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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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!