Would you like to shoot some High Power rifle matches, only you don’t have the bank account of a Mexican drug lord to spend on a [gold inlaid] match rifle, [ornately embroidered] shooting jacket, [monumentally expensive] spotting scope, [the world’s best] match grade ammo, et al? Especially in this economy? Scan the gun clubs in your local area to see if they’re affiliated with the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). Ask if they offer the Rimfire Sporter matches. If they don’t offer the competition, don’t take no for an answer. Find out what you have to do to get them to start offering a Rimfire Sporting Match. Yeah, it’s that good . . .
I shot my first CMP Rimfire Sporter match earlier this summer at the Old Fort Gun Club near Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ll be back. Unlike the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, it’s fun and cheap. It’s a great practical workout. And cheap. It’s extremely friendly; a great way to meet other shooters. Did I mention it was cheap? It was really cheap for me, because they waived the match entry fee for my inaugural match. I already had the rifles and ammo on hand, so my only cost was the gasoline it took me to drive to the range and back. As a truck driver, I spent only about $4,678.21. It’s a little less these days . . .
The CMP designed this match as a small-scale version of the High Power match. Instead of shooting targets set from 200 to 600 yards, the rimfire sporters are fired at only 50 and 25 yards. No match rifles are allowed. Scopes are okay, but not above 6X. If you’ve got a variable power scope that goes higher than that, you just dial it to 6X and slap a strip of tape on it to prove that you didn’t dial up the power during the match. The scoped rifles fire in the T-class, for “telescopic sights” while the open-sighted rifles shoot in the O-class, obviously.
The targets are scaled-down versions of the big boy targets used in High Power. The 10-ring is a hair over 1.7 inches in diameter, with the X-ring only .8 inches. The X-ring still scores 10 points, but the X’s break ties, with the highest X-count the winner. The 9 ring stretches it out to 3.57 inches wide. If you can consistently hit a 3.5 inch-wide circle at 50 yards from prone and sitting, you’re going to be very competitive in this game.
The course of fire is very simple. Shooters fire from prone and sitting or kneeling at 50 yards, and standing at 25 yards. Yes, you can choose either sitting or kneeling, depending on what your body still lets you do. Three knee surgeries and a 41-year-old body sculpted by a rigorous training regimen of extra pizza slices and 12-ounce curls means I shoot sitting.
Each position has both a slow and a rapid-fire segment. The slow fire is 10 rounds in 10 minutes. Then, the next 10 rounds in rapid fire are broken into two strings of 5 shots in only 25 seconds each. The rapid fire is intense, especially in prone and kneeling/sitting In that 25 seconds, you have to start in a standing position with the rifle’s chamber empty, drop into your position, sling up if you’ve got a sling, chamber a round, find the target, and get your five shots off before the whistle blows, the buzzer sounds, or the conveyor belt slides you into the columns of rotating knives. The rotating knives are, of course, optional.
If you’re a masochist like me, and choose a bolt-action .22, you get an extra five seconds in the rapid fire strings. I brought a pair of rifles to the match, a bolt-action Marlin Model 25 (at least 30 years old, probably closer to 40) topped with an old Bushnell scope that a friend gave me and a Ruger 10/22 with an equally ancient Simmons scope missing its elevation knob cap. I let another competitor shoot that Ruger 10/22.
On cherry breaking day, we had 10 shooters, male and female, ranging in age from 14 to over 60. I don’t know how old the two gentlemen down to my left were, and didn’t want to ask, but they requested an “over 60″ allowance for starting their rapid fire strings already in position. We all had a great time with standard, off-the-shelf rifles that most shooters already own, and none of us spent much coin at all. My ammo was Federal Auto Match that I bought at a certain really friggin’ huge box store noted for its sophisticated blue and white color scheme.
I shot pretty well. The match is 60-shots long, and a perfect run would be 600 points, which has thus far never been reached in this game. I cranked out a 549, including 8Xs, meaning I averaged about a 9.1 points per shot. That other guy to whom I loaned my Ruger 10/22? Well, he’s on the college air rifle team I coach, and he fired a 559 his first time through the match.
Of course, I’m not counting the facts that he didn’t have a sling on his rifle, and that he failed to get one round off because he was unfamiliar with the 10/22’s bolt release. He fired the match a second time with the same Ruger 10/22 and recorded a 571, which means he averaged about 9.5 points per shot.
In case you’re interested, the highest score shot in this game is a 596, fired in 2005 by Nicholas Combs of Sedalia, Missouri, when he was only 18 years old. There’s a picture of him on page 35 of the Rimfire Sporter rule book, and he’s using a Ruger 10/22.
So dig your .22 out of the safe–semi, bolt, lever, pump, it doesn’t matter. Get yourself a box of ammo, some hearing protection and glasses, and get to a range that shoots CMP Rimfire. I know even that’s a lot of money and effort for some. Look at it this way: in a hundred years, who’s gonna care?