The first time Mark Del Cotto of Lexington, Kentucky, set foot on the grounds of Camp Perry, he was just a boy tagging along while his father competed in the national games. From 1971 to 1983, Del Cotto joined the ranks of competitors at Camp Perry, but then he graduated from college and life got in his way. In 2008, Del Cotto decided it was time to return to his early passion for competing in national matches, and on July 8, he placed third in the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) Prone Iron Sight Championship. in English).
“I was one of the first shooters, and I love it,” he said.
Del Cotto is a two-time NRA Smallbore Prone Champion. When he first returned to the sport, he competed in CMP Service Rifle Matches and NRA Highpower Championships, but found he couldn’t dedicate space in his busy life to everything. He chose to focus on Smallbore.
“I didn’t have time to do Highpower and Smallbore, so I chose Smallbore Prone,” he said. “Smallbore is a better experience for me. You have the opportunity to fire more shots in a day.”
The CMP Smallbore Prone Iron Sight Championship is part of a four-day competition that includes two days of Iron Sight Championship Matches and two days of Any Sight Matches.
“Each day, competitors fire a record-breaking 160 shots, all from a prone position,” said Brad Donoho, CMP Smallbore program manager. “They do a 40-shot game at 50 yards, a 60-shot game at 50 yards and a 60-shot game at 100 yards.”
Competitors compete for the maximum score of 6,400 possible points. Due to a USCG search, the final day of Smallbore Prone Matches was cut short and the match was condensed to a total of 5,200 points.
“This is a great upside down match,” Donoho said. “It’s like a marathon, and they’re trying to make as few mistakes as possible.”
Camp Perry is a favorite competition site for shooters due to the challenges created by the camp’s proximity to Lake Erie. Lake weather can be varied and unpredictable, all on the same day.
“We had classic Camp Perry conditions today,” Donoho said on the first day of the Smallbore Prone Iron Sight Championship. “It started out a little cloudy, nice and warm, and then came a thunderstorm. We had quite windy conditions and a downpour. Here at Camp Perry, we’re used to 60s and cold, 90-degree days.”
Del Cotto said shooters were disappointed when the NRA moved the National Smallbore Rifle Championship to Bristol, Indiana, so many shooters asked CMP to create their own smallbore rifle competition.
“It was like moving the Augusta Masters,” Del Cotto said. “Ninety percent of the competitors wanted to come back to Camp Perry. When they moved it, the level of participation went down and down.”
This year, CMP competitors had the added benefit of scoring with Kongsberg Target System (KTS) technology which relies on acoustics to determine shot location. Score is instantly displayed on easy to use touch screen monitors at the shooter’s side.
“This is a very good setup for electronic targets,” Del Cotto said. “It is much easier to shoot the game. It’s faster, saves money on paper targets, and there are no rain delays. It’s an absolute pleasure to get to shoot like that.”
Kevin Nevius of Gibsonburg, Ohio, brought 30 years of shooting experience and six national titles to CMP’s Smallbore Prone Matches. He said the Smallbore Prone competition has its own unique appeal.
“The course of fire is longer. You fire more shots per day,” Nevius said. “There is an element of resistance.”
Nevius is used to the challenge of shooting at Camp Perry, but said the first day of the Any Sight Prone Championship was tough.
“We just got off the line, and that last 100-yard game was tough,” he said. “It is very hot and there is a lot of breeze. Today was a tough day, but that’s Camp Perry.”
Nevius placed second in the Smallbore Iron Sight Prone Championship and the Overall Prone Aggregate, and had a blast doing it.
“What I like about the National Matches is that I can see all my friends. When you shoot for so many years, you meet a lot of people and miss them,” Nevius said. “The competition here is fantastic.”
Claudia Muzik is no stranger to Camp Perry. The Air Rifle Junior Olympian has been practicing and competing at camp for years. She won the Smallbore Prone High Junior Iron Sight Championship and the U18 Championship. She had to overcome challenges that are particular to Camp Perry to seal the victory.
“The wind was definitely a challenge during the game, especially on the 100-yard dash, but that’s what Camp Perry is known for,” Muzik said. “There were multiple ceasefires between eagles at the firing range and ships entering the impact zone. You have to get out of the line and then get back in and readjust the focus.”
As one of the younger competitors in National Matches, Muzik relishes the opportunity to shoot with a wide range of shooters.
“The National Matches are definitely my favorite match of the year because of all the different types of people you see. I usually shoot with people my age,” he said. “I’m going to shoot until I can’t physically shoot, so it’s great to see the older shooters here doing what I want to do one day, and I learn from them. They share all their tips.”
Smallbore Prone – Added Championship 5200
Open results: SFC Shane Barnhart, USA, Cardington, OH, 5188-401
Class F Results: Daniel Pagliari, Chandler, AZ, 5129-313
Junior Results: Joseph Hahn, Middle Grove, New York, 5159 – 289
Sub Junior Results: Kent Wingard, Pawnee, Alabama, 4633-77
tall major: Philip Latzgo, Birsboro, Pennsylvania, 5174-331
High Garand Major: Terry Glenn, Auburn, New York, 5151-301
tall woman: Abigail Donovan, Brockport, New York, 5167-340
Smallbore Prone – Team Championship
Open team results: Misfit Love – 1592 – 99
Team Members: SFC Brandon Green, USA, Lewis Makison, PO2 Philip Latzgo, USN and Thomas McManus
Club team results: Rochester Rifle Club A-Team – 1,591 – 108
Team Members: Abigail Donovan, Antonio Gross, Joseph Hahn, and Edward Hahn
State Association Results: Ohio Rifle & Pistol Assn. – 1,591 – 100
Team Members: Jeffrey Perry, Paul Gideon, Garald Wise and Michael Naylon
See the full results at https://ct.thecmp.org/app/v1/index.php?do=match&task=ajaxTab&tab=Results&MatchId=24909. Photos can be viewed and downloaded at https://cmp1.zenfolio.com/f533177503.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearms safety and marksmanship training and the promotion of marksmanship proficiency for United States citizens. To learn more about the CMP and its programs, log on to www.TheCMP.org.