- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Nobody watched Russia's entries in the World Championship Shooting Matches at Caracas, Venezuela last month with quite so intent an eye as Major General (U.S.M.C. Ret.) Merritt A. Edson, a hero of Guadalcanal who is currently executive director of the National Rifle Association. Nobody was less surprised or more pained by the outcome: Russia first, with 78 unofficial points; Sweden second; the U.S. third, with 34 points. "We just aren't a nation of shooters any more," the general says. "Only two percent of our male population is really familiar with firearms. The Swiss can still shoot. The Swedes can. And now the Russians can. So we get drubbed.
"The Russians have organized their whole country since the war. They started town and village shooting clubs and gave them all the ammo and instruction they wanted. When a local boy started to nail bull's-eyes they asked him to join a city team and paid him whatever he'd have gotten back on the farm. The best of city shooters went to republic teams and the best of these ended up at Caracas.
"A lot of men on their team looked as though they had come right off the farm. They were young—about 25. Their equipment was no better than ours—in fact they used some American equipment and ammunition. They all shot exactly the same. For instance, when our men shoot from the kneeling position, some fold their right leg under them and sit on the side of their shoe and others squat back and sit on the heel of the right foot. The Russians all sit on the heel. They all wear the same sort of leather shooting jacket. They all wear high boots when they're on the line. Most of our shooters wear low shoes, but I think the Russians have figured it out that boots give more support for long matches.
"They sure could shoot. And they had teamwork—no Russian ever fired on the line without having his coach at his elbow. The shooter and coach had worked together for months. Some of our shooters had never worked with their coaches before they hit Caracas. We had a group of experts, but the Russians were a team of experts. And, frankly, we don't have the reservoir of talent the Russians have now."
The cure? General Edson (who harbors the stubborn conviction that the next war will be won by riflemen, H-bomb or no H-bomb) intends to ask the Army for almost $2 million to subsidize civilian marksmanship, mainly through purchase of ammunition. The framework for such rifle training already exists—there are over 8,000 gun clubs affiliated with the NRA.
"I want to see the Russians shoot as a team under pressure some day," the general said almost wistfully. "At Caracas they were ahead all the time. But I wonder what would happen if they started to lose. They just aren't supposed to lose—I think a few of them might crack."
City of the angles
Every now and then an accumulation of pressure blows the sleek hood right off the top of the high-powered engine of professional golf and one can look inside and see all the miniscule machinery whirring around. The 1955 Los Angeles Open has provided such an explosion and a superb view of the mechanism.