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May 23rd, 2021

SunDay Gunday: CMP 4-Gun Aggregate Champion Brian Williams

Brian Williams M1 Garand M1903 springfield .30-06 M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

Brian Williams is one of the top CMP match shooters in the nation. At the recent 2021 CMP Eastern Games, Brian won both the 3-Gun and 4-Gun Aggregates. He also won the 4-Gun at the CMP National Matches in Camp Perry three years in a row — the inaugural 2017 4-Gun Agg, plus 2018 and 2019. Due to COVID, there were no CMP Camp Perry National Matches in 2020. Brian noted: “We will never know what may have happened in 2020, but I will be there in Ohio in 2021 to defend the 4-Gun title.”

Brian Williams M1 Garand M1903 springfield .30-06 M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

Given his remarkable, consecutive “three-peat” in the CMP 4-Gun Aggregate at Camp Perry, it cannot be questioned that Brian is the leading CMP 4-Gunner in the nation. In this article, Brian provides perspectives on the “Wood Gun” game, with suggestions on how to improve your performance with the M1 Garand, M1903 Springfield, M1917 Enfield, M1 Carbine, and other 20th Century military rifles. While Brian also shoots his AR15 for the 4-Gun, today’s article focuses on his favorite firearms — his classic “Wood Rifles”.

VIDEO Showcase — Brian Williams Shoots M1903A3 Prone in May 2021

The Classic Wood Guns of CMP 4-Gun Competition

Perspectives on M1 Garand, M1903A3, M1917, and M1 Carbine
Q: What should one look for when acquiring older rifles for CMP 4-Gun Games — M1 Garand, M1903/1903A3, M1917, M1 Carbine? What are realistic budgets for these firearms? What kind of accuracy can one expect? What upgrades are important?

Brian: All of these military surplus rifles are out there, but they are getting harder to get your hands on. And, just like everything else, the prices continue to rise. Not that long ago you could get your hands on a M1 Garand for four or five hundred dollars. In today’s market they are usually about double that price. But understand that these rifles are all unique and all have a story to tell. No two are alike, or have the same story. Just like the guns themselves, there are fewer and fewer dedicated gunsmiths for these vintage rifles. But I promise if you look for a good smith, they are out there and they are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet.

M1 Garand — Of the four (4) centerfire guns I shoot in the CMP games, my favorite has to be the M1 Garand. There were over 6 million of them produced in a very short time period, and every single one has its own unique story, and that is just cool. M1 Garands are capable of good accuracy. I believe that a well-maintained M1 with at least a replacement barrel is capable of shooting between 1 and 1.5 MOA.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

M1903A3 Springfield — I find that the sights on a M1903A3 are a little easier to see than the sights of the M1903, but both are very accurate rifles. Like most military rifles in the current climate the prices have risen dramatically, but there are some gems out there that can be had for far less than $1000. The nice thing about the Springfield rifle is that almost all of the accuracy than you would want can come from just replacing a worn out 80-year-old barrel. In terms of accuracy, I think a good M1903A3 can shoot 1 MOA most of the time.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

M1917 Enfield — This rifle is the newest of my collection and it shoots very well, with just a new Criterion barrel — again about 1 MOA with iron sights. These rifles are very close in price to the M1903 Springfield. But if you do your homework and keep your eyes open, there are always great deals to be found. I actually prefer shooting the M1917 to my M1903A3, due primarily to the M1917’s cock-on-close bolt which allows smoother cycling.

M1 Carbine — By 1945 there had been more M1 Carbines built than Garands. Today the Carbine can be harder to find, and due to the scarcity the price has shot up and most military M1 Carbines are going for more than $1000 at this point. The great thing about the M1 Carbine is that as long as you have a good ammo supply this rifle can shoot. Honest. I have had countless numbers of people that tell me that there is not an M1 carbine that will shoot. I can tell you from experience that they will, but you are going to have to put in some time with one to learn how to get it to shoot where you want it.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun
The M1 Carbine shoots the .30 Carbine round, with 110gr bullet going about 1990 FPS. In comparison, the .30-06 Springfield round used in the M1 Garand is almost three times more powerful than the .30 Carbine.

Reloading for .30-06 Springfield Rifles

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

Tech Report by Brian Williams
Reloading for a military surplus gun as different than loading for a modern precision rifle in my opinion. There are a few tasks that care over from one to the other, but the main goal is slightly different. The Target that is being shot in the CMP games matches has a rather generous 10 ring, and with a little larger target you focus needs to change from a round with ultra accuracy to a round that is safe and functions well in your particular rifle.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-GunBullet Selection — With the .30-06 for my Garands and Springfields I stick mostly with 168gr bullets plus some 155-grainers. These bullet weights have just worked for me in the past.

Cartridge Brass (Milsurp vs. Commercial) — I use both military and commercial brass, having success with each. I do prefer commercial brass as it is easier to prep for the first reload. Military brass usually has a primer crimp of some kind that needs to be removed, and I have found that trimming these cases can sometimes leave you scratching your head as the OAL on military cases varies considerably.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-GunPower Charge and Dispensing — I have always had good success with Hodgdon H4895 powder. My load has always been right around 47.0 grains, with both the 168gr and 155gr bullets. I also use the Auto-Trickler to drop all of my powder charges. This is a fantastic piece of equipment that not only gives super-consistent powder charges quickly, but it also makes one less thing that you have to worry about while on the firing line. With the Auto-Trickler, there is never a question about the powder charge in your ammo. As for primers, I have been shooting CCI 200 Large Rifle primers for many years and have never had an issue.

Case Care and Trimming — With most of the .30-06 brass that I use, I will only reload them 5 times maximum. I don’t push the brass too much, because the Garand’s semi-auto cycling can be tough on the cases. I also trim my cases for OAL each reload cycle. I use a Giraud power trimmer, so trimming is relatively quick and easy.

The chambers in some of the older rifles are not perfectly-machined like a modern high-end rifle. This can cause the brass to grow a little inconsistently, so I find trimming every load cycle helps to make sure that everything stays in a nice safe spec.

Case Annealing — A few years ago I started to anneal my .223 Rem service rifle brass. Now I have added that process for all my match ammunition. I anneal after every firing. It is a rather easy step as I can have my auto-feeding Annealeez machine running while doing something else, so annealing does not add a great deal of time or effort to the reloading process.

.30-06 Springfield .308 Winchester
The .30-06 case was the father of the .308 Winchester, which was adopted as the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge. Brian has another Garand chambered in .308 Win which he shoots in Service Rifle Class in the President’s Match and NTI Match at Camp Perry.

Perspective on CMP 4-Gun (and 3-Gun) Aggregate Competition

Since the CMP’s introduction of the 4-Gun Aggregate in 2017, combining three classic wood rifles with the modern AR15-platform guns, Brian has lead the field, winning the 4-Gun at every National Match cycle held so far by the CMP at Camp Perry. Brian has also dominated in the 3-Gun Aggregate which includes the three older wood rifles.

Q. What’s the most fun/satisfying thing about shooting CMP 4-Gun Aggs?

Brian: The 4-Gun Agg takes place over several days, and is usually decided by a very thin margin of victory. Making sure that you are prepared for all four rifles and keeping focus through several days of competition is very difficult. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you are able to perform well for the entire aggregate.

Q. Do you like shooting the wood rifles more or the AR in Modern Military?

Brian: No question that the wood rifles are my favorite. A steel rifle, with a beautiful wood stock (see above), firing the .30-06 Springfield, is “where it is all at” in my opinion.

Q. What is the best approach to shooting these older Wood Guns?

Brian: One of the things that I struggled with shooting the “wood guns” is that it is so easy to tell yourself that its the rifle and not your bad habits or poor position. “The rifle is far older than I am it must just not be a shooter”. In order to be successful with these rifles you have to be honest with yourself. Only then will you improve.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

Q. If you could change any CMP 4-Gun course of fire, or revise aspects of the CMP 4-Gun discipline, what would you modify/alter?

Brian: There is always conversation around changing the course of fire, target dimensions, or putting certain rifles into different classes. I like the fact that I have to adapt myself to fit the current discipline. I would surely not want to make it any easier. I feel like that would decrease some of the satisfaction that I get from competing well.

Q: What are your key gear items and shooting accessories?

Brian: A good shooting coat has been very important for me. I currently use a Creedmoor Hardback Cordura Leather Coat. I also think that a good rifle sling is very important. For the last couple of years I have been using a Eric Hollis National Match leather sling and love it. I own a ShotMarker e-Target system and I think it’s one of the best training tools that I own. It just makes it so easy to shoot, capture information, and then be able to recall that information later and use it to improve.

The Mental Game — How to Become a Better Marksman

Q. What is your pre-match routine (mental/physical match prep)?

Brian: I try not to do anything different on match day that I would do any other day. I am a coffee drinker and drink just as much on match day as I do on any work day. This game is very mental, and I find that treating match day just like any other day helps me to control stress and anxiety.

Q. If you could do it all over from the beginning, how would you change your training/practicing processes?

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-GunBrian: I have learned that practice makes me better, but just sending rounds down range is not that beneficial to me. Some of the biggest improvements I have made have come from practice sessions where I did not fire very many rounds. Working through the shot process, being honest with myself, and evaluating what needs to happen to get the desired outcome.

Q. Most guys will never achieve what you’ve done in Marksmanship, i.e. win multiple multi-gun titles. What are the other positive things people can get from the sport, beyond trophies and glory?

Brian: This is an easy one — this sport is full of the most genuine, thoughtful, and helpful people out there. I have friendships with people that I only see a couple times per year… yet when we see each other it’s like we had just gotten together last week. This does not just apply to fellow competitors, but also to the folks who run matches, to those who supply gear, even to spouses of competitors who’ve fed me more times than I can remember.

Brian Williams M1 Garand M1903 springfield .30-06 M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

Brian “Carbine” Williams, King of Wood Guns
Commentary by Dennis Santiago
When it comes to CMP Games competition, Brian Williams presently dominates the multi-gun field. I first met Brian at the so-called Michigan Embassy at Camp Perry, a makeshift compound of tables, pop ups and lawn chairs where competitors gather at the end of the shooting day to exchange stories. It’s a “who’s who” gathering of High Power personalities exchanging tall tales. In this prestigious crowd, Brian Williams is “King of Wood Guns”, his mastery of the GSMM (Garand, Springfield, Modern Military) Four-Gun Aggregate renown to all. Yet he is as humble a champion you can ever hope to spend time with.

I discovered that Brian and I share a mutual love of the U.S. .30 Caliber M1 Carbine, a rifle many other shooters don’t give a second thought. But we believe in the potential of the little gun. We know that when driven right, the joy of collecting gold achievement pins with it. I’ve enjoyed trading notes with Brian about how to make it shoot better to turn in scores in the high 360s to mid-370s out of a possible 400. In this regard, I assure you Brian is again the guy who will shoot the 400 possible on any given day. He truly deserves the moniker “Carbine” Williams.

Marksmanship Journey — from Novice to CMP 4-Gun Champion

I started shooting High Power rifle in 2007 with an iron sights AR15 A2. Most of the local shooting clubs are reduced course, so for the first couple of years I only shot reduced course of fire at 100 and 200 yards. In 2010 I shot my first match at the full distance of 200, 300, 600 yards, and was introduced to the Distinguished rifleman program. At that point I decided set a goal to “go distinguished”. In 2011, I made the trip to Camp Perry and was able to shoot in the M16 EIC match and thereby earn my first four introductory leg points. The day of the match went very well for me. Not only did I earn the points, but I won the match, and set a new National Record with the win. Over the rest of that season and the beginning of 2012 I was able to collect enough points to make my goal of going Distinguished.

Over the following years I continued to shoot a service rifle, first with iron sights and then with a scope when the rules changed. I enjoyed every bit of shooting the AR15. In 2014 I started to get into the CMP Games guns, with the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine. I enjoyed these two rifles so much that I decided that I should get a M1903 Springfield and I should also get a rifle to shoot in the vintage military rifle matches. For that I ordered a K-31 Swiss rifle.

In 2017 the CMP introduced a 4-Gun Aggregate award at the National Matches. This Aggregate would include the Garand, Springfield, Vintage rifle, and the new Modern Military rifle (non-scoped service rifle). For the first year of the 4-Gun Agg, I spent a good deal of time preparing for these matches in the months leading up to Nationals. Well that time was well spent as I did win the 4-Gun Aggregate. At this point in my shooting career I had gone Distinguished, made the President’s 100, and had achieved a classification of High Master, but the 4-gun Agg was the thing I was most proud of. I enjoy shooting these older rifles because they had such an impact on the world in which we live today. The M1 Garand played a key role in WW II, and the M1903 Springfield has been carrying out its job for over 100 years.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

Mix that in with the fact that all of the competitors in the CMP Games matches are some of the finest people that I have ever surrounded myself with. Great guns and great people, who could ask for more?

In 2018 I campaigned a .308 Win-chambered Garand across the course in the President’s Match and the National Trophy Match at Camp Perry. Again I spend a good deal of time shooting the Garand for the months leading up to Nationals, and was able to be the high shooter with the Garand in both matches for 2018 and 2019. But I never took my eye off the 4-Gun, and was able to win it in 2018, and 2019, as well as the inaugural year of 2017.

Rimfire Sporter — Brian’s Fifth Gun
Along with his centerfire rifles, Brian Williams likes to shoot in CMP Rimfire Sporter matches. In fact, he won the Rimfire Sporter Match “O” Class (Iron Sights) at the 2021 CMP Eastern Games. Shown below is his Czech-made .22 LR CZ 452 Ultra Lux bolt-action rifle.

Brian Williams M1 Carbine CMP Modern Military 4-Gun 3-Gun

Q: How do you like Rimfire Sporter? Do you have to adjust your technique for rimfire vs. centerfire?

Brian: Most of the fundamentals will transfer from centerfire guns to the rim fire guns, the biggest difference is in the course of fire for the match. The Rimfire course of fire includes a slow-fire seated stage, and a rapid-fire standing stage, both of these stages are unique to the Rimfire Sporter game. I enjoy this discipline, but due to the scheduling of the Rimfire Sporter match at Nationals I have not yet shot this event at Camp Perry. I did do well in this event at both the Eastern CMP Games and New England CMP Games.

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May 23rd, 2021

Buying Your First Handgun — The Rimfire Revolver Rationale

Smith Wesson 22 .22 LR Revolver model 63 17 617 wheelgun revolver cylinder
S&W Model 617 now has a 10-round cylinder, but early models were six-shooters.

Over the past year and a half, the ranks of first-time gun buyers have grown dramatically. Millions of Americans have purchased their first-ever handgun. With so many handgun options (from derringers to Desert Eagles) many first-time buyers have trouble making a choice. What should those millions of new gun buyers have acquired first? Perhaps it should have been a rimfire revolver. Here is why…

The Argument for a Rimfire Revolver
Some years back, a close relative contacted this Editor. Wanting to get started in handgunning, he sought my advice on purchasing his very first handgun. “Should I get a Glock?”, he asked. “No” was my response. “Well how about an M&P?” he inquired. “Better ergos” I said, “but ‘No’ is still my reply.” “OK, how about a KelTec, they’re cheap…” “Absolutely not”, I replied.

I could tell he was getting annoyed, when he said “OK, Mr. know-it-all, so what handgun should I get?” Calmly, I replied: “Get a .22-caliber rimfire revolver. You will never out-grow it. You will learn sight alignment and trigger control. You can practice with inexpensive ammunition. A good .22 revolver will be considerably more accurate than 90% of the self-loading pistols you could buy. If you get a Smith & Wesson, you will keep the gun for the rest of your life and pass it on to your kids. If you or your heirs ever wear out the barrel or cylinder, Smith & Wesson will replace the parts for free, forever.”

Smith Wesson 22 .22 LR Revolver model 63 17 617 wheelgun revolver cylinder

First Handgun Choice — Consider a .22 LR Wheelgun

A very good choice for a first handgun is a Smith & Wesson .22 LR revolver, such as the S&W Model 617. The model 617 is extremely accurate, with a crisp trigger and good sights. Choose either a 4″ or 6″ barrel. The current model has a handy, 10-round cylinder.

S&W model 617 smith

This Editor’s first really accurate handgun was a .22 LR Smith & Wesson Model 617 that could easily stack ten shots in a dime at 10 yards. It remains my favorite and most-used handgun. What can we say about the Model 617? The single-action trigger pull is superb, and the accuracy surpasses most any semi-auto rimfire pistol, except for a few, very expensive target pistols. We like the 6″ version for the longer sight radius, but the 4″-barrel 617 is also very accurate, and it balances better.

Hickok 45 Demos a 4″ Model 617. See also Hickok 45 m617 Part 2:

You can learn all the fundamentals with this ultra-reliable handgun, shooting inexpensive .22 LR ammo. The model 617 is rugged, durable, and can give you a lifetime of shooting fun. Once you have mastered the basics of shooting with a .22 LR, you can move on to larger caliber handguns suitable for self-defense. Below is a slide-show illustrating a S&W model 617 ten-shot, with 6″ barrel. S&W also makes a 4″-barrel version of this revolver. (See: Shooting Demo Video with 4″ model 617.)

Another .22 Revolver Option, the Smith & Wesson Model 63

Smith Wesson 22 .22 LR Revolver model 63 17 617 wheelgun revolver cylinder

The current S&W Model 63 is a J-Frame .22 LR with 3″ barrel and fiber optic front sight. The Model 63 is compact enough for comfortable carry and well-balanced. The older Model 63, aka the “Kit Gun”, is an appreciating classic.

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May 23rd, 2021

CMP Barrels for M1903 Springfield, M1917 Enfield, M1 Carbine

m1 m1903 springfield Rifle Barrels CMP Criterion
M1903 photo from ShootingUSA.com. Watch History of U.S. Service Rifle episode via Vimeo on Demand.

1903 Rifle Barrels CMP Criterion

Good news for owners of 1903/1903A3 Springfields, M1917 Enfields, and M1 Carbines. The CMP eStore sells brand new chambered, Criterion chrome-moly barrels for these M1903/M1903AC rifles for under $200.00. In addition there are M1 Carbine barrels for $229.50. These authentic-profile barrels are made by Criterion Barrels in Richfield, WI, using the button-rifling process. They are “semi-finished” meaning they come chambered and headspaced within .010″ of finished size, with final fitting to be done by a competent gunsmith. The barrels are also externally Parkerized to match the finish of your vintage ’03, Garand, or M1 Carbine. To order, go to the CMP eStore and click the Barrels Link in the upper left.

NOTE: Final assembly and headspacing by a qualified gunsmith is required!

New Criterion M1903 Springfield RIFLE Barrel, 4140 Chrome Moly Steel
Item: 065CRI/03 | $199.95

New 1903 barrels by Criterion Barrels, Inc., 4140 chrome moly steel, button rifled, contoured, and finish lapped after contouring. These comply with CMP competition rules and are legal for the 1903 Matches. Parkerized like the original 1903 and chambered .010″ from finish size to be fitted and headspaced when assembled to fit your receiver and bolt dimensions.

New Criterion M1903A3 Springfield RIFLE Barrel, 4140 Chrome Moly Steel
Item: 065CRI/A3 | Price: $199.95

New 1903A3 barrels by Criterion Barrels, Inc., 4140 chrome moly steel, button rifled, contoured, and finish lapped after contouring. These comply with CMP competition rules and are legal for the 1903A3 Matches. Parkerized like the original 1903A3 and chambered .010″ from finish size to be fitted and headspaced when assembled to fit your receiver and bolt dimensions.

m1 Garand  Rifle Barrels CMP Criterion

New Criterion M1917 Enfield RIFLE Barrel, 4140 Chrome Moly Steel
Item: 065CRI/1917 | Price: $199.95

New M1917 barrels by Criterion Barrels, Inc., 4140 chrome moly steel, button rifled, contoured, and finish lapped after contouring. These comply with CMP competition rules and are legal for the 1903A3 Matches. Parkerized like the original M1917 Parkerized like the original M1917 and chambered .010″ from finish size to be fitted and headspaced when assembled to fit your receiver and bolt dimensions.

New Criterion M1 Carbine RIFLE Barrel, 4140 Chrome Moly Steel
Item: 065CRI/CARBINE | Price $229.50

New Carbine barrels by Criterion Barrels, 4140 chrome moly Steel, button rifled, contoured, and finish lapped after contouring. Comply with CMP Competition Rules and are legal for the CMP M1 Carbine Matches. Parkerized like the original M1 Carbine and chambered .010 away from finish size to be fitted and head-spaced when assembled to fit your receiver and bolt dimensions. Barrel is .30 Carbine.

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