"I got my vacation approved, so I can go with you guys to Perry this year? What should I take?” asked a new shooter at one of our mid-July practice sessions.
It was appropriate that such a loaded question be directed my way while we were at the range. My first impulse was to reply, “Bring a sense of humor,” since Camp Perry can be a challenge, and it’s not just the shooting. It’s also about keeping yourself and your gear in the best condition possible, despite what’s going on around you.
The old versus the new: Jerry Penn demonstrates a technique for carrying gear that goes back to the days of the M14 or before, while Kent Shomber opts for wheeled transport.
Being located on the edge of a very big lake, the Camp Perry area is subject to rapid changes in weather that can leave you and your gear a sodden mess if you decided against tarping all of your shooting gear or taking a poncho to the pits. Since the Nationals are held in July and August each year, it could be hot. It could also feel pretty chilly in the morning if you’re from central Oklahoma, where only a few days before you were mowing the yellowed patches of grass masquerading as a lawn on a sunny 98 degree afternoon, the coolest day of that week. And then there are the little things: Boats in the impact area when you’re sweltering under far too many layers, Viale Range’s “little stroll,” or “the death march,” depending on how you look at it: 800 plus yards of dust or mud, depending on the previous day’s weather. Throw in a little humidity, a lot of mosquitoes, and you’ve got a recipe that wears down the unprepared.
Despite the foregoing, Camp Perry is an awesome experience that should not be missed. Unlike other sporting events, going to the National Matches involves no process of competitive elimination to qualify for attendance. One only has to pay the entry fee and somehow get there. No where else do you have the opportunity to meet so many other shooters from around the country, exchange ideas, and learn, regardless of your current level of experience. Besides, where else can you start your day with the boom of a cannon, the sight of Old Glory rising up a flagpole to the accompaniment of the Star-Spangled Banner, and total, absolute silence from over 1000 people, all of whom are either saluting or placing their hands over their hearts?
Accurate rifles are easy to build. So easy, in fact, that these days you can buy an off-the-shelf service rifle from several makers that will consistently hold the ten-ring all the way back to the 600 yard-line if fed quality ammunition. The biggest factor in producing good scores lies within the shooter, so rather than focus on loading tech- niques, super-bullets, or whose barrel to use, we’re going to explore the things that keep a shooter in top form at Camp Perry.
Who said recycling couldn’t be fun? Big wheels off a baby jogger cover uneven ground with ease…at least in theory. We’ll see at the 09’ Nationals.
A Miserable Shooter is a Poor Shooter
Not always, but most of the time. There are those rare occasions that discomfort causes you to “hunker down,” and really concentrate on what you’re doing, if for no other reason than to prove to yourself that you can still succeed. Nine times out of ten though, being miserable is just a distraction made worse by seeing your final score.
At Camp Perry, there is either too much water, or not enough. When it rains, it can come in torrents. Sometimes it even rains sideways, so keeping a poncho in your shooting stool is a little like bringing band-aids to a multiple-vehicle accident. Invest in a rain suit. Even a cheap one is superior to a poncho if the wind is blowing. What’s good for you is good for your gear too, so bring a tarp and some bungee cords along. When you get ready to go to the pits, set everything on top of your stool, wrap the tarp around the pile, and secure the entire mess with the bungee cords. Just because it’s sunny when you go to the pits doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. Storms come in off of Lake Erie very quickly and no one likes shooting all week in damp, mildewing gear.