May 13th, 2017 by asjstaff

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.

STORY BY FRANK JARDIM • PHOTOS BY TIM HEADY

The 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.

The Talladega Marksmanship Park is equally impressive from the air. (CMP)

A marker explains why an Army camp is named after a Navy man.

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.

A closer look at the Kongsberg Target System.

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.

Competitors prepping their gear before going to the ready line.

A Kentucky Junior Service Rifle competitor competes in a local CMP match.

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.

The view from the rear of the ready line during a USAMU rifle class at Camp Perry.

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.

A shooter rolling with the recoil of his service rifle.

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.

The U.S. Army Mobile Ordnance Maintenance truck stands by to service military and civilian competitor rifles.

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.

Many competitors continue to use the rifle designed by the namesake of the Talladega Marksmanship Park range, John Garand

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.

There are plenty of targets at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s new Marksmanship Park in Talladega, Alabama, and each shooting bay is 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. (CMP)

You can find vast amounts of additional information about the CMP and its great programs when you visit TheCMP.org. ASJ

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