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Camp Perry & the National Matches.

Camp Perry & The National Matches

We surely don't have to tell you that firearms -- in all their configurations -- are judged insidious in the eyes of the general public today, nothing more than malignant instruments of death which should be banned nationwide.

Nevertheless, if the truth be known, in the hands of the average law-abiding citizen firearms are quite capable of generating any number of such fine attributes as sportsmanship, competitive-spirit and downright national pride. Steeped in all the tradition of American history, the shooting sports can keenly develop the competitive spirit and spawn sportsmanship far superior to many other modern-day sports and the ultimate such shooting event is the National Rifle and Pistol Matches annually staged at Camp Perry, Ohio.

July heralds the onset of the month-long National Matches at Camp Perry and this shootfest remains the most significant tournament annually staged. If you are unaware of its magnitude and scope, let's talk about Camp Perry.

The history of the National Matches is a long and honorable one, dating back to 1903 when American tradition dictated that everyone should be capable of "shooting straight." It was first staged at Sea Girt, New Jersey by an Act of Congress, however, in 1907 the matches were moved to the shores of Lake Erie, at Camp Perry, Ohio (near Port Clinton), and basically the event has been staged there ever since.

It was largely through the efforts of a General Critchfield that the Ohio State Legislature appropriated $25,000 for the purchase and development of a state National Guard range and camp. General Critchfield picked the site in 1907 -- a level plain a mile long along the southwestern shores of Lake Erie, near the scene of Commodore Perry's great triumph over the British in 1812.

So it came to pass. On an August morning in 1907 Corporal L.B. Jarret, an Ohio National Guardsman, officially opened the 1907 National Matches at Camp Perry when he fired the first shot from a Krag rifle -- and this great American tradition was in the making.

The national matches at Camp Perry continued through 1917 when World War I started and during the World War era Camp Perry was used as a training site for marksmanship instructors. From these early sessions the now equally historic small arms marksmanship school had its inception.

In 1919 the national matches were staged at Caldwell, New Jersey and hosted by the U.S. Navy. However, by 1920 the matches again returned to Perry and at that point keen interest was developing in handgun competition. Thus, the three-stage National Match Course -- slow, timed and rapid fire -- was adopted as well as the Camp Perry Police Pistol Course and police pistol teams from across the country began participating.

From 1920 through 1940 the national matches grew dramatically, attracting civilian and military marksmen from throughout the country. During this same era there was a steady improvement in ammunition as well as a refinement in rifles and handguns, plus sights, etc. and the continued enhancement of the standards of marksmanship.

With the onset of World War II, the national matches were again postponed and Camp Perry was soon pressed into use as a prisoner of war camp as literally hundreds of tar paper "hutments" were constructed to handle the influx of prisoners.

But by 1946, following World War II, Camp Perry was back on the scene as the site for the national matches, although its present full month-long schools and shooting sessions were not fully scheduled until 1953.

Through the years the national matches have been instrumental in developing the Garand (MI) and M14 military rifles as precision shooting instruments. Like the muzzleloader arms at Creedmore, the Krag-Jorgensens at Sea Girt and the battle-tested Springfields at Camp Perry, the knowledge gained at these annual tournaments has contributed significantly to the skills of military personnel and civilians alike.

Camp Perry is owned and operated by the State of Ohio and is leased to the Department of the Army and the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP) for the period of the national matches. In turn, the NBPRP and

the National Rifle Association (NRA), agree to provide the tournament staff to conduct the event.

This month-long National Rifle and Pistol Championship will again commence this month and it will continue through mid-August. It will include a vast host of traditional shooting events including smallbore and highpower rifle and bullseye pistol events. Even a muzzleloader competition is scheduled as well as air-gun matches. The shooting events are all-encompassing and steeped in American tradition, while the national honors are most prestigious.

Additionally, several schools are scheduled -- the Small Arms Firing School, the NRA School and a Marksmanship Clinic. These schools include qualification firing with current military arms.

"The National Rifle Association is vitally concerned with national preparedness and the training of our people in the proper use of the basic weapons of national defense," said an NRA spokesman. "Remember, a prepared citizenry, trained to do a soldier's job with a soldier's skill when necessity calls, is essential to a strong America. Marksmanship training in time of peace is vital to preparedness in case of war."

The National Rifle and Pistol Matches are the zenith of marksmanship training in America today -- and does honor to the fine tradition of competitive shooting at its ultimate.

National champions are crowned to culminate the nationwide organized competitive shooting program sponsored by the NRA. The competitive events conclude with the National Trophy Team Match which features the traditionally friendly rivalry which exists between the military services and civilians alike in the proper use of small arms.

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving the peace. The first step -- in the direction of preparation to avert war, if possible, and to be fit for war if it should come -- is to TEACH OUR MEN AND WOMEN TO SHOOT," concluded the NRA spokesman.

So there is no question Camp Perry is judged today as the nation's most prestigious shooting event. But its many programs reach far beyond the ramifications of competition. It is a shootfest and technical school carried on in the finest tradition of American sportsmen. The faces each year on the shores of Lake Erie are familiar -- old-timers, newcomers, kids, champions and also-rans, rich men, poor men, veteran and tyro -- it is Camp Perry, providing ample evidence that the shooting sports indeed have a special niche in the complex world of competitive sports. As General George Patton would remark, "America loves a winner."
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Title Annotation:shooting competition
Author:Brant, Howard
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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