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Bitterroot Bugle archives

rifle training

In the ‘civil war‘, the southern riflemen outshot the northerners 8 to 1. That so startled the military establishment that they did two significant things in attempting to improve the situation. One was to create a national rifle club we now know as the NRA. The other was creation of a national rifle training and competition organization they assigned to the US Army as “The Director of Civilian Marksmanship” (DCM).

While they didn’t imagine the DCM would inspire every man to be a trained, experienced rifleman, they did figure that there would be enough of them so inspired that any need to gear up the militia for national defense would find PLENTY of skilled, experienced shooters who could quickly teach their compatriots the critical skills of military-effective rifle handling and marksmanship.

In 1996, another step towards weakening an armed populace was taken by eliminating funding for the DCM. It shrunk, changed its name to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), but survives today on sales of surplus arms and ammo, with a stated focus more on teaching youth shooting, rather than its original purpose. Nevertheless, it and a very strong NRA shooting program continue to provide a cadre of competent riflemen and trainers.

The signature event along these lines are the local, regional and national High Power Rifle Matches. All rifles are, or are similar in look and function to those used by current or past military. They use iron sights only, which almost always means an adjustable rear peep-sight with a front post. Occasionally an old stripper-clip or en-bloc-clip fed rifle will show up, but nearly all rifles today are magazine-fed AR-15s.

At 600 yards, the 24-inch bullseye makes a dot-on-the i picture with the front sight post (some shooters prefer a “snow-cone” sight picture). Offhand (standing) slow-fire has 22 rounds shot at 200 yards in 22 minutes. The sitting rapid, also at 200 yards, has two sighters, then two separate timed strings with a 2-round mag followed by an 8-round mag in 60 seconds each. The prone rapid is similar to sitting, but is at 300 yards and allows 70 seconds per string. The final course of fire is shot at 600 yards with 22 rounds in an allowed 22 minutes.

The training is great. Feedback is immediate. One group of competitors is in the target pits pulling, marking, scoring and raising the targets up. The shooters can therefore see right away where each preceding shot (slow-fire) or group (rapid-fire) impacted before they shoot again. This is particularly educational and valuable at 600 yards where wind and wind shifts can make significant differences in shot placement (sight adjustments).

While it is officially a competition among riflemen, shooters are using the exact same course of fire every time, in every location. Classifications run in six groups from the basic Marksman to High-Master. Competition is primarily with ones prior scores, though it is nice to win your classification from time to time. Everywhere I’ve gone, High-Power shooters are eager to see everyone succeed, improve and enjoy the sport. Equipment, supplies and knowledge are freely shared.

The Nampa Rod and Gun Club has an excellent High Power rifle program. Ten target frames are in the bunker allowing for ten shooters in every relay, moving a good number of shooters through in a reasonable time. The club has a number of loaner AR-15s, related gear, and sells-at-cost high quality ammo at the most favorable market prices our serious shoppers can find. Consistent with the original objectives of this 110-year-old program, the coaching is widely available and excellent.

Best of all, the Nampa club runs weekly training sessions at 5:30pm every Wednesday evening from April through September, along with one or two matches per month.

Be a rifleman.

Odds are you, your family and your community will badly need you to be good at it.