Gear Break Down

I tag sponsors in a lot of my posts but I don’t really break down what I use or why I use it very often. Since I’m super-duper behind on posting on my blog (I have about nine or so half written articles that I’ve been trying to find time to finish), breaking down my rifle might be a great place to start. I should add that I’m not sponsored by all of these companies, but I do trust all of these products. If I won the lottery and didn’t need sponsors, these would still be the products I’d be running.

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MPA Spring Shootout PC: Gisela Salazar

Let’s start with my gun guru. My brother from another mother, Mr. Marc Soulie at Spartan Precision Rifles who is, in my opinion the best in the business. Who else would field calls from anxious shooters, calm them down, and talk sense into them regardless of the time of day? Oh, and when he’s not talking shooters down or diagnosing from afar, he’s building great rifles. I met Marc in 2010 but knew who he was because a majority of the guys and gals from NorCal had rifles built by him. I won a certificate off the prize table at the NorCal TBRC in 2011 and he’s been one of my most trusted advisors ever since. Not too long ago he purchased a CNC for his shop. He’s been making bottom metal and muzzle brakes on that CNC because much like all the shooters in this sport, he also has a touch of wildly out of control perfectionism. I appreciate that he still spends hours on a manual lathe spinning up barrels one at a time and that he’s willing to teach me how to do what he does as well. One of these days I’ll catch on and learn his methods. In the meantime, anything he’s built for me from .223’s to .308’s to 6.5 Creedmoor’s, to my army of 6XC’s have all shot lights out and definitely outperform my ability. There have been so many late-night conversations about what I could do with another caliber/action/barrel combo that I’ve honestly lost track. He’s an avid hunter and fisherman, so I trust him building not only my competition and training rigs, but also anything I’d need should I finally be fortunate enough to be drawn for a hunt in Arizona or wealthy enough to hunt elsewhere.

 

So what do I put these one-hole grouping rifles in? Well, I’ve shot for McMillan Stocks for a couple of years. As luck would have it, I signed on with McMillan shortly after absolutely falling head over heels in love with a KMW stock I bought second-hand. Turns out McMillan makes the fiberglass Sentinel stocks for Mr. Terry Cross so I’m not cheating on McMillan when I run one in a competition. Here’s why I like the Sentinel so much: with zero modifications, it fits my hand. I can consistently get my hand in a position that allows my trigger finger to be 90 degrees without any undue pressure on the rest of my hand. In the past I’ve built the palm swell up on a few of my stocks to do exactly what the KMW already does. Those NorCal guys who told me I needed to try one out were 100% correct. My only regret is that I wish it hadn’t taken me five years to get around to following their advice. The one you’ve probably seen me using in pictures this year is gray, blue, and white. It’s inletted and bedded for a Defiance Deviant action with an MTU barrel contour. I believe it’s an early enough version that it doesn’t have Terry’s integrated mounting block in it like my newer one does. The MTU contour will allow me to use just about whatever barrel contour I decide to use although I tend to lean towards medium palma’s. There were a few extra spacers in the back end but I took them out to shorten my length of pull. All this time I thought I had a pretty standard LOP, but despite being 5’9”, my LOP is 13” instead of 13.5”. If I’m not running a KMW Sentinel, then I’m using either a McMillan A3-5 (I have two: one is the American flag paint job that Wes Rolan did for me and the other is the gray stock that my Vudoo Gunworks .22lr is in) or an A-6. The A3-5 is a combination of the A-3 and the A-5. In other words, it has the thinner forend of the A-3 but the beefier back end and butt hook of the A-5. I chose it after deciding the A-5 fit was a bit too bulky for me. My A-6 is being built right now so I don’t have an opinion on it yet, but as soon as I do, I’m sure you’ll all hear about it. I chose the “PRS” version of the A-6 to see if I like the buttstock without the butt hook. I’ve never run a stock without one, so it’ll be an interesting experiment.

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The magic of the KMW: it forces my hand and trigger finger into the correct position

For those of you who’ve watched me over the last few years, you’ll know what’s coming next. Custom actions. After a year where I tried something new, I’m back to using my Defiance Deviant Tactical actions full time. I have three of them with a fourth one on order, so they must be doing something right. Perhaps being left handed has made me much more finicky. For the amount of coin we spend on custom actions, it’s a relief when out of the box they’re slick as can be and ready to shoot. My Defiance medium actions (Rem700 short action footprint) come with the AW cut, so my obsession with them has been reignited. Being able to use them full time again makes me so giddy I can’t even fully explain it. Then again, I bought my car based on a minor detail, so maybe I’m just a little off. If you’re going to spend money on a custom action, consider an action that is a one-piece. Integral lug, 20 MOA rail, the whole bit. You’ll have less things on your rifle that will shake loose, which I promise will mean less headaches down the line when your rifle is shooting well and you want to blame your scope (the blame always seems to go to the scope first for some reason). Last September when Impact Precision was taking preorders for left handed actions, Tim ordered one for me. After trying out Doug Moore’s Impact before the PRS Finale last year, I was glad we’d placed an order. The Impacts feel like they’ve already been broken in, come with two trigger hangers, and once I convince Tate Streater that an AW cut isn’t the devil’s work, I’m sure I’ll be super happy with it as well. I recently picked up a second-hand KMW that’s already cut for the trigger hanger in the Impact so I’ll finally be able to see how she shoots! (All of my rifles are ladies and yes, they all have names.)

What about triggers? I’m sponsored by Timney, and to be perfectly honest once I started using them I haven’t been tempted to try anything else. Could be because I do my best to sweet talk Calvin when I need a trigger build or the pull weight lightened. Could also be because they’re about 45 minutes from my house. I love the flat triggers and prefer single stage triggers to two stage triggers and most likely always will. My brain can’t wrap around the first stage of a two-stage trigger. It feels like slack to me and I dislike it almost as much as I dislike negative point value stages. My first trigger upgrade was from a factory Remington trigger to a Timney 518 set at 3 pounds. A 3-pound trigger sounds ridiculously heavy to me now, but at the time it was light as a feather and I was terrified I’d bump it and fire a round earning myself a match DQ. Currently I’m using a Calvin Elite 520 flat trigger set around 12 ounces. Also, have I mentioned that I adore Calvin? Adjusting the pull weight doesn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal, but I’ll always ask him to adjust it for me if he’s available. Call it local favoritism if you want. At least I know it’ll be done correctly. I even have a Calvin Elite in my Vudoo Gunworks .22lr so it matches my competition rifles in stock, trigger set up, and pull weight.

Stage 1

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shawn Burkholder of Hawk Hill Custom in August of 2015 and on a handshake deal after telling him how impressed I was with the medium palma I’d bought, I started shooting for him. Personally, I love small shops because you actually get to know the people building your components. Before any barrel ships to me, Brix Brixner sends me a picture of the head stamp. I joke that Vicki Burkholder sprinkles unicorn dust in the box when she’s shipping them out. Brix and Shawn both shoot competitively and I believe that attention to detail is what makes them the perfectionists I want creating my barrels. They’re good people who make a quality product and I’m sure that’s why so many people in the sport use their barrels.  

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From CORE Shooting Solutions / AI Classic

At the end of the 2014 Precision Rifle Series season I decided to try a different optic than the one I had been using. I spoke with a few people I trusted about which of my three choices they thought I should go with should I decide to purchase a new scope. I was told unanimously to check out the Vortex Razor Gen II. I’d been hearing a lot about this scope as I think the Gen II had just come out earlier that year. I’ll admit I was nervous about the tree in the EBR-2C but after playing with it a bit, I realized I didn’t notice it until I actually needed to use it. Using that tree has sold me on similar reticles in the future. Holdovers and hold-unders are relatively easy and for a person who doesn’t math well, that’s saying a lot. I’ve only really ever dealt with Scott Parks at Vortex. We’ve known each other for years and he actually predicted the national level matches I would win before they happened. Having support like that is amazing. I can say with confidence that I’ll be with Vortex for as long as Scott is there. And before anyone says anything about the Gen II being heavy, all I can say is “really?” We run around with heavy rifles all the time. Lately the trend has been to go heavier. Welcome to the party. My rifles weigh around 17 lbs so I guess I don’t notice.

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From the Dog Valley NRL Match. PC: CONX Media

I recently restarted using American Precision Arms Fat Bastard brakes again. I’ve had one on my .308 forever and it tamed it down to feeling like a .223 so I figured it might make my 6XC feel like my .22lr. APA is another small company that treats customers like family. Seriously. Jered Joplin loaned me his fancy (and super warm) gloves when I shot CORE in March. I’m not sure if I shot better because of the magic he put on his gloves or because I could once again feel my fingers but I bought a pair of my own when I got home from that match.

Ammo…. The neverending topic on chat groups around the world. I started shooting a 6XC in 2011 after I burnt a .243 out in less than 1400 rounds. I’ve tried other bullets in my 6XC’s but always came back to Sierra Bullets 115 DTACs available through David Tubb’s Superior Shooting Systems. I currently use the coated rebated boat tail design with Hodgdon 4350 powder, CCI200 primers, and Norma brass. I prefer the DTACs because I haven’t found them to be as picky as other 6mm bullets when it comes to velocity or seating depth. I use Butch’s Reloading when I’m looking for components like powder and primers. I might be a bit of a hoarder because I start asking a while before I’m totally out of a component. For a few years I ran the exact same load in barrel after barrel. My current load uses slightly more powder but is otherwise the same. The best reloading advice I ever heard was to find one cartridge that works for you and stick with it. Sure, I own a .223 and a .308, but I rarely load for those because they’re used for practice and not normally in a competition setting. My true love is my 6mm though. I’m currently debating switching brass and giving Alpha Munitions small primer 6XC brass a try. We’ve covered reloads, but another popular question is about the ammunition I use for practice. I’d rather stick to dry fire than use ammunition that can’t mirror the accuracy of my reloads, even if it’s only out to 600 yards or so. Because of this, I jumped on the opportunity to represent PRIME ammunition this season. I’m in the reloading room enough making 6XC loads. The time I’ve saved by using factory PRIME 77gr .223 ammunition has been invaluable. After burning through most of my husband’s 9mm stash over the last couple of years trying to improve my pistol game, he was more thankful than I was that PRIME gives me an affordable price on pistol ammunition. If you’re going to chronograph your ammo, I’d recommend buying a MagentoSpeed. They support the precision rifle shooting sports heavily and their products are easy to use. Plus, if you ever have a problem with one, Ryan Hey loves to help solve problems! 

Like almost all competition shooters, I have a plethora of support gear. I used to go overboard on my collecting. I’ve since downsized dramatically. I use a Mini-Tobago pack from Voodoo Tactical because it has limited space so I can’t just keep hoarding bags/pens/data cards like a crazy person. The pack has separate pockets along the sides and front so it also helps keep me organized. I have an entire box of shooting bags that I’ve collected over the last eight years. The ones that see the most consistent use are the Mini-Fortune Cookie, the full-sized Fortune Cookie, and Modular Pump Pillow from WieBad. Out of the three the Mini-FC sees more use than all of my other bags combined because I can use it for so much. I prefer the rounded edges on the FC to some of the other bags out there and the non-skid surface on one side is helpful on props or under the forend of my rifle stock. I have a super simple to use carbine sling that I picked up from Rifles Only. It’s hard for me to screw this sling up because there’s only one pull tab on it. I’m pretty sure I put the bungee to work every time I use the sling because I use it on barricades and positional shots quite a bit. It’s not just for carrying your rifle from stage to stage! If you happen to have a chance to make it to Rifles Only for a class, you’ll learn a ton and will be taught how to correct all the things you didn’t know you’ve been doing wrong. That’s first hand experience talking.  

Really Right Stuff SOAR has an entire line of tripods and accessories that are sought after in our sport. I have and use a TVC-33 tripod with the leveling base (TA-3-LC-HK) and VYCE equipment support mount. Eventually I’ll upgrade my leveling base to RRS’s new Anvil-30 ballhead. I was able to play with Anvil at the SHOT show in January and decided I absolutely have to have one. The Anvil has more tilt available than my leveling base and pans so smoothly I’m positive I could clean mover stages off of one. Guess we’ll see once I buy one. I recently switched over to the RRS Harris clamp adaptor with the SOAR lever for my Harris bipods so I can use a Picatinny rail and be like the cool kids who drop their mags halfway through a stage when they realize it’s getting in the way. So far I’m really digging it and will most likely end up getting another one for my backup bipod.

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Shooting off RRS tripods at the AI Classic at CORE Shooting Solutions

Traveling to and from matches is always a borderline harrowing ordeal. Will TSA finally damage something really expensive? So far, I’ve gotten lucky. I believe a lot of that luck falls on the rifle case I use. I actually begged Brack Wilson at Patriot Cases to sponsor me. He requested a drawing of what I wanted inside a rifle case (rifle, two magazines, two 50-round boxes of ammo, some cleaning supplies) and he sent me back a laser etched insert that fits my rifle like a glove. That rifle case has been dropped more times than I can count just by me let alone TSA and baggage handlers and my rifle has yet to have a zero shift because of it.

The velcro you see on all of my stocks serves a purpose. The patch on the left side of my stock is for a Short Action Precision 2-Round Holder. It’s saved my behind on more than one occasion and I highly recommend you have one. If you see a patch on the right side of my stock like the one below, it’s for a Sidewinder from Sidewinder Industries. Lately I’ve been using the Python more than the Sidewinder, but they both serve the same purpose: keep your DOPE where you can see it while you’re shooting so you don’t have to take your head off your stock.

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A fun stage from VPRC in Vegas

The last two I’ll mention are GeoBallistics and Grunt Style. Paul Reid got me hooked on GeoBallistics shortly after BallisticArc came on the market. I compared BallisticArc and the other program I’d been using side by side for six months and didn’t see any noticeable difference in the data. Then BallisticArc added the comp mode and the ability to load save-able range cards and I was hooked. I’m currently using a Kestrel for weather data and linking it to my iPhone BallisticArc program. Grunt Style… what can I say? Who doesn’t like their shirts and ads and people? Mostly I think I just bug Joe Caley until he sends me a couple of shirts to keep me quiet for a while. I owe that man at least a few cases of his favorite 23-flavored beverage. One of these days I’m hoping I’ll make it on to their shooting team because they’re all great people.

I honestly am friends with all of these people and use their products because I believe in them and trust them. Sometimes I think people look at “sponsored shooters” as folks who only talk about products they’ve been given for free or at a discount. Like somehow the faith a person has in a product means more because someone paid full price for the same item. I’ve also had people say derogatory things to me about being sponsored. No one in life gets a full ride all the time and there’s a lot of other work involved. When I’m not at my full-time job, I’m at the range or reloading or interacting with people on social media. I try to answer all the questions I get through Facebook and Instagram as quickly as I get them and I do my very best to represent the companies who’ve agreed to let me do so. I didn’t think I could be long winded about my gear, yet here it all is in black and white. Hope this answers some questions and fingers crossed that my friends Morgan and Ryan didn’t just say, “TL;DR” and bail after checking out the pictures.

If you’d like more information on shooting or participating in this sport, please check out the Precision Rifle Series, the National Rifle League, and for rimfire competitions NRL22.

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Bushnell Brawl AAR

Where do I start? I can’t stop smiling! I’d like to say I don’t know how I pulled it off, but I was there. Luck is a relative term, but I never underestimate what having a bit of it will do for you. This past weekend was the Bushnell Brawl at Rifles Only. I may have come in 2nd place, but it feels like a win for me. Here’s why… I’ve shot a few matches at Rifles Only. Some have been more challenging than others. The Bushnell Brawl has consistently been one of the toughest matches in the country. This year, the match director and owner of Rifles Only, Jacob Bynum, took it a little easier on us.  We shot targets that were either 10” plates or 45% IPSC targets from JC Steel Targets. There were two full-sized IPSCs as well on stages where the target would normally be much smaller. Ya know what? People still missed them. The wind wasn’t as bad as last year either. That being said, it was still challenging. Try your hand at hitting a 10” plate that’s angled away from you from a traditional seated position and see how you do. Unless you’re the one guy who got 8 hits out of 10, you probably thought that was tough!

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Tim and I flew in a day early to help out with the Production Division match. The Open Division shooters who were on hand were allowed to coach these new shooters, which I thought was a complete stroke of genius. We were all cheering them on, calling out where there misses were impacting, actively helping them get on target. What a great time and an amazing opportunity for both divisions to learn from and help each other out.  Ricky Salazar took home the win for Production. He was fun to watch shoot, too!

On Friday, all of the shooters were provided an opportunity to check their 100 yard zeroes. Some folks beat feet to the tower for the 800, 900, and 1000 yard stages. I can’t say that I blame them because that’s usually the best place to start at Rifles Only due to the wind picking up later in the morning. I wanted to verify that my zero was good though, so we didn’t end up on the tower until mid-morning. In the meantime, we were able to shoot the two mover stages. One was a 400 yard prone mover. The other was a 400 yard barricade mover. Both were on the same target; one of the aforementioned full-sized IPSC targets. I went 8 for 10 on the prone mover and 7 for 10 on the barricade mover. I had one mental flub and didn’t trust where I thought the bullet went. Why not use the same hold to verify by missing again? Next time I’ll go with my gut on where I thought my miss went.

The tower had four stages total. The first three were shot prone. They were 800 yards, 900 yards, and 1000 yards. There was a 10” steel plate at each target distance.  As always, I was running a Vortex Razor Gen II 4.5x27x with an EBR-2C reticle. Oh man, did those targets look small! Even on 27x!! It took me a couple of rounds at each distance to get my wind call correct. In some cases, I’d have the call right and the wind would switch, pick up, or drop off mid-string. After watching a few of the shooters before me, including my husband and our good friend, Mr. Paul Reid, I knew it would happen. I watched where they were impacting and measured from what they said they were going to hold to see if I could guess what they’d hold for wind next. My wind hold at 800 yards turned out to be right around .7 MILs. I passed that on to the shooter next to me before it was his turn, he adjusted for his rifle, and he went 9 for 10! Amazing shooting by Ryan Miller, the owner of Ryan’s Range Report!

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Paul Reid and I thought this would be a good time for a shooting selfie… Especially while Ryan was shooting. LOL!

The fourth stage on the tower was a standing supported shot at 500 yards on the other full-sized IPSC. I had a slight issue getting the first round chambered. The time limit was relatively short (1 min for 10 rounds), and that caused enough of a delay that I was only able to fire 9 rounds. I yanked one shot pretty hard but finished the stage with 8 points. I’d like to say that the standing supported stage was one of the “easier” stages in the match, but I’m sure someone found it to be difficult. Matches are weird that way. What is easy for one shooter is challenging to another. I love when stage design plays to many different shooter strengths.

Did I mention the match included a helicopter ride?? No? Well it did. And it was awesome! It’s the third time I’ve been able to shoot from a helicopter and they’ve all coincidentally been at this match. The first time I shot from one, I remember being semi-terrified. This time I was actually pretty calm. I was able to enjoy it! I need to remember a GoPro or something for stages like that though!

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Thumbs up!

The other stages on day one included shooting off a 550 cord from the inside of a helicopter frame at another 10” plate at 539 yards (that one had pistol as well), the traditional seated stage I spoke of earlier at a 322 yard target, a rooftop stage on a target at 475-ish yards (also had pistol), and the mousetrap (another stage with pistol as well as rifle).

After all the shooting was done for the day, it was time to knock some dust out of my action and wipe down my bolt. On my husband’s suggestion, I’ve been using CherryBalmz lubricant for a couple of months and really like how slick the bolt runs with it. Unfortunately, like every other gun lube, it still gets dirt stuck to it, so a periodic wipe down and reapplication ain’t such a bad idea.

 

The best part about shooting competitions, quite honestly, is the people. We went to dinner with friends and had a time to discuss things other than what happened at the match.  Well, except for Paul Reid who was one point ahead of me at the end of day one. We had a little bit of friendly banter about who was going to beat who the next day.

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With  my favorite Aussie-Texan

I went into day two with 83 points; only 4 points behind the leader from what I’d heard. At the safety briefing, we were told that half of the pistol shots for the day were dropped along with a KYL (know your limits) stage. I’ll admit that I was disappointed about the pistol. I’ve never, ever said that in my life either! I hadn’t dropped any pistol shots, so I was thinking those would help me quite a bit. Such is life though. Things change and almost always make for a better match.

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Voodoo Tactical has new camo called VTC. That’s what this Mini-Tobago is made of. Modular Pump Pillow from Wiebad.com is in the background along with my rifle.

We headed over to the Carbine Pit for three combined stages: a 10 round pistol mover, followed by a 6 rounds of rifle off a barricade at 20+/- yards.  Five shots were on a 5-dot drill, and the last shot was reserved for a BT Industries ace of spaces card shot (person who shot closest to the center – Kelly Svarstad – won an Atlas bipod!).

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Once we finished up there, we only four stages left for the whole match and they were all fun! First up was a stage called, “Best Hide Site Ever.” It was based on an actual police involved shooting which made it even more insane to think about. The shooter had to engage a target at 260 yards with 10 rounds while sitting on a toilet! The good thing about electronic hearing protection is you can hear all the instructions from the range officers. The bad thing about electronic hearing protection is that you can also hear the peanut gallery behind you while you’re on the clock! Normally it’s not hard to tune out. For example, I was shooting really well on this stage. I could hear folks talking about the position I chose (which was a brilliant stroke of last minute luck on my part). Then I heard someone say something about how well I was shooting all weekend and that I’d cleaned a couple of stages the day before. My 9th shot went into the dirt just to the left of the target. Doh!! I may have said something to the effect of, “thanks for jinxing me!”… I refocused and hit the target with my last round. In the end it was pretty amusing and I wasn’t upset in the least bit.

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Taking some “pot shots”

After shooting from the pot, we decided to go to complete PRS skills stages #1 and #2 because there wasn’t too long of a line to complete those two. These are basically “standards” that every match director will run to break ties. The added benefit will be allowing competitors to track how they’ve progressed through the season. I know I’m interested in seeing if my time and/or hits improve throughout the season! For more info on the skills stages, please check out the PRS rulebook Appendix A-5.

 

The last stage of the match for Tim and I was off of a 550 cord at another target 400 yards away. We both finished well there, and then it was off for a celebratory end-of-the-match cold beverage!

Scores came out, but by then there was a lot of buzz trying to figure out who had the high score. I’d already spoken with Morgan, so we figured he’d won but just in case there was a sleeper in there somewhere I was keeping my fingers crossed for him. When Lisa Bynum posted the arbitration scores, she was immediately surrounded (happens at every match). I caught her on her way back to the office and asked her if I was 3rd because I’d heard a gentleman named Dan Davis had one more hit than me. She said, very excitedly and with a huge grin, that I was 2nd! Holy cats! My favorite picture from the entire match is  the one below because you can see not only how happy I am, but how happy Lisa is in the background. She’s my sister from another mister and I’m so glad I was able to make her and Jacob proud!

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I was extremely fortunate to not only walk away with a trophy the size of my torso, but also a new Defiance action! I already shoot for them, so I know they support the sport quite heavily. I credit my equipment (along with a bit of training) with helping me improve quite a bit over the last couple of years. I’m looking forward to building a new .308 with this action so I’ll be able to run it for the caliber specific matches in the series.

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Trust me when I say they know who won this action! LOL! Some excited texts were sent immediately!

My finish is not the highest ever for the AZ crew (Matt LaVine and Michael Nitzschke have both won PRS matches), but it is the highest finish for a female in a national level match. One point away from winning! Really this tells me that I’ve got the right gear, the right support, and I’m doing the right amount of training. I’m winning one this year and you might not want to laugh too hard if you hear me say that in the future. Huge, monster thanks to my amazing husband for helping me with my pistol shooting! I love you more than words can express! Out of 105 shooters, he finished in 33rd place which is phenomenal considering the level of talent in the field.

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From l to r: Dan Davis, Morgan Lamprecht, me, and Rifles Only owner, Jacob Bynum

Now I get to pat myself on the back while congratulating the top ten. LOL! Congrats to the top 10 who (were only separated by 8 points and) are:

1st Morgan Lamprecht

2nd Regina Milkovich (me!!!)

3rd Dan Davis

4th– Justin Shireman

5th Paul Reid

6th Aaron Segura

7th Charles Tate Moots

8th Jeff Badley

9th Jerry Karloff

10th Bannon Eldridge