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Marine shooting team preps for competition against Army champions

The 55th Annual Interservice Rifle Championships are set for month's end, and it's not too late to secure a spot.

The competition will be June 22-29 at the Calvin A. Lloyd Range Complex at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. The Marine Corps team will square off against last year's winner — the Army Marksmanship Unit — as well as 10-member teams from the Army Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, National Guard and Navy.

Marine Corps post and station teams are invited to join in fact, shooters from the recruit depots have long been a familiar sight on the firing lines.

Teams and individual competitors must confirm their intent to participate by registering via the Civilian Marksmanship Program website, or in person at the Calvin A. Lloyd Range Complex, building 27241, no later than 7 a.m. on June 22. Complete details can be found in Marine administrative message 264/16.

Don't expect to show up with a standard service rifle. Competition-grade M16s are weighted to 16 pounds to improve balance, have a smaller iron sight, a free-floating barrel and an increased accuracy of up to 1,000 yards. Most Marksmanship Training Units have match-grade weapons and ammunition allocations, said Maj. Eric Antonelli, officer-in-charge of the Marine Corps Shooting Team. It will require some coordination with the local S4 shop, armory and others, but Antonelli is willing to help Marines get what they need.

The championship is composed of 16 competitions, 14 of which are open to all branches. Shooters can expect to take aim from various positions at 200, 300, 600 and 1,000 yards, and do so at slow and rapid fire. Matches can have from six to 10 teammates on the line. The renown Infantry Team Trophy match, commonly called "rattle battle," will be June 29. In this homage to World War I-type warfare, six shooters share 384 rounds at the 600-yard line. The target is up for 50 seconds as shooters advance to 500 yards.

Marines are eligible to compete for the Kevin "Gus" Kistler Memorial Trophy, and sailors will have a service-specific award as well.

One day of competition will be spent gunning for the coveted team championship. The Army Marksmanship Unit took honors last year with a score of 4,917 out of a possible 5,000, and 167 Xs, which denote a dead-center shot. The Marine Corps Shooting Team came in second at 4,831 and 130 Xs. Beating AMU is no easy task. The group is essentially a professional shooting team; the Army even places team members on a designated career path. That means it almost always has the service's best shooters and weapons at its disposal. But don't count out the Marines just yet.

The Marine Corps Shooting Team has been doing increasingly well as of late, Antonelli said. Division matches have helped build a strong cadre, and a "phenomenal training plan that challenges the Marines and develops their weak points," has proved invaluable. In fact, the leathernecks beat the AMU team last year at the national championships.

Antonelli welcomes all competitors with open arms. The more Marines there are, the better chance the Corps has to take home a trophy, and it gives him a chance to scout potential summer or permanent team members. Deployments and the drawdown have "drastically undermanned" his team, which is at 55 percent to 60 percent of its allowance, Antonelli said. He has a 13-Marine rifle team with "a massive amount of potential," but will rely heavily on summer augmentees to meet all missions. Fair warning: he is looking for quality over quantity; those with the right attitude and a willingness to learn, even from people of lower rank.

"Check ego at the door, and we can make you a good shooter," he said. Contact him at eric.antonelli@usmc.mil or (703) 784-5450.

Antonelli recommends that even if unable to compete this year, interested Marines should check out the match. The rifle, service pistol and combat shooting teams will be there to answer questions.

The Marine Corps Shooting Team will head to a secluded Pennsylvania range after the interservice competition. There, members can shoot sunup to sundown without any distractions as they prepare for the national rifle and pistol championship matches that kick off in July at Camp Perry, Ohio.

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