Gun clubs and ranges looking for a way to attract new shooters and turn a little profit at the same time should consider the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s “As-issued” competition Games, such as the Vintage Military Rifle matches. These are fun, popular, semi-formal competitions that even small ranges can host because shooting may be done at as little as 100 yards. Furthermore, all the goodies and assistance that the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) provides helps make it super easy for your range to host.
“The CMP Games matches are great for beginners and veterans,” said CMP spokesman Steve Cooper. “Beginners get a taste of competitive match shooting without a great deal of peer pressure, and veteran shooters can keep their skills sharp and get a chance to handle and shoot classic rifles that don’t make it out of the closet very often.”
The Vintage Military Rifle (VMR) matches are profitable because they’re popular. They’re popular with shooters because they hit all the right bases:
-Many people who shoot for fun own at least one surplus military rifle. Certainly, there are many hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of them out there.
-These are the only rifles permitted in the As-issued games. “As-issued” means just that – off-the-shelf military issue rifles without any accurizing tricks like bedding, lightened triggers or match sights, and they must have been in general issue and use by the military.
-The “no accurizing” rule is to keep the playing field level by focusing on individual marksmanship skills rather than creating an equipment race.
-That rule also keeps the games affordable because no special, expensive match-grade anything is necessary; shooters need only their surplus rifle, perhaps a mat or piece of carpet to lie on and up to 55 rounds of ammo. Because the 100- or 200-yard range is so short, expensive match-grade ammunition is of limited advantage; inexpensive surplus ammo is adequate to play.
-It’s a no-stress competition in a fun and friendly setting.
CMP calls its As-issued matches “Games” to separate them from CMP’s very formal “Competitions”; there are, in fact, separate rule books for each. The As-issued Games are further separated into four categories: the M1 Garand; M1 Carbine; Springfield ‘03/’03A3; and Vintage Military Rifle (VMR) matches. The first three, obviously, are for those specific rifles. The M1941 Johnson rifle competes in the Garand class. The VMR matches are for all the rest of the world’s manually operated bolt-action military rifles. This category draws all those who want to shoot their Mausers, Enfields, Mosin-Nagants, K-31s, Arisakas, Krags, P-14s, M1917s and other historic pieces.
Except for the M1 Carbine match, all of these matches are ideally fired at 200 yards, at the standard NRA SR bull’s-eye target. Because the M1 Carbine uses what is ballistically a pistol cartridge, it competes only at 100 yards, using the NRA SR-1 reduced target. But here’s some efficiency for you: CMP also allows you to shoot the other games at 100 yards on the SR-1 reduced target; if you do so, the M1 Carbines can shoot right along with everyone else. That means you can shoot all the categories of rifles simultaneously, and even small clubs with ranges that only go out to 100 yards can play.
You can also expand to include semiautos like military AR-15s, M1As, AKs and even “Tanker” Garands and other not-generally-issued military rifles, when you add an Unlimited or Special Military Rifles category to your match.
CMP wants you to get as many shooters to your range as possible, so last year it added a Modern Military Rifle category for military look-alikes like the CETME, pre-ban MAK-90s and popular Picatinnyed AR-15s rolling out of factories today. Basically the rule book says for this category, if it even looks like a military semiauto and the caliber is not larger than 8mm, it’s in. The same “as-issued” rules prohibiting accurizing tricks apply, of course. Competitors in the Modern Military Rifle category can shoot these semiautos shoulder-to-shoulder with the Vintage Military Rifle guys.
For all these matches, there are two courses of fire, the A Course and the B Course, the difference being one is a 30-shot match and the other a 50-shot match. In both courses shooters fire 10-shot strings in the prone and offhand (standing) positions; the B course adds a sitting/kneeling string, and both feature timed rapid-fire strings requiring rapid reloading. Both the A and B course start with five sighter shots, so competitors need only 35 or 55 rounds of ammo.
If your range doesn’t have the capability to utilize target pullers, or if you have a lot of competitors, you’re better off shooting the 30-shot match. It saves time and uses less ammo, and bored shooters are less likely to wander away after they’ve fired and the next relays shoot through. Regarding the latter, post scores and hand out awards as quickly as possible at the end, so it’s important to have as many target scorers as you can get to volunteer. Making refreshments available, free or for purchase, also helps to keep people hanging around.
Cooper said CMP expects to have sanctioned about 2,000 As-Issued matches for gun clubs in 2014. You could simply adopt and adapt some of the game rules and run your own version, like an informal club turkey shoot, but sanctioning your match with CMP will attract more shooters. Why? For one, CMP has credibility because it’s a national organization chartered by the U.S. Government to conduct marksmanship training and competitions. For new shooters especially there’s a comfort zone factor in an event that has some “official” structure, and “official” awards and recognition have a perceived added value. CMP provides you with considerable support with forms, scorecards, certificates and award pins for those who shoot minimum scores. You can download free rulebooks and liability waivers from its website. CMP will announce your match and post results on their website, too. And there’s more:
-Sanctioning your match with CMP gives your club an opportunity to purchase surplus M2 Ball (.30-06) ammo to issue to your competitors.
-Competitors who shoot in the match satisfy one of the criteria for eligibility to purchase a CMP surplus M1 Garand at below-retail prices. That’s a popular selling point, so be sure to mention it when you advertise your match.
-Sanctioned matches have been money makers for our club. A $20 to $25 entry fee is very reasonable; if you’re providing ammo, spread that cost over the entry fees.
-For a small fee or even voluntarily, a CMP-certified GSM Master Instructor can teach a pre-shoot Garand Clinic to those unfamiliar with their Garands (our club has loaner M1s for the curious).
Organizing a CMP Sanctioned VMR match is easy when you reduce it to a series of steps:
1. Set the match date and write the match program (CMP has an example for you to follow).
2. To apply for CMP sanctioning, go to www.odcmp.com/Competitions/Sanction.htm to download and print an “Application to Conduct a CMP Sanctioned Match or Clinic.” Fill it out and mail it to CMP with a copy of your match program and a $20 fee. (Your club must be affiliated with CMP. There is a $30 annual fee for this).
3. Conduct the match in accordance with the CMP rule book; again, it’s a free online download.
4. Send your match results to CMP within seven days.
You’ll need some club volunteers to make the match run smoothly. This will cost some coffee and donuts, but on the positive side, the volunteers also get to compete when you split them up among relays. Also, as Cooper points out, “The veteran shooters in these matches are of great help to the new folks, so it’s a win-win for both.”
Here’s what’s worked at my own club range, where we shoot the As-issued matches on reduced targets at 100 yards on 15 firing points and typically draw 25 to 40 shooters.
1. A few volunteers set up the targets early in the morning.
2. A CMP Garand/Springfield/Military Rifle Master Instructor teaches a Garand Clinic timed to end about 30-45 minutes before the first shot goes downrange.
3. Competitors line up for check-in; one person collects fees and assigns a relay. A second person beside him hands out the ammo, if provided. This person or a third person checks rifles for rule compliance (no match sights, no lightened triggers, etc.). At our club, if a rifle doesn’t meet compliance but is otherwise safe, we allow the shooter to participate for fun but do not post his scores to compete with the others, and rules do not allow posting them with CMP.
4. One person “calls” the match, two Range Officers patrol the line and a few Garand-savvy volunteers, when they are not shooting, help any shooters who need it.
5. Two or more volunteers record target scores.
6. After the last shot we determine scores and standings as rapidly as possible and immediately award certificates and pins.
As you can see, running these matches is relatively easy. Questions? For more detailed information on As-Issued/Vintage Military Rifle competitions and rifles and to contact the author, visit www.shootvmr.com.
The Garand Clinic
The M1 Garand operates unlike any other semiauto rifle in the world, and if you’ve heard of “Garand thumb,” you know it can bite you if you don’t know the proper technique for loading the eight-round en bloc clip in the rifle. For that matter, there’s a technique to properly loading the clips themselves, too.
There’s also a specific technique for safely loading single rounds in the Garand, and another for loading only two rounds – all of which we do in CMP matches. None of these loading techniques are intuitive to those unfamiliar with the Garand, even to those who may be proficient with other firearms; they have to be taught. Other considerations include how to properly utilize the sling and how not to hold the rifle.
There’s a lot to know about operating an M1 Garand. CMP trains and certifies those with firearms instruction experience and extensive experience with the Garand to be Garand-Springfield-Military (GSM) Master Instructors. This is the person with the credibility to teach the Garand Clinic.
At my club, we use our club Garands as “loaners” for anyone who doesn’t have a rifle of his or her own (posting this information in the match program and in local ads has gotten us new shooters at each match). Even though we require shooters to sign waivers, failing to instruct them on safely operating the Garand could cause a liability issue. You may be hosting shooters who are completely unfamiliar with the M1 Garand, even their own, so a Garand clinic is a very, very good idea. It takes less than an hour. Check with your club or CMP for a GSM instructor.
Vintage Military Sniper Rifle Match
(1) Maximum bore diameter is 8mm.
(2) Rifles must be in as-issued condition – no additional accurizing or custom anything allowed.
(3) Rebarreling is okay, but the outside contour must be identical to the original.
(4) Triggers on semiautomatic rifles must measure at least 4.5 lbs. Triggers on manually operated rifles must measure at least 2.5 lbs.
(5) A strap-on, lace-on or detachable wooden cheek-piece may be used if it was original to the rifle when used for sniping purposes.
The course of fire is for a two-man spotter/shooter team in which the competitors alternate duties. Shooters get only 10 rounds each at 300 and 600 yards, and targets are exposed for only 20 seconds for each shot. Teamwork is important, and the spotter has to be good at calling the wind to be competitive. All shooting is prone; either slings or front rest sandbags are permitted.