Above: Samuel Payne finished his sensational Rimfire Sporter run by winning the inaugural Talladega 600 event at the Talladega Marksmanship Park.
Samuel Payne had an unforgettable 2015. At just 16, he dominated the Rimfire Sporter events at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) Eastern Games, National Matches, Western Games and the Talladega 600, while also setting two new National Records during the year. Sam’s photo also graced the cover of 2015’s 10th Edition of the CMP Guide to Rimfire Sporter Shooting—and rightfully so. He proved his undeniable talent at every event he entered, not only winning the matches, but also setting the bar high for competitors in the future.
“From when I first started, I always said I was going to be the first one to shoot 600—that was my dream. But I never really thought it was possible,” said Sam. “Being on the cover of the Guide to Rimfire Sporter definitely made me believe I was good enough to be the first one to do it. I figured, I was good enough to be put on the cover, so I'm good enough to shoot the first 600.”
“I wanted to do it just to hear everyone say ‘some kid’ did it first,” he added.
His sensational year began at the 2015 Eastern Games in North Carolina in May when Sam became the first marksmen in the history of the CMP Rimfire Sporter Match to fire perfection—etching a score of 600-50X into the record books.
“I stopped a second, and I was like, this is what’s going to either make me or break me—you’ll either shoot a 600 or you’ll mess all of this up,” he explained of his last shot at Eastern Games. “I pulled the trigger, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I just did it. I’m the first one.’”
The previous year, Sam missed out on the perfect 600 at Eastern Games by only one point—firing a score of 599-43X. Excited to gain that point back at Nationals, he was denied his chance when a treacherous thunderstorm forced the event to be cancelled.
“At Eastern Games, I was just hoping to tie my 599 from the previous year,” Sam said. “I never thought I would be the first person ever to fire 600. And after having an amazing chance to do it last year at Nationals but being rained out, I was determined to win no matter what this year.”
Flash forward to the prestigious National Matches at Camp Perry in August 2015 when the Kingston, GA, native became the Match Winner of the T-Class with an unbelievable score of 599-46X—another National Record. He was also the High Junior and the High 4-H Junior.
He said of his performance at Nationals, “I wanted to shoot a 600 because I didn’t want to do so good there (Eastern Games), then come out here and do worse at the bigger competition.”
The one point he dropped in the match was his third shot during standing rapid fire. From his scope, he thought the shot may have been close to the 10-ring, so he continued on as if he was still on track with his perfect performance.
“I didn’t know until after I finished shooting [that I didn’t make the 10-ring], which is probably good because it would’ve messed me up a little more,” he said with a smile.
Of his new National Record, he added, “It’s awesome. It’s almost as good as a perfect score because it’s the thing to beat.”
The following October, Sam set his sights on the CMP Western Games in Phoenix, AZ. It was there that he again overtook the T-Class and the match with a score of 593-29X—beating the second place competitor by 10 points and the closest junior by more than 100 points.
At the inaugural Talladega 600 event in December, fired at CMP’s state-of-the-art Talladega Marksmanship Park in Alabama, Sam raised his score from Western Games by finishing with 597-33X. He was, for the fourth time that year, the Overall Winner and High Junior of the T-Class—becoming the first to do so at the Talladega 600 and the first person in history to sweep the Rimfire Sporter matches in the North, South, East and West.
Sam’s roots in the Rimfire Sporter Match started at the 2013 National Matches when he was named the High Junior and finished 11th overall—firing an impressive score of 586-29X. The following year at the 2014 Eastern Games and Western Games, he was the High Junior and Overall leader in the T-Class. He has remained at the top ever since—not bad for “some kid.”
Currently, his dad, Doug, coaches Sam’s Bartow County 4-H team and hosts a Rimfire Sporter match each month in Griffin, GA, at the Georgia Competitive Shooters Club. He also takes Sam to Tennessee and other small Rimfire matches to gain more experience in the event. In addition to shooting the .22 rifle, he has also been active in air rifle over the last few years.
“In 2016, because of starting precision air rifle and three-position smallbore, we may not travel to all the matches like in 2015,” he said. “But I will be going back to Nationals to try to set the record again, and we will definitely be going to the New England Games (set in Vermont in September) to try and be successful in all the big matches.”
Congratulations, Sam, and good luck in 2016!
About the Rimfire Sporter Match:
The Rimfire Sporter Match entered the CMP Games events in 2002. The recreation-oriented match features manual or semi-automatic .22 caliber sporter rifles that competitors fire from 50 and 25 yards using open, telescopic or rear aperture sights. The event is designed to be fun and challenging, while also being perfectly suited for both experienced and new marksmen. For more information on the Rimfire Sporter Match, visit thecmp.org/competitions/club-sanctioned-events/rimfire-sporter.
Entry for the National Rimfire Sporter Match held on Saturday, July 9, at Camp Perry is open. Visit ct.thecmp.org/app/v1/index.php?do=match&task=edit&match=14096 to register.