By Ashley Brugnone
Like tumbleweeds in the wind, nearly 200 marksmen and women rolled through the desert to fire in one of the Civil Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) most unique matches of the year–the Western CMP Travel Games. Under the hot sun at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility, in Phoenix, participants compete in popular CMP Games matches, including the John C. Garand Match, Vintage Sniper and Rimfire Sporter–all while immersed in the stunning scenery that can only be found in Arizona.
Attending for the first time was father/daughter duo Blue Beckham, 42, and McKenna Beckham, 13, of Phoenix. The two participated in the CMP’s Small Arms Firing School (SAFS), which is designed to teach new and experienced marksmen AR-15 rifle fundamentals through classroom and hands-on demonstrations from qualified CMP instructors.
McKenna is currently a smallbore shooter but hopes to soon add highpower to her repertoire through the local junior team, the AZ Junior Highpower Scorpions. For McKenna, shooting is a sport she takes on both for fun as well as to train for her future dream job.
“I want to be in the Secret Service when I’m older, so shooting is a good skill to have,” she said. “And I love it–that helps.”
During SAFS, McKenna learned the essentials of firing a rifle and also fired in the true M16 match that is always held at the conclusion of the course.
“I thought it was really fun. I had never shot an AR before,” she said. “I had never really been to a highpower match before, so that was really cool. And I liked learning how to operate the pits.”
Her dad, Blue, is also new to the highpower competition world, generally partaking in rifle shooting as only a hobby instead of competitively. A common interest he and McKenna share, rifling with his daughter is something Blue cherishes as he watches her grow into a talented young woman.
“It’s the most exciting thing in the world,” he said. “My son shoots and my nephew shoots, but they aren’t as competitive this way as she is, and to see her out here competing with people who have been doing it for 40 years is just an incredible, proud moment, for sure.”
“Lots of pictures were texted afterwards,” he added, with a smile.
McKenna equally enjoys delving into the highpower rifle realm with her dad, saying, “It’s cool because, like in smallbore, he has no experience at all so he can’t really help me, but he has more experience with ARs and other rifles, so it’s nice to hear his opinion on them compared to just hearing my coaches.”
“She’ll do it for the rest of her life. I have no doubt,” Blue added.
Winning the M16 Match and earning EIC points was James Ritchie, 64, of Barstow, CA, with a score of 376-7x. Earning the High Junior honor and landing third overall was Caden Gamblin, 16, of Tucson, AZ, with a score of 364-8x.
David Geyer, 41, of Phoenix, AZ, had an outstanding showing at the 2016 Western Games, coming out on top of both the Three- and Four-Gun Aggregate competitions. Guyer, who made his sixth Western Games appearance this year, enjoys the comradery and historical distinction that comes along with competing in the Western CMP Games.
“There’s just something about having an old M1 Garand and imagining who carried it before you and just trying to use it to the best of your ability,” he said.
Last year, Guyer earned the second place spot in the Three-Gun Aggregate and attributes his success at this year’s Games to the practice he has put in over the months leading up to the event, having utilized a SCAT machine at his home range, Ben Avery.
“It really helped me with my offhand scores,” he said. “With the practice, I saw my scores gradually increase over time.”
From here, Guyer is looking forward to fulfilling a long-time goal he has never been able to achieve–competing at the National Matches at Camp Perry, in 2017.
Other winners of Western Games included Rimfire Sporter winners William Aten, 64, of Kingwood, TX, who overtook the O-Class and William Ellis, 51, of Langley, England, who was the overall winner of the Tactical Class. Robert Evans, 31, of Reno, NV, who competes with only one hand due to an unfortunate IED accident while deployed in Iraq as an Army soldier, won the T-Class by more than a 10-point margin.
In the only team event of the Games, M-2, consisting of Mike Barranco and Michael Miller, won the overall manual competition of the Vintage Sniper Match with a score of 389-10x.
Save the dates for the 2017 Western CMP Games―October 13-17, 2017!