August 28th, 2009

California Juniors Win Infantry Team Trophy

If you were trying to predict the winner of the 2009 National Trophy Infantry Team Match (NTIT), odds are you would have focused on the top military teams in the event. This makes sense considering that the last time a civilian team won the NTIT was in 1930. That is until a group of juniors from California stepped up to the firing line at Camp Perry on August 7th 2009, and made history.

Team California Grizzlies O’Connell shot a 1284 to win the NTIT, becoming the first junior team to ever win the event and the first civilian team to win in 79 years. In fact the top three NTIT teams this year were civilian. Forbes Rifle and Pistol Club finished second with a 1275 and Oklahoma Rifle Assn. finished third with a 1250. The Grizzlies won the event shooting Hornady 75 gr BTHP match bullets in their .223 ARs. The team also won the junior title and set new records in 2008 and 2009 in the NTT.

The California Grizzlies O’Connell team was named for team coach Jim O’Connell. The team captain was Anthony Henderson, and firing team members were Cheyanne Acebo, David Bahten, Matthew Chezem, Chad Kurgan, Joshua Lehn and Jim Minturn. The team is based out of the Yosemite area in central California, but team members come from all over the state.

Juniors Win Despite Restrictive California Laws
The group’s accomplishments are particularly impressive considering that California State Law prohibits juniors from handling rifles with a removable magazine. In California the team can only practice with a 10-round fixed magazine that can only be removed using a tool. This makes training for rapid fire difficult, and the only time the team gets to practice with standard removable clips is when they arrive to Camp Perry for the National Matches.

The team… can only get together as a whole team a few times during the year. One of those team meetings comes in the summer, when the team attends Camp O’Connell, lead by the team’s coach Jim O’Connell. The eight-day camp is held at the remote Coalinga Rifle Club in Central California, where team members sleep in tents and do range maintenance projects in addition to their training.

Much of [the team’s success] derives from an introductory program that the Grizzlies have established to attract new shooters. There is a .22LR program that introduces the sport to about 160 juniors a year, ages 10-16. If juniors show aptitude and interest, they move to the farm team where they shoot AR-15s at 100-yard reduced targets until they reach Sharpshooter classification.

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Story by Sommer Wood, CMP Writer, courtesy ODCMP.com. The full story appears in the current edition of The First Shot, the CMP Online Newsletter.

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