Getting Started and Going On

I wanted to take the time to review how to begin competing with your Civil War ordnance items for those readers who might not already be enjoying this challenging and eventually rewarding hobby.

There are several avenues to pursue in competing with Civil War weapons. Most require the prospective competitor to complete a little soul searching in choosing where and how he or she would like to compete. If you enjoy being a team player, and subjugating a small (or greater) portion of your self interests for the "good" of a team, you may enjoy being a member of a North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) organization. Please note that I said a member of an N-SSA organization. The N-SSA does not have individual memberships - each individual must first belong to a "team" in order to compete. This requires a prospective member to locate a team which is accepting new applicants, and then the applicant must additionally purchase the official uniform of the prospective team, another N-SSA requirement. The recruit may have to meet other team criteria as well.

The N-SSA currently has team competitions in Musket, Carbine, Pistol, Mortar, Repeating Rifles and Artillery, and has classified individual competitions in everything but Mortar and Artillery. The non-artillery team events require firing live ammo at breakable targets against a clock. The goal is to record the quickest time while breaking all targets. There is nothing like it in the 20th Century.

North-South Skirmish Association(N-SSA)

Actually, although I have heard some complaints about the uniform requirement, it really is no different then joining a reenactment group or a softball team. Some of the more independent or individualistic among you may find these requirements not entirely acceptable. The argument can be made that original Civil War soldiers didn't all wear the same hats, shirts, etc., but it is one of the things that makes the N-SSA what it is. Membership in the N-SSA includes use of the Ft. Shenandoah range for practice (which I highly recommend) and a subscription to the official N-SSA publication, Skirmish Line. If for some reason you can't or won't accept the idiosyncracies of the N-SSA, there are other groups to shoot amongst.

I don't know why the N-SSA doesn't have individual memberships, so I can't begin to defend this policy. I am sure it is one of the main reason why there are only 4,000 N-SSA members compared to the 25,000 plus membership of the NMLRA, which allows individual memberships. It would be a simple matter to group individual members into 8-person "Region" Teams at National Skirmishes, allowing new members to compete and enjoy the comraderee of the N-SSA fellowship. Also, teams looking for recruits would have a perfect place to look, and would continually absorb the "unattached" into growing units.

The National MuzzleLoading Rifle Association (NMLRA), mentioned above, is the oldest organization in America continually offering blackpowder matches, including classes for muskets and percussion revolver. The NMLRA has sponsored National Matches in Friendship, Indiana, since the 1930s, and quite recently in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition, there are literally hundreds of NMLRA sanctioned matches across the country every year sponsored by the many NMLRA clubs. The only requirement to participate in these NMLRA matches is NMLRA membership, although you will occasionally run into some shoots closed to club members only. The NMLRA publishes the best blackpowder publication in the universe - Muzzle Blasts. Each issue of Muzzle Blasts contains a listing of local club shoots and a club to contact regarding the shoot. A quick phone call or letter will get you all the information about any of the shoots that club is conducting. Also, it has been my experience that clubs want you to shoot, and they usually are already set up to conduct competitions in every class, including musket and percussion revolver pistol. If you have never competed before, there is always someone in the area who can explain the rules and offer valuable assistance at any NMLRA shoot.

National MuzzleLoading Rifle Association (NMLRA)

Furthermore, the NMLRA and the NRA sanction the Levi Garret Territorial Matches across the country every year. The Garretts are a wonderful way to test your skill against some darn good shooters. If you place in the top five spot in the Musket or Pistol Aggregates at a Garrett, you qualify for the National Garrett championships in Friendship, Indiana, in September every year. The qualifying shoots, as well as the championship, are open to all NMLRA or NRA members. Information about the shoots is available every month in Muzzle Blasts.

I can't begin to say enough about the benefits of competitive shooting. It is one thing to line up in the woods and play with all the other kids, and it is quite another to have to be able to load, aim and effectively fire your weapon under competitive circumstances. Hitting a Liter soda bottle at 100 yards is the same as hitting a man at 400 yards, and it ain't easy, pard. Very few can claim .500 averages at 100 yard targets. Sure, we don't use paper cartridges (they're combustible), and the Liter bottles don't fire back, but you still have to toe the line with 7 other shooters and get the job done. And if you don't want to shoot team skirmishing and just punch a little paper, try hitting that 200 yard Bulls-Eye at the NMLRA shoots. As a user of Civil War ordnance and a living historian, you owe it to your understanding of the weapons to live fire them.

You may already be a member of the N-SSA or NMLRA. Good. Why not join the other group then. Membership in both currently costs $30.00 per year. You will expand your competitive horizons, and get more shooting. If your new to the N-SSA, you'll get team shooting and a great place to practice. If your new to the NMLRA, the monthly magazine will blow you away, and is worth twice what it is going to cost you. If you do join the other groups, you'll meet shooters with similar interests. Maybe you'll learn how to throw a tomahawk or split a ball on an axe head, and maybe you'll find a couple of new members to fill in your "B" Team. Definitely a win-win proposition.

What's that? You say you already belong to both the N-SSA and NMLRA, and your sitting there by the fire wondering why you read this far. Well, read on, pilgrim.

If you already belong to both the N-SSA and the NMLRA, and you have a pretty busy schedule of shoots and practice, try this on. The United States International Muzzle Loading Team competes in five disciplines which utilize Civil War weapons. The MINIE Match is 100 meter event for muskets larger than .530, fired from the prone position. The MARIETTE is a 25 meter event for replica revolvers. The GETTYSBURG is a 100 meter event for muskets fired from the standing or kneeling position. The CRIMEA is a 25 meter rapid fire event for percussion revolvers. And, there are three team events which combine the scores of team members in the above matches.

All this sounds pretty exciting to me, especially since there is some agitation to include the 1996 MLAIC Championships in the Atlanta Olympics. For more information on the US IMLC, contact Mr. Donald Malson, USIMLT, 76 Weldon Road, Lake Hopatchong, NJ 07849-9998.

United States International MuzzleLoading Team

From my family to yours - have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year, and until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(c) 1992 by Tom Kelley
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