How to succeed at your first rifle match

How do you succeed at your first rifle match?

I placed First, Unclassified, in my first match. It was an 80 round (plus sighters) NRA match run at Markham Park in Ft Lauderdale, FL.
I missed being able to shoot my first 8 rounds and still scored a 555/800.

And I used a borrowed rifle. I brought 20rd mags, ammo and golf gloves lol. ūüėÄ

I’ve now been to several organized matches revolving around ‘Highpower’, the Civilian Marksmanship Program Excellence-In-Competition matches and the NRA Highpower Rifle matches.

Most matches are run pretty much the same way as safety rules are fairly universal. Just listen to the Match Director.

You’re here to figure out how to succeed at your first match.

* Listen. As a community target shooters are incredibly helpful. They’ll tell you how to stand, when to shoot within your wobble, such as in the standing position (everyone wobbles, don’t worry about it).

* Focus on the front sight … always. If you focus on the target, where is the front sight? The front sight will determine where the barrel points and hence where the bullet goes. So center the front sight in the blur of the target.

* Follow through. Be smooth with the trigger and remain in your position until the shot is truly over. Many times I see people IMMEDIATELY come out of position when the shot is over. Eventually they begin to come out of position AS they are pressing the trigger.
Just relax. Dry-firing your rifle helps considerably.

* Ammo is the most important piece of equipment. Then the sling. So, yeah, that’s right, the rifle is third most important.
I earned my first 4 points for Distinguished Rifleman to place in the top 10% of the Small Arms Firing School using their handout rifle complete with 9,000lb trigger and three round burst selector.
The key? Hornady 75 grain .223 Match Ammo (which they also supplied).

I didn’t have an AR-15 at my first ever match but subsequent experience and the advice of the US Army’s Marksmanship Unit reveals that practice in dry-firing, above all else, is the most productive method for best accuracy on a live range.

My first ever standing target ūüėÄ

Small Arms Firing School 2010

Also known as SAFS.  Held every August at Camp Perry, OH.
Sponsored by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, the CMP. CMP SAFS link
(pic gallery and video below)

The Chairman, my main character in the Distance In Time series, earned his Distinguished Rifleman badge (at the age of 19). I added that based on my own experience in the competition, which began with a local NRA Highpower match quickly followed by SAFS.
The Chairman being a DR also factors in later on in the series ūüėÄ

The CMP Highpower rifle program is where you gather the points to earn the Distinguished Rifleman badge. CMP DR Badge LINK

SAFS is a school where a non-DR can gather 4 of the necessary 30 points to earn Distinguished Rifleman.  You just have to place in the top 10%.

I’ll make that even clearer, it is 10%, not a certain score. ¬†The top non-DR sets the score, from there it’s all those within 10%. ¬†So if the top guy scores 300/400 then the remaining shooters only¬†need to shoot 270 or better. If the top guy shoots 399/400 the cutoff rises accordingly.

It is here that I earned my first 4 points toward Distinguished Rifleman.

The CMP National Matches and Excellence-In-Competition matches are similar, just that they’re 500 points.¬†¬†Again, it’s the top shooters¬†that earn the DR points, not a certain score¬†level. ¬†This way you’re always competing against the group, ¬†not the scoreboard. There are various requirements that help offset any funny business, such as a minimum number of shooters necessary in order to award points.

It is probably the best thought out scoring system I’ve come across for any form of competition.

In addition a spec rifle is used; Garand, M14 or M16 as outlined in the RULEBOOK.
The M16 format, at least as of 2014, is:
6.2.3 U.S. Rifle, Caliber 5.56 mm, M16
The rifle must be an M16A2 or M16A4 rifle issued by the U.S. Armed Forces or a commercial rifle of the same type and caliber. M16 rifles must be chambered for the 5.56 mm cartridge.

It is with this setup in mind that I decided that I wouldn’t simply be a collector of certain firearms but a competitor and I went with a Rock River Arms National Match AR15-A2 rifle:
Barrel: Wilson air gauged stainless steel, 20in, Wylde chamber (.223/5.56), 1/8 twist rate, A2 flash hider, A2 integral front post sight/gas block
Handguard: RRA free float handguard
Trigger: RRA NM 2-stage trigger. Failed in 900 rounds. Now using a Geissele SSA trigger
Front Post: 0.072
Rear sight: NM 1/4×1/4, .030 hooded aperture in fixed upper handle receiver.
Standard A2 pistol grip and A2 buttstock

Another benefit of SAFS is that they provide the rifle, ammo and magazines and you are required to use their rifle and ammo (you could use your own mags though). Everything else: spotting scope, stand, mat, logbook, sling, etc you had to supply yourself.

Not having to bring rifle and ammo actually greatly simplified my flight from Miami, FL to Camp Perry lol.

Here is a Flickr Photo Gallery (click on the photo), and below that, a short video I put together.