It’s been a hot minute or ten since I wrote anything here, so why not take the opportunity to write about the last national level match I attended? I’m actually surprised there weren’t more people attending the Rifleman’s Revival in Virginia. They held it on a holiday weekend, the range is at Virginia International Raceway, and the weather was beautiful. For those reasons alone, I’d have traveled there to attend.
When I heard my good friend Bryan Lewis was co-match directing a 2-day event in 2020, it was automatically at the top of my list of matches to attend. Then I heard Andy Slade was the other MD and I started looking at airline tickets. Call it gut instinct, but I figured those two would put together a challenging and fun course of fire. Turns out I wasn’t wrong.
I flew out a couple of days early so I could drive up to Hawk Hill Custom and visit with the Burkholder’s and Brix. Despite hoping to find the vat of unicorn tears they use to make their barrels magic, I was distracted by a huge steak lunch and delicious desserts and never got around to searching much afterwards. #foodcoma
On Friday, Kevin Shepherd invited me to get some shooting in at Coleman’s Creek in North Carolina. I mean, who’s gonna say no to that invite? I was able to check my zero after flying across the country (nothing changed) and check some data out to 1200+ yards. That range has truing bars which are my new favorite thing to shoot at if they’re available. We joked about how they were about .2 MIL tall and what we’d do if Bryan and Andy put .2 MIL wide targets in the match. I think we may have allegedly said there’s no way they’d do that because it would be too mean. Talk about foreshadowing!
I stopped by VIR on my way to back to my AirBnB in Danville and found out the match books were a little overdue and we’d get them in the morning. Not a big deal since I actually try not to look through match books in advance anymore these days. After a great dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in forever, I actually followed through on getting a good nights sleep! That rarely happens by the way.
On Saturday morning, Andy Slade kicked off the safety brief with the rousing reading of the Rifleman’s Creed. If you’d like to see the video, it’s available on the Virginia Precision Rifle Club‘s Facebook page. Andy & Bryan then covered safety at their match in great detail including all four of the firearm safety rules (treat all firearms as if they are loaded, never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy and take full responsibility for, keep your finger off the trigger until you’ve decided to fire, and always be sure of your target and backstop). I can totally appreciate the detail they went into on discussing safety.
Alright, day one match details aka what you’ve all been waiting for! A bunch of the targets were sporty! After talking with Bryan a little bit, I realized they don’t normally have as much wind as they had over the weekend, so to increase the challenge, the targets are a little smaller. Makes sense. We sometimes do the same in Arizona.
My squad’s first stage was was one of the easier stages where we engaged bowling pins from 227 yards – 375 yards. The course of fire had shooters building a position either using a prop provided or their own tripod on the clock. There was no way to shoot the stage prone due to a small dirt mound in the way and the instructions stated you had to engage the targets through two t-posts with a white piece of target backer obscuring the view.
Zero Ducks Given was their stage with a mover. I’d heard the mover was running at 4 mph, but to be honest, I wasn’t sold on the lead my data told me. Then again, my ballistic solver tells me 1.8 mils for a 3 mph mover and I’ve never used more than 1.5 mils, so I went with my gut and dialed back the recommended 2.4 mil lead to 2.0 mils. Then there was this duck. So the stage said we would shoot from a water truck and engage the mover at 532 yards three times, then the duck target at 718 yards once. Wash, rinse, repeat twice more. I missed the mover a couple of times (my lead one direction was slightly different than the other and I might’ve allegedly got excited once and yanked a shot just off the edge). I hit that duck every time though and it looked tiny!. Since I was the first up, I spent the rest of the stage helping the spotter out with calls. He mentioned if someone missed the duck on the first run, they’d miss every time. You know, he was 100% right. The berm was 100 yards behind the blasted duck, so if the shooter thought they needed to correct for elevation instead of windage, they’d run those other two hits up the berm.
The low point of the match for me and a huge reminder to follow my own plan, was stage 9 titled “well this looks fun…” Indeed. The stage was ran from the top of a very large tower. When my squad finally got to the top, we found three low slung rooftops facing different directions. For the stage, your muzzle had to be through the slats of the fence. There were three targets: two coyotes and a pig. I had a plan! I didn’t follow it and suffered for it. I’d intended on using my Whisky Charlie MFC as a rear support for the forward facing rooftop with no bag under my rifle off the ledge, then extended my bipod legs and shot the backwards rooftop that way, and finally used my bag on the sideways facing rooftop. I fell into the trap of watching other shooters succeed with a large bag and decided I’d try that too. What a mistake! I couldn’t find a stable position on the second rooftop and ended up timing out with 3/9 points. When I found my buddy Bryan after we came down from the tower, I asked him about that stage and it turns out he proofed it exactly as I was going to shoot it but didn’t. So… stick with your plan kids. I preach it over and over and decided at that point to follow my own advice for the rest of the match.
Stage 1 and Stage 10 were both ran by Clifton Reasor who was the title sponsor of the match as well. Both of his stages were surprisingly challenging. Day one targets were IPSC’s with a smaller target that was about .2 wide next to each of them (remember that foreshadowing). The targets were at 950 yards, 1050 yards, and 1136 yards. Engage the IPSC, if you hit, engage the tiny target. If you miss, reengage the IPSC. Out and back. The day two version involved cardio. The mirage was up and soupy. Naturally it was my squads last stage of the match. Even with the conditions, it was one of my favorite stages because it taxed your brain, your body, and your game plan. The brief said we were to start standing, rifle staged (no peeking through your optic). On the command, go prone and engage the 950, 1050, and 1136 IPSC’s with one round each near to far. Then stand and using the railing as support engage a spinner at 256 yards with one shot. Then go prone again and reengage the IPSC targets from far to near. Back up on the railing for one shot at the spinner. Back prone to reengage the IPSC’s from near to far. Oh, and you had 90 seconds. I’ve never used a 6.5 mil hold-under until that stage.
There were a lot of 2 MOA sized targets engaged off large concrete blocks, rooftops, fences, rocks, and other contraptions. Prairie dogs, bowling pins, and those blasted ducks out of semi-stable helicopter bodies and car hoods. I loved the amount of movement involved in every stage. I loved that the match directors tested each stage to ensure it was cleanable and able to be finished in the time they allotted. I appreciated that most of the stages were proofed for left-handed as well as right-handed shooters; now to work on proofing them for those under 5’6″ tall too.
When the results were in, I tied for first place. Yes, tied. Both John Alden and I scored 140/169. However, for once running the PRS barricade slow and steady for a clean paid off because that’s how I won the tie. I mean this as a compliment: this match was more like what was around 7-8 years ago as far as movement and target size/distance. The props were more stable than in the past though.
My squad followed the squad with Keith Baker, Dan Chattin, and Ben Gossett all weekend. I was fortunate to be squadded with Kevin Shepherd, Ethan Poe, Zev York, Dylan Deano, Clint Nicholson, and Mike Keenan. What a pleasure to be able to speak to those gentlemen! It’s a competitive environment at a match. However, each of them as well as some members of my squad all took the time to drop positive messages randomly over the weekend.
“Hey, Regina, this is a stage I expect you to get a 9/9 on.”
“Watch what the wind is doing on this stage. If you feel it coming from the right, hold straight up. If you feel nothing, hold left .2-.4.”
“I bet we all clean this one,” said on a particularly challenging stage.
“Just hit all the targets.”
Mindset. It’s a real thing. If you don’t believe me, shut up and listen to people who place well talk to each other at a match. Having people around you who have a similar mindset definitely helps to stay focused, especially if you screw up a stage and think your match is done. It’s never done until the last round goes down range. Again, I’ll be trying to listen to my own advice moving forward because I forget this stuff once in a while too.
Picture credit: If they’re good, they’re from Dexterity Media. If they’re bad, I probably took them or someone using my phone did.