I liken High Power to Rowing. I used to row crew for the U. Of Washington. The U. of W. had and still has one of the best rowing teams in the world. But, have you ever been to a regatta? Do you know any famous rowing names? Seen it on tv or used in a beer commercial? No, I didn’t think so. But in the rowing community we know what a glorious and rewarding sport it is. It has been around for generations. It is a precision sport. It is a tradition. But it does not attract spectators. It is difficult to attract new participants. High Power is like Rowing. High Power has also been around for generations. It is a precision sport. In the High Power community it is a glorious and rewarding sport. It is a tradition. But to new and younger shooters it is slow and boring. The number of competitors is dwindling. Nationals at Camp Perry see a decline in registration year after year. My local club championships used to sell out. Not any more. But how can this be? AR 15s and every type of military style rifle is flying off the shelves of every gun store. The sport of NRA High Power is shooting military rifles in competition! What is going on here? What is the NRA doing to make this sport popular again and to attract new shooters?
Other sports like football, basketball, baseball and soccer fill stadiums. They have beer commercials and cable channels dedicated to them. Advertisers, leagues and the networks are continually changing with the times and know how to attract new people to the sports. The huge and popular and “cool” growth in shooting sports is USPSA and tactical rifle. USPSA and 3 Gun Nation are getting new shooters in droves. It is being televised and sponsored. It is fast and exciting. There are famous names coming out that even non-shooters are recognizing. Once again, what is the future of NRA high power and shooting sports in general? Optics.
Optics? I met Mike Krei the NRA Competition Director at Shot Show and picked his brain on the subject. Tactical rifles and optics. To me a tactical rifle is a current military style weapon with hand guards and rails and muzzle breaks and lots of cool “stuff”. AND OPTICS. In High Power across the course competition there are categories. There is the service rifle category, which if you read the rule book says it must look like an issued “service rifle” with iron sights that the military uses. (plus or minus a million details). First that was an M1 Garand, then an M14 and now most use an AR 15. These were upgrades made to weapons over time. They can have custom barrel, action and trigger but the exterior must look like it came off of the rack. There has been a match rifle category where almost anything goes but it still must be iron sights. Lately the true definition of service rifle has become vague. The military is now using all types of tactical rifles and of course with optics. But their choice weapon of the day changes so fast. How can the NRA rule book keep up? Make a new category. Again, optics.
Now this would make every high power shooter out there roll over in their future grave. Scopes? Are you kidding? You are messing with tradition. But the NRA sees the writing on the wall. There is a category 3.2 Any Rifle. It has always been there but no one uses it in Across The Course. I hate to say it but it may just help the sport. Tactical rifles with all of the bells and whistles are attractive to shooters. And guess what? The NRA is willing to take a gamble on this. Unofficially officially, this year at Nationals David Tubbs is donating a Tubbs 2000 rifle with a NightForce scope on it to the winner of the Any Rifle category during NRA week. That set up is worth a few thousand dollars. That might even change the mind of some “Old School” shooters! Chance of winning should be high if there are only a few takers. I think this will be great! As for the future of Long Range High Power that I shoot? Optics. Am I repeating myself here?
I shoot sling support and iron sights. The last few years another category of shooter has crept in and now almost out number the iron sight “slingers”. FTR Class. Long range bolt action rifles with bi-Pod and a scope. To me as an iron sight gal I used to think this was sacrilege. But I get it now. It is way cool.** And hey, their numbers are growing. The US FTR team won a gold medal at Worlds in Ireland last year. They have sponsorship from Nightforce and Berger and others. My friend Darrell Buell is the FTR Team captain. He was beaming when I ran in to him at Shot Show last week. He was there to present Berger and Nightforce with Gold Medals thanking them for their support and faith in the team.
Change can be difficult to accept. Like the saying, “kids these days!” “How dare they change what has been tradition for so many years. It has been this way forever.” Well, sometimes we may not like it. But if it keeps any discipline of shooting sports alive and well? I am all for it. Come on. Say it. “Optics.”
“Shoot Like A Girl! If You Can………..”
**Note! I am still a huge fan of the traditional High Power and I will still shoot it. I do like the tradition. But I have no problem with trying out the new categories. Besides, I would love that Tubb 2000!