In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a new law that eventually led to creation of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship. The purpose of this legislative initiative was, “That every facility should be offered citizens outside of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and organized militia [National Guard] to become proficient in rifle shooting, and that this purpose can best be accomplished by means of rifle clubs.”
Even today, federal law provides a definition for an organized and an unorganized militia. The unorganized militia are the able-bodied citizenry at large (traditionally men between certain ages) that are able to defend their country. Pres. Roosevelt believed that America’s military preparedness depended on having people of all ages involved in competitions and other firearms training.
Thus, civilians, the NRA, police & military shooting have all evolved together and there has been a constant interplay of innovation in technology, training techniques, competitions and personnel. Expert civilian competitors often compete right alongside expert military and police marksmen. Those with no police and military training succeed the same way that competitive soldiers, sailors and police succeed- by extra commitment, natural talent and a great deal of training.
The purpose of the DCM was to encourage this kind of interaction and military weapons were distributed from the U.S. surplus. The program almost died out in the Sixties because U.S. policy makers decided that small-arms were almost a thing of the past except for stopping waves of Soviets from crossing into Western Europe. The non-profit CMP was created at the last minute. There are still CMP competitions and reasonably priced WW II Garands and other excellent military weapons are available to folks that participate in competitions and other organized shooting activities.
I belong to Paul Bunyan Shooting Club in Puyallup and starting in February and throughout the summer, the Club will shut most of its facilities for certain days during which CMP practice and various rifle competitions are held. Normal rifle shooting at Paul Bunyan is at 200 yards or less. For me this is one of the few opportunities in which I can experience shooting at a target from 600 yards. In Service Match competition, all competition is with open sights and equipment that is standard for military rifles.
The preferred rifle for many is the semi-automatic version of the M-16 that most U.S. troops use in the field; i.e., semi-auto rifles (that means one shot with each pull of the trigger)that the media refers to as an “assault rifle” because they are usually black, accept magazines that are made to be easily removed and replaced with a fully loaded magazine and look like the full-auto weapons that our armed services deploy in times of war.
Many of the guys and ladies that shoot rifles either own an “AR” or would like to because they are accurate, easy to use and you can easily put a scope on many of them or other interesting equipment like lights and foregrips and things that make them no more threatening than much more powerful guns (that have more recoil and killing power) but those that want to take away guns- and our Constitution- want you to believe that they only want to ban the really evil guns with no legitimate sporting purpose “that are only made to be used for killing lots of people in a war”.
Once certain features (like foregrips) are banned it just becomes a matter of manipulating the definitions. The average member of the public that thinks the media is talking about full-automatic machine guns can hardly be expected to understand all the technical data on which federal and state gun restrictions hinge. It could easily be argued that a semi-automatic pistol is much more insidious than a military style rifle because pistols also hold quite a few bullets, are reloaded with removable clips and can be carried concealed.
Pistols were also designed for use in warfare and have killed many of America’s enemies along with innocent victims of crime. That is why the drafters of the Constitution saw fit to protect the use of such weapons! If they are militarily useful, the weapons can also be used to deter criminals, terrorists or even foreign enemies that might come to our shores.
Our club has some CMP Garands and the club occasionally lets members use them to participate in shooting events. The club’s Garands are semi-automatic 30.06 tack-drivers, modified with match-grade, free-floated barrels for more accuracy when the barrel heats up in competition. M-1 Garands hold eight rounds.
Hitting a six-foot high target at 600 yards with iron sights is an accomplishment in itself! Hitting the X-ring is extremely gratifying. Many teenagers are very skilled in such competition. It takes the ability to go into an extreme state of focused quietude that is the opposite of football, video games and other activities to which many of us are habituated. Women of all ages are also devoted to various disciplines involving both rifle and pistol shooting- and shotguns.
Another amazing event is an Appleseed Shoot. This is a grueling weekend of training that is similar to boot camp. While you learn the techniques that “make every man, woman and child a Rifleman,” you also learn about our Revolutionary War heritage. Every kind of rifle is used and every age and background. This movement is nationwide and draws people from all over. I went back and attended in North Idaho because I lived there for many years. In Couer d’Alene at the Fernan Range and Gun Club, I met men and women from Montana, Seattle and many places in the Northwest.
The rifleman’s skills are just as important now as ever before in our history.
I have also shot Steel Plate competitions. At Paul Bunyan we have very young kids that participate with their moms and dads and the young ladies (and older ones) often outshoot grown men that have years of military experience.
There is also a group of guys that work in public maintenance for Sumner with whom I have competed in combat-style IPSC shooting. USPSA, however, is the name of the organization under which many of the competitions are conducted. There is another branch of combat pistol competition called IDPA that tries to make the match more like you and I would experience if we encountered armed opponents on the streets. In all these “combat” shooting events, you run through a maze of multiple targets while shooting for speed and accuracy (sometimes at moving targets). I mention the guys from Sumner because if anyone ever attacked the City of Sumner with guns, the SWAT team could arrive late and the bad guys might be in more trouble than the residents of Sumner. These guys have trained to hit when they shoot and they train to shoot fast. They reload and shoot rapid-fire with pistols while they sprint past targets. My approach is to learn to do what they do while walking with an occasional jog.
Everyone is helpful and one reason to be there is to train to shoot faster while remaining accurate and handle jams and other unexpected developments while you have gobs of adrenaline downgrading your fine motor skills. After you run through one course and shoot as many as ten or twenty- or sometimes thirty rounds- you begin to get a feel for how men trained in times past- like the Texas Rangers that learned to shoot from the saddle while riding past a target at full gallop.
A new sport that is becoming very popular is cowboy action shooting. The Renton Fish & Game Club hosts these colorful affairs. All the guns are copies or originals from before 1900 and people wear expensive cowboy costumes and assume fictional identities (often from favorite Western dramas). Ladies seem to be especially drawn to this and everyone shoots a shotgun, usually two six-shooters and lever-action rifles. The targets tend to pop up, roll on the ground or spin and often loom within mock-ups of saloons, mining shafts and stage coaches. There also cowboy events held on horseback
Another sport that is becoming just as popular as cowboy action shooting is three-gun IPSC. Based on the multiple-targeted configurations discussed above, 3-gun competitors race through mazes with military-style carbines that are semi-auto versions of the weapons used by our U.S. military in warfare. Pistol and tactical shotguns are also part of the fun. Targets may be close or 500 yards away so many of the rifles hold more than one kind of sighting system in order to transition from close quarters combat to distances at which you can barely see a man-sized target.
Some of these competitions emphasize shooting from cover and attempt to recreate what happens in actual combat. Although recreationists and professionals often use simulated ammunition to conduct exercises against actual opponents that shoot back, you cannot substitute for training with real weapons.
Many attend schools like the Firearms Academy of Seattle (that I attended) where the skills of legal reasoning, sound tactical judgment and good decisions are provided. I announced a class on the LAW OF ARMED DEFENSE in January, 2010 and over forty people attended- many of them husbands and wives. All these activities are marked by prudence and the highest regard for safety and good citizenship. Even though more people have more guns than ever before, gun accidents are lower than ever before.
More people are carrying in public (judging by the increased number of CPLs issued across the U.S. recently) so it is good that so much education and training is available. Every state now has concealed carry except for Wisconsin and Illinois. A concealed carry law was passed in Wisconsin and then vetoed by the Governor a few years ago.
In all these competitions and training events there are some that will be going into the military or law enforcement, others that have already served and many that will go into other pursuits. After the Civil War, shooting sports became fashionable in colleges, the mansions of the wealthy and every part of American society from shooting ranges in working class neighborhoods to the White House. The U.S. may be experiencing another time like we saw in the early 1900s when shooting sports were integrated into American life- including the public schools. Justice Scalia tells how he would ride the subway in NY and take his .22 rifle with him for shooting practice afterw school.
A Ninth Circuit judge recently stated in a written appellate decision concurring with the majority opinion in the NORDYKE case that a terrorist attack like the Mumbai attack (in which 179 innocent people were killed by automatic weapon fire) would not get very far in the United States because of the Second Amendment.
But without the citizens that exercise their right to keep and bear arms, the Second Amendment would only be words on paper for lawyers to argue about. Incidentally, almost every Constitutional legal expert now concedes that the 2nd Amendment means what the Founders thought it meant when they drafted it. Pres. Roosevelt was right! Whatever goals people that shoot pursue, they add strength to our nation.