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-   -   What it takes to be competitive, part II - equipment (

Greg Ficklin 10-11-2014 06:27 PM
Went up to the club today and shot this clean with my M1. This was shot at 200 yards prone with a sling like any other CMP GSM match.
This particular M1 is my Clint Fowler 3 lug Unlimited Garand with a new Criterion .308 barrel. This rifle has had everything possible in terms of NM accurizing, so it should shoot like this, but don't think you have to have a $2000 M1 to be competitive. Which brings me to the next topic in this blog. Gear !

You can't be a competitive shooter without good gear. Your gear is everything you take to a match. Most people get into competitive shooting before they have the gear to start. People that already have a rifle suitable for CMP games matches seldom look into, or even know about the game that was created just for them. They are having so much fun sitting on their tail, measuring group sizes, and tinkering with ammo, and the thought of taking a new direction into competition would upset their world where they feel like fundamental marksmanship is below their expertise and skill level.

I'm sure that no one reading this far is in that category, but every competitive shooter was at one time an enthusiast that shot like everybody else, until everything changed. The change is a change in focus away from the rifle, and ammo to a focus on your own ability to put into practice the concepts of fundamental marksmanship to a military standard. In the military all the rifles, and ammo are the same. It's the shooter that wins or looses based on what he knows, his decisions, and application of fundamental concepts.
I have said this before, but it bears repeating. You will never lose to a better rifle in the same category, only better shooters.

With that in mind lets rundown the basic gear you absolutely need, and stuff you will want to make your journey more enjoyable. Let's face it, we love good gear and there seems to be no end to the search for things that will seemingly give us an edge.

Things you absolutely need:
1. Rifle ( Your CMP M1 is fine just as it is)
2. Ammo (more on this later)

Let's look at these two things a little closer.
1. The rifle- The rifle is the least of your worries. You don't need the best rifle to be competitive. If you have a CMP Special, or Service Grade M1, you have a rifle that can win the National JCG at Perry. Just make sure the gas plug is tight, and the rear sight has the proper tension to stay put during the match.
Don't mess around with your rifle too much. People take them apart too much, clean them too much, and blame them too much. If you are field stripping your M1 more than once a year, stop it. It loosens the fit, and wears out the trunions on the trigger guard that hold the whole thing together.

2. Ammo- There are entire books about ammo, and arguments on web forums about it. Since it is the consumable used in all shooting, it is the most debated, studied, and maligned component. Nothing shakes the confidence of a competitor more than untrusted ammo. But we have to realize that the CMP matches are only shot at 200 yards, and dispel some myths about ammo, and superstitions that cause uncertainty in it.

This is my opinion from good to absolute best in terms of match winning ammo.
- Good: HXP and Lake City ball can win any JCG match at 200 yards.
- Better: Surplus LC match ammo, and hand loaded match ammo. (The load used above for the picture was mixed .308 brass FL sized, three different primers, 42gr of Varget thrown with a RCBS uniflow, and a
155 Nozler CC bullet, COAL 3.30.)
- Best: Factory made Hornady, Black Hills, and Creedmore match 30/06. Factory match ammo is in the "best" category because it is. Factory match ammo sets the standard that all competition hand loaders aspire to copy.

Greg Ficklin 10-26-2014 12:42 PM

What it takes to be competitive, part II - equipment
More on ammo....

In my last posting I listed suitable ammo from good to best for the purpose of winning CMP GSMM matches.
Some may be surprised that I put hand loaded ammo below in ranking to factory made match ammunition. I say this because factory made ammo is tested more than anyone can realistically accomplish on their own. There is a lot riding on the performance of factory ammo, in terms of safety, performance, and reputation of it's maker. It is the standard that we hope to equal.

A competent hand loader can make ammo just as good, but it is seldom actually better. The time, speculation, and experimentation takes away from range time best used to focus on the shooters application of fundamentals.
The paradigm of conventional ammo testing, shooting from a bench to eliminate shooter error in search for a holy grail of undiscovered knowledge relating to an accurate 30/06 cartridge is a monumental waste of time, if the goal is to win gold medals in CMP GSMM matches. Not only is range time wasted trying to re invent the wheel, off range time is wasted in the loading room weighing and trickling every charge, segregating bullets, and brass by weight or head stamp or year. This pitfall of OCD, benchrest loading routine robs the new competitor of time and money that is better used elsewhere.

Too often the new competitor thinks the winner of the matches has some secret ammo recipe that gives him the edge, but it always boils down to application of fundamentals, organization, and decision making.
In the big events like the Eastern Games, and National Matches the people at the top of the list are always the same half a dozen that are always in the running for individual, and three gun aggregates.
It is because they spend quality time weeks before the event, with their rifles and gear, shooting from position, and not from the bench testing ammo. They don't measure groups, they count the scores, and X's.

There is no need to post your load recipes here because there is a separate forum for that. Choose a load that is widely accepted to be a winner and go with it. Use range time to perfect yourself and not your ammo.

Greg Ficklin 11-01-2014 11:10 PM

Gear continued......

We have our rifle, and ammo...But what else do we need ?

Everything else comes under the categories of logistics, comfort and organization. While they aren't absolutely necessary to put a round down the middle, they are indispensable in the process of improving, and winning.

I can always tell new shooter. They have nothing, and don't know yet what they want. It takes time and the sense of need to realize what they need. Some with deep pockets will just ask an experienced competitor where to get it, and place a big order, but most have to prioritize and spread the cost over a season or two. The good thing about this stuff is that it is made to last, and for most of it you only have to "buy once, and cry once".
With this in mind the new competitor is best served by seeking quality first and foremost, with some exceptions.

1. Logistical - This includes how you get to the range, and a way to supply yourself with ammo.
For me it is my '99 Dodge 1500 with 218,000 miles on it. Yeah it's old, and burns oil but it's paid for. If I had to constantly pay for new vehicles, I probably wouldn't have succeeded at all in this discipline.
It has been estimated that the cost of acquiring the DR badge, when everything from fuel, equipment, re-loading, match fees and time off from work is considered, it can add up to $20,000 or more ! A friend of mine from England, flies across the pond at least three times a year, uses borrowed rifles, and some he is allowed to have shipped, to compete and earn leg points at major events. He could have went out with the DR this year, but came up just short in the NTI, and Western Games. I hate to think what it has cost him up to now, and it ain't over yet.
When you say dedication, and focus on a goal, no one comes close to Bill Ellis from England. When he finally gets that DR badge, believe will read about it!

The other logistical issue is ammo. I know of no serious competitor that doesn't "roll their own" so to speak. All you need is a basic single stage start up set from RCBS, Hornady, or any other quality maker. Look for specials that offer everything you need in one go.

2. Comfort - Comfort is relative. For the competitive shooter comfort is defined by the ability to get through a string of fire without considerable pain that distracts his focus.

- Coat: Doing your best to remain in some basic level of fitness is important, but in the topic of gear this means a good coat. The coat provides non-slip protection for the elbows, and shoulder. It also insulates natural body rhythms form affecting the sight picture. It also provides a non-slip layer of comfort to the arm that the sling is attached to. These are the primary attributes of a coat that a new shooter needs to have.
It is great if you can spend $350 to $500 on a premium cordura, or leather coat, but for the beginner a high quality canvas duck will do the trick. The lighter canvas duck material with a sweat shirt underneath can come close to the straight jacket feel of a premium leather coat if it fits right. It should come down past the hips, and be cinched up tight in standing, and open up to the top buckle in sitting and prone.
The coat is one of the exceptions in the "buy once, cry once" paradigm if the expense of a premium coat seems too much at first. When you have your game to the point that you need to be at 95% in standing instead of 92%, you will know it's time to spend the money, and gladly do it.

My coat is a Creedmoor leather hardback. It is made to last a lifetime, and them some. I love my shooting coat. When learned to use correctly, it is essential to reaching for perfection in the standing slow fire.

Greg Ficklin 11-15-2014 05:14 PM

Gear continued....

- The spotting scope: Next to the rifle itself, nothing will cost more than the spotting scope. This is the "buy once, cry once" purchase that is most associated with this axiom.

But what do we need a scope for anyway?
Well, for the GSMM matches, not a lot, but for XTC the scope is indispensable. For GSMM matches, it is nice to see your sighters on a walk and pace range, and plot shots in the standing slow fire so that you are training with shot calls and getting better at it even during matches. All matches are training, and all training should be conducted like a match.
A good scope on a stable scope stand can also save your bacon in a rapid fire string, if the shooter develops the discipline to use it. A quick look at the first two can save a string of fire, and bring a 90-0 to a 98-8X especially at the 300 yard line. Scoping the first two in my opinion, is why the rules allow 70 seconds instead of 60 like the sitting rapid.

In an XTC, or full NMC match the scope is still used for these things, but on the long line it is used to spot changes in wind direction and speed. It isn't focused to see the target, but at some distance before the target to see the mirage, or layers of air making waves as they are heated by the sun. Reading the wind from the scope is the primary source of information used to make decisions. When you boil it all down, that's what the 600 yard line is all about,... making decisions.
It is a true skill that takes time to learn, but it starts with this simple question that all good shooters ask themselves. " Is it the same or has it changed ?" You must get your eye in that scope and remember the last condition, and look very carefully at the current one to decide what to do. If the answer is "yes", and you like the shot placement, then don't dilly around. Shoot again, and get right back in the scope. If the answer is "no", then you have a choice to make. Do I adjust the sights, or wait ? Unless I'm at the end of the string, and low on time, I will usually wait to see if my known condition will return instead of messing with the sights to chase a new condition.
These timely decisions made correctly will pay off in more points and X's. A twenty shot slow fire string can get uncomfortable, and effect your discipline to use the scope for each shot. You have to develop the habit so that it becomes a discipline of it's own. You need a good scope that will last a lifetime, and survive the rigors of life on the range.

I have found that for me the best scope for high power is the Kowa 661 with 25X LER eyepiece. It has the most performance in a more compact size for the money than the 77mm, and 82 mm scopes.
Remember that the bigger the scope, the more it can catch the wind and blow over. The 60, and 66 mm scopes don't give up anything to the larger more expensive Kowa's in conditions that you will use them. If it's pouring rain, then no scope made will make a difference. The scope has to be rugged, and water proof, with as much eye relief as you can get. This is what makes Kowa the preferred brand for HP competitors.
A scope is only as good as the stand it is used on. I recommend a sturdy 1" pole with at least 2 segments, and a wide three legged base like the Creedmoor Polecat, Ray-Vin, or Ewing stand. Giraud tool also makes an outstanding scope stand.
You are going to pay a lot for a good scope, so don't go cheap on the stand, or adjustment head.
Buy once cry once.

Greg Ficklin 11-29-2014 10:41 AM

The Cart
More gear....

I am pleased to see that his thread has the most views. It proves to me that many of you on this forum are interested in the opinions of and old Jar-head DR. It's been a couple of weeks since my last post so lets dive back in with a subject that I have a lot to say about.

Under organization, we have the cart.......

This is my cart. It is a Schneller . It is always stored ready to go to the range. It has everything I need and nothing I don't.
The cart is the center of your organization while at the range. What ever your organization is, you will never advance without a being organized. You need what you need, and you need it where you need it, at the time you need it.
I often see shooters that think they need more than they do, so their organization looks more like the pioneers going west with the wagon train, instead of down to the 200 yard line. They have ammo for rifles they didn't bring, tool boxes, cleaning gear, and even rifles they aren't shooting that day. Their organization is a wagon, their home away from home.
When it comes time to shoot, they have to leave it all behind the ready line. They use up all of their prep time shuttling back and forth to get stuff they had forgotten, or couldn't carry on the first trip. I rarely see these shooters getting medals because their organization or lack of it has them stuck in perpetual noob status.

While it may seem prudent to have a wagon, a primary hauler of too much stuff, I want you avoid this pitfall in favor of efficiency, and organization. A rolling cart/stool is the way to go. It has taken me several years to get my cart to the state you see it in this picture.

From top to bottom let me tell you about it.
1. The first thing you will notice is that it carries my scope stand with the scope attached. The scope stand serves to pull/push, and steer the cart. I can walk with everything I have down a gravel road and have a free hand to greet friends, and drink a cup of coffee without loosing anything. The next thing you will notice is a folding chair. I'm a big guy, and I need a big chair. While you could sit on your cart for scoring, I don't recommend it. If you break it, you will have a bad day. Unless your cart is made of bar stock like the Creedmoor "Big Blue" don't sit on it. Get a good comfortable chair.

2. Next is a feature I love about my Schneller. The fold up table with clip board. It holds a databook, score cards, ammo box, and a countdown timer. I find it to be indispensable for standing slowfire. I put a strip of wood on it for a fence to keep any loose items from rolling off, and a pen on a string. Write your NRA, and CMP numbers on the top with a big sharpie. The back side when not deployed is perfect for the many stickers you get.
Next you will notice another string with a sweat rag tied to it. This simple addition to the cart is worth at least ten points in standing to me. You get pretty steamy wearing a coat in August, so you need to refresh, and refocus from time to time, and the sweat rag is just the trick to wipe off the rifle, your face, and glasses. I have one for standing and another rag on a string near the ground for prone.

3. On top of the stool you see my mat, and shooting coat secured for travel with a bungee. On the right side is a vertical rifle holder, and cleaning rod tube.

4. My cart has a deluxe Creedmoor bag. It has a large storage area with plenty of pockets with Velcro closures. The bag is primarily for brass, my glove, and two cartridge organizers for standing in .223, and 30/06. The side pockets are for data books, a magnifying glass, two M1 enblocks, and two good stripper clips. The front pouches have a lens cleaning kit, and a box that holds my Bob Jones "Harry Potter" shooting glasses.

5. On the bottom of the cart close to the ground is where it gets interesting. It is a flat piece of aluminum secured with hose clamps that spans across the front legs that accepts anything with ALICE clips.
Here I have a Ray-Vin smoker in a pouch that also has an asperin bottle of water, a small bottle of carbide, and my Ray-Vin 1903 sight micrometer.
Next is a large general use pouch that has a single shot SLED magazine, another countdown timer for use in prone, and sight adjustment tools for the K-31, and M1917.
Last but not least is two M-16 mag pouches. I have wadded up paper in the bottom of them to hold my magazines near the top. Use one pouch for 8 rounders, and another pouch for 2 rounders. Mark the two rounders with a white paster or piece of tape on both sides. There is no need to mark the 8 rounders, and it may cause confusion if you do. Always keep them loaded with two and eight, and keep them separated. This simple discipline will save time and confusion that serves to stay focused.

One of the great features of the Schneller is that the axle and wheels are moved rearward along bent tubing that places them behind the center of gravity unlike wheel kits that just attach to a cart's legs. This provides greater stability, room for a larger bag, and allows for another shelf that most use for a small lunch cooler.
I have a camel back pit bag for snacks and drinking water, so I use the shelf space for an ammo box. Always bring enough ammo for yourself and one other person. You may be able to help someone in a jam that needs a new friend to save the day.

That's my cart. I hope it gives you some good ideas on setting up your organization.

Rootsy 11-30-2014 12:50 PM

I'm no distinguished or master anything, I am just happy to hit the black. But here is my take on the cart subject.

After using a hand truck at Perry last year and having just a Creedmoor stool and deluxe bag I broke down last January and spent the money on the bare bones Schneller cart. Has been a purchase I in no way regret. Money well spent.

The entire package can seem like a lot of money to spend and it is. The cart @ $250 isn't bad but shipping is a big bite to chew on ($50 to get it to Michigan). I ended up also buying the rifle holder and the rear shelf.

Forget the quick handle removal add-ons. A couple of longer carriage bolts, 2 lock nuts and two plastic knobs for about $5 work great.

I am still accessorizing to meet my needs but the deluxe bag holds most of what is needed. Your coat and mat can sit on top crosswise and the scope stand will hold it all in there when using it as a handle as mentioned.

I have a small fold out stool I use for pit duty and to sit on while scoring. It has a small pouch in it and in that I have an eraser, chalk, wall paper spreader, scoring procedure card, ear muffs and extra ear plug, pasters, a few extra golf tees a spotting disk and a scoring disk. It will also hold a couple of bottles of water / gatoraide and some granola or candy bars.

It fits behind the fold down shelf and I just lash it with some bungy straps.

I also painted the top of the shelf with a hammertone flat finish as the glare can be quite blinding.

I like the idea of something to hold spare magazines.

One other thing to have... Something to cover your entire cart with in case of rain. A poncho works but isn't quite large enough. Some of the USAMU guys use a grill cover and it can cover a couple of carts at a time. Creedmoor, etc sell dedicated covers for their carts and they'll probably fit on the Schneller.

Greg Ficklin 12-22-2014 09:26 AM

Leather sling assembly
The sling

Before we get into the positions we have to look at the sling an how to use it.
Why do we use a sling? What kind of sling? How to put it on correctly. I'll answer these, and put some pictures to make it as clear as possible because the sling is your best friend.

The sling has two purposes, well really three, but for now it's two.
1) Provides maximum stability for the rifle in firing.
2) Instills confidence in the shooter.

The military learned long ago that to be effective in combat shooting, one must first be competent in fundamental marksmanship, and fundamental marksmanship starts with correctly using the sling.
There are lots of different slings, but for this discussion we will only cover the two types that are usually found on service rifles; The 1907 style loop sling, and the web sling.
I recommend the 1907 style leather sling made by Ron Brown, Les Tam, John Weller, or Turner slings. All of these are made with top quality leather that will last a long time. Use a sling that is 54" long.

The 1907 sling has a long piece with a "dog" or "frog" riveted to the end, two keepers, and a short side that has a D ring and another "dog" or "frog". The leather can be up to 1-1/4 inches wide, and up to 3/16 inch thick per the rulebook. It can have no more than two keepers.

Take your sling apart, and place the pieces on the floor in front of you like this:

1. Lay the long piece on the floor with the dog on the left side, and the shiny side of the leather up. (The frog's legs will point down)
2. The short side with the D ring is placed with the D ring to the left, and the rough side of the leather up. The dog is on the right side with the legs going up.
3. Take the two keepers and slide them onto the long piece up to the dog. THE KEEPERS AND THE DOG ALWAYS STAY TOGETHER.
4. Take the feed end of the long piece and put it DOWN through the D ring, then through the keepers, that are where? UP AGAINST THE DOG.....Right.
5. Now keep sliding the feed end to make the loop about half the size of the long piece.
That's all there is to it. Now it's time to put it on the rifle.

6. Take the feed end and put it DOWN through the upper sling swivel, and hook the dog on the second or third set of holes.

7. Take the dog on the short end UP through the bottom sling swivel, and hook it anywhere you want to carry your rifle comfortably, or to make a tight parade sling.

It is important to put it on this way. You will understand on the next installment of using the sling correctly.

M1Jeff 12-22-2014 05:54 PM

For a supporting video of sling assembly:

Greg_D 04-02-2015 09:16 PM

Thanks for the great thread and inspiration. I shot JROTC NRA 50ft rifle in high school in the mid 80's. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I have a CMP M1 Special and have signed up for my first match June 6th at Talladega. All I have is the rifle, mat, and ammo. I will get a jacket and accessories once I learn what to get. This thread has helped tremendously. I look forward to meeting you all. I'm about 2hrs from Talladega and plan one or two trips in May to practice. Can I shoot the first match without a jacket? I don't think I will need a spotting scope with the electronic scoring system.

BobSanders 04-02-2015 09:20 PM


Originally Posted by Greg_D (Post 1273151)
Thanks for the great thread and inspiration. I shot JROTC NRA 50ft rifle in high school in the mid 80's. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I have a CMP M1 Special and have signed up for my first match June 6th at Talladega. All I have is rifle, mat, and ammo. I will get a jacket and accessories once I learn what to get. This thread has helped tremendously. I look forward to meeting you all. I'm about 2hrs from Talladega and plan one or two trips in May to practice. Can I shoot the first match without a jacket? I don't think I will need a spotting scope with the electronic scoring system.

Jackets not required. But if I may suggest, get a shooting stool. They are really nice to rest your rifle on between shots during offhand. Especially a 20 round string.

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