My brother is a pilot of The Old School. By that I means he lives, at least in his mind’s eye, in an aviation world populated by leather jacket, silk scarf, helmet and goggles wearing men with leathery tanned faces and steely eyes surrounded by crow’s feet, earned by staring into the far horizon. The airplanes’ skeletons are covered with taunt doped Irish linen and the ships rest on tail skids with their noses held proudly high in the air by two large thin wheels connected by an axle.

He eschews the modern glass cockpits that resemble television sets and lack the romance and tradition of a simple steam gauge control panel. He is comfortable with the basic set of instruments run by air pressure, vacuum, magnetism, and electricity arranged in the traditional T. The basic ‘six pack’-airspeed, artificial horizon, altimeter, turn and bank indicator, heading indicator, and vertical speed indicator is reinforced by the mandatory wet compass and option fuel gage.

Neatly folded in his lap is a Sectional chart with its course line, landmarks, and time checks neatly lettered by a yellow number 2 pencil, the map is oriented in the direction of flight to make flying by pilotage, using fixed visual ground references to guide oneself to a destination by dead reckoning, easier.

Steve loves navigation, he would rather look at a folded-out chart than a fold out in a men’s magazine, and is a student of its history. He has a particular interest in the methods used by the Polynesians to get about the vast Pacific Ocean in outrigger canoes. The ancient navigators used oral tradition passed from master to apprentice combined with their senses, knowledge of the stars, weather, direction, size, and speed of the waves and even cloud formations.

Always trying to expand his knowledge he attended a navigation seminar at the US Coast Guard Academy. During a coffee break Steve approached the speaker and asked what he knew about primitive navigation. After taking a few moments to organize his thoughts he took a sip of coffee and replied, “Not a lot. Vacuum tubes are a thing of the past. All our stuff is now solid state.”

He was not a navigator of The Old School.

A similar situation recently popped up among several of our younger shooting acolytes, lead by Ryan McKee, in regard to the Infantry Trophy Team Match. For those unfamiliar with the National Matches there are four major rifle matches. Two are individual events, The National Trophy Team Match and The Presidents Match, and two are team matches the National Trophy Team Match and the National Infantry Trophy Team Match. The National Infantry Team Match is designed to simulate an infantry squad’s mission, which is “to close with the enemy and destroy or capture him.” More familiarly and commonly known as the Rattle Battle, perhaps because of clatter and jangle of the shooting designed to simulate a combat situation. It is a very popular event.

McKee is a student of the sport and I have very much enjoyed watching him delve into the history. He collects, or more accurately pack rats, all manner of guns and ammunition. He read Christian Lentz’s account of the Rattle Battle in his seminal work on the 1940 National Matches, Muzzle Flashes. The tale struck a spark of romanticism in the young man and he began thinking nostalgically about the good old days of wooden rifles and iron men.

Very quietly he began inventorying his friend’s cache of rifles and supply of ammunition and soon came up with a list which included five variations on the venerable United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903, and several wooden cases of surplus .30-06 ammunition of various vintages and headstamps.

All he needed to complete the armaments for a pre-World War II Rattle Battle was his Holy Grail, a Browning Automatic Rifle. It seemed an impossible quest, but the determined young man managed to turn up a modern day semi-automatic version.

The next day a letter was dispatched to the CMP stating they had noticed the CMP Games participants tricked out in period garb and, being historically minded, his team wished to fire the National Trophy Infantry Team Match ‘Old School,’ that is, fired as it was between the World Wars with five Springfield 03s and a Browning Automatic Rifle.

The CMP replied stating that the Programs Chief really liked the idea and thought that doing something like Ryan’s suggestion in the future would be an excellent idea. However, they would not be able to fire in the match this year because the NTIT is a very full event and the CMP is unable to allow a team to fire out-of-competition that might take away a spot from a team wanting to compete in-competition.

McKee is pursuing Distinguished with an M1A, and so he honors his wooden rifle predecessors, and the sport, with his sense of the history and respect for the traditions of the shooting sports lacking in most of his peers.

Unlike the Coast Guard navigator Ryan is of The Old School.

About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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