LOOKING BACK & LOOKING AHEAD

As we all try to remember to write "1993" on our checks, correspondence and other writings, I want to take the time and effort to look back at 1992, as well as looking forward to 1993.

From the competitive shooting point-of-view, 1992 was a banner year personally and generally. I think there were more opportunities to compete with musket, carbine and muzzleloading revolver in 1992 than in any year previous. The N-SSA has developed a spectacular schedule of skirmishes at their range near Winchester, Virginia, that allows members the opportunity to shoot competitively more than 10 times a year. If a shooter practiced once before each skirmish, and participated in 10 skirmishes, he or she would be heatin' up the barrel just about every other week. I know "avid" golfers who don't get out that much! Add in the N-SSA approved skirmishes in the several Regions, all of which offer good shooting, and any skirmishers plate can be full of possibilities. While every skirmisher doesn't hunger to compete, and some rarely compete, if you have the desire to burn powder and throw lead in a competitive atmosphere, a highly favorable schedule is provided by the N-SSA.

Additionally, I have been fortunate enough to discover the Levi Garrett Territorial Matches underwritten by the National MuzzleLoading Rifle Association and Levi Garrett. These matches offer Musket Class competition, usually at 50 and 100 yards, as well as a muzzleloading revolver aggregate. It has been my experience that these widely distributed matches offer some bona fide stiff competition, and I know from personal experience it is just as thrilling to medal in a Levi Garrett as it is to medal at a N-SSA match.

The lack of competitive experience should not hamper the reader from resolving to compete in 1993. If you join an N-SSA team to compete, in almost all circumstances, they will provide you with a blackpowder mentor to assist and guide you. If they don't, join a team that does. If you want to shoot at a NMLRA shoot and it is your first time, ask the person at the registration desk if there is an experienced shooter who can provide some guidance. I have never seen nor heard of such a request being turned down. Don't be afraid to ask questions, either. There are several tricks (buying extra practice targets, etc.) that your guru will probably know, so pick his or her brain.

At this time of the year, I generally write about setting goals for the upcoming year, and reviewing last years goals. Did you set goals last year? My goals were to shoot in ten competitive matches and shoot certain scores in each level. I managed to attend exactly ten shoots, but my target scoring goals were not achieved at half of those contests. However, I did move up a notch in my N-SSA Musket Classification, and my Musket Team won a 2nd place medal at a skirmish. Individually, I won three musket class medals at the Delaware/New Jersey/DC/Maryland Levi Garret, and qualified for the National Match, which I could not attend. Although I didn't achieve my goals each time, I think that goal setting did assist me in the successes that I enjoyed in 1992. For 1993, my goals will be similar to those from last year, I just hope to be able to meet them more frequently. One additional goal will be to bring my revolver classification up to my carbine/musket level.

In addition to competition with Civil War Ordnance, I think 1992 was a banner year for events which desired to raise money for the preservation of historical sights related to American History and the American Civil War. I hope this is a trend which continues in 1993.

I had some absolutely delightful experiences with a few merchants in 1992, and I want to take the time to identify some of the best to our readers. As you know, not every merchant holds him or herself to the highest of standards. Last year, I had the delight to meet some who do, as well as continuing my relationship with a few of the best.

In 1991, I decided to adopt a very nondescript confederate private appearance for my reenacting career. Needing a Richmond Pattern Shell Jacket to complete my uniform, last February I traveled to Newark, Delaware and the showroom of Grand Illusions. Two of my comrades had already purchased Richmond Shells from Grand Illusions, and I was impressed enough with the quality and fit of their jackets to make the 130 minute trip. What I found when I got there was, to coin a 5th grade phrase, "totally awesome". Not only did they have dozens of well made, authentically patterned clothing items, but they had them in my size. Grand Illusions has mastered the technique of converting the old Civil War patterns to modern size standards. Although I am more than average in girth (46 Regular), if they had an article marked "46R", it fit like custom tailored! I was able to walk out with a wonderful, hand loomed jean cloth Shell Jacket that was not only made well, but has worn well. The cost was around $100, and worth it. Additionally, my good friend Jim WOmelsdorf ordered a matching shell, which arrived about three weeks later and is just as well made. The icing on the cake was that my loving bride ordered a day dress, but couldn't find a material she liked in stock. Sonny Whitlock took her measurements, scoured the country side for material, sent Mrs. Kelley samples, and mailed the dress in about six weeks. It fit like a glove but was a bit too long. Sonny rehemmed it and returned it in record time. This was not an expensive gown, but a day dress that tipped the scale at about $100. If anyone asks me, I always recommend Grand Illusions, 90 East Main Street, Newark, DE 19711, (302) 366-0300 as the first place to look for the best value in museum quality clothing.

Not every truth discovered in lifes' journey is new. Some are occasionally reconfirmed. In October, I purchased some incomplete pistol kits from a national manufacturer. Needing screws, I ordered them from Dixie Gun Works. DGW turned my order around in less then a week. Later, when I got the pistol to a point where I could try them, three of the seven did not fit my gun. When I returned them to Dixie, they provided screws which fit perfectly, also in about a week, and returned my extra funds via separate check. I have been receiving this kind of service from Dixie Gun Works for almost 20 years! If an individual asked me where to start a search for any blackpowder or Civil War related item, I would feel negligent if I did not include the name of Dixie Gun Works as a reliable source. The Dixie Gun Works catalog alone is worth twice what it costs, and lists thousands of items annually. Send $4.00 for your copy to Dixie Gun Works, P. O. Box 130, Union City, TN 38261.

One final endorsement I would not hesitate to make is The Regimental Quartermaster from Pennsylvania (P.O. Box 553, Hatboro, PA 19040). Gene and George Lomas are two of the most dedicated merchants in the hobby, and they stand behind skirmishers and reenactors as well as the goods they sell. You will find their amply supplied tent at most Civil War events. I have never known The Regimental Quartermaster to fail to try to satisfy any and all who do business there. From Muskets to Musket Caps; Uniform Coats to Uniform Buttons, The Regimental Quartermaster offers excellent value and selection. I was so green you could stick me in the ground and grow when I started dealing with Gene and George, and I have never regretted our relationship.

I can offer these recommendations and endorsements because I have done business with these establishments in enough volume to know that I will not receive late night calls from irate citizens who followed my recommendation. Hopefully, there are equally valuable merchants across the country that I will also become familiar with in the future, and as I acquire more jewels I will certainly share them with our readers.

I also want to thank Kay and Pete Jorgensen of The Civil War News for giving me the opportunity to reach such a wonderful audience. And that audience should know what good people we have running this show. They don't back down in supporting important issues. God Bless you both.

Let me close by saying that I have enjoyed the cards and letters the readers sent me in 1992, and I look forward to receiving more in 1993. Last year I seemed to raise some sore issues, and I look forward to leading the discussion of important issues in the future (Actually, I was hoping Mr. Bilby would be the lightning rod this year). Feel free to respond to this or any column with a letter to the editor or a personal letter addressed to me in care of The Civil War News.

Don't forget to get out your ordnance and give it a good cleaning this month - rust never sleeps.

Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(c)1993 Tom Kelley
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