I recently put out a post on my Facebook page asking for topics you’d like to hear me babble on about. The first offering (and actually most frequently asked question lately) was for me to explain what I think about prior to shooting. I have a series of “statements of facts as I see them” that I repeat over and over. I have said them so many times that I’m sure my husband Tim hears me mumble them in my sleep. I’m not going to tell you what they are because that part doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I have something to help me focus. I’m not saying it’s made me a better shooter, but it has for sure helped me be a less distracted one.
One specific question I was asked was, “what do you think about before you tackle a stage?” Prone shooting is usually a matter of having a good first round wind call. Everything else is off your belly. I’ve shot off of many of the types of props used in national level matches before, so I usually start by trying to figure out the best way for a left-handed shooter to approach that prop to give me the best view of the target without contorting into some sort of pretzel. Sometimes that means shooting the stage right-handed. A very wise man once told me, “your rifle doesn’t care if you’re comfortable.” It’s just a tool. Find a way to make the position work where you have the best sight picture. And don’t listen to other shooters when they start talking about how they’d do something 180 degrees different than how you had it planned out in your head! If you have a game plan, run with it.
There have been many times at competitions, both local and national, where I’ve been sucked into a conversation with buddies about calibers/actions/politics/food/beer and lost track of where I was in the shooting order. Next thing I know, I’m on deck and haven’t even figured out a game plan yet! Has that happened to you? I’d bet a beer that it has at some point. Shooting matches are definitely social gatherings. We all like to catch up with our friends and shoot the breeze. What better arena to do that than with like-minded friends in the great outdoors? “A social event interrupted by occasional gunfire” is how Gunsite Academy refers to their annual Gunsite Alumni Shoot. No truer words could be said to describe what we do with our weekends!
So… how do you stay focused and still have fun? In a word, it’s practice. Jim See wrote an article a while back about how he trains. I took a lot of important information out of that article. He has a friend run him through a course of fire fitting of a competition but that friend gives him little or no prep time and runs him through on a par time. I think that’s a perfect way to work through first-stage-of-the-match-jitters. Here’s something totally honest: my hands shake for the first three or four stages of every match. Honest to Pete! So I’ve been using Jim’s tip to work through those nerves.
As many of you know, I’ve taken a few classes at Rifles Only. Owner Jacob Bynum starts most of his classes out with a little bit of time in the classroom where he discusses safety as well as the basic fundamentals of marksmanship. One of the items that stood out for me was a comparison between shooting and driving a car. When you first got behind the wheel of a car, you were probably nervous and your hands were sweaty. A few years down the road, you’re changing the station on the radio, talking (hands-free of course) on your cell phone, and driving within the speed limit down the highway without giving it a second thought. Much of what we do in the shooting sports is the same way. We start off nervous, unsure of our skill, unfamiliar with the in’s and out’s of our chosen sport. After some practice with friends, we might seek out and pay for some organized training. We learn the fundamentals and see why we may have not been able to spot where our misses went. Important stuff, by the way. So now we’re pretty good at hitting targets at several distances while shooting prone. We’ve gained confidence with those skills. We then move up to shooting off stuff like truck beds, and barricades, and tires. The more we practice, the more confident we become at hitting targets within, let’s say, 500 yards or so. So we make the targets smaller. What do you know? The more you practice, the better you get at hitting those smaller targets too! So you increase the distance. You find you’re able to shoot 1MOA targets at many distances. Perhaps you don’t impact every single time, but you’re a lot closer than you were when you started out!
I use the term “building blocks” a lot at my actual job. It’s as simple as it sounds. You learn a new task, practice that new task until you’ve perfected it, then you move to a live scenario to assess how well you’ve learned said task. Dry fire practice does a lot of that for me. If I’m practicing at the range, especially when I’m planning on doing to some live fire training, I’ll dry fire quite a bit before I ever even insert a magazine into my rifle or pistol. I’ve caught myself flinching more times than I can count. If I can consciously recognize what I’m doing, it’s much easier to practice correctly and stop those bad habits right then and there.
The mental preparation part has to come from within. I try very hard to not beat myself up for a missed shot because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it once the trigger is pulled. No amount of whining about it after the fact is going to make it an impact. I have the voices of much smarter people than myself who play like a recording in the back of my mind telling me that exact same thing too! Move on to the next shot. I like to say I’m still a work in progress in this area, but I’m getting better! Plus, it’s really immature to have a temper tantrum over a poor trigger press or poorly build position.
Speaking of that, how many times have you heard someone as they come off the line berate themselves for shooting a course of fire poorly? They’re still focused on it hours later. Ever ask them how they shot on the next few stages? Out of curiosity, have you ever looked at their scores at the end of the day? I try my best to block those voices out because negative feeds on negative. Again, the shot is gone. If there is no information to be gleaned from that miss, then move on and focus on the next shot or stage. After the course of fire, I review what I did correctly. That’s it. I wish there were some big secrets I could pass on, but I don’t have any. Honestly, you could learn all of this same stuff from reading any number of self-help books. I had a good friend call me a “planner”yesterday. I hadn’t thought of myself that way, but I suppose I really am just that: a planner. Then again, I’m a Virgo so I like lists and order and organization even if I’m incredibly messy in my approach. Logic rules all. What I do after I shoot has just as much to do with what I do before I shoot too I guess. That’s when all those OCD-inspired lists come in handy!
And for Mauritius Donaldson: I’ve liked a lot of different types of hearing protection. I used to wear Dillon Hearing Protection almost exclusively but I’m clumsy and kept breaking them. I switched to Howard Leight hearing protection recently. I’ve also used ESP‘s and SoundGear in-the-ear hearing protection. I have trouble keeping a good seal in my left ear though due to my cheek weld, so I mostly use those for pistol shooting. All good choices in my opinion.
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?
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.
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.
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.
My 100 yard paper mover target shot off a saw horse.
200 Yard Mover
Shooting the 200 yd mover off the spool.
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.
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!”
“TURN IT OVER!!!” Yeah, yeah. I was excited and didn’t notice I was holding this KUIU pack upside down. Oops.
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.
I won a rifle!!!! My hands were full so George was kind enough to hold it up for me.
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.
My husband wrote this on the chalkboard in the kitchen a week before we left for the match
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.
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.
2010 – My first rifle, a used Rem700 .223
The 2016 Bushnell Brawl, shooting a Defiance action 6XC
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!
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).
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.)
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
This past August, in the heat of the sticky, humid summer, a group of seven women headed to Rifles Only to join Lisa Bynum for private instruction from Jacob Bynum and Lindy Sisk. I’d talked with Jacob and Lisa about a training course geared towards women, but more specifically for ladies who were competitive shooters in the precision rifle community. These conversations went back and forth over the course of a couple of years. Now I’m like the official queen of “squirrel” moments so the idea was placed on the back burner for a while for me while I prepped for matches last year. To be honest, I don’t think any of us were really sure how many women would be interested in a course for just the ladies. I guess it’s true though: if you build it, they will come.
We’d all envisioned a course where female shooters wouldn’t feel intimidated and would feel confident asking questions or working out problems for themselves. In case you didn’t know, women are incredibly teachable. Ladies may have played video games and cops & robbers as kids, but we recognize when we don’t have all the answers and actively seek out someone who can help. Plus, we want to succeed just as much as the guys!
I started asking around in February of this year to gauge interest. The responses were overwhelming! The dates for the class were picked based off when Rifles Only would have a lull in their training schedule. We even came up with our own hashtag! #LORO. It was our own little shorthand for Ladies Only at Rifles Only. I’ll totally take the blame for forgetting that south Texas in August is miserable. Then again, I’m from Arizona, so heat is not exactly foreign to me! Some of the ladies asked were sponsored precision rifle shooters, some were from 3 Gun, and others were pistol shooters.
At any rate, seven of us showed up to Rifles Only on a Thursday afternoon. I actually brought along two rifles for two different reasons. One was my .308 factory Remington 700 to use for all of the training drills. I also brought my brand new 6XC with a Defiance Deviant that had just come back to me from Spartan Precision Rifles. Hey, I had a match the following weekend and needed to get some rounds through the new Hawk Hill barrel. Both are in Manners T4A stocks and have Timney LH flat triggers in them. They also both have Vortex Razor Gen II’s with the EBR-2C reticle, so it was easy for me to transition between the two.
The eight of us met with Jacob that night and went through our expectations over dinner. The ladies who made it to south Texas were: Jessie Dussart, Melissa Gilliland, Steph Bostwick, Marie Roberts, Ursula Williams, Jaci Janes, myself, and of course, Lisa Bynum but she runs the place! All of our “please teach me” lists were close to identical: wind reading, barricades, rooftops, positional, and how the heck do you shoot a mover (except Lisa – she’s a rockstar on a mover)!? I had an inkling that these topics would all be covered because they’re pretty common topics among precision rifle shooters as areas where they’d like to improve.
Anyway, our summer camp was just getting started! The bunk house was reserved for us, and let me tell ya, we took over. There were some items discovered in the bunk house that made many of us laugh. I won’t go into detail there, but let’s just say the men who stayed in the house in the past were very well protected. I’m almost positive the bunk house has never smelled so good or had as much purple draped everywhere. I imagine guys probably have an entirely different diet than we did… Marie brought enough delicious food to keep all of us fed for the entire weekend including a very much talked about wheel of brie that was devoured the first night.
On Friday morning, we met in the classroom with Jacob and Lindy who would be our instructors for the course. Jacob reminded us all of inherent dangers with firearms: their intended purpose is to kill and that is something none of should ever forget.
After the initial classroom portion, we headed out to the Carbine Pit so our instructors could diagnose our form. The first errors shooters tend to make come from improper body positioning and sight alignment. We were each asked to find an aiming point on our numbered target and shoot 5 rounds. Back to classroom with us after the targets were pulled. Jacob then reviewed each lady’s shot group with the group. From the shot placement, he was able to see areas where we could improve. You have no idea how much effect breathing has on your group size until you realize what you’re doing! Not being properly aligned behind the rifle means you won’t have consistent shot placement. What your trigger finger is doing (or not doing) can also have an effect on your shot placement. All of these mistakes are magnified when you start shooting further distances, so it was important to find out what could be tweaked before we went any further in the instruction.
The rest of the morning was spent on the short range. We all had the opportunity to check our zeros. Once that part was out of the way, we each took our time getting a good group at 100 yards. Then we moved to the barricades. There is almost a science to shooting off a barricade. Obviously the more stable you are, the better your shots will be down range. But how do you get stable? Personally, I prefer to use a sling (a Rifles Only Gear carbine sling) for added stability but I’ve seen plenty of people clean barricade stages with no additional gear at all. Jacob has worked with me before on slung positions, and I routinely practice with them to get better. I learned that I still wasn’t quite doing everything correctly. A few more tweaks correcting my body alignment to the target and I was hitting my shoot-n-c every time. Marie blew us all away though! She had a tiny little group about an inch big where all of her shots landed.
We stopped each day just a little early due to the heat. The humidity was up around 100% and with the temperatures hovering between 105-107 degrees, it made the heat index somewhere in the range of 117+/-. In other words, we were melting. I have no idea how much water we each drank over the course of the weekend, but it was a lot. When we weren’t behind our rifles, each of us was drinking water. We broke for lunch each day, more to have the chance to cool off than anything else I think.