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Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Shooter's View of the National Trophy Team Match

Guest post by VSSA Pistol Team Member
Kent Le

The Civilian Marksmanship Program's National Trophy Team match (NTT) is an interesting match that requires each team to have at least one "tyro" - a new shooter who has never shot in the NTT before - to be eligible for awards; this is to encourage participation and growth in the sport. The course of fire is the straightforward National Match Course: ten shots in ten minutes, "slow fire", at 50 yards; two five-shot strings, twenty seconds per string, "timed fire", at 25 yards; two five-shot strings, ten seconds per string, "rapid fire", at 25 yards. The team shoots in pairs, two members shooting side-by-side at a time; this simplifies scoring (only need to score two shooters at a time) and divides other duties (score verification, changing targets) amongst teammates to make the matches flow better.

Last year I was the tyro for the Virginia team, and we thought we had a good chance at being competitive: the other shooters on the team were Matt Buckman, Joe Chang, and Brent Obenour, and Steve Huff, all excellent shooters. I was also in good form having shot very well in the President's Hundred (P100) and National Trophy Individual (NTI) matches earlier in the day. As the tyro, my spot as a firing member of the team was secured; the other four shooters compared their scores in the P100 and NTI matches, and the top three P100+NTI shooters would shoot during the NTT. 

The weather was not ideal last year with cool temperatures and intermittent rain, but it didn't seem to affect our individual match scores much. However, we fell short of our expectations during the team match when one of my shots could not be accounted-for in the slow fire stage, even after lodging a challenge to have the target scored by match officials (I very likely cross-fired on the wrong target), and one of our teammates cross-fired an entire string of rapid-fire on my target; at Perry, this is very easy to do - there are a hundred targets side by side on the line; it's not hard to bring the sights up on the wrong target and still feel like everything's right. The result was 60 total points lost and the Virginia team being far out of contention.

This year I was tasked with organizing the NTT team, which I named "VSSA" for Virginia Shooting Sports Association. The VSSA organization provided a Virginia state flag for use during the team matches at Camp Perry (and anywhere else) with Michael Vincent as its caretaker, and we used it this year for the NRA team matches and the CMP NTT match, fitting right in with the other state teams and their flags.

With my own tyro status already "burned" we had Viesturs Lenss shoot for our team as our tyro. Selection for the remaining firing members was the same as the previous year: the best three combined P100+NTI scores of each of the other potential members of the team would determine who shot for the team. Of the potential members, Joe Chang, Matt Buckman, and myself were selected to shoot, with Steve Huff as an alternate.

The weather this year was quite different than last year, with lightly overcast skies and breezy winds, the ground was quite dry and firm. Joe and Matt shot first, posting solid scores. Then it was my turn to shoot alongside Viesturs. 

It was a somewhat surreal experience this year both in shooting the match and scoring for our neighboring team, Arizona Rifle & Pistol. During the relay that Viesturs and I shot, AR&P's shooters were none other than Steve Reiter, several-time Senior U.S. Champion, and John Zurek, who took Third Place overall in the NRA National Precision Pistol Championships this year, awarded just the day before. Performing scoring duties for their team were Tony and Brenda Silva; Ms. Silva is a U.S. Olympian and several-time USA Shooting National Champion. None other than Rob Leatham, 24-time USPSA National Champion and 7-time IPSC World Champion, was providing coaching and even equipment to Mr. Zurek. A video cameraman hovered around Mr. Leatham for the whole match, and I got to watch him explain some of the nuances of the sport of Precision Pistol for the camera. I tried not to let it get to me, but I'll admit I was a little star-struck.

This year's performance had none of the problems of last year, and Viesturs and I both turned in excellent scores. We had a good feeling as we packed up our gear after a long week of shooting. Joe, Matt, and Viesturs started the long drive home, while I stayed behind, already slated to appear on stage during the CMP National Trophy Pistol Awards Ceremony to receive the badge for the newly instated Distinguished Rimfire Pistol program.

It turned out to be a good thing that I stayed behind: our VSSA team score of 1107-29x was 2nd overall, coming in behind United States Army Marksmanship Unit "Blue" team's outstanding score of 1143-45x. VSSA out-shot Ohio Rifle & Pistol Association by just one point to win the Oglethorpe Trophy for the highest-placed civilian team; I got to go up on stage to receive the award for the VSSA team. Two of VSSA's members, Joe Chang and me, were also named for the prestigious National Civilian Pistol Team and awarded the Elihu Root Medal along with James Morman and Alan Barcon, both of the Ohio Rifle & Pistol Association team. I was also awarded two additional Elihu Root Medals as both the captain and coach of the top civilian team, who are also named for the National Civilian Pistol Team (and who both happened to be me). Joe's performance in the NTT would earn him top civilian shooter, top senior shooter, and a whole raft of other awards - his name was called a lot during the ceremony.

I finally started my drive home at 6:30PM and arrived at 2:00AM, very tired but very pleased with a successful representation of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association this year at the National Matches at Camp Perry.

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