This column will be the last of 1997, so I wanted to look forward to next year. The winter season is the time for refitting sights, working out new loads, breaking in new arms and generally preparing for the next season of shooting and skirmishing. This year, 1997, I was really pleased with the way my Carbine Team came around. We have had a hard time getting shooters to the line in the past, and we were always short at the National because the National Carbine Team is 8 shooters and all the other Carbine team events are 5 shooters. At one time, I shot a Navy Arms Musketoon, which I glass bedded. It was a sweet shooter, and once broke 9 out of 10 pigeons when we finished a 32-target pigeon board with 5 shooters. The Burnside bug bit me, though, and I spent a year getting all the parts together to make a Fifth Model Burnside. I still like the Burnside, but I wasn't helping my team out because I was only breaking the same number of targets each time. This year, I was lucky enough to pick up a Harper Ferry Arms 2nd Model Maynard reproduction from the limited number of available pieces that Jerry Stone was carrying. They are all sold out now, but the barrels were all prime, and I am having some success shooting the Maynard now. One other member of my team also got a Harpers Ferry Maynard (the last one as it turned out!), and a couple others have picked up some Smiths, so we grew from 5 or 6 shooters to 9 carbine shooters in about 2 months. I can't wait to start shooting Carbine Matches with all the gang next year, and it really will keep me daydreaming during the winter blahs.

We decided to try and shoot more Pistol Team events as well in 1998. Pistol Team is a totally different environment than any other skirmish event. We actually spend more time loading then we do breaking (or trying to break) targets! There are a lot of approved revolvers available, and we have renewed interest in Pistol Team shooting for next year, too. To a casual onlooker, the short range -- 25 yards - for an N-SSA Revolver Match looks deceptively easy. What most beginners don't realize is that the surface area of the targets used -- pigeons and 4-inch tiles - is smaller than the 9-ring of a 25 yard N-SSA Revolver target, which makes breaking targets in Revolver matches a significant accomplishment. On our team, we shoot for the fun of it, but some day we hope to clear all the targets. Our present philosophy is to miss as quickly as possible so we have a lower gross score after the penalties for remaining targets are added. I myself have managed to miss with great speed in recent events.

In addition to more Carbine and Pistol shooting in 1998, the Chesapeake Artillery purchased a mortar at the Fall National and we will be competing in Mortar Matches as well in 1998. Several of us have participated on crews of other teams when they needed fill- ins, but this is our first mortar and we are excited about the prospects of popping off mortar rounds on Friday nights next year.

Another part of my 1998 shooting and skirmishing plan is to return to the Levi Garrett Territorial Matches sponsored by the National MuzzleLoading Rifle Association (NMLRA). I missed last year due to surgery on my left elbow, and I always have a great time in the Musket and Revolver classes at the Territorials. The NMLRA added Postal Matches to its' itinerary last year, with great success. I think I'll agitate for a Musket Class in the Postals, and maybe in a couple years we can do that every year too.

The Chesapeake Artillery will also be conducting our Artillery Camp at Gettysburg again in 1998. It is a great opportunity to learn authentic Civil War artillery drill and enjoy participating in a reenactment, and those of us who staff the Camp always have as much fun as the campers. Last year was a big success and we hope to have an even bigger success in '98.

In 1998 we will be reenacting the year 1863, and I am sure Gettysburg will be a big attraction for that reason. It still appears that we will two events, but other events will all be much bigger I am sure. The success of the long scenarios at Antietam this year should mean longer battles at most reenactments, something I am sure everyone will enjoy in '98. It would also be great if we could save some more battlefields next year, so go out and support some preservation efforts whenever you can in 1998.

In this column next year, I hope to be reviewing the new Chattahocee Arms 2-band Rifle, shooting the Maynard Carbine, providing some living history ideas for school and other groups and covering the news from the Nationals. I'm sure I'll also cover some new websites I've discovered, and I hope to have some surprises that don't incur the wrath of too many N-SSA Board Members. Merry Christmas to all the readers of the Civil War News, and Happy New Year to the ones who like my column. Until the new season, practice, shoot safe and have fun.

(c) 1997 by Tom Kelley
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