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March 2021 Weekend In the Arena Long Range Gas Gun Match

Quantified Performance (QP) held their semi-annual Weekend in the Arena long range gas gun match on March 20-21 at Arena Training Facility in Blakely, GA. This was the fifth match in the series and saw 108 shooters competing in three divisions for around $30,000 in total prizes. The March 2021 match was held over two days and was comprised of 16 stages. Targets were placed anywhere from 200-1160 yards and varied from 2-8 MOA in size, depending on the stage and the engagement.

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home!



QP breaks down divisions into General Purpose (GP), Practical Precision (PP), and Open. These categories are based on the rifle that the competitor is using for the match and serves to illustrate a bit of the philosophy behind these matches: Run What You Brung. Doesn’t matter if you’re shooting a service rifle clone, an agency-issued patrol carbine or DMR, or the highest end hand made match rifle, show up and you will be competing against people with similar equipment.

General Purpose Division is meant for those every-man carbines and patrol rifles that most of us spend so much time and energy arguing about online. GP limits barrel length to 18” and top-end scope magnification to 8x (10x if the low end of the scope is 1-1.5x). Practical Precision is meant for SPR/DMR type rifles and carbines with a higher magnification optic. PP limits barrel length to 20.5” and magazine capacity to 20 rounds. PP also has, by far, the largest number of competitors. Open Division is for the dedicated match rifles and is no-holds-barred. This is where the 24” barreled, 20lbs rifles chambered in 6mm Ohgodthatsfast with ATACR 7-35x can be found… purpose-driven competition rigs as shot by the most successful competitors in the world. The only limit in Open is a 3200fps muzzle velocity, and that is only because the facility doesn’t want us to poke holes in their steel targets.

GP Rifle
Pro Tip: Always make sure you stare dumbfounded at your elevation knob before starting a stage.



I have shot all of the Weekend in the Arena matches so far and managed to win General Purpose division once. GP division is by far the most challenging from a skills perspective. My favorite activity in the world is taking guns well beyond their on-paper max effective range, so I compete in GP. My rifle this time around was a Lewis Machine and Tool MWS with custom 14.5” barrel and chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. My ammunition was factory Federal 130gr Gold Medal Berger. My optic was a Vortex HD Gen3 1-10x. All stages start with the shooter standing behind the firing position, mag in, bolt locked to the rear unless otherwise specified.




Day One

I shot on Squad 6, so we started at Stage 6 (simple enough).

Stage 6 (“Log Cabin”) required the shooter to hit three targets (637, 637, and 788yds) near-to-far, switch positions, and then re-engage near-to-far. Rounds were unlimited, par time was 90 seconds. The prop was several logs secured at a few different levels for prone or kneeling positions, so the shooter had a few options for planning out and negotiating the stage. I chose to double up on prone positions, sacrificing speed of changing to the second firing position for the stability of staying prone. I scored 5/6 hits and parred out on time, 7th out of 35 shooters in GP, and 35th of 108 shooters overall on the stage. All in all, it was not a terrible start to the day.

Stage 6
The props for Stage 6 ("Log Cabin")



Stage 7 (“Stair Master”) required the shooter to hit two targets (468 and 648yds) from five positions on a set of stairs, with only one shot at each target per position. Ten total rounds, 90s par time. I was pretty pleased with my performance on this stage: I hit 7/10 in 83 seconds. 7th in GP, 26th overall for the stage.

Stair Master


Stage 8 (“LT Dan”) was one of my favorites of the weekend. The entire squad took up prone positions on top of a 30ft tower (there was no leg room… get it? LT Dan? Cuz he ain’t got no legs? Well, I thought it was funny) and when it was their turn, the shooter engaged three targets (627, 860, and 1166yds) near-to-far. Unlimited round count, you must make a hit to move on, 60s par. I managed to hit all three targets in 54.33s, 2nd in GP, 19th overall for the stage. I was very happy with this stage, both in how it was designed and with my performance.





Stage 1 (“Chaos”) is a returning favorite of these matches. There is always a similarly laid out stage with some variation of restriction placed on the shooter. Last time, we had to shoot it one-handed off of a 55gal drum. This time, we had to shoot it with the rifle “supported” by a slack line (a length of engineer tape stretched across a couple pillars). As always, five targets were arrayed from 200-250 yds from the firing position. Shooter engaged T1, T2, T1, T3, T4, T5, then moved to prone, and engaged T4, T1, T3, T1, T2, T1. Unlimited rounds, hit to move on, 90s par. There was a LOT going on at once on this stage, and I love it. Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues this time around. As I said, I love the Chaos stages and usually do extremely well on them. I can make all sorts of excuses for doing poorly this time around (nasty back spasm, cold air temperatures, the planetary alignment harshing my vibe, etc.) but the bare bones fact is that I hit 13/15 and parred out on time. 13th in GP, 37th overall for the stage.





Stage 2 (“Even or Odd”) had six targets (50-200yds) arrayed across an assault bay with a lot of intermediate barriers that limit presentation and made seeing some of them difficult. The first firing position was off a large spool, about 2ft tall, and then move to a 3ft bench and reengage in the same order. Shooter could choose to go either right-to-left or left-to-right. Unlimited rounds, hit to move on, 90s par. I smoked this stage. I shot it in 32.03 seconds, 5th in GP, 21st overall for the stage. I apologize for the sideways video.




Stage 3 (“If This Boat’s a-Rockin’”) had two targets on the same berm (424yds) that the shooter would engage 5 times each, one after the other. Limited to ten rounds, two 5rnd mags. hit to move on, 120s par. Sounds like a gimme right? That’s a chip shot! The catch was that the stage was shot off an unstable “boat” style platform, set at an angle to the target, what would shift unpredictably with any small movement. This was another dumpster fire stage for me. I am used to shooting from unstable positions, but not like this. I got overly excited and rushed BADLY. 3/10 hits and timed out, 21st in GP, 57th overall for the stage. In hindsight, I should have taken my time and let the platform settle down after each shot. Even experienced competitors make mistakes in unfamiliar situations, and I am no exception. My advice for anyone on a similar stage: slooooooooow down.




Stage 4 (“Legs Don’t Work, Heartbeat Does”) had three targets (817, 879, 1000yds) that needed to be hit two times each, from the prone, with a maximum of nine rounds in the gun, and a maximum of three shots per target, 90s par. The shooter started about 10yds from the firing position and ran to their rifle on the buzzer. I made three hits in 67.6s, 14th in GP, 64th overall for the stage. I made all the same mistakes as the last stage, and at this point I was in my own head. As any sports psychologist will tell you, do not do that. Treat every stage as if it is the only stage, and every shot as if it is the only shot.

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A great view, in the author's opinion.



Stage 5 (“Insurgency”) had five targets (384, 384, 407, 486, 529yds) and each needed to be engaged with two rounds from one of five rocks that served as shooting positions. Each rock was marked with the target to be engaged. Unlimited rounds, two hits to move on, in order of firing positions 1-5, 90s par. Targets for this stage were… unique. They were 10” plus signs, so there was a relatively small scorable area for the actual size of the target. These targets were unforgiving to say the least, especially when shot from improvised positions off of oddly shaped rocks. I was dancing around the impact zones on the first two positions and made three hits. 23rd in GP, 78th overall for the stage. Not a great way to end the day. C’est la vie.

Day Two

Stage 14 (“Yo Otha Left!”) had five targets arrayed on a berm (all at 447yds) that were engaged in order T1, T5, T2, T4, T3 from the prone position. Ten rounds total, two shots per target, and an immediate par if engaged in the wrong order. I hit 6/10, 10th in GP, 46th for the stage. I was pretty happy with this, as the targets were a variety of odd shapes and sized and I was able to correct off of previous impacts in switchy winds.

Stage 14


Stage 15 (“Pit Stop”) had five targets arrayed on a berm (493yds) that were engaged from left to right from two firing positions: standing and off a supplied tripod topped with a ColeTac bag, and then sitting or kneeling off a large tractor tire. Unlimited rounds, hit to move on, 90s par. I *destroyed* this stage. I established very stable firing positions on the props, made all my hits quickly, and transitioned between targets smoothly. I hit all 10 in 36.62s, 1st in GP, 4th overall for the stage. Naturally, I have no footage of it, so here is a picture I took of a friend shooting the stage.

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Not seen: My amazing run on this stage.



Stage 16 (“Just Send It,” originally “Window Shopper”) had two targets (587, 610yds) that needed to be engaged once each from each of five positions (prone, bench, prone, bench, prone) though windows cut into the side of a shipping container. Unlimited rounds, hit to move on, 90s par. This was my favorite stage of the match: it was dynamic, it was fast-paced, the targets were at a range where the difficulty started low and ramped up as your heart got pumping… this was a masterfully designed stage. And I smoked this one. I made my ten hits and five position changes in 58.01s, 2nd in GP, 7th overall for the stage.

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This was my favorite stage of the match.



Stage 9 (“Santa Clause”) had two targets (318, 727yds) that had to be engaged with two rounds each from each of three positions on a prop rooftop. Twelve rounds total, two shots only at each target at each position, 120s par. I didn’t do great on this stage, but I hit 5/12 in 118s. This was frustrating, as I was trying to take my time and focus on my shot process. I had a lot of trouble in the unpredictable winds we were getting by this time of the day and made several bad wind calls. 24th in GP, 78th overall for the stage.

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I am not the fat man you want on your roof.



Stage 10 (“South of the Border”) had two targets arrayed on a berm (503, 506yds) that had to be hit twice from each of four firing positions, which were marked on four horizontal 2” steel pipes. Once you hit one target twice, you move to the next position and hit the other target twice, then repeat this for eight total hits. Unlimited rounds, must hit a target twice to move on, 90s par. This was really rough for me. My shots were about .2MRAD high compared to my recorded data, and it took me several missed rounds to identify that as the problem. Once I figured out that I needed to adjust my elevation, it came back together and I regained some momentum, but it was too late, and I parred out. I made 3/8 hits in 90s, 24th in GP, 90th overall for the stage. This stage stole my lunch money and kicked my dog.

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I did so poorly on this stage that any photographic evidence of my run is banned is eleven countries.



Stage 11 (“M.A.R.I.N.E”) had two targets (307, 620yds) that were engaged with two rounds each from 5 firing positions on a set of 6x6s arranged in a V with a post in the center position. Top left, middle left, center, middle right, top right, so the shooter moves in a W pattern as they progress through the stage. Unlimited rounds, ten hits, 90s par. I was still trying to wrap my head around the sudden change in my observed ballistics. Boiling 5-15mph winds AND a fairly new barrel speeding up made for a nasty combination and I should have trusted what I was seeing with my impacts downrange. I made 5/10 shots, 13th in GP, 49th overall for the stage. Ehhhh…

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Give em the Ol' Razzle Dazzle!



Stage 12 (“Eddie’s Limo”) had two targets (617, 824yds) that the shooter needed to hit once each to move on. There were 5 firing positions arrayed around a utility/technical vehicle cocked off at an angle from the targets. Maximum three shots at each target OR hit to move on, 120s par. Now this, my friends, is where the match more or less ended for me. At some point in production, Federal switched their 6.5 Creedmoor 130gr FGM cartridges from large to small rifle primers, and these did NOT agree with my rifle at all. I had been shooting the large-rifle-primed version of the same ammo for my entire match work-up and the previous 14 stages of competition to excellent effect, but this new box of small-rifle-primed rounds popped a primer on my second shot, and that primer got caught between my barrel extension and bolt, locking up my gun. I could not pull the bolt back without hitting it with a piece of wood, and then the blown primer fell out and the gun functioned as normal. The RO saw that there was no way to fight through this issue on the clock, as is the expectation for simpler malfunctions like misfeeds, and offered me the opportunity to re-shoot the stage after everyone else in the squad finished. I accepted and spent the next half hour trying to get my head back into the game. On my second attempt, I managed 6/10 hits and parred out. 5th for GP, 22nd overall for the stage. Not too shabby, I suppose.

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Fun stage, if your rifle works the whole way through.



Stage 13 (“Light the Wick”) had some issues. More on that in a moment. The shooter’s rifle started staged on a table in a 200yd rifle bay, and with the shooter in a short range pistol bay with a communal stage gun: a 9mm pistol caliber carbine. The shooter was supposed to use this stage gun to fire 10 rounds and hit 5 targets (15-25yds) with max two rounds each for a total of five impacts (the shooter MUST empty any rounds left in the magazine for ten total rounds fired). Shooter then runs to their rifle in the rifle bay and engages 5 targets (200-250yds) with two rounds each. Ten rounds on the stage gun, unlimited rounds on the shooter’s rifle, two hits per target to move on, 90s par.

Stage guns always sound like a really cool concept, but I would recommend any burgeoning match director avoid them unless you have three or four identical guns to use as backups. They WILL malfunction, and the people it malfunctions for WILL complain, and then both the sponsor that generously provided the gun and ammo and the match director end up with metaphorical black eyes. Better to have a demo gun set up somewhere that people can go shoot after they finish a stage. Some people had nasty malfunctions on the stage gun that tanked their time, others had a great experience with this stage and did very well, and one particularly handsome individual smoked the PCC portion of the stage and then blew three more primers in his own rifle, locking it up again with two engagements left to shoot in the rifle bay. C’est la vie. I was offered another reshoot by the match director, tried, and didn’t make it past the first rifle engagement. Fortunately for me, this stage got thrown out for the PCC malfunctions, so my rifle malfunctions only hurt my pride and the hand I sliced open mortaring the bolt back. The moral: avoid stage guns, just hold a demo off to the side. Also, make sure your 6.5 Creedmoor gas gun has a high-pressure bolt.

And that, for better or worse, was my match.

Conclusion

I took 12th in General Purpose division and 43rd overall for the match. On the stages I did well on, I did very well. All of the targets I missed, *I* missed, either due to unstable shooting position, bad wind call, or just getting lost in my own head and holding or dialing my elevation incorrectly. I have identified the problem with my rifle and how to fix it. I am pleased with my performance, but not thrilled, and I know where I need to put in the work for next time. I want another podium finish.

I always have a great time at the Quantified Performance matches. The people who show up to shoot are some of the best I’ve met in the shooting industry and gun-owning community. I’ve made lifelong friends at these matches. At the end of each day, everyone gets together at the on-site cabins and camp sites to share good food and camaraderie. There are world-class, national champion level shooters that show up, and there are brand new shooters who have never competed before. Everyone who shows is treated with dignity and respect (and not just a little good-natured ribbing once the bourbon comes out at the end of the night) and is welcomed with open arms. If you have even the slightest interest in shooting long range with a semi-automatic rifle, you need to shoot one of these matches. It does not matter if you have a bare-bones 5.56 carbine with an inexpensive LPVO or a $10,000 custom rifle with a $5,000 scope on it, get out and test your skills with the best. I hope to see you on the range.

The Quantified Performance directors, Ash Hess and Jack Lueba, are class acts who go above and beyond to hold events that are accessible to shooters every skill level. Eddie and Jase Whitehead, the first certified Quantified Performance Match Directors, ran a professional and high-quality match. Thanks to Eddie Noland and the rest of the Arena Training Facility team for their awesome hospitality and great facilities.





The sponsors that support the matches send boxes upon boxes of goodies for the prize table and everyone, from the division winners, to the ROs who volunteer to help run the match, to the last place shooter walks away with SOMETHING, even if it is just a PMag and a Badger Ordnance coozie. There were rifles, upper receivers, cases of match grade ammo, barrels, optics mounts… I walked away with a SGT of Arms MLOK/ARCA handguard that will spur yet another rifle built with parts won at this match. Seriously, this will make three rifles built after these matches because of fantastic sponsors donating high quality gear to the prize tables.

My sincerest gratitude goes out to my match sponsors, O P Tactical and Badger Ordnance, who paid my match fee and helped me secure some excellent equipment leading up to the match. If you need gear, optics, or equipment, look no further. Great companies and Great people, all around. They have also donated thousands of dollars in prizes over the last four matches.

And thanks again to all the other match sponsors!
 
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