The North-South Skirmish Association met this week for its national competition, in Winchester, Va.
The Association, which holds shooting events using Civil War-era weaponry, drew huge crowds, beginning on Wednesday.
“We usually have over 2,000 shooters and 6,000 to 8,000 people altogether who come in,” said Dave Booz, the National Commander of the Association. “Families and spectators. We meet to honor our ancestors, to enjoy competitive shooting with civil war weapons and quite honestly, to see our friends.”
On Friday morning, teams lined the rangers to compete in the revolver relays, taking aim at orange clay pigeons and white tile targets.
“We just completed the revolver match and that’s always great particularly when the smoke is hanging and it’s hard to see those white targets,” said Bruce Miller, the Association’s Public Information Officer, who made the drive from just outside of Detroit, Mich. to attend the competition. “We got through that and next match will be the smooth-bore muskets. This afternoon we have magazine-fed rifles, single-shot rifles, the mortar match this afternoon.”
Miller’s drive from Detroit may sound like a haul, but many of the members came from outside the Winchester area, including teams from Buffalo, N.Y., the Chicago area, and North Carolina.
For association members like Jon Mazur, who competed in the revolver relay, the national meet is a great opportunity to see old friends.
“Best part of competing is for the guys and the team,” said Mazur, whose team drove from Chicago. “We have camaraderie, lot of laughter, poking fun at each other and so forth.”
Some members don’t even have a direct connection to the Civil War, they simply got involved on a whim, like Ron Carney, who competes in the 44th New York Infantry. He learned of the Association through his friend.
“I went to his house, he was loading some ammunition for me,” said Carney, who says he is an amateur historian and antique weapon collector. “I noticed a kepi and a bayonet and I said, ‘Why do you have that?’ He said, ‘Oh I’m part of a skirmish association.’ Right away, I though re-enactors.”
Carney quickly learned that unlike re-enactors, the Association’s members use live fire. He quickly fell in love with it. He’s now been part of the Association for 30 years. His wife and son compete with him.
“He’s been coming here since he was six months old,” Carney said. “From 4 [years old] to 14, they can shoot B.B. guns, same rules as us just smaller targets.”
At 14, his son decided to join the 44th.
“That’s what keeps the organization going,” Carney said. “It’s passed down from generation to generation.”
The competition continues until Sunday and is free and open to the public. Families are welcome, although anyone wanting to try their hand at the sport will need to wait until regional competitions begin. To learn more, go to http://www.n-ssa.org/