First things first. That was an incredible match. Zak and the rest of the Competition Dynamics match directors put on an excellent, albeit challenging match. Next, a big thanks to John Paul, who in addition to making fantastic rifles, was gracious enough to allow us to spend 3 days shooting steel on his property, and let us shoot some of his gun collection. Also, it was great to rendezvous with some friends old and new: Travis, Seth, Jack, Daryl, Marc, Andy, great shooting with you.
The final day of the match began much like the other two, a fairly good mile or two hike to the first stage, followed by a series of shorter hikes between stages, with a long final hike back to the front range. The weather was a bit cooler than the first two days, but the wind picked up, so the conditions were fairly challenging, especially when the wind fishtailed. In terms of the stages on day three, there was a mix of closer off-hand targets (200-350 yards), kneeling/improvised position targets (300-600), and prone targets (400-700 yards). Of course, most of the time, any target could be taken from a less stable position, but good luck hitting a 600 yard plate in the wind from off-hand. On the stages where I could get down to prone, I did “okay.” When I say, “okay” I mean, I found, ranged, adjusted my elevation, got into a good position, and fired clean shots.
That I hit so few targets is a testament to my relative lack of experience making wind calls. 0.5 mil hold-off, miss right. 1 mil hold-off, miss left. 0.75 mil hold-off, DONK! Obviously, the winds weren’t constant in speed or direction. Where I really fell apart was on stages that required field/improvised positions. To begin with, my Stoney Point compact sticks weren’t tall enough to reach off-hand, so there were some shots that would be impossible to shoot with the shooting aids I brought. On the stages that forced kneeling/reverse kneeling and other funky positions, my lack of experience with my sling/sticks combo really dinged me. Generally one of two things would happen. On some stages, I would spend so much time getting into a ‘serviceable’ position, I would be lucky to get off one or two shots inside the five minute window. On other stages, I would take a position that was so unstable that I would miss the “easy” shots (there are no “easy shots” at Steel Safari, so I mean relative to the hard shots).
In terms of my gear’s performance, most of my gear performed well. I was pretty worried as most of it was relatively untested, but I had no major problems. Going from worst to best:
- The Stoney Point Sticks: I now see why most shooters carry tripods.
- My wrist mounted dope and separate shooter’s log: Most shooters used a sharpie to write down ranges on their non-dominant wrist, then pulled dope off a range card tied to their scope. That method seems faster than using a shooter’s log to write down distances and dope.
- Armageddon Gear PRS sling: I think I need a lot more practice to use a combination carry/cuff sling like the PRS. I blew one stage getting tangled in my sling, very embarrassing.
- LRA bipod: The QD lever was a bit too “quick detach”… bipod fell off twice on the clock…unacceptable. When it was on the gun it was great, very stable.
- Cabela’s pack + 2L bladder: no complaints
- Wiebad bag: no complaints, although I wish I brought more than one, the big pillows had utility on a lot of stages.
- Rudy Project Rydon Prescription Glasses: The brown tint was too dark on Friday, Racing Red was great the other two days.
- Accuracy International AT: From an accuracy standpoint, the rifle was never a source of misses. I did have two failures to fire: I suspect that I must have short-stroked the bolt when loading the rifle under time pressure because when I worked the bolt again it fed and fired properly.
- Hensoldt ZF 3.5-26: aside from an unusual parallax knob design, no complaints. The wide magnification range was nice as I often found it helpful to cut the power while getting on target and then crank it back up to make it as easy as possible to see the horizontal mil-hashes.
- Zeiss Victory RF 10×45 laser rangefinding binoculars: Worked great, zero issues.
After I shot the final stage, I went back to the front range. John Paul of JP Rifles had several rifles set up including a SCR-11 and MR-10. I tried both of them. Very smooth. If I get back in to 3gun, I think an SCR-11 will be on my short list. In addition to being a great businessman, John was enjoyable to chat with as well. Basically all of his rifles were designed based on his own experiences in competition, finding short-comings in the status quo. Seriously great kit.
In summary, for a first match, I had a wonderful time. My fellow shooters were very generous with tips. Despite my terrible score, I exceeded my goal “better than fifth from the bottom” by a healthy margin. On the prize table I won a JP Rifles Modular AR-15 Handguard, a set of Burris Xtreme Med. Height 34mm rings, and an Armageddon Gear Suppressor Cover (for my non-existent can). Honestly, my first purchase when I move to a free state is a can for my AI, probably a TBAC Ultra 7.
After the award ceremony, I drove back to Albuquerque, flew the red-eye home, and went to work bright and early on Monday.