Who Makes a Good Skirmisher?

Are you already a Skirmisher? Ever think about maybe being a Skirmisher? What exactly makes a good Skirmisher good?

Given the title of this column, you might wonder,"aren't all shooters skirmishers?" The short answer is ,"no." Shooters are those people who own a civil war weapon and, they want to fire it safely and correctly. Shooters can shoot safely for years without ever wanting to be skirmishers. They may even engage in National-Muzzle-loading Rifle Association Musket or Pistol Matches, but they are still "shooters".

Skirmishing is a unique sport which combines timed competition and shooting. Team matches require the combined efforts of a group of skirmishers to achieve a specific goal -- break all the targets as quickly as possible. Individual matches allow a specific amount of time for each competitor to shoot a specific number of shots at a paper target -- best score wins. A Skirmisher who does well in Individual competition may not be a good team skirmisher because he or she doesn't have time to make carefully placed shots during timed events. Conversely, a good Team shooter may not be a good paper shooter. If a Team member can shoot three or four aimed shots in one minute, and break a target 75% of the time, that shooter is a great Team shooter. However, the same results may not be impressive on paper. The bullseye on our paper target is identical in size to a clay pigeon. Three out of four times, our great Team shooter is hitting the bullseye. What about the other two or three shots? Seven times nine was sixty-three when I was in Fifth Grade (both years!), and 63's don't win individual medals. Even figuring a 73 to 78 total score, the great Team Shooter is still out of the medals in all classifications. We're talking two completely different skills, and winning Teams have great Team shooters.

Every member of a Skirmish team should have a role -- and they should know what their role is. On a Musket Team, eight shooters combine to attempt to break targets. Usually, 80% of these targets are at 50 yards, and 20% are at 100 yards. If you put your best 50 yard shooters on the line, your Team may not do well at 100 yards. I like to think that two of your eight shooters need to be your best 100 yard shooters for the Team to be most competitive. At 50 yards, since 60% of the targets are pigeons (32 on a backer; 16 hanging = 48/(32+16+16+16) = 60%), you need your five best pigeon busters. After selecting your 2 best 100-yard shooters and your five best pigeon busters, your remaining selection is your best overall shooter remaining.

Of course, the above rationale assumes that you have more then eight musket shooters on your team. Shoot on a team with less than 8 musketeers? Then carve out a niche for yourself. Make yourself a good 100-yard shooter, practice, shoot paper at 100 and get better. Your improvement will improve your team. Or, become a deadly pigeon buster. Practice until you can hit 3 out of four birds every time -- backer or hanging. Once again, your improvement will improve your team.

What kind of team do you belong to? This is an important part of the "good Skirmisher" equation. If you belong to a team which doesn't place an emphasis on marksmanship achievement, and you are the only one who does, you are going to feel out of place and unappreciated or unwanted. Or, if you want to sit around campfires, have big unit cookouts and enjoy the skirmishing atmosphere, and your team is concentrating on winning medals, you will also be out of place. A good Skirmisher fits into the team.

There are all kinds of teams and units. Some teams shoot everything: Musket, Carbine, Revolver, Henry. Some teams only shoot Musket and Carbine. Some teams have the best BBQ, but don't shoot well and don't care either. Whatever your team philosophy, you need to fit in the best you can. If you can't, find a team you can fit in with and join them. In the long run, everybody is better off, believe me. Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(C) 1997 Tom Kelley

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