Army marksmen head for olympics


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I sure wish them good luck. I can not imagine shooting effectively at a bullseye the size of an aspirin.

Army Marksmen Target Beijing -

Army Marksmen Target Beijing

[FONT=times new roman,times,serif][FONT=times new roman,times,serif]By MARK YOST
May 15, 2008; Page D9
Columbus, Ga.
We're winning in Baghdad, but can we win in Beijing?
That's a question being asked at Fort Benning, home to the Army Marksmanship Unit and site of this year's Olympic small-bore rifle and pistol shooting trials, which began on Monday and run through May 22.
The Army unit was founded in 1956 by order of President Eisenhower because "he was tired of seeing us get beat by the Eastern Bloc in international shooting competitions," said Sgt. Michael Moore, the senior noncommissioned officer of the unit's International Rifle Team.
Over the years, the unit has won hundreds of individual and team national titles, more than 40 World Championships, and 22 Olympic medals. This year, it hopes to fill half the ranks of the U.S. rifle, pistol and shotgun teams that will compete in Beijing.
The unit's primary missions since its founding have been to raise the overall level of marksmanship in the Army and to act as a recruiting tool. The unit is made up of about 100 full-time Army and civilian personnel who, when not shooting in competition 100 days a year, train Army, Reserve and National Guard soldiers how to shoot.
"Competition to combat" is the link Sgt. Moore likes to make. He also keeps his eye on the college teams, much as NFL and NBA scouts do, looking for the best athletes. The unit hosts junior national and World Cup competitions and camps to remind promising high-school shooters that there's a potential Army career that could lead to an Olympic medal.
In the rifle competition, shooters use either a .177 caliber pellet rifle or a .22 caliber rifle. The pellet rifles are shot on an indoor 10-meter range at a target that is all of 1¼ inch in diameter with the bull's-eye about the size of the head of a pin. The .22s are shot outdoors on a 50-meter range at a target two inches across with a bull's-eye the size of an aspirin.
While many of these competitors got started plinking pop cans with BB guns in their own backyards, competing at this level costs a bit more. Olympic shooters wear special shoes that cost about $300 and have large, flat tip extensions that help them balance while shooting in the prone position. They also wear a shooting suit that features a heavily padded jacket and pants that provide additional support. The whole point is to be as comfortable as possible. "Tension equals movement and comfort equals relaxed," Sgt. Moore said.
Then there are the rifles. The two favorite makes are both German -- Anschutz and Feinwerkbau -- and cost about $2,500 each. The preferred ammo is made by Eley in Birmingham, England.
Each batch of ammo has its own performance characteristics. In a sport where a hair's width can be the difference between gold and bronze, that's important. So shooters find a particular batch of ammo -- identifiable by its serial number -- that works best in their rifle and save it for competition.
In the 50-meter prone event, shooters have an hour and 15 minutes to fire 60 shots. A perfect score is 600, meaning all 60 shots hit the bull's-eye, which is worth 10 points. The top eight competitors qualify for a 10-shot shoot off and have 75 seconds to fire each round. The shots are measured, with the bull's-eye further divided into even more minuscule subsections. If you shoot dead center, it's scored as a 10.9. One tick to the left or right and it's a 9.9.
A typical day at the Army Marksmanship Unit starts with physical training at 6:30 a.m., followed by about five hours of shooting. After lunch, members may shoot more, do skills drills, or perform routine maintenance on the range. "It's a full day," Sgt. Moore said.
One of the unit's top prospects this year is Sgt. Daryl Szarenski, a pistol shooter. The Saginaw, Mich., native, who has been part of the unit since 1992, is trying to make his third consecutive U.S. Olympic team. He recently earned a bronze medal at a World Cup competition in Beijing, the first medal won by a U.S. pistol shooter since 2000. The biggest challenge, he said, is making your whole body stand perfectly still, yet having the mental control to gently move your index finger.
The world record in pistol is 577, the national record is 574, and Sgt. Szarenski's personal best is 573. The difference between those three scores is measured in millimeters.
Another Olympic hopeful is Sgt. Tom Tamas, a two-time Olympian who co-holds the world record in the prone event and earned a silver medal at the World Cup in Beijing last month. The Army also has high hopes for Vincent Hancock, a shotgunner who won his first World Cup in 2005, and again in 2007 with a perfect score. He's 19.
Up against these Army shooters are a slew of pretty good civilian marksmen. Sgt. Tamas, who will know by the end of today if he's on the team, got the silver in Beijing because gold was taken by Matt Emmons, who was trying to become the first shooter to qualify for the Olympics in three different disciplines: prone, standing and 3-point (kneeling). The 2004 Olympic gold medalist will be back in Beijing this summer, representing the U.S. in both prone and 3-point. While attending the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, one of the best shooting schools in the country, Mr. Emmons, who's 27 and married to Czech Olympic shooter Katerina Kurkova, earned four individual NCAA shooting titles. Fairbanks also won the NCAA team championships all four years he was there.
And then there's 56-year-old Libby Callahan. The former Washington, D.C., police officer has been to the Olympics three times -- 1992, 1996 and 2004 -- and practices four to six hours a day, five days a week, near her home in Pawleys Island, S.C. "Most of the athletes are younger than me, but we all have the same desires and goals," she said. "To compete and win."
That's especially true for the Army Marksmanship Unit, which over the years has earned the moniker "Home of Champions." If all goes well, Beijing will simply be their latest triumph.
Mr. Yost is a writer in Chicago.
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And then there's 56-year-old Libby Callahan. The former Washington, D.C., police officer has been to the Olympics three times -- 1992, 1996 and 2004 -- and practices four to six hours a day, five days a week, near her home in Pawleys Island, S.C.
Wow...that's some practice! She's one person who should definitely carry.
I can not imagine shooting effectively at a bullseye the size of an aspirin.

DrDave, I am not even sure I could see a bullseye the size of an asprin.
Hell, I doubt I could walk up to the target and push a bullet through the bulls-eye as accurately as these people shoot!!!
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