Winning K&M

Have you ever accidentally done something amazing because you weren’t overthinking everything? I accidentally won one of the largest rifle matches in the country on Memorial Day weekend. You may not believe me, and I don’t blame you, but I mean it when I say it was accidental. Now, I shot well and felt solid all weekend, but going into the match, I was honestly setting realistic goals: land a top 10. There were almost 300 people registered for the K&M Precision Rifle Competition and a lot of top level names on the roster, but I was hopeful. On sight-in day, it seemed like I just couldn’t get the zero on my rifle to settle in. I spent triple the rounds I normally would making sure that it was solid. This is what happens when you shoot in heavy mirage, which I should know by now. I was down to 25 practice rounds by the time I finished and was ready to practice on props. Thankfully I’m happy with dry firing off of most props anyway because let’s face it, you shouldn’t miss in dry fire.

Let’s just say I wasn’t as confident as I could’ve been going into day one. On the first stage I dropped two points. For a brief second I thought, “man… if this is how this match is gonna go it’s gonna be a long weekend.” Just like the rest of you, I’ve been working on improving my attitude when I screw up, so I took some of my own advice and thought about where the misses were (low on both shots), noticed that everyone else on my squad was also missing low and chalked it up to the cloud cover. Then I focused on what I did correctly. Where did those shots go and why?

Stage 1

I’ve started a few matches this year with a 7/9 on my first stage and I’ve managed to do okay this season anyway. Our second stage was long range. The course of fire was two shots at 800 yards, 900 yards, 1000 yards, 1100 yards, and 1200 yards. I’ve never cleaned the long range at K&M so I figured I’d be happy if I managed 8 out of 10. Getting 10/10 and a clean run was astounding. Tom Manners said one impact was on the very bottom right edge of the plate. I wasn’t sure if it was a hit or not because the target at 1200 was so hard to focus on, I figured I was a little low and needed to add more wind. Edge hits count just as much as center hits thankfully.

Stage 5.6

After the long range, I cleaned the next three stages including the PRS barricade stage where I posted one of my slowest times in recent history thanks to a magazine feeding issue created by attempting to use a bag on that barricade again. One of these days I’ll believe that I don’t need a bag on that prop. In fact, out of the first 11 stages of the day, I only dropped 4 shots (12 stages if you count the B&T Industries One Shot stage). Outside of club matches, I’ve never shot that consistently with clean runs. Hunter Sykes was on the squad ahead of me and a little bird (Christine Allen) told me he had dropped an equal amount of shots. I’d already figured Hunter was shooting well because some of the guys on his squad were keeping me informed. I’m sure they were reporting back to him too. It’s a sign of a great sport when competitors are rooting for each other to shoot well!

Stage 3.4

You’ve all probably heard or read somewhere that I love mover stages. K&M had a life-size steel rabbit on their 300 yard mover that was so much fun to shoot! The course of fire included two back-to-back mover stages, so you could say I was in my happy place. It’s just gratifying to hit movers and I really think it’s hard to walk away from those stages without a smile on your face.

 

My squads last stage of day one was from a bus into another bus. The stage itself didn’t look overly complicated. I only had to find two windows where I could build a solid position. I’d shot a stage out of a bus at CORE in March and cleaned that one, so how hard could it possibly be? Overconfidence will nail ya every time. The seats on the bus felt smaller to me once I got into position. Adding to that, I dropped my rear bag right away so my first two shots were extremely shaky. The amount of inner dialogue that goes through your head when you can’t find a stable sight picture is amazing. I guess it’s important to note that I stopped after the second shot, picked up my rear bag, built a stable position and got the next three hits. When I moved to the second window, the range officer called out that I had 30 seconds left. I panicked. It was just for a microsecond, but that panic was enough for me to decide I needed to rush. I lost my place on the target array after the third shot and timed out. Argh.  Dropping 5 out of 10 available points on the last stage is not the best way to end the day, but it’s not like I could call the shots back or get a do-over, so I packed up my gear and started walking back to our truck. Overall it was a stellar day for me, so while I really wanted to kick myself for the bus, it sounded like lots of other shooters struggled on that stage as well.

Stage 7.4

At dinner someone mentioned Hunter being in the lead and I was close behind him in 2nd place. There were 20 stages and 20 squads, so no squad shot all the same stages as another. It’s almost impossible to tell where you really are in the standings after day one, so I didn’t pay attention to them. My squad had shot the high point value stages and there were some really great shooters who hadn’t yet. I don’t sleep well on match weekends so even though I really wanted to hang out and spend more time with friends, I was beat so we headed to bed so early I think the sun had just barely set.

 

After waking up bright and early on day two, squad one began on my nemesis: the rocks. I almost zeroed these evil boulders the last time I shot off of them because I messed around with my bipod too long and timed out on the third position. I decided to use a Wiebad Fortune Cookie along with the mini version instead of using a bipod at all. I only managed to get 8 shots off, but I landed 7 hits, so it ended up being a good stage. Maybe there’s something to this whole “7 must be a lucky number” for me to start off with each day. I dropped one shot each on the next three stages, which would be great shooting at almost any other match in the country. However, if you want to remain at the top of the leaderboard at K&M there isn’t much wiggle room for mistakes.

Stage 14.2
Not “my nemesis” aka the rocks of my nightmares. This stage was actually pretty awesome.

We made our way up to the 1100 yard range for our last four stages of the match and I’ll admit I was starting to get a little more nervous. I hadn’t seen or talked to Hunter in a while, but I figured we were still ping-ponging back and forth in points and were most likely either tied or within a point of each other. Stage 17 on the 1100 yard range was a deer blind with animal targets that are wide, but not super tall. While I was waiting to shoot, stage 18 ran by Jim Gilliland sat wide open. I hate sitting around waiting to shoot, so my friend John and I took advantage of the open line and each ran the stage clean. John says he knew after that stage that I was going to win the match. Not sure how he knew that since I still didn’t know, but I appreciate his confidence. We got back in line for the deer blind stage and after watching a few people, I decided I was only going to bring a couple of bags with me (mini-FC and FC) and use the back of the provided chair to rest the buttstock of my rifle on. I watched a few shooters time out or miss high over the targets so I was positive I had the right plan going in. Turns out I did because I cleaned the stage. On stage 19 (our second to last stage) I dropped two shots and then easily cleaned a mulligan KYL (know your limits – targets were 12”, 10”, 8”, 6”, 4”) rack at 411 yards. By the way, mulligan KYL’s are my newest favorite thing. Somewhere during these four stages a couple of people asked if I wanted to hear how Hunter was doing. It was so close to the end and I was rooting for him to win, so I wanted to just keep thinking my positive thoughts while shooting my own match. With our shooting done, we all trekked back to our vehicles to put our gear away and then attempted to track down frosty cold beverages to “rehydrate”. 

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Cleaned it!

My whole squad was done around 11:30am which truly is part of the beauty of K&M. I’m not sure how many unicorn tears were shed to make Shannon Kay’s matches run so fluidly, but he managed to run 260+ shooters through 20 stages in a day and a half with very little down time. In other words, the way he describes his matches in his advertisements are spot on. All of the stages were 90 seconds and you’d be surprised how much that speeds up match flow. Shannon and his staff don’t overly complicate stage design either so new and experienced competitors alike are able to get hits on targets and leave feeling successful. After the match I heard that Shannon had used smaller targets in some areas for this match. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I didn’t notice. Well, except for the bus stage. Those targets seemed a little small in retrospect. The first few people I spoke with after the match were Aaron Roberts from Roberts Precision Rifle, Jonathan Berry, and Jim See. The blue and gray KMW Sentinel I’ve been using this season was bought second hand from Aaron so I wanted to thank him for selling it to me two years ago. In return he jokingly thanked me for blowing the point curve. They all asked how I’d finished and after told what my points were, they decided that I’d won the match. I wasn’t as convinced of that yet because there were a bunch of us clustered near the top after day one and ¾ of the competitors were still shooting.

For the last two years I’ve been trying my hardest to shoot well enough to earn the “double trophy.” The military and law enforcement guys get double trophies on a pretty routine basis. My version was a top five trophy and a high lady trophy. But a 1st place trophy and high lady? While it was on my wish list, and I’ve certainly joked about it enough, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d pull it off this season and definitely not at this match. After Tim and I saw the initial scores at the start of the arbitration period, we decided to take a short walk away from the crowd. Believe it or not, I’m not an overly outgoing person and am generally uncomfortable in the spotlight. There’s a reason we joke about my “Ricky Bobby hands” when I’m interviewed. It was nice to have a chance to catch my breath for a few minutes before the awards ceremony started. Also, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t actually feel any different after shooting well. I always thought you’d be on a some kind of super adrenaline high if you won a big match. I don’t remember having an adrenaline rush as much as feeling completely shocked last time and I didn’t feel any surge of adrenaline this time either. I was just as surprised this time but for different reasons. I would love to win another one, but who knows what the future holds. For the record, sprinkles are still gross so the other winners out there can keep them for themselves. I’ll take a cold beer instead. 

I thanked them before, but want to thank my squad because we had a great time the whole weekend. So many more ladies in this sport which is such a good thing to see! I’d also like to thank the range officers and volunteers again. As a match director myself, I know how much work they put in to make an event successful. I know many of their names, but not all so I’m not going to try to name them all. Please know how much we as competitors appreciated your hard work. I’ve already had a couple of the RO’s from K&M volunteer to help at the AZ LRPRS TPRC in November, but I’m hoping to see a few more as competitors. Thank you to Julie & Shannon Kay and Jason Redding. The GAP Grind will be here before we know it and I’m already excited. Now there’s a match I definitely don’t go to with the intent of winning but instead with a mind to mentor. My amateur this year is local to me and she’s a lefty! As an added bonus, I’ll get to see my name on the board of past winners with John Sommers, George Gardner, Dave Preston, Charles Roberts, Bannon Eldridge, and Kevin Shepherd!

 

The gear I used for this match, because I know you’re wondering:

 

Gunsmith: Marc Soulie at Spartan Precision Rifles

Action: Defiance Deviant

Stock: McMillan Fiberglass Stocks/KMW-Long Range Solutions

Bottom Metal: KMW

Trigger: Timney Triggers Calvin Elite single stage flat trigger

Barrel: Hawk Hill Medium Palma 1:7.5 twist

Brake: American Precision Arms Fat Bastard

Scope: Vortex Optics Razor Gen II 4.5-27x w/ EBR-2C reticle

Bullet: Sierra Bullets 115gr DTACs

Powder: Hodgdon “Unicorn Tears” H4350 (thanks Butch’s Reloading!)

Primers: CCI 200 (Butch’s again)

Brass: Norma 6XC

Bags: WieBad Mini-Fortune Cookie, Modular Pump Pillow

Sling: Rifles Only Carbine Sling

Pack: Voodoo Tactical Mini-Tobago pack

Magazines: AW mags (yay)

Ballistic Program: GeoBallistics BallisticArc w/ Kestrel Elite

Additional: Short Action Precision 2-round holder, Really Right Stuff SOAR tripod but it stayed in the rental the whole weekend because I didn’t end up needing it, Sidewinder DOPE card holder, data cards my husband made, PRIME Ammunition because without them all my practice would be dry fire (LOL), Patriot Cases for making sure my rifle gets to its intended destination in one piece, and Grunt Style t-shirts because looking good is almost as important as shooting well.

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