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The 2010 Steel Safari can be characterized by one word: HOT. Temperatures started ramping up on Friday for the Long-Range Side Match, reaching about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and peaked on Saturday with a high of 109. The shooting was hotter than ever too, with winning scores higher than ever before, and more shooters with high scores than every before.

The Steel Safari is a non-standard contest that examines practical rifle skills, including target recognition, range estimation, wind doping, trail skills, and marksmanship. Dr. David Kahn's Keneyathlon ("hunters test") is another of this type of hunting match. However, these skills are not limited to hunting. Matches such as the Practical Rifle Team Challenge (NM), International Tactical Rifleman Championship (WY) and various Sniper Challenge matches around the country approach the same format from a practical or tactical point of view. In both cases, the crux is target location, ranging, and making first-round hits in field conditions, while moving through the natural terrain. This is worlds different from both Bench-Rest and NRA High Power Long Range.

The ability to efficiently visually locate and range targets in the field is critically important to success at the Steel Safari.
The concept of the Steel Safari is fairly simple: competitors follow a marked path through the desert to different shooting stations, where they have five minutes to locate, range, and engage steel targets at a variety of distances. Despite this simple general description, there are a host of individual skills that a competitor must master to place well at this match.

For 2010, the Steel Safari was run by Steel Safari LLC, but this is a change in name only. The match has been administered by Zak Smith, Michael Field, and Mike Kolar since 2008; however, a new, independent organization was needed in 2010. Prior to 2008, the Steel Safari had been run by land-owner Dave Wheeler for about a decade. As staff, we are ineligible to shoot for score since we know the locations and ranges of all the targets in the courses of fire.

The match consists of two day-long field courses through the desert terrain of New Mexico. Both the North course and the South course each follow paths approximately 3.3 miles in length starting and ending at the "front range", and looping around the rim of different parts of elevated terrain features. Each course had ten shooting stations spread throughout its length. At each station, the competitor would have six target engagements to complete. These target engagements would take the form of either six targets visible from one shoot position or three targets to be engaged from each of two shoot position up to about seven meters away from each other.

A true field match with no "square-range" in sight, competitors may need to use improvised and non-standard shoot positions to make shots.
Given a proven match format and a very successfuly and trouble-free match in 2009, we changed the shooting and target positions so everything was all-new, and we increased the number of competitors from 32 to 36. As last year, each station had six targets and we established ten shoot stations on each field course. This yielded a total of 60 engagements per field course, or 120 for the entire match.

Shooters are staged on the K.D. range for the LRSM, engaging targets during their turn from 400 to 1000 yards.
The "Long Range Side Match" (LRSM) is an optional exercise held on the Friday before the main match. The LRSM has traditionally been a known-distance (KD) test with limited round-count and some know-your-limitations (KYL) aspects. This year we expanded the LRSM by adding a 8-round "speed shoot" on targets from 400 to 700 yards, for a total of 18 engagements.

Due in part to the photos I took at the Blue Steel Ranch during practice and prior Steel Safari matches, demand for this match was high. Demand for match slots has steadily increased since we took over the match in 2008, and this year the 36 match slots sold out in less than 5 days. We accepted about 15 on the waiting list, and ultimately, we got through almost the entire wait list. In the end, we had 36 competitors including representatives from TAC PRO Shooting Center, CS Gunworks, Thunder Beast Arms, Big American Man, and J.Dustin, SureFire, and Barrett Rifles.

Barrett Rifles brought their .338LM 98-Bravo rifle for a special bonus side-match.