Looking Ahead

The end of a millennium is upon us, so I hear everywhere I go. And with it, the end of 50 years of North-South Skirmishing. But, a new millennium is also upon us, as is the next 50 years of skirmishing. Walking around Fort Shenandoah at the 100th National, I couldn't help but ponder what lay ahead for shooting sports in general and skirmishing in particular.

The ownership of firearms is presently under attack like never before. Gunsnatchers abound in Congress and our state legislatures. Here in the Peoples Republic of Maryland, our own Attorney General has come forward to delineate his desire to ban handguns from the hands and hearth of Maryland's citizens. When the pro-gun Republicans swept into control of the Virginia state legislature last month, it guaranteed a margin of sanity in the home state of the only real estate owned by the N-SSA, but gun control bills will continue to be introduced by the liberals in the Old Dominion.

Another thing you'll notice, is that the anti-gunners are changing their vocabulary. Gun control has been so unsuccessful as a legislative proposal, that the gunsnatchers now refer to their legislation as "gun safety" propositions. I would expect to see more bills introduced in the near future which attempt to regulate public shooting and hunting facilities. By eliminating the places where shooters shoot, the use of firearms in "sporting" events will diminish, and open they way for more drastic measures.

However, there were some great developments at the end of the first 50 years of skirmishing which I believe will continue into the beginning of the second 50 years of skirmishing. There have been an increasing amount of new reproductions coming forward in the last couple of years. Some, like the new Spencer reproduction from Uberti and the Starr single action and double action percussion revolvers, are mass produced. Others are painstakingly assembled by hand by craftsmen like Larry Romano. Still others are assembled by kit builders who use the parts available from dedicated skirmishers like Greg Edington who painstakingly researched the Lorenz Musket and invested his own capital in the production of authentic, accurate parts to assemble a fine replica of the Lorenz.

It is extremely likely that this trend will continue. The market for reproductions is collectors, reenactors and skirmishers. The lion's share of that market is reenactors for sure. And during the last decade, reenactors have shown that if a historically accurate, safe reproduction can be produced, they will purchase it. On a lesser scale, if the manufacturer is willing to submit to the process of arms approval in the N-SSA, skirmishers will also support their reproduction efforts economically. I would not be surprised to see more individuals engage in efforts much like Greg Edington and produce their own limited quantity of parts for restoring or recreating some excellent civil war arms.

Aside from the increased availability of quality reproduction arms, quality reproduction of uniforms and equipment has also developed, and the reenactors who take to the fields in the next millennium will be the most historically accurate soldiers in the field ever witnessed by spectators, at least since First Bull Run. The sutlers at National Skirmishes and reenactments offer goods considerably more accurate then ten years ago. While the trend in uniform authenticity has not carried over too strongly to established skirmishing teams, new units entering the N-SSA are some of the best looking, most historically accurate uniformed units to ever field a Musket team in the N-SSA.

Looking for a good time and a fun way to keep burning black powder during the Winter months? Well, I've taken up Cowboy Action Shooting with the Single Action Shooting Society as a way to crosstrain for my skirmishing. Shoots generally only last one day, Saturday or Sunday, and I get to use revolvers and my Henry for practice. I know my N-SSA Team Henry shooting has improved from my participation in Cowboy Action Shooting, and it's a lot of fun, too. I wear my ol' Civil War duds and they fit in just fine. To learn more about CAS, visit the website at http://sassnet.com or write SASS,

I'm beginning to become a firm believer in crosstraining for skirmishing. The three top shooters on my team all engage regularly in some other shooting sport, and I think that's what makes them our top three shooters. This winter, find another shooting sport to improve your skirmishing.

What new trends and issues will develop in the years ahead? Will the N-SSA be able to break through the glass ceiling that seems to keep our membership level stagnate? Will National Skirmishes still be open to all teams who desire to compete? What changes can be made to the N-SSA organization that will improve the chances for growth of our sport?

Given the fact that the last two National Skirmishes have utterly taxed the size of our firing line at Ft. Shenandoah, I wonder how the membership will address event management at the Nationals. The firing of Individual targets on Saturday is now history due to the larger number of Carbine Teams registering for Nationals. It appears certain that the Carbine Team Match will now be divided into two phases, just like the musket event. The early phase will kick off on Saturday morning, followed by the second phase. We may see this arrangement as early as the 101st National.

The N-SSA is a confederation of teams; we have no individual members. Recruits must join through an existing team. At one time, there was a proposal to let individuals join a Regional Cadre and shoot as a pick-up during their first year of membership, however, that idea seems to have passed away from the light of consideration. Regional cadres seem like good ideas for teams who are having trouble recruiting new members, but it would be a significant philosophical change for the Board of Directors to approve such a measure. Also, because our Regions aren't truly regional, a cadre recruit might find himself in the middle of a dog fight over which cadre he actually belonged in. And, this might create 13 more Carbine and Musket Teams at the National at a time when we are already pressed for space on the firing line.

I guess the big question that the N-SSA faces as we move into out second 50 years is, are we willing to make philosophical changes to our methods of operation? This writer has agitated in the past for qualifying for National Team Match participation, and even moving the National Skirmish dates one week to a three-day weekend to accommodate larger schedules. However, these decisions are to be made by the Board of Directors.

Many more proposals are sure to be developed to improve the mechanics of our sport. The future lies ahead of us, and I am confident that we will be prepared for it when it gets here. I'm looking forward to another year of shooting and skirmishing in 2000. Until then, please promote responsible gun ownership, shoot safe and have fun.

1999 by Tom Kelley

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