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Military surplus rifles carry with them the weight of history—tracing their lineage and manufacture is part of what attracts collectors. Each rifle bears telltale signs of its past, and a true aficionado can become embroiled in the minutia of each weapon variation.
While mastering this level of historical detail can be fun, these are guns, not stamps. It is truly a shame when a piece of precision equipment designed to survive mud, rain and fire ends its useful life as nothing more than a wall decoration. These old rifles weren’t built for spray-and-pray tactics but to put down effective fire at long range and hit the mark. They were built by the millions in some cases, for the warriors of their day, to help defend homelands or, in some cases, take another’s. Unless you have a very rare variant or a rifle that is simply unsafe to shoot, there is no reason you shouldn’t put these historical pieces back in service. That is exactly the idea behind the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) Vintage Rifle competition.

CMP Vintage Rifle Match
Regional vintage matches are held at local gun clubs year round, but the National Vintage Military Rifle Match comes only in the summer and is held at Camp Perry, Ohio. Here shooters compete head to head, using only as-issued U.S. Krag-Jorgensens, U.S. M1917 Enfields or any foreign, manually operated military rifles.
Shooters fire three strings of 10 timed shots, each from the prone and standing positions, in addition to five sight-in practice shots at 200 yards while using only iron sights. But this event is more about fun and reliving the past than it is about winning. At the 2012 championship, there were 400 shooters on the line, with an incredible variety of period rifles. There was a sense that arriving with the most unusual variant was just as important as getting a good score.

Array of Weapons
According to the official roster, the most popular rifle used was the U.S. M1917 Enfield. This British-designed, American-made rifle was originally chambered in .303 British and issued as the P14. When the U.S. entered World War I with an insufficient number of 1903 Springfield rifles, the P14 was re-chambered in .30-06 and issued to American troops. In fact, it was produced in greater numbers and was far more common than the 1903, being the rifle that Sergeant Alvin York used to show his sharpshooting prowess against German troops. It is quite fitting that it should again see service in a marksmanship competition.

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Military surplus rifles carry with them the weight of history—tracing their lineage and manufacture is…