A Case For Competition
By Les Voth
Many sports benefit from cross training. Shooting, whatever the discipline, is no different. If you want to shoot IPSC, learning to pull the trigger without wrecking your sight picture is a useful skill. Jerry Miculek writes of how he practiced dry-firing hours a day for months, to train his shooting hand to stop interfering with the action of his trigger finger.
The top shooting competitors in most of the action shooting sports are, regardless of girth, quite fit. In order to maintain a heartbeat that doesn't bounce your crosshairs into the next county, a little cardio conditioning isn't a bad idea.
This year I decided that my hunting/shooting skills would benefit from organized competition. Because of my physical impairments I leaned toward shooting F-Class. Within a reasonable drive I have access to a 300 to 600 yard sanctioned F-Class range. The original goal was to get proficient at putting itty bitty holes in the center of paper at 600 yards.
Then, I was sidetracked into the more active PRS type world. My involuntary screams of pain, while contorting into useful shooting positions to hit a life-size steel turkey at 440 yards in a rocking boat hung from springs, still echo over the nearby Minnesota lake. My 27.5 inch Kreiger Remington Varmint contoured 6.5 Creedmoor barrel actually delivered those Berger 130 grain AR Hybrids into the steel turkey body a few times, creating some very satisfying AR500 harmonics.
In my first match, we shot at ranges from 80 yards to 650 yards. Each stage used about 10 rounds of ammunition, some movement and multiple targets.
The author at his fourth barricade position, shooting at 440 yards.
On the trip to that match I was determined to never in my life shoot another of these matches. I was scared, nervous and desperate to do better than last place. I made it to the prize table. I was hooked!
Here's what got me to the prize table - hunting. There are many differences between hunting and a PRS match, but many of the skills cross over. Improvised shooting positions are used and expected in hunting. Improvised shooting positions are constructed in these matches to test your skill. If you're lucky, you'll survive the toughest ones.
The author - on deck and strategizing before a stage.
In my second match I sucked. It was the worst shooting I've done in my life. The first stage of the match started at 1200 yards. After that it was 243 yards to 855 yards, tighter time limits than the first match and a contortionist's positional nightmare.
That poor showing didn't demoralize me as much as make me more determined to do better next time. Practice wins and practice I will!
The reverse roof shooting position. Hitting at 855 yards is a trick in this position, but mastering it means you can hunt from the same hillsides you glass for game from.
My equipment list for the first two matches was the same:
Rifle- Trued Remington with a Remington Varmint contour barrel in 6.5 Creedmoor. The trigger was Bix n Andy's waay cool TacSport. A 30 MOA rail and Vortex 6-24X50 HS LR FFP MOA scope rode the action. This scope gave me all the features needed to compete.
My Stocky's stock was one of their LRC Accublock models which I textured and painted myself. This stock is absolutely rigid. In the future the addition of a higher cheek piece would be helpful, but that's what they make heat guns and PVC for, right?
My Harris 6-9 bipod held up its end without complaint.
And that's about it for equipment. All stuff I already had. All stuff I had reached out to 1000 yards with before. During one of these matches you just do it faster and more times. 90 rounds total in the first match and 65 rounds in the second.
Anything else I used at the match, equipment-wise was borrowed. The competitors at these matches are a fun and generous bunch. Anybody who has an awful time brings it with them.
What did I learn?
Functioning firearms trump all else. Make sure your rifle feeds, your magazines are flawless and your bolt cycles quickly without binding.
Learn your scope and data. There will be stages where you dial for five different distances and change positions four times - while shooting 10 rounds in 60 seconds.
Making sure your ammo is consistent, allowing it to land on your intended target when you do everything right is important, and worthy of some effort. My rifle consistently puts its rounds somewhere in the "3s" when I do my part, and it did manage to give me a group of 0.200 once.
This group was numbers 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20 out of a new barrel. It was shot off of an old rickety sewing machine table while sitting on a stool. This size of a group is competitive in PRS type matches. If your rifle can do this you can make it to the prize table at your next match!
I needed to practice recovering from recoil. Although the recoil of a fairly heavy 6.5 Creedmoor isn't a big deal most times, when you shoot under time constrains, it's a factor. Reacquiring a sight picture after a shot is just as important in competition as it is hunting the prize of a lifetime.
There are many shooting sports advancements happening these days, from bullets with higher BCs, to scopes, to new cartridges, cartridge case manufacturers, stocks companies are starting up and old ones are gearing up.
One piece of equipment I never gave much thought to, before starting to shoot long range, was the trigger. Today, a BenchRest trigger manufacturer is full-on into action shooting sports. Bix n Andy makes high quality BenchRest triggers and that quality has crossed over into action shooting.
Since coming out with their first TacSport trigger, they have added more models and variations of that trigger. Then, in the summer of 2018 Bix'n Andy came out with a line of replacement trigger shoes that you can replace yourself. Pick your trigger shape from five different shoes.
A couple of weeks ago at bulletcentral.com, the distributor for Bix n Andy products, Nick showed me their new trigger shoes. I left with the newly released "Gator Grip" model, went home and installed it in my trigger. My finger will never slip off of it, it will index easily each time, and wet, dry, cold or with gloves - I will know it's right there every time.
One thing I've noticed about Bix n Andy TacSport triggers is that they are rigid. Like a lathe or milling machine, rigidity adds to the possibility of precision in a machine. These triggers are solid. The internal parts are precise and disassembly/reassembly for cleaning or trigger swapping is a breeze.
This is Nick from BulletCentral.com practicing what he preaches with precision parts at his last match.
The precision demanded by the sport today is mind boggling. Mentioning a few numbers of yardages shot at matches doesn't do it justice. Eight hundred and eighty yards is half a mile! And yet, today that is a normal distance in a PRS-type match. You better be able to hit that at speed and often and in the wind, if you want to get to the prize table. Guys do, and so can you.
If you are a hunter you will benefit from practicing for and shooting one of these matches. If you are a hunter you will do well at one of these matches. Treat each piece of steel, at every distance, like you will starve to death if you don't kill it with this/each shot - it's your last chance at survival!
Learning Les'ons From Everyday Events
Les Voth learned to hunt whitetail deer and coyotes in his native Canada, and has hunted both as often as possible in eastern North Dakota since immigrating to the United States. Life Les'ons, by Les Voth, is available from Amazon.com, Kindle, & createspace.com