In theory, marksmanship is a sport, similar to track and field, which lends itself to objective comparisons. A student running the 100-meter dash on a track in Germany should be able to compare his or her time to one running that race in California. And the DODDS-Europe marksmanship competitors lining up their shots this weekend should be able to follow the same template.

But in practice, things aren’t so simple. Just as runners can be boosted or hampered by weather and track conditions, marksmen can find their otherwise steady eye affected by environment.

“Every range is different,” Baumholder coach William Walker said, citing factors ranging from the temperature in the venue to the lighting to the visual surroundings.

This weekend, however, those subtle nuances will be absorbed into the unbending realm of math. Each DODDS-Europe marksmanship program will compete on its own home range on Saturday, then send their scores in for comparison with other schools in their conference. It’s called a “remote” or “postal” meet, as opposed to the conventional “shoulder-to-shoulder” meet which sees all participating schools shoot on the same range.

The one-week arrangement, designed to save money on travel expenses without shortening the competitive season, has become an annual fixture. With a few exceptions, teams travel as usual during the other four regular-season weekends and gather in person for the European tournament, which will be held this year at Patch on Jan. 31.

Walker acknowledged that the remote meets are less intense as shooters compete “in a familiar environment with only your teammates around,” making it more akin to a formalized practice session. Shooting next to the likes of DODDS-Europe front-runners Maggie Ehmann and Caelyn Miller of Patch can be “very stressful” for competitors who aspire to their level, he said.

But that kind of direct challenge can also be beneficial for shooters. Alconbury coach John Pardo, whose team frequently competes remotely due to its distance from other DODDS-Europe schools, said the lack of on-site competition can have a variety of consequences. He called the shoulder-to-shoulder matches “the essence of competition.”

“The competitors relish the shoulder-to-shoulder matches because that is where your true ability comes out,” Pardo said. “Doing well at a postal is good. But doing well at a shoulder-to-shoulder is the ultimate.”

Twitter: @broomestripes

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