[su_heading size=”30″]The Civilian Marksmanship Program is currently leading a renaissance in ﬁrearms precision and accuracy with a massive new instructional range facility and more than a thousand sanctioned matches each year.[/su_heading]
STORY BY FRANK JARDIM • PHOTOS BY TIM HEADY
[su_dropcap style=”light”]T[/su_dropcap]he acronym CMP stands for Civilian Marksmanship Program, and if it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been around for 114 years. Once a government-funded program administered by the U.S. Army, it was reformed as a private, self-supporting, nonproﬁt in 1996. Its core mission is instructing the citizenry, and particularly the nation’s youth, in the principles of safe ﬁrearms handing and cultivating the knowledge and skills required for precision shooting.
Great shooting requires practice, and the CMP promotes that through their support of 5,000 local aﬃliated shooting clubs and state organizations that run CMP-sanctioned courses and competitive shooting matches across the country. That amounts to over 1,400 sanctioned matches a year attended by more than 10,000 shooters. The CMP codiﬁed the competition rules and trains and certiﬁes the range oﬃcers who run the matches. They also train and certify master instructors who teach thousands of new shooters each year using CMP course materials in more than 100 sponsored clinics nationwide.
Through their online Competition Tracker system, they maintain the match scores for every shooter in every CMP competition, as well as a listing of all upcoming matches, making it easy for shooters to ﬁnd out when and where they can compete, register for those matches, and track their progress up to the national level.
Reﬂecting its military roots, high-power military service riﬂe and service pistol competitions have always been a major component of the CMP. However, they are by no means the whole show. To paraphrase the American poet Walt Whitman, “The CMP is large. It contains multitudes.” Today, its 30 instructional and competitive programs also include air and .22 rimﬁre pistols and riﬂes.
AN EMPHASIS ON PRECISION marksmanship is the common element is all CMP matches. These are not running-and-gunning, action-style, three-gun, speed or steel matches. CMP competitors shoot traditional bull’s-eye targets at speciﬁc distances from established positions (prone, sitting, kneeling and standing), usually with iron sights. Sometimes riﬂe shooters can use a sling.
Not to diminish the challenges of other shooting sports, which often pose a high level of diﬃculty in other methods and techniques, but the CMP fosters in its competitors
a great deal of personal discipline and technical knowledge.
The CMP high-power riﬂe competition, for example, with its 200-, 300- and 600-yard stages, allows shooters the chance to develop their understanding of some of the most diﬃcult (and interesting) technical aspects of shooting. To put the bullet in the X ring, the shooter needs to understand trajectory, adjust the sights for the bullet’s drop, evaluate the wind speed and direction to calculate the required amount of windage compensation, and deal with any heat mirage that may blur the view of the distant target.
Akin to the “World Series” of shooting sports, the CMP holds their National Matches every summer at Camp Perry, Ohio. Bordering Lake Erie, the Camp Perry ranges are considered by many to be the largest and best in the county. Among the 6,000 participants from all the CMP disciplines, you will always ﬁnd America’s ﬁnest military and civilian marksmen.
The National Matches, a tradition at Camp Perry since 1907, also include top quality training seminars for novice and advanced shooters. A newcomer to competitive shooting could attend a one- or two-day CMP– USAMU (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit) Small Arms Firing School for riﬂe or pistol (or both) and learn the basics of ﬁrearms safety and marksmanship on the spot.
I HAD THE CHANCE TO TALK with CMP’s Mark Johnson to get the scoop on what accomplishments he was most excited about this year. Johnson is not the type of chief operating oﬃcer to sit behind a desk all day, evidenced by the fact that we talked by phone as he was driving back from a CMP competition in Oklahoma.
While he paid respectful homage to the National Matches, which he refers to as the CMP’s “crowning jewel,” it was the growth and success of the Junior Air Riﬂe Camp that he seemed to ﬁnd most exhilarating. These weeklong summer camps are held around the country with a goal to teach 9- to 12-year-olds safety and marksmanship lessons of universal value. Participants bring their own equipment and the fee is a nominal $285 per youth and $50 for their adult coach. As of this writing, 14 of the 16 camps are already full.
You might be surprised to learn that the most popular competitive shooting sport among precollege boys and girls is three-position air riﬂe shooting. Its growth shows no sign of slowing down, so this particular competition is helping to develop our next generation of marksmen.
But just because kids love it doesn’t make it a kid’s sport. The 10-meter, three-position (prone, kneeling and standing) competition is also an international sport and an Olympic event. In fact, those Junior Air Riﬂe camps that Johnson is so proud of boast multiple Olympian alumni, and two medalists, including 2016 Gold Medal winner Ginny Thrasher (see American Shooting Journal, September 2016).
The CMP actually sanctions two classes of air riﬂe competitions for juniors that diﬀer only in the equipment needed. Sporting Air Riﬂe competition uses basic target riﬂes that cost $105 to $525 and requires no specialized shooting clothing. Precision Air Riﬂe uses Olympicgrade guns that cost $850 to $1,275 and require the full complement of target shooting clothes and accessories. By the way, those prices are from the CMP online store and represent a discounted cost only available for qualiﬁed club members.
Apparently, kids are having some success convincing their parents to let them give the less costly Sporting Air Riﬂe a try (or perhaps it’s the other way around), as it has become a major entry point into competitive shooting for them. Three-Position Air Riﬂe can be a life-long hobby and college students can compete in NCAA matches or via Junior ROTC programs as well.
Another thing Johnson was really proud of was the CMP’s new Talladega Marksmanship Park in Talladega, Alabama. This is the third, and by far the largest, modern instructional range facility they have constructed, and it is the most technologically advanced in the world. The two others are 80-port indoor air riﬂe ranges at their Camp Perry, Ohio, and Anniston, Alabama, locations, where they also operate retail stores.
THE NEW MARKSMANSHIP PARK is huge, covering 500 acres, with riﬂe, pistol and shotgun ranges. At maximum capacity it could accommodate 3,000 shooters at once, and transportation around the ranges is provided.
The facility includes a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse with classrooms, lounge, and a Creedmoor Sports Pro Shop. Inside, visitors can follow the progress of competitors on monitors if the Alabama heat or humidity gets to be too much for them.
The park has an amazing combination 200-, 300- and 600yard riﬂe ranges, a 100-yard multipurpose range and a 50-yard pistol range, all equipped with state of the art Kongsberg Target System (KTS) electronic targets and scoring monitors which detect, record and display every round the shooter ﬁres. This means you can maximize your shooting practice time because you don’t ever have to leave the ﬁring line to change targets. You don’t even need a spotting scope. And, for fans of shotgun sports, there are trap, sporting clays and ﬁve-stand courses.
The facility plays host to the whole gamut of CMP Games and matches, including the popular GSM (Garand, Springﬁeld, Vintage Military) matches where shooters use as-issued historic riﬂes. The CMP knows there’s more to shooting than just the black bull’s-eyes, so you’ll also ﬁnd a wide variety of popular action shooting sports like 3-Gun, Steel Challenge and IDPA. Even better, Marksmanship Park is open to the public and charges only $20 to shoot all day.
Over the years, the CMP had often made surplus military riﬂes and ammunition available to qualiﬁed club members at reasonable prices. In fact, if you have ever heard that you could get a surplus M1 Garand riﬂe directly from the government, that’s part of the CMP program. At this point, however, virtually all of those M1 riﬂes and carbines, M1903 Springﬁeld and M1917 Enﬁeld riﬂes are sold out.
The good news is the proﬁts from the sale of those historic riﬂes funded an endowment that will keep the CMP in operation, training new generations of marksman, for the foreseeable future.
In light of the recent shift in political control since the last election, I asked Johnson if there might be some possibility of more M1 riﬂes turning up. He told me that had I asked that question six months ago, the answer would be no. But since then, one of the last great stockpiles of M1s, currently held by the Philippine government, just might be making its way home from the islands.
So keep your ﬁngers crossed, and get yourself involved with the CMPaﬃliated club in your area. Only qualiﬁed club members will be able to buy these riﬂes should they become available. “How do I qualify,” you ask? It’s very simple. Just join a CMPaﬃliated club and shot in a CMPsanctioned match.
You can ﬁnd vast amounts of additional information about the CMP and its great programs when you visit TheCMP.org. ASJ