Troopers hit bull's-eye at contest

June 08, 1997


Staff Writer

The Maryland State Police Special Tactical Assault Team Element bills itself as the best of the best, on par with elite military forces.

Last week, they got some hard evidence to back that claim up.

Trooper 1st Class Dan Weaver, who serves out of the Hagerstown barrack, and his partner won a three-day counter-sniper competition at Fort Meade.

In taking first place, Weaver and Cpl. Mike Thompson of the Forestville, Md., barrack, beat out 21 other teams, including those representing the Navy SEALS, Canadian special forces and the U.S. Secret Service.


Last year, Weaver and his partner finished in third place in the invitation-only competition.

"We were real shocked last year," Weaver said.

Sponsored by gunmaker Heckler & Coch Inc., the competition tests the skills of some of the world's best sharpshooters.

On the first day, contestants shot a .308-caliber rifle from 200 and 500 yards at various positions. Weaver said outdoor shooting, difficult in good conditions, was made tougher by 20 mph wind gusts. He said a 5 mph wind can push a bullet nine inches.

"It was pretty tough shooting," he said.

Weaver said day two was pivotal. He and Thompson finished first in the obstacle course, which demanded contestants shoot from simulated windows, bunkers, rooftops and other positions.

The last day tested speed and accuracy. Contestants shot at 10 targets they had never seen before, Weaver said. He said they ran from spot to spot and had to estimate the distance to targets.

Weaver said the team lost ground on the third day, but they hung on.

"It was enough to keep us on top," he said.

For their efforts, Weaver and Thompson won their choice of weapons. Weaver said he picked an $800, .45 ACP caliber pistol, the same model carried by the Navy SEALS.

More valuable, though, was an opportunity to trade stories with members of some of the country's elite forces, Weaver said.

"Just to hear the stories they tell," he said. "They kind of opened up to us in the end."

Weaver said he is eager to defend his title next year, adding that he and Thompson worked hard to improve their weaknesses this year. State troopers are rarely called on to fire on far-off targets, so they had trouble with that portion of the competition last year, he said.

After finishing third, he said they decided they had a shot at winning with enough practice.

"It really paid off for us," he said.

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