A Belgian Army surplus pack frame came next. Designed to hold a jerry can, it allowed me to carry everything but my rifle on my back and retain a great deal of mobility. In fact, if I wasn’t too tired, I could almost jog back to the hut at the end of the day. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived I could almost touch my shoulder blades together behind my back. It was a good party trick perhaps, but bad for my offhand scores.
The wheeled trash can with a lid was next. Featuring dry, safe storage, its insignificant wheels were made to roll household garbage down the driveway from the garage to the curb, not fifty pounds of gear over 800 yards of rutted range. The fact that everyone kept mistaking it for the real Camp Perry trash cans was another problem that was never completely solved.
Like woodworking? The Camp Perry cart is your opportunity for self-expression.
By the time I turned forty, some sort of cart was looking very attractive. Like most things that 40 year old men find attractive, they were also rather expensive for something that was only going to be used once in a while. A wheel kit was an option, but when you own a “basic,” shooting stool, your options for wheel kits are limited in selection and worse yet, in function. Buying a higher-end stool and wheel kit was considered just long enough to see the final tab after the add-ons. The answer finally came from a roadside ditch during a family outing. Peeking above the weeds was a complete axle and pair of wheels from a residential garbage bin, the type that requires a large claw on the side of the garbage truck for its weekly dumping. How the axle got there was anyone’s guess. The bin itself was absent, but I cared not a whit. The real prize, the wheels and axle were soon on top of my wife’s Nissan with the bags and camping gear, lending a Beverly Hillbillys air to the rest of our trip and proving once and for all that one man’s treasure can also be the rest of the family’s embarrassment.
Back at home, the axle and the handle from a broken fertilizer spreader were soon attached to my shooting stool, creating a low-tech cart that carried my gear for the 2007 and 2008 Nationals.
Evolution is an ongoing process, however. A neighborhood garage sale turned up a worn baby jogger that gave up its large diameter wheels and padded handle to make my life more comfortable. We’ll see how it works out this year.
The point of all of this is two-fold: First, you have far better chances of shooting well if you are not bruised, chaffed, strained, or exhausted from carrying your gear back and forth on the range. Second, your solution need not be expensive, or even stylish. After all, it’s a shooting contest, not a gear show. Save that and your credit card for Commercial Row.
At Camp Perry, you’re responsible for your own comfort, but this might be overdoing it a bit. Kent Shomber and Bill Meade relax during the team match.
I Don’t Remember Where I Forgot to Put it
Transporting yourself and your gear to the local range is hard enough. After all, how many times have you forgotten your chronograph, ammunition, or even your rifle? Going across state lines, possibly multiple state lines just aggravates the process. Sometime during the week there will probably be an occasion to discover that there’s something you need that didn’t find its way into the truck. Instead it will still be sitting safely on the kitchen table, 1,100 miles away. Take heart, Commercial Row has anything you may have forgotten and there is a Wal Mart located in Port Clinton. Between those two sources, your needs should be met for a week’s worth of shooting. Realistically, if you have your rifle, ammunition, coat, and prescription glasses (if needed), you can borrow or purchase everything else you might need and still perform well.
Do you know your rifle’s elevation and windage zeros? Some of us know exactly how many clicks up, down, left, and right are necessary at each yardline. The human mind is a precarious place to store information though, particularly when you’re placed under pressure. Scouring your memory for zeros and coming up with ATM pin numbers is pretty useless at the 600 yard-line, so most of us keep a data book. Unfortunately, data books have an uncanny ability to escape from shooting stools on the way to the firing line, leaving you wondering if it was three clicks up from the 200 yard-line or five. Or was it seven? A piece of masking tape on the side of the receiver or the stock is a great place to write down those zeros. Use permanent ink however. Rain is always a possibility at Camp Perry.
Data books aren’t the only things that find their way into the “Lost and Found,” bin at Camp Perry, so it’s a good idea to put your name on everything. If you missed something, the pre-printed stickers that are issued at in-processing are handy to put on items of your gear since they usually give out more than is necessary.
Squadding assignments are another easily lost item. You can count on being assigned to a different firing point, relay, and possibly, a different range each day. Not only do you need to keep up with where you are supposed to be, but you have to keep up with the rotation between the pits, ready line, and the firing line each day. Keeping that information in a couple of places is a good idea.
Home Is Where the Hut Is
Cheap, close to the ranges, Commercial Row, and air conditioned if you bring one with you, the huts are one of the Camp Perry experiences that everyone should partake in. Unlike most motel rooms or condominiums, spilling an entire bottle of solvent on the floor doesn’t create a problem. On the contrary, your hut mates will appreciate the temporary relief from spiders and flying insects after their eyes stop watering.
Most people describe the huts as “Spartan,” a word derived from Sparta, an ancient Greek city-state. My guess, the Spartans would have thought the huts crude at best. The fact is, the cells in most county jails are better appointed, so you have to be creative. That may be what gives the huts their charm: As long as you don’t burn one down, nobody cares. Make whatever alterations you think are necessary for your comfort, because it’s up to you to be well-rested when your feet hit the firing line each day.
Bringing along a broom is a good idea, as is a bath mat, unless you like standing on bare concrete while dressing in the morning. The bedding provided runs toward early war surplus, probably Korean War, so they have seen their share of use and abuse over the years. I have watched mattresses fold up around team mates due to the poor condition of the wire netting stretched in the bed frames, so a piece of plywood to put between the wire and mattress is a necessity, unless you normally sleep in something that resembles a defective taco shell.
Duct tape: where would we be without it? With it, you can seal the windows around the air conditioner to keep the cold air in and the rain out, fix holes in the screens, tape your shoes back together, make water proof covers for score books, and with the advent of colored duct tape, you can identify your gear from a distance. Don’t laugh: with over 100 firing points and more than 600 shooters, the area where everyone leaves their gear gets pretty crowded. In short, it’s cheap insurance for anything that can and will go wrong.
Take a friend, even if they aren’t “competitive,” or have an interest in match shooting. If you’re there for CMP week, even non-competitive shooters can have fun shooting the various matches that the CMP has designed for as-issued military rifles. You can always shoot in the President’s, Leg, and Hearst matches and then join your friend for the Carbine, Garand, Springfield, and Vintage-Military matches. The important thing is that friends make whatever you’re doing more enjoyable, whether shooting together or huddling under a poncho during a driving thunderstorm. Hmmm, should’ve brought the rain suits after all.
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