The Sound of the Guns

by Steve Meserve on September 28, 2007 · 0 comments

I am heading out to
Winchester tomorrow morning to begin preparations for the North-South Skirmish Association’s 116th National Skirmish, which will be held October 3-7. For those of you unfamiliar with the N-SSA, we shoot live ammunition in Civil War military arms ranging all the way from revolvers to cannon. Twice a year, the third weekend in May and the first weekend in October, our members gather from all over the country to participate in the Nationals.

It’s a busy week of competition with individual competition in revolver, musket, carbine, smoothbore and breechloading rifle on Wednesday, Thursday and half of Friday. Friday morning, the company matches begin with the revolver competition, followed that afternoon by breechloading rifle, smoothbore and mortar company competition. Saturday is when things really get exciting with carbine company competition in the morning and the cannon match in the afternoon. We spend all day Sunday firing the musket company match.

If you have never visited the N-SSA Nationals, you’re missing out on an eye-opening education into the accuracy of Civil War weaponry. Watching competitors shoot from the offhand position (standing) over open sights (no telescopic enhancement allowed) to break 6-inch tiles 100 yards away gives you a new appreciation for what the men who fought the Civil War were risking every time they stepped off in line of battle. Seeing them fire three aimed shots a minute with a muzzleloader reveals just how much lead well-drilled troops could put downrange in battle.

Even if you have been to a reenactment or three, you will be surprised the first time a cannon fires live ammunition. The sound and feel of the gun going off is completely different with a projectile in the bore than when firing a blank charge. The mortars are even more surprising. You can watch the ball’s flight all the way from the muzzle of the gun to the target.

If you’re within convenient driving distance of Winchester, consider paying us a visit next weekend. I always recommend anyone coming for just one day make it Saturday. That way, you can see shoulder arm competition in the morning and the cannon match in the afternoon. Did I mention Sutler Row? There will be vendors on hand selling, buying and trading anything you need to outfit yourself for Civil War soldiering, from accurately reproduced uniforms and civilian clothing to original and reproduction firearms and accoutrements.

Best of all, there’s no charge for admission. To get to the range, go to Winchester on I-81. From either north or south of town, get off on Route 37, which bypasses the town on its west side. Go to Route 522 North and head toward Berkley Springs, WV (you’ll be going the same way
Jackson went on his January 1862 campaign). Approximately 10 miles north, where the sign tells you to turn left to get to Gainesboro, turn right instead on County Road 600 and follow the signs to the N-SSA property.

I will be spending most of the weekend in the main range tower this time around. Stop by and introduce yourself while you’re on the property.


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