A new tradition? NRA Championships at Camp Atterbury

Guest post submitted by Marty Dabney about his experiences at the NRA National Championships . 

It’s no secret that High Power shooters are what most would call “salt of the earth” people. We will lend a helping hand, loan you gear and give you bad wind calls with the greatest of intentions. We are also traditionalist. We compete for the same trophies our grandparents competed for. The Daniel Boone, Nathan Hale and Alice Bull just to name a few. But no trophy is greater than the place where you go to win them, Camp Perry.

There is no doubt when you ask someone if they are going to “The Nationals”, they  are really asking if they are going to Perry. This is the where thousands of shooter from all walks of life and skill level from all across the world come together once a year to partake in the tradition of staying in little white huts, cooking out, walking commercial row and occasionally compete in a rifle match. You can be a brand new shooter and by the grace of random squadding, end up shooting with past National Champions. It’s also a place of unpredictable weather, high winds and is prone to having a boat drift into the impact area and shut down the range. The Nationals have been held at Camp Perry long before anyone reading this was born.  It seemed this would go on forever, but one day, it didn’t.

In 2017, the NRA made the decision to leave Camp Perry and move their National Championships to Camp Atterbury. It was no surprise that many shooters were upset about the move. How could they do this? What was the reasoning? Many people felt that all tradition was lost, but was it? The NRA still has the same trophies they’ve always had, the Wimbledon, the Sierra and the trophy that most intrigues me, the Erdman trophy. So why did competitors scoff at the idea of a change in venue? Because we are traditionalist. We now have to come to the realization that our Nationals won’t be held on hallowed ground,  but some National Guard base in the middle of Indiana. When i think of Indiana, I think of Steers and ……corn, lots and lots of corn. Is this the end of our National Championship as we know it, or is this the beginning of something great?

On July 18th, 2017, I walked off the line of the NTI match as a newly Distinguished Rifleman. I had also earned 3 President 100 medals as well as various other State and Regional championships. The Service rifle treated me well so in good fashion and questionable judgment, I abandon the very rifle that treated me so well and switch to a match rifle, a stupid, stupid match rifle. I could now use an unlimited power optic, a lighter trigger, more adjustable stock and just about any caliber i wanted. The only issue is I now had to abandon Camp Perry and go to Camp Atterbury if I wanted to compete in a National Championship. So I packed up my gear and a suitcase that may or may not have had enough extra  pants and headed west to Indiana.

After a short 9 hour ride, I pulled in the front gate. I was greeted by a guard who checked my license. Being an active training instillation, this was needed each time i entered the gates. I was staying  on base so i checked in at the housing office and headed to my room. The rooms were very nice. We had our own individual rooms similar to a motel. They were furnished with a bed, microwave, mini refrigerator, full bathroom and air conditioning.

The following day, I met up with my team to compete in the 4 man team match. We had a break from the extreme heat and humidity that we had the prior week so we were already off to a good start. while hauling my gear to the 200 yard line, I noticed how well the range was maintained. The grass on the firing lines had been mowed, and for those who have competed on other Military bases, knows this can be hit or miss sometimes. One of the concerns from the year before was the number boards were too small. The NRA worked to correct this issue and installed larger boards. After my firing was complete, it was my turn to work the pits for the rest of the team. Another concern from the previous year were the target carriers were hard to operate. This issue had also been resolved as well. The carriers worked well. We finished up the team match in good time and I headed back to my room. The evening was spent sitting outside grilling with my friends that i hadn’t seen in a year. Hmm, this feels oddly familiar.

On Sunday morning, we made our way back down range for the first day of the 2400 Aggregate individual match. This is a four day match firing 60 shots per day. After the four days, the total scores are added up to determine an overall winner. Once I finished shooting, I made my way back to the pits. This is where we encountered several problems. There were communication issues, both with the portable speakers and with the radios that were used by the pit and firing line officials. This caused confusion with pit changes, alibis and the commands to start. Needless to say, this caused frustration but we made due.

On Tuesday, the heat had started to build . By mid day, it became apparent that this would be as much of an endurance match as it was  a shooting match. Thankfully, Bartlein Barrels provided us with a good supply of Gatorade and water. None of us were too proud to turn it down. After we finished with the 600 yard slow fire match, we were provided with air conditioned vans to transport us to the pits. This gave a welcome relief if only for a short time. Once again, we experienced communication issues and at one point, range control put us in a “check fire”. This is where the National Guard  stops us for various reasons like people in the impact area or incoming aircraft. This is a very active facility so it happens. It would almost be like having a boat go where it wasn’t supposed to and cause delays.

Wednesday and Thursday ran very well. The heat and humidity slowly made its way out and nicer weather took its place. The communication issues were addressed and we were off of the range by early afternoon.

The awards ceremony was held on Thursday evening at the Camp Atterbury conference center. I showered and threw on my cleanest dirty pants and headed over.  Walking into the building gave a feel of walking into a large hunting lodge. It was a place that seemed worthy of a Championship awards ceremony. The NRA had the ceremony catered with chicken, barbeque and the works. We all fixed a plate and for the next hour, sat and watched as our friends were called up to receive their awards. Those same, time honored awards that were given at Camp Perry.

The final evening was spent sitting outside our rooms congratulating our friends who did well, giving a hard time to those who didn’t, but laughing the entire time. Right before we turned in for the evening, a sort of sad silence came over our group. Our time together had come to an end. For many of us, we knew we wouldn’t see each other for another year, possibly ever. Sometimes life gets in the way and we move on from things that we once held dear. Priorities change and in the worse case, we lose someone forever. In that moment, we weren’t worried about where the Nationals were going to be held. We all left with a smile thinking about doing it all over next year.

So, another National Championship is in the books. Was this the “Perry experience” that we’ve grown accustomed to? Maybe not, but could this be the start of a new tradition? Definitely, but it’s up to us to support it. I plan on returning in 2019 to give the Erdman another go and I encourage anyone on the fence to give it a chance. We have the opportunity to make it something great for our future generation.

Some notable accomplishments –

SFC Brandon Greene overall winner 2394-147X

SGT Ben Cleland overall Service rifle winner 2386-128X. SGT Cleland also won the Erdman trophy with an impressive 599-28X only dropping 1 point on his last day.

Konrad Powers overall civilian Service Rifle winner 2372-109X

SSG Amanda Elsenboss high woman 2382-113X

Hugo Adelson high senior 2362-100X

Marty Dabney fired 10 9’s in offhand and didn’t win the Erdman

Editors note: Marty’s views on Camp Atterberry may not reflect those of “Garand Thumb Blog” who is still a little grumpy about the split but prefers NRA format matches.

Win at York Riflemen!

Great match at York this weekend. 

Started out with my best off hand with optics. I spent more time dryfiring in Prep, 5 shots without wasting time between them. It seemed to help to get in the rhythm. 

The rest of the match went well. I made a over correction off my sighters for prone and dropped 5 out the bottom and 4 in slow prone. The slow prone 9s were all eye fatigue, I need to remember to reset when I am struggling to get a good sight picture and try again, even in prone.

My shots under all of the reduced target faces

I end up with a 773, just 3 points shy of a elusive high master score, but good enough to come in first! 

No XTC for a couple of weeks until I head off to Perry for their early ECI match in a couple of weeks.

Make it a Dirt Dance Floor Again: York Riflemen’s Spring Garand and Service Rifle Match 

York’s spring double-header is one of my favorite matches of the year. It starts with a Garand match, followed by a NRA 50 round match. It’s a reduced 200 yard match with pits.

The Garand match was fun, I shot uncharacteristically fast in slow prone but still managed a decent score. I kept raising my zero in slow prone and then, surprise, I blew my rapid prone group out the top.
 I pulled it back in off-hand and posted an 89  which I was very happy with.

We shot a 500 agg right after the Garand Match. Still happy with myself for shooting well off-hand with the Garand I did decent with my A4 off-hand too. A few 8s in off-hand but I posted a pair of 98s in rapids and didn’t shoot a 9 in slow prone until round 13!

I manage to come in second in the 500 agg with a 484 just a point short of High Master!

What Off Season? First Matches of 2017

This year I’ve been telling myself “there is no off-season.” Last year at this time I was shaking down my new rifle and trying to remember the things I learned in 2015.

This year I’ve been attending my clubs indoor rimfire league, pulling the team score down shooting kneeling on my feet.  

This month, I found a bit of time to attend some walk and paste matches to get my fix of high power.


The first of which being a 500 agg at New Holland where, after borrowing some ammo from the club (long story), both my shooting buddy and I posted our first High Master Scores! I came in 3rd for service rifle with a 485-14 in a three-way X count tiebreaker. Lots of good scores that day and a record turn out for the club.

The next weekend we headed out to Langhorne for their “outlaw” walk and paste. Another 500 agg in NRA format, I couldn’t top my 485 from the weekend before, but I was able to post a 481 which I am plenty happy with. I’m felling a little more confident in slow fire, posting a 91 and 198 on both ends. All of my off-hand shots went where I called them and the 9s slow prone were shot 1 and 2 where I knobbed my way right past the X. I cleaned the second string.

I have a lot of XTC scheduled for May and lots to do before then. Including squaring up my zeroes on my new scope and piles of brass to load!

Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again: Dusting off the A2 stock after the Freezer Match.

This weekend was  the 2017 Freezer match at KFGA. It’s a 40 round off-hand match held for charity at my local club.

I shot ok. Dropped a couple of 7s and a whole pile of awful 8s. In the 4 strings I ranged from a gross 85 to a decent 93. Which was enough for 5th.

It was a fun match, I tried some new things and put the first in competition rounds on my new barrel.

There was a day when I considered this the end of the season. But with the Creedmoor Cup and Fleet Week In just 3 or so months it’s not time to hibernate.

After the match I got to thinking, disputed my progress my off-hand has more or less plateaued falling in the 7ish point swing I saw this weekend. Rarely topping 93. My data book tells me back In the A2 days I had less variation and was able to post a couple of 96s.
Blaming the equipment is a lame excuse and I have let my stubbornness tell me to stick with the UBR. Which I had grown to love early In 2016, using a super short off-hand position. As the season went on I found myself sliding the stock longer. By October I was out to A1 length.

So I’ve decided to  come home to the A2 stock.

2015 SAFS. No I’m not going back to the mag hold and hopefully not the extra 40lbs


A2 stock is heavier. There are some weight options for the UBR but the standard A2 wedge puts 3.5 lbs of additional Donk on the rifle which the UBR really can’t accommodate. Short of a custom-made gold or maybe depleted uranium weight.

A2 buttplate is a cheese grater. It’s made for shooting, not dressing up in an empty plate carrier and playing operator. Sling up and try to make it slip out of your shoulder, if it does, sling up better.

After some practice I don’t need the short length. Being further from the scope seems to help me keep my head in the same sport.

I might change my mind. But this stock feels like an old friend and it seems to me its the safe bet.