Thought I’d share my experiences in getting into High Power Rifle (Service Rifle) NRA competition, in the interest of encouraging other AR owners to give it a try. There are many books out there about how to compete in HP service rifle competition. I’m no Master or High Master, but I hope that by sharing my experiences I can encourage others to participate in this sport.

My background

When I joined the Southwest Gun Club in 1998, the secretary, Douglas Bowser, encouraged me to attend a CMP M1 Garand clinic. I did, and was bitten by the M1 Garand bug. I went on to purchase my own “Rifle,.30 cal., M1” from the CMP. But more importantly I learned about position shooting, correct use of a rifle sling, and sight adjustment. I went on to compete at the SWGC ranges both in Pike County and at Bogue Chitto, MS. Along the way the more experienced shooters in both locations offered a great deal of helpful and friendly advice. Eventually I obtained NRA rifle coach credentials, as well as JROTC rifle coaching certification. I competed for several years in the early 2000s, then stopped competing for about 6 years in order to coach my son and to support and run the SWGC rifle competitions. Once my son became old enough and proficient enough to compete on his own, I resumed participation in competitions. I currently compete in both CMP and NRA rifle competition whenever possible. I hope some of the following will encourage those who own M1 “Garands”, M1As, and AR rifles to come out and compete in HP rifle matches. It is a lot of fun, you will enjoy the cameraderie, and the personal satisfaction of becoming a “rifleman” with a mechanically sighted (aka “open sights”) rifle is great!

What do I need?

First, you will need a semi-automatic rifle capable of safely firing 10 rounds in 60 seconds. AR rifles (not carbines!) dominate the sport these days, although the CMP holds state, regional, and national competitions for the M1 and M1903 type (bolt action) as well as Vintage Military rifle.

Second, a good sling. These are available from a multitude of sources; the least expensive would be a good reproduction of the canvas sling as issued with the M1. Many are available from national suppliers, I will also give an endorsement here to Robert Dorris of Big Rob’s Leather Works (link at end of article) whose products I use and recommend highly. Rob is a Mississipian and a great guy to deal with.

Third, ammunition you know and trust. While bulk ammunition is available in pretty good supply, it is worth spending a bit more and purchasing “match” grade ammunition manufactured by a reputable company (some suggestions at the end of the article) if you don’t have the capacity to load your own ammunition. I personally use handloaded ammunition tailored to my own rifles.

Fourth, a good spotting scope. Something that allows you to see hits on the target out to 200 yards. The price and selection on these vary widely; if you purchase a scope and then later decide HP rifle competition isn’t for you, at least you can use your scope for spotting targets, hunting, etc.

Then I recommend you go out and participate in a match. In Mississippi this is rather limited. At my home club, Southwest Gun Club of McComb, we currently have an NRA registered HP league firing a match monthly. There are CMP rule matches (more on the differences later) monthly at Magnolia Rifle and Pistol Club in Byram, MS. Additional information on HP rifle matches at Palo Alto in Donaldsonville, LA, and other sites can be found on the web.

More serious equipment

There are several other items that you will need if you decide to compete. Everything I’ve mentioned so far can be used by shooters even if you decide HP rifle competition isn’t for you – so, I don’t recommend purchasing these following items unless you decide that rifle competition is for you.

Shooting Mat: these are available from a wide variety of suppliers. These are essential for shooting in the sitting and prone positions.

Shooting Glove: for the supporting hand. These gloves allow the off hand (hand supporting the fore-end of the rifle) to become an immobile, stable platform for shooting.

Shooting Coat: Absolutely essential for the standing “offhand” position, very helpful for sitting and prone positions. This item is really only used for rifle competition, so I don’t recommend purchasing a coat unless you want to stick with this discipline. Prices range from around $120 to sky’s the limit, so I recommend you try shooting with a friend’s coat before you purchase one. If you plan to get serious about competition, however, a shooting coat is essential. You can boost your scores significantly simply by strapping into one of these specialized shooting coats.

General match expectations

SAFETY is the primary concern.

Regardless of whether you’re competing in an NRA or CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) rules match, there are some universals that you can expect to find at either.

First, bring your rifle to the match in a case, with the action open and an open chamber / safety flag / empty chamber indicator inserted into the action. No rifles are to be handled until the range officer gives permission to do so. Do not bring your rifle to the line until told to do so.

The match director and/or range safety officer will give a safety and procedures briefing before the match. Pay close attention. They will tell you not only the general procedures as I outline below, but will also give you information which is particular to the range where the match is being held.

There will be a preparation period, during which the line will be declared “hot”. During this period you will be allowed to handle your rifle, adjust your sling, check your position, and dry fire. At the end of the preparation period, generally three (3) minutes, the range officer will give the commands for each stage.

When not firing a stage, all rifles must be grounded, action open, magazine removed, safety engaged, with a visible empty chamber indicator inserted. (These empty chamber indicators are referred to by different names: safety flag, OBI, ECI, etc.) If you do not have one you must inform the range officer when you sign up; he will provide one for use during the match. Whenever you hear the command “make the line safe” this means you must ground the rifle, muzzle pointing downrange; remove your magazine, engage the safety, open the action and insert the safety flag/empty chamber indicator. Whenever persons are moving downrange, no handling of firearms will be permitted. This means DO NOT TOUCH any firearm while personnel are changing out of the pits, while people are moving about forward of the firing line, or while targets are being scored downrange.

NRA vs. CMP matches

The NRA matches are different from the CMP “John C. Garand” matches in both rules and procedure. I’ll give a brief outline of both here. This is NOT a complete summary of the rules; I have links to the complete rulebooks for both governing bodies at the end of this article. In general, in NRA matches the shooter starts “in position” for all stages; in CMP matches the shooter starts the rapid fire stages standing and must assume the sitting or prone positions for those stages.

NRA Rules Match:

In the NRA rules match, you will encounter these procedures and rules. The following is the NRA National Match Course of Fire (COF) as fired at the SW Gun Club:

MATCH COURSE: 7.14 National Match Course (50 shots):

MATCH 1: 2 sighters then 10 rounds slow fire offhand in 10 minutes.

MATCH 2: 2 sighters then 10rds rapid fire sitting in 60 seconds.

MATCH 3: 2 sighters then 10 rounds rapid fire prone in 70 seconds.

MATCH 4: 2 sighters then 20 rounds slow fire prone in 20 minutes.
Aggregate score from Matches 1, 2, 3, and 4

TARGETS: note- at SWGC this match is fired with reduced targets at 100yds to simulate 200, 300, and 600yds respectively.

Per section 4.2: National Match Course. Stages 1 and 2: SR-1; Stage 3 SR-21; Stage 4: MR-31.

CLASSIFICATION: Per section 19.1, 19.2, 19.4, 19.5. Scores will be submitted to the NRA for classification.

Rapid Fire procedure follows NRA 10.1.7: The rifle must be kept out of the shoulder, and the ammunition must remain on either the ground or shooting stool. When the command of “commence fire” is given shooters will retrieve their ammunition, load either 2 or 5 rounds and commence fire. (Note: the rifle need not be in the shoulder before the bolt is closed.) After firing 2 or 5 rounds, competitors will reload 8 or 5 rounds as appropriate. Reloading before firing the 2nd or 5th round (hot reload) will result in the shooter receiving a total score of “0” for that entire 10 round string of fire.

M1 “Garand” procedure: Those firing the “Rifle, M1″ aka Garand will close action OVER the 2 rounds and then load upon the command “commence fire”.

Equipment: Shooting coats of canvas or leather and gloves are allowed. Spotting telescopes and ground mats are allowed. Standard Military slings of canvas or leather may be used except in standing position. The use of an Empty Chamber Indicator (ECI) is required in all NRA HP Rifle Competitions (Rule 3.2.1).

Rifles allowed: Rules 3.1, 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.4, 3.3, and 3.4. Any safe iron sighted Highpowered Rifle capable of firing 10 shots in 60 seconds.

For more information on NRA rules see the link to the rule book under the reference section at the end of this article.

CMP John C. Garand Rules match:

(excerpted from the CMP rulebook, see link under references)

200-Yard SR Target

. The standard U.S. Army short-range (SR) rifle target with the X, 10 and 9 rings black or the NRA SR target is used to fire the 200-yard stages of all As-Issued Military Rifle Courses of Fire.


100-Yard Reduced 200-Yard SR Target. The 200-yard SR target reduced for firing at 100 yards or the NRA SR-1 target is used for the M1 Carbine Match and may be used for all As-Issued Military Rifle Courses of Fire at 100 yards when 200-yard ranges are not available.

4.4 Competition and Range Procedures

The following competition conditions and range procedures apply to all As-Issued

Military Rifle events.

4.4.1 Firing Positions

As-Issued Military Rifle courses of fire are fired in the prone, standing and

sitting or kneeling positions. Positions used must comply with the rifle firing positions defined in Rule 3.3.


4.4.4 Loading Procedures

Slow-Fire, M1 Garand

After the command


the rifle may be loaded with only one cartridge.

Slow-Fire, Manually Operated Military Rifles

After the command “WITH ONE ROUND…LOAD”,

the rifle may be loaded with only one cartridge.

Rapid-Fire, M1 Garand


competitors must place a clip and two rounds in the magazine and close

the bolt on an empty chamber by over-riding the top round in the magazine. When the targets rise or the command  “TARGETS”. is given, competitors must get into position and then cycle the bolt to chamber the first round. After firing two rounds, competitors must reload with a full clip

of eight rounds, and complete the series within the time limit.


Rapid-Fire, Manually Operated Military Rifles


competitors must load five rounds in the magazine and leave the bolt

open (do not chamber a round). After targets rise or the command “TARGETS”

is given, competitors must get into position, close the bolt to chamber the first round. After firing five rounds, competitors must reload with a full clip of five rounds and complete the series within the time limit.


The CMP Course of fire (B) is

5 sighters, 5 minutes, any position

20 rounds slow fire prone

10 rounds rapid fire sitting (shooters begin standing then assume position)

10 rounds rapid fire prone (shooters begin standing then assume position)

10 rounds slow fire offhand (standing)

For more information on CMP rules see the link to the CMP rule book under the reference section at the end of this article.


NRA Rulebook:


CMP Rulebook:


CMP homepage for competitions:


Some suppliers of shooting equipment:


Slings and leather goods made in Mississippi:

Big Rob’s Gun Leather:


shooting mats, spotting scopes, ammunition, gloves


shooting mats, coats, spotting scopes, ammunition, gloves, glasses, record books, everything:


shooting mats, coats, spotting scopes, ammunition, gloves, glasses, record books, everything:


Southwest Gun Club, McComb MS


Magnolia Rifle & Pistol Club, Byram, MS


Palo Alto Rifle & Pistol Club Donaldsonville, LA


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