This slipped past me until recently, but it represents a pretty awesome development.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program’s service rifle matches have been pretty close to the NRA as far as configuration goes. Something that always kept me out of it was the fact that none of my rifles were configured to be service rifle legal, and I didn’t want to invest the money to purchase a rifle dedicated to such a configuration. I know I was not alone in that feeling, and I believe a lot of shooters were not competing for the same reason.
The CMP must have realized the same thing, and updated the rules for 2016. Here are some of the relevant changes:
Optical Sights For Service Rifles. For several years, the CMP has recognized that optical sights are the wave of the future for Service Rifle shooting. Military recruits today do all of their training with optical sighted rifles. Service Rifle rules have traditionally tried to keep abreast of military rifle and training developments so opening Service Rifle shooting to optical sights became an inevitable change. The 2016 rules will, for the first time, permit M16/AR15-type rifles to have optical sights with a maximum magnification of 4.5X. Legal scopes can be fixed power or variable, but the maximum power of variable scopes may not exceed 4.5X. Scopes will have to be manufactured with a maximum 4.5X magnification and have an objective lens no larger than 34 mm. There will not be a separate class for scope-sighted rifles. Instead, competitors will have a choice of using either a scope-sighted rifle that weighs no more than 11.5 pounds or a metallic sighted rifle that will continue to have no weight limit.
More Options For M16/AR15-Type Rifles. Since accurized Service Rifles first came into popular use in the 1950s and 1960s, those rifles, whether M1s, M14s or M16s and their commercial equivalents, have been rigidly defined. Legal M16-type service rifles had to retain the external profile of an M16A2 or M16A4 rifle and could only have modifications that were explicitly permitted in the rules. All this will change in 2016. The 2016 service rifle rules will state that M16/AR15-type Rifles must be “an M16 U. S. Service Rifle or a similar AR15 type commercial rifle that is derived from the M16 service rifle design” and there will be far fewer specific restrictions. 2016 restrictions will simply require M16/AR15-type rifles that:
- Are chambered for the 5.56 x 45 mm (.223) NATO cartridge.
- Are designed or modified for semi-automatic fire only.
- Have either a gas-impingement system or a piston-operated gas system.
- Have a barrel that is no longer than 20 inches, with or without a flash suppressor (16” barrels are permitted).
- Use one upper receiver and barrel for the entire match.
- Have a trigger pull of at least 4.5 pounds.
- Use standard service magazines or commercial equivalents that do not contain added weights.
- Have a fixed or collapsible butt-stock that may vary in length and even be adjusted between firing stages. Butt-plates or cheek-pieces may not, however, be adjustable.
- Have a standard A1 or A2 pistol grip.
This will open the way for competitors to use a wider variety of M16/AR-16-type rifles. The imposition of a weight limit for scope-sighted rifles reflects a long-simmering concern over how heavy Service Rifles became when there was no weight limit. 15, 18 or even 20-pound rifles are far removed from the original service rifle weights. Opening Service Rifle shooting to optical-sighted rifles offered an opportunity to at least establish a reasonable weight limit for these rifles before they come into widespread use in Service Rifle competitions.
That means that all of my ARs are now legal for CMP service rifle competition- with the exception of my Geissele SSA-E and SD-E triggers, which have pull weights of ~3.5 lbs (1 lb less than the minimum).
Hopefully I will see some more CMP matches start popping up around me.