Interview – Don Rutherford –

Don RutherfordAnybody who has journeyed to one of the many CMP Travel Games events through the years has likely spent time with Glendale “Don” Rutherford. From helping to run the traveling Small Arms Firing Schools and New Shooter Clinics, to helping run lines from coast-to-coast – Don still manages some trigger time here and there. Below is Don’s interview, where he tells of coming up with his brother Leon, his time with the Alabama National Guard Rifle Team, National Competition and traveling with the CMP.

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CMP Vintage Sniper Team Match:
National Champions: 2012, 2014, 2015
Oklahoma Games: 2012, 2016 / Georgia Games: 2012

CMP Vintage Sniper Individual Match:
Western Games: 2012 / Oklahoma Games: 2012

CMP As-Issued M1-Garand Match:
Oklahoma Games: 2012 / Georgia Games: 2012

CMP As-Issued Springfield Match:
Western Games: 2010, 2012 / Eastern Games: 2012 / Georgia Games: 2012

CMP As-Issued Vintage Military Match:
Western Games: 2010, 2011, 2012 / Eastern Games: 2011 / Oklahoma Games: 2012

CMP As-Issued 3-Gun Aggregate:
National Champion: 2011 / Western Games: 2010, 2011, 2012 / Oklahoma Games: 2012 / Georgia Games: 2012

CMP As-Issued 4-Gun Aggregate:
Eastern Games: 2014

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1: What was your experience like when starting out in highpower?

I shot my first match in 1976 at Fort McClellan, Alabama on Range 25 as a qualification match for the Alabama National Guard State Team. Although I did well enough to actually make the team, my time with Guard was up in a few months, so unfortunately I couldn’t accept.

My brother Leon signed back up in 1980. On his first visit home he told me the Guard out of Heflin, Alabama had a State Level Marksmanship Team and that their pistol team had just gotten back from competing in the National Guard National Pistol matches then in Little Rock, Arkansas. He asked me if I wanted to get back in and form a rifle team. I said, Yeah! Let’s do it!

So I got back in and him and I formed a Combat Rifle Team that dominated the state for many years. At that time, you could get up to 20 Leg Points shooting Combat Rifle Matches with rack grade M16’s. The other 10, you’d have to switch over to a composite rifle (M14). We competed as the All Guard Team all over the South in Little Rock, Camp Butner, NC and with FORSCOM and 1st & 2nd Army Matches at Fort Benning, GA with the AMU, the Marine Teams and the whole 9-yards.

I was able to go Distinguished in 1986 and our state level team was able to keep in the top 5 from Rattle Battle to the 6-man Team Match at the Nationals for quite a few years up until about 1992.

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Don Rutherford - Gadsden Times

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2: Who were your mentors? What do you remember most from these experiences and what still rings true?

James E. “Mac” McCullom was my coach & Col. Luscious Rayfield was my team captain. They were two Gods of mine. Practice was hard, but it built confidence. Luscious was real hard on us. He would break you down; your self esteem and rebuild you. Mac would always reinforce to our All-Guard guys to be coachable. Listen to your coach and don’t always be set in your own little concrete world with blinders on. Neither of these guys would ever give up on anybody. That and that the most important shot is that next shot… forget that last one.

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3: Can you describe some of your most memorable milestones or breakthroughs? Both starting out… and along the journey to competing nationally.

Other than obviously finally earning my Distinguished Rifleman badge, there is a trophy here in the Alabama State National Guard called the Crack Hanna Award which is given to the high competitor in the state team tryouts. You see, a new shooter (called a “Tyro”) has to be chosen as part of the state team ever year to compete at the Nationals. But once your tyro status got burned, you had to compete with all of the older shooters and it’s every man for himself at tryouts. It’s a real tall trophy and each year the winners name gets put on it to keep for one year until the next tryouts. I always seemed to miss that award by one or two points. Finally getting my name on that trophy was a real feather in my hat. Especially because I got to share it with my brother and his name on there too.

Rutherford - Coaching 01

But the real highlight of it all is being a part of the CMP family. Getting to help and shoot all over the country is really special. I honestly could not rate one of what I just said above the other except the CMP.

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4: Describe your routine to help you stay on top of your best game? Off-Season, Mid-Season and ramping up to bigger matches?

Rutherford - SwedeBack in the day, preparing for a real big match – one month completely off of caffeine and a physical regiment of pushups, sit-ups and running. I was possessed with shooting excellent offhand scores. I can’t completely say any of that actually helped me physically, but mentally it was what I needed to do in order to back able to walk up to the 200-yard offhand line and know I could compete.

In the month before a big match, I’d dryfire every day for 15 to 20-minutes – but you had to be in the mental frame to be effective with it. Some days it’d be a waste if you had other things on your mind… maybe a bad day at work or whatever. The key is to be able to focus and make the most of it.

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5: How important is technique, mental program, and equipment in influencing your performance?  What is their proportional influence?

They’re all equally and evenly important and only as strong as the weakest link. Heading to a match completely prepared mentally and practiced thoroughly, only to then find a problem with my equipment can make everything suffer.

But there is always hope of faith in the fundamentals, specifically sight alignment and sight picture. If all else fails, those two can keep you in the game against strong odds. When I think back as to why I’d done so well in my first match, I have to believe it was all those boxes of .22 long rifle and time as a kid at the gravel pit spent plinking at tin cans. The trying to develop that natural muscle memory and skills to break a clean shot.

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Rutherform - Armstrong

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6: What was the toughest match you’ve ever competed in where you held it together? What was that like?

At one All-Army match at Fort Benning, GA in the mid 1980’s I got to shoot with Eric Uptagrafft. At the time, he was competing for a spot on the Olympic Team and here I am, just a country boy from the Alabama National Guard that’s never proved nothing to nobody. The whole morning I kept wondering as to why I got squadded with that guy? We get to the 200-yard line and he’s got his director’s chair and I’ve got my beat up old stool… I had to go first with him scoring me. I just kept telling myself that I’d have to run the ball that morning. No fumbles. I was nervous, but I’d trained as hard as I could and believed in myself and my training. It might not have broken any records that day or even won that portion of the match, but I shot that morning for a 198-13X offhand. I’ll never forget turning around after my last shot and that guy looking me up and down and saying “Damn, guy! Nice Shooting!”. I had some good rapids that day and finished okay at 600 for a 787, only dropping 13-points – with the pressure on right from the start. Of course, there were many higher scores that day – but it’s one that I’ll not soon forget and showed me that anything was possible. Sometimes you just have to be as good as your competition and he definitely made me step it up a notch that day for sure!

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7: If you had to choose only ONE answer, what has helped you improve the most towards your goals in highpower?

Mac & Luscious. Coach & Captain. They molded me and taught me how to shoot under pressure.

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8: Why do you continue to stay involved with highpower?

I just love it. It’s part of me. If it comes down to not being able to physically compete one day, it’s going to be a big adjustment for me. I just love to still fire a round occasionally. I might not be clawing at or climbing the walls like I used to be to shoot, but it still just seems like it has to happen. And so I practice for those few times that I still get to.

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Don Rutherford Cris Stone Judy Legerski

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9: What is your favorite part about traveling with the CMP to all of their travel games matches?

The people. Definitely. From all over the place there are just so many people that I love. Especially at Nationals.

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10: What would you like to talk about that wasn’t covered in the previous questions?

Rutherford - Coaching 02

The privilege and the honor to be able to instruct the SAFS at the Travel Games. Even beyond getting to squeeze a trigger, it’s helping other shooters. It’s wonderful to be around so many shooters who are trying to do better and if I can help them along the way it just feels great. Helping them to stay focused. Helping point out to them some details that need attention paid to them.

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