I’ve been writing about the Civilian Marksmanship Program matches at Camp Perry for the last few weeks. I built my own rifle for the President’s 100 match with the help of Brownell’s, talked ammo and optics, and interviewed some of the young people who represent the future of the sport. Today we are taking a look at the CMP Springfield and Vintage matches and my perspective after having shot in them for half my life.
These matches, which have always been a large gathering of like-minded people and a celebration of our culture and heritage, aren’t what they used to be. I have seen it happening and can say that, sadly, these events are dying literally and figuratively. Allow me to elaborate.
When I began in the CMP sports at the age of fourteen, the guns and ammo needed were cheap and commonly available. I recall in those days that a good, solid Russian Mosin-Nagant was about $60.
If I had known then what they go for now, I’d likely have spent every one of my meager paychecks stocking up on them to cash out now. Back then, 7.62x54R was $40 for a 440-round can. Times were good in 2005.
Back then good M1 rifles were still available at the CMP outlet at Camp Perry. The rifles you find there today are severely lacking. Those rifles were $500-800, which seemed like a fortune to me at the time. When I graduated from high school in 2008, a nice Springfield could be had for $600. Greek .30-06 was cheap and everywhere.
Those days are now long past, and for reasons that are completely preventable. But they are, in fact, reversible.
The insanely inflated prices of trash-tier rifles is the fault of an aging population that’s snapping up what’s left of a once-flourishing surplus market. Yes, this may sound like a millennial blaming Boomers for yet another problem, but this time it’s true. There aren’t many new shooters in these sports because there is no way for a new shooter to obtain gear at any reasonable price.
To increase and drive participation and pass along knowledge, some of you old farts in the audience here need to sell your collections and pass these historical treasures on to the next generation. I know three older guys who each have 20-30 M1 rifles and they refuse to part with even one.
They have the audacity to say that $2,000 is a fair price for a rack-grade beater that won’t hold 8” at 100 yards. And they wonder why there’s a decline in shooters.
I can build a complete modern Service Rifle competition gun that shoots .5” groups for less than that with a scope included. Why would a new shooter participate in something like Springfield or Vintage when they are essentially paying top dollar for garbage wallhangers?
I interviewed dozens of shooters while at Camp Perry and each one said the same thing.
“I don’t see young people out here much.”
“Every target used to be completely full. People just aren’t showing up anymore.”
These sports aren’t dying off. They are being killed by an ignorant generation that hoards guns rather than shares knowledge. An entire generation of shooters will not have access to our country’s history because of a few grumps who can’t see the value of passing down our heritage.
What irks me the most about this situation is that it doesn’t need to be this way. These sports are critical to keeping these pieces of history in circulation as well as the knowledge about them.
If you have a collection of these old rifles and don’t shoot in CMP sports, you’re part of the problem.
“But Josh, this is a rare gun and it shouldn’t be fired.”
Bullshit. Guns are made to be fired. I have some very rare Springfield variants and I fire them all. This year I fired an October 1942 Remington 1903 Modified Rifle, one of the last-ever production run of the true the 1903, and my dad fired a first-run December 1943 Remington 1903A3. Both guns are all original.
Do they lose value when we shoot them? No. I could sell each for $1,500-2,000 this afternoon due to the lack of supply. I get asked why I don’t fire the more common rebuilds on the line. The simple answer is that I don’t want to because that’s not the spirit of the sport.
Look, friends, I have seen this sport firsthand for over fifteen years. I can tell you that club matches are in decline at every range I go to that hosts CMP events and there seems to be no hope.
The problem here is that the older generation is aging out of competition without replenishing the ranks. Sure, there are diehards who keep competing into their nineties, but they are about as rare as people under twenty-five in the sport these days.
I was one of the youngest people on the line at both the Springfield and Vintage matches at Camp Perry this year and I’m 29. These sports need new blood or they will die off with the passing of the Boomer generation. The guns will increase in value and the millennial generation will lose interest in them.
What I am trying to stress here is that the culture is in decline and you can help save it. If you’re a young shooter, pressure Grandpa to give you his M1 for Christmas. Shame your dad into selling you that Springfield if you must. These cultural treasures must not be lost to time and circumstance. I would go so far as to say that these rifles are a generational inheritance, not merely something to be bought and sold.
Our culture is under siege and it isn’t enough to simply keep and bear arms. The battle must be fought and won generationally and it needs to be fought here and now.
For this reason I am writing another article proposing something I hope will gain national attention. I will need your help preserving and protecting our heritage and I believe that my proposal will help secure the successful passage of tradition and our proud history to the next generation while helping the current generation learn of their past. The idea is something I’m calling the Heritage Hunt. More on that soon.
My advice to you is simple: take out that old gun and get out to a CMP competition. You will learn about history, pick up tips and pointers from experts, and gain some lifelong friends. These sports and the rifles significant to our history depend on you to take initiative.