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CMP_logoMy local gun club hosts Civilian Marksmanship Program-sanctioned rifle matches. I’ve been interested in this sort of competition, but I’m not sure the best approach to get into the game, as it were. I figured the collective wisdom of the Armed Intelligensia would come in handy here. For a good overview of the CMP/NRA High Power match process, check out Foghorn’s excellent post here. One thing that the CMP does for its competitions is to level the playing field, so to speak, and insure that all of the competitors are shooting similar weapons . . .

This allows the competition to focus on skills rather than equipment and also stays true to the historical roots of the program which grew out of military competition.  What this means is that you’re restricted to a large degree as to the type of rifle you can shoot. At the very least, it must be similar to a service rifle issued by one of the Armed forces. This generally means M1 Garand, M14, and AR-15/M-16. I’m not clear on whether the M1 Carbine meets the criteria of a service rifle, but even if it does, I’m not sure if the ballistics of the .30 carbine cartridge would put you at a disadvantage.

The issue I am facing is the best way to get into the game given what I have or what I can purchase. I currently own an M1 Garand and an M1A (Semi-auto version of an M14 pattern rifle made by Springfield Armory). Either of these would obviously work, but I’m wondering if an AR15 might be better for the general competition since it’s a good deal lighter than those two.

If the AR15 is the way to go, then I’m still confused. I currently own a SIG Sauer 516 rifle.  It’s equipped with flip up front and rear BUIS with a red dot as its primary optic.  Obviously, I would have to toss the red dot for CMP matches, but I’m concerned that the SIG Sauer-provided BUIS may not be the ideal iron sight for serious competition. Add to this is the fact that the collapsible M4 stock is specifically disallowed by the rules, so I’d have to replace the stock with a fixed one. One final concern is that, as a short stroke piston rifle, I’m not sure if it’s capable of the accuracy needed over longer distances.

If I were going to get a new rifle, my initial choice would be an Armalite National Match rifle with a 20″ barrel, but in the current environment, I can just about forget that option unless I want to pay through the nose on Gunbroker. For that matter, 20″ barreled AR15 uppers are in rather short supply, so I’m kind of stuck.

Option two would be a SIG Sauer M400 Hunter  The good news is that this rifle has a 20″ barrel, fixed stock, and lacks both a threaded barrel and a bayonet lug meaning that I could take it across the border for matches in Massachusetts (assuming of course that they don’t change the rules on me which is probably likely…but that’s another story for another day).

While I am admittedly a SIG Sauer whore, my main reason for looking at this rifle is the fact that it’s in stock and with the SIG Sauer Academy discount, my price would cost south of $1,000. The downside to this option is that it’s clearly intended to have an optic mounted. The rifle lacks any built-in sights and in fact has no way of even attaching a front sight. This latter issue could be overcome either through replacement of the existing gas block with one sporting a rail or an A2 style tower sight or by replacing the foregrip with something like a Samson Evolution Series 15″ Rail. I could then mount front and rear sights on it.

So with that information as background, what is your recommendation? I’m leaning in the direction of the M400 with the Samson rail, but am not sure what sights I should get.  There’s a wide range of prices for sights and I want to know what’s going to give me the best chances of hitting the target.

Replacing the gas block with something mounting a short rail or the A2 tower seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. The CMP Service Rifle matches have courses of fire of 200, 300, and 600 yards. This latter distance makes me wonder if the AR15 is simply not the best tool for the job here, but from what I understand, AR15s are used in a lot of these matches, so what do I know?

What if you have experience in CMP matches, what would you do?  If I get some good feedback, I I’ll write up the recommendations for people getting into CMP rifle matches in a subsequent post. One note – I’m interested specifically in CMP matches. NRA high power is another animal with a different set of rules and a different topic for another time.

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  1. Likely none of your guns will work for it.

    Personally I would go there, met the people. They will likely let you shoot their guns, but even if you don’t it will you can handle a variety of CMP legal guns. So you get a better feel of what works for you.

    • Yeah, when it doubt ask the experts.

      This is the gun culture we are talking about, one of the few cultures where asking to use someones prized possessions that cost tons of money is still socially acceptable.

      Seriously, go ask a car guy to drive his 67 corvette. If he doesn’t laugh at you while he says no then I’ll be amazed.

        • And you are at least four orders of magnitude more likely to damage a borrowed vehicle while operating it as designed, in comparison to trying out a firearm at the range.

        • Guys, think about collectively. If you go to a big range you might have 50 dollar revolvers from the 50s through 30 thousand dollar machine guns, and everything in between.

          I’m pretty sure a lot of machine guns cost way more than a cherry ride. Yeah, they may ask you to cover ammo, just like you’d cover gas if you drove a friends car.

          Hell, one trip through a machine gun shoot and you can handle enough guns to reach the value of a ferrari or lambroghini.

      • A guy at the range today let my wife shoot his 22lr AR pattern rifle. I dont currently own a SBR. Never meet him before. He was shooting 12 gauge and I bought him some slugs and he loaded up 200 rounds for her to blow through. The gun community, in my experience, is generally quite friendly.

        • I learned that too. When I was a kid (10-13) or so, my grandfather would take me to the range every now and then. Being a younger kid meant that everyone wantedto to try out every different gun there. My only regret was not being knowledgable enough then to remember all the different things I got to shoot.

  2. I just got a Garand for future CMP matches. It’s legal everywhere (for now) decently accurate and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. If you already have both a Garand and an M1A, find out which one is more accurate and easier for you to operate and go to a match. Try it out and see how you like it before you drop a grand on another gun. I am preparing to give 3 gun a shot this summer, but I am using stuff I already own and buying only what I currently lack.(AK, XD and Mossy 500 persuader. Yes it’s a weird combo) I might find out 3 gun is not for me and I would not want to spend thousands on guns I won’t use and I never sell guns.

  3. You need to go back and read the rules. Half the stuff you thought about is illegal in the m16 modern matches.

    You have to use a 12 inch rail or a non-railed handguard. A piston rifle would be illegal. Muzzle breaks are illegal. You must use standard A-frame sights, even on a railed gun.

    They don’t specifically say you have to use a carry handle rear sight, but it looks like that is the norm.

    I would just stick with the m1/m1a matches for now.

  4. CMP also sanctions John C Garand matches. They are fun and generally a little more laid back. Go do some of these. You will meet people
    That compete in other events. Talk to them.

  5. I’m interested to see some responses from actual competitors as I’m in a similar situation. From what I know (and it isn’t much) any standard issue battle rifle including a 30-40 Krag and up to a M16 or it’s civilian replica can be used. Obviously some trade-offs on long range vs short range depending on which caliber you opt to use. Seems like most current entrants are choosing to go with an AR-15. There’s a lot of really accurate NM ARs being built these days from a variety of companies. Mine is a Rock Rick NM A4 which I picked up (pre-Sandy Hook) for just shy of $1000. I have M1A and M1 Garand as well, but because I’m a lefty and single loading prone with these rifles is a real challenge I’m more inclined to use the AR. I have no idea if a Sig M400 could be used, I don’t think so but I can’t tell you why. I think the basic rule is that from the outside at least the rifle has to match exactly the std military version of that rifle, meaning no flip up sights, 20″ barrell, A2 buttstock, etc.

    As for how you really get going into the competitions, I too have only done a couple local club matches, really just primers to real competitions. I’d like go further with it, but like you don’t know how to move to the next step.

  6. I haven’t really done any real competition, just local club matches. The norm there is the M1 Garand with a few AR’s sprinkled in. I never really paid any attention to the AR’s that were being shot, since it was a local club they were probably lax on the rules. Our club has 10 m1’s, so that you can shoot the matches without even owning a rifle. That is what I did, since I don’t own an m1. I have wanted one ever since ;-).

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