2017 Sniper’s Hide Team Challenge
In Motion Targets
Last weekend we ran the 2017 Sniper’s Hide Team Challenge in Colville Washington. Hosted by Carl Taylor of In Motion Targets this was the first time we put on a team event in very long time. Not to be confused with the Sniper’s Hide Cup, this was an opportunity to give the shooters of the Rifleman’s Team Challenge Series the ability to shoot a Sniper’s Hide event for team points.
It was our second year working with Carl Taylor. We had a very positive experience in 2016, so we wanted to repeat that success in a different format. His crew is some of the best I have ever worked with when it comes to hosting a match. His Range Officers are truly outstanding.
Chris Jones assists Carl and manages a big part of the event. Chris is a nonsense kind of guy, and I respect that a lot. It has to be the combined Marine Corps background between the 3 of us. Everyone gets it, solving problems rather than suffering any foolishness. It creates an entertaining atmosphere for the competitors because it is run so well.
Team Challenge Format
This year I chose to shoot the match, something I have not done in a very long time. I had a unique opportunity to mentor a new, up & coming Junior Phenom. It was too good to pass up. My partner for the SH Team Challenge was Mary Beth Olson of Divide, Colorado. Before this weekend I never met Mary Beth in person, but I had been following her progress. Mary Beth is 9 years old and turning heads at every event she has attends. For me, it was all about her, setting an example that other could follow. I tend to be outspoken on so many levels; it’s vital that I put my money where my mouth is. That includes mentoring new shooters. In short, practicing what I preach.
The events at the Colville range are field matches. Nothing is handed to you. Setting up the firing point to avoid the natural obstacles is one skill set, locating the targets is another. Lastly, you have to hit the targets from an improvised position with constantly changing winds.
No match booklets, no firing lanes presenting the targets on a silver platter. It’s as close to real life as you can get in a competition. There are no contrived stages; the terrain is enough to take most shooters out of their comfort zone. When a target is peeking out behind a tree, you have to play the wind to make sure you can clear the trees. This match was sporty for many.
Each stage had 3 to 4 targets, a portion of the stages are blind. A blind stage means the shooter cannot see the targets ahead of time, in some cases they cannot see the previous competitor shoot it. It adds to the difficulty because each team must find, range, and engage the target after building one or more positions necessary to avoid the natural obstacles place between you and the targets. All this is done on the clock. The Range Officer will first point out the location of the targets, then on the clock, you have to range and build your position. It may require you to swap positions with your team mate as not every stage let you set up together.
Even with an average of 6 minutes per stage, time management is critical. One shooter might take 4 minutes to engage the targets, leaving their partner only 2 minutes to repeat it.
Ranging is critical, and the quality of your rangefinder matters. With the average range being about 600 yards, the targets were 1.5 to 2 MOA in size. Not every laser was up to the task, and many shooters were forced to share equipment. In my squad, we used a Terrapin, but the Sig Kilo models were prevalent.
Really Right Stuff Tripods
Tripods ruled the weekend. In a field match such as this, tripods were necessary. We often shot through holes in the vegetation or over the knee high grass. If you had the time to look, many targets could be shot from the prone, but under time, it was much easier to use the tripod and minimize the movement.
We all employed Really Right Stuff Tripods. They are the lightest of the bunch and still maintain a weight rating that exceeds the competition. Expanding, your average Manfrotto Tripod that might retail for $250 or less holds about 15LBS. The Really Right Stuff tripods hold 50LBS or more. When moving the rifle around, and shooting it helps. The new PRST from Hog Saddle was also on hand by several competitors; I highly recommend this model over the Manfrotto as it retails around $350.
Mary Beth was a champ off a tripod. She had it down and defaulted to using it. Shooting off a tripod was within her comfort zone. You should have seen the jaws drop when she smoked 5 out of 10 moving targets from the standing at 500+ yards.
Most shooters used a Hog Saddle; it was the primary piece of support out on the firing line. I saw several of the new Hog Saddle carbon fiber tripods in the hands of a few competitors. Carbon fiber tends to tame recoil a bit better than aluminum.
Bags and Pillows
Most of us carried at least one pillow style bag, as well I had a TAB Gear air filled rear bag. These were super useful, plus William Dawson hauled around a giant air pillow that acted as a chair for many of us. While I think matches should limit bag use to a set number, I will admit I used that big ass pillow, why not. If you can carry it, you can use it.
During the match, I monitored our movement using a Garmin Bravo Tactix watch. Over the two days, we moved 10.6 miles up and down the hills. I requested a Cog Railway for swamp side of the range as it was an ass kicker. Talk about walking up hill both ways, man we felt it. My partner, ever the trooper hauled her gear the entire match without a single complaint. Adult competitors take note.
Again we had an entire squad of juniors. Bringing new blood into the sport is important. I will bend over backward to accommodate a junior team. They were rewarded over the average competitor as I opened up the prize table to them before most others.
Early I mentioned putting my money where my mouth was. When it came to prizes we had the bare minimum. I did not seek out sponsorships, the few we had were offered up by companies without me asking.
Supporting the Match
Sig Optics was huge; they put a bunch of products on the table and a stack of 50% certificates. Ashbury Precision Ordnance also sent over several chassis and RSTAII tripod mounts. We had several companies on Hand shooting the Match.
Jim from Prime Ammo shot in my squad and supplied our ammo for us. Everyone in my squad shot Prime Ammo. Mary Beth and I were using 6.5CM to great success. When it was over, everything not shot was given to the prize table. We had Benchmark Barrels, MDT Chassis, Alpha Munitions, Clint Sharp with Rifle Sticks, all on hand. Pete Sullivan from Sully Arms handed out a prize. He was again an RO for us.
Okay, a smallish prize table, what about the winners. I said I was putting my money where my mouth was, that means cash. I gave out cash prizes to the Top 3 teams, as well cash to the top Junior team.
1st Place Team got $2000
2nd Place got $1400
3rd Place took home $1000
Top Juniors took home $600.
I have to mention the Top Ladies too, Angie and Kourtney, you gals were cracking me up in the tent on Sunday.
The rest of the prizes were given out via a draw, but not before I called up every active duty shooter. We had about 8 active duty guys at the match, and they all scored top stuff.
It was different, so I explained why and everyone got it. I refused to be a hypocrite, ranting about a prize table then asking companies for prizes in my next breath. It was on me to set the example.
Before signing off, I want to thank the Canadian Shooters for coming down. I enjoy their attitudes and their company. They just want to shoot and have fun, zero drama.
Thank You All !
Congratulations to all the shooters.
Down at Rifles Only Jacob was fond of saying it’s just a rifle match. Truer words were never spoken. Of all the events across the country shot that weekend, two weeks later nobody who was not there is going to remember who did what.
This was a bigger match that had a local feel to it. 90 shooters and still it felt intimate.
Thank you, Carl Taylor, Chris Jones, Clint Sharp, all the Range Officers and support people. The ladies making burgers and dogs. It takes a team, and the Colville Mafia is doing it right.
My Squad, Jim, William, Zach, Jason, and Mary Beth. She carried me this event; Mary Beth is the future of the sport, and she is off to a great start.