CAMP PERRY, Ohio (Army News Service, July 23, 2008) -- Soldiers of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit of Fort Benning, Ga., brought home the top trophies from the annual National Pistol Matches July 10 to 13, besting about 700 pistol shooters from around the country.

USAMU'S Service Pistol Team beat 100 of the best pistol teams in the nation, repeatedly hitting a bull's eye the size of a silver dollar half a football field away, to win the National Pistol Team Championship.

The National Pistol Matches include the National Rifle Association National Pistol Championships and the Civilian Marksmanship Program National Trophy Matches. The NRA Championships consisted of Center Fire, .22- and .45-Caliber Championships. The CMP matches featured competitions with pistols such as M-1911, .45-caliber pistols and M-9/M-92 9 mm pistols. Firing includes slow fire stages at 50 yards and timed and rapid fire stages at 25 yards.

With 101 of the country's best teams competing, the USAMU Blue Team of Staff Sgt. James M. Henderson, Staff Sgt. Robert S. Park II, Staff Sgt. Lyman P. Grover and Sgt. Michael S. Gasser not only won the National Pistol Team Championship, but was the first USAMU team to win in 23 years. The USAMU Blue Team won the championship with a score of 3,480 points out of a possible 3,600 and 152 X's out of a possible 360 (X's are bull's eyes that are used in tie-breaking).

Those X's were critical in determining the national winner, as the USAMU Blue Team tied the USAMU Gray Team with identical scores of 3,480 points, with the Blue Team taking the championship with 35 more X's. The USAMU Gray Team of Sgt. 1st Class Gregory S. Wilson, Staff Sgt. Jason R. Sargent, Sgt. Timothy M. Barber and Sgt. Sean P. Watson beat the third-place team by 13 points. This was the first time in 35 years that the Army had taken both first and second place in the championships.

Henderson took second place overall in the NRA National Individual Pistol Championship only nine points behind winner Brian Zins, the national manager of the NRA Competitive Shooting Division's Pistol Programs; Henderson was also the National Service Champion and won the .45-caliber National Championship.

Watson took second place in the .22-caliber National Championship and third place in the Center Fire National Championship. Henderson finished second in the NRA Preliminary Pistol Championship and USAMU's Staff Sgt. Adam E. Sokolowski was third.

For the fifth time in his shooting career, Henderson won the President's Hundred Match with a score of 386 points and 12 X's. Henderson set the National Record for this match in 2005 with a score of 389 and 10 X's and has won it more times than any other shooter in history.

In a tradition started by President Theodore Roosevelt, winners of the prestigious President's Pistol Trophy Match receive a letter of congratulations from the president of the United States. The President's Pistol Match is conducted every summer at Camp Perry in which the top 100 shooters are awarded the President's Hundred Tab. The match consists of 20 shots slow fire, 10 shots timed fire and 10 shots rapid fire; a perfect score is 400.

Henderson said it takes good coaching, a lot of good practice and great determination to become a great shooter.

"You have to be determined to be the best," Henderson said. "This year, we really believed that we were good enough to do it. I always wondered what it would be like to be the dominant team and now I know. When we walk up to the line, we know that we are the team to beat."

Shooting their M-9 pistols, the USAMU Team of Henderson, Park, Gasser and Barber won the National Trophy Team Match; the team was coached by Sgt. 1st Class Jason M. St. John and the team captain was Grover.

Park was awarded the U.S. Forces Command Trophy for being the highest active duty Army finisher in the National Trophy Individual and National Trophy Pistol Team matches. He also won the General Mellon Trophy, which is awarded to the highest scoring Army shooter in the National Trophy Team Match.

Henderson, Park, Watson and Barber were named to the U.S. Mayleigh Cup Team, whose scores will go up against those of other countries in the Mayleigh Cup International Postal Team Match, which the USA has won for the past five years.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program and the National Rifle Association have been running the National Matches for over 100 years. More than 5,000 people from across the country vie for these annual national championship titles at Camp Perry's ranges on the banks of Lake Erie. The National Matches and Small Arms Firing Schools were established by Congress and the president in 1903.

The USAMU Service Pistol Team competes in Conseil International du Sport Militaire - known as CISM and the Military World Games - the Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting, the Interservice Small Arms Competition, the Interservice Championships and the National Championships, as well as conducting the Small Arms Firing School at the National Pistol Matches for the Department of Defense.

This year, nearly 400 civilian and military personnel from around the country attended the school that included training in M-9 pistol marksmanship.

(Paula J. Randall serves as public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Accessions Support Brigade.)