How not to goof up at Camp Perry

How not to goof up at Camp Perry
by John Joyce

Written for GCA Journal, Winter 2016

How Not to Goof Up at Camp Perry   

The response of a seasoned Camp Perry veteran to this article’s title was a laugh and, “That’s going to be a very long article.”  He knew all about making mistakes, just like most shooters.  He wished me luck in getting across some of the ways to avoid the most common goof-ups.

Practice.  This seems like a no-brainer, but it involves more than punching holes in a target at your local range.  You have to practice everything you do in an entire match.  First, you have to shoot a match.  Each year several shooters show up at Camp Perry and have never shot a match.  Others show up having shot an NRA style match but haven’t shot a CMP match.  The main difference is in CMP shooters start their rapid fire strings standing and then get into position.  Shooters are given a command to load with bolts forward on an empty chamber.  When using an M1 this involves loading two rounds and overriding them with the bolt.  The shooter only chambers a round when he/she gets into firing position.  This loading takes a bit of practice.  Some shooters use a two round clip for this and others use a regular enbloc clip.  Learn how to load with a regular clip.  If you know how to do this and you forget your two round clip you can continue without problems.  The reverse is not true.

If your club does not have pits or the range for a full course of fire go somewhere that does and shoot a match or two there.  You will need to know pit procedures when you get to Perry.  Also, knowing what your rifle does at 200, 300 and 600 yards is a lot better than guessing.  Finding out your pet load that shoots a tight knot at 100 yards still shoots a fist-like knot at 200 yards is good.  Finding out it shoots a basketball at 300 yards and a tabletop at 600 yards is something you can correct before you get to the Nationals.  You will have to travel to get to Camp Perry so it makes sense to travel before you get there and get the experience shooting at distance.  It will cost you time and money, but it will be time and money spent well.

Camp Perry matches run on a schedule.  When you are told you have approximately two minutes until your prep time you use those two minutes getting your gear to the line and setting up.  Practice donning your gear quickly and setting up quickly.  Doing this at home and at local matches will take away some of the rushed feeling.

Equipment.  You need to know how to use all your equipment and how to care for it.  Your M1 is probably older than you, but it is still a reliable and accurate rifle if you know how to care for it.  Learn how to disassemble and reassemble all parts of your rifle.  You have to be able to keep it running in any weather so learn how to clean it and grease and oil it.  Making sure your gas plug is tight will lead to better groups.  Many shooters make a mark on their gas plug and gas cylinder to show they are aligned. 

At some point almost every shooter finds their rear sight walking down due to recoil.  Knowing how to correctly tighten the rear sight is a mixture of science, art and magic.  It takes patience and sometimes luck to get it right.  Finding out your sight is off is something better done at a local match.  You will notice it more during rapids than during slow fire.

If you don’t shoot with a sling learn how.  You could play a game of hardball without a glove, but the outcome would not be good.  Shooting without a sling is similar.  Buy a good leather or manmade sling and learn how to put it on your rifle and how to use it.  If you do not like those kind of slings learn how to use the standard issue GI cotton sling.  Used correctly it is reliable and accurate.

Many shooters wear a shooting coat because it give them more support and helps with accuracy.  It is not mandatory, but wearing something while shooting is a good idea.  A simple BDU blouse will protect your elbows when shooting prone and give you a place to store extra ammo.  Loose pants will allow you to get into position easier.  Cargo pockets are a big help, especially when shooting the “Rattle Battle”.  During that you start with sixty-four rounds of ammo—eight enbloc clips—and fire from four different yardages.  Managing that much ammo is difficult without something to hold it.

Make sure you have lots of ear protection.  Having several extra sets of ear plugs is not a bad idea.  You may need them or you may give them to someone who lost or forgot theirs.  The extra fifty cents per pair won’t break you, but it could make you the hero.

Before you go make sure everything on your rifle is in good working order and is snugged down.  Don’t forget to check your butt plate.  Don’t ask how I know.

Pits.  As mentioned before, you will be doing pit duty.  This takes a lot of attention.  When you get to the pits you will be given a safety briefing.  Shut up and listen.  Not only will you learn what you should do, paying attention will keep you from incurring the wrath of the pit gods.  It is easy to make mistakes when pulling targets.  If you make one do not pull the target until the next shot is fired as this will cause problems for the shooter.  Notify one of the officials in the pit so they can relay your mistake to the scorer.  Owning up to your mistakes goes a lot farther than trying to cover them up.

The pits are noisy, hot and sunny.  Wear sunglasses and a hat.  Make sure you have extra ear protection as well as plenty to drink.

Learn.  Camp Perry is your big exam for shooting.  As with any other test you have to study.  Practice is where your mental study comes in to help your physical study.  Over the months when you are not shooting you can learn a great deal by reading and watching videos.  Everyone is familiar with YouTube.  There are loads of good videos showing how to attach slings and use them in different positions.  Many experts post videos to teach the different shooting positions and share tricks to make things easier.  Doing a search for topics such as installing a sling will give you both videos and articles.  Look up anything you want to know.

The CMP, ,has a great deal of info about the M1.  If you look at the training and tech area you will find how to field strip and detail strip your Garand, how to install the 1907 sling, nomenclature, cleaning, etc.  The section on the rear sight is a “must know” if your sight loosens, as mentioned above.

Jim Owens, , is a retired Marine marksmanship instructor and competitive shooter with decades of experience and a distinguished badge to boot.  He sells shooting products on his website along with dispensing really good information.  I would recommend spending time looking over his site.  Pay close attention to the articles and the FAQs.  Jim also has written several books about shooting that are really worth buying, borrowing, or begging.  He has posted the first four chapters of his book “Sight Alignment and Trigger Control” on the net.  You can find links from his website or search under Jim Owens and shooting.  Reading these will really help your shooting and do more for your brain than reality TV.

Fulton Armory, , has a section of FAQs about numerous rifles.  There is a lot of good information contained there.

The Garand Collectors Association, , has a lot of valuable information on the Garand.  Look over the site and check out the Resources section.

Asking fellow shooters for help or how to do something is a great way to learn.  They can show you how to do things that may seem vague when you read about them.  They can also coach you and impart their knowledge earned through experience and their own goof-ups.  Don’t be afraid to ask or too proud to learn.  It’s a great way to make new friends.

Remember, you will goof up at some time.  Take advantage of it and learn from it.  Laugh at your mistakes because it makes it easier to bear and easier to learn a lesson.  As long as you do not endanger others or hurt someone or yourself you really haven’t done anything wrong.