column By: Steve Garbe | February, 20
By now, most everyone in the BPCR world has heard of the latest, and somewhat surprising development concerning the National Championships for BPCR Silhouette. The NRA Competitions Department has decided to hold the Nationals, not at the traditional location of the Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico, but at the Ridgway Rifle Club in Ridgway, Pennsylvania.
Of course, this upset many people who had come to relish the yearly gathering at Raton. To be fair, I’m sure there are also competitors from the East who will enjoy not having to make a very expensive and time-consuming trip to New Mexico. Some have described the Nationals as a “western” match, simply because of its location and the many western shooters who attended. In the early days of BPCR Silhouette, western riflemen were in the majority to be sure, due probably to BPCR Silhouette being a “western” thing, just as Camp Perry is an “eastern” thing.
However, that’s not the problem that has many long-time silhouette shooters upset. The way that the NRA chose to make the change, at a late date for people to schedule vacations, not notifying those people (many who were volunteers) early-on to give them a heads-up or even discussing such a major change amongst shooters at the previous years Competitors Meeting at the Nationals really smacks of a politically-motivated decision. Small wonder that many loyal competitors who had attended the Nationals regularly, in spite of the many issues viewed by participants as mismanagement of the event by the NRA, have now decided to go elsewhere.
Understand that the Nationals, in their 33 years of existence, have never really been held anywhere other than Raton. Some would make the argument that it was time for a change. That may be so, but as a competitor, I have shot at both Ridgway and Raton, setting records at each range. Considering simply the level of difficulty that each range presents to the shooter, I can tell you that Ridgway is not a Raton. Many of the top eastern competitors I would talk to while we were both competing at Raton have agreed with me. Raton presents a unique set of challenges that, in my estimation, make it the best range for a true test of a rifleman’s skill in a national championship setting.
However, all these previous points are not the most serious problem that I see with the NRA’s decision. Many years ago, after attending a particularly acrimonious Competitors Meeting at Raton with good friend Mike Venturino, I commented “the NRA will never change the way they handle competitors until they hold a Nationals and no one attends.” From talk on the Internet and amongst the shooters I know, it looks like we are dangerously close to that prediction. This latest move has alienated many of the shooters who still chose to compete at Raton, in spite of the NRA’s notorious mishandling of Nationals, and has encouraged even more bickering and harsh conversation on the Internet.
For years the NRA has vigorously reminded us in their numerous calls for donations that we, as firearm enthusiasts, must “stand together” under the constant attack by numerous anti-gun organizations and politicians. Solidarity was viewed (and I think correctly) as the only way to present a united front and wield a “big stick” when it came to countering the anti-gun legislation. If the NRA truly believed in that concept, why in the world would they then make a decision that even the dimmest light at the Competitions Department knew would divide and alienate even more competitors? Do we really need to mention that these same competitors are dues-paying members of the NRA?
It would appear to be “hypocrisy on parade.” Is it possible that the NRA has dwelled in the D.C. Beltway long enough that they are taking on the traits of the very politicians we pay them to ride herd on? Given recent allegations and controversies centered on the higher-ups at the NRA, it would seem to be so. The attitudes displayed all those years ago at Raton by the Competitions staff towards the shooters now looks like the standard NRA attitude to any who would question their actions or decisions. If the NRA is seriously diminished over fallout from these latest allegations, it will be because of this arrogant and self-serving attitude.
I enjoyed the years that I spent shooting NRA BPCR Silhouette. The fact that I chose to not attend later matches was a personal one, based largely on what I perceived as the NRA’s mishandling of the event. That was my choice. Now that the NRA has well and truly walked away from the Raton Nationals, I’m waiting for the void to be filled by a different organization that understands the need to work with competitors instead of dictating to them. I don’t expect it will take long.
– Gut Ziel