A Page From History: The 1970 National Matches

posted on June 4, 2020

"As was the case in the 1968 and 1969 National Matches, many of the volunteers either waived their normal per diem amount or returned it to the NRA at the end of their tours at Camp Perry."
American Rifleman, October 1970.

1970 NRA National Championships Pin.
The official 1970 NRA National Championships commemorative pin.

After a third straight year where no government or military support was afforded the National Matches, a victory of sorts was attained in Congress. In February, the Department of Defense Appropriation Bill (H.R. 15090) included the return of a separate line item allocation for the National Board. Though the recognition was welcomed, the funds were modest and operations this summer at Camp Perry still relied heavily upon the generosity of donors and volunteers.

1970 NRA National Matches organizational chart
Command hierarchy and organizational chart for the National Matches, circa 1970.

With more than 2,200 entries, this year's National Match participation figures were slightly higher than 1969 and gave NRA officials hope that a new decade would put an end to attendance lulls caused by military demands overseas and anti-gun legislation. Louis Lucas, the NRA's executive director and treasurer for more than a decade, continued in his role as National Match Director during a program where new national champions were named in every phase.

CWO Frank Higginson won the Harrison Trophy for the national pistol championship by digging deep in the last 40 shots to hold off three-time champ Donald Hamilton. In so doing, Higginson became just the second Marine to win the title (Bill McMillan was first in 1957) and his performance provided the kick start for a commanding Corps presence on the pistol range. Gy/Sgt. Jimmie Dorsey claimed the President's Pistol Match, an aggregate of the National Match Course scores fired in the championship, and it was the USMC Red team that won the Gen. Twining Trophy for NRA aggregate honors in addition to the Gold Cup for the National Trophy win. Army S/Sgt. Arthur White prevented a complete Marine sweep when he won the National Board individual event and the Custer Trophy with a record 296-12X.

Francis Higginson
Francis Higginson won the 1970 National Pistol Championship by good consistent shooting. His 2656-111X winning score comprised a second place 888-33X .22 total, a winning centerfire aggregate, 887-44X and a respectable .45 score of 881-34X.

The team match opened the smallbore prone phase and much to the surprise and delight of the competitors, a foursome of juniors from the east, Linda and Todd Ritchie of New Jersey and Ronald and Robert Coleman from Decatur, GA, showed all how it was done with iron sights and took the American Dewar Trophy. Perhaps stung by the effrontery of youth, or the dominance of the eastern shooters, some elder statesman of the sport from the far west then took matters into their own hands. Californians Bob Adler and Bill Holstead captained and coached while Herb Hollister and George Stidworthy anchored the any-sight winners for the Officer's Trophy.

The first 1600 sub-aggregate, shot with iron sights, opened with Ron Coleman proving that his team win the day prior was no fluke. His perfect Dewar Match score with 33 Xs saw to that. The same day, Marine Reserve Maj. Jim Hinkle captured the 50-yard match in impressive fashion. His score of 400-40X tied a jointly-held National Match record at the distance. Linda Ritchie had established it in 1965, Donna Hanson tied it the following year and Kim Rickert followed suit the year after. Ritchie repeated the feat in 1969 but this year, Hinkle was determined to make the record his. In short order he sighed in and banged 15 rounds of Eley Tenex ammunition down range and through the center of the 50-yard target before a shot escaped the X-ring. His 400-40X-15X established the top iron sight score for Camp Perry, a longstanding record.

Lawrence A. Wilkens
Lawrence A. Wilkens' Smallbore Prone accomplishments began in the 1920s and continued for decades. In 1965 he was National Civilian Smallbore Prone Champion and in 1970 and 1972 he was a firing member of the U.S. Palma Team.

Overall, the iron sight championship was a tight contest. Reserve Capt. David Ross, Ronald West and Coleman were bunched up, each only four points down at 3196. The title though went to Ross, whose 265 X count was 17 better than West's and 20 more than Coleman's.

A standout performance in any-sight competition was turned in by Greg Tomsen, who was one of 10 shooters with perfect 400-40Xs at 50 yards. To declare a winner in the match with an unbreakable tie, competitors squared off in windy and heavy mirage conditions for a shoulder-to-shoulder sudden death shoot-off. After the first string of four record bulls, Tomsen, West and Presley Kendall remained tied and moved on to fire another 20 shots. In the end, scorers marked West for 17 Xs, Kendall for 18 and Tomsen for 19. Tomsen wanted to challenge his target as he felt he had 20 Xs but with the late day firing, it was put off until the next morning.

Tomsen never got a satisfactory answer to his challenge, although he did get his dollar back indicating he had won it. His target somehow disappeared, never to be seen again, thus denying him the chance to examine it at close range. On top of that little mystery, the record eroded over the next few years, dropping from 39 Xs to 35 Xs, by a rule change that declared records in excess of 40 Xs be broken in groups of five Xs. To consign Tomsen's record to history a competitor must shoot two back-to-back 400-40X targets, an impressive task under any circumstances but a near impossible one on a late afternoon at a windy range. The score has so far survived into the 21st century unchallenged.

David Ross, 1970 smallbore championships
David Ross of Woodbury, NY, won the 1970 National Smallbore Prone Championship in grand style by setting a new National Match record winning score of 6396-554X. Ross was a prone specialist and also a member of 11 Dewar Teams.

Over the third day, Ross displayed a steady hold and nerves of steel when he kept his lead with a perfect 1600. West and former prone champion Vic Auer stayed within a point, but Ross finished with a 3200, leaving civilian Auer behind a point while West finished in third. For Ross, his 6396-554X established a new championship record, bettering by 15 Xs the score fired by Bruce Meredith in 1967. Coleman's efforts were not wasted as he garnered junior laurels, while 1941 champion Rans Triggs topped the seniors and Marianne Vitito earned her third women's title.

There was an unusual distribution of winners in the position sub-aggregates as scores rose throughout the tournament. Jack Schweitzer won the first iron-sight match with a 784-45X, while D.I. Boyd took the second with a record setting 795-57X. With the scopes on, Ray Green shot an impressive 798-55X but besting the score by one X in the final match was Tricia Foster. Through the two-day contest however, Lt. John Writer kept below the radar only to surface on top with a 3175-216X for the national title. Maj. Jack Foster was an X ahead of Writer but two points back while Boyd closed out the top three. Jack's wife Tricia won the women's title, making them perhaps the best married shooting couple in the nation at the time. The family theme didn't end there as Jack and Bill Schweitzer returned home with civilian and junior crowns, respectively.

Both the record-setting and familial trends established in smallbore continued into the high power program. In the high power championship, civilian Ronald Troyer clinched his first national title with a Winchester Model 70 and one match win—the Coast Artillery Trophy Match—on his way to firing a record 1568-53X. The score bested by 15 Xs the previous high fired by Mid Tompkins, who finished five back for third overall in a performance that included a Nevada Trophy Match victory with wins in two of the four events that comprised the sub-aggregate, the Navy Cup and Air Force Cup. He won both contests plus the Army Cup Match in record fashion.

Petty Officer Thomas Treinen
In 1970, Petty Officer Thomas Treinen broke a 31-year-old record as he fired a winning 100-20V+12V to exceed by 5 Vs the record set in 1939. Not content with long-range honors, he won the National Trophy Individual Match in 1973.

This year's overall runner up was Marine Warrant Officer Robert Goller, who won the President's Match Aggregate and claimed championship service honors with an M14. Goller fell short of the big prize when he lost a six-point lead in the last match, the 600-yard Air Force Cup. Pauline Tubb won the women's title while son David—the same David Tubb who would go on to win the most high power open titles (11) in National Match history—earned junior honors. Laurence Moore rounded out the category awards with his senior title.

In Wimbledon competition, a longstanding mark was broken when Naval Petty Officer Thomas Treinen shot a 100-20V+12V to better by five Vs the score fired by a young Marine back in 1939. Later on the same day, Earl Burton successfully defended his Leech Cup title with a 100-17V, two Vs. shy of the record he already shared with two other shooters.

Army SFC Myles Brown edged Tompkins for the National Individual title and in the program finale, National Trophy honors went to the Marines. The California State team, winners of the Rumbold Trophy they day prior, won the Soldier of Marathon Trophy as the high civilian team in the Board event.

See more: The Legend Of George R. "Dad" Farr


1947 Nationals 3
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