The 2016 K&M Precision Rifle Competition was held on May 27 – 29 in Finger, TN at the K&M Precision Rifle Training Shooting Complex. I had never been to K&M but knew I could expect excellence from the owner Shannon Kay. What makes K&M unique is it was purpose built for precision rifle training and competitive events from the ground up. The current range consists of more than 80 acres with a very recent acquisition of an additional 112 adjacent acres.
On Friday, the range offered shooters an open range day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Steel targets were set out every 100 yards from 300 to 1200 on the KD range and there were berms at a few distances in between. Several Precision Rifle Series matches offer this type of “day before” range access but, I personally, had never had the opportunity to take advantage of it. This match was a bit different and my travel plans allowed me to come in a day early. This allowed me to tweak my DOPE as well as dry fire practice on some of the props on the range on Friday. I feel this really helped me to mentally prepare for the match, especially not having shot here before, by having some familiarity with the props and what to expect from the winds on Saturday.
On Saturday morning Shannon gave a shooters brief and each squad was assigned a starting stage by random draw. Over the course of the next 2 days, we would shoot 23 individual courses of fire with a maximum possible score of 199. Each hit at this match was worth 1 point, independent of target size or distance. I personally really like this scoring system as long as the match director puts on a diverse course of fire that tests all aspects of Precision Rifle. I have been to matches in the past where the scoring was skewed by either having a majority of available points in only one aspect, such as long range or 5x the points for a first round impact. Other matches have “gambling” where you can shoot at progressively more difficult targets for much higher point values but risk all points acquired if you miss any shot you take during the stage. I feel that this rewards the shooter with the most gamble or the shooter who got lucky enough to shoot the stage during a no wind condition.
I was in squad 9 and we drew the “RTAC Stretch” stage to start. The course of fire was 3 shots at 1000, 3 shots at 1100 and 4 shots at 1200 yards. Target size was a full IPSC target at all distances and the targets were rigged with LED flashers that activated when hit. I sent my first round at 1000 and I saw an impact slightly high and a touch left. I thought the high impact was a bit strange because usually the elevation on my shots is good; the left I attributed to the wind. For the second round I held a touch low and right, I broke the shot and the bullet impacted exactly where my crosshairs were aimed. At this point, I had conflicting information. One shot high and left with another exactly where the rifle was aimed. I have had rifles in the past where the first shot of the day did something a little different. Leaning on past experiences I trusted the second shot and aimed dead on for the third. The bullet impacted center of the target and from there on it was just dial the DOPE for 1100 and 1200 respectively, center up the target and break each shot clean. I managed to not drop any points on that stage and this really helped me mentally to tell myself, just keep doing what I was doing and focus on each shot.
Our 2nd stage was a PRS skills stage for 8 points where you shoot 1.5 MOA targets from near to far at 300, 400, 500 and 600 strong side (must hit to advance), then run back 10 yards to the starting line, retrieve a second magazine and re-engage them from your support side. The caveat is you have to use hold-overs for this stage. Meaning your elevation knob and windage knob have to be set on 0 and you have to “aim high” (hold-over) using your reticle.
Stage 3 was a 10 round movement stage using various cement culverts for improvised support. The target was a 12” square at 550 yards and you fired 2 rounds from 5 different positions with a par time of 90 seconds. Squad 9 was loaded with talent and the majority of our squad did very well with several guys cleaning it. Through 3 stages I had not dropped a point. The rifle was shooting exactly where it was aimed and I just kept telling myself to take one shot at a time and not think too far in advance.
Stage 4 was the dreaded cargo net stage. I had read the match booklet cover to cover the afternoon before and this was the stage I was most concerned with. During the open range session the previous day I actually had found a pretty stable position on the top of the apparatus using the wood frame for support so I thought if this prop was to be used in the match I had a pretty good plan. However, in the stage description, it stated you had to be in the center of the net and no part of your body or equipment could touch the wood or the ground, my plan was hosed. No one wanted to volunteer to go first so the RO just picked someone out of the crowd and that someone happened to be me. I told fellow teammate David Preston I’ll be lucky if I can get 2 out of the 6 available points and that is exactly what I did. I came off this stage extremely frustrated. I thought to myself, “here we go again”, start strong then falter. But I remembered a hard lesson I learned shooting in Las Vegas earlier this year. I had let a bad stage get in my head early on day one and it affected me the rest of the match. I had my worst match in quite a while and on the plane ride home, I told myself I would never allow that to happen again. I loaded my magazine and got ready for the next stage.
Stage 5 was the Copper Creek Shoot House, a 10 round course of fire with 5 shooting positions, 2 shots per position at a 66% sized IPSC at 400 yards with a 90 second par time. I got my last shot off with 2 seconds remaining and I was able to not drop any points. This really helped me mentally to overcome the last stage and refocus for the remainder of the day.
The next two stages incorporated the mover systems. The first stage was 13 round course of fire. 5 shots at a 12” square traversing the 500 yard mover track (hit or miss), then engage M1 45% IPSC at 324, M2 45% IPSC at 363, M3 45% IPSC at 478, and M4 45% IPSC at 510 (must hit M1 – M4 in order to advance to the next target), and finally re-engage the mover with any remaining rounds. I had a slight mental error here and loaded my 10 round mag instead of my 12 rounder. I chambered a round by hand before beginning so had I loaded what I thought was my 12 round mag, when the rifle was empty I would have been done. When the gun went dry it didn’t feel like I had fired 13 times. I asked the RO if that was 13 and he yelled back “no 2 more”. I didn’t know what I had done wrong at the time but I knew I just needed to get 2 more rounds off. I had to break position to feed 2 rounds by hand into the open port and I dropped my last shot.
The 300 yard mover was next and I was able to get all available points there. The rest of the day I shot ok but I did drop a few shots here and there. Matthew Brousseau and I had been shooting well all day and when the dust settled we were in first and second place, with Matt being two shots ahead of me. Third and fourth place were right behind me, each of us separated by only 1 shot.
Day 2 started by shooting a 100 cold bore shot for 1 point at an Accu-Shot Ace of Spades card. I got on the line and dry fired a few times, my cross-hairs were moving a bit more than I am used to, so I took a few moments not wanting to rush a bad shot. Once settled, I got back on the rifle, settled in and fired. The impact was just left of center and the elevation was perfect. This confirmed my zero was good and gave me some confidence that nothing weird had happened overnight.
We drew the third area to start on which had us shoot the second of two PRS skills stages and what many shooters considered the marquee stage of the match, “Urban GAP Grinder”, a 20 round course of fire, starting 10 yards behind some tractor tires. On the start signal approach the tire stack and using them for support engage 2 rounds at a 45% IPSC. Transition up the stairs to the rooftop and re-engage the same target with 2 rounds. Then it was into the shoot house engaging 5 different targets that were dictated above each port from 5 different ports with 2 rounds each. Then out of the shoot house go prone on the top deck a fire 1 round at 5 individual circle targets from left to right at 365 and finally down the stairs to a Deuce and a Half truck where you used the rear tailgate for support to engage a 66% IPSC at 335 yards. This stage had double the available points of any other stage and incorporated movement, props (the tires, rooftop, shoot house ports, truck), the shooter’s ability to acquire the correct target on the clock via a target descriptor above each port in the shoot house (example Left Blue IPSC), the fundamentals of prone shooting off the top deck, the stressor of elevated heart rate via movement and time management to get all of this in under the allotted 4 minute par time. This stage really epitomizes what the Precision Rifle Series is all about. Different target sizes and various distances from different positions off of unique props under a time constraint. Everyone I spoke with thought this was a very fun stage.
The first stage of area 1 for our squad was a 700 yard, 2 MOA square and 1 MOA circle, alternating shots for a total of 8 shots, par time 60 seconds. The second stage was a holdover stage where you shot 1 shot per target at Full IPSC targets at 700, 800, 900, 1000, 1100 and 1200 yards for a possible 6 points, par time 60 seconds. Once the stage started you could not touch your scope in any manner. I put a 1000 yard zero on my rifle and held under for the closer targets, on at 1000 and over for the two further engagements. Stage 3 was a speed transition stage with a plate rack of five 12” circles at 600 yards and a 10 inch circle at 400. Shooters started on plate rack at 600 and shot them left to right hit or miss, but had to transition to the 400 yard target between each shot on the plate rack at 600. Stage 4 was a prone stage with 6 shots. Target distances were 403, 459 and 500 yards with two targets at each distance. The targets were behind cars but four of the targets were partially obscured by no-shoots. Hitting a no-shoot target resulted in negative one point. I was a little concerned with this stage because four of the shots could be a two point swing. Meaning hitting them you gained a point, but if you hit a no-shoot you could drop a point. I missed my last shot but it went into the dirt just on the right side of the target, thankfully this was one of the two targets that did not have a no-shoot adjacent it.
With everyone completing their respective courses of fire, the range went cold for the final time and we rotated to our final area to shoot the last 4 stages of the match. Our first event had us shoot a KYL plate rack at 510 yards. The targets were squares of 12, 10, 8, 6 and 4 inches in size. The targets were hanging from a single strap and when I sent the first round at the 12” plate I could see the plate torque a bit which indicated I had not hit it in the center. I added a tenth of a Mil to my hold and sent the second shot at the 10” plate. It went straight back indicating to me that one was pretty centered up. I ran the bolt fast and got off my next 2 shots at the 8” and 6” quickly attempting to beat any changes that the wind conditions might have in store. I focused hard on my reticle and broke the shot clean with a 0.2 Mil wind hold and I was mildly surprised, yet elated when I saw it fly rearward in my scope. The second stage in this area was just a pure 300 yard mover at a 9” circle on the track with a 60 second par time. I felt I broke every shot cleanly, but I did drop a shot in the middle of the course of fire.
The third stage was the 500 yard mover. This time, we would shoot a total of 10 rounds, but they had put up plywood “windows” along the track that obscured the target at times and you only had one full pass of the mover to get off all 10 shots. One pass left to right, then back again, right to left. The target appeared and I broke the first shot clean with a 1.5 Mil lead to the center of the target. Right behind where the target came out there was a lot of grass so I did not see any splash in the dirt. I still could get one more shot off before the target went behind the first window. I fired the second shot again using a 1.5 Mil hold to the center of the target. This time, I clearly saw dirt and dust kick up behind the target which indicated they had increased the speed! I ran the bolt and allowed the target to pass up the first of the two windows. I broke the third shot, between the 2 windows using a 1.5 Mil lead to the leading edge of the target, IMPACT! I now had the lead and just focused on breaking each shot at 1.5 Mils to the leading edge. I got off the 4th shot in the second window and the fifth shot before it went behind the barricade on the right side of the track before traversing right to left back to the starting point. I was able to break the remaining 5 shots at the points I had picked along the track, but I did drop one more shot during the course of fire and only got 7 out of the 10 possible points.
Ironically, the last stage for our squad was “Positional Loop Hole x 5 Rds = 5pts”. Engage 5 rounds in 60 seconds from an unsupported kneeling or seated position using only a sling at target M1, a 66% IPSC at 324 yards. I had read the match booklet again the night before to review the stages we would be shooting on Sunday. The only 2 stages that stood out to me for day 2 was the “GAP Grinder” which was behind me and this “Positional Loop Hole” stage. The RO briefed our squad and someone asked: “What is the top score, how many people have cleaned this stage?” At this point 11 of the 12 squads had shot this event, so 140+ shooters had already come through. I was a bit shocked when the RO said there had only been one clean run thus far. The Loop Hole was approximately a 12” square cut into a wall about a foot off the ground. They actually had 2 holes of equal height and dimension about 10 feet apart on the wall so the RO instructed us to form 2 lines behind each port and while one guy was shooting on one side his stage time was your prep time. Once that shooter was done, your time would start. The night before I had gotten a text message from a good friend who is a very accomplished shooter himself who was not in attendance. He gave me a few words of wisdom and encouragement and I thought about what he had said before getting ready to shoot the final stage. Aaron started us off on the left-hand side and he hit his first 4 shots in a row, we were all rooting for him but he missed his last shot. I was second in line on the right side with Jordan being the first shooter in our line. Bang, Impact, Bang, Impact, Bang, Impact, Bang, Impact, Bang, Impact….clean run!
We were all rooting for one another and all very excited that Jordan got the second clean run of the day. Once he cleared off the line, I grabbed my rifle and sat down. I put my sling on and began to check my natural point of aim. I was just ever so slightly off to the left so I adjusted my seated position a hair and that seemed to align my wobble so that my rifle was centered on the target. I put my rifle down in my lap and took a few breaths before raising it to check my natural point of aim one more time, again the target was in the center of my wobble. I honestly can’t tell you who was shooting to my left but when they were done the RO instructed me to load and make ready. Before getting on the line I honestly thought I could get 3 possibly 4 hits and naturally wanted to clean the stage but I was not very confident in my ability to do that. I just told myself, “make every shot count.” The first shot broke and my sight picture was good when the round fired, impact. Shot 2 felt pretty good as well, I broke that one slightly high and left but it was on target, impact. Shot 3 felt pretty good too, but I did notice my wobble starting to increase, impact. At this point I really had to calm down, I had got the first 3 shots I felt I could get and thought just make sure you get 1 of these last 2. Then I stopped myself. I remembered some words of wisdom from Terry Cross that morning and the text message from the night before and thought no, make every shot count.
Shot 4 broke, impact. By this time my arm was starting to pulse because of the restricted blood flow that the sling was causing. As my crosshairs were sweeping from about 10 o’clock through the target I felt my hand tense up to squeeze off a round, but I was able to stop myself. I told myself I was not going to break the shot until my wobble was on the target, not to break it “passing through it”. The first time my sights settled on it again my brain said squeeze but my hand did not, the second time my wobble was centered, the same thing happened. I actually was kind of laughing at myself internally at this point and thought “sooner or later you are going to need to make this rifle fire”. The third time the target was in the center of my wobble I squeezed the shot off and I heard “impact” from the RO. I knew I had shot well and I was proud that I was able to finish strong, especially on a stage I was not confident in. I got off the line and passed by Jordan and congratulated him on his run prior to mine on my way to where my range bag was. I picked up my stuff and headed to the truck because, honestly, I needed a minute to myself. At that point I was not sure if I had won or not but I knew I could hold my head high as I shot the best PRS match of my life. Matt came up to me in the parking lot and said he thought I was one shot ahead of him. I counted my score and he was right, he had a 177 and I had 178. Man, I am glad I didn’t know that before the last stage because it would have just been added pressure. I asked him how he did on that final stage and he had cleaned it too! Three of the four shooters to clean that stage were in squad 9 and we had five shooters in the top ten. When all the scores were in Matt and I were able to stay ahead of a very talented field of 155 shooters and finish 1st and 2nd with fellow Team Surgeon Rifles shooter David Preston in 8th. It was a very memorable weekend for me personally and for Team Surgeon Rifles.
Ammo: Hand Loaded 6.5x47L in Lapua Brass, CCI 450 Primer, 140 grain Berger Hybrid Target Bullet (Part Number 26414), Hodgdon H4350
– Bannon Eldridge