The annual National Matches has welcomed rifle and pistol competitors of all ages from around the country and the world since 1903. Moving to its current home at the Camp Perry National Guard Training Facility in Ohio in 1907, thousands of guests travel to the event each July and August to take part in the several competitive, educational and purchasing opportunities offered on the grounds.
Attending the National Matches has become a tradition that has moved through the generations, with some returning year after year, without fail. The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), the entity that has helped facilitate the National Matches since 1996, has compiled a list of recognition of those who have attended the event for 20, 30 or even 50 years. These individuals have spent decades of their lives devoted to marksmanship, celebrating its legacy each summer on the shores of Lake Erie, and we at the CMP thank them for their unwavering support.
Dermid McDonald, 75, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – 50 years of National Matches
Distinguished Pistol Badge earned in 1983
How did you get involved with competitive marksmanship?
I got involved in shooting with coworkers at my place of employment, who were long-time shooters. I started shooting .22 caliber and quickly got interested in centerfire. Many of the shooters I knew went to Camp Perry and fired in DCM pistol matches, which, at the time, were all leg matches to get the Distinguished Pistol Badge.
I had a ball gun built by an armorer, but I found the pistol difficult to shoot and preferred to shoot NRA matches where I could shoot wadcutter ammo and my reloads.
What was your first National Matches experience like?
My first year at Camp Perry was 1970. I went as an individual and did not shoot team matches. During that year, I fired my first leg match. It was not pretty – not enough practice with ball ammo. It was difficult to compete with ball ammo if I did not practice and did not shoot it in competition.
Then what happened?
I went on for several years, with little success. My friend, an armorer and Marine, had a talk with me about goals and pushed me to shoot more and practice if I wanted to be a shooter.
He took the rib off of my wad gun and had me shoot a light slide wad pistol in all NRA matches, but when I shot .45 caliber NRA matches, I had to shoot my ball gun.
As time progressed, I fired more DCM matches, and my competition scores were never good enough to get a leg. I could shoot 270 to 280-plus in practice, but when I shot a leg match, I would shoot in the 240 to 250 range. But, I did not give up. I started traveling to shoot places so I could shoot more leg matches.
I got my first leg in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. I fired 276 and got a bronze leg (6 points).
P.S. I never got a leg at (Camp) Perry until after I went Distinguished in 1983.
What matches do you compete in at Camp Perry?
I have fired all the DCM/CMP matches at Perry since 1970, as well as the National Trophy Team and NRA team matches with many state and local club teams for many years, but not all. To get on the team to shoot DCM/CMP matches at Perry, you have to make the team in local matches, and that did not happen during all years.
Do you have any favorite memories?
Every year, the best experience was always competing with the best shooters in the country and being able to compete at a level that you don’t find anywhere else. There are too many stories, good and bad, during my 50 years.
Any advice for new National Match-goers?
I received my Distinguished Badge during the DCM years, when they handed you the ammo 230 grain Full Metal Jacket and told you to go shoot. You did not have a zero for the ammo, so you fired the first shot, called where it was on the target, and then, many times, grabbed your screwdriver and adjusted your sites, if necessary.
And don’t be shy! It is a 30-round match. You don’t have time to make a decision – be aggressive and trust your skills with the pistol. lf you have a problem to fix, then don’t wait – no time – every shot counts. If you make adjustments, always fall back on your basics.
Many, many shooters I fired with and against were better than I was, but not all had their Distinguished Badge. If you are Distinguished, it means that you know how to shoot under pressure.
Any other marksmanship memories you’d like to discuss?
The Atlantic Fleet leg in Pax River, Maryland.
I waited all day long to shoot – anyone who could walk and was over 16 and could hold a pistol shot that day. I arrived at 4 a.m. I got on the line after 2 p.m. in the afternoon.
I shot my slow fire and fired a 78.
Well, I figured I was out of it, so the pressure was off, so I just fired the pistol. I went on to shoot 95 timed and 95 rapid for a 268 total and a silver leg (8 points). So, don’t ever give up!
Every year I shot at Perry, I was an Expert, and I still am – not consistent enough over a 2700.
In 1983, I fired a centerfire slow fire match – no wind, great shooting weather and made a 98 show, backed up with a 94 for a total of 192 with six Xs. I kept looking for my scores when they were posted, but I could not find my slow fire. I was going to file a protest when my teammate said I was looking in the wrong place and that I finished third overall for that match.
That was a surprise! But I remembered that the wind the rest of that day was brutal – a real Camp Perry wind.
— Ashley Brugnone, CMP Staff Writer
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.