High-Caliber Competitors: Marty and Noma Mayo

Kevin Sauls
By Kevin Sauls June 15, 2016 14:42
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Noma Mayo, 68, has set 57 national records in competitive shooting, including 42 since the year 2000.

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Marty and Noma Mayo have two passions in their lives.

One is shooting high-power rifles. The second is each other.

Shooting and love go hand-in-hand for the Mayos, who were brought together by their favorite sport and, since their marriage nearly 17 years ago, have supported one another in an ongoing December romance.

Their shooting skill is evident as the Mayos – he’s 72, she’s 68 – practice their high-power passion early one morning at the Mother Lode Gun Club, a few miles from their Jamestown home.

The two lie in the prone position, bellies to the ground on the firing line, sighting targets 100 yards away – a mere tenth of the gargantuan 1,000-yard distance at which they often compete.

They are eerily motionless. There is no banter – both are wearing ear protection and concentrating mightily on the task at hand.

Each shows an almost imperceptible movement of the right index finger and then BOOM! One fires, then the other, their rifles issuing a short but thunderously deep report. They reload, sight in again, and fire when ready, sometimes almost simultaneously.

The explosion from the other’s rifle has no effect. The target is all that matters.

After each has sent more than a dozen rounds downrange, Marty retrieves the paper targets and reveals that each has a single ragged hole where the one-inch “X” circle – the bull’s-eye – once was.

There are no holes outside the X ring, but the Mayos’ standards are so high that neither is completely satisfied.

“I could have been a quarter-inch this way and a quarter-inch that way,” Marty says, gesturing with his hands.

“I’m not real happy with it,” Noma adds.

Clearly, 100 yards is pretty much a lark, even though the targets look small to the untrained eye. Marty points to a spot near the top of a distant hill, far beyond the gun club boundaries.

“That’s about a thousand yards,” he says.

Just how high-powered are the Mayos? Simply put, they are among the best shooters in the world.

Noma is the equivalent of shooting royalty. She has set 57 national records, including 42 since 2000. She has won international titles, competed on equal terms with male marksmen on the world stage, dominated national and state competitions and trained Navy SEAL snipers.

As a couple, the Mayos last summer helped the United States win the World Veterans Team Match for shooters 60 and over against an international field. Noma was one of only two women in the competition, and Marty was part of the 10-member U.S. team for the fourth straight time.

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The Mayos at the Mother Lode Gun Club

Though she has a gentle demeanor, Noma possesses a steely determination on and off the range.

Or, as Robert Taylor puts it, “She’s badass.”

“She looks like this cool little grandma you want to hang out with, but she’s one of the toughest women I’ve ever met,” says Taylor, who was coached by Noma while a member of the California Grizzlies Junior Rifle Team in the late 1990s. The team now has 23 shooters ages 12 to 20 from all over the state, with 13 members based at the Mother Lode club.

Taylor, who also knew Marty, played Cupid by introducing the two.

“She was one of those super-nice people, and Marty was a great dude,” recalls Taylor, now 36 and the Grizzlies’ head coach. “I just told him, ‘It’d be great if you could hook up with someone like Noma. You’d have a ton in common.’

“I was just a kid at the time,” he adds. “It wasn’t like I planned it on match.com.”

Nonetheless, the wheels were set in motion and the timing was right, as Noma had been widowed several years earlier and Marty had been divorced for a decade.

“I was asking God to ease my pain,” says Noma.

“I asked God to send me the woman of his choice,” Marty says.

It didn’t happen overnight. They first talked on the phone in July 1998. A month later Marty, a commercial pilot, rented a plane and flew to visit her at her place in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. Naturally, she gave him a tour of her home rifle range.

“We had hit it off on the phone, and when we met we got along well,” Noma says.

“The attraction developed over time,” Marty says. “I felt that God had answered my prayer.”

He proposed in December of 1998.

“I didn’t say yes right away,” Noma says with a smile.

“But she took the ring,” chuckles Marty.

She accepted his proposal the next day, and they were married the following October.

For each partner, what is now a shared passion dates back more than 40 years.

Noma began shooting in 1969, when she accompanied her first husband to a range in her native Southern California. She hadn’t intended to shoot but noticed another woman plinking away and decided to give it a try.

Her first rifle was a World War II-vintage M1 Garand. It wasn’t long before she was shooting competitively, and she participated in her first national competition in 1975.

“The self-competition and self-satisfaction are the big things,” Noma says. “You get out there and do it. I don’t know why it got me hooked, but it did. You just keep going back.

“We’re like the top golfers. Every time you go out, you want to do better than the last time. The difference is golfers make money. If shooters made money, Marty and I would be rich.”

But shooting has enriched their relationship.

“It brings you closer together because it gives you more to talk about,” Noma says.

Marty has loved shooting since childhood, but everything stepped up a notch when he met Noma.

“Shooting long-range and making the U.S. team four times has been fulfilling, and we’ve traveled and made friends all over the world,” he says. “It’s absolutely been good for our relationship. It’s really nice when you like the same thing. I feel blessed.”

Before retiring, Marty was an electrician supervisor for the City and County of San Francisco – first at San Francisco International Airport and later for Hetch Hetchy in Moccasin. Noma owned and operated a beauty salon in Southern California.

Their marriage is his second and her third. He has three sons and four grandchildren, and she, two sons and four grandchildren. Marty and Noma are the only serious competitive shooters in their combined extended family.

FN00067-summer-2016-editedThey train by competing, sometimes for as many as eight straight weekends, and both work out to stay in top condition.

For Noma, that has been a challenge at times. She is a 20-year breast cancer survivor who has undergone several surgeries, including a mastectomy. She won a state championship while still weak from chemotherapy and was hospitalized for 10 days shortly before traveling to South Africa to finish third in the World Long-Range Championship (against men) in April of 1999.

The Mayos compete together with an amazing combination of power and precision. Much of their shooting is done at 1,000 yards – 10 football fields. Both use 30-caliber .308 Winchesters, and they often ring up perfect X’s by zeroing a 10-inch paper circle that looks like a speck from the firing line.

Their equipment includes corrective shooting glasses, which help them focus through the aperture sights affixed near the single-action bolt and at the business end of the barrel.

A standard 1,000-yard target is a 6-by-6-foot square showing five concentric circles – the closer a shot is to center, the higher the score. A hit in the largest ring (60-inch diameter) is worth seven points; a hit in the smallest rings (10- and 20-inches) is worth 10. An X – a hit at dead center – is 10 points, and is also a bonus tie-breaker.

In the 2015 World Championship Veterans Team Match at Camp Perry, Ohio, Marty scored 194 out of 200 with 16 X’s and Noma, 191 with 16 X’s. Together they helped the U.S. claim its first victory in 16 years – overcoming a British squad that had been on top of the world for some time. The Mayos’ scores were for shooting in all of the competition’s four stages: 300, 600, 900 and 1,000 yards.

Team Captain Tom Whitaker, 69, of Yorba Linda, says he was more than happy to have the Mayos on his squad and would love to count them among American shooters for the next Veterans Match, in 2019 in New Zealand.

Shooting at such distances is difficult even under ideal conditions. At Camp Perry, a hard wind blew. “At 1,000 yards,” notes Marty, “a 10-mile-per-hour wind can move a bullet nine feet.”

Noma’s considerable expertise has long included being a good shot in pesky winds, and the SEALs came calling for help with that challenge during the 1991 Gulf War.

She worked with elite snipers and their big M14 and Remington 700 rifles the next four years at their training site in Coalinga, advising the SEALs on positioning, reading the wind and even gauging the effect of mirage-like heat waves on airborne bullets.

During the second Gulf War, in 2003, Noma’s son, Brett McCullough, was at the Baghdad airport in Iraq with the Army Reserves when he encountered some SEALs. The Navy men remembered their mentor.

“Brett mentioned that his mother had trained SEALs,” she recalls, “and they said, ‘Is your mom Noma?’ ”

At an earlier California state rifle championship, a group of SEALs was kidding McCullough. “They said, ‘How come you let your mom beat you?’ ” says Noma. “He said, ‘Well, she beat all of us.’ ”

Since the Mayos joined forces, Marty has risen to the highest echelons.

“He’s made quantum leaps,” says Noma. “It’s mostly a self-taught thing … you just go out and do it, though everyone will offer tips.”

The Mayos don’t coach each other much, though.

“I coached her once,” Marty says. “She shot a perfect 200, but then she got mad at me because she didn’t get enough X’s.”

They find real joy in coaching youngsters.

“It tickles me to death to see kids do well,” says Noma. “We have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping someone out. You pass it down. That’s my reward.”

“It does make you feel good because you give back,” says Marty. “People come to you for advice.”

For all their shooting travels, both Mayos are longstanding members of the Mother Lode Gun Club. Marty’s membership – dating to 1955, when he was just 12 – is the club’s third longest.

“It’s like a family,” Noma says.

The Mayos plan on being part of the extended shooting family for years to come.

“We’ll do it for as long as we can,” says Marty.

Says Noma: “I expect to be out there when I’m 80.”

shooter-womanFN00101-Summer-2016-editedWoman of many titles

Noma Mayo has won eight national women’s titles and nine California state championships, twice finished third in the World Long-Range Championship vs. both men and women (1999 and 2007) and competed for the U.S. in five World Palma Trophy Matches. She has twice been part of the elite “President’s 100” for top shooters in the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

In 1980, she was the first woman to win the international Wimbledon Cup. Both the Wimbledon and Palma competitions date to 1870s England.

In 1983, Noma became only the 13th female to earn Civilian Marksmanship “Distinguished” status, and in 2010 she earned another international title by winning the Kaltenberg Cup in Australia – her most cherished competitive accomplishment.

In 2014, Noma won the national mid-range Palma rifle championship and Marty finished fourth at Camp Perry, and in 2009, in Sacramento, they were half of a senior team which set a national record by dropping only four points out of 800 at 1,000 yards.

Copyright © 2016 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Kevin Sauls
By Kevin Sauls June 15, 2016 14:42
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