Saturday, March 30, 2013

First National Defense Match Part 3

Pass the Ammo.
“I think I just shot up all my good stuff.”  A shooter lamented to his buddy.

Every shooter had a plan and few plans lasted the match.  The most common was different ammunition for different stages.  More than one shooter discovered he was shooting the wrong ammo at the wrong distance.  I chose to go with 55 grain FMJ for the entire match.  My groups opened up beyond 200 yards as my fired rounds started to tour bus the neighborhood.  Several of the military shot the green tipped 62 gr SS109 bullet.  It was a better choice.  The best approach seemed to be shooting the same heavy bullet for all the stages.


Trey Truggle, Match Director and course designer, wanted a match to mentally challenge the shooters and reenergize rifle shooting.  Americans are known as rifle shooters, but our growing cities make it almost impossible to find convenient long range rifle ranges.  Rifle sales are up, but attendance in organized matches is declining.  

The NRA has never been shy about promoting shooting.  Trey’s match is a gateway activity for making rifle owners into a rifle shooters and plinkers into competitors.  The course was meant for beginners who could compete and not be overwhelmed.  There’s no scoring of the targets other than hit or miss.  A reliable ‘gun show’ rifle will get you started.  The match opens doors to new shooters.

This was also a departure for the NRA.  Accuracy is not the supreme ruler of this domain.  The ruler is combat accuracy.  Hitting your target often and quickly was perfection. 

Prize Table  with Trey center  and  Mike Kreil from the NRA on right. 
Does this signal a change for the NRA shooting sports?  No.  “The NRA will remain America’s precision marksman organization,” said Mike Krei, Director of NRA Competitive Shooting.  “But the NRA wants to establish more shooting matches that will bring new people to the shooting sports.”

Where did this match come from?  One shooter told me it was a ‘time relaxed’ qualification for elite military units.  I wondered if it was from Trey’s experience as a Navy SEAL.  Wrong on both accounts!

Trey Tuggle developed it to shoot with his children using a .22cal rifle.  That’s also part of the match’s charm.  You don’t need R2D2 computers at the local level.  The match has a short course ending at 100 yards with reduced targets.  Sure, you have to score and patch after every relay, but scoring is a yes or no and a patched hole.  The equipment is minimal: a ply wood barricade and a timer.  Each string ends with an open bolt for safety.

In the end, two questions remain.  Did you have fun and will you shoot it again?  One shooter had the perfect answer to both.

“I could shoot this until I die.” 

Last words
Who were the high shooters in each classification?
                Iain Harrison (remember him from Top gun?) was top shooter in the open class;
                Edward Altmeyer took the top position in the limited class;
                Colton Cerino, a junior, claimed the top slot in the optics class.

My reflections, a year later

It was an amazing week-end.  But even as I pulled my last shot off target, I knew the match was doomed at Camp Perry.


You needed R2D2 and an IT department to run the match at Perry.  Scoring targets manually and replacing them would have been a logistical nightmare.  Cross-firing and the resulting reshoots sapped everyone’s stamina.  They resorted to painting the target frames different colors, but the targets needed to be farther apart.  Not too many ranges have 500 plus yards to shoot.  The barricades, sand bags, chairs and R2D2s needed to be moved to the next firing station after every stage. There was already a lot of labor involved, now do that carrying our rifle on a hot August day.  Even as we were moving the equipment, Tray was talking about how you could shoot it on a 200 yards course with reduced targets and range officers watching the gun muzzle to guess which colors were shot in what order on the NDM-5-120.  

I knew I was hearing the death knell.   The rules needed to be better defined.  We got bogged down in a discussion of “What’s kneeling defined as?”  or “How much of me has to be behind cover.”  

It was a great and humbling experience.  I never shot that far in my life.  I made changes based on that match, partially in the hope of seeing it again.  I changed my dot to a scope, put a better trigger in the rifle and started to load 68 gr HPBT rounds.  I hope I’m wrong and it comes around again.

It was well worth my time!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

First National Defense Match Part 2

It’s Tombstone Time!
At 60 yards we saw the last of the NDM-’s and settled into NRA’s tan D-1 tombstone.  Most of us were glad.
Lefty checks out the tombstone targets.

 “I’m glad to see that go,” one shooter told me.  “I’m a combat soldier and shooting colors doesn’t work for me.  I’m trained to shoot any target I can see, as I see them.”  He wasn’t the only one.  Many of the civilians didn’t like their performance either. 

“No, I didn’t care for it,” another shooter told me. “ but I’ll make up for it at the 200 yard range.  See, I’m a high power shooter and that’s what I’m used to.”  The junior shooter was quite serious.  I was expecting him to have enjoyed the up close shooting but I stood corrected.  I was moving with some fast company!

The longer ranges brought out the traditional rifle stances: standing without support, kneeling and prone.  Trey added right and left side barricade, using a chair and weak-hand shooting.  I have to admit, shooting a right-handed rifle on my left side took some serious mental gymnastics.

Corey Schwanz lines up his shot using the barricade for support.

Longer times came with the increased range and late shots carried stiffer penalties.  It paid to take an extra second to make sure you were on your target.  The incidents of shooting the wrong target increased with distance.  
Ian Harrison shows off his seated chair form.

 You lost your rounds and the cross-fired person had to reshoot.  I slowed down and took that extra second to confirm my target.  It’s one thing to shoot a single target at 200 yards; it’s very different to shoot a specific target surrounded by identical targets. 

Ken Pfaun works out his course of fire.  When he is ready he'll set R2D2 off and start his match.

Match Ends.
The match ends at 500 yards.  Trey, as Match Director, estimated we’d finish by 5:00 Saturday afternoon.  This left Sunday to shoot a second match, making the matches perfect bookends for the weekend.  Unfortunately he didn’t take into account equipment failures.  Oh, not the Sius Ascor equipment.  That worked like a charm.  It was the shooters.  We had a number of reshoots due to cross-fires and it simply took 48 shooters longer than expected.  At 5:00 we still had several relays left.   

The day’s heat and unyielding sun had taken their toll and it was decided to finish the match the next day.  In retrospect it was the right move.  We were so whooped that none of us realized we had only 30 rounds to finish the match.

The next day saw delays caused by boats in the impact zone (Lake Erie is part of Camp Perry’s impact zone!), rain followed by water spouts, but the match killer was lightning.  We beat a hasty retreat to the safety of the base’s buildings.

Sunday Rainstorm over Lake Erie  Can we finish before it gets here?

The match continues ans so does the incoming storm

Bowing to the inevitable, Trey called the match.  We still had 10 rounds to go



What did you need to compete?  The bare necessaries were eye and ear protection, a reliable rifle, several magazines and ammunition.  After that you were free to improvise.  I suggest plenty of water, electrolyte replacement, sunscreen and a hat.
Each rifle was sorted into one of three classes:
 Tactical Limited - At least 4.5 pound trigger, a barrel 20 inches or less, and field grade manual sights must be present.  You could have one non-magnifying optical site like a dot or 1X fixed telescope with cross hairs.  There were 21 limited shooters.

Super Gun, Scope, suppressor, thermal shield, bipod, and sand bag, free floating barrel

Tactical Optical - Your trigger still had to be 4.5 pounds or heavier, but you could use magnifying optics and your barrel still had to be 20 inches or less.  This class fielded 12 participants.

Open Class - Any weight trigger, any length barrel and as many scopes and dots as you could carry.  Bipods, sandbags and suppressors were allowed.  The key to remember is that all your accessories had to remain on the rifle for the entire match.  Fifteen shooters populated this class including Iain Harrison, History Channel’s first Top Shot winner.
Super gun in action.  He did shoot better than me.

Tommy Thacker shoots from his chair position with his FNH.

The majority of rifles were AR platforms, but FNH SCARs and Ruger’s Tactical Mini-14 were well represented.  Despite optics, bipods and dots the one common feature was reliability. There were a few jams; most required removing the magazine and working the action to get the gun back into operation. 

Deb Cheek shooting her scoped, dot, free float, muzzle break, bipoded rifle.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The First National Defense Match

National Defense at Camp Perry
I attended the first National Defense match at camp Perry in August 2011.  One of the national publications wasn’t interested, but I’m not one to waste all that effort.  Here’s my article.  Enjoy!

“Shooters!  Verify your identity.”

That’s not your typical range command, unless you’re shooting with the Federal Witness Protection program.  I wasn’t.

It’s mid-August, 2011, on the Rodriquez Rifle Range at Camp Perry, Ohio.  It’s a typical summer day at Perry: hot, no shade and wind blowing three directions at once.  Weather experts claim wind can’t blow straight up from ground level.  They haven’t been to Perry.

I’m not worried about the wind, at least not yet.  I’m standing at the seven-yard line and it’s my turn to shoot the first string of the NRA’s newest rifle activity, the National Defense Match.  I need a second to take a quick glance at the three ring binder lying on the ground in front of me. 

My own R2D2.  Each shooter started their string independent of the other shooter with this unit.
 It contains the course of fire and I want to jog my memory.  I push the button on the little R2-D2-like computer and the match starts.

The shooter pressers his button and...

Gets in position for that string.  No, he's not doing a elbow-toes pushup!

The National Defense Match is unlike any rifle match I’ve seen.  It’s a reflection of combat readiness.  For the duration of the match you and your rifle are inseparable.  You carry everything you’ll need for the day: water, ammo, spare parts, batteries and magazines.  Jams are cleared on the clock, no alibis in a firefight.  If your gun goes down you fix it with what you’ve got or can borrow.  If you came with a buddy, he can hold your rifle while you answer nature’s call.  If not, be glad nobody gave the command “Fix bayonets!”  Sharing a porta-john with your rifle is interesting. 

And it’s not like any rifle match from the NRA.  Only two targets are used, the five colored NDM-5-120 and the tan NRA D-1 tombstone.  A quick inspection shows scoring rings aren’t used.  Scoring is simple: you either hit or miss.  Sounds fiendishly simple, doesn’t it?

Yes, I carried everything I might need including rain suit!
Each CoF has limited time to get your shots off.  Shooting faster than the allowable time and getting solid hits results in a lower score.  Misses add time to your score. At the end of the day lowest cumulative time wins.  All the strings start from standing and you move to the firing position on the clock.  It can get complicated.  At sixty yards you have 60 seconds to move to the barricade, shoot five rounds kneeling right side barricade, reload, move to the left side barricade, drop to kneeling and get five more rounds off.  A miss or late shot adds 5 seconds to your score.  
Fire up the plot complication!
The NDM-5 is 46 inches on each side and has four brightly colored corners and a white center.  The shooting order of the colors is determined by lot before the match. 

Equipment van for the IT guys. 

Not every color is engaged in each string, and the numbers of rounds per color changes.  The varying round count on each color makes it interesting.
Trey Tuggle, former Navy SEAL and match designer, wanted to mentally engage the shooter.  Not satisfied with “shoot-all-the-blue-targets-and-then-shoot-the-rest,” Tray wanted a little of the combat pressure that comes from having to decide who, what and when to shoot.  I think he succeeded.

Trey demonstrates the course of fire.  Many of us had trouble understanding what was allowable and what wasn't, so Trey demoed every stage
“Did you get off sequence?”  One shooter to another.  
It was a common question because to err is human, but a computer can put the screws to you.  The computer treats each target as if only one color exists and it will not score any other color until the correct number of hits are detected.  Any hits on another color out of sequence are misses.  If you lose track of which color is next or how many rounds on each color, your time takes a big hit.  Getting off sequence was a serious problem.
The Revenge of R2D2

Shooter checks his score.  Most of the time your hits were displayed almost instantly.
 The little ‘R2D2’ unit was designed by Sius Ascor Equipment and made available by Glenn Goodwin of ShotResponse.  The target uses transducers to measure impact vibrations and calculate where your shot hit.  The information is downloaded in live time by a radio link to your terminal displaying your hits, size of group, center of group, time between shots and total time.  The same information was also displayed on a 48-inch plasma TV screen so everyone could see what you’re shooting.  No pressure there!
This technology is used at the Olympic Games, the ISSF Championships, and Continental Championships and has been used by military units worldwide.  It’s not surprising this technology is producing better shooters faster.  The instant feedback of confirming called shots speeds improvement.  Shooters quickly learn how every alteration of stance, grip and trigger pull affects their group.  It’s a powerful training tool but the technology isn’t cheap.  But if your club wants to turn out champions, you might want to look at Sius Ascor.  
One last word on Sius Ascor.  They make scoring systems for tanks.  No, not giant colored NDM-5s.  You use any target you want.  All you need are several microphones downrange.  From the sound of the projectile passing overhead the computer calculates the impact location.  They claim it works!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another Great Website

Do you check out the website?

You should.  It’s not just for police.  The armed civilian can find useful information there.  There’s a lot of interesting articles as well, like the K-9 that fired a suspect's gun.  I’ll let you find that one.


Many of the same problems facing the police impact the armed civilian.

Do I have to explain our court system to you?  Frankly, I don’t think I could, but I know there are two systems: criminal and civil.  They have different standards and drastically different outcomes.  You could be brought to civil court without being charged with a crime or even after being found not guilty.  (Please note, you’re never found innocent, just not guilty.)

In civil court, you could be accused of being responsible because you fired too fast, too much or used too small of a caliber or just about anything.  Responsible means you have to shovel over money.  The court could find that you are some percentage responsible and requires you to pay that percentage of the requested damage.

Even in a righteous self-defense shooting you could find yourself in criminal court.  Don’t forget, you have microseconds to decide, the prosecutor and their team have months (or years).

The best defense in both courts seems to be the affirmative defense, which allows you to say, “Yes I did it, but I had such good reasons I should be excused from any penalty.”  This shifts the burden of proof onto you and you can only tell the jury what you knew at the instant you pulled the trigger.

This is where becomes useful.

“How Not To Respond On The Street” ( deals with the myth fostered by IDPA, IPSC and the entertainment media of the 'double tap' stop.  The article has three links to FBI studies explaining how feeble pistol caliber rounds are.

Wouldn’t that be nice to have if you had to explain why you fired 8 times?  Think about it, an FBI study that justifies your 8 rounds and all you need to do is print it out, read it, sign and date it as 'read and understood' and stick it in a file.  You do have a self-defense file, don’t you?

Worried your weekly practice could be twisted into something it’s not?  The opposing attorney says you practice too much; you were looking to kill.  You can flip that coin over to you practice too little and didn’t have the skills needed.  How about having “Ammo Shortage Solutions: One Box Workout?” in your file?  Another article published by police in a police website.  Do you think that might help?


I’m just starting.  I suspect I could find many other articles which help justify my actions and explain them to a jury.

Tactical content?

My first and favorite instructor, Massad Ayoob preaches, “Know where the attack will come from and have a proven defense in place.”  Take that to heart.  Remember the Scouting motto:  “Be Prepared.”