Shooting in the Sixties



1964 Cape May shooting medal winners

Dear Neil,

While reading in the latest Guns & Patriots article, I stumbled across your comment that you are a Coast Guard veteran and had shot the 1911 at Cape May, and I just wanted to send a greeting from a fellow Coastie who’s been there. I was a member of Recruit Company F-46 that formed a half-century ago in March 1961 at Cape May.

Thanks in part to my growing up with a Stevens bolt-action .22 rifle in my hand, I was able to qualify as Expert with the M-1 rifle during range week in boot camp.

Later, during the summer of 1964, I went back to Cape May on temporary duty as a member of the Coast Guard Pistol Team. Our first regular match was at Virginia Beach, Va., and we traveled up and down the east coast between Virginia Beach and Blue Hill, Maine that summer, mixing it up with civilian, police, and other military teams, shooting “Regional” 2700 bullseye matches almost every weekend.

At the risk of leaving out a name, our USCG Pistol Team in 1964 included Lt. Cmdr. L. Otto, the commanding officer; Lt. R. Descoteaux, the executive officer; Boatswain Chief Warrant Officer C. Straus, the head coach and Engineman Chief Petty Officer R. Elzin, the assistant coach.

Our armorers were Gunnersmate Chief R. Hitchcock and Gunnersmate 1st Class D. Reitz.
Other team members were: Lt. D. Smith; Lt. jg. R. O’Keefe; Ens. E. Chase; Machinist Mate Chief Petty Officer P. Blossfield; Damage Control Chief Petty Officer W. Edison; Gunnersmate 1st Class Stan Hulstrom; Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class K. Pople; Engineman 1st Class F. Hurst; Storekeeper 1st Class L. Pratt; Engineman 1st Class D. Bingham; Engineman 2nd Class R. Sieber; Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class J. Haring; Radarman 3rd Class F. Leedy; Engineman 3rd Class E. O’Neill and Draftsman Seaman L. Gensch.

As an added note, it comes to mind that several of the ranges that we competed on that summer are no longer in existence; it seems to have been a perilous trend for too long now that outdoor ranges disappear faster than new ones get built.

This is why I find proposed legislation like the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Act, Seante Bill 1249, encouraging. This is the kind of effort that needs our continuous attention and support. Beside the fact that we need more outdoor ranges, we need to insist that our taxes be used for what they were said to have been collected for.


 Birdseye view of the Coast Guard’s Base Cape May, N.J.

We burned a lot of gunpowder practicing on that old pistol range at Cape May in ‘64; filled up several 55-gallon drums with empty .45 brass.

In July of that year, our team traveled west to the “Pre Perry” matches in South Bend, Indiana and then to the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Besides the camaraderie of that summer and the impressiveness of my first trip to the National Matches, a couple of things stand out in my mind: The Small Arms Firing School conducted prior to the start of competition at Camp Perry, and the fact that I wound up buying the 1911 pistol that I used in the Service Pistol Matches that year.

The SAFS was a national treasure! It’s not often that a person gets the opportunity to sit in the sun with a small group on the lakefront of Lake Erie and listen to shooters like Bill Blankenship or Arnold Vitarbo talk about their experiences shooting the 1911 Service Pistol.

Back then, besides having ammunition furnished free of charge for the “leg” matches, competitors in the Service Pistol Match at Camp Perry could formally borrow an “accurized” National Match 1911 from the Army/Director of Civilian Marksmanship, and if they liked the gun, they could buy it and take it home with them; all they had to do was complete the required paperwork, pay for it, and they left with the gun and some extra magazines. That program changed with the 1968 gun law.

Those “National Match” pistols were worked over by armorers so that the gun’s could produce tighter groups than the standard GI version. The modification included the addition of an adjustable rear sight and wooden grips, along with some tightening up and trigger work, and in some cases an aluminum trigger was installed.

The 1911 that I purchased from DCM that year was a “hard-slide” version that was priced a little higher than the “soft-slide” variant, but worth the added expense. My paperwork on that gun is long gone, and I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for it, but it was pocket change by today’s standards. To give you an idea, the amount was within the disposable income range of a Coast Guard petty officer in 1964.

I still have the empty ammo boxes from the 1964 National Matches but, about 20 years ago, I let the gun go to a friend who needed a National Match 1911 for leg match competition—which is what it was built for I guess. Wish now I had it back!

Best wishes with your reporting and podcasts. Thanks for standing up for our freedom and gun rights. God Bless.

Semper Paratus,

Fred Leedy

A brief history of the DCM and the civilian marksmanship program can be found at  

Some history of the M1911 National Match Pistol at