Adult Three-Position Events: Marksmanship Is A Lifetime Sport

Competitive shooting opportunities abound for adults, especially those seeking Three-Position events from CMP.

posted on January 16, 2024
Borthwick 1
Paul Borthwick has been a lifelong marksmanship athlete in both air rifle and smallbore.
Photo by Chris Lekhavanija

The Civilian Marksmanship Program has long focused on youth competition, but outside of junior events are several adult opportunities for individuals at any stage of their marksmanship journey—from beginner to expert.

Through CMP’s variety of offerings, individuals may decide how little or how much they want to compete. Whether participating in one event a month or one event a year, the CMP provides air gun and smallbore opportunities all year long, including 60-shot air rifle and air pistol events, three-position air rifle and .22 caliber smallbore competitions.

“It doesn’t have to take up all your time,” Julie Landis, 28, of Cincinnati, Ohio, said. “You can compete or practice when it makes sense on your own time. It's a really great hobby/sport to get into, no matter what age.”

Adult three-position is available through CMP events like the Monthly Matches held at the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center in Ohio and the Judith Legerski CMP Competition Center in Alabama. Additionally, the CMP has conducted 60-shot matches for adults and youth since the CMP Competition Centers opened over 15 years ago through annual events like Anniston’s Dixie Double and the Camp Perry Open.

Even the CMP National Matches, held each summer at Camp Perry in Ohio since 1907, hosts several air gun competitions through the entirety of its month-long schedule—now including a series of smallbore events (added in 2018) and 60-shot events (added in 2022).

Julie, a regular at CMP matches, began in air rifle and smallbore at 16 years old. More than a decade later, she tries to keep a steady flow of CMP competitions and training within her busy life schedule—a common challenge as an adult athlete.

“I continue to compete because I still enjoy the sport,” Julie said. “It’s a good way to stay in contact with friends I've made while shooting, and most of the time it is fairly relaxing.”

Despite having to find ways to fit her passion into her calendar, she’s happy to put in the extra work to stand alongside juniors on the firing line, no matter the outcome.

“The sport is fun,” she said. “It is perfectly fine to not be the best out there, and there is nothing wrong with getting beat by a 16-year-old.”

Currently, the CMP allows sanctioned air rifle, air pistol and smallbore matches for adults and juniors. Sanctioning allows clubs to host their own local matches, which benefits both the sport and the marksmanship community by presenting accessible opportunities around the country.

For more serious athletes, the CMP presents Distinguished Badges (the highest individual awards authorized by the United States government for excellence in marksmanship competition) for 60-shot air rifle and air pistol as well as for three-position smallbore. And for those just beginning, the CMP hosts open range timeslots each week within its air gun centers for practice and fun.

“For folks who are near a CMP center and can rent a rifle at the range or know someone who can lend the necessary equipment, the barrier to giving it a try is pretty low. You’ve got nothing to lose but your pride,” Paul Borthwick, 60, of Glenelg, Md., joked. “Too often, adults dismiss smallbore and air rifle as a kid’s game, which is absolutely not the case.”

Paul is another regular at CMP matches. Every month, he makes the long journey to Camp Perry to compete in the Monthly Air Gun Matches, focused on air rifle events. He also heads to Camp Perry each summer to take part in the National Smallbore Rifle series during the annual CMP National Matches.

“Smallbore and air rifle are challenging in and of themselves,” he said. “As adults, we need to be ready to get schooled by the juniors. The performances the kids put up today were not even imagined when I was a junior. It is still a lot of fun though, and the kids are nice about it.”

Without schools or parents involved, Paul has learned to plan and manage his matches, like hauling gear and making travel arrangements on his own. Admittedly, his “adult” responsibilities can create additional snags to his routine.

“Sometimes I have to be cognizant of the fact I’m doing this for fun, and some other issues that pertain to being married, 60 years old with a full-time job, living in a sizable house with a yard and having two dogs is going to take precedence,” he said.

Paul was born into a marksmanship family. His grandfather was a sportsman who hunted waterfowl on Lake Superior as well as the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers in Wisconsin, while Paul’s father was a pistol marksman in the Navy. Paul found his own successes as a junior, including an appointment on the National Development Team and selection as a Junior Olympian for the first Junior Olympics in 1983. He carried on his skills to college and the Navy before leaving the service to attain master’s and doctorate degrees. A busy few decades halted his marksmanship career, but he eventually joined a nearby club with a 50-yard outdoor range for smallbore training. He also built a 10-meter air gun range in his basement, which he still uses today.

“I enjoy the challenge and the friends,” Paul said of the sport. “I also enjoy the friendships I have developed over the years with juniors and their parents. Somewhere I crossed a threshold where I have been shooting since before most of the parents of the juniors were born. That feels a little strange to have even the parents looking at me as the older veteran.”

Paul tries to compete in at least one event each month in either air rifle or smallbore. He also trains one to three times a week, depending on his schedule, though the sport is always on his mind.

“Very seldom will I go a week without some training,” he said. “I doubt a day ever goes by that I don’t spend some time thinking about some aspect of target shooting.”

“Smallbore is my favorite. Even after 50 years, the idea that I can reliably hit a dime-sized circle 50 meters away with a glorified squirrel rifle still fascinates me,” he went on. “Same thing for air rifle—reliably hitting a dot the size of a typical magazine print period with a .177 pellet from 10 meters while standing on my hind legs is pretty cool.”

Paul plans on retiring from work within the next few years and hopes the extra free time will allow him to become more active within smallbore and air rifle. He does what he can to keep up with the physical aspects of marksmanship, like taking time at the gym and attending physical therapy when necessary—anything it takes to carry on his lifelong passion for as long as possible.

“I would like to think I have a bunch of years left in me—perhaps as long as my body will let me get in the positions?” he teased. “I had not really thought about having an expiration date, when I would stop shooting. It is just something I do, so honestly, we will just have to see.”

Learn more about adult marksmanship opportunities at


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