Let’s start at the beginning…………
1949 – I shot my first rifle match.
1953/54 – I saw my first high power rifle match at Fort Hood, TX. My Uncle was Base Commandant. I always thought that it would be cool to shoot the “big guns”.
1955 – I first heard about The Palma Team from my subscription of The Rifleman.
1957/61- Shot small bore in High School.
1961 – Participated in a demonstration of Biathlon. I was picked because of my shooting and cross country experience. It was my first time shooting high power.
1962 – Joined The Air Force. Qualified in Basic. They tried to con me into joining the shooting team (at the Green Monster), but they had promised me two years of Electronics Training on an Atlas Guidance Launch Crew. With an Altas Missile who needs a rifle?
1966 to 1975 – Didn’t do much in the way of Competitive Shooting.
1976 – Met people like Gene Carson, Creighton Oudette and Wayne Forshee (dun dun dun.. my Nemisis and good friend). I began getting back involved in shooting. Realized it was the time to give High Power a real go. From the 50’s until this time I did my own work on my rifles.. and also on my friends.
1980’s until 1996 – Most of you have known me or have heard the stories. There were multiple trip to Camp Perry.
1996 – Wayne Forshee put together a team for the The Romanian Trophy. There were 4 of us. Doan Trevor, Billy Parfitt, Ron Michon, and Terry Glen. We came in 2nd to the Hardholders. There was only one High Master on our team, Ron Michon.
1996 until 2009 – Moved to California. Shot and became friends with some amazing Southwestern Shooters. Still built some rifles.
2009 until 2018 – Moved to New Mexico. Tried to retire. Ya’ll kept calling me, I’ve stayed busy. Built a few Raffle Rifles, I think it’s been about 6.
As you can see, I’ve kept track of the Shooting and Palma worlds. There’s a few things that should be brought to attention. I know that this isn’t as much my circus as it used to be, but as someone who was involved and now has a slightly outside observation point, I see things that could be improved.
Here we go.
To The Power To Be:
Number 1. Team Appreciation: The US Palma Team is every bit as important as The US Olympic Teams. And should be considered as such. The Palma Match is a World Championship.
Number 2: Marketing. Possible thoughts about Marketing. The Raffle Rifle in past years (including this one) could and can earned us more. Have we ever thought about The American Rifleman? We don’t need a hand out, but a hand up. If we could have a place or perhaps the cover of the magazine to support the team or a place on the website to donate to a World Class team that would mean more financial support. We need to take stock of this in the next few month. We are hitting critical mass for fund raising for our team members.
Number 3. Financial Stability. A financial stable team, is a team that can practice and compete with thinking about the money, this makes for better shooters. Unfortunately, some of out best shooters can’t think about participating at the international level because of finances. (Many years ago, I had the opportunity to ski at an FIS level, unfortunately, I did not have the funds. This also happened to me on the shooting circuit.) It’s a shame that we are missing out on such talent. There are ways to ensure a financially stable team. One is having a larger audience for donations and other fund raising means.
Number 4. Team Improvement: The team matches at the Spirit of America Match in Raton, NM at The Whittington Center is a perfect training ground and recruitment for future Palma Shooting teams. Rather than having all the certified coaches show up for the match, who already have all their selected shooters in mind, we organize teams like Wayne did in 1996. We intermix the shooters. Having someone from each qualifications on each team, this teaches all. And at the same time, it allows coaches to evaluate the up-and-coming shooters to shoot between horizontal lines. This would help to eliminate some of the required team practices. This could be done with a number of matches across the country at the local level.
So, here are my 4 major thought points. I know that these will not be favored by some. At this time in my life, I figure it needed to said. If you have any other ideas or thoughts, please share them here and with other Palma shooters. Maybe we can have an even better team and organization. Again to drive home the point, fund raising is paramount. Until then, happy trails.
Maybe I am wrong, but wasn’t there a donation made to the Palma team many years ago that was to be held in an account for future efforts? It was to be held perpetually and interest on the principle would be used to help fund the team? Believe that fund was started by Ed Andrus…?
Let me talk about “promotion” of Palma for a moment. It is pretty much non-existent and has been for as long as I can remember. With very minor exceptions, the Palma Promotion website has not been updated since 2011. Nothing fresh and certainly nothing that leaps out at me as exciting. It is better than the 1997-2009 timeframe when the the site sat virtually in Limbo. Then, let’s talk about the long-range forum for a moment. That was all of the ink that it was worth.
Palma has been dying a slow death and it is getting worse. Ask any gun-plumber and they will tell you that those new shooters building palma-specific rifles are few and far between. It’s not like it was from the years of 90-05. So what has really changed to cause this? My guess is that much of it has to do with how the US Palma Team has been selected. When the selection process was based upon “are you an NRA member and can you shoot the score” based upon heads up competition, the game of Palma in the US actually grew. Maybe the team didn’t perform as some would have wished, but changing team selection to be “more like the Brits” has had a detrimental effect on the sport here. We are a Federal Republic, not a Constitutional monarchy. Folks here don’t like to support a game of elites or snobs (like Polo). The rank and file here in the states believe in what is open and fair. When a game is fixed or has any perception of it being fixed, they walk.
How to fix the game and make it grow once again? Promotion is key. Do what worked in the past. Select the team based upon an open tryout that supports the NRA Nationals and settle it instantly in head-to-head competition. A detailed list of expectations and an agreement should be signed by each team member. It should explain exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect as an outcome for their efforts. A tryout where ALL shooters can point to each one that made the team and say “they made it 100% based on their abilities” makes them seek that higher level because it is viewed upon as the upper crust, not favoritism.
The team has been bent of winning, no matter the secondary outcome. Members are selected on a tight criteria of who can hold waterline elevation and who can deliver fast shots under a coach. Elevation shots have never lost the US a Palma Team Match and I defy anyone to find proof to the contrary, it’s those wide 7 to 7 ring shots that should be the focus of the team. i.e. the coaches. THAT is what gives a better scorecard result. If the shooters couldn’t hold elevation, they wouldn’t have finished in the top 16 of a tryout. Quit worrying about what doesn’t mean spit. Delivering fast shots under a coach can be taught and practiced until it meets team accepted levels. Again, this is what practices are for.
Personalities. If anyone imagines that a sport like shooting doesn’t have its share of ego’s and individualism, they might pick up Psychology Basics 101 and read the first chapter. A leader will lay out the rules in that agreement on team behavior, so there is no possible mistake. It is 100% “for the team” or don’t waste our time. Little need be said beyond that.
Does it really matter if the team wins? Not as much as you might imagine. What i consider a win is when 24 members of a traveling team come back from the experience of a lifetime and go back to their respective ranges, that they cannot stop talking about what a fantastic trip they had. They are the best possible ambassadors for the team and will spread the word far and wide. That is what creates enthusiasm and increases the desire of others to experience that same thing. How many of the shooters involved in the last 2 trips OR in the tryout process today promote with that kind of enthusiasm? Worse yet, how many say they will never tryout again or support the team based upon a perceived unfairness?