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The President’s Match 1904 and Theodore Roosevelt’s Letter

Originally appeared on the now long gone Rifleman’s Journal


Camp Perry shooters are familiar with the President’s Match and the tradition that the winner of the match receives a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States.  The match itself has changed many times over the years, both in course of fire and in the allowable arms; however, the letter has been a constant since President Theodore Roosevelt sent the first one in 1904.
At that time, the President’s Match was designated the “Military Rifle Championship of the Unites States of America” by authority of the President, and was as prestigious a match as a military man could win.  The match was fired with the U.S. Army service rifle and in 1904 that was the Krag, though there were some Model 1903 Springfield rifles on the line as well.  Ammunition was unrestricted meaning commercial ammunition for the service rifle could be used, not just military issued ammunition.  The match was open to members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Naval Reserve and State Militia or National Guard – no civilians.  The course of fire was seven shots at each distance: 200, 300, 500, 600, 800 and 1000 yards.

Private Howard Gensch of the First Regiment of Infantry of the New Jersey National Guard, didn’t have to travel too far for the National Matches at Sea Girt, New Jersey and likely was well acquainted with the range.  Private Gensch fired the winning score, a 192 of a possible 210 (30, 32, 35, 32, 32, 31) and received the first Presidential letter in the now century old tradition.  The letter read as follows:


White House, Washington September 24, 1904

My dear sir – I have just been informed that you have won the President’s Match for the Military Championship of the United States of America.  I wish to congratulate you in person, and through you not only the First Regiment of the National Guard of New Jersey, but the entire National Guard of New Jersey.  As a nation we must depend upon our volunteer soldiers in time of trial; and, therefore, the members of the National Guard fill a high function of usefulness.  Of course, a soldier who cannot shoot is a soldier who counts for very little in battle, and all credit is due to those who keep up the standard of marksmanship.  I congratulate you, both on your skill and upon your possession of the qualities of perseverance and determination in long practice, by which alone this skill could have been brought to its high point of development.  With all good wishes, believe me,

Sincerely yours,(signed) Theodore Roosevelt Private

Howard Gensch First Regiment of Infantry, N.J.N.G.Madison, N.J.

1 thought on “The President’s Match 1904 and Theodore Roosevelt’s Letter”

  1. I have been told that one recent occupant of the White House failed to send the congratulatory letters, but can’t confirm that for certain. It’s possibly fake news, but this particular person would certainly look good for it.

    The President’s Match is still fired once a year, at the CMP National Matches at Camp Perry, which were cancelled this year because Covid 19. It is still as prestigious as ever, but nowadays civilians are allowed to participate. The competition is fierce and there is little room for error. The current course of fire is:
    Ten shots slow fire standing at 200-yards in ten minutes.
    Ten shots rapid fire prone at 300-yards in seventy seconds, with a magazine change and start from standing.
    Ten shots slow fire prone at 600-yards in ten minutes.
    If you’re in the top 20, you are additionally required to participate in a ten-shot shoot-off at 600-yards, to determine the winner of the match and the pecking order for the other 19. This requirement is not altogether popular, but CMP is very serious about it and will completely disqualify any competitor who refuses to participate in the shoot-off, which some discovered to their chagrin when this requirement was first enacted not that long ago.

    If you’re in the top 100, you receive a medal and authorization to wear the President’s Hundred tab, if your branch of service authorizes it. It’s one of the few tabs authorized by the Army, such as the Airborne and Ranger tabs, and one or two others I’ve forgotten.

    Some people believe it harder to earn a President’s Hundred tab than to earn a Distinguished Rifleman Badge. It certainly was for me. For Distinguished, you only shoot against non-Distinguished competitors, and you can make a minor boo-boo and still shoot your way out of it. But in the President’s Match, you shoot against everybody, and there are some wicked good shooters who show up for this match and you will not get a second chance against those folks.

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