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This year I will make my first pilgrimage to the National Matches at Camp Perry, OH. For most rifle competitors, this is like the Super Bowl and Wimbledon rolled into one. For me, it's part of my ongoing rehab process from some mystery autoimmune disease. For those who think shooting is about killing Bambi or wholesale slaughter of schoolchildren, this should be considerable proof otherwise. The short version of the story is that here amateur and professional target shooters compete equally for trophies. Get the long version about the quest for distinguished status. It is a very structured process where honesty and integrity count just as much as marksmanship. Heck, your gear doesn't even get checked for rules compliance unless someone complains. The most popular rifle type these days are AR-15 derivatives, a semi-auto only version of an M16. Among others, these types are usually vilified as so called "assault weapons" in the media and in legislation. The big federal version of this law expired in 2004, though many states maintain some form of it. As with most gun legislation, this type of law only restricts law abiding citizens and has little effect on criminals. If you read through many of those statutes, many types are specifically exempted even though they are functionally identical to the "evil" ones that are banned. As an example, the Ruger Ranch Rifle is functionally identical to the Springfield Armory M1A -- both of which are semi-auto copies of the M14 -- but the Ranch Rifle was specifically protected. The criteria are usually cosmetic, such as the type of stock and location of the grip. But I'm not just ranting about nonsensical legislation today. I mentioned the competitions first because having these types of firearms in civilian hands saves money and soldiers' lives. The traditional argument is that since people are practicing with military type firearms, after they enlist they are more effective soldiers. While it has merits, the reality is most military age people have no real marksmanship skills and so the military spends a great deal of time and energy per person training them. When we were a more agrarian society, more people had some rudimentary firearms exposure. So let's accept the reality that most firearm training of new soldiers will occur after they enlist. The benefit to the military at this point is that a large population of military-type firearm users supports an industry where gear and ideas can be tried at personal expense instead of taxpayer expense. The currently fashionable optics for AR15 type rifles are made by Trijicon and Aimpoint. They are made for rapid target acquisition. These are currently used by the military, but they were not originally developed for them. They became popular in action-type competitions where speed is the key to winning. The military requested small changes to fit their particular needs and adopted them as already proven systems. Similarly with ammunition. One of the chief complaints about the M16 is that the ammunition is not as effective as the larger cailbered ammunition used in previous models. There are ad nauseum discourses on this if you really want to know, but the empirical reality is that the .30 caliber type ammunition used in previous US service rifles is more effective at longer ranges than the stock 5.56mm ammunition used in the M16. In fact, most US sniper rifles use the same type of ammunition as the M14. For this reason, M14-type rifles dominated competitions over the AR15/M16-type guns for many years. But because the AR15s are so much more ergonomic and the recoil is lighter, people kept tinkering with it until they developed ammunition that would be effective in the gun and be the equal of the M14-types at short and medium ranges where service competitions take place. They're even beating the more traditional types at long ranges, up to 1000 yards, even though while the guns are AR15s internally they look nothing like them on the outside. This ammo works well in military issue guns too. A slightly higher pressure version of it, coupled with the optics mentioned above, is used to give infantry squads longer range capability without having to call in sniper units or other fire support. All of these advancements were supported by private funds, along with incremental reliability improvements in material workmanship and quality control. This is all to the benefit of the individual infantryman, as it improves his odds of coming home in one piece. There's not a price that you can put on that.