This past weekend I did what I’ve grudgingly said I’d do for the last couple years; take part in a firearms competition. In this case, it was the Kahles 2-Gun Match at Peacemaker National Training Center (PNTC) in West Virginia.
I have had firearms training in the military, for the police academy, and many professional classes from the likes of EAG Tactical, Sentinel Concepts, and Modern Samurai Project, to name just a few. I had generally not been enamored by USPSA or other pistol-centric matches that I had watched videos of and heard about from friends who enjoy those matches. Also, there are few rifle matches within reasonable distance for me. Generally, I just kinda didn’t want to go shoot a match instead of taking a class or just going to the range for more practice.
Finally some friends with competition experience got to me, and after watching a LOT of 2 Gun Action Challenge Match videos from InRangeTV and others, they got me to sign up for a 2-gun match. Now luckily, I have been through several classes where I’ve used both rifle and pistol, so I already had experience with setting up support gear, making sure my guns (always have backups, right?) were reliable and effective, and bringing plenty of magazines and ammo.
The most important thing I brought with me was what I think was the right attitude and objectives;
1: Don’t violate safety rules and best practices
2: Listen, observe, and emulate the high performers
3: Move fast, shoot slow
4: Don’t fall
5: Don’t worry about looking cool
6: Make all my hits
7: Don’t par out
8: Be patient
In addition to outlining exactly what I wanted to accomplish, note I did not include any illusions of being competitive with the top shooters there despite the fact I know I can shoot well, I thought through what stuff to bring with me in the same manner I do for classes;
1: Bring extra ammo
2: Bring a spare rifle and pistol (spare guns minimize down time compared to trying to fix broken guns)
3: Bring LOTS of water and electrolyte replacement tabs (water was courteously provided as well)
4: Bring snacks
5: Bring bug spray and sunscreen (which I definitely should have used, in hind sight!)
6: Bring extra PPE such as extra eyes, ears, gloves, knee pads
7: Bring a note book and pens
8: Bring rain gear
For this match, I brought a 14.5″ AR-15 that I assembled, with a Centurion CHF barrel, Geissele Super Tricon trigger, PRI carbon fiber forend, and the incredible Vortex Razor III 1-10x scope as highlights. For my pistol, I brought a very nicely used Glock 17 with a Trijicon RMR and Agency Arms trigger in a Safariland ALS holster. I used Magpul Pmags for both guns. I also used Fenix Ammunition for both guns; 55gr FMJ in the rifle and 147gr FMJ in the pistol. Neither gun suffered any issues or stoppages of any kind.
As I said above, I had a couple friends bring me out to this event, and I made sure to annoy them with every question I could think of on how to prepare and what to bring along. Luckily PNTC has easy access by vehicle to each of the shooting bays, so we didn’t need to ruck our guns around or drag them behind in carts. I did put my range bag on a folding hand cart I got for moving several years ago, though. I ended up bringing about four times the ammo I needed to, but better to have an not need than the opposite.
Patience was certainly a virtue, because the squads running during the morning took longer than anticipated, and our match brief occurred at least half an hour late. Expecting clock like punctuality at a match is unrealistic, as the range officers and match directors run into various problems and situations that often delay things. It’s good to just go with the flow.
The match director asked if any of us were new to competition shooting, and I unashamedly raised my hand. He came over and we discussed range safety rules and issues that would cause a disqualification and early end to my day. Now I’m an experience shooter, and most of what he told me was quite basic, but it was good to know that he had the basics down and was able to convey them well, as he had no idea of my experience level. It was greatly appreciated. Finally, the director had to do some reshuffling of the squads because of several no-shows probably due to the possibility of thunderstorms that afternoon. Luckily, the storms didn’t hit until my drive home.
I’ve posted up several stage videos to youtube (a friend was able to record 4 of the 6 stages), though few are very impressive. It’s good to have video running in order to break down areas to improve, just as professional athletes spend as much time reviewing performances as they do physically training. Most targets were falling steel plates, steel poppers, and steel gong type targets (including a Texas Star), with some paper targets, for pistol, and mostly paper targets with some steel poppers and gongs between 100-150 yards for rifle, including one steel gong at about 450 yards. This was the first chance I had to shoot rifle past 300 yards and my first time shooting a Texas Star.
Performance-wise, I did pretty good. I met my goals of not falling down, not parring out, not having any safety violations, hitting every target, and minimizing penalties. I had either a single 2-second penalty for a C and D-zone hit on one paper target or the single A-zone head hit on one paper target, despite being told during the brief that any 2 hits or 1 A-zone hit counted with no penalties. It would seem that the brief was wrong. Either way, having only a single 2 second penalty due to incorrectly briefed scoring rules is pretty great for my first time out.
I finished the match 39th out of 154 total shooters overall (including about a dozen who didn’t show or were DQ’d or were otherwise posted with 0.00 scores), and 9th out of 32 shooters in Open Division. My best stage put me at 16th overall, and my worst stage had me at 88th place overall. On that stage, I ended up taking too much time on the 440 yard target, wanting to get a hit instead of passing it up. More competition savvy shooters either got faster hits on it or shot at it once and took the small penalty for missing the target and continued on. I probably could have moved up several spots in the results had I shot it smarter rather than more thorough. That said, I’m happy I took the time to get the hit.
While I’m not sure I would say that I have the “competition bug” now, it was a great time and a great experience. I’d very much like to get out to more 2-gun matches and possibly try out other match types too. For the relatively inexpensive match fee, it was a great afternoon shooting and learning, and I highly recommend trying it out, especially to those like me who had never really wanted to give it a chance.