USAR Shooters Win Big at Camp Perry Long Range 2010

The US Army Reserve International (Palma) Rifle Team had tremendous success this season with nine shooters on the ground. Individually, USAR Shooters qualified and won every shoot off for Palma rifle during long range portion of the Nationals. During long range in order to win a national trophy you first qualify by winning your relay (approx 90-100 shooters), then all the top four shoot shoulder to shoulder for the trophy with a large group of spectators watching the shooters. se to the top. SGT Eric Smith both his relays and then both shoot offs on the first day. The next day MAJ Dave Cloft qualified for and won the Edward D. Andrus Trophy, a large bronze statue by Remington depicting a “Scout”. The trophy was provided by the NRA Competitive Shooting Division, in memory of the previous Director, Edward D. Andrus. SFC Norm Anderson qualified for and won the Herb “Doc” Aitken trophy, an etched oval crystal supported by a walnut base depicting the Palma eagle surrounded by the Palma wreath. MAJ Cloft was third in the Aitken. SGT Smith also won the Sierra Trophy and MAJ Cloft finished second. The Sierra Trophy is a large granite trophy on a wooden base and was donated in 1999 by the Sierra Bullets Company to be used in the High Power Long Range National Championships. In the aggregate of the four days of Individual competition with the Palma Rifle SGT Smith was 4th overall, MAJ Cloft 5th overall.

Team Wins. A total of three team matches were fired and the USAR International (Palma) Team did well in all. The team won the Bausch and Lomb Trophy for the high Service Team in the Herrick Trophy match. In the final Palma Team match Team USAR set a new record. The match is fired with 15 shots at 800, 900 and 1000 yards for a max score per shooter of 450 points. SFC Anderson served double duty as shooter and SGM Neal Dickey served as Team Captain. The team shot a 1788-100X, MAJ Cloft had 449-29X, SGT Smith 448-24X, SFC Thuerer 446-24X and SFC Anderson 445-23X. MAJ Cloft and SGT Smith earned status in the NRA 448 Club for firing a score of 448 or greater on the Palma Course of fire.

Of the event Team OIC MAJ Dave Cloft said, “We dominated the Army Marksmanship Unit and all other services with the Palma Rifle. All shooters own their own rifles and hand loaded their own ammunition.”

Palma rifle competition is fired with a .308 rifle with metallic sights shot at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. Palma is an international event and the USAR Team has three shooters on the US National Team Roster (Cloft, Anderson, Thuerer) hoping to make the 16-man squad for Australia in 2011. There are three events at the Long Range National Championships; any rifle (any caliber and scopes), Palma rifle and service rifle. The USAR International Team focuses on Palma Rifle because it’s the only international event of the three categories at Camp Perry.

USAR Long Range Team
USAR Long Range Team

Basic Pistol Shooting Standards

What is considered skilled shooting with a basic, issue, rack-grade (unmodified) service pistol? Let’s use a 9mm, 5″ barrel, open/iron sight, handgun, standing, two hands, slow fire at 25 yards (75 feet.) What should the grouping diameter look like?

First, what is the mechanical accuracy of the gun as fired from a machine rest? Most common rack-grade issue self-loading service pistols will be good for about three-inch groups at 25 yards. Some might be worse and others will do better but this is a reasonable guess. Tuned and accurized CMP Service competition pistols (“ball gun”) will shoot under three inches at 50 yards or better.

An old standard from practical shooting is to shoot a slow fire group freestyle (standing, two hands, no support) at 25 yards less than twice the size of the mechanical accuracy. So, with a factory gun capable of a three-inch group at 25 from a Ransom rest, a good goal is to shoot freestyle groups less than six inches at the same distance.

Skilled pistol shooters can do better. When preparing for military practical/combat matches (AFSAM, All Army, etc.) one of my training exercises is to shoot slow-fire five round groups (standing, two hands, unsupported) with an issue M9 (Beretta 92FS) on a blank target inside four inches. On a good day I can do this with all shots fired double action as well as single action. Of course, not every day is good. :) With a proper bullseye pistol, do the same thing with one hand.

The most important thing is that you see improvement each trip to the range. I recommend standard bullseye pistol targets (B-6 or B-8) at 25 yards, or the equivalent scaled target at a different distance, and shoot a few slow fire strings for score each range session. When your shots are mostly 9s and 10s, with nothing outside the 8-ring, you’re getting it!