Including the 1904 National Trophy Matches
By Dick Culver
The 1904 Army shooting season was an "off year" for the "All Army Match," but the Army Divisional Matches continued to be held annually. The Divisional Matches were designed to continue to encourage practice and competition with the Service Rifle throughout the United States and to act as a vehicle for awarding medals signifying credit(s) towards the designation of Distinguished Marksman. The Divisional Matches also gave the Army hierarchy a means of selecting the Army Shooters who would be assigned to represent the various 12-man Army Branch Teams (Infantry, Artillery, Cavalry, etc.) on years when the All Army Matches were not held. Competition was becoming heated in the newly established (1903) annual National Trophy Match and, of course, to represent the Army in the yearly National Rifle Matches participated in by the finest rifle shooters, both military and civilian.
In 1903, the traditional round target had finally replaced the elliptical bullseye, which had been the standard since 1885, so Army shooters felt that they could finally get back to pure marksmanship instead relying on a "trick bullseye" to match the beaten zone of the older Trapdoor Springfield on a typical target face. The course of fire for the 1904 Divisional Matches was identical to the 1903 matches, except that the targets were of the more modern format.
*No specific time limit was specified during the slow fire stages. In the old days slow fire was understood to be "a reasonable amount of time" and usually averaged approximately 1 minute per shot.
**Since the Krag was reloaded with 5 individual cartridges with no "stripper clip" to assist, rapid fire strings were fired in two 5 shot strings.
The above course of fire was standard in both the Army Qualification Course and the Excellence-in-Competition matches. It was fired together with the Skirmisher's Course. Regulations specified that the course(s) be fired twice (both the KD Course and the Skirmisher's Course). The match was conducted on two days, with one run through the KD Course and one Skirmish Run being fired each day. One run through the E-I-C Course took 60 rounds and the Skirmisher's Course took 20 rounds, so a total of 160 rounds were fired during the two days it took to complete the entire competition. A competitor's total score for the E-I-C match was the aggregate of the two days of firing.
Two runs through each of these courses allowed for a good rifle shot to correct any mistakes or rifle trouble experienced on the first day with a possible comeback on the second day. Conversely, an individual who had just been extremely lucky on the first day had an opportunity to let "match pressure" "psyche him out" on the second day if he was not a consistent rifle shooter. The double course thus tended to separate the (shooting) wheat from the chaff.
The 1904 Skirmish Run
Total number of rounds fired = 20 per Skirmish Run (a total of 40 rounds per individual for the match).
Each shooter fired two Skirmish Runs utilizing the targets called in slang, the "Squaw" and the "Papoose". Officially, the Squaw (the larger of the two) was called the "E Silhouette Target" and the Papoose (the smaller of the two) was called the "F Silhouette Target".
The Skirmish Run was fired in the following manner (this was something like an individual version of the "rattle battle" or National Trophy Infantry Team Match):
Conduct of Fire:
1. Each shooter had one (each) Squaw and Papoose Target sitting on top of the butts in front of his firing point – any firing position was allowed at all ranges (you could shoot prone at all distances if you wished).
2. The line of shooters formed just to the rear of the 600-yard line in a skirmish line. When the line was formed, it was ordered forward (“well dressed”, needless to say) to the 600 yd. firing line and halted. On command, each shooter fired 2 rounds at the target(s) within a time limit of 30 seconds.
3. Upon expiration of the 30-second time limit, the line was ordered forward to the 500-yard line. The first half of the distance was covered in “quick time (120 steps/minute), and the last half at double time (180 steps/minute).
4. Upon expiration of the 30-second time limit, the line was ordered forward to the 400-yard line. Again, the first half of the distance was covered in quick time, with the last half at the double. At 400 yards, 3 rounds were fired in 30 seconds (vice 2 at 500 and 600 yards).
5. Upon expiration of the 30-second time limit, the line was ordered forward to the 350 yard line using the quick and double time routine (which would be continued through the end of all courses of fire during the Skirmish Course). Again the shooter/competitor was required to shoot 3 shots in 30 seconds, just as at 400 yards.
6. Upon expiration of the 30-second time limit, the line was ordered to the 300-yard line. Here you had a total of 10 rounds of ammunition remaining. The individual shooter was allowed to distribute these in any way he wished between the 300 and 200-yard lines. He had another 30-second time limit at 300 yards, but this was shortened to 20 seconds at 200 yards.
were said to have favored the prone position at all ranges, with a few
diehards using the sitting position at 200. The total possible score was
100. An extremely accomplished shooter of the day was thought to be doing
well if he scored 80 or more points on a skirmish run.
Summary of Skirmisher's Course Rules
> Both targets ("squaw" and "papoose") were located on top of the butts at the 600-yard line.
> Movement of shooters between yard lines = ½ quick time, ½ double time.
> All shooters move as a "skirmish line" down range on command at each yard line.
As a strategy, most competitors fired at the "squaw (kneeling) target" down to and including 350 yards. They then fired at the "papoose" target at 300 and 200 yards. Colonel Whelen recounted that he personally used the junction of the target and the ground as an aiming point, and set his sights to hit into the (wider) shoulder area of the kneeling target.
The Selection of the Departmental Teams:
As in previous years, each Army Department (such as the Department of California, the Department of Arizona, etc.) held annual rifle competitions. As a matter of course, the two best rifle shots from each company of Infantry (similarly from each equivalent Cavalry and Artillery Regiment) and the two best rifle shots among the officers of each Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry Regiments were ordered to attend the Departmental Matches as competitors. All competitors fired the course(s) as described above. In keeping with the method of the day for selecting the "Departmental Team," the top 12 shooters in the Departmental Matches became the Departmental Team. Medals in the Departmental Matches were distributed as follows: The winner was awarded a gold medal, the second two individuals were awarded silver medals and the last nine shooters were awarded bronze medals.
In a year such as 1904 where an All-Army Match was not held, these Departmental Teams supplied the raw material used by each Army Branch to select a team to represent them at the National Matches.
The 1904 National Trophy Matches:
The 1904 National Trophy Matches are not as well documented as those held in 1903, but we have the recommendations of the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice for the conduct of the matches. The NBPRP recommended that the 1904 National Trophy Match include one run of the Skirmisher's Course, and two (2) full scores of "timed fire" at rectangular targets(?) and rapid fire if possible.
The year 1904 was an off year for the All Army Match (the All Army Match was to be held in alternate years), but the Departmental Matches were held in standard fashion utilizing two runs of the Excellence-in-Competition Match (including two skirmish runs) fired in 1903. The All-Army Team (always consisting of 12 men in those days) was selected from the best shooters "making" the Departmental Teams.
If Colonel Whelen's recollections are to be believed, the National Trophy Match held at the Nationals in 1903 utilized one run through the standard Army Qualification Course (Excellence-in-Competition Match) and one run through the Skirmisher's Course - plus 10 shot strings of slow fire at 800 and 1000-yards. The course set forth by the National Board differs somewhat from Colonel Whelen's notes. In 1903, the National Board called for "a string of slow fire to be fired at each of the following ranges: 200, 500, 600, 800, 900 and 1000 yards."
Apparently, the course of fire for the National Trophy Match in 1904 actually consisted of 60 rounds, fired in a series of slow fire strings at 200 yards, 500 yards, 600 yards, 800 yards, 900 yards, and 1000 yards, all prone with the shooters head toward the target. In chart form it would look as follows:
* Time limit (above) was usually considered to be "reasonable", probably about 1 minute/shot
Apparently the recommendations of the National Board were ignored or changed, as no timed or rapid fire stages were specified or listed for the actual match. The National Board (NBPRP) approved the incorporation of two (2) Skirmish Runs during the 1904 Nationals, for both the National Trophy Individual Match and the National Trophy Team Match. While they are not mentioned as having been fired in 1904, the "double" skirmish run became a part of the National Trophy Matches (Team and Individual) through the 1913 shooting season.
The 1904 National Trophy Matches included for the first time (at the National Trophy Matches), an "Individual National Trophy Match" as well as the "National Trophy Team Match". This addition allowed service rifle shooters an additional chance at winning a rifle leg medal during the National Matches.
The National Trophy Matches were held on the Rifle Range at Ft. Riley Kansas and heavily exposed to hot August winds. The range was not overly "shooter friendly" and the shooters had to climb a 30-foot mound to fire at 1000-yards.
Selection of the All-Army Rifle Team became a bit tricky for 1904, as the rules specified that in the 12-man National Trophy Team, 7 of the 12 competitors were not allowed to compete in the National Trophy Team Match the following year. While this may sound strange, the provision was actually included to increase competition within the Army. Requiring new blood on the All Army squad each year would require constant beating of the bushes to find new talent. The 5 returning individuals, usually called "old shooters," would provide the talent or anchor for the team, while the new shooters would have to be brought along by the old salts in the various branches (Infantry, Cavalry, Infantry, Artillery, etc.). This proved to be a most ingenious scheme to keep the program healthy and discourage inbreeding.
The 8-inch "A" Target had been used as far back as the Matches held in 1881 in essentially the same form. This target was to be utilized in the 8" version until 1920 when a 10" bullseye was substituted.