Camp Perry: Field of Dreams

  • Tags:

To the general observer, it may look like just a field but it’s so much more. Thousands make the annual pilgrimage to Camp Perry in Port Clinton, Ohio to attend the National Matches, a tradition on the shores of Lake Erie since 1907. Run by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, the matches take place in four phases: pistol, smallbore, rifle, and long range. 

The service rifle matches draw the greatest number of competitors, including juniors (shooters through the year of their 20th birthday), families, and military teams from across the country. After a year off due to the pandemic, shooters were eager to reunite with friends and to share in a tradition over 100 years old. 

This year I attended and competed for the sixth time, though I really don’t count the first two. My first two years I attended clinics designed to both introduce people to marksmanship and service rifle competition and help them to improve their skills. The Small Arms Firing School (SAFS) is a fantastic and economical option for people to learn more about marksmanship and step into the world of service rifle. (SAFS schools are available for pistol and rimfire as well.) Open to all skill levels, coaches from the Army Marksmanship Unit, CMP, and National Guard work one-on-one with students to learn to fire an AR-15 from the standing, sitting, and prone positions from 200 yards. The school comes with a small fee, but ammunition and loaner firearms are included in addition to the world-class training. 

Fun Fact: The Department of Defense first conducted SAFS in 1918 and federal law requires SAFS to be held annually at the National Matches.  

You can scour the internet but nothing can replace being there. No number of pictures, no number of stories, not even videos. In fact, none of them quite do it justice. The experience of shooting at Camp Perry during the National Matches is nothing short of magical. 

Well before sunrise, the base comes alive. A steady stream of cars file in and competitors begin to unpack their gear. Those fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough depending upon how you look at it, to stay on base begin the early morning walk to the range. The mornings are calm and quiet, aside from footsteps, the steady drone of wheels, and the crunch of gravel. Texas, California, Arizona — the license plates in the parking lot speak to the sheer distance people travel to be there. 

At 0700 hours, a cannon breaks the stillness of the morning and the National Anthem floods over the base. A flock of seagulls rise with the cannon shot, resembling in their haste a sort of wave, complementing the American flag everyone is facing. Their cries somehow complement the song, their shapes silhouetted against the sunrise. When colors are over, the day officially begins, range commands echoing over the loudspeaker.

Everyone has a different reason for attending. For some, it’s just to shoot. Others have more personal goals; others aspire to win and test their metal against the country’s best. The National Matches aren’t just for the top shooters, they are for everyone. They provide an opportunity to learn and connect with like-minded people from across the country on what many consider hallowed grounds. Competing in the National Matches is a near sacred tradition for some. For others it’s a new adventure. No matter your experience level, it soon becomes a part of your heart and soul. 

Scattered up and down the line are dreams, goals, and aspirations, hidden underneath shooting coats, glasses, and baseball caps. Each person carries with them a goal for the day, whether they know it or not. Some are realistic, others aren’t. You learn along the way how to set milestones that highlight your current abilities and spur you to improve. Scores are not the only things that matter. Interacting with others and just being there are enough for many.

For those who have the talent and ability, however, doing their best puts them in the running to win it all. There’s no money in service rifle. Taking the stage at the National Matches isn’t about prize tables or checks, but about honor, pride, and tradition. It is difficult to describe precisely what performing well means. Written on a piece of paper or even printed on a certificate, it is underwhelming. Instead, take a look at the results. Dozens of people separated by a single point, top honors awarded by X’s It isn’t meant to discourage, but to provide a small bit of insight into how tough the competition really is. 

Dig a little deeper and the stories will amaze you. Kade Jackovich first began competing at Camp Perry in 2012, at the age of 13. Year after year he dedicated time to improving, his passion for the shooting sports growing along with him. As a member of the Arizona Scorpions junior team, he had a great support system – family and coaches to mentor and inspire. Now a SGT in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, the tables have turned, giving him a chance to pass on the knowledge he has learned. 

As a junior he earned many awards and claimed national titles, but the pressure is immense at the highest level. Having watched his teammate SFC Brandon Green claim the President’s 100 Rifle Trophy in 2018, Jackovich set his sights on doing the same in 2021. He emerged at the top of the leaderboard, only to fall two places in the famed Top 20 shoot-off, losing the trophy by one point. Recovering from this painful loss, Jackovich persevered and to his great surprise claimed the week aggregate Mountain Man Trophy, awarded to the overall winner of the 2021 National Matches. 

“It has been a dream of mine since I started shooting at Camp Perry to win the Mountain Man trophy and to win CMP nationals,” he said.  “It was the culmination of a dream that took me almost 10 years to fulfill. I am honored that I could represent that Army, my family, and Arizona, the state that I love, by being the 2021 Mountain Man.”

Some just see the title, but it’s about the journey it took to get there. 

Dreams really do come true. 


1 – 600 Yard firing line during the National Trophy Team Match at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Copyright: Serena Juchnowski

2 – People come from all over to compete in the National Matches. Pictured is Omayra Linse of Washington state.

Copyright: Serena Juchnowski

3 – Competing at the Nationals is not just about scores or winning but about spending time with others who share the same interests. Pictured are two members of the Texas Junior Rifle Team. James Lee (Left) and Hester Hoke (right)

Copyright: Serena Juchnowski 

4 – SGT Kade Jackovich was in first place heading into the famed President’s 100 shootoff. The top 20 competitors of the 30-shot match must shoot a 10-shot slow-fire string at 600 yards to battle it out for top honors. 

Copyright: Serena Juchnowski

5 – SGT Jackovich (right) finished in third place after the President’s 100 shootoff. He has had a lot of support along the way, particularly from his father, Randy Jackovich, pictured on left. 

Copyright: Serena Juchnowski

6 – SGT Kade Jackovich claimed the 2021 National Rifle Matches Grand Aggregate, a total of the three major individual matches, earning the Mountain Man trophy. Gary Anderson (left) is presenting Jackovich (right) with the award.

Copyright: Civilian Marksmanship Program 

You might also be interested in…