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Rifle Small Arms Firing School draws nearly 700 students

Written by Steve Cooper, CMP Writer

CAMP PERRY, OHIO – A small change in format to the Small Arms Firing School (SAFS) for service rifle paid big dividends, as new and experienced shooters received greater opportunity to expand their knowledge and a chance to earn introductory Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) “leg” points toward a Distinguished Rifle Badge. The event took place 1-2 August and was the start of highpower phase at the National Matches.

The 2009 SAFS had a slightly changed format from previous years, with additional classroom instruction for advanced shooters and additional range time for less experienced shooters. During the advanced session, SFC Grant Singley described the proper prone, sitting and standing positions, using SGT Brandon Green as a demonstrator.

This year's SAFS curriculum and training was led by the US Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), and was divided into two sections. Following an introductory session at Hough Auditorium, more experienced shooters remained in the classroom for more detailed information, while basic shooters departed for the firing range for hands-on familiarization with the service rifle. The two groups rejoined for practice firing on Viale Range in the afternoon and an EIC Match the following day.

Attendees enjoyed outstanding instruction in the classroom by the USAMU shooting team and on the firing line by USAMU, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard which included Active, National Guard and Reserve shooting team members and CMP Military Rifle Instructors along with Team Remington.

SGT Brandon Green USAMU demonstrates how he uses his leather sling in prone and sitting in the 2009 Rifle SAFS. SGT Green also discussed key aspects to preparing for various weather conditions, particularly when competing at Camp Perry.

USAMU classroom instructors included SFC Emil Praslick III (Principles of Shooting & Zeroing), SFC Grant Singley (Principles of Position), SFC Lance Dement (Using the Data Book), SSG Tobie Tomlinson (Range and Pit Operations), and SGT Brandon Green (Safety & Weather).

"I like coming to these sessions because you can talk to the instructors and they're straight with you," said Dan Acker, 62, of Peachtree City, Georgia, "They're not trying to hawk a product, they just give you honest answers," he followed.

Dan Acker, 62, of Peachtree City, Georgia has attended several SAFS and enjoys the opportunity to meet up with old friends from across the US at the event. The River Bend Gun Club member says that he picks up something new every year that he attends.

Acker, a member of the River Bend Gun Club, has attended several SAFS rifle courses over the years and said he always picks up something new. Though he is from Georgia, he enjoys meeting old friends from across the US, including the Texas Junior Team and coaches.

"Plus, I like to attend the class to get some more trigger time to get ready for the EIC match," Acker said.

50 shooters from the group earned four-EIC leg points in the introductory EIC Match on Sunday. The cut-off score to receive EIC-points was 351-4X. Only shooters who were not already Distinguished, or who had not previously earned rifle EIC-points were eligible to receive points in this event.

The top three shooters in the 2009 EIC Match were Robert Davis, 16, of Wichita Falls, Texas, Navy LT Michael Herlands, 31, of Chesapeake, Virginia and KellyJeanne Pyne, 41, of Alexandria, Virginia with aggregate scores of 379-7X, 371-6X and 370-6X, respectively. The course of fire consists of a possible score of 400 in the 40-shot match of prone slow-fire, prone rapid-fire, sitting and standing at a distance of 200 yards.

Carl Meck, 52, of Northville, Michigan made a new friend in firing partner Phil Lowry, 59, of Chesterland, Ohio. It was Meck's first time participating in SAFS rifle. He said he visited Camp Perry last year and observed the school and decided to enroll this year.

"I love it! I wish I would have done it last year. I have to come back with my son and daughter next year and maybe give the pistol school a try," Meck said.

This was Ed Menscer's first SAFS, the 58-year-old from Statesville, North Carolina has previously fired the Garand and Springfield matches at Camp Perry, but is learning the M16/AR15 platform.

This was Ed Menscer's first SAFS as well. The 58-year-old from Statesville, North Carolina has previously fired the Garand and Springfield matches, but is learning the M16/AR15 platform.

"This black gun is new to me, I like the old stuff if you know what I mean," Menscer said. "The instructors were great and my coach gave me a lot of help," he said.

In the classroom, SFC Praslick emphasized the importance of maintaining a firm stock weld from shot-to-shot as the key to placing good groups. He addressed the class on the benefits of smooth trigger control, follow through and the ability to call shots immediately after firing the shot.

"If you're honest with yourself and you follow through, you should be able to accurately predict where the round will strike the target," he said.

During the advanced session, SFC Singley described proper prone, sitting and standing positions, using SGT Green as a demonstrator. During a break, SGT Green demonstrated to several class members how he uses his leather sling in prone and sitting.

In his lecture, SGT Green called out several key aspects to preparing for various weather conditions, particularly when competing at Camp Perry. He gave tips on temperature and its effects on sight elevation and why wind affects the travel of a round the most at the mid-point of flight to the target.

The general consensus of those attending was the value of frequent question and answer periods throughout the advanced portion of the course. Basic shooters gained valuable hands-on time at the range with instructors who helped them familiarize themselves with safety, rifle operation and use of the sling as a means of support.

The Department of Defense first conducted the Small Arms Firing Schools (SAFS) as part of the National Matches at Camp Perry in 1918. Federal law continues to require the annual conduct of Small Arms Firing Schools, which now instruct nearly one thousand pistol and rifle shooters each year in firearms safety and fundamental marksmanship skills.