EVANS — When Jason Barr made his annual trek to the National Shooting Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, he had only one goal: To earn his Distinguished Rifleman badge.
He got more than he aimed for.
Along the way, Barr became one of the “President's Hundred,” the 100 top shooters in the President's Rifle Match, a tradition that dates back to 1878. For Barr, one of the few shooters in the competition not using a rifle with telescopic sights, the honor came as a complete surprise.
“First of all, it's rare for a non-distinguished shooter to make that list,” said Barr, a crane operator from Evans, in Jackson County. “And I think I was the only one on who made this year's list using iron sights.”
The former Marine reservist said he had always enjoyed shooting, but didn't become involved in competitive shooting until well after he'd mustered out of the Corps.
“In the mid-1990s, the Marines changed their rifle classification system and had to retrain marksmanship instructors to be able to administer the new course of fire,” Barr recalled. “I quickly volunteered for that.”
During the training class, Barr discovered he was “better at understanding and teaching [shooting] than I was at doing it.” The reserves' shooting teams picked shooters for competitions from Barr's class, but he wasn't one of them.
A day spent at a competitive match left Barr with an itch to compete, but he didn't get to scratch that itch until 15 years later.
The Creedmoor Sports Co. had started sponsoring a competition, the Creedmoor Cup, at a National Guard base near Buttner, North Carolina. Barr found out about it and began reading up on it.
“I'd been working in a good-paying job, and I decided to start competing,” he said. “I started shooting there in 2009. A year after that, I started going to Camp Perry for the National Matches.”
Barr went from a so-called “unqualified” shooter to “marksman,” “sharpshooter” and “expert.” Heading into the recent Camp Perry matches, he carried an expert rating and was just six points shy of earning his Distinguished Rifleman badge. A recent barrel change in his AR-15 target rifle had him confident he'd earn that.
More than 1,000 shooters took part in the President's Match. Conditions were anything but ideal; the wind off Lake Erie blew at a steady 15 mph, with gusts up to 25 mph.
“I think the wind got into some shooters' heads a little,” Barr said.
It didn't appear to bother Barr. He scored 93 of a possible 100 points during the standing, 200-yard slow-fire portion of the event; 99 during the prone, rapid-fire segment; and 94 during the standing, 600-yard slow-fire segment.
Barr's squad was among the early finishers. When he checked the results online, his score sat comfortably among the top 100.
“Problem was, there were still hundreds more shooters who hadn't finished,” he said. “Every time I looked, I'd dropped down in the rankings. Toward the end, I was really starting to sweat it.”
He made the cut, though, in 99th place. For his accomplishment, he earned an enameled pin emblazoned with the presidential seal.
He also earned the points he needed to earn his Distinguished Rifleman.
“The badges are numbered,” he said. “I got an email telling me that my badge would be number 2467. That was great, but making the President's Hundred was the icing, the cherry and everything else on the cake.”