U.S. Army Sgt. Benjamin Cleland set a new national record by shooting the first-ever, perfect score of 800 with a service rifle at the 2019 Charlie Smart Memorial Regional in Oak Ridge, TN, on June 2.
Cleland, a soldier with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s (AMU) Service Rifle Team, competed in the NRA 80-shot regional high-power rifle course along with several other servicemembers and top civilian competitors. And at the end of all four matches, his aggregate score of 800-34X secured the victory.
More importantly though, that aggregate score of 800 meant the Swanton, OH, native managed to hit the 10-ring for all 80 shots—a feat that has never been recorded with a service rifle in this type of match.
The NRA 80-shot high-power rifle course included four separate matches that were broken into two aggregates: slow fire and rapid fire. The first match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 standing, slow-fire record shots at 200 yards—all within 20 minutes. The second match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 sitting and kneeling, rapid-fire records shots at 200 yards within 2 minutes. The third match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 prone, rapid-fire record shots at 300 yards within 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Finally, the fourth match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 prone, slow-fire record shots at 600 yards within 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
To tabulate the score, a competitor receives 10 points each time they hit a 10-ring, which is 7 inches at both 200 and 300 yards and 12 inches at 600 yards. Then, if the competitor hits the inner circle, or bullseye, known as the X-ring, they are given an X count to their score. The X-ring is 3 inches at both the 200 and 300 yards and 6 inches at 600 yards.
The highest recorded 80-shot regional course score prior to Cleland’s 800 was a 798 set by Gy. Sgt. Julia L. Watson of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. And former AMU Service Rifle Team veteran, Sgt. Sherri Gallagher is known to have the *Service Record* for shooting a score of 800. However, Gallagher’s record was shot with a match rifle. Service rifles are limited to M16s, M14s and M1 Garands with a 4.5x scope, whereas a match rifle can be any caliber and size of scope.
Coming up in second place with an aggregate score of 794-31X was AMU teammate and Fort Wayne, IN, native Staff Sgt. Erin McNeil, who recently transferred over to the Service Rifle Team from the International Rifle Team. And close on her heels was another AMU teammate. This time it was Sonora, CA, native Staff Sgt. David Bahten, with a 793-36X.
In the team match, AMU Craig claimed first place with a 1980-81X. AMU Craig team members were: Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Green, Staff Sgt. Cody Shields, Sgt. Benjamin Cleland, Sgt. Lane Ichord and Sgt. 1st Class Walter Craig (coach).
The next big match for the AMU Service Rifle Team is the 2019 Interservice Rifle Championships in Quantico, VA, at the end of June.
Article and photos courtesy of the AMU