Below is an After Action Review (AAR) I've created for the PRS: Bushnell Lone Star Challenge, that I shot in Kopperl Texas on September 9th, 2017. As an excel geek (Engineer by day, Tactical Rifle Competitor on the weekends) I tend to over analyze things. But my time wasted in front of a computer is your benefit. And remember I'm not an English teacher so please excuse my writing errors.
The AAR's I create use colors to help quickly describe certain information features. The match and the stage rankings use GREEN to depict an easy stage and RED for a hard/extreme stage. The average score for the match will help identify if this is an easy match or hard match for the shooters. The graph of competitors and their finish place gives you an idea of the population curve for the match. You will be able to tell if there were a bunch of experts or all beginners that competed.
For each stage, some columns are conditional formatted so that good score/rankings are green and bad ones are red. This will help you compare yourself to how everyone else did. I've also added a Stage Finish vs. Match Finish column that will help you determine how much that stage hurt or helped your finish.
I'd like to give a shout out to the Fred (Bison Tactical), 65guys, The Bushnell match directors and RO's, for helping me figure out how to present this info in a meaningful and user friendly format. A BIG thanks to the Lone Star Armory for their help with the matchbook, photos and target sizes. It's an evolving format and I'm open to suggestions on how to improve it. Don't forget to support Bison Tactical by purchasing your precision rifles, equipment, and components from the website and store in Boulder, Colorado. Your support will help keep AAR's like this going.
Lou Smith (LouisCSmith@gmail.com)
This is an amazing facility. Located about an hour south-west of Fort Worth TX on private property (500 acres) with 13 shooting lanes, barricades, conex platforms, a three-story conex tower, helicopter platform, and targets at various distances out to 2000 yards. Lone Star Armory offers training and equipment for the "those with a kinetically driven lifestyle to achieve and go beyond".
Friday the day before, shooters were allowed to check in early and get their shirts, swag bag, and match books. We were able to use the 100y range to zero and chance velocity. There was also a Goat, and a set of KYL plates at 710y that we were allowed to shoot at to check our bullet drop.
Saturday AM some last minute arrivals were able to zero their rifles before the match directors held a shooters meeting.
After role call, squad confirmation (there's always some moving around of a few shooters to make sure the squads are the same size), and safety briefing, shooters were told where each squad would start. The match directors asked if shooters would be willing to shoot more stages on day 1 so that we could get the awards ceremony finished earlier. This would allow those traveling to start their trip home early. This was a good thing for me and my travel mates because we had a 13 hour drive home and I needed to be back before 6am.
There was 80 registered shooters with 75 completing both days. The match was broken out into 10 stages each day. Even number stages shot on Saturday and odd numbered stages on Sunday. The majority of stage locations were reused for the second day with either different target locations, a different barricade set up or both. There was only one stage that was timed and it was used as a tie breaker stage. Most stages had a round count of 10 or less with only one stage (PRS Skills 2) having an unlimited round count. Personally I like more stages but with a lower round count because it helps to keep me from "burning up" my barrel. I think that there are a lot more competitors these days shooting high velocity cartridges that shoot out barrels in less than 2000 rounds. You're not seeing as may 308's or 223's as you use to.
I've added a column right of the competitors names that shows how everyone's scores varied from Day 1 to Day 2. This could be called the Come Back or Bombed ranking with green shooing those who did a lot better day two and red showing those who dropped in the rankings.
(I know the image is hard to read. If you right click on the image and select open in new tab you should be able to zoom in and take a closer look. If you wish to see the spreadsheet for yourself you can click on this link and download it and take a look)
Below is the total list of shooters with each score listed from low to high. This time the overall match placement graph showed something different. It seems that this match is missing the sharp spike in scores at the high end. After talking to some friends about this we figure that this is more indicative of an "East Coast" match. Now let me take some time to explain. Living here in Colorado I get to compete in a diversity of matches. Granted I haven't been competing for that long or traveling far and wide like some of you guys have. But, I'm starting to notice a difference between East Coast and West Coast matches. Maybe it's the ranges available to us or maybe it's the topography of the land. But West Coast matches tend to have longer distance shots and the effects of wind play a higher role. East Coast matches tend to have shooter scores bunched up near the top with a "Middle of the Pact" finisher getting a higher percentage of points than a "Middle of the Pact" finisher in a West Coast finisher. We affectionately called this the Vibbert'ed effect. If you can remember back in your college class days when the teacher would grade on a curve, you probably remember ridiculing that one kid that "threw the curve". Well in this example his name is Jake Vibbert. He doesn't do it every match but several times this year I've seen him out score the next competitor by double digits. That really hurts those middle of the pact finishers with their match finish points used for national standings. This makes it harder for us Field Match shooters to achieve high rankings.
But there's some other possible explanations for the East Coast match effect. Match directors on the east coast are accused of making matches too easy. We asked a fellow shooter from our squad that shoots east coast how often he "gives up the plate" for a wind hold. With a confused look on his face and after some explanation that we more often than not have to hold off of the target he confirmed that he rarely does.
What's the solution... I don't know. I could go into this even more but I think I'll save it for another blog. I'm just making observations and trying to provide data that can help use improve. That goes for shooters, match directors and the organizers of the series itself.
I'd like to thank Ben at Lone Star Armory and all the other there that helped put this data together. This analysis can't be done without their help.
Below is a list of every shot taken during the match with the size of the target (MOA). I've grouped each shot into the category of position the shot was taken (i.e. prone, barricade, etc.), then listed the shots from shortest to longest within that group. What you should see is larger targets for harder shooting positions and larger targets the further the shot is. This info is good for comparing one match to another.
This is the breakdown of all the stages, listed from lowest percentage of hits (considered to be the harder stages) to the highest percentage of hits (the easier stages). The top table shows an average of all the stages and could be used as a barometer to compare this match to other matches. With an average hit percentage of 55% (95.8 hits out of 174 possible) I would say that this match was a bit easier than most.
This was a fun stage. My first time shooting off of anything like this. With a hit percentage of 76% This is a confidence builder stage. The near target was 3.3 MOA and the Far target was 3.6 MOA (both squares).
Sorry Mom for the cuss words. We had a fun loving squad and I'm not afraid to post funny videos of myself shooting. Being the first time I've ever shot form a cargo net like this I was a little nervous (taking my time making sure I totally understood the COF). Then in the middle position I felt unsteady and totally rushed my third shot, pulled it, and took out a small tree branch that needed to be trimmed. There is some comedic gold commentary while I'm trying to establish a platform in the third position, and even though the trigger brake felt good the last shot miss.
In hindsight and after watching several other shooters go through the stage (I was lucky enough to be the first one). I realized that I should have attempted to put my leg on a higher strap and leaned in with my knee to stabilize myself.
As you see in the beginning of the video, my second round got jammed. What I think happened was on a previous stage I cycled the bolt too quickly and jammed the bullet at an angle in the neck of the case. I then loaded that round in my magazine for this stage and it didn't feed correctly (probably because the case neck was belled out on one side). Good thing for me I loaded an extra in the mag and I always have my two round holder on the side of my rifle. Nick was nice enough to pick up my brass after I was shooting and when he handed me the misfed round the bullet literally fell out of the case.
I've added a column between the Stage finish and the Match Finish columns and color coded it to help show if this stage helped or hurt your score.
This was a pretty straight forward Rooftop Stage. The rooftop had some boards nailed down on it that assisted with staying in position while on the rooftop (as opposed to some that use roof shingles) and the slope of the rooftop wasn't too steep or reversed. You did have to shoot the rooftop from a standing position on either side. This is difficult in that it will force you to shoot it from your off hand side once.
With a hit percentage of 84% this was an easy stage. The same targets from day one were used making target acquisition easy. The near target was 3.3 MOA and the far target was 3.6 MOA (both squares).
I felt pretty good on this stage. It is one of the only stages that I cleaned (Sorry Jen for taking your 8). We have a rooftop at our Colorado Springs club ( Pikes Peak Precision Rifle Club) that we use regularly and I felt right at home (Thanks Andy & Ryan)!
Lay down prone and shoot a troop line of sub 1.5 MOA targets [ target 1) 1.5, 2) 1.4, 3) 1.2, 4) 1.3 ]. With a hit percentage of 64% this was a challenging stage.
I was able to lay down next to the shooter before me and take in as much as I could. I tried to read wind, the prior shooter's first impact (vs. his guess as to what to hold). This was the first match were targets were placed down a Sendaro. I've been told that a Sendaro is a straight path or clear-cut channel through the trees. They are used for hunting and I think it originated in either the southern US or Mexico. The interesting thing shooting through/down a Sendaro is how wind doesn't have an effect. As you can see by the aerial photo there are some paths that cross each other and there are a few clearings. Sometimes half of the Sendero is exposed to the wind and some only a little path. This plays with a shooters ability to read mirage. You could see it but bullets were not affected as much as you might think. My efforts payed off and I was able to score 8 out of 8 on a challenging stage and I'm sure it helped me with my overall placement.
This stage was on of the few stages where I felt rushed for time. With two shots prone, two from the railing, two from the post supporting the railing, two from the other side from the railing, and two from prone it was a fair amount of moving around. Most shooters figured out that it was advantageous to shoot the two prone positions first then move onto the railing and move across in one direction or leave the shots from the post for last.
I was able to use a Tactical Udderer (aka the Saracen bag) which worked perfectly for supporting my rifle from the railing and the post.
With a hit percentage of 39% this was a difficult stage. The 615 yd target was 1.2 MOA.
With an average hit percentage of 36% his was a difficult stage for a lot of shooters. The big target was a 1.4 MOA and the small one was 1.0 MOA (both squares). There was definitely some gaming that was needed to be able to shoot from the middle tier position with a stable base. I was able to move my bipod all the way forward on the pic rail I have on the bottom of my 15" stock and then support the rear of the rifle with a small bag. Some guys with Atlas Bipods were able to do the same and then extend the legs forward at a 45 and then support the rear of the rifle with a bag.
Fred at Bison Tactical sells Atlas Bipods and also offers them in custom Cerakote to match your custom rifle's color scheme.
I started out well on this stage going 4 for 4 on the first two positions but when I got the the right side of the tire I forgot to switch to my weak side (didn't matter because I missed anyways). Then when I went to the middle position I overheard someone from behind me make mention that I didn't shoot weak side. I then preceded to miss the rest of my shots... Ugh Maybe having ear pro that picks up ambient sound isn't a good thing while you're shooting. But with 4 hits that was better than most and helped my placement overall.
This stage was timed and used for tiebreakers. Starting 10' back and shooting from 4 different locations at the 2.4 MOA circle. The hit percentage was 66% making this a challenging stage. The 400 yd target was a 2.4 MOA circle.
As usual with timed stages, I rushed myself. I have been practicing using a tripod as a rear support and it's proven to be effective for me. But only getting 3 out of 8 did hurt my overall rank.
You can see that my time was fairly quick but as usual, the guys who finish well, are both quick and good.
This troop line was shot from the same barricade as the PRS skills stage. With an average hit percentage of 75% this was a confidence builder stage. Target sizes were as follows: C1 = 2.0, C2 = 2.1, C3 = 1.9, C4 = 2.0 MOA (squares).
I utilized the tripod again on this stage and hit 6 out of 8. I'm disappointed in that score because I know I can do better. Without having to move through multiple positions and using the tripod, there really is no excuse for not building a rock solid platform given the par time, target sizes and distance.
Stages 8, 9, and 10 were shot from a two story Conex structure made from 3 shipping containers. The mousetrap was shot from the lower floor, Windows was shot from the middle second story structure, and the helicopter was shot from the east end of the second story.
With an average hit percentage of 47% this was a difficult stage. The 585 yd target was a 2.0 MOA square.
Similar to what you see Rich do on the middle position, I left my rifle and then tried to climb up from the third position to get it. I don't think on the surface that there is anything difficult to this stage but moving around and having a par time that did make you rush did affect a lot of people.
With an average hit percentage of 65% this was a challenging stage. The target was a 2.3 MOA square.
I felt pretty good shooting from the two window heights. The majority of shooters (right handed) used a bag and pushed their rifle up against the right side of the window. This gives you a pretty stable platform.
With an average hit percentage of 62% this was a challenging stage. The 500 yd target was a 3 MOA square.
I'm a big guy and I find it hard to shoot from awkward positions. And this was the second stage of the match for our squad on the first day. I'm sure I was experiencing some jitters and trying to settle down. I feel like my efficiency in motion and getting to a stable position is getting better. If you ever want to see a big guy moving across barricades quick and smoothly look no further than Jake Vibbert. I think some practice shooting off of a rope in varying heights would do me some good.
With an average hit percentage of 63% this was a challenging stage. The three plates at 715 yds measured 2.1, 1.6, and 1.1 MOA squares.
After getting a stage briefing I made sure to take advantage of the shooting mats from the 100 yd range and try and practice shooting with only one arm. What I figured out was that if you didn't have a bag with the right amount of thickness for your rear support, you would end up shooting without support (just pull the rifle back into your shoulder with your trigger hand). I tried to find a position for the bag that I was using where it would actually take a little force to get the stock to sit into the bag and give me proper height. But what I found was that the slope of the mat that I practiced from and the one from which we shot from during the stage was slightly different and I ended up shooting without rear support anyways.
I do feel that because of the open area that we were shooting through and the long distance that this was one of the few stages where wind affected your shot.
Thanks Armageddon Gear for making a cool hat!
With an average hit percentage of 73% this was a confidence builder stage. The four prairie dogs measured about 16" tall and 4" wide. I took the average square of both lengths and then the square root of that to get an estimated target size of 11.6" at the 4 distances this equated to; C1 = 5.3, C2 = 3.5, C3 = 3.0, C4 = 2.5 MOA.
With an average hit percentage of 34% this was an extreme stage. The 8' head shot targets through the window at 562 yds measured out to be 1.4 MOA. I would call this one of the separator stages. A stage that separates the top level shooters from the average shooter in the pact.
I chose to start from the right and move to the left. This allowed me to drag a tripod along with me and not have to pick it up to move to the next stage. I also selected the Armageddon Gear Reaser bag (or Gamechanger) over the Tactical Udder bag. I've been using both for a while now and I've found that the Gamechanger likes to sit on skinny boards or rails where as the Tactical Udder will spread out and sit on wider barricades (like rooftops with both sides of the sloped roof). The Udder also likes to sit on poles or stumps better. Where as the Gamechanger might fall off to one side or the other. Both of these bags are available from the Bison Tactical website and he's happy to talk to you about the features and benefits each bag has to offer. (303) 443-0718
With an average hit percentage of 70% this was a confidence builder stage. The first TYL rack at 377 yds had square targets that measured 2.5, 1.5, and 1 MOA. The second TYL rack at 560 yds had targets that measured 1.7, 1.4, 1.0, and 0.68 MOA.
After talking to several shooters who shot this stage, the 3rd target on the first TYL rack seemed to give a lot of people heartache. 1 MOA is small but when we were shooting there was a bit of mirage coming off of the ground, and the small target was right in the middle that mirage. I seem to remember the RO talking to someone about how that mirage was making everyone miss high over the target. There was definitely some confusion on how each TYL was to be engaged. The first was hit to move on while the second was hit or miss move on. Subtle difference but it can make you mess up if you're not on top of your game.
With an average hit percentage of 88% this was an easy stage. Targets were non-symmetrical hog shaped so I averaged the size to be about 12". E1 = 3, E2 = 2.7, E3 = 2.4, E4 = 2.1 MOA.
This stage had the added fun factor of a stage gun. A semi auto 223 was used at two full sized IPSC shaped targets at about 75 yards. The timer for the precision rifle portion of the stage didn't start until you put the stage gun down. Climbing through the hummer with your rifle was a little difficult but manageable with the given par time.
I think I over estimated this stage and didn't give my trigger pulls as much concentration as I should have. I hit 5 out of 8 which isn't too bad but this being an easy stage that score hurt my standings.
With an average hit percentage of 49% this was a difficult stage. D3 = 1.7 MOA square and D4 = 1.3 MOA circle.
Time or lack of time was definitely an element to this stage. I hit 2 out of 10 and that hurt my standings. I should have noticed that the top tier was lower on the left side and used it without folding up my bipod. I had a miss-feed on the 4th position because I short stroked the bolt. It's the little things like this that add up and cost you valuable seconds. Smooth is fast and Fast is smooth is an applicable mantra.
Stages 17, 18, 19, and 20 were shot from a large Conex Structure located on the east side of the facility. It's not visible from the aerial photo shown earlier in this AAR. Constructed from 5 Conex shipping containers this structure offered shooting positions from the 3rd and 4th floor.
It's important to mention that these stages were some of the only stages where wind was actually a factor (for my squad at least). Getting up 3 or 4 stories definitely gets you up out of the Senderos and puts where you can feel the 15mph wind. Stages 17 and 20 were shot from the second story and targets were positioned SE. Stage 18 was shot from a platform constructed on the second story (behind the middle top shipping container in the photo above), and offered targets in a 30 ° or 45 ° field of view. Stage 19 was shot from on top of the highest container and also had targets in a wide field of view. The stages shot from this locations were more reminiscent of a field match.
One disadvantage to shooting from a container structure with a bunch of guys walking around was that the whole structure shakes when people move around. Squads going up and down the stairs were only allowed to use the stairs during transition periods when all squads when done shooting. The RO's were constantly calling out for everyone to stop moving before a shooter started his stage under the clock.
With an average hit percentage of 30% this was an extreme stage. Square Targets: 1 = 1.1, 2 = 1.1, 3 = 1.4, 4 = 1.1 MOA.
I don't have any photos or videos of us shooting from this stage. Mostly because they were all shot prone and would be pretty boring to watch.
I started out strong with a follow up connecting shot on targets 1 & 2 but didn't see my impacts on target 3. I was able to get a third hit on the last target. There's plenty of time to shoot, watch for bullet impacts then make a correction and shoot a follow up shot. This strategy worked well for me and help with my final standings.
With an average hit percentage of 66% this was a challenging stage. The 4 animal shaped targets were each averaged for size. Prairie Dog = 2.8, Pig = 2.3, Goat = 1.7, Kangaroo = 1.4 MOA.
I like shooting animal shaped targets. It's fun to think about how you would perform when attempting to hit an actual target of these shapes at distance. With 6 out of 8 hits this stage helped me. If I remember correctly, the first two shots were at a 15° into the prevailing wind, whereas the last two were shot with a strong cross wind.
With an average hit percentage of 86% this was an easy stage. The targets were square plates; 310 = 1.5, 410 = 1.4, 500 = 1.5 MOA.
The key here was to remember to hold over. The first target was located in a small field of tall grass. Bullet impacts were not easily spotted. I forgot to hold over and burnt through 4 shots before finally figuring it out. This caused me to rush and at the end I double fed a round (remember the video from stage 1, LOL).
With an average hit percentage of 26% this was an extreme stage and the hardest of the whole match. Square Targets: 1 = 1.1, 2 = 1.1, 3 = 1.4, 4 = 1.1 MOA.
Similar to stage 17 just shot from a different location on the tower. Again the key to this stage was making a good wind call, spotting impacts and following up with a good second shot.
Now for some fun new analysis. If you've made it this far then you will definitely be interested in this last bit.
I've created a head to head comparison table where you can see which stages you did well on or did poorly on vs. another competitor. Download the spreadsheet. Go to the "Personal Stage Ranking" tab. There you will find a table like the one below. Click on the yellow cell and a small dropdown arrow box option will appear on the lower right corner of the cell. Click on that and select the name of the competitor you want for that side of the comparison. Do the same for the other side.
As you can see from above, Matt and Jerry were pretty evenly matched except for a couple stages. It could be said that Matt missed being in the top 5 (or better) because of the dropped targets on stages 4 and 17. Whereas Jerry did poorly on stage 5 and fairly well on the rest of the stages.
If you want more analysis on an individual. You can expand a couple of hidden columns and get to more info.
These extra columns show you which stages helped your overall standings and which ones hurt you. As you can see from Jerry's scores Stage 3 really hurt him (when comparing his finish to how he ranked on that stage). Stages 20 and 15 weren't good for him either. One might be able to draw the conclusion that Jerry didn't read the wind well on stages 3 and 20 or that he didn't build a good shooting platform from on stages 5 and 15. Jerry would probably be the only one to actually understand what happened on these stages.
This was one of the smoothest run matches I've been to. I can only remember one time there as a down target and I don't think it even affected us or stopped my squad from continuing to shoot. I attribute that the the use of target hangers that use AR500 steel hooks and t-posts. They seem to be much more reliable than bolts and straps. The match was very organized and the matchbook was simple and easy to understand. Stages were easy to find and everything was labeled. Every target had a target ID sign next to it and even the RO's would tell you "move on to Target XX" after hitting the previous target. This made finding targets and making sure you were engaging the correct target very easy.
The prize table was very nice. I like the way the match director ran the award ceremony. No mad dash of shooters 30 through 50 this time! You still couldn't be slow in choosing what you wanted and advance scouting of the table for what prizes were available was important. It helps to read all the certificates and understand what's grouped together as one prize. A few competitors grabbed a prize and left behind the cert that was supposed to be packaged together with it.
I really liked what the Match Directors did for the RO's. There was a raffle and several top prizes were given away to them. Competitors were told that after all competitors are called and have an option to pick up prizes that any leftover prizes would be given to the ROs. That's awesome and I like this. It's a great way to show appreciation to the ROs for donating their time to the match. Without them we wouldn't get to compete.