Formal military marksmanship programs began with what is now known as Conventional (bullseye) shooting. The emphasis was on pure marksmanship and for good reason. These events and courses were created just after the Industrial Revolution made mass-produced rifled firearms and cartridges readily available and relatively affordable. Having a long gun that was more than a bayonet handle, that allowed a trained user to hit specific, point targets at hundreds of yards away on purpose, placed the emphasis on getting that user capable of exploiting the potential. In the United States this evolved into the National Match Course for rifle, with the same ideas applied to pistols soon after. Most militaries began hosting and supporting Service Rifle and Service Pistol competitions to support this. In fact, in the United States our National Matches are federally mandated under U.S. Code 36 Chapter 407 (§ 40725.)
Of course, there’s more to small arms use than raw marksmanship. As Commonwealth nations began expanding their marksmanship programs to include on emphasis on more combat applications, other NATO countries began adopting their events. The U.S. Army Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program followed suit, first by having the Service Rifle sponsor shooters at various Commonwealth-inspired NATO Combat matches. This would eventually lead to a separate Combat team.
Various new types of shooting events known as Practical and Action shooting started gaining a following in the late 1950s with formal organizing bodies at the national and international level forming in the 1970s. While there is obvious military benefit, militaries didn’t begin supporting this until the mid-1990s, notably when Merle Edington, then assigned to the active component Army Marksmanship Unit won the USPSA Nationals in 1994. The AMU formed a dedicated Action/Practical section shortly thereafter.
The Army Reserve has Soldiers competing in these Action/Practical events now. Here’s a notable example:
I’ve been pushing it hard since we last spoke and now I’m ranked #7 in the 3GUN Nation Club Series and #50 in the Semi-Pro Series. This past weekend I placed 13th in the 2015 Benelli Tactical Shotgun Championship and since my PCS this past February, I have competed in 23 matches in nine different states. I’m getting invited to the U.S. Shooting Academy to compete for my pro card.
Maj. Luke Gosnell
2100th Military Intelligence Group
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
Unlike the AMU, the USAR CMP does not currently have a dedicated Action/Practical team or section.