FORT BENNING, Ga. - U.S. Army Sgt. Benjamin Cleland set a new national record by shooting the first-ever, perfect score of 800 with a service rifle at the 2019 Charlie Smart Memorial Regional in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on June 2.
Cleland, a Soldier with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit's Service Rifle Team, competed in the National Rifle Association's 80-Shot Regional High-Power Rifle Course along with several other servicemembers and top civilian competitors. And at the end of four different matches, his aggregate score of 800-34x easily made him the Regional Champion.
More importantly though, that aggregate score of 800 meant that this Swanton, Ohio native hit the 10-ring on ALL 80 shots, something that has never been recorded as accomplished on a service rifle in this type of match.
The NRA 80-Shot High-Power Rifle Course included four separate matches that were broken into two aggregates, slow fire and rapid fire. The first match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 standing, slow-fire record shots at 200 yards and within 20 minutes. The second match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 sitting/kneeling, rapid-fire records shots at 200 yards within 2 minutes. The third match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 prone, rapid-fire record shots at 300 yards within 2 minutes and 20 seconds. And the fourth match consisted of two sighting shots and 20 prone, slow-fire record shots at 600 yards within 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
To tabulate the score, a competitor receives 10 points each time they hit a 10-ring, which is 7 inches at both 200 and 300 yards, and 12 inches at 600 yards. Then, if the competitor hits the inner circle, or bullseye, known as the X-ring, they are given an X count to their score. The X-ring is 3 inches at both the 200 and 300 yards, and 6 inches at the 600 yards.
The highest recorded 80-Shot Regional Course score prior to Cleland's 800 was a 798 set by Gunnery Sergeant Julia L. Watson of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. And former USAMU Service Rifle Team veteran, Sgt. Sherri Gallagher, is known to have the 'Service Record' for shooting a score of 800. However, Gallagher's record was shot with a match rifle. Service rifles are limited to M16s, M14s and M1 Garands with a 4.5x scope whereas a match rifle can be any caliber and size of scope. A small, but critical, factor in the record 800 Cleland shot on his service rifle.
Coming up in second place with an aggregate score of 794-31x was USAMU teammate, Fort Wayne, Indiana native Staff Sgt. Erin McNeil, who recently transferred over to the Service Rifle Team from the International Rifle Team. And close on her heels was another USAMU teammate, Sonora, California native Staff Sgt. David Bahten, with a 793-36x.
In the team match, USAMU Craig claimed First Place with a 1980-81x. USAMU Craig team members were: Sgt, 1st Class Brandon Green, Staff Sgt. Cody Shields, Sgt. Benjamin Cleland, Sgt. Lane Ichord, and Sgt. 1st Class Walter Craig (coach).
The next big match the USAMU Service Rifle Team Soldiers will compete in will be the Interservice Rifle Championships in Quantico, Virginia at the end of June.
The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit wins national and international shooting competitions, supports Army accessions, and advances small arms lethality to demonstrate Army marksmanship capability, enhance recruiting and increase marksmanship effectiveness in combat. USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Marketing Engagement Brigade and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.