Do You Even MD, Bro?

Ever have an experience that was so stressful that you say you’ll never, ever do it again, but somehow end up repeating the same stressful thing every year? That’s sums up how I feel about helping with the Tactical Precision Rifle Challenge each year. I definitely enjoy the work, the stress, the results… but every year I can’t wait for the match to get here already so my local club can get back to being normal again. I’m not sure if most competitors realize how much work goes into producing the matches they want to return to each year. Making something run smoothly, with no errors, is exceedingly difficult. So while there is a lot of pleasure in the end result, there were probably also a few stumbles that made the organizers want to rip out what is left of their hair.

Because I only have my own experiences to fall back on, I’ll explain what my club does to create a successful match. Let’s start in the beginning with the match announcement. Dates have to be decided on and arranged before you can really get anything else done. For our club, that has meant going before boards of directors or command staff at various facilities attempting to gain the blessing of the management. While we don’t expect to make any money off the event, we would like to break even so we’re a bit frugal when it comes to items we might be able to receive at a discounted rate. If you don’t have a facility readily available, one would most likely need to be leased or rented for the dates that have been decided on. In the past we’ve been quoted anywhere from $2,000 all the way up to $25,000 for the use of three days of dirt. Depending on your overall budget, the leasing fee alone could devour a majority of your budget.

You have a location and have decided on a date for your event. What now? If you’ve done a little homework, or asked around with other match directors, you should have an idea on your overall budget. This will help set the rate for your match fee. Our club chooses to keep the match fee reasonable for our competitors. Deciding how many competitors your property can safely hold should also be figured into the equation. Our rule of thumb is a minimum of three range safety officers for each stage of our match: a chief range officer to run the competitors through the course of fire, a spotter to watch for impacts and misses, and a scorekeeper. If extra staff is available, they are asked to work spotting scopes. This speeds up the course of fire because there are less arguments over questions on impacts or misses. We also like to have staff on hand to check that all of the coolers have water, trash bags are being emptied, and to hand out meals on days they are provided.

Registration for matches these days are a lot easier with the introduction of Practiscore and similar programs. I’ll admit that Practiscore made our registration process quick in 2016 for TPRC. I’m hopeful we’ll have the ability to receive match funds online for the 2018 TPRC. Most competitors are used to using Practiscore these days for match registration. You fill out the form, wait patiently to receive the email with your pin to squad yourself, and you’re done. On the match director side, there is a little more work, but not much. Practiscore even allows you to print spreadsheets with your t-shirt order ready-made. If you plan to run your scoring at the competition through Practiscore, you’ll need tablets or your Range Officers willingness to use their cell phones. Using Practiscore speeds up arbitration at the end of the match significantly, plus shooters who stayed home can watch the scores in real time as they are uploaded onto the Practiscore website.  Cost: Practiscore – free or donation to the website, Tablets – $1000-2400 with an additional $100-200 for external batteries to recharge the tablets  

Speaking of t-shirts, you’re probably going to want to order some of those. If you have a friend who’s handy with artwork, or perhaps you are a whiz with Adobe Illustrator, get started on designing something bad ass because all shooters love unique t-shirts. If your design is really cool, competitors will wear your match t-shirt to other competitions or even better, to the grocery store. Put some thought into the color of your t-shirts. Traditional “tactical” ones (black, tan, green, grey, orange) are the shirt colors people will wear until they literally disintegrate. I can almost 95% guarantee that no one is wearing the bright neon blue shirt you thought would look great in pictures… unless they’re washing their car or cleaning their rifles. I’d also suggest picking materials that will breathe in the summer. The shooters will thank you. Cost: Artwork – $0-300, T-shirts – $1000-3000

Since you’re ordering t-shirts anyway, and you have this cool logo you cooked up, how about having some other stuff for the shooters? Items that seem to go over well and can be reused constantly are empty chamber indicators (ECI), insulated water bottles, coffee cups, and beer mugs. While you’re admiring your match artwork, start working on trophies. A decision will have to be made on how many trophies and for which placements prior to contacting any of the companies who design and build them. Once again it will end up coming down to your budget. Trophies from your local awards shop might be a great place to pick up an award for Salesperson of the Month or Little League Champions, but if exposure for your competition is what you want, those types of trophies just won’t do. We all tend to look at the awards from other events. If you’re not sure who to contact, ask a couple of other match directors where they ordered their trophies. Cost: Extras for swag bag – $250-1500, Trophies – $300-3000.

Lately there have been many conversations on social media about prize table donations. From the match director side it always seems to end up with wanting either cash prize tables or trophy matches. From a competitor standpoint, prize tables are always exciting and something to set a goal towards. Personally, I like prize tables. That’s the reason I’ve ended up volunteering to organize them for TPRC for the last few years. Last year the staff at TPRC contacted over 250 companies and personally hand wrote thank you cards for the 85 companies who contributed items or paid for some part of our match to take place. Be sure to set a schedule to follow up with the companies you’ve contacted. Shooting related companies are hit up by people like yourself quite often for product or discounts for their matches, so you can see how easy it would be to overlook a request or two. After the match is over,be sure to thank all of the companies who participated or contributed. A “thank you” goes a very long way to ensuring that a company will want to participate again in the future. I’ve yet to see a match director fail to request that competitors send thank you’s to the companies represented at their events. Believe me when I say that those companies truly appreciate a quick note in their inbox, a letter, a tag on Facebook or Instagram, a carrier pigeon, smoke signal… whatever. But thank them. Using your media coverage to gain exposure for the sponsors is also an awesome way to give them a bit of a return on their investment in your event.

While you’re setting aside time to reach out to potential sponsors, made sure you’re sending an email here or there to the competitors keeping them updated on the progress of the match. As shooters we all appreciate updates to the round count, locations of close lodging/food, and estimates for when the match will be over for their travel plans. Cost: Time – 24 to 48 hours minimum; Materials – $0-250

What about the other odds and ends? How about items like shot timers ($100 each), steel targets ($1500-7500), backup score sheets ($30 for heavy duty paper), matchbooks ($50-400), pop-ups/easy ups ($50-150 each), materials for props ($500-5000), water for competitors and staff – better to overestimate than underestimate here ($300-600), and food ($2500-6000). This isn’t counting the multitude of spotting scopes you’ll be borrowing from friends, family, neighbors, and sponsors. The hours of time spent designing, shopping for, and building props to challenge competitors in a variety of different courses of fire is also not included. I’ll guarantee there were many weekend work parties that took place for most competitions so the tally of actual hours working is probably in the hundreds by the time the match date rolls around.

Our club also tests every single stage we’re going to feature in TPRC. We do this for two reasons: to decide on the par time for the course of fire and to test the difficulty level of each stage. Everyone likes to hit targets and we all hate to zero stages. For our par times, we average the times between our most and least experienced club members. Our goal is to have the winner score 85% or so of the overall available points. In some years, Mother Nature has decided that hit percentage should be lower or higher. We’ve actually thrown out or redesigned stages because the course of fire ended up being too difficult. After all, we’re shooters first and match staff second. Also, I guarantee if you make a stage “not cleanable” someone will come along and clean it. Make the target sizes generous and the par time doable, and even the best competitors in the world will miss a few targets.

Even with all of the labor that goes into successfully pulling off a national level competition, participating in the planning, organization, and work behind the scenes is the absolute best way to fully appreciate what the match directors are trying to convey. It’s also the best way to gain an appreciation for all the trouble you may have put range officers and/or match directors through in the past as a competitor.  

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The match staff for the 2016 Tactical Precision Rifle Challenge. Photo Credit: Brittney Weldon
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#wononein2016

I’ve sat at my computer staring at a blank Word document for two days now trying to fully process the events of this past weekend and put them into words. For me, it’s all really simple. I set a goal at the beginning of the season with steps on how to accomplish that goal. I followed those steps and achieved my goal. No big deal. But I suppose there’s really more to the story, isn’t there?

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From L-R: Mr. Terry Cross, me, and Jake Vibbert. Photo credit: Conx Media

The very first large scale precision rifle match I ever signed up for was the NorCal Tactical Bolt Rifle Challenge at Sacramento Valley Shooting Center hosted by the NorCal Practical Precision Rifle Club over Memorial Day weekend in 2010. I was terrified of screwing up: of DQ’ing, of embarrassing my husband and my brother-in-law, of looking like a complete fool who had no place being on the range. Basically, I felt a strong fear of failing in front of strangers and friends. We’ve all felt that way at some point or another when we were first beginning in this sport. I didn’t have a rifle that was acceptable yet as the only one I owned was a .223 with a 1:12 varmint barrel. I borrowed my husband’s right-handed 20” .308 and brought along 200 rounds of 168 grain Federal Gold Medal Match ammunition… and about half the contents of the garage because I was under-prepared and didn’t know what I’d need. The picture below says it all. I didn’t quit. I didn’t cry. And I did my very best to prove that I belonged there. I was quiet and paid attention to the Range Officers instructions and I took lots of notes. And I shot like absolute garbage. I finished that match 58th out of 59 shooters. I was in awe of the talent the top 10 possessed to finish so strong when I thought every stage was challenging and downright hard at times. I wanted to finish that high in the standings someday.

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Nothing says “noob” quite like carrying everything you own to a rifle match.

The shooters in this sport have become a somewhat dysfunctional extended family to me, so I see a lot of them frequently at competitions and talk to more online. I guess what I mean by that is we all sort of keep up on each other’s shooting records. Last season my placements at matches started climbing and for the first time since 2012, I found myself qualified for the Precision Rifle Series Finale. That was the goal I’d set for myself that season: qualify by points, not by gender. I worked my ass off to make that happen. I let my OCD kick in to overdrive and everything. The wheels fell off a bit at the Finale, but I was still really proud of how I finished the 2015 season. On the way home from Tehachapi, my husband Tim and I got to talking about goals for the next season. The first thing out of my mouth was, “I’m going to win a match in 2016.” That might be where my good-natured trash-talking began.

I’ve said I was going to win the match at the last three I’ve shot; Bushnell Brawl, New Mexico Precision Rifleman’s Championship, and this one – the NorCal TBRC. I came really, really close in Texas at the Brawl, but finished one point shy and was totally good with the results. Now I know why. I had to go back to my roots to take home my first win at the place where the spark was first truly lit for me. Vinny Da Hook from Invincible Safes makes the trophies every time for NorCal. When I saw him at sight-in on Friday, he asked which one he should put my initials on. Now what do you think I said? Following true Ricky Bobby logic, “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”

On to match details as I’m sure many of you would prefer to hear about that rather than this touchy feely stuff. LOL! Friday was sight-in day along with a little DOPE gathering at 600, 800, and 1000 yards… in a downpour. Nothing a good ShamWow won’t wipe off, right? All of the shooters received hoodies from American Giant, who was the premier sponsor for the match. Good thing too because it was chilly on Friday! I have one from the 2014 TBRC and loved it so much due to the reinforced elbows that our club actually bought some with our club logo on them. The hoodie from this match is black so, you know, it’ll go with everything and will get tons of use. Thanks American Giant! Best swag in a match bag to date.

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Day 1 kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a quick safety brief by Match Director, Justin Lagge. NorCal’s match was divided up into five sections: Lower Bay Steel, Upper Bay Steel, Short Range, Mid-Range, and Long Range. Alpha and Bravo squads headed to the steel bays, while Charlie and Delta headed out for some morning cardio on the short course and mid-range. The long range course of fire was left for Charlie and Delta squads to finish in the afternoon alternating shooting and pulling targets in the pits. The way NorCal sets up and runs their matches, all shooting starts at 0800 and is complete by 1500 and they have the timing down!

This was not my first time being placed on Alpha, but that didn’t make the names on the roster any less intimidating. I was squadded with some of the biggest names in the PRS! Once we arrived at the steel bays (actually, a rifle silhouette range), Alpha squad was split down the middle with 10 shooters going to the left to shoot three courses of fire and 10 shooters going to the right for the other three, essentially making us two smaller squads which sped things up considerably. Not only was I on Alpha, but my shooter number was “Alpha 1” so I knew I would be first up to shoot. No pressure, right?

Stage 1 – “Feed the Beast” didn’t say it was a holdover drill, but after looking at the time and the parameters, that’s what I used. I run a Vortex Razor Gen II with an EBR-2c reticle, so holdovers are pretty easy for me. Sometimes I’m even more accurate using them than dialing! On this stage you had two targets; a popper at 425 yards and a static popper at 220 yards. Rounds had to be manually fed, one at a time and shooters had to alternate between targets. The shooting position was standing or kneeling off a shooting bench with only your hand as rear support. I yanked one shot right, but otherwise hit everything. Good start to a match!

We used a brand new Dodge Ram pickup as a prop for the next stage loaned by Lasher’s Elk Grove Ram. Our whole squad was nervous about scratching, denting, or tearing it up! Oh, and it was a lefty stage! There are so few of them in matches that all three of the lefties on my half of Alpha squad noticed right away and conferred about a game plan for maximum stability and time management. The COF said you had 2 minutes to hit four JC Steel coyote targets ranging from 300 yards to 425 yards. A lot of us cleaned that stage, so the scores were pretty tight right out of the gate.

The rest of the stages on the lower bay were equally fun and challenging! PRS barricade skills stage, a 425 yard mover off a KUIU pack, and a dueling tree stage that had a twist. Shooters had 11 rounds and had to alternate between impacts on a dueling tree (425 yards) and impacts on a spinner target (220 yards). I was so close to spinning that spinner! One more round would’ve done it as it stuck up top and then fell backwards instead of forward. I don’t believe anyone actually received the extra 10 points for being able to spin that thing. It was very hard to do because if you missed a dueling tree target at all, there was just no way to keep the momentum going on that spinner.

We moved to the upper bay steel range in the late morning as the wind started to pick up. My Spartan built 6XC was shooting great and I was going in to the afternoon having only dropped two shots out of 49 taken. The upper bay was more challenging… A majority of the targets on the upper bay were between 330 yards and 550 yards. We started with a KYL at 550 yards with targets that gradually became smaller. I believe the smallest was around 3”. I’m also sure that target finished the match with no impacts on it. We shot the PRS skills stage chaos/holdover drill immediately afterwards. The rest of the upper bay had a variety of props to shoot off.  Car doors to shoot through, large pipes to navigate, tank traps, rooftops, and spools. All lots of fun but hard to walk away with a clean run on a stage. Once we’d finished shooting, we headed back to the pole barn to have some barbeque and wait for the other squads and day 1 scores. That’s when the buzz really happened. I knew I’d shot pretty consistent all day. I also know that TBRC is traditionally won on the steel bays because a good chunk of the points are there. I finished day one with 740 points, or 74 impacts. NorCal shooter and all-around badass Gustavo Carcacha was hot on my heels with 680 points with his strongest area, long range, coming up the next day. Like I mentioned before: no pressure.

Day 2 kicked off bright and early with paper movers at 100 and 200 yards, both off of props. I use the same lead on movers regardless of the distance and measure based off my first shot whether I need to increase or decrease my lead. I noticed I had a little too much lead at 100 yards and passed that info on to the group shooting after me. We had another short run and gun course off props at 200 yards after the movers and then we shot the stage we all couldn’t stop talking about.

They named it “Now You See It?” There was a popper placed behind an IPSC flag target. The flag was removed to reveal a spinner. The shooters had to shoot off a rooftop and impact the spinner to move it out of the way to reveal the popper. We each received 10 points per impact on the popper and half value for impacting the spinner. The Sin City Precision match director, Ty Frehner, and I both immediately said, “I’m so stealing that COF.”

After thanking all of the range officers, we headed up to the high power range for the mid-range evolution. The targets there were between 553 yards and 621 yards. There was a doghouse with curtains blocking your view, another stage that could only be described as Cross Fit-based, and a solid run-n-gun stage that is right in the AZ shooters wheelhouse with a good 100 yard run or so, shooting 10”-12” targets off of props in heavy mirage.

Our final evolution for the day was long range. Twelve rounds at 800 yards, twelve at 900 yards, and fifteen rounds at 1000 yards on paper. For those of us not from NorCal, that wind played some serious tricks. After those 39 rounds were sent downrange, it was all over but the crying. Back to the pole barn we went for a taco dinner, frosty cold beverages, and to await scores and the arbitration period.

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I have to include this… Jason Keim and I pulled targets for each other the first two years I shot NorCal TBRC (2010 and 2011). We both asked to score each others targets this year too. I hope Jeremy Bentham and Joe Hernandez understood how much it meant to both of us.

I’ve shot with just about every person on my squad in the past, so I don’t want to get to far here without thanking them. Shooters get wrapped up in their own heads and occasionally pressure gets to them and they blow their lead or placement from the day before. I had several of these guys pull me aside throughout day two and tell me to remember to breathe and just do my thing. This was especially appreciated after a couple of rough stages where I missed because the wind picked up or changed directions and I didn’t catch it in time.

Before the scores went up, Justin Lagge and Vu Pham (current and former MD’s for the match), asked to speak with me privately. I wasn’t 100% sure what they were going to say, so I was really hoping it wouldn’t be bad news. Vu, who I’ve been friends with since 2009, looked me in the eye and said something like, “so, how’s it feel to make history by becoming the first woman to win a practical precision rifle match?” I looked at both of them and said, without skipping a beat, “holy shit, really?” They assured me it wasn’t just by a little bit but by a considerable lead.

 

Do you have any idea how hard that news is to keep to yourself???? So, of course I didn’t. I told my husband immediately. The next person I told was my gunsmith, Marc Soulie from Spartan Precision Rifles, over the phone. He’s local to the area and only missed the match due to an unplanned family emergency. The scores were posted and arbitration began. That’s when my phone blew up. Jacob & Lisa Bynum from Rifles Only called me before the awards ceremony began to congratulate me. I’d been doing pretty well up holding it together until that point, but I sort of lost it on that phone call and got choked up. Thank goodness for Janae Frehner who saw me and reminded me that there’s “no crying in the PRS!”

Turns out I’d won two stage prizes as well as the overall; both on movers. Go figure. The 425 yard mover was 10 shots off the KUIU pack and I cleaned it in less than 31 seconds. The stage prize was the pack, so my husband scored himself an anniversary present (our wedding anniversary was the day after the match). I also won the 200 yard paper stage taking home $200 cash courtesy of Lasher’s Elk Grove Ram.

 

I cannot describe how ecstatic I am to have taken home one of the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sized checks for 1st place from the Precision Rifle Series. The award that Vinny put my initials on in sharpie marker went home with me as well. I picked up a beautiful 6mm Creedmoor donated by GA Precision off of the prize table. Even though I’d asked that it be kept private and really didn’t want people outside of my immediate need-to-know circle to know, my friends have big mouths, so what I did with the rifle is all over Facebook and the interwebs now. What I will say is we should all aspire to pay it forward a bit when we’ve been blessed with opportunities beyond our initial expectations. There’s nothing special in that. I just followed the examples of people I admire who came before me. That’s all.

Thank you to all of my sponsors for supporting me and helping me kick ass! Time to find a new hashtag I guess. My old one #winonein2016 is now retired. I’ve liked the suggestions offered up as a replacement by the way.

 

Rifle info: Defiance Deviant Tactical action chambered in 6mmXC by Marc Soulie at Spartan Precision Rifles. Timney Triggers left-handed Calvin Elite flat trigger, medium palma Hawk Hill Custom barrel, Blast Tamer muzzle brake, Vortex Razor Gen II scope with the EBR-2c reticle. I used a Manners Composite T4A stock at this match that was modified by Mr. Joe Ducos to fit my hand better but recently switched over to McMillan Group International. I use Sierra/DTAC bullets and Hodgdon 4350 powder with Norma brass and CCI 200 large rifle primers. My reloading sponsor is Butch’s Reloading.

Sponsors include: Spartan Precision Rifles, Defiance Machine, Vortex Optics, McMillan Group International, Voodoo Tactical, Rifles Only, Hawk Hill Custom, Timney Triggers, Butch’s Reloading, Original SWAT Boots, Patriot Cases, WieBad, Short Action Precision, Storm Tactical Databooks, Sierra Bullets, MGM Targets, and LightReact.

The professional looking photos are courtesy of Contingency X and ConX Media.

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This is how amazing the shooters in this sport are. This was Jake Vibbert’s idea and Mr. Terry Cross went along with it. Both made me laugh so hard my sides hurt. I’m deeply honored to share the podium with them both.

The Kool-Aid Phenomenon (alright, my theory anyway)

Lately I’ve received a lot of questions about the caliber I shoot. I’m not exactly sure what has brought about the renewed interest, but I’m happy to answer questions about it! I’ve shot 6mmXC every year from 2011-2016 with the exception of one year. In 2014 I switched to a 6.5 Creedmoor that just never quite suited me. I thought the reason I wasn’t scoring more points was due to my tiny bullets not impacting steel hard enough. Turns out I was more than likely just missing. Halfway through the 2015 season, after having some really good scores and some not-so-good scores, I sat down and evaluated what I’d changed over the course of the years. Well, it turns out I’d changed a lot.

In 2012, I was 20th in the nation shooting a 6mmXC. I was also still pretty inexperienced, the Precision Rifle Series was in its infancy, and the field was still relatively small. In the two following years I couldn’t score well enough to qualify for the Finale. I really wanted to, but the field expanded, my training time dropped off due to my day job, and I started changing stuff. A lot of stuff as it turns out.

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I scored a red bullet for my top 25 finish in the inaugural year of the Precision Rifle Series.

Have you ever followed a thread on a forum or social media and thought, “ohhhh, that’s what I need to switch to for better scores!” Yeah, me too. Stop it. Stop it right now. While I’m sure there is some validity to improving your gear, there is much more benefit to practicing. The new caliber of the day isn’t going to move you from 98th to top 5, I promise. Knowing your rifle will help you move up though. Find a caliber you’re comfortable with and then learn it 100%. Doesn’t matter if it’s a .308 or a 6mmSuperWhizBangEveryoneIsTalkingAboutIt caliber. Know it. “Beware the man who only has one gun. He probably knows how to use it!” is an often used quote for a reason.

If you’re on a quest to follow the latest flavor of Tactical Kool-Aid, you’ll more likely end up with less money in your pocket which translates for me into less money for components that could’ve been used to shoot the caliber you’re already comfortable with! On the other hand, if you’re really considering moving from a .223 or a .308 into a faster caliber with a better ballistic coefficient bullet, by all means, read away on the forums. But consider another alternative: friends who already have the caliber you’d like to try out. You’re much more likely to get an honest assessment of a cartridge from a buddy you’ve shared beers with. You’re also much more likely to have the opportunity to get behind their rifle and try it out yourself.

I’m definitely not saying I haven’t chased a few flavors of the month/year/season. I have! But when it came back to what I needed to do to improve my shooting ability, the very last thing on the list was the caliber I was shooting. I needed more practice… Much more practice. I’ve dry-fired many more times than I’ve live-fired. I use a 6’ ladder in my backyard to simulate a barricade and dry-fire on a 1” dot on the other side of the yard. Or a lawn chair. Or a table turned on its side. A barricade is a barricade in my mind. I use a slightly larger dot to practice positional. Five minutes a day is all I devote because a very smart pistol shooter I know (my husband) taught me that fatigue breeds bad habits. The last thing any shooter needs is bad muscle memory!

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Taking on my nemesis: standing offhand.

I’m guessing the reason I’ve been receiving so many questions about 6mmXC is because so far I’m having a pretty good year shooting-wise. I don’t mind answering the questions and helping folks find a good starting load. But I would like for people to realize the reason I’m shooting well this year has little to do with the caliber I’m shooting (other than I usually know my DOPE without looking at a data program). I’ve stepped up my practice significantly and have been keeping a written log of those practice sessions. For the record, I also shoot a .308 pretty well and have won local matches with that rifle many times. My .308 is a solid backup rifle that saved me when my regular competition rifle went down unexpectedly (in 2013, my 6mm had some issues and I didn’t trust it in the match I was getting ready to shoot. I used my .308 and landed in the top 20 – one of my better finishes that season).

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The magic Wonder Woman notebook! More than just packing lists are logged in here.

There are amazing projectiles on the market right now for lots of different calibers. Shoot what you know works for you and your rifle. I switched back to Sierra 115DTAC’s in the middle of last season. They work better for me and my rifle combination than any other bullet. Does that mean they’ll work for you? Who knows, maybe? Maybe not. Maybe you and your rifle will prefer Bergers or Nosler or Barnes. But when you find the right combination for you, stick with it. Barrels and actions and scopes are the same way. Find what works best for you! Personally, I’m all about Hawk Hill barrels, Defiance actions, and Vortex scopes (shameless plug). Find what works for YOU though. And never trust the opinion of a typer sniper over your own experience.

Two important things to remember in shooting: be safe and have fun! If you aren’t safe, you’re not going to have fun and if you aren’t having fun, why the heck are you out there??? Below are some pictures from the New Mexico Precision Rifleman (and women’s) Championship, because what better way to show how much fun I have shooting than through photographs! (disclaimer: not all are flattering, but I don’t care. It ain’t a beauty contest. It’s a rifle match.)

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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

2016 VPRC!

I figure this is a great place for a little match recap! Some of you may follow my Facebook posts (www.facebook.com/lhgina) or Instagram page (@lh_gina), so you may have seen some video or pictures already of the Sin City Precision Vegas Precision Rifle Challenge presented by Kelbly’s. The match is also part of the Precision Rifle Series. The Sin City guys and gals put on a great event every year, and due to the dates falling the weekend before the SHOT show for the last two years, it’s even more of a “must attend” event!

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Over the course of two days, 97 shooters participated in 23 events with distances from 100 yards all the way out to 1762 yards. Several of the stages were unlimited round count stages as well, so there was quite a bit of potential to really rack up some points if you were fast enough, had a solid wind call, and noticed when the wind changed. There we some great runs on those unlimited round count stages too! Oscar Milanes scored 19 hits on an 80 second stage that really required a holdover if you were going to run fast on it. This stage was all shot from prone, but it required the shooter to quickly transition from an IPSC target at 808 yards to a steel bear target at 982 yards. (I had the high score until Oscar demolished my 18 hit run.)

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Anette Wachter

Two of the other unlimited round count stages required quite a bit of physicality. The first one my squad shot involved pulling a tire from one cone to another, then going prone and engaging a rack of tiny IPSC targets at 300 yards strong side. Then you had to get up and pull the tire back to the starting point. After getting the tire back to the starting point, you had to shoot the same tiny IPSC target rack from support side. You just kept repeating until the time ran out or you ran out of ammo! I thought almost everyone on our squad did a great job but Joe Walls had more impacts than anyone with 17 hits! That man can hustle! Joe also took home a stage prize (a Kelbly’s rifle!)  on the other physically demanding unlimited round count stage which involved a mallet, a tire, and a carnival machine. No, I’m not kidding!

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Christine Allen giving that Carnival Bell her all!

Sin City has some fantastic shooters and this in turn means they have some great Range Officers. All of them took the time to explain stages in detail, answer questions (even if the question was asked a few times already), never let a competitor get lost looking for a target, and kept the atmosphere light. When the RO’s are having fun, the competitors do as well!

There was great variety in the types of targets used, the stage design, time limits, and skills tested. From 100 yard paper to barricades to positional stages to shooting from ladders to plenty of prone to keep everyone happy, you had to be on your game and adept at many styles of precision shooting.

After an amazing dinner banquet and a hilarious video courtesy of Contingency X, the awards ceremony kicked off. A gentleman who finished the match in last place, fought through some mechanical issues, but didn’t quit, won a rifle from Kelbly’s! Good on Kelbly’s for hooking him up! My good friend Scott Parks took home the Top Tactical division shooter. Surgeon team shooter, Matt Brousseau, won Top LE/Military. And I was fortunate enough to snag the Top Lady award (there were 8 women total competing in the match).

Now after a few rough stages, I was thinking I might still get lucky and pull off a top 20 finish. I was really hoping for that actually; especially after telling anyone who would listen on sight-in day that I was going to win the match. Hey, I’ve set my goals high this year! My squad for the match had some of the heavier hitting names in the PRS, including last season’s overall champion, David Preston, so it was hard to really get a feel for how I was shooting when I was comparing my scores with theirs. So when the Match Director, Ty Frehner, called my name for 9th place, I might’ve screamed a little. I was listening to the scores being called out and thought, “hmm. Maybe I have a top 15? That’d be cool.” 9th place was a total shock!

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The 2016 season is just getting started and I’ve already got two top 10 finishes. I cannot wait to see what this year is going to bring!

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Squad 5 (from L-R) Top Row: Russ Wallis, Tomas Meraz, Marcus Blanchard, Nick “Beard” Owens, Matt LaVine, Bannon Eldridge, David Preston, Paul Reid, Jim See. Bottom Row: Lowe Weidman, me, Tim Milkovich, Matthew Brousseau, Joe Walls

 

Huge thanks to my sponsors: Spartan Precision Rifles, Defiance Machine, Vortex Optics, Timney Triggers, Hawk Hill Custom, Voodoo Tactical, Original SWAT, Rifles Only, MGM Targets, Patriot Cases, Wiebad.com, and Sierra Bullets!

Ladies Only at Rifles Only, Part 2

I definitely will have a bit of this timeline jumbled and out of order. I didn’t take notes. I’ll admit that much. Hey, I was busy learning! And I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing about this class. At any rate, here’s my view of the rest of what took place during the Ladies Only at Rifles Only class in August (and I apologize for how long it’s taken me to finish this!)

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Steph Bostwick and Jaci Janes practicing on the 515 yard mover.

I’ll start with movers…. Most shooters will admit that they enjoying shooting at moving targets. What’s not to love after all? The target is moving creating a greater challenge than if you’d shot the same target while stationary and there’s extra math involved! (Disclaimer: I hate math – don’t ask me how I keep ending up with hobbies that involve math.) Once I can figure out my lead on a mover, I usually feel pretty confident. I almost always start with one standard lead based on my reaction time. I’ll see where my bullet impacts and make an adjustment from there. When wind is involved, the lead going one direction may change and not the other so now you’ve got two leads. I’ve heard some pretty good shooters talk about dialing wind and then using the same lead both directions, but with my luck, I’d forget to take the wind off and screw up another stage in a match, so I just use the two different wind holds. One of these days I’m sure I’ll end up at a match where I need to use a negative wind hold. I’ve heard plenty of stories from folks who’ve shot in South Texas and needed them. Then again I think I’d probably love to shoot movers all day long regardless of the conditions.

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Practice on the mouse trap!

The mouse trap and the rat trap at Rifles Only are totally like having a kids jungle gym for adults! These are some of my favorite props at any match anywhere in the country. Now that I have an idea of how to move through them, I love them even more! Honestly, we really were like little kids waiting in line for our turn on a carnival ride. The mouse trap and rat trap at Rifles Only have multiple ports to shoot through that challenge your ability to move quickly, while transitioning from shooting strong side and support side. Some of the ports are stable shooting positions, but they all take some practice! Normally, the shooter is engaging a 2” shoot-n-c target from those ports at around 85 yards or so. The time limit is normally around three minutes for the course of fire with five ports to shoot from with two rounds each. Seems like a lot of time, right? Well, it’s not. At least it isn’t if you actually want to hit your target.

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Listening as Jacob walks us all through the mousetrap.

While some of the ladies practiced running through the mouse trap, the rest of us worked on traditional NRA style kneeling and seated positional shooting. If there is any kind of shooting that I hear people complain about in matches the most, it’s positional shooting. Positional shooting has practical applications as well. The perfect prop isn’t always going to be available and not everything can be shot prone in life, especially if you’re out hunting. Rifles, even ones that have been lightened up considerably, still feel like they gain weight the longer you’re holding it up in the air. Making sure your natural point of aim is on target makes a huge difference. Figuring out how to gain stability while shooting kneeling is hard, but hearing steel ring out when you impact is amazingly gratifying.

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Jacob teaching Marie how to shoot off of one of the rooftops

We spent some time practicing on rooftops on a sweltering afternoon. AZ LRPRS has a few of these and we incorporate them pretty frequently into matches, but we rarely place them sideways to the target or facing away from the target, so it was excellent practice. On the rooftop facing away from the target, I tried all sorts of positions trying to find something stable. I finally ended up using my sling and a small rear bag before I could pull the trigger and know I was going to have an impact on target each time. I believe that position will take a lot more practice to make fluid because right now it seems like it would be a huge time sucker just trying to get a stable sight picture.

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Jaci working out her position on one of the sideways rooftops

After two full days of shooting in heat that left each of soaked, we were beat! We still had a match to shoot though, so some of the ladies headed off for showers and naps. Melissa Gilliland and I both headed to the mouse trap to practice dry firing a little more. Melissa and I have been friends several years, so we joked around and helped each other with the choreography since we’d basically be mirror images of each other’s positions (she’s right handed and I’m left handed).

The South Texas Precision Rifle Club held their monthly match at Rifles Only on the second night of our training class and we had the opportunity to join in. I don’t have many opportunities to shoot with any of the ladies who were in the class, so this was a treat for me. Jessie Dussart and I have been shooting precision rifle comps for the same amount of time and have never shot together. Both of us were hoping we’d finally get to, but we ended up on different squads. (Next time, Jess!)

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Double checking DOPE while cooling off in the shade

All of the ladies shot really well at the club match too! Melissa and I were both pretty focused as we were using this monthly club match as an added training session for the last match of the regular 2015 Precision Rifle Series season. I will say it’s still a little weird to hear people talking about me while I’m shooting. At least it’s usually good things though! I went 9 for 10 on the 515 yard mover and could hear all the chatter in my electronic hearing protection. I ended up winning the monthly match with 55 of the 59 available points. I didn’t make it to the final port on the mouse trap so I didn’t fire two shots there. Not to brag too much but that’s a pretty stellar hit ratio. And I beat a couple of guys I’d never beaten before… Total. Confidence. Booster! (Especially confidence boosting going into a huge match the following weekend.) A lot of credit goes to the phenomenal gear I’m running now. While I shot my .308 for the class, I broke out my brand new 6XC for the monthly match. I haven’t named her yet, but she’s rocking a Defiance Deviant action, Vortex Optics Razor Gen II, Timney Trigger, Manners T4A stock, Hawk Hill barrel, and was built by my gunsmith/guru, Marc Soulie at Spartan Precision Rifles.

We’d all like to thank the South Texas Chapter of the Texas Precision Rifle Club for letting us shoot their August club match. And of course, I’d like the thank Jacob, Lisa, Lindy, James, and Corona for having us at the range. I couldn’t have handpicked a better group of ladies to spend a hot, sweaty weekend with either! Steph Bostwick (check out B-Tactical if you’re in the Dallas area), Marie Roberts (Roberts Precision Rifles), Jessie Dussart, Melissa Gilliland, Ursula Williams, and Jaci Janes: my sisters from other misters. Thank you all for making the very first Ladies Only at Rifles Only a huge success and so much fun. #LORO lives on!

I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to kick off another ladies only course in the future, but perhaps when ice water can be drank more than continuously dumped on heads to cool off.

If you’re interested in taking a precision rifle shooting class, contact Rifles Only at www.riflesonly.com for more information. They hold their Precision Rifle 1 & 2 classes throughout the year as well as other courses that may interest you. Their Pro Shop has all kinds of gear as well so their website is sort of a one-stop-shop. If you’re a female interested in participating in a Ladies Only class, please let Lisa Bynum know!