Bare Necessities for Highpower Rifle Competition
By SPC Nathan J. Verbickas, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member
Whether you watched someone compete in a Highpower Match, or have just heard conversation about it, it's clear that something has peaked your interest in the sport. Being interested in something is great, but without information, it won't get you very far. We have heard new shooters ask people on the range what they need to do to get into Highpower and the responses that a lot of people give are scary! The next thing you know, you are in the store spending a few thousand dollars without even knowing why. In an attempt to avoid this situation, lets sit down and talk about some of the essentials, and more important information associated with the sport of Highpower Rifle Competition.
In most cases, it is entirely possible to compete in a match without buying anything. We will go over the few things that you do need to have to compete, which usually all can be found by just asking around. Does it make more sense to try the sport and make sure that it is something you want to pursue fully before spending a good amount of money? I have been in gun shops in the past and witnessed people trying to return a lot of very expensive shooting equipment because they just did not end up enjoying the sport. Yes, it happens.
The first thing that all new shooters need to understand is that they are entering a sport that is already established. As with any other sport, there are rules and regulations which can be confusing at times. You will also be competing shoulder to shoulder with people of all different classifications and experience levels. This includes shooters who may be in contention to win whatever match it is that you have decided to enter. With that being said, one of the first things that you should track down is the most up to date versions of the NRA Highpower Rifle Rules booklet and the CMP Competition Rules. These can be found easily on-line or by contacting each organization. Believe me when I say that your firm knowledge of these rules will make for a far less painful day wherever you may be competing.
Section 6.0 of your CMP Rulebook and Section 3 of your NRA Rulebook defines authorized equipment. Obviously, you will need a rifle. Pay close attention to the types of rifles described in these sections as authorized. More often than not, people are surprised to find that they already own or know someone who owns an authorized Highpower Rifle. Most clubs and associations that support a Highpower program at their range will have service rifles for new shooters to use in their competitions. There may be a raised match entry fee for this service. If you have no luck after checking these resources, it may be necessary to purchase a rifle. Another call to the CMP can usually help with this. Be sure when you do find a rifle, that you have a minimum of two clips or magazines for that specific system. The other obvious requirement to compete would be ammunition, which is defined in CMP Rule 6.6 or NRA Rule 3.17.
Now we will take a look at some of the less obvious requirements defined in these rules. Contrary to popular belief, a sling is required in service rifle competition. It is listed in CMP Rule 6.1.1 and NRA Rules 3.1, 3.1.1, and 3.1.2 as a characteristic of the rifle itself. The sling may be used for support in the Prone, Sitting, and Kneeling positions, but not the Standing position. During Standing, the sling must be attached to both the front and rear sling swivels (CMP Rule 8.1.3(1) and NRA Rule 5.12b). Don't let this worry you. If you haven't found a sling in the same place that you found your rifle, a simple M-1 web sling can be purchased for about ten dollars. Sling features are defined in CMP Rule 6.1.1 (3) and NRA Rule 3.13. Another required item is the Empty Chamber Indicator (ECI), according to CMP Rule 5.5.1 and NRA Rule 3.21. This is a crucial part of Highpower Safety. The ECI is to be in the chamber of your rifle at all times other than your preparation period, while actually firing, and when cased. An ECI can be purchased from the NRA for one dollar. The final thing that is required for competition is Responsibility. This includes Safety, Discipline, and Etiquette. And yes it is required, by the rules in CMP Section 5.0 and NRA Section 18, and your own common sense. As a part of your responsibility, you need to realize that this sport is not just about your shooting. It is about everyone’s shooting. This is why you are responsible for pit pulling and scoring duties (CMP Rule 5.3 and NRA Sections 10 and 14 respectively) as well. These duties are just as important as your firing. Always strive to give better pit and scoring service than you receive.
With your understanding of the importance of scoring and pit pulling during a match, we will discuss some things that are not required, but strongly encouraged. In order to properly perform your scoring duties, you should have a few pens, a stool or chair, a Ziploc bag (in case of rain), and some type of optics. Keep in mind; you will be firing out to 600 yards in most courses of fire. At this distance, you will probably not be able to see the scoring disks, or even the chalkboards during rapid fires. Again, don't be concerned. These are all things that you more than likely already have. You do not need an expensive spotting scope. A pair of binoculars would be sufficient. Something else that is inexpensive and genuinely advised in the sport is eye and ear protection. Highpower matches are not exactly short. It is a long process that takes a large portion of the day. You need to take this into account before leaving for the range. A small cooler of snacks and plenty of water is something that you will never regret bringing.
That about does it for the necessities. Right now, you are at the bare minimum of what you need to complete a match. There is some other equipment that is nice to have, and can be substituted to save money. It is a matter of personal choice if and when you want to use any of the following. You will be shooting outdoors, and at times, in adverse conditions. Rain gear is usually helpful in this situation. The classic garbage bag poncho is a cheap alternative, though it doesn't breathe very well. If you decide to only bring out one set of rain gear, do the right thing and give it to your rifle. A rifle case is a helpful addition, for transportation purposes, but should still be covered in the rain. Also bring a small bottle of lubrication, and use it; especially if your rifle does get wet. If you don't like lying on the wet ground, a mat, piece of carpet, or even a poncho could be used as long as it does not create artificial support. You do not need a $300 shooting coat, but something to pad your shoulder from recoil and your arm from the sling, is useful. Many people use a simple issue field jacket, or a sweatshirt. Any kind of a glove that might cut down on the pinching of the sling on your hand, as well. If you own them, try to wear your boots instead of your shoes. It will provide you more support for shooting, and just in general over the day. You may want to bring a towel to wipe away annoying sweat while shooting. Be sure to keep yourself organized. A small backpack can make your life much easier on the range.
Well, that is what to bring to the range. But when? A brand new shooter does not want to fire their first competition at the National Matches. Find that local gun club that supports a Highpower Program and ask questions. A list of CMP Affiliated Rifle Matches can be found at http://clubs.odcmp.com/cgi-bin/matchUpcomingSearch.cgi?designation=EICRIFLE. The more information you have, the better off you will be. Get a copy of their match schedule, and make a plan. Find out the course of fire for the match you will be firing and ensure that you have enough ammunition for your record shots, sighters, and possible alibis. Learn the stages of fire and range commands for the course of fire you will be shooting. All of this information can be found in your CMP and NRA Rulebooks. This information will seriously cut back on confusion throughout the day. You should have your rifle zeroed and ready to go before you try to compete. You do not need to be a member of the NRA to enter in NRA Approved Matches. If you are not already a member, you can still shoot in competition, although membership is not a bad idea.
I hope that you do enjoy the sport, and stick with it. As you shoot more, your knowledge of the sport will progress, and with knowledge will come the skill. With the skill, will come an excuse to start buying stuff. Safe and Happy Shooting!
The USAMU Service Rifle Team is also answering your questions pertaining to Service Rifle Shooting including topics such as Equipment and Ammunition, Shooting Positions and Shooting Techniques and Tactics. Go to http://www.odcmp.com/Competitions/USAMU/ShootingTips.htm to view the latest questions and answers. If you have a question you would like to ask, email USAMU@odcmp.com.