The Civilian Marksmanship Program has announced that the annual national matches held at Ohio’s Camp Perry have been cancelled this year over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus among the thousands of competitors expected to attend. It’s believed that this is only the second time that the annual shooting competition has been cancelled since it began in 1906 (the first was in 1918, though it’s unclear if the Spanish Flu was the reason no matches took place that year).

“It was a very difficult decision,” Judith Legerski, CMP board chairman, said Thursday of Wednesday’s announcement canceling the events.

Legerski said the board of directors made the decision to cancel the event after discussing options to hold the competition. It would not have been possible to move the event to another date due to Camp Perry’s jam-packed schedule and the inability to maintain social distancing with 5,000 people expected to attend.

Many of the competitors stay in groups of four in a 12-by-12 hut on Camp Perry’s grounds, and when targets are pulled, often people would be within feet of each other, making social distancing a challenge.

“It’s just one situation after another came up and it was blindingly obvious to us that we couldn’t do this and keep our competitors, the military folks there providing support, our staff and the family and coaches safe,” Legerski said.

The cancellation of the event won’t just have an impact on thousands of competitive shooters from across the county, many of whom return to shores of Lake Erie on a yearly basis to take part in the national matches. The local economy is going to be dealt another blow, and the nearby towns of Port Clinton and Sandusky are already reeling from the temporary but indefinite closure of the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, which draws over 3-million visitors each year.

As we head into the summer months, there may be more cancellations of competitive shooting events. Last week, United States Practical Shooting Association president Mike Foley released a statement announcing that some of this year’s USPSA National Championship matches have been rescheduled, and warned that some local and regional events may be forced to cancel.

Over 99.9% of all USPSA and Steel Challenge matches are operated by affiliated clubs, including non-profit and for-profit businesses, and individuals. USPSA and Steel Challenge affiliates, members, and match directors are encouraged to use the information available from CDC, the federal government, state governments, and local governments, coupled with their own risk tolerance levels and good judgement to guide them in what is best for matches at all levels. USPSA realizes that some matches will decide to cancel, while others may not.

The National Rifle Association has moved its Bianchi Cup competition from May to September of this year, but was forced to cancel the National Junior Air Gun Championships that were scheduled to take place at the end of April in Illinois. At the moment, all of the NRA’s scheduled competitions that take place in June or later in the year are still on, as is the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association’s spring shoot, which is scheduled to take place over 10 days in June in Friendship, Indiana. All of that is subject to change, of course, so make sure you keep a close eye on any shooting events that you’re hoping to compete in over the next few months.