser with thermal wrap (no heat shimmers!) and custom trigger

I expected a more tactical match emphasizing using cover, reloading behind cover and moving off-line before going prone.  I didn’t expect air-gunning.

The match’s reality was gamesmanship to the max.  It’s hard for me to see shooting as a game with rule bending strategy.  I stopped following football in mid 70s ‘cause I got tired of the rule changes.  Just let 'em play, I always said.

Clearly rules are needed.  Shooting is a sport with boundaries and procedures.  But if the goal is, as the match title indicates, to measure and improve the national readiness, should air-gunning be allowed?  I know some shooters will push the limits and find that fun.  I’m not one of them.  

I don’t know if I can totally accept a game which tolerates 2-minute discussions on how to legally sit in a chair, or what kneeing is.  But I do understand it.  Some shooters came to win prizes while some came to shoot and evaluate themselves.

I like improving my skill set and this was the first time I could shoot farther than 200 yards.  I now realize my 4 MOA dot covers 12 inches at 300 feet, which eats out the center of the NRA D-1 target.  Add my natural wobble and the center of the tan tombstone becomes invisible.  That’s something to think about if I want to hit things at 300 plus yards.  There were also a lot of very good shooters who shot well and were worth watching. 

So yeah, the match was a good experience for me and I recommend it to the club level shooter.  Shoot it a few times at your club before coming to Perry and work the kinks out of your system.  Learn how to gain max stability prone, kneeling, sitting and standing with or without support.

The CoF can be shortened to accommodate 100-yard ranges and scoring is simple.  You either hit the target or miss.  What could be easier?  Well, there is a plot complication; the penalty for missed rounds is higher at long ranges than short ranges.  For me, the distance shooting is a lot harder than 60 yards and in.  I suspect the full course of fire is inspired by high power shooting.

Would I shoot it again?   I don’t think so.  I would need a lot of specialized equipment, a lot of long distance practice not available to me, and time.  Plus there’s always Camp Perry weather………

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