By a slim two-point margin, the United States once again secured victory over Great Britain at the Pershing International Trophy Match, 3990-293X to 3988-287X. The 13th contest in the series, which dates back to 1931, this year’s Pershing Match was held Wednesday, August 3, at Camp Atterbury, Ind., during the Smallbore Rifle Prone Championships at the NRA National Matches. The occasion marks the first time that the Pershing International Trophy Match has been fired at Camp Atterbury.
Held every four years, the location of the Pershing Trophy International Team Match alternates between the United States and Great Britain. In 1969, the Field Marshal Earl Roberts Trophy Match was added as a British tournament to complement the Pershing. From the 2022 NRA National Matches program: “The Pershing Trophy Match, named for General John J. Pershing, the Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, has been competed for in international shoulder-to- shoulder competition since 1931. In 1969, the British counterpart of the Trophy Match was established as the Field Marshal Earl Roberts Trophy Match.”
Targets used are those of the host nation. Each Pershing Match team includes 10 firing members, plus a captain, coach and adjutant. Past participants have included Olympic medalists, All-Americans and Smallbore Rifle world record holders.
The late, great shooting sports historian Hap Rocketto went more in-depth about the significance of the Pershing Trophy Match: “It is the Smallbore Rifle equivalent of the Palma Match, and is an event just as eagerly awaited. The heat of competition is like the fire in a forge. It tests and tempers the mettle of the shooters while it forms stronger links between the competitors and their countries. Therefore, the importance of the Pershing and Roberts Team Matches to the Smallbore communities of the United States and Great Britain cannot be overemphasized.”
A team of 31 British shooters traveled to Indiana to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. at the 2022 NRA Smallbore Rifle National Championships, with a squad of 20 trying out for the Pershing Team. Most of them arrived early to compete in the Smallbore Prone Nationals, as well as take in the sights; for several of the Brits, it was their first time visiting the United States. American hospitality for our guests abounded, with the National Rifle Association of America, Indiana Rifle and Pistol Association, Black Hawk Rifle Club, Capstone Precision Group, Silver Mountain Targets, the X-Count, Stillman Uniforms and Camelot Ridge sponsoring three banquets held at Camp Atterbury for all shooters and match staff. Additionally, competitors from both nations exchanged gifts.
A living legend was at the helm for the U.S. Pershing Team at Camp Atterbury. Past Olympian and Distinguished Rifleman, retired U.S. Army Colonel Bruce Meredith served as coach for the 2022 U.S. Pershing Trophy Team. But this was far from the 85-year-old’s first time with the squad. Back in 1969, Meredith competed with the first U.S. Roberts Team in England, known at that time as the “Anglo-American Smallbore Team.”
Since it was held in the United States this year, the Pershing Match used the Dewar course with NRA A-23-6 and A-25 targets. Forty shots in total are fired for record by each competitor—20 shots at 50 yards and 20 more at 100 yards. In addition, an unlimited number of sighter shots may be fired during the allowed time.
TEAM USA WINS
On the day of the Pershing Match at Camp Atterbury, competitors from both teams were greeted with calm skies and barely a breeze. “I’ve never seen wind flags just hanging down like this,” said U.S. Pershing Coach Bruce Meredith. The 100-yard strings were fired early in the morning to take advantage of better conditions.
The U.S. Pershing Team’s two top shooters this year were University of Kentucky rifle expert Richard Clark and Morgen Dietrich, both ending the match with 400-33X scores. For Clark, the Pershing victory came hot on the heels of his big NRA Smallbore 3-Position National Championship title secured earlier in the week at Camp Atterbury. (A few days later, Clark would walk away from the 2022 Smallbore 3-Position and Prone National Championships at Camp Atterbury with the Lones Wigger Iron Man title.) At 100 yards, five American shooters posted 200-point scores: Clark and Dietrich with 16X, along with Mark Del Cotto (13X), Deena Wigger-McDormand (16X) and Stephen Angeli (15X).
A total of five wind coaches were allowed for each team. Meredith assigned two shooters to every coach. “I took the lowest two that made our team,” he said. “I figured if I could guide the less experienced shooters through it, we would be okay. We won by two points, which was a little closer than I thought it was going to be. We eased through it.”
On the British side, the top shot was Sue Norman with a score of 400-32X, followed by Alan Bain with 400-30X. Four British shooters earned 200-point scores at 100 yards: the aforementioned Norman (17X) and Bain (15X), plus Simon Green (13X) and Matthew Dixon (14X).
“Only two points separated the first and second place teams,” said Mike Arnstein, adjutant for the Great Britain Pershing Team and a member of the U.K. National Smallbore Rifle Association’s rifle committee. “Our team generally performed extremely well after flying about 3,500 miles to a new range, and for some of shooters, a new country.”
This year’s Pershing Trophy Match ended with the traditional awards banquet, which celebrated not only the match itself, but also the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. Held at Camp Atterbury’s clubhouse, the formal dinner included the presentation of team awards, along with several toasts highlighting the friendship and camaraderie between Smallbore Rifle shooters from both countries. The love of marksmanship is truly international.