By Jason Shoot
For reaching the ultimate marksmanship level the National Rifle Association has to offer, Nick Johnson is astoundingly modest.
Johnson, a member of the VFW Bear Paw Junior Rifle Club since 1994, earned the NRA's distinguished expert smallbore rifle rating, just the 47th boy in the Havre club to earn such an award.
"It feels good knowing I'm one of the few who did it," Johnson said.
And that's about as excited as Johnson gets when talking about it.
To reach this level takes most shooters several years to accomplish simply because the level of accuracy necessary makes the task incredibly difficult.
Shooters must score a certain number of points from four different positions in order to qualify for the award.
From the prone and sitting positions, shooters are required to score at least 90 out of a possible 100 points. The catch is that he can lose no more than two points on two consecutive shots.
For example, Johnson could have scored 97 total points out of 100, but if he scored just a seven on his final attempt, he would have failed and the score would not have been valid.
Standing and kneeling the two most difficult positions require the shooter to record a score of 80 or better. Johnson could miss no more than four points on two consective shots in either position.
Another roadblock in Johnson's quest to reach the distinguished expert level was he was to fire at 10 different targets from each position. That means each target was at a different elevation or position laterally and each shot different from the last.
"That makes it 10 times more difficult," club instructor Cal Burr said.
While the NRA does not support an award higher up the totem pole than the distinguished expert award, the local rifle club offers a master distinguished award that few members have ascended to.
In fact, just five members in the club's history have reached that mark.
Burr said the club offers that award to simply keep shooters interested in staying with the club after they have achieved the NRA's highest level.
Johnson said he enjoys hunting large game such as elk and deer, as well as birds like pheasants and grouse.
"I also like going to Flathead to shoot clay pigeons," Johnson said. "Clay pigeons are harder, and rifles and shotguns are a lot different. I did bad the first time I did it."
Johnson may not let his recent achievement go to his head, but he didn't hesitate to boast about something else.
Cracking a sly grin, Johnson said, "It's fun knowing I'm a better shot than my dad. He doesn't like it."