February 21st Long Range Match Results

The match format is something like PRS meets IDPA meets metallic silhouette. You have a gnarly trail you have to hike to each of eight stages. Each stage has an obstacle you can choose to shoot from and an area for prone shooting. No shooting mats or spotting scopes (handheld are ok) allowed. You have 5-7 targets per stage and 10 minutes to engage them all from the time your rifle touches the ground. You get one shot per target and if one is damaged you can shoot the next closer target.

Looking at the Long Gongs, stage 1. Targets are at the far end of the opposite box canyon.

Looking at the Long Gongs, stage 1. Targets are at the far end of the opposite box canyon.

Foothills in California look all mellow and appear to gently roll, lolling along casually and encouraging you to take a leisurely stroll along their voluptuous ridge lines. The truth of the matter is that they try to maintain as steep an angle as they can and be as treacherous as possible while presenting the illusion that they’re anything but fiendishly difficult to walk on, shoot on, do construction work on or anything else one might foolishly consider doing. One can be sure that where the land is anything but relatively flat in appearance (and even then it’s actually hillier than you might suspect until you walk on it a bit) it’s not meant for walking, specially crafted boots or no. The hills are the ones doing the walking all over the people. Not the other way around.

Resting for a minute on an uncomfortably steep hill.

Resting for a minute on an uncomfortably steep hill.

The day before the match, my coach and I built a nifty little rooftop simulator for people who haven’t had a hard enough time already to shoot from. We designed it to be nearly impossible to achieve natural point of aim on and it did a stellar job of proving that point to many a taker. Of course building such a thing means pre-fabricating much of it, then lugging those now super heavy sections, along with tools and additional lumber and supplies, over these particularly rugged hills and then installing it. All in one day. That included having to start the day before the sun had cleared the hills by hiking the thing to make sure of what we actually needed in the way of supplies and components.

Rooftop obstacle under constuction.

Rooftop obstacle under constuction.

This thing accomplished I was beat bad. Exhausted since exhausted and still needing to zero my rifle, chronograph the new load I’d tossed together for the occasion, verify click values and add all that data to KAC BulletFlight. Then, I got to do the same for my coaches gun. Finally after all that we could eat and drink some beers and try to get a decent nights sleep.

Couldn’t be done. It was quite cold and the dew point hit and the tent was dripping on us periodically through the night. Apart from that, I can’t stand having things touch my feet when I’m asleep which made the whole sleeping bag thing something akin to waterboarding. I had to deal the whole night with the sensation that the walls were closing in and they were doing it to near my feet first.

When the morning came; as it always does, we awoke still pretty beat from the previous day. I started it off with a blistering hot shower which did much to revive my spirits. Right up until the hot water stopped being at all hot and because it did that rather suddenly. The ensuing seconds of ice cold water delivered a shock which was very much the equivalent of taking a bracing stroll across one of the more barren parts of Antarctica while naked.

After recovering from my abortive attempt to soothe my aching muscles with non-chemical means I dropped a couple Motrin and soldiered on. After about 30 minutes of hurriedly collecting and assembling our gear we were off with our squads.

The shooting was extremely challenging regardless of the conditions. Targets are better than 1MOA true but, that’s a lot smaller than you might think when the distance grows to several hundred meters. A few, very few, were on the other hand mightily generous and I happened to miss almost all of those. Most of that was on stage 1 and happened by me having misread my range card and skipped forward one target for each of 4 consecutive shots. After I figured out what I was doing, things cleared up on that stage but the damage to my score was done and combined with the CHS (see below) that happened there my score on the long gongs suffered. That’s for me especially galling because I usually own that stage. I spend enough time on it screwing around. It should have been second nature but competition has a way of scattering nerves.

A few of the rifles on the line. Big assortment of guns and glass.

A few of the rifles on the line. Big assortment of guns and glass.

By the end of the day I’d hit as many as I thought I might. The ammo I was using was hastily assembled and wasn’t up to snuff. My rifle shoots vastly better with the bullets jammed into the lands but because I wanted to load from a magazine and not single feed I elected to load to mag length. That meant a long jump to the lands and resulting flyers and a large SD and ES.

My coach showing off by standing up where everyone else would normally lay down.

My coach showing off by standing up where everyone else would normally lay down.

For my part, when I hit the bang switch the crosshairs were always were I needed, or at least thought I needed, them to be. My gun was not feeding especially smoothly but that wasn’t a problem. There was plenty of time to take my shots. My new Timney trigger was more manageable than the Jard when my heart rate was over 120 and had just a bit more comfortable trigger feel overall.

The author getting his shoot on. Targets on on the hills about mid way up.

The author getting his shoot on. Targets are on the hills about mid way up.

The MidwayUSA rifle pack/drag bag proved its worth once again and made the day much easier than a sling would have.

Next time I’m using my regular load and saying hang the magazine. Those print .7″ or better and will definitely help bump my score. I’m hoping to beat the course record for .223 shooters (which is 37 of 50) in the next couple months.

Match Results:

I came in 11th out of 17 in the Tactical Rifle class (.308 & .223 limited gun).

I came in 29th out of 38 overall.

Not my best performance ever. I and the gun are capable (demonstrably) of much better. My only consolation is it’s been a long time and the whole thing I approached kinda haphazardly so I achieved actually exactly what I expected which was a score somewhere near the middle of the pack. Buggery ammo, heart rate in orbit, massively difficult wind situation (shifting from 0-30, 3-5 changes inside any particular shot, canyons galore, etc…) and straight up fatigue from having built and lugged up to station 2 the rooftop obstacle.

Squad Setup:

We were squadded in teams of 5 or 6. Each team was started at one of eight stages, one to a stage. So we hike up from the parking lot to stage 1 and those that get to start on later stages continue to hike out to them. Once you finish your first stage you move on to the next one. In the case of starting beyond stage one, stage 7 for instance, you have to go to stage 8 then back to 1 and up to 6 then back to 1 and into the parking lot, all on the trail, to finish without a DQ. It also means that if you start on the farther end you get to walk the whole bloody thing back and forth, twice.

Interesting stuff that happened:

I was started on stage 7 which is almost as bad as you can start out. About a half mile into the walk to our first station I realize my earmuffs didn’t make it into my pack and my squad can’t start shooting till all of us are at the station. Luckily one of my squad mates had a set of seriously uncomfortable foam plugs. Disaster averted at least.

On my 15th shot I suffered a case head separation. Half of the case was left in the chamber and the back half came out. One of the guys grabbed a 20ga bore brush and spun it onto a section of cleaning rod and handed it to me, I ripped my bolt out and jammed that brush into the chamber till I felt it get tight, pulled it out and bang, stuck case removed. The case that separated did so very cleanly in a nice ring. I didn’t see any sign of ICHS during the brass processing. The case did have probably 10-15 loads on it and most of them over book. No surprise. However, next time I’m bringing a 20ga bore brush and a length of cleaning rod.

The team in front of us seemed to peter out a bit after their 4th stage and they were constantly 10 minutes longer than we were at any stage so we got a little rest occasionally if the trip from one pit to the next wasn’t too long. When it was long we arrived out of breath and were almost immediately on deck.

I cranked out a little video for y’all’s entertainment. Enjoy!

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