If it's July, it must be Camp Perry.
That is about all you need to say to any of thousands of casual and serious target shooters and fans from across the United States and Canada, plus a few countries overseas. They know that "Camp Perry" is synonymous with the National Shooting Matches and National Shooting Championships.
The Matches are the shooting world's equivalent of the World Series for target competition with highpower and smallbore rifles, pistols, and muzzleloading firearms. And Camp Perry, the Ohio National Guard marksmanship training base just west of Port Clinton on western Lake Erie, has been home to the event for 98 of its 102 years.
The 2005 edition of the Matches is sponsored, as tradition dictates, by the National Rifle Association of America and several partners, including the the Ohio National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve, and the federal Civilian Marksmanship Program.
"The National Matches are among the largest and most prestigious shooting championships in the world," stated M.S. Gilchrist, NRA director of competitive shooting. "This year we expect some 4,800 participants of all skill levels to visit Camp Perry to shoot with, and learn from, the finest rifle and pistol shots in the country.
"Some of our most interesting input comes from the mixture of shooting enthusiasts, from youngsters eager to learn about the sport to seniors who contribute their valuable experience."
The shooting "season" begins Friday with the NRA National Muzzleloading Championships, which continue through next Sunday.
Muzzleloading enthusiasts are sure to watch the competition between Chad Cleland, the well-known Swanton champion, and challenger Kevin Warner of Wapakoneta, Ohio. The pair shared the predominant championships of 2004, Cleland taking the Hunter's Championship and Warner the Offhand event.
On July 11 match organizers have scheduled the traditional First Shot Ceremony, with this year's featured shooter being Major General Gregory L. Wayt, adjutant general of Ohio. The next day brings the Harry Reeves Memorial Pistol Match and Revolver Distinguished Match, both fired with traditional centerfire revolvers.
The Army Small Arms Firing School-Pistol, is set for July 10 to 12. The school allows civilians to learn how to handle and fire the standard military M9 9mm pistol.
The hard-core competition gets under way July 13 to 17 with the NRA National Pistol Championships in .22, centerfire, and .45 pistol events. Fans will be watching to see whether Brian Zins can tie the legendary Bill Blankenship's record of five consecutive championships and extend the six-career-victories mark, which Zins holds, to seven. Another shooter on the fans' watch-list is U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Steve Reiter, who with a win could join Zins, Blankenship, and others as six-
The highly precise NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships are set for July 20-29. Fired with highly tuned .22 target rifles, these championships often turn in incredible scores in terms of the number of center-shot bull's-eyes, or "X" shots, needed to win. In these matches, look for Army Major Mike Anti, fresh from an Olympic triumph, to return to national prominence, and for Jamie Beyerle to defend her prone championship title against all competitors, male and female.
The Army Small Arms Firing School-Rifle, is set for July 30-Aug. 1 and features training for and familiarization with an M-16A2 rifle for the school's civilian participants.
The last and biggest phase of competition, the highpower rifle competition, runs Aug. 2-17.
The National Trophy Individual and Team Rifle Matches run though Aug. 6, and include among other matches the Springfield/Military Bolt Action Rifle Match, the John Garand Match for World War II-vintage M-1 rifles.
The NRA Individual and Team Highpower Championships are set for Aug. 7-11. In these events, the 2004 highpower champion, Rhode Island's Norm Houle, will strive to keep his teammate, Texan and high-power icon David Tubb, out of the winner's circle.
Camp Perry events wind up with the Long Range Championships, to 1,000 yards, Aug. 12-15. The renowned Palma Individual Rifle Match, fired at 800, 900, and 1,000 yards, is set for Aug. 16. The NRA Long Range Firing School is set for Aug. 13-17.
In addition to the major events, an array of training programs and other informal competitions is planned. These include air gun daily matches on Commercial Row, where vendors have stores and displays, a junior pistol camp July 10-15 and junior .22 rifle camp July 25-29.
For more details, visit the following match Web sites: www.nrahq.org/compete, or www.civilianmarksmanshipprogram.com. Or call Camp Perry at 419-635-2141. Camp Perry is on State Rt. 2, just west of Port Clinton. Visitors and match spectators are welcome.
Capt. Steve Billow of the Fremont police department collected six gold medals, a silver medal, and a bronze medal in the recent State of Ohio Pistol and Fire Games at Canton.
Captain Billow earned sharpshooter-class gold medals in the two-man team and four-man team Police Pistol Combat events, and a bronze in the PPC individual event.
He also won gold in the marksman-class Bull's-eye events for two-man and four-man teams, and a silver as an individual.
His final two golds were in the Combat Handgun Revolver and Steel Challenge Revolver categories, where Capain Billow fired the highest revolver scores of all classes, said Fremont Police Chief Monte Huss.
The captain has been a Fremont policeman for 28 years and serves as firearms instructor for the department. He also is a firearms instructor at the Basic Police Academy at Terra Community College in Fremont.