I was quite nervous going to my first tactical rifle match this weekend. I had a bit of pressure (given by myself) to perform well with the APO rifle and set up they sent to me and I had zero idea of what to expect. If you had not heard, I was sent a very cool rifle set up by Ashbury Precision Ordinance. (Checkout the previous article I wrote with a few details.) What was the terrain going to be like, weather projections, fellow competitors, personalities, gear envy, packing appropriately and the big question of all, “will there be a porta potty” out there! Yes to the last one thank God!!!! This match was a first annual. Put on by Jake Vibbert and JC Steel Targets at the awesome ranch that supports the Jubilee Youth Ranch/Leadership Academy. All of the order processing, shipping and receiving are done by the kids at the academy. All profits come back to support the school. The kids also are in charge of maintaining the ranch. There are building projects, animals to raise, etc. I was impressed. The ranch is about 400 acres within the Broetje Orchards near Walla Walla, WA. The property was meant for this game.
After our shooter meeting everyone rounded up in pickups and vans and drove the first leg up in to hills of the property. The rest of the way we hiked. I am happy to report that I did dress well and given the cold and high winds I was actually comfortable the two days. My boots were great and I had the right layers on. I would say we put a several miles in each day of hiking around the hill. As I mentioned, the location of this match seemed to work perfectly. The stages were set up on a center mountain (hill) and the targets were set up all the way around it down in to valleys that surrounded our hill. There were 9 stages on day one and 8 on day two. Ranges were anywhere from 100 to 1100 or so yards. The north west side of the hill made those stages very challenging. Was it me or were the size of the steel targets all weekend crazy small? How is it possible to hit a 4″ square from several hundred yards away with 12- 16 mph winds? I was in awe of the talents of many shooters there. I know I have no experience of other tactical matches but I felt the stages were well done.
Stage 1- Cold Bore – All 70 shooters were squadded into groups of about 10. A very quick 1 minute prep time and 15 seconds to start from kneeling and get your shot off on to a playing card 200 yards away. Embarrassed to say I could not find my target when in position and the time was done. Sheesh. Closest center shot on a card won a special prize.
Stage 2 – Long distance up hill. 5 rounds at 734 yards and 5 at 1100 yards in 2 minutes.
Stage 3 – Dog House – 2 rounds each position. Off of the top of box then in each of 5 port holes inside box. Hit First 6 shots then had feeding issues and ran out of time. (Will explain at end- not rifle but caliber and mag issues)
Stage 4 – Standing 338 yards. Kneeling 355 and 357 yards and prone at 370 yards. Were able to use tripod if you had them. We borrowed our friend Ken’s tri-pod. Not sure if I liked it better than sling support. Felt wobbly to me still but that is a matter of practicing with tri-pod.
Stage 5 – Moving target and popper. About 325 – 338 yards. Moving target is a challenge! The second day I hit it well. Not so much day one.
Stage 6 – HELICOPTER!!! The service was provided by Inland Helicopters out of Spokane, WA. These guys had the system down. In about 30 seconds they had you in the chopper, strapped in, headset on, rifle at the ready and off you flew. Each shooter was safely and efficiently escorted through the process and they got us through the stage lickety split. I was imagining a huge back up of squads. Not at all. I have attached videos of me. One is taking off and the other returning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmyB84VaGh0 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUEZgaX0AbI. Next time I will make sure to get video of the ride itself. We took off and immediately banked over the side of the hill. Adrenalin kicked in. You pray your harness has you locked in. One foot is set outside on the skid. I think there is a subconscious spot in your brain that makes you hold on to the rifle for dear life. They mentioned no one had let a rifle drop yet. As Martha Stewart says “That’s a Good Thing”. Apparently the crew thought it funny that I squealed coming around the last steep bank. I do not apologize for that squeal! It was so much fun. One thing I noticed on Inland’s website is that they did not mention they offer this specific service. They should. This tactical rifle discipline is growing leaps and bounds and helicopters seem to be a part of many large matches. Thanks again guys for that thrill. I also did not realize they are a flying school. One of my bucket lists is to learn to fly helicopters. Charles my husband just looked at me like I was crazy. “That is all we need is another expensive hobby.” Some day.
Stage 7-9 – crawling through a cave with all of the gear you brought. Makes you rethink your packing for next time. A set of metal stairs to shoot off of. I was the first shooter and did not realize I could take props up there. Could have had my soft backpack to rest rifle on rather than bounce it off the metal. (Sorry APO) The last stage was “Know Your Limits” If you hit the first target then great. You can choose to go n but if you miss the next shot you loose the points from the first hit.
Finally as it approached dark the squads made their way down the mountain to the school clubhouse for an awesome hot dinner made by some kids and crew of the school. It was a long day and we still had an hour drive back to Dayton where were staying. The closest hotels were an hour in either direction. I was all of a sudden envious of the motor homes camping out next to the horse stables. Getting back to details on the rifle, I think I used every accessory on that thing at some point in the match.
One great feature was that I was able to adjust the length of pull from the pistol grip. It was so nice to have the perfect trigger finger position every time I stepped up to it. By the way I had many people who had the previous blog that talked about this rifle and were excited to see it in person. The features are great on this thing. I realized how much I liked the bipod after I watched other shooters with somewhat spindly ones that when extended seemed to wobble a bit. My APO one was rock solid no matter what angle or length. The angle I had it set on the moving platform was needed. We and the targets were at such an degree that I need the extra elevation in the back. (See photo – you can see the angle I have the bipod set on the platform.) Unfortunately I did have issues over the weekend. I was shooting 6.5 Creedmoor. It was factory ammo and I was warned that that ammo can be finicky in the 308 mags. Boy were they. I was caught many times where I could get not rounds to feed and found myself not able to finish stages because of it. I know this caliber is very popular in long range shooting and F-Class but that is one round at a time. Perhaps the overall length of this cartridge is not suitable for fast action work? Just to make sure I was not being wimpy about it I had 2 others shoot it as in a stage and they had the same problem. I know there is a remedy for this and I am not worried about it. Although I am worried I have stressed out the gunsmiths at APO. Sadly I have to pack up my pretty rifle and send her back. I just got off the phone with Morris the CEO and he has a crew waiting for it to come back and study the problem and fix it. Sounds like I will get it back in the following week for another match coming up. I guess I was a guinea pig this weekend on details of a good rifle for this sport. Apparently they follow my Facebook Page as well and used the photos I posted as a study to make changes to the whole set up. To be honest I am not sure I have had such one on one great service by any company.
Tomorrow I will have the Day 2 story and winners, sponsors and volunteers that made this match what it was. I also learned so many things about necessary and just “I must have” gear and some of the cool rifles, barrels and Wildcat loads. I will post a link for the results of the match as soon as Jake gets it on the JC Steel web site.