Erin Gestl


Frank Gill Honors Late Friend by Earning Distinguished Rifleman Badge

By Sheri Trusty, CMP Feature Writer

Frank Gill of Oil City, Pennsylvania, didn’t initially have much interest in earning the Distinguished Rifleman Badge that was presented to him on July 28 during the 2023 National Matches at Camp Perry. He earned his first four Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) points inadvertently after finishing in the top ten of the Small Arms Firing School in 2011, yet he still didn’t make the badge a goal. 

Gill had a passion for shooting and for winning, but he wasn’t yet ready to do the hard work to earn the Distinguished Rifleman Badge, which is among the most prestigious awards authorized by the U.S. Government to recognize marksmanship excellence. CMP is the governing body for Distinguished Badges and CMP issues the Distinguished points and Badges to civilians. Military branches also award points towards the Distinguished Badge.

When a friend became interested in the badge, and Gill got caught up in the excitement. When his friend died, Gill carried on, hoping to honor his friend as he pushed himself to finish what the two had started. 

“I’m an old pistol shooter, so I wasn’t really into it. But then my best friend, Dennis, bought a service rifle, and I had to get one, too, like best friends do,” Gill said. “I didn’t get into this to achieve the badge. I got into it because a friend wanted me to come shoot. It just started, and it kept drawing me in.”

SSG Ben Cleland, USA, the winner of the 2023 National Trophy Individual Rifle Match, pins the Distinguished Rifleman Badge on Frank Gill, who earned Badge #2611. All newly Distinguished Badge winners have the opportunity to be pinned during the Awards Ceremony at Camp Perry.

During a 2016 competition, Gill earned an additional 10 points toward the needed 30 points, and he set his sights on the badge. 

“My best friend got me into this, but he died five years ago. I felt an obligation to keep going. If he was here, I’d be doing this with him,” Gill said. 

 The Distinguished Rifleman Badge is among the most prestigious awards authorized by the U.S. Government to recognize marksmanship excellence. 

Gill slowly worked toward the badge, but this year, he decided it was time to push to the finish. He earned his last qualifying EIC points during the Highpower Match at Camp Perry in June one week after his 72nd birthday. 

“I felt that, because of age and unique health conditions, this was the year to do it,” Gill said. “I’m kind of a logic-minded guy, so I made a plan. I planned how often each week I would do light exercise, walk, bike and go to the range. This was the year, so I really needed to lean into it.”

A strong element of his preparation was match competition.

“I shot a lot of matches. In May, June and July, I competed in 12 across-the-course matches and six short-range matches, and I probably shot 2,000 rounds in practice,” Gill said. “You have to practice, but you have to go to matches to really improve.”

In addition to practices and matches, electronic targets also helped Gill earn the Distinguished Rifleman Badge. 

Frank Gill didn’t originally set out to earn the prestigious Distinguished Marksmanship Badge, but the death of a friend pushed him to complete the journey they had begun together.

“Several years ago, I bought electronic targets from Silver Mountain Targets. They’re really great. They give instant feedback. I can call the shot in my head and see it on the screen,” Gill said. “I wouldn’t be here without the electronic targets.”

There was one more element of his experience that helped push him toward earning the badge: a community of marksmen. 

“I had a small group of guys – Nate, Rich and Josh – who wanted me to achieve this more than I did. They carried around an extra gallon of water for the last two years to dump on my head when I earned my leg points – like when they dump Gatorade on players at a football game,” Gill said. 

Gill’s community of support was much bigger than his small circle of friends. 

 As Frank Gill, left, walked through the grounds of Camp Perry after receiving the Distinguished Rifleman Badge, he was stopped and congratulated over and over by fellow marksman who wanted to celebrate his accomplishment. Here, he shakes hands with fellow competitor Matthew Zagorski.

“I meet so many great people at Camp Perry. Some of them I see at regional matches and some just here, but we instantly recognize each other,” Gill said. “I can honestly say all the people I’ve met here, I wouldn’t mind living next-door to them. We help each other out. It’s fun here, and it’s fun when others do well.”

The camaraderie at Camp Perry is part of its attraction for marksmen. 

“It really is a community, a sampling of America here. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re part of a community,” Gill said. 

Gill has a long history at Camp Perry. He and Dennis traveled to the National Matches from 1989 to 1994 before stepping away for a time to tend to family and career obligations. 

“I think about Dennis a lot when I’m here. He liked the place like I did,” Gill said. “This used to be a POW camp, and we used to stay in the old, old, old huts. We’d bring stuff to repair the windows and doors. We had fun with it.”

The National Matches became a getaway from the stresses of life. 

“When I was a kid, I would go to Boy Scout Camp for a week. I’d go in the woods with my buddies and do things we couldn’t do the other 51 weeks of the year,” Gill said. “That’s how my friend and I thought of Camp Perry.”

As he was awarded the Distinguished Rifleman Badge on July 29, Gill was filled with gratitude.

“I thank God for the privilege to be here,” Gill said. “I really thank God that we live in a country that remains free and allows us to participate in this sport, especially when I see young people shooting shoulder-to-shoulder with experienced people and doing well. That’s a joy.”

As grateful as Gill is to be honored with the badge, he is more thankful for the friendships he made while he worked toward it.

“It’s important how you keep your priorities. It’s important how you count your riches. This badge is cool, but the friendships are far richer,” he said. 

CMP Club News: Easton Fish and Game Association Grows Over Its Long History

Submitted by Harris Leavitt, CMP committee chairman, Easton Fish & Game Association 

When I joined Easton Fish and Game Association in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, back in the early 1980s, the club used to hold a CMP/DCM style competition every second Sunday from April to October. A total of 40 or 50 shooters would come out for the event, and they made a day out of it. Shooters dressed in shooting coats and gloves, special hats and eyewear. People walked around, talking about Camp Perry – who was going that year, last year’s matches and, that holy grail of shooting, the Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge. 

It looked very intimidating to a new shooter.

Harris Leavitt aiming rifle
Harris Leavitt has watched the Easton Fish & Game Association grow in many ways over the last four decades.

With the mentoring of an experienced shooter, who convinced me I really didn’t need all the fancy gear to start, I signed up for and shot a match. I was hooked, and before the end of the season that year, I was one of the regulars. We consoled one another on bad days and cheered each other on during good ones. We knew the names of each other’s wives and ages of each other’s children. It was a gathering of friends – a shared activity of people with a common interest. We were all ability levels, some world class, some strictly club level. Everyone talked to everyone without regard for talent or experience. After their relays, the top shooters would advise less experienced shooters. 

Some of my greatest memories are of those times. The match shot in a blizzard, the August heat, the time my rear sight came loose and I didn’t notice in time to correct it, fixing a rifle in the parking lot with a broken shell extractor and the gratitude the owner showed me for getting him back in action. Also the time I used a M1A and inserted a magazine loaded with eight rounds instead of two first – firing two shots, swapping magazines, firing three times and having the bolt lock back – leaving me to find the first magazine I tossed out of the gun with the six unfired rounds still in it to finish the 10-shot stage. All in under 70 seconds.

Easton Fish & Game range
The Easton Fish & Game facilitate a number of matches and events throughout the year.

Easton Fish and Game Association (EFGA) back then rented part of a mineral pit and dump from a contractor to use as a range. We had no roofs over any of the firing lines, shoddy benches and no structures of any kind. We couldn’t – it was rented land, and we were at the whim of the owner and his business needs. 

About 20 years ago or so, EFGA bought a piece of property and built a real range. We put in covered firing lines, concrete pads, permanent metal posts for target holders, sheds for equipment, real benches to shoot from and concrete walled handgun ranges. After that, we built a real club house with a proper meeting room, board room and office. 

What we didn’t have were shooting sports. The old gang had drifted away, and interest died off.

Fast forward to today – Easton Fish and Game Association now has a website, a calendar of events that includes steel shoots, Women On Target, Tactical Carbine and, now, CMP competitions. We now have a CMP committee, and, with the CMP’s assistance, we set up a match program. 

In 2017, we held sanctioned Vintage Military, Springfield, John C. Garand and 1911 competitions. We also held club matches – unsanctioned matches for new shooters who have never fired an M1 or shot a match before. The old timers who used to shoot back in the rented mineral pit have come forward as range officers and scorers. 

Easton Fish & Game rifle range showing downrange view
Along with its programs, the Easton range itself has also flourished.

Our club is listed on the CMP website and so are our match scores. We have come from April 2016, when five frozen guys came out for the first match, to an unsanctioned event where 25 people came out. We had a high score of 460 out of 500 possible shot at the John C. Garand match by a Camp Perry veteran. 

Easton Fish and Game Association plans to continue this and our other sports into the future. Thank you, CMP staff, for all your help and answers to dozens of questions that led to a successful new program, teaching marksmanship to a different generation of members.

Learn more about the Easton Fish and Game Association at

If you’d like to find your local club, visit the CMP Competition Tracker Page at to become involved.

Have an article to share or want to highlight your CMP Affiliated Club?  Send us your photos, reports and articles to highlight in The First Shot – email We look forward to hearing from you.

A Note from the CMP: At the CMP, we are not only dedicated to an increasing number of those involved in marksmanship within our own programs but are also devoted to supporting the efforts of those who are creating their own legacies in their own ways. Our Club News articles are our way of displaying the successes of our clubs, in the hopes of encouraging others to take the same respectable paths – both in marksmanship and in life. We are proud of our clubs for all of their endeavors and are honored to show them off within our news feed. 

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