There aren’t that many competition shooters in any discipline who are coming up on 50 years of matches. Meet Nancy Tompkins, a long-range competition rifle shooter. She’s been competing in Palma (.308 caliber at 800 yards, 900 yards and 1000 yards – iron sights), Long Range (1000 yards – iron sights) and Smallbore prone for 47 years. Thanks to her father, she began competing in the 7th grade and now, shares the love of shooting with her daughters – Michelle and Sherri Gallagher – and her husband, Mid. We think you’re going to be inspired by her philosophy on shooting, competing, coaching and life.
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The WON: When people ask you what you do, what do you say?
Nancy Tompkins: In regard to competitive shooting, we run competitions, shoot High Power sling and F-Class, Long Range and Mid Range and Smallbore Rifle matches. We do what we can to help build the sport of shooting.
The WON: You started competing in the shooting sports in 7th grade. How’d that happen?
Nancy Tompkins: My dad, Artie Clark, who was an airline mechanic, a Reserve Highway Patrol Officer, a lifelong hunter and fisherman also taught NRA approved Hunter Safety classes. I took my dad’s class, and on the last night we went to Phoenix Rod and Gun Club to shoot. They were having their weekly Junior Shooting Club that night so I shot .22 caliber rifles indoors with the juniors. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the people, so I started going everyweek, and soon I was hooked. After a few years, I also started shooting Air Rifle, High Power Rifle Across the Course and High Power Silhouette.
The WON: Your shooting is really a family affair. You’re married to a famous shooter, and your daughters, Michelle and Sherri Jo, also are renowned in the long-range world of competition shooting. How did you raise them to be competition shooters?
Nancy Tompkins: Michelle and Sherri have been around competitive shooting all of their lives. When Sherri was 5-years old and Michelle was 7, we were at the local club and they wanted to try shooting for themselves. I had them shoot .22 caliber rifles off of a rest for the first time and they loved it. I had them shoot .22s first – as there is virtually no recoil. Recoil can be intimidating to a new shooter, especially a younger one. By shooting smallbore for awhile, they developed solid shooting basics before they ever moved onto High Power. I always tried to keep shooting fun and to allow them to choose how much or how little they shot.
The WON: Your life revolves around competition shooting, and so what does that look like? How many matches? Time off and what do you do?
Nancy Tompkins: We are fortunate as we have Ben Avery Shooting Facility only 70 miles from us, which is a world class shooting facility. We host and shoot High Power Rifle and F-Class Nationals, regionals, state and local matches all year long, along with weekly practices. We also have Smallbore Rifle matches the entire month of March. Because of how busy we are locally with matches, we don’t travel as much to shoot as we once did, except for Nationals and International Matches. Some months we are shooting every week and other months, we shoot very little. It depends on the time of the year and what matches are being held. If we have a big match coming up, we will practice ahead of time to make sure that we are ready, as well as our equipment.
The WON: Your book, “Prone and Long Range Rifle Shooting,” encompasses long-range shooting: gear, goals, prep, training, etc. What was the book writing process like, and how long did it take you to compile all the pieces for it?
Nancy Tompkins: The NRA used to host a Long Range Firing School at the High Power Nationals. Mid and I would teach part of the classes and help the shooters with positions and techniques during the live fire portion of the class. After a few years of doing this, I had some friends tell me that I should write a book. I had never entertained the idea of writing a book until then. I started making notes on what to include in my book, which was basically everything of importance that I could think of. It took me a few years to put it all together, but in the end, I was happy with the outcome.
The WON: You’re not only a competitor, but also a coach. Why did you decide to take on this task?
Nancy Tompkins: I love competing individually, but team events have always been my favorite activity, especially International Competitions.
Shooting is like most things in life; you can have fun by yourself, but you can have a lot more fun when others are involved.
I am fortunate as I have developed a high level of wind-reading ability through my many years of shooting. That doesn’t mean that I am perfect, but I feel confident enough in my wind-reading abilities to coach high level teams. Because of that, I took on the challenge of coaching at National and International competitions, and it has been very rewarding. As I coach, I can help the team, not just with wind calls, but also by focusing on everything needed for a positive final outcome.
The WON: Do you see your daughters not only following in your footsteps, but also challenging your national records?
Nancy Tompkins: My daughters have already broken many of my National Records. Michelle has won the National Long Range Championships 3 times and has won the prestigious Wimbledon Cup match 5 times. Sherri has won the Across the Course Nationals Championships, the Long Range Nationals and the 2003 World Long Range Championships. They have both done well with their shooting, and most importantly they are humble about it and have always done what they can to give back to the sport.
The WON: You on Team Lapua. Why have you partnered with this brand?
Nancy Tompkins: I love Lapua as a company and their products. I shoot Center X, Midas + and X-ACT smallbore ammo. Using the Mesa Test Center for my smallbore testing, I have always found high quality ammo that shoots fantastic in my rifle. In order to be truly competitive in smallbore, you need to test ammo to find what will shoot best in your gun, as no one lot will shoot in everyone’s rifle.
The WON: At this time, you’re on your way to Ireland. How exciting! Which match are you shooting there, and what’s on your schedule for this summer?
Nancy Tompkins: Michelle and I have just returned from the 2019 Emerald, which is held at the Midlands National Shooting Centre of Ireland. It is always a great match and we had 6 countries participating. In July, I will be attending the NRA Smallbore Conventional Prone and Metric National Championships. In September, I will be shooting the F-Class National Championships where I will be shooting F-TR and coaching my F-Open Team – the Spindle Shooters.
The WON: To women who might find this all overwhelming, what’s the best way to get started in long-range shooting?
Nancy Tompkins: I always tell anyone that is interested in shooting that they should find a friend that shoots, or to go to a local range and inquire about how to get started. Most often you can find someone knowledgeable that can help you out. Also, you can look online to see if your local range has a website with information about range happenings.
The WON: Anything else?
Nancy Tompkins: Competitive shooting is a fantastic sport. It is a sport that while you are competing against others, you are truly competing against yourself. It is fun and challenging. At times, it can be frustrating, but if you allow yourself, you can learn something from even the worst day of shooting. If you turn a bad day into a day of learning, you will become a better shooter because of it. While I love shooting, the best part of competition is the people that you meet along the way and the lifelong friends that you make. If you haven’t tried competitive shooting yet, it is never too late!
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at https://www.ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird