So with the first installment of this series we talked about the three different levels of competition shooting and where to begin. In this installment I’m going to talk a little bit about the gear. Specifically, what items and equipment you need to get into each level of competition and have a good time. Excelling in different levels can have much different requirements. The idea behind this series of articles is to encourage new blood to get into long range shooting on a competitive level. So with that in mind I’m going to try and strike a balance between what you really need and what’s nice to have that makes your life a bit easier. Let’s get started!
Competition Shooting Gear (Local)
At the local match competition shooting level your requirements are much more spartan than in the next two levels of competitive precision rifle shooting. Many local level matches either take place on known distance ranges or they will provide the ranges to the shooter. This will often eliminate the need for a laser rangefinder, which can be a cost intensive piece of gear. At the local level you really need just a few things. You need a rifle, you need ammunition, and you need some Data On Previous Engagements (DOPE). That’s the photo above, seems simple right? You would be surprised how much extra crap people bring to their first match. It reminds me of freshman in high school carrying every book and supply for the whole day to every class before they learn to use their locker.
The rifle should be a 1-1.5 MOA capable rifle. Meaning if you get down behind it right now, you can put up a group of five rounds that measure 1″-1.5″ or less at the widest point of dispersion at 100 yards. You need some kind of ammunition. It doesn’t matter much if it’s factory or hand loaded. Last you really need some DOPE in the form of a come up sheet so you know what kind of adjustments to dial in to hit targets at different ranges. If you need information on how to print out a come up sheet you can read about it here. Beyond that, you just need an open mind and a willingness to learn. Don’t walk into matches expecting to win and don’t expect to be dead last either. Aim for the middle of the pack your first few matches and learn as you go. Most local matches will tell you the round count. If you need ranges ask somebody and make sure they know it’s your first match.
Competition Shooting Gear (Regional)
At the regional level of competition shooting the requirements for participation are about the same. In the interest of keeping things moving it helps not to walk into one of these totally clueless. I’m not saying you can’t make it your first match but you will need to have your gear and rifle squared away so you don’t hold other people up. At this level you’re likely to either need a rangefinder, or have a buddy who has one that you can borrow. Most folks will help newer shooters with stuff like this but you can also get lumped into a group that’s full of newer shooters as the more experienced guys squad up with each other. If nobody in the group has a decent rangefinder you’re all in trouble. I’d take a hard look at the Sig Kilo 2000 as it’s more than enough performance for most people at under $500.
Your rifle really needs to be capable of 1 MOA at the worst at this level of competition. The targets will be farther out and of varied sizes. You may start to see some positional shooting (other than prone) stages in matches at this level. I’m not saying you have to hand load, you don’t at any level. If you are going to use factory ammunition it needs to be match grade. That means offerings from Federal, Black Hills, Hornady, or the smaller custom shops like Copper Creek or McCourt. Expect to pay between $1.00 and $1.50 a round for match grade ammunition. If you wanna play…you gotta pay, as they say!
Optics wise it’s really no different than local level or even national level competition shooting. You need a scope with adjustable turrets. The reticle should match the turret graduations and the more reliable the tracking of the scope, the better. What you likely will need if you don’t have a rangefinder is a set of binoculars or a monocular for searching and spotting. You may need a set of shooting sticks for the positional shots and a backpack for carrying all your stuff. At this level of competition hiking between stages gets longer as you move up the ladder from local to regional. If you haven’t bought a Kestrel already, I’d look at acquiring one for regional level competition. It doesn’t have to be a $700+ dollar model with a ballistic solver built in, but you should have your DOPE squared away with a good drop chart that matches your ammo by now.
Competition Shooting Gear (National)
At the national level of competition shooting you can still have a really good time with the bare bones equipment. A 1 MOA or better rifle, a scope with adjustable turrets, some form of match grade ammunition, and some good drop charts. You don’t have to buy a rangefinder if you have a buddy that’s going to assist you, but it sure helps to have your own. On the national level there’s a lot at stake from points towards things like the Precision Rifle Series and stuff on the prize table people have an eye on. Expect the competition at this level to be pretty well squared away. Lean on that experience and ask questions if you have them. If it’s your first big match and you have no idea how to approach a stage, ask somebody that’s doing well and seems to know what they’re doing!
Things that are nice to have at this level that will make your life easier are as follows. The aforementioned laser rangefinder. Unless you know you’re going to be squadded with a buddy who has one I’d highly suggest acquiring your own. A Kestrel weather meter for watching changes in Density Altitude so you know when to switch to a new Density Altitude drop chart. I personally really like the Applied Ballistics Kestrel because it calculates a live firing solution and pulls the information straight from the weather meter. A decent tripod is handy for positional shooting. A good pack with enough room to carry all your stuff along with some snacks and water for getting around during the day. You may head out in the morning and need all the ammo you will shoot for the entire day with you. I would look for a medium sized backpack. If you get one that’s too big you will fill it up with stuff you don’t need.
In the next installment we’re going to talk a little about the different skillsets that are handy at the different levels of competition. We’ll also discuss how to go about acquiring some of them that you may not already possess. Remember the biggest components of getting into competition shooting are an open mind and a willingness to learn. If you walk in thinking you’re going to show people what’s up, at any level, because you’re well read, you will be in for a surprise. Nothing trumps experience.
You will learn more about shooting long range and hitting targets at different distances in all kinds of conditions while competing than in all the reading you’ve ever done. Don’t get me wrong, reading is good and it’s helpful. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother with this website! However, there comes a point where you have to spread your wings and jump out of the nest. Talking about how to shoot is one thing, going out and actually doing it is another! Everybody gets nervous so don’t let that discourage you! Ask other guys for help and you will be surprised how willing most people are! When you finish the match, unpack all your stuff and look at what you used and what you didn’t. If you didn’t use it, don’t pack it next time! If you needed it and didn’t have it, you know what to add to your Christmas List! If you have any questions or suggestions to add of your own, do so below in the comments!