April 13th, 2021

Memories from Six Decades of Pistol Matches at Camp Perry

NTT National Trophy Team Pistol Match Camp Perry Gold Cup

The National Matches at Camp Perry are a great American tradition. Over the past 114 years, hundreds of thousands of competitors have enjoyed the rifle and pistol matches at Perry on the shores of Lake Erie. Today’s story, from an avid shooter now in his 80s, recounts the halcyon days of pistol competition at Camp Perry, when thousands of shooters competed on the pistol firing lines each summer.

My Camp Perry Experience…
More than 40 National Pistol Matches since 1963

by Don Weihl, 83, Swansea, Illinois

Shooting at Camp Perry has been the experience of a lifetime….

Best Camp Perry times were in the Sixties
The 1963 through 1967 years were the best…

There were more than 2,000 competitors each year. There were 600 targets — numbered 1 through 600, from left to right — across the ranges and grouped into six ranges, 100 targets wide. The matches ran like a well-oiled machine. There was a print shop on the base. All competitors could get a printed match report for each match, not too long after scores were in.

Most nights in those years, there were movies for the competitors and their families in the base theater. The mess hall in those years served three meals a day to over 3,000 hungry mouths – every day.

Favorite memory of Camp Perry — A Record Performance

NTT National Trophy Team Pistol Match Camp Perry Gold Cup

My favorite memory of Camp Perry [was] in 1966. I was on the line firing next to the Army Team when MSGT Ralph O. Thompson (shown above) fired a 100 on the first .22 cal. pistol target. R.O. then fired another 100 on the second target, setting a National Record of 200×8. That is still unforgettable.

What I like Best about Camp Perry…

Each morning, the day begins with the roar of the cannon and colors. The National Anthem is played as the smoke clears and all stand at attention. Only first relay shooters are on the line, but many second and third relay shooters are there, as well as the match support community – all to observe the colors. Other matches begin with the National Anthem, but at Camp Perry, it is better.

Pistol Camp Perry

What Was My Favorite Perry Pistol Match?

Actually, There is no favorite match in bullseye shooting. At Camp Perry, you are there to compete against yourself and everybody else. You also compete against the elements, where a slight breeze can turn into a gale, while the grass beneath your feet turns into a muddy obstacle.

What have I Learned on the Firing Line with Other Competitors over the Years?

Everyone learns they are among friends. If there is a problem, the shooter next to you or the shooter next to him will help. If your pistol breaks, the back-up pistol of a nearby competitor will be offered quickly, and the match will proceed.

Advice for First Time Camp Perry Competitors?

Learn to concentrate on something unique to YOUR target. With so many targets so close together, cross-fires are common. Don’t let it be you.

National Matches at Camp Perry Returns in 2021

The National Trophy Pistol and Rifle Matches have been an honored American tradition for generations. The National Trophy Matches have been held at Camp Perry, Ohio, since 1907, 114 years ago. Participants in the 2021 National Pistol Matches can choose from a number of competitions, as well as attend the Pistol Small Arms Firing School. There, trainees will receive classroom instruction before heading to the range for live firing and one-on-one match training.

NTT National Trophy Team Pistol Match Camp Perry Gold Cup
Civilians and military shooters competed together at the 2019 NTT Pistol Match.

The 2021 National Matches will feature multiple pistol competitions, including a Centerfire Pistol 900 Aggregate, a .45 Pistol 900 Aggregate, and a CMP Revolver Match. To learn more about the CMP’s scheduled events at the upcoming 2021 National Matches at Camp Perry, visit the CMP Nat’l Matches Website. Registration is NOW OPEN.

It took decades of competition to acquire all those patches — that’s dedication to the sport.
Camp Perry National Matches EIC Rimfire Service Pistol .22 LR Competition NRA CMP

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