2016 CMP Rifle and Pistol Rule Changes

By Gary Anderson, DCME

The 2015 CMP pistol rules changes created a new 22 Rimfire Pistol EIC Match. The first ever EIC Match fired under these new rules took place during the CMP Oklahoma Travel Games on 11 April 2015.
The 2015 CMP pistol rules changes created a new 22 Rimfire Pistol EIC Match. The first ever EIC Match fired under these new rules took place during the CMP Oklahoma Travel Games on 11 April 2015.
Civilian Marksmanship Program
Civilian Marksmanship Program

Camp Perry, OH -(AmmoLand.com)- The 2015 CMP competition rules featured a bold new plan to modernize CMP pistol rules.

Service Pistol rules were dramatically broadened to permit the use of a wide variety of pistols in CMP EIC and National Trophy Matches. The number of EIC matches a competitor could fire in a year was increased and EIC Minimum Credit Scores were established to ensure that all EIC legs were won with Distinguished-level scores.

Perhaps the most popular 2015 change was the creation of a new 22 Rimfire Pistol Distinguished Badge and EIC Match program.

The 2015 Pistol rule changes were controversial for some, but by the end of the year they were generally well-accepted, successfully increased participation in CMP pistol programs and more than doubled the number of Pistol EIC Matches. The number of CMP sanctioned Service Pistol EIC Matches increased from 124 in 2014 to 141 in 2015. The new 22 Rimfire Pistol program sanctioned an additional 113 EIC Matches and the first 22 Rimfire Pistol EIC Match at Camp Perry drew 359 competitors. The CMP has already awarded seven 22 Rimfire Pistol Distinguished Badges.

Now, after three months of meetings, conference calls and email exchanges, the CMP Rules Committee has tentatively adopted rule changes to go into effect in 2016. These rules provide for equally bold changes that are intended to modernize CMP Service Rifle rules. The purpose of this Shooters’ News article is to inform shooters and match sponsors about proposed 2016 rule changes and invite them to offer comments or ask questions. Comments and questions should be sent to competitions@thecmp.org, not later than 13 November. The CMP Rules Committee and staff will review those comments and then confirm or adjust the new rules before they go into effect on 1 January 2016.

When considering the Pistol rules changes the CMP adopted in 2015 as well as the proposed 2016 Service Rifle rule changes, it is important to understand the CMP’s objectives. The big picture CMP mission derives from a federal law that says the primary CMP functions are to “instruct citizens in marksmanship,” “promote practice” and “conduct competitions.” This mission is defined by three key priorities, 1) participation, 2) marksmanship and 3) competition. The 2015 CMP rule changes that expanded the number of Service Pistols that could be used in CMP matches and that introduced the new 22 Rimfire Pistol EIC Match were made to increase participation and get more people practicing pistol marksmanship. The CMP’s marksmanship priority sees shooting as a real test of skills. CMP rules strive to preserve those tests of skills and not to water them down just to make scores higher or shooting easier.

The CMP produces two rulebooks. One rulebook, CMP COMPETITION RULES FOR SERVICE RIFLE AND PISTOL, governs Service Rifle and Pistol shooting and must be used for EIC Matches and National Trophy Matches. The second rulebook, COMPETITION RULES FOR CMP GAMES RIFLE AND PISTOL MATCHES, governs recreation-oriented CMP Games Matches for as-issued military rifles and pistols as well as for Rimfire Sporter rifle shooting.


The electronic scoring targets at the CMP’s Talladega Marksmanship Park allow highpower rifle competitors to complete an entire Service Rifle EIC match while firing at 200, 300 and 600 yards while not changing firing points or pulling targets in the pits.
The electronic scoring targets at the CMP’s Talladega Marksmanship Park allow highpower rifle competitors to complete an entire Service Rifle EIC match while firing at 200, 300 and 600 yards while not changing firing points or pulling targets in the pits.

Here are summaries of the most important 2016 rule changes in the CMP COMPETITION RULES FOR SERVICE RIFLE AND PISTOL:

Optical Sights For Service Rifles. For several years, the CMP has recognized that optical sights are the wave of the future for Service Rifle shooting. Military recruits today do all of their training with optical sighted rifles. Service Rifle rules have traditionally tried to keep abreast of military rifle and training developments so opening Service Rifle shooting to optical sights became an inevitable change. The 2016 rules will, for the first time, permit M16/AR15-type rifles to have optical sights with a maximum magnification of 4.5X. Legal scopes can be fixed power or variable, but the maximum power of variable scopes may not exceed 4.5X. Scopes will have to be manufactured with a maximum 4.5X magnification and have an objective lens no larger than 34 mm. There will not be a separate class for scope-sighted rifles. Instead, competitors will have a choice of using either a scope-sighted rifle that weighs no more than 11.5 pounds or a metallic sighted rifle that will continue to have no weight limit.

More Options For M16/AR15-Type Rifles. Since accurized Service Rifles first came into popular use in the 1950s and 1960s, those rifles, whether M1s, M14s or M16s and their commercial equivalents, have been rigidly defined. Legal M16-type service rifles had to retain the external profile of an M16A2 or M16A4 rifle and could only have modifications that were explicitly permitted in the rules. All this will change in 2016. The 2016 service rifle rules will state that M16/AR15-type Rifles must be “an M16 U. S. Service Rifle or a similar AR15 type commercial rifle that is derived from the M16 service rifle design” and there will be far fewer specific restrictions.

2016 restrictions will simply require M16/AR15-type rifles that: 

  • Are chambered for the 5.56 x 45 mm (.223) NATO cartridge.
  • Are designed or modified for semi-automatic fire only.
  • Have either a gas-impingement system or a piston-operated gas system.
  • Have a barrel that is no longer than 20 inches, with or without a flash suppressor (16” barrels are permitted).
  • Use one upper receiver and barrel for the entire match.
  • Have a trigger pull of at least 4.5 pounds.
  • Use standard service magazines or commercial equivalents that do not contain added weights.
  • Have a fixed or collapsible butt-stock that may vary in length and even be adjusted between firing stages. Butt-plates or cheek-pieces may not, however, be adjustable.
  • Have a standard A1 or A2 pistol grip.

This will open the way for competitors to use a wider variety of M16/AR-16-type rifles. The imposition of a weight limit for scope-sighted rifles reflects a long-simmering concern over how heavy Service Rifles became when there was no weight limit. 15, 18 or even 20-pound rifles are far removed from the original service rifle weights. Opening Service Rifle shooting to optical-sighted rifles offered an opportunity to at least establish a reasonable weight limit for these rifles before they come into widespread use in Service Rifle competitions.

M14 Service Rifle Rules. For competitors who prefer to use M14 or M1A rifles, those rules are somewhat simplified, but remain essentially the same. The optical sight option is not available for these rifles.

No Extra Time Or Refires For Service Rifle Malfunctions. In a move intended to speed up competitions and encourage competitors to take full responsibility for having rifles and ammunition that function flawlessly, extra time in slow-fire series or refires in rapid-fire series will no longer be permitted when malfunctions occur. A primary objective of this change is to eliminate most of the “alibi relays” that add so much time to matches.

Rules for Scoring Irregular Rifle Shots. New rules for how to score early, late and missing shots as well as excessive or insufficient hits were added to the CMP Rules. These rules, however, are generally in synch with NRA highpower rifle rules. The one variation is that in the case of insufficient hits where there is credible evidence that all ten rounds were fired at the correct target and “the Pit Officer can confirm that there were ten impacts in the berm (pit puller testimony), “the target puller and Pit Officer must find a double among the visible shots…” In the case of excessive hits, the high ten will be scored if there are 11 hits. If there are 12 or more hits, the competitor must be scored the low ten or be given the option of refiring the series.

Pistol Rules Are Unchanged. Except for permitting service pistols to have a Picatinny rail below the barrel, the Service Pistol and 22 Rimfire Pistol rules adopted in 2015 are unchanged. Competitor and match sponsor responses to those rule changes were overwhelmingly positive so further changes have not been necessary.

Pistol Range Officer Script. A new script, Pistol Firing Procedures and Commands, has been added for Range Officer use in conducting EIC and National Match Course pistol events. The Annexes in the Service Rifle and Pistol rulebook now include Range Officer scripts for Pistol, Highpower Rifle and Highpower Rifle pit procedures.

Service Rifle and Pistol Achievement Award Scores. CMP Achievement Pins are provided as incentive awards in EIC Matches for a larger base of competitors who are striving to lift their scores up to the top ten percent level. CMP Achievement Awards typically go to the top 40 percent. These awards were initiated in 2015 and award scores have been updated with significant increases in pistol EIC award scores. The CMP has reinstated its traditional medallion awards for the first three place winners in EIC matches.


Here are summaries of the most important rule changes in the COMPETITION RULES FOR CMP GAMES RIFLE AND PISTOL MATCHES:

Optical Sights for Modern Military Rifles. One of the fastest growing rifle competition categories is for Modern Military Rifles. There are two classes, one for M16/AR15 platform rifles and one for a broad range of other military rifles. Competitors who compete in Modern Military Rifle Matches will now have the option of using optical sights with a maximum magnification of 4.5X. To make allowance for the increased weight of telescopes, the weight limit for AR-type rifles was increased to 8.5 pounds and for M-14/M1A rifles to 10.0 pounds. Stricter weight limits are placed on these rifles as a means of keeping heavy barrel or so-called match rifles out of this competition category.

Stocks for Modern Military Rifles. Butt-stocks on these rifles can now vary in length and collapsible or adjustable-length stocks may now be used. Butt-stocks, however, may not have butt-plates or cheek-pieces that adjust up or down.

Standing before Rifle Rapid-Fire Series. The CMP retains the requirement for rifle shooters to start rifle rapid-fire series from standing both to preserve the “rifleman skill” of being able to quickly assume a stable position and get its natural point of aim centered on the correct target and to provide the safest conditions for inexperienced competitors to load military rifles and especially M1 Garands. While keeping this rule, CMP Games rules do allow the option of starting in position for competitors who are older or who have difficulty getting up and down. This is essentially an honor-system option, but the rule expects all competitors who are able to start rapid-fire series from standing. Previous rules allowed all competitors who are 60 years of age or older to load and start in position, but with so many able-bodied competitors in their 60s, the 2016 rules will raise this age threshold to 70. Since starting in position with an established natural point of aim can be a big advantage, the new rules will specify that match winner awards can only go to competitors who start rapid-fire from standing. This restriction will not apply to high senior awards.

Vintage Sniper Rifle Team Match Rules. This relatively new match commemorates the marksmanship skills military sniper rifle teams had to master while using original or replica 1953 and earlier military sniper rifles and optics. This nostalgic match has grown impressively; 251 teams with 502 competitors shot in this event at the 2015 National Matches. These rules have stabilized nicely in the last two years and there will be no 2016 rule changes in this event.

Rimfire Sporter Rifle Rules. The most popular rimfire rifle match in the country continues to attract impressive numbers to its matches. The 2015 National Rimfire Match, for example, attracted 390 entries. Like the Vintage Sniper Rifle Team Match, these rules have now stabilized so that there are also no 2016 rule changes in Rimfire Sporter.

2016 CMP Achievement Award Scores. The 2016 cut scores for winning CMP Achievement Medals and Pins in CMP Games Matches were updated based on scores in the 2015 National Matches and 2015 CMP Travel Matches. There are now cut scores for 17 different CMP Games events. 33 of the 68 cut scores for gold, silver and bronze awards in these events were changed, most with modest one or two point increases.


The CMP has taken the lead in introducing electronic scoring targets for highpower rifle shooting at 200, 300 and 600 yards as well as for pistol shooting at 25 and 50 yards. The state-of-the-art CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park features rifle and pistol ranges that are fully equipped with electronic targets. Today’s electronic targets use acoustical sensing or laser technology to precisely locate and score shots that are displayed on competitor monitors and recorded in a central ranking computer. Scoring is instant and accurate and for highpower rifle shooters, spending half a day in the pits pulling and marking targets is no longer necessary.

Most current rules also apply to shooting on electronic targets, but these targets also require some special rules. Both 2016 CMP rulebooks will include new rules governing electronic target operations and Annexes with detailed Electronic Target Scoring Rules. These rules will be “provisional” until the CMP gains further experience with the target systems at Talladega. Highlights from these rules include:

Match Officials. When a match is conducted on electronic targets the appointed match officials must include a specially qualified electronic target “Technical Officer” (TO). The TO must be trained and experienced in operating electronic targets and their match management system (computer and software). The TO must also have a detailed knowledge of electronic target rules and know how to apply them in making decisions regarding electronic target scoring and complaints.

Scoring Rule. To maintain consistency with NRA paper target scoring rules, the CMP will score shots using shot hole diameters that correspond to the bullet diameters of the cartridges used by each competitor. This rule gives a slight scoring advantage to competitors using large caliber rifles or pistols. This also means individual electronic targets must be programmed to score according to the bullet diameter being used by the competitor. This scoring rule adds an element of complexity because electronic targets do not calculate scores according to whether the edge of a shot hole touches the edge of a scoring ring, but rather according to the distance the center of the shot hole is from the center of the target. The application of this scoring rule means that on electronic targets, each bullet caliber has slightly different scoring ring radii.

Verifiers. Electronic targets offer the huge advantage of no longer requiring competitors to pull targets and act as official scores, but it is still necessary to have one relay of competitors act as verifiers for the relay of competitors that is firing. The verifier’s responsibility is to confirm that shots are fired and that they are indicated (displayed) as scores on the competitor’s monitor. Verifiers also must count shots fired during rapid-fire as well as record early and late shots. When a shot is fired but not scored, most often because of a crossfire, or when extra shots are displayed, it is the verifier’s duty to call a Range Officer so these irregular shots can be scored correctly.

Special Scoring Rules. A fundamental rule in electronic target scoring is that the scores displayed on a competitor’s monitor on his/her firing point and in the main computer are final unless a complaint regarding those scores is made immediately and resolved in the competitor’s favor. If a shot is not scored and displayed, it cannot be counted. Crossfire detection with electronic targets is usually easy because exact shot timings for every shot that hit the target can be used to find out-of-sequence shots that are usually crossfires.

Questioned Shot Values. Electronic targets score with a precision that exceeds the scoring accuracy that can be attained with paper targets and scoring aids and they are also rigorously tested to confirm that they are continuing to perform correctly. A key to maintaining this high level of scoring accuracy is proper target maintenance. Nevertheless, a competitor may occasionally question a scored shot value (i. e. “I didn’t shoot that seven…or five…or miss”), but unless there is credible evidence that the target is malfunctioning, the scored value must stand.

Competitors or match sponsors with comments or questions about the 2016 CMP competition rules are encouraged to email them to competitions@thecmp.org. Comments should be received not later than 13 November.

For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org for more information and program descriptions.

About The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP):

The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is a national organization dedicated to training and educating U. S. citizens in responsible uses of firearms and airguns through gun safety training, marksmanship training and competitions. The CMP is a federally chartered 501(c)(3) corporation that places its highest priority on serving youth through gun safety and marksmanship activities that encourage personal growth and build life skills.

For more information, please visit www.TheCMP.org.