By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
CAMP PERRY, Ohio – Just like the blustering winds off of Lake Erie, the 2018 National Matches smallbore rifle series returned as a powerful force across the ranges of Camp Perry. Drenching rainstorms and consistent heavy gales tested the abilities of the competitors on the line – appropriately welcoming the events back to the venue notorious for its unpredictable outdoor conditions.
With over 220 entries, 2,232 targets and 44,640 shots recorded in the new line of smallbore matches, fired July 16-22, the discipline’s homecoming was greeted with participation that transcended expectations.
After being removed from the National Matches in 2014 by the National Rifle Association, high demand from competitors for smallbore’s return motivated the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) to begin work on reestablishing it into the Camp Perry schedule.
In 2017, the CMP organized a team of staff members and some of the country’s most experienced smallbore marksmen and markswomen to compile a fresh lineup of events to unveil at the National Matches in the summer of 2018.
Not only did the events return, but they returned with a renewed spirit and a modernized core – sustained by the latest technological advancements in competitive shooting sports that established a higher stage for national-level smallbore.
With the help of Orion Scoring System, an innovative scoring software app was designed to read shot scores simply by snapping a photo. After firing concluded for each stage, CMP personnel walked downrange with a handheld device to take photos of each target. The photos within the app linked directly to the Orion scoring system, which then identified shots on the targets and scored accordingly – all before the next stage of fire even began.
Along with an advanced scoring system, the CMP also implemented its electronic targets during the smallbore finals events – the first time such a system has been used during a National Matches smallbore match.
The reintroduction of smallbore at Camp Perry brought back veteran competitors, like SFC Eric Uptagrafft, who has had a successful marksmanship career as an Olympian, a multiple World Cup gold medalist and a current member of the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU), among other accolades. When he heard smallbore would be making a comeback at Camp Perry, he became intrigued by the idea.
“I thought it was interesting. There’s so much tradition at Camp Perry, it’s so nice to come back here and be able to see improvements,” he said. “We got the whole Camp Perry experience here with the weather the last couple of days, so that’s always entertaining. Hopefully there will be more next year.”
The AMU cleaned up during the smallbore series – overtaking the top spot in nearly every category, including the team events. SSF Hank Gray, a past smallbore competitor himself and now coach of the team, was looking forward to seeing what his athletes could do this year at the National Matches.
With a number of new members, including their most recent addition, PVT Emily Stith (who went on to win several 3-P Junior honors at the National Matches), Gray was anxious to show them the ropes of the historic facility.
“I was really excited to bring them back to Camp Perry,” he said. “We have a really young team this year, so it was some of their first times to Camp Perry, and some haven’t been since the last time the events were here – so they were all excited to be here.”
He went on to discuss his team’s group and individual wins, saying, “I was really excited for the success that they had. We kind of like to use it as a training opportunity, get them out here in the crazy winds that you can see at Camp Perry. I think they really learned a lot and the results showed that they’re well on their way to getting them to where we want them to go.”
The addition of smallbore to the schedule also attracted new faces to the National Matches, like junior Scott Rockett of Cary, NC. He’s been shooting smallbore for the last five years, starting with a junior club near his hometown, but has really shown improvement in the last two years after buying his own smallbore rifle.
At this year’s National Matches, Rockett took home the Intermediate Junior Age Group award in the 3-P Aggregate Championship, the 3-P Iron Sights, 3-P Any Sights, as well as in the Prone 3200 Aggregate Championship, Iron Sights and Any Sights categories – leading the next generation of talent at the National Matches.
“I’ve heard so many great things about smallbore at Camp Perry, and this was my opportunity to go experience it,” he said. “I really enjoyed it. It was fun, and the windy conditions made for a good challenge.”
Also giving a noteworthy performance was Tobin Sanctuary, originally of Alstead, NH, who overtook nearly each Junior title during the Prone smallbore series. He has been shooting the discipline for the past six years, beginning on a Cheshire County Junior Club team in New Hampshire. Currently studying Business Management at the University of North Georgia as a scholastic athlete, he now shoots for their rifle team and was looking forward to his chance to finally compete at the Camp Perry National Matches.
“You get to be outdoors, you get to come to Camp Perry and shoot in the conditions. I was really excited about it, and I thought it was great,” he said.
“The conditions were tough for 3-P, but it ran really smooth. I was a little skeptical about the scoring, but that worked out really great too. And, I really liked the finals,” he went on. “The facilities here are great. I thought it went really well.”
Top performers of the inaugural CMP Smallbore National Matches events included:
- SPC Tim Sherry of the AMU led the Open Aggregate category with a score of 2240-77x. PVT Emily Stith, also of the AMU, topped the Juniors Agg. with a score of 2188-55x. Stith also led the Juniors in the Iron Sight Championship and won the Junior Final event.
- PVT Jared Desrosiers of the AMU topped the Iron Sight Championship, with a score of 1117-35x. Desrosiers also won the Open Final Championship.
- SGT Patrick Sunderman of the AMU overtook the Any Sight Open Championship, with a score of 1130-35x, as Antonio Gross led the Junior class.
The U.S. AMU team of Sherry, Sunderman, Desrosiers and SPC Brandon Muske claimed the Open Team Championship, with a score of 2286-81x. Palmyra Green, consisting of Erin Diehl, Michael Flucke, Mica Harr and Josh Potts, earned the win in the Junior team event. The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA) led both the Open and Junior State categories.
- SFC Eric Uptagrafft of the AMU led the Open 3200 Aggregate Championship, with a score of 3198-282x. Tobin Sanctuary was the top Junior of the event.
- Sanctuary also led the Junior class in the Iron Sight Championship as well as the Any Sight Championship.
- SPC Sherry was the overall competitor of the Open Iron Sight match, while Mike Carter came out on top of the Any Sight event.
- The U.S. AMU team of Sherry, Sunderman, Uptagrafft and Muske overtook the Team Championship, with a score of 1590-100x.
For a complete list of results, visit the National Matches Smallbore page on CMP’s Competition Tracker at https://ct.thecmp.org/app/v1/index.php?do=match&task=edit&match=16685&tab=results.
Photos of the smallbore events can be found on CMP’s Zenfolio page at https://www.zenfolio.com/cmp1/e/f124616968.
History of Smallbore at the National Matches:
The National Matches made its debut in 1903 and first appeared at Camp Perry in 1907. Through its long history in the following decades, which included two World Wars and other military conflicts that periodically halted the annual event, the National Matches has seen events come and go, and come again – including smallbore.
The first smallbore rifle events in the National Matches were held in 1919 at the initiative of the CMP's predecessor, the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice. The National Rifle Association (NRA) became active in smallbore activities in the 1920s and 1930s, with a focus on youth, Dewar Team Matches and U. S. international team trials.
The smallbore rifle prone 3200 Aggregate became an established national championship in the years after World War II and was conducted in several locations during those years before it returned to Camp Perry in 1953.
An NRA national position championship was first fired at Camp Perry in 1958, with prone and position championships continuing as parts of the National Matches until 2014 when the NRA moved its smallbore rifle competitions to Indiana.
Returning to its 1919 roots, on July 17, 2018, the very first CMP smallbore event, and the first National Matches smallbore event held on Camp Perry’s soil in 5 years, fired on Rodriguez Range – beginning a new tradition of smallbore at Camp Perry.