National Rifle and Pistol Championships
The National Rifle Association National Outdoor Rifle and Pistol Championships held in Camp Perry, Ohio, lasts five weeks and draws approximately 6,000 competitors annually. The following are pictures from the 2009 Championships.
Competitors ran the gamut from 87-year-old August Gormetti, who's been competing since 1963, to 15-year-old Ethan Kendrick, who plans to join the Marines when he's 18.
While shooters rarely move once in prone position, their stillness belies the complex procedure that every shot requires. Competitors must calculate the wind, using a combination of downwind flags and estimation, and then develop a strategy that includes knowing the optimal time to fire as well as when to draft off their competitors' shots.
Servicemen look down on marksmen -- an individual who spends year-round practicing shooting but doesn't see combat action -- with disdain. "Paper targets don't shoot back," Sgt. Jack Coughlin wrote, "so that's really kind of boring." Ironically though, in the 23 years prior to 2009 that an overall Long Range High Power champion had been named, no serviceman had taken home the trophy.
One advantage that civilians have over servicemen in competition is their ability to customize their rifles. They can spend tens of thousands of dollars doing so, and can take the time to test a variety of ammunition, including caliber and weight.
2009 winner Sherri Gallagher (right) and her fellow competitors (including sister Michelle, left) don shooting coats, which are padded in the elbows and shoulders to provide the shooters with maximum comfort. Individuals often wear sweatshirts or sweaters underneath the jacket, which provides more cushioning and helps muffle their pulse.
Through the scope, shooters such as the Army's Lance Dement can see the finest details, including the wake of their ammunition as it cuts through the air, grass swaying in the wind 950 yards away and, obviously, the targets, which can be as far away as 1,000 yards.
Beyond being able to fire ammunition accurately, shooters must have a thorough knowledge of their firearm, including when its barrel is about to go and whether it performs better after substantial firing or just cleaned.
Sherri Gallagher, the 2009 overall Long Range High Power champion, is a member of the Army Marksmanship Unit, and the first serviceman to ever take home the Tompkins Trophy. Her sister, Michelle, is a civilian and a three-time all-around champion.
The prizes for the NRA National Outdoor Rifle and Pistol Championships are meager. Some winners receive a box of bullets or a $15 gift certificate. For winning the Tompkins trophy, Gallagher took home a $500 Visa gift card, $500 from Berger bullets, $500 from Sierra Bullet and a Remington Model 700 Sendero 700 SF2300 Ultra Mag rifle.