Local shooters hit their marks last week at the National Matches rifle competition in Camp Perry, Ohio. Sponsored in part by the National Rifle Association and the Ohio National Guard, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) contest has been a staple of competitive shooting since 1903.
During the week-long competition, members of The West Virginia Junior Marksmanship Shooting Program participated in several events, earning high scores in the M16 Excellence in Competition (EIC) match, President's 100 match, Junior National Individual and Team matches and the Six-man Junior Team match.
Based in Buckhannon, the team consists of six teenagers including Robert McClain of Walkersville, Weston Dunlap of Sodd, Andrew Woodford of Flemington, Lauren Owens of Elkins, Tyler Thomas of Clarksburg and Samuel Sheppard of Buckhannon.
Coach Mike Moore started the shooting club in 2010 as a way to teach youngsters about firearms. Moore was on the Marine Corps Rifle Team from 1971-1975.
"I enjoy teaching kids the sport of shooting," Moore said. "However, the main objective is teaching gun safety and responsibility."
During the winter months the kids shoot air guns indoors at the National Guard Armory in Buckhannon to keep their aim sharp. When spring rolls around, the shooting moves outside with the younger kids firing .22 caliber match rifles and the older kids shooting higher-power guns.
Competitions at the event in Ohio included the CMP National Trophy Rifle and Pistol Matches, the Pistol and Rifle Small Arms Firing Schools, CMP Games rifle events and the NRA National Pistol, Smallbore Rifle and Highpower Rifle Championships.
"The kids did fantastic," Moore said. "They definitely made me proud. I think we turned a few heads on the national level."
Placing in individual competition gives the shooter four EIC points, which pave the way toward the 30 points needed to become recognized as a Distinguished shooter. Moore said there are less than 3,000 Distinguished shooters in the U.S.
Among the team's highlights, McClain won the Small Arms Safety Competition by earning 390 out of 400 points. Along with EIC points, he received a plaque and an AR 15 Colt Rifle for the effort. Woodford and Sheppard also earned EIC points during the week.
"They have accomplished a big thing here, by placing in the EIC matches and getting those points," Moore said. "I've been shooting 30 years and I'm still trying to become a Distinguished shooter."
Moore, who has dedicated more than 40 years to competitive and recreational shooting, said the high scores are a testament to the team's solid work ethic.
"These kids work very hard, year-round" Moore said. "You can really see the way it changes them. They learn a lot about responsibility and dedication."
According to the event's website, the National Matches at Camp Perry draw more than 6,000 annual participants. School students and competition event shooters range from beginners to some of the world's best.