2020 Virginia Rifleman’s Revival AAR

It’s been a hot minute or ten since I wrote anything here, so why not take the opportunity to write about the last national level match I attended? I’m actually surprised there weren’t more people attending the Rifleman’s Revival in Virginia. They held it on a holiday weekend, the range is at Virginia International Raceway, and the weather was beautiful. For those reasons alone, I’d have traveled there to attend.

When I heard my good friend Bryan Lewis was co-match directing a 2-day event in 2020, it was automatically at the top of my list of matches to attend. Then I heard Andy Slade was the other MD and I started looking at airline tickets. Call it gut instinct, but I figured those two would put together a challenging and fun course of fire. Turns out I wasn’t wrong.

Getting the flag ready for the Pledge of Allegiance

I flew out a couple of days early so I could drive up to Hawk Hill Custom and visit with the Burkholder’s and Brix. Despite hoping to find the vat of unicorn tears they use to make their barrels magic, I was distracted by a huge steak lunch and delicious desserts and never got around to searching much afterwards. #foodcoma

On Friday, Kevin Shepherd invited me to get some shooting in at Coleman’s Creek in North Carolina. I mean, who’s gonna say no to that invite? I was able to check my zero after flying across the country (nothing changed) and check some data out to 1200+ yards. That range has truing bars which are my new favorite thing to shoot at if they’re available. We joked about how they were about .2 MIL tall and what we’d do if Bryan and Andy put .2 MIL wide targets in the match. I think we may have allegedly said there’s no way they’d do that because it would be too mean. Talk about foreshadowing!

The range at Coleman’s Creek

I stopped by VIR on my way to back to my AirBnB in Danville and found out the match books were a little overdue and we’d get them in the morning. Not a big deal since I actually try not to look through match books in advance anymore these days. After a great dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in forever, I actually followed through on getting a good nights sleep! That rarely happens by the way.

On Saturday morning, Andy Slade kicked off the safety brief with the rousing reading of the Rifleman’s Creed. If you’d like to see the video, it’s available on the Virginia Precision Rifle Club‘s Facebook page. Andy & Bryan then covered safety at their match in great detail including all four of the firearm safety rules (treat all firearms as if they are loaded, never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy and take full responsibility for, keep your finger off the trigger until you’ve decided to fire, and always be sure of your target and backstop). I can totally appreciate the detail they went into on discussing safety. 

Alright, day one match details aka what you’ve all been waiting for! A bunch of the targets were sporty! After talking with Bryan a little bit, I realized they don’t normally have as much wind as they had over the weekend, so to increase the challenge, the targets are a little smaller. Makes sense. We sometimes do the same in Arizona.

Sad Face at the Positional Stage.
Checking for wind and linking my Kestrel to GeoBallistics BallisticArc

My squad’s first stage was was one of the easier stages where we engaged bowling pins from 227 yards – 375 yards. The course of fire had shooters building a position either using a prop provided or their own tripod on the clock. There was no way to shoot the stage prone due to a small dirt mound in the way and the instructions stated you had to engage the targets through two t-posts with a white piece of target backer obscuring the view. 

Zero Ducks Given was their stage with a mover. I’d heard the mover was running at 4 mph, but to be honest, I wasn’t sold on the lead my data told me. Then again, my ballistic solver tells me 1.8 mils for a 3 mph mover and I’ve never used more than 1.5 mils, so I went with my gut and dialed back the recommended 2.4 mil lead to 2.0 mils. Then there was this duck. So the stage said we would shoot from a water truck and engage the mover at 532 yards three times, then the duck target at 718 yards once. Wash, rinse, repeat twice more. I missed the mover a couple of times (my lead one direction was slightly different than the other and I might’ve allegedly got excited once and yanked a shot just off the edge). I hit that duck every time though and it looked tiny!. Since I was the first up, I spent the rest of the stage helping the spotter out with calls. He mentioned if someone missed the duck on the first run, they’d miss every time. You know, he was 100% right. The berm was 100 yards behind the blasted duck, so if the shooter thought they needed to correct for elevation instead of windage, they’d run those other two hits up the berm. 

 

The rooftops on Stage 9
Cardio anyone?

The low point of the match for me and a huge reminder to follow my own plan, was stage 9 titled “well this looks fun…” Indeed. The stage was ran from the top of a very large tower. When my squad finally got to the top, we found three low slung rooftops facing different directions. For the stage, your muzzle had to be through the slats of the fence. There were three targets: two coyotes and a pig. I had a plan! I didn’t follow it and suffered for it. I’d intended on using my Whisky Charlie MFC as a rear support for the forward facing rooftop with no bag under my rifle off the ledge, then extended my bipod legs and shot the backwards rooftop that way, and finally used my bag on the sideways facing rooftop. I fell into the trap of watching other shooters succeed with a large bag and decided I’d try that too. What a mistake! I couldn’t find a stable position on the second rooftop and ended up timing out with 3/9 points. When I found my buddy Bryan after we came down from the tower, I asked him about that stage and it turns out he proofed it exactly as I was going to shoot it but didn’t. So… stick with your plan kids. I preach it over and over and decided at that point to follow my own advice for the rest of the match. 

Stage 1 and Stage 10 were both ran by Clifton Reasor who was the title sponsor of the match as well. Both of his stages were surprisingly challenging. Day one targets were IPSC’s with a smaller target that was about .2 wide next to each of them (remember that foreshadowing). The targets were at 950 yards, 1050 yards, and 1136 yards. Engage the IPSC, if you hit, engage the tiny target. If you miss, reengage the IPSC. Out and back. The day two version involved cardio. The mirage was up and soupy. Naturally it was my squads last stage of the match. Even with the conditions, it was one of my favorite stages because it taxed your brain, your body, and your game plan. The brief said we were to start standing, rifle staged (no peeking through your optic). On the command, go prone and engage the 950, 1050, and 1136 IPSC’s with one round each near to far. Then stand and using the railing as support engage a spinner at 256 yards with one shot. Then go prone again and reengage the IPSC targets from far to near. Back up on the railing for one shot at the spinner. Back prone to reengage the IPSC’s from near to far. Oh, and you had 90 seconds. I’ve never used a 6.5 mil hold-under until that stage. 

There were a lot of 2 MOA sized targets engaged off large concrete blocks, rooftops, fences, rocks, and other contraptions. Prairie dogs, bowling pins, and those blasted ducks out of semi-stable helicopter bodies and car hoods. I loved the amount of movement involved in every stage. I loved that the match directors tested each stage to ensure it was cleanable and able to be finished in the time they allotted. I appreciated that most of the stages were proofed for left-handed as well as right-handed shooters; now to work on proofing them for those under 5’6″ tall too. 

When the results were in, I tied for first place. Yes, tied. Both John Alden and I scored 140/169. However, for once running the PRS barricade slow and steady for a clean paid off because that’s how I won the tie. I mean this as a compliment: this match was more like what was around 7-8 years ago as far as movement and target size/distance. The props were more stable than in the past though.

 

 

Top 5, Top Jr, Senior Mil/LE, Tac, Production

Half of Squad 7, still smiling

 

My squad followed the squad with Keith Baker, Dan Chattin, and Ben Gossett all weekend. I was fortunate to be squadded with Kevin Shepherd, Ethan Poe, Zev York, Dylan Deano, Clint Nicholson, and Mike Keenan. What a pleasure to be able to speak to those gentlemen! It’s a competitive environment at a match. However, each of them as well as some members of my squad all took the time to drop positive messages randomly over the weekend.

“Hey, Regina, this is a stage I expect you to get a 9/9 on.”   

“Watch what the wind is doing on this stage. If you feel it coming from the right, hold straight up. If you feel nothing, hold left .2-.4.” 

“I bet we all clean this one,” said on a particularly challenging stage.

“Just hit all the targets.” 

Mindset. It’s a real thing. If you don’t believe me, shut up and listen to people who place well talk to each other at a match. Having people around you who have a similar mindset definitely helps to stay focused, especially if you screw up a stage and think your match is done. It’s never done until the last round goes down range. Again, I’ll be trying to listen to my own advice moving forward because I forget this stuff once in a while too. 

 

Picture credit: If they’re good, they’re from Dexterity Media. If they’re bad, I probably took them or someone using my phone did. 

#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?

IMG_7695
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.

13043650_1133221120061710_4214137742273981651_n
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.

IMG_7675

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.

IMG_7681
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.

IMG_7687
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.