By Kyle Jillson | October 25 2012 08:33

Black powder league sees jump in scores with Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program

Black Powder rifle used during the NRA Creedmore Championships

Old Bridge, New Jersey - Lance Brunner has run the Black Powder League at the Old Bridge Rifle and Pistol Club in Old Bridge, New Jersey for over 20 years. The group began with a handful of shooters attending its monthly meets and grew to around a dozen in a few years time. In 2008, in an effort to improve their skills, the league took up the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program.

Qualification shooting is an informal, year-round activity that takes shooters from beginner skill levels to the nationally recognized Distinguished Expert - the equivalent of a competitively classified sharpshooter.

And competing against yourself has been a great draw for the league. Three years later they have more than doubled in size size and feature a nice mix of men, women and junior shooters. Most importantly, people's scores are improving.

"Before 2008 a shooter could win our monthly pistol match with a score in the 70s," Brunner said. "Now anything below the high 80’s to low 90’s doesn't even make third place."

And it's not just in pistol, either. Rifle scores have leaped just as much.

"You used to win a match just by breaking 100 points in a 150 aggregate," Brunner continued. "Now you need around 120 points, or even as high as 130 to take first."

The league is still growing and thinks the Marksmanship Qualification Program is an excellent tool for all skill levels. It's also never too late to pick up the discipline. One new shooter, picking up black powder for the first time at 73, soon improved enough through the program to win their division. Even Brunner himself has benefitted from the practice, which keeps him in the running of all four divisions.

So what's the overall tally? Between rifle and pistol shooters the league has spawned 63 Pro-marksmen, 50 Marksmen, 40 Marksmen 1st Class, 25 Sharpshooters, 15 Experts and 6 Distinguished Experts. And they still have more than 30 active participants.

"The program starts out easy enough for beginners in the first few levels and becomes more demanding, giving the shooter a sense of accomplishment when they finally reach the Distinguished Expert Level," Brunner said. "Put simply, it works."

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