Ray Sanchez tries to get into the most stable position as quickly as possible. Efficiency of movement is critically important with sometimes tight time constraints.
The stage procedure proscribed that shooters come to each station blind, with no notion of where the targets will be located. The range officer (RO) read the written brief from the stage description, and then the shooter had five minutes to locate the targets, identify them to the RO, do range estimation, dope the wind, and make the shot. Each target gets one shot, and that's it-- no alibis, no sighters. The shooter earns one point for each target located and identified, one point for each normal target hit, and three point for each bonus target hit. Many of the stages require some movement to re-engage the same targets again after moving up to ten yards from the original shoot position. Targets on the field courses were generally six or twelve inches across, and were placed as far as 800 yards.
The author usually competes with an Accuracy International AW in .260 Remington. Shown here is the .308 he used to "shoot in" and verify the stages earlier in the week.
This year the wind conditions were challenging - especially for .308 shooters. While fast, high-BC 6.5 and 7 mm cartridges can get away with "edge of plate" holds in 5-15 winds, the .308 shooter has to be on top of his game. A rolling wind change can just turn a 6-round stage (on 6 different targets) into a distaster. On the other hand, the moderate and changing winds made the 80-90 F temperatures feel comfortable and heat itself was not a huge problem like it was in 2008.
A variety of rifles, calibers, and scopes were used at the match, however, each competitor had a set of more or less similar gear. First, an accurate rifle critical. Bench-rest accuracy is not required; one MOA is sufficient, one-half preferred. Almost everyone is using their own hand-loads with premium bullets from Sierra, Berger, or Lapua. Ballistic data, or "dope," completes the triad with the rifle and ammunition. Most shooters laminate a small card and tie it to their rifle or scope, or use a retractable "pathfinder" available from Allison Machine Tool or Leupold. Long-range ballistic data isn't useful unless the target distances can be determined, and the best tool for that is a laser range-finder. Since many laser range-finders are monocular units with limited field of view, a good set of binoculars can be a life-saver when trying to find that hidden target. Just about everyone uses a bipod on the rifle, except for the shooters in light rifle class whose rifle could not "make weight" with one installed.
Next is a set of shooting sticks, and a rear bean-bag to help stabilize the butt of the stock while shooting prone. Water is critical because the shooters are on the course for about six hours, and an apple or a Powerbar aren't a bad idea either. Throw everything in a pack and you're set.