Catching up on some blog posts this week now that I am back from the USPSA Handgun Nationals and IPSC World Shoot…
My first Outlaw 3-Gun match this year was Rocky Mountain 3-Gun (RM3G) in Raton, NM at the NRA Whittington Center. For my second match I headed south to the beautiful state of Kentucky for the Rock Castle aR15.com Pro/Am. Both facilities are incredible. Where the Whittington Center is arid, and desert like, Rock Castle is lush and almost tropical in comparison. While they are each capable of hosting large events, they have their own special charm, whether you watch pronghorn grazing on sage brush in front of the ranges at Whittington or step down into one of the cool, damp caves at the Rock Castle facility.
The matches themselves couldn’t be more different. Rocky Mountain had long distance shots with all guns, high elevation and physically demanding courses. To say it was a challenging match is an understatement. Rock Castle takes an entirely different approach. First off the format is brilliant. Amateur competitors shoot an entirely different set of stages, similar to the Pro stages in skills tested, but with less challenging shots. They have a separate prize table and get to sign up for clinics with some of the sport’s most talented shooters each night of the match. The clinics are set up on each of the amateur stages with one pro shooter. The pro essentially gives the amateurs the breakdown of how to shoot the stage and why. Then there’s a Q&A session with the chance to pick the pro’s brain. Talk about an awesome opportunity!
I shot the Pro match though I confess to being far from a Pro level shooter in 3-Gun. I wasn’t alone in being a newbie though. Top Shot season 2’s Ashley Spurlin was on my squad shooting his first 3-Gun event. I have to say for someone new to action shooting in general and showing up to shoot 3-gun, I was very impressed. To top that he’s a super nice guy! In fact there were 3 other Top Shot contestants at the match. Maggie Reese (3-Gun veteran and champ), Iain Harrison and Chris Cerino.
I also got to shoot with my fellow Benelli teammate, Taran Butler. Taran is the definition of a raging in 3-Gunner. It was incredible to watch him break down and shoot the courses. His performance earned him second place in the Tactical Optics Division behind the Army Marksmanship Unit’s Daniel Horner. Taran was super helpful and at one point even let me shoot his gun on a stage after I had some spring issues. Thank you Taran!
How was my match? Well, I can say I definitely improved. The match had it’s fair share of tough shots, but there was a significant amount of position work, getting in and out of just the right spot to see the appropriate targets. Fortunately for me, this is a skill I have had many years to work on. My strengths in pistol also helped me gain points over my competition.
So what happened? Well, I learned a lot more and have more to work on:
1. Learn how to read the wind at distant targets.
This is not a skill in my arsenal at the moment and its something I need to find a way to work on. One particular stage had shots out past 300 yards, but bullets passed through a valley with some significant winds. I admit to being completely ignorant when it comes to wind reading and so after watching many of shooters on my squad struggle, I abandoned my “shoot three and go” motto from RM3G and just took one aimed shot. I had to eat the miss penalties but ran the stage fast enough that it didn’t hurt me as much as I had thought it would. My fellow Benelli teammate Katie Harris was a rock star on this stage and I know if I want to win in this game, I will need to improve here.
2. Learn how to shoot from unorthodox and uncomfortable positions.
This match had several of these challenges. Ports or barricades that were just too low or too high to be comfortable, shooting rifle from behind the wheel of an actual Ford Escort and shooting through a port that couldn’t have been more than two inches high and eight inches wide were all new to me. In some cases I really excelled. Others, not so much, but I will be sure to give these a try at home.
3. Not all magazines are created equal.
After a couple of brutal double feeds on a stage with the rifle I have officially retired a couple of mags for my Smith & Wesson M&P15 and bought replacements right at the match. To the old mags, as Top Shot host Colby Donaldson would say, “you have just fired your last shot.”
4. Check spring tension on your magazine tube spring.
I should have realized this from my days of shooting the Open Division in USPSA. Check the springs! I have been so spoiled shooting mostly M&P’s with long lasting stock springs that I took for granted that I should have checked the magazine tube spring on my shotgun. Now I know the warning signs and have back ups so I can make sure I do my part to keep my Benelli up and running.
I ended up 3rd Lady but had a secure hold on to 2nd until the last three stages. I had some pretty catastrophic runs between the rifle magazines and the issues with my shotgun, enough to bump me down to third. Between the rib injury and crazy busy schedule lately, I am pleased though.
Congrats to Katie Harris for winning the women’s title in Tactical Optics. My Smith & Wesson teammates Kay and Jerry Miculek won women’s and men’s titles in the Open Division as well! Jerry was even kind enough to help me install a new match grade trigger in my M&P15 after the match. I have been running a bone stock trigger on my rifle and after recommendations from Jerry, I bought an AR Gold trigger from match sponsor Brownells. I have to say it feels really, really nice. I can’t wait to go shoot it!
Just two matches in I have to say this match was incredible fun. It was the perfect blend of difficulty with the opportunity to blaze at high speed. If you are toying with starting three gun, I have to say the Rock Castle aR15.com Pro/Am should be at the top of your list.