Newark, New Jersey - Ranges and clubs across the United States are reaching out to their respective communities through NRA programs like the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, NRA Day, and the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program. One such example exist about three hours north of us at the Gun For Hire's new South Jersey location in Winslow.

"We opened two additional locations less than a year ago," explained Gun For Hire CEO Anthony Colandro. "It can be easy to lose site of the important things, like how we serve the community. That's why when one of our RSOs, ah Chuck Berwick to be specific, that's why when Chuck said he wanted to start using the NRWinchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program, I told him to run with it."


The Daily News Journal out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee puts the spotlight on 16-year-old Distinguished Expert Olivia Zocco, who we featured earlier this year:

Teen right on target

We might think high school girls have hobbies that typically include shopping, hanging out at their friends' houses and spending hours on the phone.

But, for 16-year-old Olivia Zocco of Rockvale, her hobbies include outdoor firing ranges, gun safety and the National Rifle Association. In January 2010, Zocco began working to earn a Distinguished Expert rating in the handgun category through the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program. It took her less than a year to achieve this goal.

"The Distinguished Expert rating is the highest level of achievement in the program that consists of seven levels," explained Zocco. "The first six levels in the course are based on the honor system as to whether or not the shooter met the requirement to move up in the program. However, for the Distinguished Expert rating, the actual shooting and scoring must be witnessed by an NRA instructor with a current ID number."

Zocco had to go through the eight-hour gun safety class that included hands-on instruction at the shooting range. This is the same class required by the state of Tennessee to obtain a permit to carry a weapon. The next six levels have various requirements necessary to jump to the next level, and each level has a different course of fire that must be achieved to obtain the raking for that level.

"Each course of fire has a certain amount of rounds that are to be fired in a certain time, with a certain calculated score using various hand positions," said Zocco.

To obtain the rank of Sharpshooter, Zocco had to fire five rounds with both her left and right hands within a 20-second time frame. After all 10 rounds were on the target, a score had to be calculated. For that course of fire, Zocco had to acquire 10 targets.


Read the rest of the The Daily News Journal article here.

We often feature success stories from the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program, but here is the incredible story of the California Musketeers, a group of young shooters who used the program to develop and foster their love of shooting, and the coaches who helped guide them on their journey to Distinguished Experts. Thanks to Musketeers coach Michael Pass for the article and photos.

One day about nine years ago I was helping coach a Boy Scout troop that was firing for their shooting badge. As we finished up, a man I’d never seen before, Jack Weir, asked the coaches for our attention. He announced that he was starting a youth shooting club for kids and grandkids, ages eight to eighteen, of Diablo Rod and Gun Club members, (and later all of United Sportsmen, Inc.’s clubs), and asked for volunteer coaches. A few of us raised our hands, and California Musketeers was born.

For the first year or so it was going great. All the shooting was done prone at the 10-bull A-17 targets; but some of the kids were getting bored. At about that time one Saturday afternoon, I helped with a Basic Pistol class; one of the handouts was the booklet for the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program—and as I looked through it, the proverbial light bulb flickered…

I brought it up at the next officers meeting and was given a unanimous go-ahead. Some of the older teenage boys had been asking to shoot .22 handguns, and after I received the D1 Bianchi targets, we began. And we noticed an immediate improvement in their “interest rate!” More

East Kingston, New Hampshire - Over the weekend we told you about 16 year-old Olivia Zocco earning her Distinguished Expert rating through the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program. Now we have news about a club in New Hampshire that runs the program at their facility and recently had a member earn his Distinguished Expert rating as well.

Bill Zelck recently earned his NRA Distinguished Expert NRAblog recently spoke with Dean Osborne, Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Administrator at the State Line Field and Stream Club in East Kingston. Osborne coordinates club member’s participation in the program and understands its appeal to shooters of all levels.

“First of all, it’s self-paced and you can do it on your own time. Another thing is that you don’t need a specific type of firearm – you can use any type of firearm that you may have,” said Osborne. “It’s a structured course of competitive shooting, easy to follow, and uses qualified targets. It’s also easy to introduce everyone into the program.”


In the beginning of 2010, 16 year-old Olivia Zocco set her sights on earning a Distinguished Expert rating in the Handgun Category through the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program. Using a semi-automatic .22 caliber pistol, Zocco was able to reach her goal by the end of the year and shared her story and photos with NRAblog.

My name is Olivia Zocco and I am a Junior at Eagleville High School in Eagleville, Tennessee. I currently have a 4.0 GPA and am involved in Student Council, serving as Treasurer.

I was introduced to pistol shooting by my grandparents who both worked in law enforcement. I started shooting with them several years ago just for fun. I started working on my Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification certifications in January of 2010 with the goal to make Distinguished Expert by the end of the year. On November 21, 2010, I achieved this goal.

I may look into competitive pistol shooting in the future, but for now I am just happy to have achieved this goal.

Congratulations on earning Distinguished Expert, the highest rating in program, Olivia! To learn more about the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program and view the courses of fire, check out the program's website or send an email to

For Brandy and Sean Blanton, there's nothing like a little sibling rivalry on the range. This brother and sister have made the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program a family affair, with both Brandy and Sean earning multiple Distinguished Expert ratings. The Blanton's wrote about their story in the latest issue of InSights, a magazine for young shooters.

Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program logo

One Family, Multiple Distinguished Experts 

So how does a brother-and-sister team earn so many DE titles?

Brandy Blanton

"So what sport do you play?" Sounds like a common question, right? For most people, I would say it comes with some pretty common answers. Some people would consider something like water polo to be a unique answer, but I think I've even got that beat. When I get asked that question, I proudly answer, "I'm a competitive shooter." Over the years, I've gotten all sorts of strange looks, but that hasn't stopped me from doing what I love. I love to shoot, whether I'm outside shooting shotgun or on the range shooting a pistol or a rifle.

The shooting sports have led me to all sorts of interesting places I may not have gone otherwise. I can say that I've stayed at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on three separate occasions, something most aspiring athletes never have the chance to experience. In the spring of 2008, I had the privilege to meet Jason Turner, a member of the U.S. Olympic Pistol Team who went on to win a bronze medal in free pistol. How many people do you know that can say they've met an Olympic medalist? Not many, but I'm more than proud of myself that I've managed to accomplish such a feat. How was it possible? The shooting sports!

Read the full article, including Sean's story, here.

Winchester repeating rifles were often enough among the most important tools a pioneer carried West. The famed firearms are named for Oliver Fisher Winchester, who died on this day 130 years ago. He founded the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1857. Today, the Winchester name is still alive and well in the firearms and ammunition business, and a familiar sight around the NRA.

In fact, this year, the NRA's Shooting Illustrated magazine presented the 2010 Golden Bullseye Award for "Ammunition Product of the Year" to Winchester Ammunition's Supreme Elite Conded PDX1. Winchester Ammunition is the exclusive sponsor of the The Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program

John Wayne's Winchester Big-Loop carbine from Stagecoach on NRAblog

Several famous Winchesters, first introduced to us by Senior Curator Doug Wicklund, are displayed in the NRA’s National Firearms Museum among the highlights of the popular Hollywood Guns collection.

  • John Wayne’s Winchester Big-Loop carbine (pictured) from the movie Stagecoach.
  • Lorne Greene’s Winchester Model 1873 carbine from the TV series Bonanza.
  • Chuck Connors’ Winchester Model 1892 rifle from the TV show The Rifleman.

Want even more Winchesters? Teddy Roosevelt's favorite hunting rifle was a Winchester Model 1895, that Senior Curator Phil Schreier notes Roosevelt called "Big medicine for lions." Also, here's a record-setting Winchester Model 52. Then there's President Dwight Eisenhower's Winchester, and even this rare Winchester rifle-shotgun combo.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel ran an amazing story on 12-year old Fox Pettinotti's Marksmanship achievements:

Felton boy, 12, earns NRA's highest award, eyes possibility of Olympic shooting team

Fox Pettinotti is one of the lucky few who discovered at least one of his natural abilities early in life.

Fox, a 12-year-old Felton resident and seventh-grader at San Lorenzo Valley Nature Academy, spent most of the last year shooting bull's-eyes from 50 feet away -- in upright and kneeling positions, as well as lying down -- as a member of the Santa Clara Valley Rifle Club's junior program.

In July, when he was 11, he used one of the club's .22 bolt-action rifles at the indoor range of the San Jose Municipal Firing Range to complete the requirements for the 4-Position Rifle Qualification.

He now possesses the pinnacle of the NRA's Marksmanship Qualification Program, the Distinguished Expert Marksmanship Award, which shows he's at the same level as a competitively classified sharpshooter. And he had to meet the same requirements as adults at the same rating.

Club members presented him with the award, along with a wooden ammunition box and certificate, during a ceremony last month.

He's the youngest person to receive that rating in the 81-year history of the Santa Clara Valley club, and one of the youngest in the NRA's history.

Read the full story on Pettinotti's marksmanship here.

The Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program is a self-paced recreational shooting program that provides participants with a fun and informal way to test shooting abilities while earning ratings in a variety of shooting disciplines. From Pro-Marksman to Distinguished Expert, shooters can advance through the ranks of marksmanship by completing courses of fire at any range and on their own time.

NRAblog recently interviewed Bob Morrison, President and CEO of Taurus Manufacturing International Inc., a company known for their pistols and revolvers, including the very popular Judge series of revolvers. Bob recently earned ratings in Shotgun qualification and shared his experience with NRAblog.

NRAblog: Why did you decide to participate in the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program?

Bob Morrison: I was taking some NRA Certified Instructor courses when I learned of the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Courses. They intrigued me and I decided to attempt to get the Distinguished Rating in Skeet and Sporting Clays – then Trap.

What disciplines have you completed and what rating did you earn?

Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program patchesDistinguished Expert in both Skeet and Sporting Clays.

Are you looking to earn ratings in other disciplines?

Trap, Handgun and Rifle.

In your opinion, what are the benefits to the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program?

Recognition by the NRA for becoming an accomplished shot in a given discipline.

Would you recommend the program to others?

This is a program that builds on itself and renders a real sense of accomplishment to anyone who completes it all the way to the Distinguished award. I would recommend it highly to anyone who is involved in the shooting sports.

The Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program is open to people of all ages and skill levels. Throughout the process, shooters can earn rockers, patches, medals, and certificates as they move through the ranks. Learn more about the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program at or email or call 703-267-1505 for more information.

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