The National Matches History

The National Matches History

In February 1903, an amendment to the War Department Appropriations Bill established the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP). This government advisory board became the predecessor to today’s Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. that now governs the CMP. The 1903 legislation also established the National Matches, commissioned the National Trophy and provided funding to support the Matches. This historic legislation grew out of a desire to improve military marksmanship and national defense preparedness. President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of War Elihu Root and NRA President General Bird Spencer were among the most important supporters of this act.

Pursuant to this Congressional authorization, Army General Order No. 61 was published in April 1903. It directed that the first “National Trophy Match” would be fired at Sea Girt, New Jersey on 8-9 September of that year. Teams of 12 representing the Army, military departments of the states, Navy, Marine Corps and state National Guard organizations competed for the new National “Dogs of War” Trophy. The new National Matches expanded to include their first pistol events in 1904. The National Matches moved to Camp Perry in 1907 and with few exceptions, Camp Perry has been the home of the National Matches ever since.

The National Matches celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2003 and the 100th anniversary of their first coming to Camp Perry in 2007. Peak attendance for the matches was in 1962 when the matches were supported and conducted by the Department of Defense and 7,762 competitors participated. Defense Department support was withdrawn after the 1967 matches. The NRA and a cadre of volunteers successfully continued the matches, although with significantly reduced participation. Subsequent to that and until 1995, the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice secured federal appropriations to partially support the matches, but federal support for marksmanship created continuing political controversy. As a result, the U. S. Congress privatized the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the National Matches in 1996, while simultaneously enacting federal legislation that mandated the continuation of the National Matches under CMP leadership (Title 36 USC, §40725-40727). Today, the National Matches include the CMP National Trophy Pistol and Rifle Matches, the Pistol and Rifle Small Arms Firing Schools, the CMP National Games Rifle Matches, the CMP National Smallbore Matches and the CMP National Long Range Matches. These matches are conducted by a partnership of the CMP and Ohio National Guard. The NRA National Pistol Championships are also held at Camp Perry.  


In the years following the first National Matches at Sea Girt in 1903, shooting leaders struggled to find suitable sites for the Matches. The Matches were at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1904 and returned to Sea Girt in 1905 and 1906. Neither facility, however, was adequate to support growing participation in the matches. A permanent home was needed. General Ammon Critchfield, who became the Adjutant General of Ohio in 1903, selected the present Camp Perry site as a potential home for the matches, obtained an appropriation from the Ohio Legislature to start construction in 1905 and established Camp Perry in 1906. In January 1907, a proposal from the Ohio Rifle Association to make Camp Perry the home of the National Matches was accepted by the NBPRP Executive Committee, which asked the Department of War to transfer the matches to the new Ohio State Rifle Range. The ranges were named “Camp Perry” in honor of Commodore Oliver Perry, whose 1813 sea victory over the British took place in Lake Erie just offshore from the new site. The 2007 National Matches celebrated 100 years of National Matches at Camp Perry in 2007.


The National Trophy Rifle and Pistol Matches trace their history to the 1903 legislation that established the first National Matches and appropriated funds to acquire the National “Dogs of War” Trophy, which continues to be one of the most prestigious team trophies in U. S. marksmanship. When the National Trophy Matches expanded to include pistol events, the first trophy awarded was the General Custer Trophy that annually goes to the National Trophy Individual Pistol Champion. The Custer Trophy was first contested in 1904. The Gold Cup National Trophy Team Trophy was initially awarded in 1920. Today, the National Trophy Pistol Matches provide service pistol national championship competitions that preserve the finest traditions of military marksmanship in the United States. A total of 25 different National Trophies are now awarded during the National Trophy Pistol Matches.


The National Trophy Rifle Matches trace their history to the 1903 legislation that established the first National Matches and appropriated funds to acquire the National “Dogs of War” Trophy. This trophy continues to be one of the most prestigious trophies that can be won through rifle shooting in the United States. Today, the National Trophy Rifle Matches provide national championship competitions in service rifle events that preserve the finest traditions of military marksmanship competition in the United States. A total of 36 different National Trophies are awarded during the eight days of competition that now comprise National Trophy Rifle Week.


The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) inaugurated the John C. Garand Match in 1998 and, with it, an exciting new concept in target competition. The Garand Match is a unique competition where shooters fire older “as-issued” military rifles over a course of fire that makes target shooting accessible to thousands of shooters, many of whom do not participate in traditional target competitions. The Garand Match allows shooters to reenact military and marksmanship history and features camaraderie and a relaxed, fun-filled, yet challenging experience. In response to the growing popularity of the Garand Match, the CMP established other competitions of the same type that now include the Springfield Rifle Match, Vintage Military Rifle Match, Rimfire Sporter Match, M1 Carbine Match, Vintage Sniper Rifle Team Match and the Modern Military Rifle Match. Together, these matches have come to be known as “CMP Games Matches.”