Monday, October 28, 2013

IPSC Sniper or Miss Faster, Faster You Fool!

I shot a sniper team match recently at Greenport Tactical.  Each team consisted of a spotter and sniper.  Most of the spotters shot an AR platform in .223.  Most of the snipers used a .308 bolt action with lots of optical glass.  A few snipers used a .308 or .223 AR platform.

I had a lot of fun.   I didn’t anticipate winning but my partner and I weren’t in last place either.  This match brings out a lot of very good shooters. 

One of the advantages of shooting these matches is to find areas I’m deficient in.  These problems can be skill set or equipment based.  Once I discover the problem I then have to decide if I want to resolve it.

What, live with deficiencies?  Sure.  Here are two examples.

One stage called for the sniper to shoot through several different canted slots in a barricade at a 4x6-inch steel plate 126 yds away.  
Shooter has to tilt rifle to line up shot
The shooter has to tilt the rifle and the sights to line up on the target.  Times of 300 seconds were not uncommon, but a miss was only 2.5 seconds added to your time!
Canting the rifle and sights causes a serious change in impact points.  You could learn to apply a correction factor based on experience and training over several distances or simply accept the fact that you’ll miss the center of mass but hit the man.  I’d like to improve that skill set.

4 by 6 inch steel target  sniper match
Here's the target she's trying to hit.  A white 4x6-inch steel plate at 126 yards.  After a hit the plate twists, rocks and moves in unpredictable ways.
Another stage had you spotting playing cards at 76 yds.  My 10X 50mm binoculars didn’t have enough oomph to clearly resolve the cards so I wasn’t much help to the sniper. I could cure this problem with more magnification, which is harder to hold steady.  Another solution to this problem would be better optics with the same power and a larger front lens to gather more light and improve resolution, which is more expensive. 

This is not a problem I’ll attempt to resolve.  I just can’t see the need to identify your target based on name badges worn at 100 yards.  I just don’t anticipate having to solve that problem.

And what about the match itself?  That’s a sticky wicket as the Brits say.

Sniping of the roof's peak
Shooting off the 'dog house' roof at 260 yards.

the sniper targets at 260 yards
Each sniper had to put 5 rounds in their numbered target.  After everyone shot, the targets were scored and replaced. Oh, you can't see the targets?

better look at the doghouse targets
Here's a better look at the targets.  Teach team had their own number.

One of the contestants, before a single round was fired said, “They have taken a rifle match and turned it into a pistol match.”  I have to agree.  
the sniper shoots 8 paper targets and then the turns to a six position plate rack
The team starts at the blue barrel left edge of image.  Both move to the first barricade where the spotter shoots 2 body and one head on each of the 5 IDPA targets against the berm.  Both move to the second barricade where the spotter repeats the CoF.  As soon as he finishes, the sniper, who isn't carrying his weapon 'cause it's not needed, draws his sidearm and runs up to the mid-field IDPA targets and shoots each with 2 rounds from any distance.  The sniper then moves to the red barrel and has to hit each of 6 plates on the plate rack with his sidearm.  That finishes it.

The sniper fired more shots from his sidearm than he did from his rifle. The scoring was based on IDPA so low time won.  A miss was 5 points or 2.5 seconds added to your raw time.  The impact of this scoring system is tremendous.

One safety officer put it this way.  “Look, this isn’t sour grapes.  I’m not competing, but the misses have no impact on your score.  Time is what’s important.  You can shoot fast enough to win simply by throwing all your rounds away on most stages.”

He was right.  One of best shooters scored nine hits in just under 70 seconds on one stage.  Given the distance and shooting scenario, this is tremendous shooting.  With my AR and the 5 round sniper limit in the magazine, I could have emptied the magazine, reloaded and done 4 more rounds in 30 seconds.  All misses.  My penalty?  The match director/statistician would have added 22.5 seconds to my score giving me a world beating 52.5 second score.  If all I wanted to do was win a plaque, I could have done that by missing every target and shooting fast.

What about the failure-to-do-right penalty?  It’s very hard to give to someone dumping rounds when they claim they are just missing.  If I remember correctly, IDPA now allows you to dump rounds.

Fortunately, nobody on my squad was a gamesman and we all shot it with the intention of hitting the target as best we could.

The tactical content?
That’s easy.  Matches and the resulting pressure lets you discover where your weaknesses are and what equipment works under what conditions.  One of the spotters had a sweet system and a great plan.  He mounted a green indicator laser on his tripoded spotting scope.  The plan, and I liked it a lot, was to find the playing card and illuminate it for the sniper.  With the two of them working together they could have saved a lot of time and racked up points.  They had tried this on a nice summer night and it worked quite well.

The first problem was a 50-degree day was too cold for the laser to operate.  They solved that by keeping the laser in an inner pocket until it was needed.  Then the laser was too dim to see on a playing card in the bright sunlight.  No good solution seems available unless you move from a low power class three laser to a class 4, 1 watt or better laser.  That’s takes a lot of power and most diode lasers don’t have the tight beams you need to select one playing card.  Sounds like you need military grade equipment.

My friend may not choose to solve that problem, but at least he’s aware of it.  To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed and that’s tactical.

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