Keefe Report: The Nation's Oldest Marksmanship Organization

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posted on August 23, 2016
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The National Rifle Association of America is more relevant today than at any time in our organization’s 145-year history. Of course, your NRA, through the Institute for Legislative Action, works to safeguard your freedom by working within the political process. And that is a process you must participate in—go to nra-ila.org to see what you can do.

But that is not all that NRA does. Not by a longshot. Article II of NRA’s bylaws contains the following “2. To promote public safety; law and order and the national defense; 3. To train members of law enforcement agencies, the armed forces, the militia and people of good repute in marksmanship and in the safe handling and efficient use of small arms.” Even though NRA is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the Association also remains the nation’s oldest marksmanship organization.

In 1871, NRA was formed to promote “rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” But that role has expanded to include other forms of marksmanship for both law enforcement officers and “people of good repute.”

Some sage advice was provided by a Distinguished rifleman in the pages of this magazine in the March 1942 issue, words we should heed today. “Fire power is important, but it is effective only so far as it is accurate—and the more accurate it is the less fire power is needed. Teach basic marksmanship first.” That man was Brig. Gen. Merritt A. Edson, USMC, who received the Medal of Honor for his bravery and leadership on Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal. He went on to say, “Teach target marksmanship at known distances first.”

And NRA continues to teach “target marksmanship” today, and participation in NRA competitions can provide lifesaving skills. I would argue that the best way to become proficient with a firearm is not just training, but through regular practice and competition. NRA Bullseye Pistol competition, or 2700 or NRA Outdoor Pistol as it was known for many years, has shooters firing not only at the 25-yard line but also at 50 yards. The 10-ring on an NRA Bullseye target is 3.3" across. And, per NRA rules, you do it one-handed. Want to master sight picture and trigger control with a handgun? I contend there is no better way. Too, there is NRA Action Pistol. You can find out more at compete.nra.org.

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” the old joke goes: “Practice, practice, practice.” For law-enforcement officers, NRA offers police training with rifles, shotguns, carbines and handguns. But NRA’s Law Enforcement Activities Division also offers police competition, including Police Pistol Combat Competition in which officers shoot at targets from 7 yards to 50 yards. If you have ever had an opportunity to see officers shoot at NRA’s Police Nationals, you know that they have tremendous skill. And in this dangerous world that we face, I believe marksmanship skill matters now more than ever.

“Do as much properly planned firing as possible. Do not just pump off bullets to make noise. Always plan to hit the mark, whether it be a bullseye of the A, B, or D target, a silhouette or a bobber, or a rock or a tin can or stump in the butts. Always try to find out exactly where your shots are going.” That advice came from Melvin Maynard Johnson, a Marine reserve officer and, of course, a gun inventor. You may have heard of him.

Our world has changed. Those who hate our freedom—whether driven by insanity, hate or perversion of faith—seek to kill Americans simply for being Americans. Whether you are a member of the military, a law enforcement officer or an armed citizen of “good repute,” marksmanship proficiency is something you can do to safeguard your own life, as well as our way of life.

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