Had a Soldier contact me about shooting competition in the Army. Here are the gritty details.
I am in the Army Reserves and have been a member of the American Gunsmith Association for over ten years. I read your bio in the front of the magazine when you first became editor. The reason I write is because of your competitive marksmanship background. A couple years ago I had the opportunity to go to a competition in Massachusetts, and I found it to be more than just a great chance to have fun on the government’s dime, but a great opportunity to learn a few things and take that back to my Soldiers at my reserve unit. The problem is I can’t convince anyone to send me again. I managed to form a team and go a second time, but that was close to four years ago, and I keep getting the same excuse- no money.
Where do other units get their funding to send Soldiers to matches? Once the financial issue is resolved, where are the matches? The national matches and the All Army matches are advertised, but I can’t find any information on where or when matches are held.
I would appreciate any information you can share. It seems like marksmanship competitions are a big mystery.
>> Where do other units get their funding to send Soldiers to matches?
The simple reality is funding to attend these events is totally at the mercy of your unit/battalion command. If your command supports it, and there is money to be had, unit leadership can send folks to events, military and civilian. If it makes you feel any better, there have been large events that former National champions on the USAR Shooting Team didn’t get funded to attend simply because the budget that year didn’t support it.
Official guidance supports sending Soldiers to events. In fact, by regulation shooting competition can be attended in lieu of Annual Training.
AR 350-66 – Army-wide Small Arms Competitive Marksmanship
AR 140–1 – Army Reserve Mission, Organization, and Training
But all a unit commander has to do is say no and you’re denied. He/she doesn’t even need a reason. The regulation authorizes, but does not require, attendance.
The best way to approach this is to be a competition shooter on your own. Realize that the Army will not pay your way or buy you everything. Think of military sponsored shooting as a bonus and/or supplement to the shooting events that you are attending and paying for on your own.
>> Once the financial issue is resolved, where are the matches? The national matches and the All Army matches are advertised, but I can’t find any information on where or when matches are held.
For anyone in the Army interested in competition, All Army is the best event. Contact the AMU in advance and you get billets (open bay barracks) and rifles free. They already provide the ammo. I was in the SARG (Small Arms Readiness Group), a unit of marksmanship instructors, and didn’t get funded to go every year I attended but could still shoot and stay on post free.
Find the local National Guard events to you. The Arkansas Guard hosts the NGMTU (Marksmanship Training Unit) and is the national headquarters for each state.
>> It seems like marksmanship competitions are a big mystery.
No, just a victim of almost zero publicity. With the exception of the AMU, no military shooting team has a Public Affairs person and the AMU publicity is mostly concerned with the virtues of the team and not promoting the events.
Since the 1970’s the NRA has focused on politics and lobbying and marksmanship competition is now a sideline for them. Football and basketball has been consistently promoted for many decades but shooting is not. There is not any significant support or money for marksmanship competition, especially compared to big ball sports. Add in the fact that most gun owners, civilian and military, simply lack the courage to shoot for score in front of other people and competition shooting takes a back seat.
The common myth is that this the fault of the anti-gun media, or anti-gun policy in the military but the simple fact is most gun owners are indifferent to organized shooting and practiced marksmanship skill. Only 2% of the NRA membership has ever attended a NRA sanctioned shooting event. Most military personnel are NOT marksmanship enthusiasts, just like most gun owners, to say nothing of the general populace and their knowledge is limited to basic qualification. They simply don’t know and don’t care. If there isn’t already an interest in higher level shooting, and because competition is not a requirement, it is always easier and safer to ignore it or just say no.
Welcome to my world.