In 1859, the National Rifle Association (NRA) of the United Kingdom was created for much the same reason as our NRA here in the USA. Its founding aim was to raise funds for an annual national rifle match “for the promotion of marksmanship in the interests of Defence of the Realm and permanence of the Volunteer Forces, Navy, Military and Air.”
The National Rifle Association of America was established in 1871 with its first “Annual Matches” held in 1873 at the legendary Creedmoor Range on Long Island, NY. Today’s NRA National Pistol Championships are still held each summer at Camp Perry, located near Port Clinton, OH, on the southern shore of Lake Erie.
In 1903, the U.S. War Department (now Department of Defense) formed the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and the National Rifle and Pistol Trophy Matches. The measure provided a great boost to civilian marksmanship training, an effort begun a generation earlier by the National Rifle Association.
In 1905, President Roosevelt signed into law the sale of surplus military rifles and ammunition to rifle clubs that met certain requirements. And in 1916, the National Defense Act authorized the War Department to further distribute funds to open all military rifle ranges to civilian shooters. Today, many military base rifle, pistol and shotgun ranges are used by civilian shooting clubs and associations, providing excellent opportunities for training, practice and competition.
The National Defense Act also created the Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM), which was civilianized in 1996 as the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. The restructuring of the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), earnestly supported by the NRA, was opposed by anti-gun members of Congress, who would have preferred to abolish the program entirely, eliminating its firearm safety training activities and destroying its rifles and ammunition.
Now in the 21st century there are nearly 2,000 state and local shooting clubs and associations affiliated with the CMP, and over 15,000 shooting clubs and associations affiliated with the NRA. Nearly all offer matches in multiple disciplines that are sanctioned by one or both organizations. This vast network offers tremendous opportunities for shooters to exercise their Second Amendment rights competing in the shooting sports.
CMP continues to administer its historic Excellence-in-Competition program (Leg Matches leading to Distinguished ranking) and to sponsor the National Trophy Matches, which include the President’s Rifle and Pistol Matches, fired with service rifles (such as the AR-15) and service pistols. Recently the CMP has made available an electronic target system in conjunction with Kongsberg, including a mobile setup to demonstrate the technology to those unfamiliar with it.
These matches usually begin each year in July, followed by NRA matches in Precision (Bullseye) Pistol, Smallbore, High Power, Mid Range and Long Range Rifle. In 2014 the NRA National Smallbore Championships moved from Camp Perry to Wa-Ke'-De Rifle Range in Bristol, IN. In 2017 the NRA National High Power Championships also found a new home on the ranges of the Indiana National Guard’s Camp Atterbury. NRA Precision Pistol remains at Camp Perry.
You will hear the terms DCM (the CMP Director) and CMP used interchangeably in reference either to firearms sales such as the M1 Garand or sponsorship of the National Trophy Matches. Both CMP and NRA each have their own rulebook, with subtle differences. Both use different scoring systems. NRA matches allow sighting shots—CMP, generally, does not. In general, however, the two organizations have pledged to make the two rulebooks as compatible as possible. For example, the NRA High Power Rifle rulebook reads:
3.1 Service Rifle … (e) Any rifle or modified rifle not covered by NRA Rule 3.1, but permitted by CMP Rules is considered a service rifle in NRA sanctioned competition.
Paragraph 2.3 of the CMP rulebook explains: Annual National Rifle Association (NRA) National Rifle and Pistol Championships may be conducted in conjunction with the CMP National Trophy Matches. The CMP and NRA will conclude appropriate agreements to identify their respective responsibilities in conducting the events that comprise the National Matches.
To participate in the National Matches or for more information about the CMP, CMP Clubs, and Excellence-in-Competition matches, contact 888-267-0796 or go to thecmp.org. For NRA competitive shooting programs, contact 877-672-6282 or visit compete.nra.org.