Hey everyone it’s your favorite Langobard from the Lands of the North again. It’s confession time. There’s something I’ve been keeping from all of you. It’s important considering our subject material here at Accuracy-Tech. Are we ready for this? Here it goes. Until recently I had never shot in a match in my life. Wow, that’s a load off my toad. The key here is “until recently.” For those of you that haven’t been able to guess I’m going to be talking about my first precision rifle match, and some of the things I learned.
I told Rich earlier this year I wanted to participate in as many precision rifle matches as I could this year. I managed to tap into the Minnesota match scene by joining a precision rifle group on Facebook. In April I found out about a match about 3 hours north west of where I lived. It was a Pro-Am team match. The entire purpose of the match was to mix pros that were old hands at the sport with amateurs who’ve had far less experience. Therefore this was right up my alley and a perfect first precision rifle match.
First I made arrangements with some friends of mine to carpool with them. Because we didn’t have the biggest vehicle, and there was going to be four of us, so we had to pack pretty light. This will definitely come into play shortly. Since we wanted to be fresh for the match we booked two rooms in town. We actually had some time the previous morning to stop by the range. Consequently this was to our benefit since we helped somewhat with setup, and were able to scope out the range.
What I Learned Preparing For My First Precision Rifle Match
I definitely learned a lot at my first precision rifle match. Before we even left town I learned how important gear selection can be. Early on I had to made decisions about what gear I was going to bring to the match simply because our vehicle space was scarce. I actually read Rich’s article on gear for matches to help me select what I was going to take with me. There is an amazing wealth of information from experience in that article and I advise anyone who is thinking of going to their first precision rifle match to read it. I could easily have loaded myself down with so much superfluous gear that it would have been miserable. Instead I kept it light.
Rifle, scope, sling, ammunition, Kestrel, range finder, some Rem Oil wipes, rear bag, ear pro, and a basic toolkit went into my bag. I also carried my shooting mat, my suppressor, some Cliff bars, and water in case I got hungry or thirsty. You really don’t want to have that distracting you in a match. I get grouchy when I get hungry as friends can attest to. Hikers have it figured out when they say ounces equal pounds. There were 9 stages I had to haul all my gear around and I still felt overloaded. One thing I did to lighten my gear up was leave my rangefinder in the truck since the ranges were known. Some of you are probably scoffing at that and how easy it makes it. That was kind of the point since it was a Pro Am match. In this case less is more.
Know How To Dial And Holdover
I really can’t stress this point enough. I had almost exclusively used holdovers in my practice up to this point. Mainly it’s because the shooting range I do most of my practice on is about 100 yards. However some of the guys I talked to at the match had pretty much exclusively dialed up until that point. The thing that stopped them was that one of the stages didn’t allow for dialing. He dropped some points because he hadn’t ever used holdovers until that point. I dropped points as well because on one stage I decided to give dialing a chance I didn’t correctly dial and missed a target because of it. Practice both.
Consider The Weather In Advance
The weather is going to be at the forefront of every match you will shoot. Check the local forecasts for the area you’re going to be in for the match. I looked at the forecast every day for a week beforehand. Rain was forecast on the match day. That wasn’t going to stop me though. It did make me consider my gear. I packed a rain jacket and rain pants. It rained twice at our match. The wind also kicked up a few times, and died several times. It’s still spring here in Minnesota, and soon it will be summer. My gear will change for summer, and when winter rolls around my gear will again change. I’m not going to stop shooting just because it’s hot or cold. Shooting is a perishable skill and you need practice to maintain it.
Some of you may remember that I have a love for the classics. Marcus Tullius Cicero once said “Adsiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit.” For those of you that don’t speak Latin, it roughly translates to “Constant practice devoted to one subject often prevails over both ability and skill.” So practice in less than ideal conditions since it might keep you from dropping a point at a match.
Help Out If There’s An Opportunity
We found out what the stages were because we stopped by the range the day before the match and helped out. The match organizer posted the stage details in the Facebook group for it at about 6:00 the night before the match. My group had decided to go to the range the night before to help the organizers out with setup. We had a much better idea of what we would be dealing with because we helped with setup. There were some flags set out that we used to get an idea of how the wind was going to behave with the terrain. Since the distances were known we were able to figure out our dope before the match. Both knowing how wind behaved and having my dope ready helped enormously.
What I Learned Shooting My First Precision Rifle Match
There were several things that I’d never practiced for that I’ve now realized I need to work on. First and foremost is weak side and weak eye shooting. I had never practiced it before, and it sucked having to do it as part of a timed stage for the first time. If you haven’t ever practiced it you should start right away. It definitely stressed me out, but I did really well with it because I kept reminding myself about the fundamentals.
Barricades were actually my worst enemy. Again this was something I had not practiced. I also found my gear was not to my liking for dealing with barricades as well. My Ruger Precision Rifle has a JP Enterprises handguard on it which has a round bottom. I kept on having to deal with the rifle rolling on me. And then there was the fact that I didn’t have a barricade stop. I know I dropped a lot of points because I hadn’t practiced with barricades or had gear I wasn’t happy with to deal with them. The stage where we had to deal with a spinner target was also tough. This is where the gas gun guys had a great advantage since you needed fast follow ups to get the target moving. Very few people actually managed to make it do a complete revolution.
Hope For The Best, Prepare For The Worst
Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I take this to heart. During this match I hoped that I would have no equipment failures, and that everything would run well. My hopes were not in vain. However this did not stop me from preparing for the worst. And in some cases I saw some people dealing with the worst case scenario. Earlier I talked about how I packed a basic toolkit for my match bag. This toolkit was really simple. It contained a Vortex Torque Wrench, lens pen, a couple levels, and a set of Allen wrenches. Pretty much everything I’d need to fix any problems with my rifle. Luckily I didn’t need to use any of them, this time.
Almost immediately however, one of the guys I rode up with needed the Allen wrenches to adjust his zero stop. Not exactly match ending, but definitely annoying. During the Tic-Tac-Toe stage another shooter had a pretty nasty problem crop up. His grip came completely off his rifle, and this pretty much killed him for this stage. After trying to fix it with my tool kit we later found out that the threads on his chassis had been completely stripped out. There really wasn’t anything we could do about it, and he actually had to finish the match without a grip. Luckily the next stage was our last. This kind of illustrates my point regarding Murphy and his law.
Since this was a team match there is also something else I’d like to touch on. First I’m going to have to touch on the organization of the match. There were 60 total shooters. Shooters were broken down into teams of three, and organized into divisions of three teams. One thing I need to touch on here is that you need to allow yourself plenty of time to participate in the match. I took the whole day off to do so. One shooter that I got to know a bit had to leave early because he had to go to work that night. Because he didn’t allow enough time and had to leave early, his team went from doing well to dead last.
On the other hand one of the best things you can do is make friends at a match. There are several guys that I met at the match that I’ve become fast friends with. Being able to talk gear, training, and news is awesome. Having people to make plans like carpooling for matches is a great help too. And being able to give a new friend crap about the fact that he’s rocking a mullet is priceless. You know who you are.
Despite the rain, despite deficiencies in gear, and most of all despite the painful lessons from dropped points, I have to say I had an absolute blast. Actually I met a reader that recognized my rifle from pictures he’d seen, and we had a good time talking in between stages. I learned to change up how I practice, and to practice that which is outside my comfort zone. Barricades, non-standard positions, weak side weak eye, no rear support, and many other situations should all be in your toolkit to deal with. They will show up in matches. Practice things outside your comfort zone so you’re equipped to deal with them when you encounter them. As for how I did at my first precision rifle match? Well I’ll leave you all with this picture that should sum it up nicely.
Oh and before I fully sign off there is one more thing that I have to say that only people involved in the car ride will understand. Mahna Mahna.
Don is a Minnesota college student working his way through school as a firearms coatings specialist. An avid shooter with a love for just about all things gun related, gladly sharing his somewhat unique experiences with anyone who will listen. If you have any questions for me, email us!