The Civilian Marksmanship Program has long been a governing body in the arena of shooting competitions around the country. For some, the National Matches at Camp Perry seem like a mythical fantasy land where famous marksmen made history, surely not the territory for a lowly pleb like you. Well that, dear reader, is where you’re wrong . . .
This series of articles will cover everything you will need to know about competing in CMP games and events using what are arguably the most interesting guns available today: historical military rifles.
It was a dream of mine to go to Camp Perry ever since I first pulled a trigger. I grew up watching Nazis and Russians battle it out and simply had to have a part of that history in my hands. Lucky for me, a Mosin-Nagant and a case of 440 rounds was only $100 away. I put so many rounds through my first Mosin that I broke the firing pin from use. Even my meager job at Subway was enough to buy me literally tens of thousands of rounds. I shot the crap out of that gun and built up a serious tolerance for recoil.
I fell in love with every old rifle I saw. You know what it is that I speak of. That feeling when you recognize the muzzle of your favorite kind of rifle on a rack at a gun show. It’s that glint in your eye when you see that pristine old Mauser come out of a gun case. It is a special feeling second only to the smell of cosmoline on your hands after a long night fondling your prize.
Half the fun of CMP competition is getting an old warhorse up and running and seeing how it can do. These aren’t just another AR build. They’re are a dime a dozen. That old Enfield has a soul. It’s seen some history. That rifle is like you. It’s an individual, the survivor of many trials and tribulations and it can be yours forever for only a few hundred dollars. That’s what makes this fun.
Over ten years after my first trip to Nationals I sit happily banging away on my keyboard with 13 medals from Camp Perry hanging on my wall. I may be only 26, but I’m a grizzled CMP veteran. So let’s ride the highways of northern Ohio to our very own ballistic Valhalla.
Since this is the first in this series of articles, we’ll start with what you need and don’t need. We’ll get into specifics as we go on. This article marks the time of the year when you should be beginning preparations for Camp Perry or other major competitions.
Camp Perry’s CMP week isn’t until end of July. Why should we begin now? You may not believe me, but it really does take that long to prepare. To be taken seriously as a competitor in CMP, you’ll need one or all of the following rifles:
-Remanufactured M1 Garand
-Remanufactured 1903A3 fitted with C stock and 1903 metal parts
-Swiss K-31 7.5×55 or Swedish M96 Mauser 6.5×55 in NRA 95%+ condition
As far as gear goes, you’ll want the following items.
-Quality shooting coat
-Quality shooting glove
-Ear plugs (Not muffs…this is important and I’ll get to it later.)
-Glasses that allow you to see clearly. Colored lenses are for chumps and I’ll tell you why.
-Hat that doesn’t restrict bloodflow around your head
-100 and 200 yard practice targets and pasters
-Stripper clips for your rifle
What your body will need is also of critical importance to doing well in competition. Maintaining yourself is paramount to winning. CMP is a very individual sport and you will be tested in both endurance and pain tolerance.
-LOTS of water
-Regular exercise including upper body workouts
-Yoga (Don’t laugh. There isn’t a better way to build balance and calm the mind. It also serves to build a stable core for offhand shooting.)
-Focused mindset. Avoiding frustration is the name of the game in CMP, so be calm always.
There are many things you won’t need in this game. You’ll see people wearing or carrying some of them around even at local matches. I’ve been a serious CMP competitor for a long time and this is what you will never need to have if you do this right:
-Fifteen sweaters. Yeah, you know who you are. Piling on hoodies on a 90 degree day is a sure way to get heatstroke. For the uninformed, people do this to add layers under their shooting coats. It makes for more padding to reduce sling fatigue on the arm or to reduce recoil. This is totally unnecessary. Get a fitted shooting coat and you won’t need to bundle up. I’ve also shot all of my gold and silvers barefoot or in flip-flops. Stay comfortable and stay cool. Overheating will ruin your game.
-Historical military uniforms. Sure, it can be fun to look like an extra on the set of a John Wayne movie, but, have fun in all that wool. The rest of us will be just fine without it.
-Baby strollers and other contraptions used to haul gear to the line. There are so many variations of this idea out there that it’s an anthropologist’s dream to see all of it on display in one place. If you do it right, you shouldn’t need more than a day pack and lunch cooler, both of which should be easy for you to carry since you’re going to start working out soon, right?
-Old or sub-par ammunition. Surplus is fine for fun, but not on the line during competition.
-A bad or know-it-all attitude. There are a few mean and ignorant people in this sport who don’t know what to do when someone does something they disagree with. Range Nazis are my pet peeve wherever. These people hate the idea that ‘outsiders’ are a part of this sport who are happy to ignore their vast wisdom.
-Don’t bring lemonade. No seriously. It isn’t a substitute for water and neither is Gatorade or any of that flavored water nonsense. Avoid PowerThirst for obvious reasons. Soda is also a no-go. If you must drink something other than H2O, get some kind of non-caffinated tea. Also, eat real food rather than energy bars. It takes only a minute to pack a sandwich and a couple of apples and you will benefit from it.
So now you have a general idea about what to bring and what not to. More on the whys behind all of this in future installments.
Check out some local clubs and see if they have a CMP league or run practices. Finding people in the community is a good way to become a part of something and it will have a positive impact on your life and help you get better at what you want to do.
In the next article, we’ll go into detail on picking a CMP-grade rifle. What’s good and what isn’t on today’s surplus market. Camp Perry isn’t that far way away and I hope to see you there.