Classic SSUSA: Nancy Tompkins Makes History At 1998 NRA National High Power Rifle Championships

Veteran shooter Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher won the 1998 NRA National High Power Championship—the first woman ever to do so.

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posted on February 1, 2024
1998 HPR Vault 1
After capturing the high woman award five times at the NRA National High Power Rifle Championships, in 1998 Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher became the first woman to claim the overall title at the competition.
Butch Houseman/NRA

From the vault: Glenn Gilbert’s match report from the 1998 NRA National High Power Rifle Championship, where Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher made history as the first woman to ever capture the top title. As published in the October 1998 issue of Shooting Sports USA.


Making History at the NRA National High Power Championships
By Glenn Gilbert

Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher made shooting history in 1998 by becoming the first woman to win the NRA National High Power Rifle Championship. She finished with an aggregate score of 2378-94X (out of a possible 2400), one of her best totals this decade, besting the 1997 winner, six-time high power champion G. David Tubb, who shot a 2373-114X to take second place. Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Grant Singley, a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, fired a 2372-112X to grab third place and repeat his 1995 performance as high service competitor.

As high power champion, Tompkins-Gallagher took home the Mumma Trophy plaque, a national champion gold-plated medallion and merchandise donated by sponsors including Smith & Wesson and Sierra Bullets.

Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher is a popular veteran shooter who first competed at Camp Perry as a 16-year-old in 1976. She has earned the high woman award in high power rifle five times, but this is her first overall title.

IN THE FAMILY

Like many competitors at the NRA National Matches, Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher was introduced to the shooting sports by her father. “My dad was a police officer,” she said. “He took me to a hunter safety class and I was hooked. I immediately started smallbore shooting.”

For Nancy, shooting is still very much a family affair. Her husband, Middleton Tompkins, a six-time high power champion, was awarded high senior honors this year.

Nancy and “Mid” have passed on their love of shooting to their daughters, 14-year-old Sherri and 17-year-old Michelle, both of whom are also award winning competitors and coaches in this year’s high power team championship. Like their mother, they started out in smallbore and quickly moved up to high power. They use the National Matches as their summer family vacation.

High Power Rifle shooters at Camp Perry
Shooters prepare for a rapid-fire phase of the 1998 NRA National High Power Rifle Championships.

 

Mike Belle of Tampa, Florida, rounded out the match rifle division by shooting a score of 2370-114X to take third place behind Tompkins-Gallagher and Tubb. Notable special category award winners include Special Agent Bert Medina, whose score of 2360-95X earned him police high shooting honors for the third consecutive year. Jeremy Branning’s poise on the firing line impressed many of his fellow shooters at Camp Perry. He shot a 2321-68X to capture his first high sub-junior title. Also numbering among junior champions was Joel Harless of Fountain, Colorado, who fired a 2330-58X to take intermediate junior honors. Thomas Yackley of West Chicago, Illinois, snagged high junior, while Brian Murphy returned home to Brodgton, Maine, with the collegiate high score.

David Tubb
The 1997 National Champion, G. David Tubb, took second place overall at the NRA National High Power Rifle Championship in 1998.

 

SERVICE RIFLE

In service rifle, Staff Sgt. Kevin McMahon, settled for second. Although his 2372-98X matched Singley’s point total, he was edged out by his fellow U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit teammate in the X count. Third place and high Marine honors with the accompanying General Smith Trophy Plaque went to Sgt. Julia Watson. This, along with her win in the Board (NBPRP) Matches proved to be a very impressive performance for the 22-year-old native from Provo, Utah.

Like Thompkins-Gallagher, Watson began shooting smallbore rifle competitively with her father’s encouragement. In 1992, she competed in her first National Matches for smallbore rifle with the Utah State Team. It was at those matches that she first met shooters from the Marine Corps Shooting Team and also had her first opportunity to shoot high power rifle. “Once I picked [high power] up, I didn’t want to go back to smallbore,” she said. Her encounter with the Marine shooters sparked an interest in joining the Corps.

Julia Watson
At the 1998 National Matches, USMC Sgt. Julia Watson took third place in service rifle and was the first woman to take individual trophy rifle honors at the Board Match.

 

She joined the Marines after graduating from high school in 1994 and was selected for its shooting team two years later. “It used to be the competition itself that I really liked,” Watson said. “Now, because of my job in the military, I like shooting. And when I shoot well, I like being a Marine who stands out. After all, this [shooting] is our calling card.”

As a woman competing in a male-dominated sport, Watson said she would like to see more women shooters participate. “I truly believe this is the only sport that should not be segregated. I think it [a woman winning] should have happened a long time ago,” she said. “It should be equal.”

Sgt. Watson said that her teammates did not have lower expectations of her because she is a woman. “I’m an equal to my teammates. I haven’t had to prove anything. They expected me to do what I did,” she said. Watson is a confident and consistent shooter, and high power rifle enthusiasts would be well advised to keep an eye on her.

SPECIAL AWARDS

Other shooters made their mark as special category award winners for the service rifle division as well. Vincent Greiner of Lawrenceville, Georgia, took high civilian with a score of 2353-64X, while Charles Clark of Camas, Washington, grabbed high senior honors after shooting 2279-52X. In addition, Samuel Freeman of Hendersonville, North Carolina, fired 2242-52X scoring as high sub-junior.

The high power team events were almost too close to call. The Hardholder’s Blue Team consisting of Middleton Tompkins, Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher, Franklin Behl and Thomas Whitaker, and coached by Sherri and Michelle Gallagher, they fired a 1969-88X. This was matched by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Team Bentson comprised of Sgt. Norman Anderson, Staff Sgt. Kevin McMahon, Staff Sgt. Grant Singley, Sgt. Lewis Tippie and coached by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Herman and Sgt. 1st Class Rand Bentsen. According to match rules, the tie was broken by whoever had the highest score at the longest range. The tiebreaker and the RNDC Trophy Team title went to Hardholder’s Blue. Second overall and high service rifle team honors—along with the Enlisted Men’s trophy honors—went to the narrowly edged Team Bentson.

With the large attendance of competitors, narrow margins of victory and many historic firsts, the NRA High Power Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, were a resounding success for the sport of competitive shooting.

BLACK GUNS BLAZE AT BOARD MATCHES

In recent years the Army has fired impressive scores with match-tuned M16s. This year the Marines have followed suit by retiring their M14s and switching to the “Black Rifle.”

Although the Marines’ expectations were low for their first National Championship Match using their new rifles, they fared rather well in the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP) Matches. Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Gilbert took the President’s 100 Match. Sgt. Julia Watson, also of the USMC shooting team, became the first woman to take the Individual Trophy Rifle Match. In addition, USMC Team Rollins won the National Trophy Infantry Team Match, known as the “Rattle Battle,” and USMC Team Morgan placed second, while third place and high civilian honors went to the Wisconsin Eagles. However, Team Bentson of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit took the National Trophy Rifle Team to keep the Marines from stealing all of the glory at the Board Matches.

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