Slee Earns Continued Success Through Reinventing Lifelong Passion
August 23, 2023Civilian Marksmanship Program▸The First Shot▸Slee Earns Continued Success Through Reinventing Lifelong Passion
By Ashley Dugan, CMP Staff Writer
Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Slee, 59, of Dimondale, Mich., has found a way to keep competitive in a sport he has loved his entire life, despite the challenges that come with the passing years.
Triple-Distinguished in Service Rifle, Service Pistol and .22 Rimfire Pistol, Slee began competitive smallbore .22 caliber rifle shooting at 14 years old with a local sportsman’s club. Now, over four decades later, he’s coming back to his roots after a career that has brought him many profound experiences and lifelong memories.
“When I was young, I had a fascination with all things Army, including firearms,” he explained. “I guess I wanted to march in formation, wear a uniform and shoot guns.”
He had his chance when he enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1982. A few years later, in 1984, he learned of the Army’s shooting program. He tried out and made the 5th Army Rifle Team, going on to join the Army Reserves Rifle Team the following spring. Later, he became the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Army Reserve Service Pistol Team.
“I am still trying to earn credibility with a pistol,” he said. “I do find pistol a little more convenient in that I don’t have to go through the physical strain caused by the firing positions in rifle.”
In recent times, wrist and elbow issues have limited him to .22 pistol competitions to avoid the impact the larger calibers cause, though he still shoots service pistol on occasion. Accepting his ailments, he has gone on to find success.
At the 2023 Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) National Matches at Camp Perry, Slee led the .22 Rimfire Pistol portion of the Warm-Up Match and found second in the .22 Rimfire Pistol portion of the Pistol 2700 Aggregate, while also claiming the High Military title.
“I do like to succeed and win. Being recognized among your peers is an honor,” he said.
Outside of pistol, Slee also found his sixth overall win in the O-Class of the 2023 Rimfire Sporter Rifle Match – dedicated this year in honor of local fallen soldier and past National Matches competitor Max Soviak. The match features three different classes for competitors: O-Class for open sights, T-Class for telescopic and TU-Class for tactical/unlimited.
Slee had previously won the O-Class in 2021, 2018, 2016, 2010 and 2009 and holds the national record overall score, which he set at the 2016 match. Astoundingly, Slee also found his first overall win in the T-Class in 2023 by one point over current record holder, Samuel Payne.
“It has to do with goal setting,” he explained of his victories.
“The other major factor in winning is having confidence in your ammunition and equipment. I meticulously group tested at least 15 lots of ammunition to learn which would deliver an acceptable group,” he went on. “My goal was finding a rifle/ammo combination capable of benching a 10-shot group no bigger than three-quarters of the X-ring at 50 yards. Believe it or not, that is possible with an off the shelf rifle and quality ammunition.”
For Rimfire Sporter Rifle, he uses a Ruger 10/22 with the factory light varmint barrel and an added Kidd target trigger. His favorite rifle for the O-class category is an out-of-the-box CZ 452 Trainer that he borrows from a friend.
“When I learned about Rimfire Sporter, I set a performance goal that I figured would give me a win at just about any match and set out to achieve it.”
It’s a strategy that seems to have worked for him over the years, especially during the National Matches.
His first year competing at Camp Perry was in 1985 when he shot the National Trophy Matches and National Rifle Association (NRA) Championship with a service rifle. He has since returned many times as a firing member of the Army Reserve Service Rifle Team, where he competed in around 25 National Trophy Matches and 15 NRA National Rifle Championships.
“I do have my name carved in a couple of the National Matches and NRA Championship Trophies,” he admitted.
Though his involvement with service rifle has waned, he does find himself shooting the occasional vintage military match and other CMP Games events. He tries to compete at least monthly throughout the summer, and during the winter months, he shoots weekly in a .22 indoor pistol league using a Walther LP-400.
He also makes the trip to Camp Perry to participate in the Monthly Air Gun Matches held at the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center throughout the year to stay on top of his game as well as to lead others in their own marksmanship journeys.
“The Monthly Air Gun Match is an excellent venue for our junior and collegiate teams,” he said. “I was fortunate in having the opportunity to coach both here in Michigan starting about eight years ago. I like shooting alongside our athletes with the goal of giving them an opportunity to beat the coach. It is great to see their eyes light up when they do well.”
Introducing competitive shooting to youth and service members alike is an important mission to Slee and one that he holds in high regard. It’s all part of his efforts in passing on his knowledge to new marksmen and women for the benefit of generations to come.
“I believe it is extremely important to have citizens and soldiers that know how to effectively engage and hit a target,” he said. “One thing that I have learned from my 40 years in the Army Reserve is that the Army does not grow marksmen – competitive events governed by the Civilian Marksmanship Program does.”
He went on, “I’d like to share my gratitude with the entire CMP leadership and staff for their continued efforts in promoting marksmanship training, and for modeling the premier arena for firearms competition.”
Outside of competition, Slee enjoys his work supporting soldiers in the Army Reserve as a Division Command Sergeant Major as well as fixing and repairing items around the house, building and remodeling, getting outside in the woods and trails and hunting or four-wheeling. And as for his future National Matches plans…
“I think after I retire, I will be coming back out of habit,” he said.