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 that 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 High Power Rifle Rules booklet ($3.25 from NRA Program Materials Center), and the CMP Competition Rules (FREE 2007 Edition, 60-page Acrobat file). These can be found easily on-line or by contacting each organization.
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 High Power Rifle.
The predominant American-style "High Power" match is a multi-position, multi-distance event. (This is commonly called "Across-the-Course" competition to distinguish it from prone-only High Power matches). It's important to understand the distinctive meaning of "High Power" as that term is applied to rifle matches under American NRA Rules. Most typically, American-style High Power competition means iron sights, three positions (standing, prone, and sitting OR kneeling), with both rapid-fire and slow-fire stages. This form of competition evolved from the U.S. Military's course of fire.
According to the NRA: "Four strings of fire are the basic building blocks of any NRA High Power rifle course of fire or tournament. These are:
1. Slow Fire, standing - 10 rounds at 200 yards in 10 minutes.
2. Rapid Fire, sitting or kneeling - 10 rounds at 200 yards in 60 seconds.
3. Rapid Fire, 10 rounds prone - 300 yards in 70 seconds.
4. Slow Fire, 10 rounds prone - 500 or 600 yards in 10 minutes.
(at the Massachusetts Rifle Association we shoot modified high power slow fire matches at 100 and 200 yards)
Every NRA High Power Rifle match for which classification records are kept is a multiple or a combination of one or more of these strings. The popular National Match 50-shot Course, for instance, consists of 10 rounds slow fire standing; 10 rounds rapid fire sitting or kneeling; 10 rounds rapid fire prone and 20 rounds slow fire prone. The "Full Course" Match is an 80-round event with 20 rounds slow-fire standing; 20 rounds rapid-fire Sitting or kneeling; 20 rounds rapid prone; and 20 rounds slow fire prone. This total possible score is 800. This is the course of fire on which Carl Bernosky recently set a new record, scoring 800-42X.
Matches fired all at one distance and in one position are known as 'single-stage' matches and are usually 20-shot matches (2 times one of the basic strings).
'Slow Fire' [requires little explanation]. The shooter takes his position on the firing line, assumes the prescribed position and is allowed one minute per shot to fire the string, single-loading each round.
'Rapid Fire', on the other hand, is more elaborate. In rapid fire sitting or kneeling, the shooter uses a preparation period to establish sitting or kneeling position; then comes to a standing position and, on command, loads either 2 or 5 rounds (depending on the firearm) into the rifle. When the targets appear or the command to commence fire is given, the shooter gets into the firing position, fires the rounds in the rifle, reloads with 8 or 5 more for a total of 10 and finishes the string. The procedure for rapid fire prone differs only in the firing position and the time spent."
Not required but generally used by competitors, below is a list of equipment to consider when competing in high power rifle matches.
Rifle: Rifles to be used in High Power Rifle competition must be equipped with metallic sights (Some long range, 1000-yard matches allow the use of "any sights"), should be capable of holding at least 5 rounds of ammunition and should be adapted to rapid reloading. Tournament programs often group competitions into two divisions, Match Rifle and Service Rifle. Match Rifles can be modified ARs or bolt actions, special limited-run production guns such as the Tubb 2000, or full customs including composite and metal-stocked "Space Guns".
Photo courtesy Creedmoor Sports.
The rifles currently defined as "Service Rifles" include the M1, M14, M16 and their commercial equivalents [such as the AR15 and Springfield M1A. While aftermarket triggers and barrels are allowed, along with other minor modifications, Service rifles are otherwise held to fairly strict one-design standards. In Service Rifle competition all of the top shooters' rifles have very similar performance so it is shooter skill rather than expensive technology that wins matches--at least in principle.]
Photo courtesy DS Arms.
Winchester and Remington have made their Model 70 and Model 40X rifles in "match" versions and custom gunsmiths have made up match rifles on many military and commercial actions. 1903 and 1903-A3 Springfield, 1917 Enfields and pre-war Winchester Model 70 sporters in .30-06 are all equipped with clip slots for rapid reloading. The most suitable rear sights are aperture or "peep" with reliable, repeatable 1/2 minute (or finer) adjustments. Front sights should be of either the post or aperture type.
Sling: The shooting sling is helpful in steadying the positions and controlling recoil. The sling may be used in any position except standing.
Spotting Scope: A spotting scope or a substitute optical device is important for scoring and observing the placement of shot spotters on the target. The beginning shooter will benefit from the use of about any telescope which gives an erect image. The most suitable spotting scopes, however, have a magnification of from 20 to 25 power and an objective lens at least 50mm in diameter. Eyepieces angled at 45 to 90 degrees are convenient for using the scope without disturbing the shooting position.
Shooting Coat: The shooting coat is equipped with elbow, shoulder and sling pads which contribute to the shooter's comfort. Since there are several styles of shooting coats of varying cost, the shooter is advised to try out several types before making an investment.
Shooting Glove: The shooting glove's primary function is to protect the forward hand from the pressure of the sling. Any heavy glove will serve the purpose until the shooter makes a final choice among several shooting gloves available.
Sight Blackener: The shooter using an exposed front sight such as the blade found on the service rifle will require some means of blackening the sight. A carbide lamp will do this job or a commercial sight black sold in spray cans can be used.
Scorebook: If the shooter is to learn from experience, they should record the conditions and circumstances involved in firing each shot. Sight settings, sling adjustments, wind and light conditions and ammunition used all have a place in the score book. Actual shot value is the least important data recorded.
The Massachusetts Rifle Association provide access to high power rifle competition through monthly matches and through fielding rifle teams for the Eastern Massachusetts Rifle League.
Here is a list of High Power Rifle matches available during the year. See the calendar for more information.
The above text is reprinted from the NRA Competitive Shooting Programs' How to Get Started web page. Copyright © 2007, National Rifle Association of America, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with Permission.