Jeff Hansen Earns Distinguished Rifleman Badge, Continuing Grandfather’s Hidden Legacy
August 4, 2022Civilian Marksmanship Program▸The First Shot▸Jeff Hansen Earns Distinguished Rifleman Badge, Continuing Grandfather’s Hidden Legacy
Jeff Hansen, 52, of Genola, Utah, is the holder of Distinguished Rifleman Badge #2561. His journey began with a box filled with his grandfather’s old medals, which led him to the historic grounds of the Camp Perry National Matches in Ohio – an annual event since 1907.
Though he had no intention of shooting competitively, only arriving to see the ghosts of his grandfather and uncles, he was so moved by the ambiance of Perry that he took on his own rifling career – eventually leading him to a prestigious Distinguished Badge.
At the 2022 National Matches, Jeff fired his best scores yet. In the National Trophy Individual (NTI) Match, he reached an overall score of 487-9X for 52nd overall out of nearly 790 competitors – marking 199-5X at the 600 yard line out of a possible 200 points.
“He was on the range with me shooting that 199,” Jeff said of his grandpa. “I felt like he was right there when I finished up.”
Below, Jeff uses his own words to describe how his career based in family history has endured its hardships while also generating many new memories and friendships along the way.
“I just hope other people see this and see what I’ve tried to do – if I can do this, they can do this,” he said. “Chase that dream.”
By Jeff Hansen, Distinguished Badge #2561
As early as I can remember, my grandfather, Lou, was a huge influence in my life.
He was a great marksman. My dad, Ed Hansen, would tell me about the hunting trips they would go on and how Grandpa would make incredibly long shots to get an amazing bull elk or mule deer, only taking one shot to do so. He was always taking me hunting and fishing and shooting – lots of sleepovers where I didn’t actually sleep much, if any, because I would be so excited for the adventures that were going to happen with him the next day.
Whether it was hunting ducks, pheasants, chukars or just shooting, it didn’t matter. It was always an awesome experience with him. Life was great.
Then, we got some tough news – my grandfather had leukemia. He fought a courageous battle with it for a couple of years, then in 1978, when I was 8, he passed away.
Needless to say, I was devastated.
Not too long after he passed away, my dad brought home a box from Grandpa’s. It was full of medals. He carefully removed them and told me they were from when my grandfather competed in rifle matches with his brothers (Alvin Hansen, a U.S. Army veteran of World War I in France, Ray Hansen and Oscar Hansen) at Camp Perry, Ohio, in the late 1920s to 1937.
My dad had many of the medals arranged in a frame and hung them on the wall with pictures of my grandpa and his brothers at the National Matches.
My grandpa was really humble – never said much about his trips to Camp Perry or his accomplishments there. Seeing the contents of the box, my grandfather became an even bigger hero to me. The medals he earned that impressed me the most were the three President’s Hundred brassards from 1935, 1936 and 1937 – along with many others.
I grew up looking at those medals thinking I wish I could do that maybe, someday…
My life moved forward. My dad, a U.S Air Force veteran, and I both loved hunting, fishing and shooting and still went as often as we could. Later, I got married and now have three daughters and one son. As my family grew up, we also enjoyed hunting, fishing and shooting together.
Then, life threw some blows. My dad passed away suddenly in November 2014, and my mom fought a fierce battle with cancer for a few years before passing away in March 2018.
Not long after she passed away, I found myself hanging those medals of my grandpa’s on the wall in my own home. Seeing them there got me thinking about how awesome it would be to go to Ohio and watch the President’s Match – not shoot, just watch.
I know – its nuts, right?
In July 2018, I went. I’ve got to admit – there were a few tears in my eyes driving between the two iconic lighthouses at the entrance to Camp Perry. I loved it.
The year I came happened to be the year SFC Brandon Green of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit cleaned the President’s Match – a record that still holds today. I got to talking to one of the Army Reserve team guys, asking him questions about competing, and he couldn’t believe I was there just to watch. I showed him some pictures of my grandfather’s medals, scorebook and of Camp Perry in the 1930s. He had some of the other guys, Matt Goad and Jon Arcularius of the Army Reserve team, come over to look at them.
They said, “Hey, you can’t come all the way out here with a family history like that and not shoot here!”
They offered to sign me up for the NTI match the following day and even said they would get a rifle, ammo and anything else I would need to do it. That was so awesome, but I couldn’t make it work – I was flying back home the next day. Although I didn’t shoot, they did get me all the information I needed to get started.
I loved every minute of my first Camp Perry trip. It was because of the people there, showing me such kindness and taking me under their wings, that I thought, “I’ve shot all my life and hunted, and I’ve always liked marksmanship. This is something I can do.”
When I got home, I ordered a White Oak upper and started changing parts on my AR-15 to make it ready for matches. I was ready in the spring of 2019 and started shooting mostly small matches.
At first, all I wanted to do with my rifling career was get a President’s medal – following in my grandpa’s footsteps. I didn’t know what “going Distinguished” was all about. I got a silver achievement medal in the first match I went to, then started to go to more matches, with in-state and out-of-state travel. Through that, I caught wind that winning President’s is one thing, but you’ll get to President’s if you excel your skills and go Distinguished. So, that became the new goal.
By summer, I was traveling to EIC matches and earned my first points at Nampa, Idaho, on July 21, 2019. After that, it was time to head back to Perry for the President’s and the NTI.
I didn’t do as well as I wanted, but it was an amazing experience to be competing where my grandfather had. I struggled the rest of the year and didn’t earn any more points until 2020. It was tough trying to find matches during COVID, but I ended up earning 12 more points by the end of the year. I missed a hard leg at Twentynine Palms, California, by x-count, and things got tough after that.
I figured I needed to step up the way I was practicing, so I got a shot marker, electronic target system and some wind flags so I could practice full distance. I’m very lucky that I can practice 30 minutes from home any time I want on the public land in the surrounding area.
My 2021 started out in Phoenix at the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol EIC Match – six points, no hard leg – followed by the Pacific Fleet and All Navy week at Camp Pendleton, where I missed the hard leg by three points but still earned six.
Though I’d reached my 30 points, I still hadn’t gained that hard leg. Next, I went to the Colorado State Highpower Championships – no points. Then the 2021 National Matches at Perry – no points. Phoenix again? No points. Another trip to Twentynine Palms? No points.
Starting in the first part of December, I had some extremely hard things going on in my personal life, and I didn’t feel like practicing. I didn’t even pick up my rifle for two months. I missed the first EIC in Phoenix in January, and before I knew it, February was half gone. Then, one of my friends talked me into going to the Western CMP Games in Phoenix in March – only two weeks before it was set to take place.
Practice was tough, and sometimes I wondered why I was even trying. Tons of things were going wrong, and I was about DONE. I wanted to quit, many times.
Western Games was fun, and I did well – but, you guessed it, no points.
Navy Matches were coming around at the end of April, so I practiced as much as I could and made the trip. With several friends going, it would be great getting together after the matches and have a good time. I shot well the first day as well as on that Saturday. I even shot my personal best National Match Course score. Then Sunday, May 1, was the real test – the EIC match…
I struggled in standing and dropped a few more points than usual. Sitting was the same – rapid prone was good. Slow prone went well. The wind had some fairly big changes, but I worked through it and ended up with 477-11X. I figured there’s no way I’m making the cut for a hard leg this time and headed to the pits to finish out the match. We finished and waited for the results…
When the results were posted, I couldn’t believe it – I FINALLY GOT THAT HARD LEG!
I did it. There were enough competitors for three hard legs, and I ended up number two Non-Distinguished. On top of earning my goal at last, it’s awesome to have my friend Jeff Lovat (#2383) be the one to present me with my Distinguished pin.
Though I certainly enjoy earning my Distinguished Badge, the greatest thing I have gained from accomplishing this is without a doubt all the friends and people I have gotten to know along the way.
To all my shooting friends (you know who you are!!!), thanks for not letting me quit – part of this accomplishment is yours too.
To all of you that are working toward that goal, don’t ever quit. Keep practicing, and your day will come. Never quit until you reach your goals.
That President’s Hundred medal is still out there – maybe next year!
No matter what, I do know one thing. When I walk that stage at Perry at the 2022 National Matches and get my Distinguished Badge officially presented to me – my dad, my grandfather and his brothers will be walking it with me.
Now in possession of his own marksmanship mementoes, Jeff plans to create his own display of awards by encasing his EIC achievement medals and, of course, his Distinguished Badge –surrounded it with photos of those who helped him along the way. He also collected the brass used in the match where he finally legged out and plans to exhibit those as well.
If anyone else has any past knowledge on Jeff’s grandpa or uncles (Lou, Alvin, Ray or Oscar Hansen), please contact the CMP with anything you can provide!
About the Distinguished Badge Program:
To earn a Distinguished Badge, a competitor must earn 30 Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) points or more in a qualifying competition. Individuals earn the 6, 8 or 10 “leg” points based on score and a percentage of match participation, with at least one “hard” leg, worth 8 or 10 points. Currently, the CMP administers Distinguished Badges for:
- Service Rifle
- Service Pistol
- .22 Rimfire Pistol
- Junior Air Rifle
- International Shooter
- Smallbore Rifle
- Distinguished Marksman Badge
- Distinguished Air Rifle and Air Pistol
- Distinguished Service Revolver Badge
For others interested in learning more about the Distinguished Badge Program or how to earn one (or several!), find all the info on the CMP website at https://thecmp.org/competitions/distinguishedbadges/.