Thursday, March 14, 2013

The First National Defense Match

National Defense at Camp Perry
I attended the first National Defense match at camp Perry in August 2011.  One of the national publications wasn’t interested, but I’m not one to waste all that effort.  Here’s my article.  Enjoy!

“Shooters!  Verify your identity.”

That’s not your typical range command, unless you’re shooting with the Federal Witness Protection program.  I wasn’t.

It’s mid-August, 2011, on the Rodriquez Rifle Range at Camp Perry, Ohio.  It’s a typical summer day at Perry: hot, no shade and wind blowing three directions at once.  Weather experts claim wind can’t blow straight up from ground level.  They haven’t been to Perry.

I’m not worried about the wind, at least not yet.  I’m standing at the seven-yard line and it’s my turn to shoot the first string of the NRA’s newest rifle activity, the National Defense Match.  I need a second to take a quick glance at the three ring binder lying on the ground in front of me. 

My own R2D2.  Each shooter started their string independent of the other shooter with this unit.
 It contains the course of fire and I want to jog my memory.  I push the button on the little R2-D2-like computer and the match starts.

The shooter pressers his button and...

Gets in position for that string.  No, he's not doing a elbow-toes pushup!

The National Defense Match is unlike any rifle match I’ve seen.  It’s a reflection of combat readiness.  For the duration of the match you and your rifle are inseparable.  You carry everything you’ll need for the day: water, ammo, spare parts, batteries and magazines.  Jams are cleared on the clock, no alibis in a firefight.  If your gun goes down you fix it with what you’ve got or can borrow.  If you came with a buddy, he can hold your rifle while you answer nature’s call.  If not, be glad nobody gave the command “Fix bayonets!”  Sharing a porta-john with your rifle is interesting. 

And it’s not like any rifle match from the NRA.  Only two targets are used, the five colored NDM-5-120 and the tan NRA D-1 tombstone.  A quick inspection shows scoring rings aren’t used.  Scoring is simple: you either hit or miss.  Sounds fiendishly simple, doesn’t it?

Yes, I carried everything I might need including rain suit!
Each CoF has limited time to get your shots off.  Shooting faster than the allowable time and getting solid hits results in a lower score.  Misses add time to your score. At the end of the day lowest cumulative time wins.  All the strings start from standing and you move to the firing position on the clock.  It can get complicated.  At sixty yards you have 60 seconds to move to the barricade, shoot five rounds kneeling right side barricade, reload, move to the left side barricade, drop to kneeling and get five more rounds off.  A miss or late shot adds 5 seconds to your score.  
Fire up the plot complication!
The NDM-5 is 46 inches on each side and has four brightly colored corners and a white center.  The shooting order of the colors is determined by lot before the match. 

Equipment van for the IT guys. 

Not every color is engaged in each string, and the numbers of rounds per color changes.  The varying round count on each color makes it interesting.
Trey Tuggle, former Navy SEAL and match designer, wanted to mentally engage the shooter.  Not satisfied with “shoot-all-the-blue-targets-and-then-shoot-the-rest,” Tray wanted a little of the combat pressure that comes from having to decide who, what and when to shoot.  I think he succeeded.

Trey demonstrates the course of fire.  Many of us had trouble understanding what was allowable and what wasn't, so Trey demoed every stage
“Did you get off sequence?”  One shooter to another.  
It was a common question because to err is human, but a computer can put the screws to you.  The computer treats each target as if only one color exists and it will not score any other color until the correct number of hits are detected.  Any hits on another color out of sequence are misses.  If you lose track of which color is next or how many rounds on each color, your time takes a big hit.  Getting off sequence was a serious problem.
The Revenge of R2D2

Shooter checks his score.  Most of the time your hits were displayed almost instantly.
 The little ‘R2D2’ unit was designed by Sius Ascor Equipment and made available by Glenn Goodwin of ShotResponse.  The target uses transducers to measure impact vibrations and calculate where your shot hit.  The information is downloaded in live time by a radio link to your terminal displaying your hits, size of group, center of group, time between shots and total time.  The same information was also displayed on a 48-inch plasma TV screen so everyone could see what you’re shooting.  No pressure there!
This technology is used at the Olympic Games, the ISSF Championships, and Continental Championships and has been used by military units worldwide.  It’s not surprising this technology is producing better shooters faster.  The instant feedback of confirming called shots speeds improvement.  Shooters quickly learn how every alteration of stance, grip and trigger pull affects their group.  It’s a powerful training tool but the technology isn’t cheap.  But if your club wants to turn out champions, you might want to look at Sius Ascor.  
One last word on Sius Ascor.  They make scoring systems for tanks.  No, not giant colored NDM-5s.  You use any target you want.  All you need are several microphones downrange.  From the sound of the projectile passing overhead the computer calculates the impact location.  They claim it works!


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