Okay… yeah… ready set go. 😀
We’ve hosted long range rifle matches at our facility in Southwest Virginia for the last three years or so, and have come to some decided conclusions as to what is good, and what is not, as to the formatting of such matches.
Our main interest at BangSteel is to see shooters trained to hit targets at long distance. The most pleasure I get from a day’s work is seeing a class of 4 to 8 shooters finish up, ready to go home… happy, and knowledgeable as to how to nail 18″ plates at ranges out to, and exceeding 1000 yards.
Supporting the long range shooting community by hosting long range rifle matches is a secondary goal for us–but a very important one nonetheless we believe.
Our long range shooting philosophy (see Philosophy ) is to have as many Americans as possible learn long range rifle shooting, and not only that–but to learn how to field commonly found equipment in an effective manner. We like to keep the emphasis on realistic scenarios; something that might actually happen in a “real world” situation. This thought process will be the template for any given match we may hold.
For instance, if in a “real world” scenario you have a deer at 725 yards, and you need that deer to feed your family, and you’re unable to get closer (for whatever reason)… you’ll have to take that shot from where you are. But how should you go about it? Is the grass too high for a prone shot? Then you’ll shoot off sticks, or find a position over a rock or tree branch or something to support the rifle for the shot. The key here is the decision as to how you’ll take that shot, in reality, is up to you. There is no one there in the field with you telling you that you “have to do it this way”… i.e. you have to use this tree, and perhaps this certain limb, or this rock, or you cannot shoot from a seated position, or whatever…
We learn field craft with the rifle in different ways. Our anatomies are different, our strengths and weaknesses vary from one shooter to another. I’m blessed to be able to shoot pretty well left-handed (though I’m a right handed person), but many folks may not have good vision in both eyes, or perhaps there has been a shoulder injury which would prevent that shooter from holding the rifle in that way. So in reality, he/she wouldn’t attempt such a shot. Forcing that shooter to shoot in an uncomfortable (and perhaps unsafe) manner for the sake of a rifle match is not a good idea, in my opinion. So… base the shot on reality… and let the shooter decide how to solve that problem shot. You have a target, and you have a firing location. Present those two implements to the shooter and let them work out the firing solution (under the careful observation of range officers for safety’s sake, of course).
Stressors… Contestants often like to have what are called “stressors” in a match. This means something that creates stress which will often cause a person to miss the target due to increased heart rate and adrenaline level. This is often accomplished by having the person run a few yards, and/or putting the shooter on a very tight time limit. It is good to have stressors which will duplicate what reality might mete out, so we’re all for stressors. But that said, what stresses one person out physically may not bother another person at all. If my 14 year old son were to have to run 100 yards and drop down and fire the rifle accurately at long range, that’s an easy thing for him. For me, it’s one of those things that just ain’t gonna happen. 😮 I’m just being honest. 🙂 So what might be a very light amount of stress for a young man in good shape becomes near catastrophic for an old guy like me who’s not at all in shape! 😮
So is the “foot race” a realistic stressor? Probably not. In a “real world” situation, those who can run well will do so, and those who can’t will not. This latter group will just have to engage from where they are and let the chips fall where they may. So the foot race amounts to forcing a person into an option which they would not choose in reality.
Stages… I’ve heard of all sorts of odd and often down right amusing stage designs at rifle matches. A “boat simulator” was one; you had to step up on a platform which was swinging by chains and then shoot your target. Shooters rightfully complained about this stage until the r/o’s allowed them to keep one foot on the ground to help stabilize the platform. Never mind that one foot in the water would have accomplished no such effect. Another scenario had the shooters being lifted up on a cherry picker mounted platform and they had to shoot targets while in vertical motion. Huh? (This was somehow supposed to simulate targets out in front of you which were rising or falling or something like that)… still other situations have the shooter having to lay his rifle on the side and shoot through a thin crack between two closely sandwiched railroad ties. Are you ever going to be in such a situation in reality? I’m thinking probably not.
We have taken a fair amount of time here at BangSteel to evaluate what does–and what does not–comprise a realistic scenario for a match stage. It must, in the end, come down to nothing more than this: Present the shooter with the location from where he or she must shoot, and with the target… and do nothing more. No “one foot on the ground, one off” or… shoot this from your weak side, or shoot this after having run 100 yards or having done 20 jumping jacks or whatever. Anything added to the instructions beyond “here is your target, shoot it from here” goes beyond the reality based shooting match; there can be no other cogent view.
I should mention that roof tops and window opening shooting positions are very useful, and I do applaud the inclusion of these shooting stages in PRS and other type matches. Add also shots across, or from within vehicles. These situations make sense, and shooters should practice them.
And finally… an additional word about stressors. I designed what I believe to be the most realistic stressor I’ve seen or heard of in a long range shooting match. I called the stage “The Quick and The Dead,” (click link to watch a killer showdown from the Guardian match last September) borrowing the line from 2 Timothy. We shoot 6 stages of a 7 stage match, then tally the scores among all shooters up to that point in the match. Then, beginning with the bottom 3 shooters in the match we put them side by side on the firing line, and at the “go” command each shooter must begin engaging his target at long range, around 900 to 1000 yards. The targets are also set side-by-side downrange, each its own color. The first shooter to hit his plate gets top score for the stage, leaving the other 2 shooters to continue firing. The next of those 2 shooters to hit gets a lesser amount of points, and the third person is then allowed to take one final shot at his plate to salvage half the points for the stage…
When the lowest 3 shooters finish, we move to the next 3 ranked above them, and so on. The higher up the scale this stage proceeds, the better the shooters of course are, and the stiffer the competition becomes. It’s super exciting to watch, and one heck of a stressor (if you really want a stressor, that is 😉 )… the psychology is that these two characters on the line beside you are shooting at you! This is quite stressful, of course. 🙂 The complaint was brought that one could shoot a great match through 6 stages, then fall from 2nd or 3rd place to 10th or 11th in that final stage. But isn’t that how reality can be? You’re perhaps a great sniper with many kills–but a better counter-sniper has just ended your winning streak. It can happen. 😮
In the future, (and assuming that we do choose to host larger scale matches which involve different stage locations throughout the course) we’re going to have to be certain that course design does not divert into unrealistic scenarios in the match stages, or in the stressors which may be used.
I hope our position will be understood by the long range shooting community. And please know, this mindset is not intended in any way to be an affront to the match design of other venues and disciplines. Match directors should be at liberty to design and conduct matches in whatever way they deem appropriate. We believe the same for ourselves.