Thursday, March 4, 2010

Meet the Three Musketeers of target shooting

I’ve meet many fascinating, helpful and amiable folks since I started this blog last year.

But (from left) Cecil Pinner, Jim Wyatt and Jim Beale have to be the most jovial.

I met the Virginia-born pals as I was leaving the Civil War show in Dalton, Ga., last month. It was clear they are good friends.

Wyatt, who turns 63 next month, had just purchased a $275 1863 Springfield rifle (modified after the war into a shotgun) to return to its original length and rifle use. He will either use it in competition or sell it for nearly $1,000 to help pay for his hobby.

That competitive hobby is the North-South Skirmish Association, which sponsors events around the country, mostly in the East.

The group promotes the shooting of Civil War firearms and artillery and “encourages the preservation and display of Civil War materials.”

Skirmishers are not battle re-enactors. Instead, uniformed Confederate and Union teams use muskets, Henry repeating rifles, carbines, pistols, mortar and cannon to hit fixed targets.

“We love it. It’s a blast,” Wyatt, with a hint of his pun, says of the hobby.

The trio are from the Tidewater region and have known each other for 30-35 years. Beale, 62, lives in Franklin, Va. Wyatt resides in Homer, Ga., and Pinner, 65, now calls Suwanee, Ga., home.

The organization is broken into regions. The three men are members of Tucker’s Naval Brigade, competing in the Deep South region. The public is invited to the free events.

Wyatt says the brigade recently finished in second at an eight-member musket shoot in Brierfield, Ala. Each member has five minutes to hit four clay pigeons 50 yards away. Points are deducted for each target left.

The N-SSA national event is scheduled for May near Winchester, Va.

Pinner hauls the unit’s 325-pound mortar around in the bed of his pickup truck. In competition, teams fire five rounds from a mortar at 100 yards, trying to get closest to the target.

Skirmishers enjoy the camaraderie and the competition.

“A lot of people in the N-SSA are veterans,” says Wyatt, an OSHA trainer and sales manager for a billboard supply company.

When I asked them what their wives thought of their weekend forays, the men were unanimous.

“They’re glad to get rid of us.”

More on North-South Skirmish Association

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