CAMP PERRY, Ohio – Maj. Samuel Freeman, 37, of the National Guard All Guard Rifle team, was the overall competitor of the 2021 President’s Rifle Match – firing a score of 396-19X. The match was part of the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry and has been a prestigious part of the annual event for over 40 years.
“It felt wonderful,” Freeman said of his return to the National Matches after missing last year’s cancelled event.
Freeman is a long-time competitor of the National Matches, making his debut in 1997 as a junior and even taking the Small Arms Firing School in 1995 at 11 years old.
“This is what I did as a kid,” he said. “I didn’t play a lot of baseball or play football – this was my sport, service rifle shooting. So, this (the National Matches) was the big culminating event.”
Freeman has fired in the President’s Rifle Match several times throughout his career, reaching as high as fourth in the esteemed 20-person shootoff held at the conclusion of the match. At this year’s event, he felt confident in his zeroes but was still concerned with the wind blowing 10 miles-per-hour directly into his face on the 200 yard line during the standing portion. The wind improved during the rapid fire stage at the 300, which caused Freeman to underestimate the conditions at the slow-fire 600-yard phase and led to a break into the 9-ring.
“I knew it was going to be a bad shot. I couldn’t see it, but I felt it wasn’t going to be a good shot, and it wasn’t,” he said. “I made a mistake, but I didn’t let it get to me. I just kept shooting after that.”
Freeman had competed in the CMP Highpower events the previous week, which, he said, prepared him for the National Trophy Rifle competitions like the President’s Rifle Match – so much so that he secured a score that even he didn’t expect.
“It’s the highest score I’ve ever shot,” he admitted in disbelief.
“I think it’s because I came here confident in my equipment,” he went on. “I knew if I just put my zeroes on and shot at my target, the gun was going to do what it was supposed to do. That gives the shooter a lot of confidence, knowing that their equipment is the best that they can get.”
Also readying him on the line was the confidence he has come to absorb from standing on the ranges of Camp Perry. He confessed that he feels comfortable on the historic grounds and draws on the memory of the shores of Ohio’s Lake Erie (where the ranges are set) to ease his nerves during other competitions.
“In any other rifle match, I always visualize being at Camp Perry,” he said. “With seagulls flying – and that’s always what calms me down.”
As a junior, Freeman shot with the NCRPA (North Carolina Rifle & Pistol Association) and has come back with military teams like the Army Reserve Team before transitioning to the Guard team three years ago.
“I’ve seen juniors come up here and win things,” he said.
Freeman talked of his childhood rivals like James Fox and Staff Sgt. John Coggshall (2019’s President’s Match winner), both part of the 2021 shootoff. Freeman named them as good representations of juniors continuing on and succeeding within the sport.
“It’s really cool to see that there was that camaraderie of those kids that were trying to win. We were competing against each other as juniors 20 years ago, and now, it’s the same people on the firing line, and we’re still competing against each other,” he said. “That’s really neat to see.”
Freeman’s dad, Gary, is a Distinguished Rifleman and the one who introduced him to the sport. Gary even introduced him to his first AR-15, wrapping it up for Freeman’s 12th birthday.
“My dad had me open it three weeks early because he couldn’t stand it. He wanted to see the gun,” Freeman explained with a laugh.
“All the time and effort my dad put in with me – sizing my brass, loading my ammo – for all these years and passing it on to me – that’s the biggest thing to me,” he said. “Seeing that somebody put in all that time for me. It took a lot of time for me, but it ended up bringing a President’s 100 victory home.”
Along with his dad, Freeman credits Thurman Horner, the first civilian to ever earn a Distinguished Rifleman Badge in North Carolina, as an important mentor through his junior years and his adult career.
“I’ve had really good coaches all through my past,” Freeman said.
His dad has been with him at every National Matches over the years but was unable to make the trip in 2021. After earning the win in the President’s event, Freeman called his dad and Horner to tell them the news, saying, “I’m glad to be here, I’m humble and I thank the good Lord that he gave me the eyesight and physical ability to do this.”
View a complete list of results of this and other 2021 Camp Perry National Rifle Matches at https://ct.thecmp.org/21nmrifleresults.
Photos of this and other National Matches rifle events can be found and downloaded for free on the CMP’s Zenfolio page at https://cmp1.zenfolio.com/f641171691/.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.