Going to Camp Perry?
By Jon Y. Wolfe
I wanted to set about writing this article as soon as possible after my very first Camp Perry experience; while the blood, sweat and tears are still fresh on my mind.
Camp Perry can be an overwhelming experience for the first timer as well as the experienced veteran. The wind, heat, mud, firearm problems, and an assortment of other conditions that are out of one's control make competing at Camp Perry a unique and unforgettable experience. What's more, being exposed to such harsh and uncontrollable conditions, coupled with such a prestigious event, makes for an interesting parallel of divergence. On one hand you have esteemed marksmen competing on hollowed ground for prestigious and honorable places in our nation's history books, and on the other you have horrible conditions of heat, dehydration, exhaustion, pit duty, and the possibility of spending hours in the sweltering sun without a single break.
Additionally, these competitors don't have multimillion-dollar contracts, and with the exception of the service men and women, most of the competitors spend lots of their own money and resources just to be there. I'd like to see a modern day sports star or Hollywood celebrity go through these types of conditions to maintain their stardom status. The shooting sports are truly a noble American sport.
One of the most important decisions for the typical individual competitor is where to stay while competing at Camp Perry. Several on base options are available. There are huts, barracks, modules and the recently opened RV Park. Additionally you may stay at a local campground or hotel.
An important aspect of staying on base is the availability or lack thereof of air-conditioned units. I would recommend staying off base and driving in at least an hour early to get a good parking spot close to the range where you will be competing. I stayed in the RV Park and found it to be satisfactory. I drove over to the ranges early enough each morning to get a parking spot close to the range I was firing on.
Once you've got a place to stay, the next item is making sure you have all the gear you need to make it through a day on the range. I want to emphasize that a day on the range at Perry is a full day's work. Make sure you have the following items.
When you are preparing mentally for a day on the range, remember that you will be on a relay and a firing point and if you are late for morning roll call you will lose your spot and will be reassigned or disqualified. Allow yourself at least 20 minutes to get your gear and yourself to the appropriate point on the firing line from the parking area.
Each relay has a certain rotation and your responsibilities will be to shoot, wait to shoot (ready line), keep score (need a spotting scope, writing instrument) and pit duty. The worst of these in my opinion is pit duty. In the pits you are required to score your target for a certain shooting or a group, say relays 1-3. Additionally, once you are in the pits, you cannot leave! So be prepared to stay in the pits for at least a few hours. Take what you need and leave the rest on the assembly line at your next point of fire.
Sighting in your rifle for the Camp Perry rifle range is vitally important. At Perry, it's called getting your "dope". This year was the first year a 600 yard practice session was allowed. Previously only a 200 yard practice session was conducted. On my home range I had my rifle sighted in at 200 and 300 yards, however, I had to make 2 clicks (2 MOA) of adjustment to my elevation during the practice session in order to bring up my group to the 10 ring at 200 yards.
Additionally, you will need to know have many clicks to go up from 200 yards to reach your 300 yard zero. This is absolutely vital because the 300 yard shot strings are rapid fire and if you don't have a good 300 yard zero, you will have great difficulty making sight adjustments during a 60 or 70 second rapid fire string.
Since I was not seriously competing and was primarily there for the exposure, I used my post war M1 manufactured by Springfield Armory to add a bit of classic flavor to my experience. I can not emphasize how accurately standard M1 rifles are using regular ball ammo. There has never been a period in my time shooting firearms that I have felt so confident shooting out to 300 yards. It is a feeling of true satisfaction knowing that you can use iron sights and stay within a pie plate at 300 yards. On the other hand, shooting in windy conditions at distances over 300 yards is humbling.
When stretching it out to 600 yards things quickly become more challenging and in doing so I learned a very important lesson. A 150 grain .30 caliber bullet will not buck the wind at 600 yards and will move from one side of the target to the other if you have a even a minimal 3 mph wind.
Generally speaking, a wind blowing left to right will move your bullet right and down, but how much depends on the angle and the speed. Due to the angle, a wind moving from 9:00 o'clock to 3:00 o'clock with affect your bullet's trajectory more than one coming from 7:00 o'clock to 1:00 o'clock. A wind blowing right to left will move your bullet left and up. This is all based on a barrel with a right hand twist, and a faster twist rate somewhat amplifies the up and down effect, as does the total surface area of the bullet. I always knew theoretically this was the case, but being that I had never fired at 600 yards I had never experienced it first hand.
A general rule of thumb for the .30 caliber is that the 150 grain bullet will hold pretty well up to 300, but you need at least a 168 grain for 600 yard work. Some folks are even using 173 to 175 grains. Additionally, you can use the standard ball for 200 and 300 yards and then use hand loads for the 600 yard string as the 600 yard shot string is slow fire and each round has to be loaded one at a time. This allows those that hand load to set your OAL out closer to the lands, which is purported to increase accuracy.
Camp Perry service rifle competitions are dominated by M16 type rifles, and the use of the M1A or the M1 is extremely limited. While I will probably never move to shooting a M16 type for competition, the individual who wants to be competitive should consider such a proposition. The M16 type has lower recoil, more inherent accuracy potential, and better ergonomics. Additionally the advent of 1/7 twist rate barrels for the M16 type allow the use of heavier bullets thereby allowing shooters to shoot very accurately out to 600 yards.
Camp Perry was a very memorable and educational experience for me as a shooting sports enthusiast, and I look forward to going back at some point in the future, after I've honed my skills to the point were I can be competitive.
Copyright 2006 by Jon Y. Wolfe. All rights reserved.