While I have shot hundreds of matches in my day, nothing feels better than participating in a charity event. In November 2020, I had the honor of being invited to the fourth annual Marty Brown Memorial Invitational Shoot, organized by Revere’s Riders. Namesake Marty Brown, the wife to instructor Phil Brown, was a victim of ovarian cancer. This match hits close to home as Marty was a friend to my wife, Barbara, and part of an amazing group of Midwestern shooters that I am proud to call friends. Each year, competitors are invited to participate in a positional course-of-fire and enjoy an opportunity to win prizes, as well as two trophies that go to the best shooter and the most eccentric gun. All match proceeds are donated to Ovar’coming Together, an organization created to fund ovarian cancer research.
The author shoots during a standing portion of the Marty Brown Memorial Open Tournament.
Just as in years past, this event was again held at the legendary Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center located in Edinburgh, Ind. This active training camp will host the re-unified NRA National Championships later this year. As we checked into base housing, we were serenaded with the sounds of artillery fire and automatic weapons in the distance. We knew we were in for a great weekend.
The course-of-fire is based on 40-round AQTs (Army Qualification Tests) and consists of a 10-round standing stage at 100 yards (slings allowed), followed by a 10-round rapid-fire seated stage at 200 yards, then 10 rounds in prone at 300 yards fired in rapid succession, and finally 10 rounds of slow fire prone at 400 yards. All legs are shot on a standard Army “D” target, which measures approximately 25x19 inches with a 5-inch central “V” ring. For this event, we scored on the “hits count” metric, eliminating the scoring ring values and breaking ties by the most V-ring impacts.
Shooters on the firing line at Camp Atterbury for a prone string.
Over the next two days, we were going to run this COF three times, and whoever turned in the best score on any single AQT was to be awarded the top shooter trophy. For fun, nearly all equipment restrictions are removed. Essentially, the only rules are no stabilizing equipment and no shooting gloves. All sights, slings, chamberings, trigger weights and shooting coats are fair game. For this reason, I went with a 24-inch Anderson AR-15 with a 4.5- 27x Bushnell Forge optic. While a 24-inch barrel isn’t my first choice for positional shooting, this rifle produces consistent sub-MOA groups at 600 yards. With the elongated barrel, my plan was to take advantage of the superior accuracy and high-magnification optic.
After we were all clear on the rules, Phil handed out envelopes that each contained info about something that Marty was intimately involved with—service. These community activities including serving lunch to the children of the local middle and high schools. Each day, we would take turns remembering her through these snippets and then draw for one of over a dozen door prizes that included a Diamondback DB9 and a SCCY CPX-3. Of course, there was also the Pioneer Arms Hell-Pup AK-47 pistol, but you were going to have to earn that through winning a series of challenge courses, but more on that later.
The author working in the pits at the match. (Photo by Barbara Melloni.)
Day one started with me working in the scoring pits. This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to do so, and I was about as excited to mark a “D” target as I was to shoot one later that day. The morning spent down below was fun, as it was the perfect combination of catching up with friends and watching targets get struck only a few feet away. I also had the opportunity to smoke a great cigar, as we had to put the fun on hold so the military could extinguish a concerning brushfire a few ranges over, likely from those pesky 1-in-5 tracers that comprise a machine-gun belt. “This is pretty standard at Camp Atterbury,” my wife Barbara explained. “A few years back, A-10 Warthogs were practicing strafing runs and lit it up pretty bad then, too.”
After the first group, we had our first run at the COF. The pressure was high, because our friend James Rose shot a perfect 40 with 11 in the “V” that was going to be a tough act to follow. Luckily, the pressure came right off when I failed to get three rounds downrange in the first leg of the match. I forgot that, in the standing position, Revere’s Riders only give you two minutes, instead of the usual 10 that I am accustomed to in service rifle. At the end, I managed a 36-5V, which kept me in the running. We finished shooting at dusk and passed out the first round of door prizes, which did not include either of the pistols that were up for grabs. I still was yet to draw.
Barbara Melloni (wife of the author) competing with a M1 Garand rifle at the Marty Brown Invitational.
Day two started the same, except my group was up first to shoot. I was exceptionally crisp and focused this day, so I opted for a few of the challenge COFs. These courses involve shooting under various forms of stress and precision. The course I participated in required a shooter to fire the tightest group under a time constraint. For standing, I did not use a sling. As luck would have it, the wind cooperated and I won—earning me a spot in that day’s shoot-off, hitting balloons at 400 yards while the wind manipulated them as it felt fit. I only needed five out of my seven allowed rounds to pop all five balloons. This earned my place in the final shoot-off with Dirk Dudeck, who completed the same task the day before. This shoot-off would decide the winner of the AK pistol, and it all boiled down to a single shot fired at a 400-yard target. It wasn’t pretty, but an 8-ring shot put that bad boy in my hands to wrap up the formal match.
As we approached the parking lot, we made a stop at the 500-yard line and rallied up with instructor Bradley Settle for some extracurricular activities sponsored by Hornady. Bradley, better known by his nickname “Slim,” gave us a brief introduction of his personal Barrett M82A1 .50-cal. rifle and then allowed any shooter who wished to make an additional donation to send some long-range bombs at the remaining balloons. After we all had our share of recoil, we finished our journey to the parking lot to award the trophies and finish handing out those door prizes.
Competitors assemble for a group photo at the 2020 Marty Brown Invitational.
Although I was able to turn in a 39-11V and a 39-8V, James narrowly made off with the top shooter trophy with his perfect 40. It was a close battle to the end. Our friend Dirk took home the “Tactifail” trophy by showing up with 45-degree offset sights that clearly could not be used—although Slim did give him a run for his money with his barrel-mounted bicycle horn.
We finished the event by reading more about the hobbies that drove Marty. As for the SCCY pistol, one of the top door prizes, I drew the ticket. The logistics and expenses involved with getting it sent back to New York would have eclipsed its value, so I auctioned it off right there and split the proceeds with Revere’s Riders for the annual donation. It was at this moment I realized the caliber of individuals belonging to this group, because it sold for much more than retail value. This wasn’t due to a shortage of firearms, but instead a surplus of caring.