CAMP PERRY, Ohio - What a difference 365 days make, to stretch an old song's lyrics, to describe the night-and-day contrast in weather for the popular M1A Rifle Match here.
The inaugural edition of the M1A, named after the civilian version of the M-14 service rifle, was held in pouring rain and mud and a stout wind a year ago. Shooters had to blow accumulated water out of the rear gunsights to see their targets.
In contrast, the second edition Sunday saw sunny and mild conditions with a north wind of little consequence. It made for a perfect day on the range. It was a "fun shoot" for such invitees as me, who once toted an M-14 in service days many rounds ago.
But the serious competitors, well, can they ever shoot this fine "rifleman's" rifle. It was amazing to see some of the targets when taking a turn in the scoring pits; a lunch plate, or sometimes a saucer, would cover a string of shots fired from 300 yards.
When the army introduced it in the 1950s the M-14 was so accurate that match targets had to be shrunk to accommodate its improved capabilities. Though it was succeeded by the M-16 and its variations in the 1960s, the M-14 still sees use where accuracy is a premium, sometimes with snipers.
The M1A event is the last of what informally are called the vintage rifle matches here at the National Rifle and Pistol Matches. Springfield Armory, of Geneseo, Ill., which makes the best-known version of the M1A, is underwriting the M1A Match for at least five years, according to Mike Krei, director of the National Rifle Association's competitive shooting division.
The NRA sponsors the annual National Matches in cooperation with the national Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) and Ohio National Guard.
The vintage matches began Thursday with the M-1 Carbine Match, in honor of the little low-powered rifle that officers sometimes were issued in World War II instead of Model 1911 .45 semiautomatic pistols. Friday saw the Springfield Rifle Match, remembering the 1903 Springfield and other military bolt-action rifles of World War I vintage. The M-1 Garand Match on Saturday gave the nod to the mainstay rifle of World War II and Korea.
"The CMP Games are a lot of fun," said Frank Gill Jr., of Oil City, Pa., regarding the vintage rifle matches. He said that a group of Oil City area shooters used to be serious pistol competitors, but all of them were starting to show some veterans' wear and tear on wrist-elbow-shoulder joints. So they switched to the rifle matches.
"You've got to lean into the future," said Gill, among several generous shooters on the firing line who offered advice, useful suggestions, and spare gear.
Dan Summersett, of Port Clinton, was another shooter who spoke highly of these vintage matches.
"I started out here when I was 12 in the NRA Junior School, and I was out of it for years and years. I came back five, six years ago with the M-1 Garand." Now Summersett owns each of the rifles and shoots all the vintage matches.
"The best part is I'm having a blast. I'm looking to beat myself, my last year's score. I'm not competing with anyone else on that line."
Christopher Roberts of Charlotte, N. C., however, was competing with everyone on the line and he made it happen, winning the overall M1A title with a score of 467-12X and taking home $2,000 in prize money. The X in his score, by the way, represents the number of tie-breaking, dead-center bull's-eyes.
The high service winner was Army Sgt. First Class Norman Anderson, of Tomah, Wis., at 458-9X, and the high woman was Marine Reserve Gunnery Sgt. Julia Watson, of Stafford, Va.
Sunday's match turned out 403 shooters among 456 registered. The shooters, as with all the matches, came from all around the country. Many of them were warming up for high-power rifle championship events this week, some of which will be fired at an incredible 1,000 yards. The last shots will be fired the middle of next week in the long-range high-power shooting, which begins Saturday.
A lasting memory of Sunday's match was that of peering through an M1A's metallic rear sight. I saw the black post of the rifle's front sight and that sun-sharpened, black bull's-eye, 300 yards away at firing point 85. The aim has to be steady while squeezing the trigger.
The bullet does not always land in the X-inner ring of the 10-ring. But it always lands where the rifle has been pointed. So I smiled to myself when, walking back to the Jeep after the match, I overheard one of two other shooters reflecting on his performance.
"If it was easy, everybody would be a high master," he said.
The popular Toledo Trap & Skeet Club at 3150 State Rt. 295 in Berkey has closed - "a casualty of my retirement," as owner Jim Fletcher puts it.
Tedd Long is exploring formation of a new club, Richfield Conservation Club, to take over the Toledo Trap & Skeet grounds and operation. Interested individuals should visit on-line at richfieldconservationclub.org for details.
On the Web site Long notes in part that Fletcher is heading into "a much-deserved retirement and we are grateful for the years he has operated the club to the benefit of the many shotgun sport enthusiasts of western Lucas County."
Russell Lamp is collecting stinging insects for use in making vaccine by the pharmaceutical industry, and offers free removal of nests of bald-faced hornets and in-ground nests of yellow jackets.
Most in-ground yellow jacket nests are ready for removal in September, but Lamp said that when residents start seeing the gray hornet nests in trees, they can make note to contact him at 419-836-3710. He works on hornet nests into early September.
Michigan hunters are reminded that they may make only one application for an antlerless deer license, this to promote equitable distribution of private land and public land licenses in areas where demand is high.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is advising hunters who have made multiple applications to return to their license agent by Aug. 15 to void all but one application to avoid being disqualified. Unsold antlerless licenses will go on sale Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. For other details visit on-line at michigan.gov/.dnr.