NRA President Allan Cors first encountered the shooting sports as a youth growing up in Cincinnati, OH. Mentored by men who had a passion for owning firearms and shooting, he went on to become a Distinguished Rifleman himself. Mr. Cors was kind enough to sit down with me recently to talk about competitive shooting.
John Parker: How did you get started in shooting?
Allan Cors: Growing up in Cincinnati, the first competitive shooting I did was as a Cub Scout. At a local church we had a Cub Scout pack, headed by a former Marine who felt that every young man needed to learn how to shoot. We would practice at a smallbore range at a Methodist church about a mile away. Through the Cub Scouts, I met people who led me to my interests in hunting, which led to gun collecting, and so forth.
I ended up competing all over Cincinnati, shooting smallbore in high school. Yet by the time I made it to college, I had more important things to do than pull triggers. It wasn’t until after I got married that my hobby of gun collecting really gained steam.
JP: What is the biggest obstacle to growing the shooting sports?
Cors: I think the biggest obstacle is having a place to shoot. So many friends and family members have bought guns, and don’t know where to go to shoot. For example, in the last 12 months I have helped, at their urgent request, six women buy handguns, and that is not easy. It’s a challenge to find just the right gun, and especially hard to get the owner trained, since you need access to instructors and a range. Over the past year, the women I helped became familiar with their firearms and self-defense at my range, and they were able to find suitable firearms. Even though this example is about self-defense purchases, it applies to rifle and shotgun buyers as well.
New gun owners need easy access to a range with instructors so they have a comfortable place to practice. The more the NRA and similar organizations can do to guide novice owners to places where they can go shoot, the better. I would like to see every new gun sold have an insert in the box that says “Find a place to shoot and get yourself trained,” and offers information from the NRA, CMP, NSSF, etc., on where they can go. How many guns are purchased by first-time buyers who never train with them? This is a concern to me, and any way the NRA can help is a goal of mine.
JP: Sort of like the NRA Mentor Initiative. New competitors are often mentored by a veteran shooter. Did you have a competitive shooting mentor?
Cors: I had two, and it was amazing the impact they had on me. Both of them were Distinguished Riflemen on the Virginia team, and they really helped me with shooting skills. One was Clint Fowler who was a great Virginia shooter. The other was Dave Meredith, who was on the Army’s MTU team. He had just gotten out of the Army when he moved to Virginia, so he joined our team as a civilian. Both of these men took an interest in me, and especially helped me out with my position shooting.
Others had gone over the basics with me, but these guys really took an interest in my competitive shooting techniques by going above and beyond what is expected of a usual coach. My confidence soared when I saw the results of their coaching and advice. Sitting position, rapid prone, standing; position is so important in this game. All the things that are crucial—they made sure I got it right.
JP: That is great. Most people have one mentor, and you had two.
Cors: I would suggest to shooters who are experienced to be a mentor. If you want to help preserve the Second Amendment and the outdoor lifestyle, you can help by introducing people to the shooting sports. Help someone get a conceal-and-carry permit, or take a younger person to the range. We need to get more people involved.
At my tank farm I have a small range where we shoot at up to 100 yards. So many new shooters have come to visit and shoot; everyone has such a fun time. Although once, a 12-year-old boy told me “I don’t think I like this.” Which was fine, but at least he had a chance to try it out.
I would encourage those who are already into shooting to pay it forward, even if it’s just taking a new shooter out to plink at tin cans. Plastic milk or juice jugs are also great. People have a lot of fun doing that. New shooters enjoy a dynamic target that allows them to see something move or jump in the air. The instant feedback, they love it. I don’t call that competition, I call it recreational shooting.
JP: Kind of like America’s Rifle Challenge and similar programs. Editor's Note: NRA America’s Rifle Challenge is a recreational shooting program for rifle owners of all skill levels to try out action shooting sports. More information can be found at arc.nra.org.
Cors: I think that new program is a great idea and I’m really excited about it. America’s Rifle Challenge encourages people to get their guns out of the closet and on the firing line.
JP: Out of your personal collection, do you have a favorite rifle for competition?
Cors: I still have the M1 service rifle I started out with. It was a standard-issue M1 with the densest walnut stock I have ever seen. It was a fun rifle to shoot, and the one I used to earn the Distinguished badge.
JP: In your April American Rifleman interview you mentioned how you began shooting competitively when you decided you needed an activity to do besides work. Would you recommend competitive shooting as a way to relieve stress?
I was introduced to Col. Joe Smith, who ran the Director of Civilian Marksmanship program for the U.S. Army (or DCM, which is the precursor to today’s Civilian Marksmanship Program). He suggested that I learn how to shoot my M1 rifles competitively. Col. Smith suggested I train with the Virginia State High Power Rifle Team. From that point forward—service rifle competition was my singular focus.
I first became Distinguished with the M1 Rifle in 1967. Our team was lucky that we had easy access to the rifle ranges at Quantico—we never would have done as well without getting lots of practice time at those ranges. It is difficult to do well at Camp Perry without a quality long-distance range for practice, at least 600 yards for across-the-course.
In the 1990s we transitioned to the AR-15 platform. It was a much more stable rifle platform. The AR-15 became the service rifle of choice for the team and myself.
JP: Do you have a favorite memory from the NRA National Matches?
Cors: The Infantry Trophy Match, the “Rattle Battle” was my favorite. We won many national championships. It is great fun. Some of my favorite memories would be the funny ones at Camp Perry, like living in the huts. Forty years ago, they were dramatically different than they are today. They were mostly WWII facilities. The doors and windows were often broken. Believe it or not, at times we would have 12 men to a hut, all sleeping in double-deck beds.
Today, Camp Perry housing is greatly improved. In the 1960s, before the military pulled out of Camp Perry for a few years and NRA took over, there were huge amounts of people coming to Camp Perry. All the ranges would be filled, and housing was at a premium but the military had to pull out because they had to focus on the war in Vietnam.
JP: That is what I’ve noticed at many championships, it’s not just the actual match itself, but instead it’s all the camaraderie and friendships, the bonds that are made from competitive shooting. It’s amazing.
Cors: It is. I think most competitors gain a lifetime of great memories.
JP: Do you have a favorite NRA discipline to recommend to new shooters?
Cors: What do you think my answer is?
JP: High Power Rifle, maybe Service Rifle?
Cors: No. The answer is I don’t have any favorite to recommend, because they are all different. Find the one that fits your level of interest, and your level of what you want to put into it. For example, I truly admire precision air rifle shooters, but that’s not for me. I want something a little more relaxed than that, such as high power or shotgun. But that’s me. Find whatever fits your interests and needs.
Ask yourself, “What do you want out of it?” Do you want competition, or do you just want to have fun with your friends at the range knocking over tin cans? Do you want to shoot to develop self-defense skills with a pistol or be a serious match competitor? When I shoot sporting clays or skeet, I shoot from the low position. It’s not because I’m a hot shooter, it’s because my real goal is to become a better bird shooter. I never start with a mounted gun. Again, it’s about finding what fits your interests and what fits your needs.
JP: So basically don’t go do it just because you think you should, do it so you can adapt it towards what your goals are. That just goes to show competitive shooting has a discipline that can please anyone.
Cors: High power rifle competition also helped me develop my skills for big game hunting. Caribou, elk, deer, antelope, etc. And it will change as the years go on. As you can tell from my previous remarks, earlier in my life I was devoted to serious service rifle competition. At this stage in my life I have more interest in pistol and shotgun. So I have no favorite. It’s what fits your lifestyle and personal interest at a particular stage in your life. Competitive shooting is an escape. Some friends have motorcycles and ride to get a change of scenery. A friend of mine drives racecars at a track.
Competitive shooting is one of many things, like reading or music that can be a great escape. For me, shooting is a great escape—as well as a social event.
JP: Will you be going back to the National Matches as a competitor any time soon?
Cors: I hope to go to Camp Perry next summer and shoot the service rifle. A new event that I enjoy is the CMP’s Two Man Team Vintage Sniper Rifle match.
JP: I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun. You are on the CMP board as well as NRA President. What do you think of the new Talladega shooting facility? I thought it was impressive.
Cors: CMP is blessed with the money to build such a great range. It’s a really great asset. I think it’s going to stimulate shooting on electronic targets. I think we may see electronic targets at Camp Perry, soon. Also, why do you think golf is falling off in popularity? It can take four and a half hours to get in a round.I don’t think people want to spend 10 hours of their day on the rifle range. For example, I’ve fired in some high power rifle matches where we had to be in the parking lot no later than 7:00 A.M. to shoot across-the-course, and wouldn’t finish until 6:30 at night. Just to shoot across-the-course!
I think people don’t want to spend as much time on hobbies, sports, and activities as they did in the past. I think this is really affecting shooting. Going back to the question of how we can get more people shooting, we need to get people shooting more shots in less time. One way to do that is to use electronic targets, where no time is wasted pulling targets in pit duty, range changes, scoring, etc.
While these are concerns to some, I think most competitors will enjoy shooting on electronic target systems. You can run significantly more competitors, run a match in less time, or shoot more shots, or do all three, than with traditional targets.
JP: That’s right, every system I have tested has been fast and accurate. For example last year I tested the Oakwood Controls LOMAH electronic target system, and it was very convenient for high power rifle shooting.
Cors: And there is the connectivity. A match in California can be observed live in Virginia. At the CMP Park in Talladega, everything is networked together. Every shot is displayed on monitors on the line and in the clubhouse, or on an iPad anywhere you can get online.
JP: One last question. One of the most important attributes of any organization is the way it treats its membership. Do you feel competitive shooters have been forgotten over the years?
Cors: I certainly think that they have not been forgotten. The NRA spends over $4 million dollars a year on competition. That is far more than our revenues from entry fees. Essentially, we subsidize competition in the various NRA shooting disciplines. But competitive shooting is one of the five important goals and objectives of the NRA. We are committed to doing a good job of promoting and supporting our competitive shooting programs.