Long Range Competition - Getting Good At PRS
By Les Voth & Nick Butze
The team that scored the highest points total at the Bushnell 2018 GAP Grind in Jackson, Tennessee was Pro shooter - Joe Walls of Florida teamed with Amateur shooter - Nick Butze of Minnesota. As an individual shooter Nick Butze also accumulated the highest single points total for the 2018 match.
Nick Butze of bulletcentral.com checking his zero before practice
Nick's partner, Joe Walls of Exodus Rifles, has the distinction of being the only back-to-back national second place finisher in the Precision Rifle Series. To finish that high twice in a row is proof of time, talent, determination and purposeful action.
The journey to this pinnacle of PRS competition - beating out 400 other shooter in a two day 200+ round contest - began deliberately two years before. Nick, the competitor, made a decision to become the best he could be - on purpose. From then on every shooting move was choreographed until the goal was achieved.
In competition, the pursuit of excellence, striving for what is beyond your reach today - with purpose - is paramount.
In Anders Erickson's studies of achieving excellence, he found that "Purposeful Practice," with each practice session - purposefully building - on the previous practice session, you can become "good." To become excellent - beyond good - the absolute best were found to have devoted a minimum of 10,000 hours of this "Purposeful Practice" - after they had become "good."
Did, or could, Nick spend 10,000 hours shooting in the two years since making his decision to win? No. That would have been 14 hours a day.
Nick's work dictates that from spring until late November he spends two to three weeks a month - every month - traveling all over Europe, Asia, Australia, and parts of Africa. Then he spends two to three weeks of each month catching up after he gets home.
But he could think about it, study everything about it, obsess over every important detail, dry-fire and shoot over 10,000 purposefully directed rounds.
What advantage did Nick have? He raced snowmobiles professionally since he was a little kid. So he understood competition. In Nick's understanding of competition from racing he understood the value of studying incremental improvement.
A two mile per hour increase in speed improves your lap time by seconds - over the second place finisher - that can beat him if you don't make mistakes. Going ten miles an hour faster and crashing gets you a DNF. So you concentrate on accurately analyzing your performance to eliminate mistakes and enhance your performance.
One more point per stage in a ten stage match is ten more points, which can add up to a 7 to 12 place improvement.
Here is Nick Butze's PRS & Shooting/Hunting Practice in Nick's own words:
I use three practice strategies:
1. .22 Rimfire Practice
2. Dry Fire Practice
3. Live-Fire Range Practice
1 - Trigger control and fundamentals of marksmanship are all practiced with a .22 rimfire CZ455 at 50-150 yards.
Fargo, ND is blessed with the Red River Regional Marksmanship Center indoor 100m range. Range rules require shooting to be done only from their range installed benches, but the target can be remotely moved out, in 5 increments: 25, 50, 75, 100 yards and 100 meters.
A "dot drill" sheet
I sometimes shoot groups, but mainly I shoot dots. There are lots of rimfire targets out there and some can be a lot of fun. It is even more fun when your friend is at the bench next to you, you race through a 10 round magazine and see who shot the most dots, fastest.
These timed dot drills helped, and still helps, with quickly acquiring the target and taking the shot, which is so important in precision rifle shooting and hunting. I am a huge believer in these simple dot drills.
In the winter I try to shoot 50 rounds of rimfire over lunch three days a week.
2 - To practice my positional shooting and practice getting over that darn 90 second time clock I use a DFAT (Dry Fire Adaptive Training) device. This device is made by Troy Tyson's DST Precision and distributed by BulletCentral.com.
The DFAT is a front scope cap allowing your scope to focus and use the full zoom of your scope at 7-15 feet. This also helps with getting used to dialing your scope quickly and accurately.
When I started out I was horrible on a barricade. Changing positions would take me more time to find the target than make coffee. So, I set up a little range in my garage by printing off some photos of ranges from around the country. A few ornamental pieces stolen from around the house were added to my indoor range and I started shooting off every awkward position I could find.
Nick at the barricade
Then I started using the clock. Two minutes, then 90 seconds, now I practice on a 60 second timer.
You can invite your friends over in the winter time when it is -20 out and shoot (Dry firing.) a whole match in the garage. Last February we used the South Dakota Steel Classic match book and shot the whole match in my garage.
Put on a pot of chili and it turns into a fun afternoon when it is hard to go out and shoot at the range on the coldest winter days. This dry fire practice is extremely beneficial and inexpensive.
(Re: The South Dakota Steel Classic "match book." PRS matches publish the individual match courses for the participants. Some of these books are very detailed including actual pictures of the targets as they appear in the various stages. When you arrive and sign in you are handed the course of fire for each stage. These are excellent helps for analyzing what you did right or wrong and how to improve for the next time.)
3 - Finally, my actual range practice includes both of the above methods. I practice mainly at the Rush Lake Range in New York Mills, Minnesota. I am a member there and it offers an almost unlimited free range shooting time slots. I am extremely lucky to have this place so close to me (30-45 minutes). The Rush Lake Range hosts many Precision Rifle, Multi Gun, and Trap shooting matches. I really enjoy competing in the 2 gun matches there because the scenarios and time clock put the same type of stress on your shoulders as a Precision Rifle Match does. That stress and how you deal with it is hard to practice on your own. Here is how my range day goes.
I always start by shooting a three shot group at 100 yards to make sure my gun is zeroed and to shake off the jitters. Then I set up the PRS barricade on the main range, usually at 450-650 yards. This barricade is seen at almost every Precision Match in the country and shot at 450 yards.
In order to save ammunition, reduce heat in my barrel and maximize my practice I will dry fire from the barricade, on the timer (90 seconds), 2 shots from each of 4 positions looking at a 10” plate. I run through this 1 or 2 times dry.
Then I load 5 rounds in my magazine and shoot it 1 shot from each position at the 450 yard target. If I hit every shot, I have one left over that I quickly shoot at the 650 yard target.
Now my precious barrel has some heat in it and my 50 round box of preciously hand loaded rounds are staring at me, "Shoot us!" they say. So I comply.
When my comp barrel is too hot, I pull out my .22 and shoot the barricade again except at a 150 yard target and with 10 rounds. I continue to practice actual stages, often from the previous match at Rush Lake. I rotate between dry firing my match gun, shooting rimfire and shooting my match gun. All of this exclusively done on a time clock.
This Precision Rifle game can be extremely intimidating. I am no expert and even though you could argue we are practicing a variation of rocket science, this game can be learned with a little time and strategic practicing.
Practicing at 650 yards with the tripod
You may wonder why I don’t practice at longer distances and prone? Joe Walls a top PRS shooter from Florida once told me that these matches are won on targets at 650 yards or less. He is right. Of course you need to be proficient at 1000 yards, but get your points when you are in most control.
In Joe Wall's words:
The first thing you need is humility. Don't think because you hit something from a stationary position that you're going to stomp all over the guys who do this kind of match shooting at the top of their game. As quoted from an article in AccurateShooter.com - You're not that good.
Joe Walls preparing for the next stage
That's not an accusation, but those guys are at a different level. It's a level you can achieve - If you do what they do/did to get there.
Seek out and learn everything you can about shooting long range. Soak it up. Private training is good, but once you have the basic knowledge you have to get out there and shoot - practice.
Go to matches. Club matches. Treat them as training sessions. Shooting in a match will teach you what you need to get better at. Then go home and practice what you suck at -a lot.
While you're at matches - ask lots of questions and watch what the best guys do. These competitors help people, like to help people. They cheer your improvements and triumphs. The shooting community is easy to hang out with and fun to learn from. The sense of community from all shooters at these matches is great.
Go home and practice some more. Then go shoot a major national match where the top shooters in the country are competing. Watch those guys. Ask them why they do what they do - they'll tell you.
The best part of going to matches in your quest for excellence is that the teaching is free from the best there is.
Nick's match rifle with 10 round magazines and the all purpose Armageddon Game Changer bag
You'll learn why it's better to move one way, over another. How to eliminate extra time consuming actions, tighten up your transitions, equipment that's essential - what's not. All this for 100 rounds of ammo, an entry fee into a world of mathematical delight, the wafting aroma of burnt powder, and as many lead strikes on steel as you've practiced yourself into.
Nick Butze's match rifle
Berger 105 grain Hybrids
BAT TR action
Bix'n Andy TacSport Pro trigger
Krieger Heavy Palma 7.5 twist 6mm
McMillan A5 stock w/adjustable comb
Terry Cross KMW Bottom Metal
Area 419 ARCA Rail
NightForce 5-25X56 FFP ATACR
**************Writer, 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