I was looking forward to this event before the end of The Carlos Hathcock Memorial Sniper Match last October. In fact, based on the many lessons learned the hard way while tromping around, the assembly of new gear and goodies began as soon as I returned home. My personal goal was to do better in each event than last year, and hopefully, tag some more of the targets missed during the Field Fire event.
I selected my Remington 700 Police in .300 Win. Mag. equipped with Badger Ordnance tapered base and pair of Maximized rings holding the Leupold 3.5-10x40mm M-3, and shooting Federal's Gold Medal Match ammunition. Prior home building commitments and time constraints prevented me from cobbling up the necessary amount of handloaded fodder and there is nothing wrong with my selection...
The Remington was sent on a trip to gunsmith George Gardner and netted one of his "Speed Bolt" handles and the installation of a Vais "Varminter" contour muzzle brake. You have to shoot a rifle like this to really appreciate what a difference a high grade muzzle brake can make on recoil control and follow through (especially at my bantam size). The "Speed Bolt" looks like the bolt knob found on the Steyr SSG P-III series and made cycling the action more fluid, and for me, it is much simpler to work with from the prone position.
The Jewell HVR trigger from my .308 /700 Police quickly found its way into the appropriate receptacle on the bottom of the receiver and was tweaked to exactly three pounds on my Chatillon recording weight pull gauge. Instead of using a bean bag/sock for the field shooting events, I kept the Accu Shot Monopod on the rifle. I decided as an experiment to try the stalk event sans drag bag using only a sling, Eagle Scope and Muzzle cover, and over the arm carry.
The London Bridge Trading 3 day Assault Pack now held all my primary gear, which had been pared down substantially from last year's excess weight, and the disintegrating ALICE pack debacle. Things like carrying too large a first aid kit, Tripod & Sniper Saddle + bipod on rifle, 100 rounds more ammo than was necessary for the ENTIRE match, and various little bits and pieces that accumlate additional weight with definitive performance gain.
The leaking Camelback problem was solved with a binder clip, and limited testing showed a much more comfortable carry package. Two additional canteens were fitted under the detachable side pouches.
Friday night saw us roll into town and check in at the local hotel and unpack our baggage. At check-in there was a note attached to my room reservation to hook up with Bruce Robinson once we got settled.
I ran into both some old and new faces outside the front door while leaving for dinner - Messrs. Kressibucher, Mitchell, Stewart, Tony Yackowski, Leatherwood, and "Team" Mussack all of us headed to The Mountaineer Restaurant for a meal and some hob knobbing.
The talk of the table covered a gamut of subjects including gear, ballistics, rifles & scopes, allowable attrition of troops during parachute jumps, and field expedient survival skills like utilizing IV bags for fluid intake. Some of the Storm Mountain staffers for the match were also present but arriving later they sat at near tables in little groups taking in the pre-match contestants.
The drive from Keyser to Storm Mountain was beautiful and fortunately the prognostication of a nasty day did not look like it was going to happen. We rolled up to the parking lot at S/M and got unpacking the gear for the day. I ran into a lot more familiar faces both in the parking lot, and later in front of the clubhouse. You could tell everyone was raring to go.
The safety briefing was simple as everyone had either attended the train-up, or last year's match and knew what they were going to be doing.
Jerry Sullivan, who competed last year with the Autauga Arms Teams, was present but just covering the match for the magazine "formerly known" as Tactical Shooter. I chatted with him a bit about the Austrian Match he had attended and written up for T-S and got the scoop some of the new European Rifles/Gear and Goodies he saw present. Jerry is always a wealth of good information and writers at Tactical Matches are few and far between.
The Sniper Rendezvous is notable to me for a couple more reasons: my wife tagged along to see what all the excitement was about, act as my photographer, and somehow ended up participating after a little Friday night scheming with Sponsor/Range Officer Bruce Robinson of Mildot Master fame, but more on this later on.
In addition, a lady competitor of great skill, Brenda Noe would be shooting in the individual events. Brenda was using a Remington LTR/Leupold Tactical Scope rig in .308 and had all the proper equipment including a lightweight Ghillie.
After signing all the entry paperwork, each competitor was given a Grab bag with a 25% off Blackhawk coupon, H-S Precision Rifle catalog, Zelco Light edge pocketknife light combo, Paladin Press catalog, US Tactical Supply catalog, Kestrel Wind meter tear sheet, and Lawman Supply brochure. All of which had also donated a lot of prizes for the drawing at the end of the event. Mine immediately went into Mrs. peteR's backpack, thoughtfully brought by her loving husband for just such a occasion, + carrying camera gear, poncho, snacks, etc. etc.
Of the twenty five competitors, only five were entered as individuals this year. The remaining twenty were two man teams. Rod briefed everyone and split the group into Alpha and Bravo elements with Bravo consisting of the individuals and some teams.
The Bravo Teams of Hunter/Yackowski, "Doc" King/G-Man, Hansen/Markwell, were with us for the duration. Last year's Team Winner Jim LeMay ended up orphaned by his perennial partner Rae Herrig at the last moment, and shot Individual with us. Jim's daughter tagged along for the match and assisted him with photos, verification of high altitude function of her pocket Nintendo Game Boy thingee, and keeping Jim in line, not an easy task.
Brenda, Messrs. Kressibucher, Young, and myself would round out the rest of the individual shooters.
Rod massed us all together for the group exercise and marched us down to the zero range. After arriving and setting up shop targets were assigned and we were given two minutes to fire as many rounds as we desired to check zeros at 100 yards.
There was a lot of ribbing of one gentleman sporting a Remington 700 LTR equipped with a JP Enterprises "Recoil Eliminator" muzzle brake going on. Naturally, I figured he would end up on one side of me for the event.
On the firing line next to me was starboard side Charlie "The JP Dude", portside Jim LeMay, Tony Yakowski, and Chainsaw Hunter. Our rifles in same order - .308 JP brake, my .300WM Vais Brake, Jim's conventional muzzle, Tony's .300 WM Vais Brake, and Ken's "TOW" rifle.
My first group was clustered about three minutes to the left and I dialed the windage adjustments gauging it to be pretty spot much on. Some other folks failed to follow the specific instructions on target designations and caused a minor delay until some additional ones could be obtained.
My first shot went high left in the black, second shot center bull, third shot high left black.
I just happened to casually glance at Jim LeMay and saw his eyes were still rolling from all the muzzle brake concussion being generated around him. The dew-laden grass had started smoldering in front of me at least twice, and Charlie had it merrily cooking away with that JP "Competitor Eliminator"(as I now dubbed it) brake. Of the twenty five shooters, only 7 managed to keep their shots in the white diamond.
Bravo team then broke away and headed for the Movers. After setting up our gear some minor technical difficulties arose, and the targets were now screaming along just a wee bit faster than last year's 3 mph speeds. I'm going to humorously gauge its travel speed at "Slow Coyote".
Until things got warmed up, the target frame was kept in perpetual motion negating any time to try to trap the target at the end barrel/berm. For some unknown reason I just could not get settled in and on target, and only put a couple shots on paper. One made it through the nose, which elicited a couple choice comments from Ken Hunter during target scoring.
Two shooters faired the best of Bravo team, Herr Kressibucher with his improvised kneeling, and Mr. Hansen with a street smart technique. He placed his data book inside the top pocket of his pack, and used this surface platform to pan his rifle on, in a word SLICK!
Of the twenty five shooters 16 made scores of from 5 points to a high of 25 points, the rest big fat zeros.
This gave me further motivation to add a small moving target range in my workshop and some discussion was made of using high grade air rifles, mil-dot scopes, model train track and cars for such a venture. Believe me, any practice will help out.
This is a fun event and last year's #2 Individual Winner "G-man" told me that a better way to approach a high score was writing them all down first, then filling in the descriptive blanks. ROs Chuck Noe and Dave Whidden had us gather around the "mystery" poncho, and unveiled it as we began circling clockwise (that also required some instructions).
Next step was to sing The National Anthem, which with our combined voices was hysterical to say the least. That lasted for a few bars and Dave had us stop for the sake of his hearing and sanity. We then began hopping in a circle on our right foot and being lambasted for our fine singing and co-ordination.
After a minute or so, we were done, and had to run over about twenty yards to the movers tower, and did a few jumping jacks, crooned a few bars of singing "Twinkle-Twinkle- Little Star!", and began push ups while sounding off, sat down did the old left boot off and unlaced with lace thrown over your left shoulder.
At this point, SOMEBODY cracked about how great it was to have zip-up boots and Dave replied he might just have us cut the stitching out of the soles too...
Bravo Team was then given score sheets and told the pre-requisite bad jokes as we wrote down the pertinent data.
Hmm lets see now - 1) Tripod Shoe, 2)Tripod Shoe Screw, 3) brown cardboard Booby trap box, 4) Gumball machine toy container, 5) Small spring clamp, 6) Area 51 patch, 7) Blue Foam thingee 8) Tripod adjuster Arm? 9) round metal flange/gasket 10) Aw shit whats #10 !!!!!!!!!!?
Time, raise your sheets above your head for collection!
As we walked towards the slag pile for the next event I asked Tony Yakowski what was the last object? "The Beretta Bore guide or WhateverTF it was!" (A Beretta pistol sight pusher) The biggest, most obvious item, and I brain locked on it.
Last year I did really poorly on this one, greatly due to the 12x pocket binoculars that I used, their poor optical quality, and the fact the sun was directly in our eyes.
This year I had a nifty IOR/Valdada Hermes spotting scope with 70mm objective lens and man what a difference it made! Received for a Sniper Country field T&E but a scant week before the match I played around with it just a wee bit each day glassing different areas and objects at various times and under various lighting conditions.
The observation score sheets were improved over last year and had an actual scanned image of the "Mission" area with alpha numeric grid coordinates. You found an object, marked the grid location, described size, shape, condition, and color.
When I first started scanning the target area, I did not instantly see any of the objects and seemed to be getting some sunglare.
I then popped out the integral telescoping lens shade and kept going, and going, and some of the stuff suddenly just plain leaped out at me. A scoped AR-10/15 type rifle hidden along the edge of the barn, LAWS rocket tube in the upper barn door, OD canteen in car grill, M-1911 by a steel column, a Claymore (gulp!) in the grass, first aid/ammo box on a fence post, web gear on another fence post, etc. etc.
The group then had to switch sides of the observation line and I narrowly missed last year's hole in the slaggy ground. My only suggestion is to go for the lowest height tripod you can find. The one used only collapsed to about 9" and with the scope mounted up top I began to feel it pretty quick in my neck and lower back. I then remembered that the scope could be rotated in the clamp assembly and lowered the eyepiece a little solving that problem.
This is definitely an acquired skill and I still have much to learn, and probably should get a new RX (and wear) my eye glasses, but the IOR Hermes "compensated" for this, and is one hell of a scope for the money, plus it fitted inside one of the side pouches of my 3 day assault pack like LBT had made for just that purpose. It has been emphasized many, many times on Sniper Country, get the best equipment you can afford and practice with it often. My feeble score last year shows what a difference a good spotting scope can make on your performance.
This year's event saw a trend to move away from the massive heavy Ghillie suits that most folks are familiar with, like the one I just got done making and the use a light mesh net. Minimalist material suits were the most common, and now I COMPLETELY understand, in retrospect, exactly why.
In fact, one competitor in nothing more than a matched pair of Real Tree jeans and tee shirt managed to get within less than fifty or sixty yards of Rod before firing a blank. I heard the ruckus from where I was flopping around like a bass way out there in Midfield.
My Ghillie suit was fabricated with the idea the weather would be much colder than it was for the event and had a fairly good blend of colors, browns, greens, and tans, just about twenty pounds too much of them.
We got to the staging area and suited up and camoed for the event and off we went through the trees. By the time I got to a good egress point onto the stalk field I was getting tired, not a good sign! Slithering along the ground on the heavy duty canvas chest and elbow pads was easier than last year's stalk but man oh man did this suit heat up FAST.
I decided to take a little break and slid down the boundary fence line to a LARGE tree to hide from prying Rod Ryan eyes (He had been busting people right and left from Alpha team and that was one thing I did not want!) and unzipped the Ghillie to cool off a little bit and suck down some water from my Camelback. The zipper snagged about 1/3 of the way down and it took me ten minutes to Houdini wriggle out and the same amount of time to get back in.
Back on the ground and at it again, I headed for the Four wheeler Rod had been sitting on during the pre-event briefing while hearing the bangs of other Bravo team rifles. Next thing I knew I was within yards of the four wheeler, hee!-hee!-hee!
I quietly got the rifle ready to fire, only to discover it was the WALKER'S FOUR WHEELER, halfway up the stalk zone and in the opposite direction of Mr. Ryan. Whew it must be the heat. Back down to earth and crawling some more, getting closer, closer.
For some reason my half delirious mind kept thinking of the scene from "Predator" where the machine gunner is chasing the monster through the jungle totally exhausted singing Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" - Gonna have some fun tonight GASP! Gonna Have some fun Gasp!
Ten minute warning!
Ugh - No shot, get up closer
Five minutes !
Not enough yet!
I jump up and pop'em then drop? Or just wait out the time? At this point I'm just too darn tired to jump now, just lie and gasp - gasp!
Time! Where the hell is he?
The two ROs/Walkers Al and John come over to check me out and make sure I am more than half alive. Al naturally first asks me "Why didn't you take a shot?"
My Reply "I didn't take the shot because I didn't have a clean one, and I don't think I could live with myself if I just popped blanks without a good sight picture." Al just shook his head and walked off...
By the way guys could you help me outta this thing? (The zipper is stuck again)
Done? No I'm not steenken done, I still have to walk back down to the treeline, get my pack and drag bag, and carry it all the way up the hills to the rapelling tower. In the process of which I dropped my Eagle scope cover and lost the eyepiece lens cover as well.
This was a sore spot for me last year, and again this year. The event consisted of dropping down on a grassy knoll and judging the distance to a number of specific designated targets by eye or non-reticulated binoculars. This is scribbled down on a score sheet.
The same thing is then done with a ranging type reticle and this year I HAD a Mil-Dot Master to assist and a bit of practice with it. Still it was not good enough and a great deal more practice is needed for peteR.
We went back to the hotel took a well deserved hot soak, and lounged around the room until dinner. We met up with Slope Doper Extraordinaire Dave Rolls at Denny's and soon had the company of Bruce Robinson, Ken Hunter, and Tony Yakowski.
Some of the topics included rifles, recoil, and everyone's favorite, the physiological cumulative effects of .50 BMG concussion (not recoil) on the human anatomy. After a massive dinner, the Mrs. and I headed back to the hotel planning on quickly conking out for the night. Our room was hotter than my Ghillie once we got there, and the A/C just would not work, but the folks at the hotel quickly moved us into another room with working air conditioning, and a miracle of miracles - a waterbed! That made a BIG difference in the quality of sleep let me tell you.
Saturday's beautiful weather had dissipated into a kind of foggy overcast cooler mess. As we drove up the mountain through the cloud cover I thought that this is not a good sign with both the Field Fire and the Stress events on the agenda for the day.
Rod had given us a reprieve with a 0900 start time and after roll call Alpha Team headed for the Stress event and Bravo headed up the hill for the Field Fire Exercises.
We chose our shooting positions on the berm, and I went for the far left side, or #1 spot as it offered the best view of all the targets with the exception of the jeep which was partially obscured by a bush. This year I felt much more comfortable in my equipment selection after spending a fair amount of time using the Gardner modified "Speed Bolt" handle and Vais brake on the .300WM really tamed the recoil down, and made cycling the action seem much faster for me.
A combination of MUCH more through range testing and documentation than prior to last year's event, and comparison with Paul Coburn's Leupold M-3 turret epiphany of simply using the Metric markings as YARDS, and proper use of a good databook for a few weeks of shooting seemed to have helped out.
We were given a brief time to prep for the target shot, and I felt much more at ease simply focusing the scope, ranging the mils, calculating with the Mil Dot Master, adding elevation and windage, and shooting. The 1 MOA clicks are SOOOOO much easier to work with than fractional MOA adjustments.
I just added 2 MOA of left windage and left it there to start as the breeze was fairly constant and the first targets under 600 yards. A number of competitors had been having difficulty with their more refined 1/4 MOA adjustments on the scopes and returning the dials to get hits. (I did that last year and won't go back now). One shooter, who will remain nameless, put his wind dope on in the wrong direction. Yes, we all have a cross to bear. :-)
As we began to shoot a target #1 a slight whisp of drizzle surrounded us, Target up - #1 - Bang! "Hit!" then from downrange a resounding dull Clang!
I was thrilled to tag the first target again this year, my major mistakes were on Shot #6 by trying to shoot through the settling fog/clouds and jumping the trigger a bit. The last target fired #8, was a failed Hail Mary shot after a brief glimpse of the target through the clouds.
I had quickly jotted down my shots in the data book as the rest of Bravo Team was shooting each of the target series. This is where the Rite in the Rain paper in the TRGT data book really helped out, as the mist was beginning to gather on everything exposed, and as I quickly jotted data on the pages, it remained legible.
The colored print on my range card however began to blur into a swirly mess as the back of it (attached to the Mil-Dot Master) had not been laminated. At the time of construction this seemed trivial, and now in the field had become a suddenly critical error, which will be remedied with a well laminated card next year.
Herr Kressibucher took the final available shot of the Field Fire series, and was rewarded with a resounding "Clang" though the fog. That friends was truly an Eerie sound. The range was shut down before we finished up due to about fifty yard visibility. I was smart enough to include a military Poncho in my pack and it went over the rifle and DB-BS dragbag mat to keep everything somewhat dry and comfy if we got to shoot again.
We dejectedly packed up after a brief wait on the line, and headed for what was to be the final event. My data book showed the following tally:
This is my favorite event. The course was similar to last year with some slight changes. This year the score would be under time with each second shot adding 30 seconds to the overall time and unlimited shots at the scoring tile once you reached the top of the world.
The competitor started the clock with a prone shot on a 20" x 20" hanger at 257 yards, ran to the closest wall on the rappelling tower fired another shot at the same target from a standing position, ran around and inside and fired a shot from the bench, climbed a ladder to the second floor fired another shot, climbed to the third floor and fired a shot from a rocker, climbed from the third floor past the fourth floor to the top of the tower and fired a final high angle shot on a 4" x 4" ceramic tile set on a surveyor's stake at a distance of 61 yards to stop the clock.
Now here's where Bruce Robinson's earlier scheming came into play, he managed to get Rod to station my wife inside the tower, and when the first competitors entered the 3rd station he was greeted with her screaming "HE'S GOING TO KILL MY BABY!" and Bruce yelling "Shoot! Shooot!"
This had a definite effect on some of the competitors. Earlier on, we could hear a little of this abuse of Alpha team from the field fire range, and I just snickered knowing exactly what was going on down at the Rappell Tower Hell.
I managed to range the target distance, and put 2 MOA elevation on the scope for the first part of the event, blitzed through up to the top level with first round hits, then forgot to REMOVE the 2MOA adjustment and was dumb enough to pause when I chipped the wood before following up with a second, and then third shot to shatter the tile.
Oh yes, the rifle had to be single loaded for each shot, and bolt jacked open before moving. My raw time was a Geezing and Wheezing 180 seconds good for a refined score of 86/100 compared to last year's score was a clean 70/70.
Would I do this Tactical Rifle Shooting event again next year? Absolutely! And I hope to see even more of you both attend, and compete at The 2nd Sniper Rendezvous to be held on September 29th and 23th of the Year 2001.
Regrouped at the Field Fire course we waited to see if the weather would break long enough to fire our last shots at Mid-town and Downtown targets, but Mother Nature had shut us down for the day. Rod called the line cold and had everybody pack up their gear and head for the clubhouse. In fairness to everyone the Field Fire event was dropped from the score, and I was a bit disappointed both having been looking forward to attempting to connect with the long range targets, and to a however so slight points boost, as it was the one thing that I had practiced over the past year.
We then returned to the staging area for the beginning of the match, most folks "lost" their gear into cars, vans, or trucks at the parking lot, and we shuffled down the steps into the classroom for the awards ceremony. After getting a chair and comfortable cup of coffee the ceremony began. The total list of competitors is provided to give a rundown per event along with their placing.
Some of the presented top awards included a Tac Ord rifle, Tac Ord Suppressor (with buyer completing all the necessary NFA paperwork), a fancy laptop computer, a $150 certificate from Ken Hunter, both Mil Dot Masters and Slope Dopers care of Dave Rolls and Bruce Robinson, discount certificates from Wilson Combat, Don Hume and Blade Tech pistol gear, an Emerson Knives Folder, a Masters of Defense folder, some custom rifle drag bags, KUSA Ghillie, Quick Cuff Slings, and a bunch of certificates and goodies that I simply forgot during the shuffle.
And last a Very Special Thank You to all of the sponsors for their interest in Tactical shooting matches and generous support with donations of their products. Mildot Master, Slope Doper, AMS Systems, Blade-Tech, Blackhawk Industries, KUSA Camouflage, Don Hume Leather, H-S Precision Inc., Nielsen-Kellerman, Paladin Press, Schmidt and Bender, U.S. Tactical Supply, Tactical Intervention Specialties, Tac-Ord, Zelco, Ken Hunter & Aspiring Technologies, Dave King, Tip Top Products Inc., Lawmen Supply, Whitemarsh Arms, and Wilson Combat/Scattergun Technologies.