by Lou Smith September 19, 2017

Below is an After Action Review (AAR) I've created for the NRL: High Country Precision's Mile-High Shoot Out, that I shot in Craig Colorado on July 21, 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 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, each column is conditionally 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'd like to give a shout out to Fred (Bison Tactical), 65guys, match directors and CONX Media for all the photos.  I would also like to thank my fellow shooters for helping me figure out how to present this info in a meaningful and user friendly format.  It's an evolving format and I'm open to suggestions on how to improve it.  Don't forget to support Bison Tacticalby purchasing your precision rifle equipment and components from the website and store in Boulder, Colorado.  That's what will help keep AAR's like this going.

Enjoy,

Lou Smith (LouisCSmith@gmail.com) 


 

Friday before the match, shooters were allowed to check in early, get their shirts, swag bag, and match books. Shooters were offered the opportunity to attend a training class instructed by Brian Whalen.  For $50 shooters were given a 4 hour instruction class helping them with techniques ranging from beginner to advanced.  I attended the class and can attest to Brian's experience and knowledge of precision shooting and related shooting equipment.

After the class ended at noon, shooters were given the opportunity to confirm their zero with 1" target stickers on plywood and shoot at several steel targets ranging from 215 yards to 1100+ yards.

Saturday morning a few last minute arrivals were allowed to zero their rifles and then a shooters meeting was held.

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.  Some Q&A from the shooters and a few rule reviews were also discussed. Then shooters were pointed in the direction of the stages and shooting commenced shortly after.  The match was set up with 15 stages each day.  The majority of the stages were repeated the following day but with 30 seconds less time. Most day 1 stages were NOT gear limited where as day 2 restricted gear and forced you to shoot with shorter times.

Below is the list of competitors (114 in all).  They are listed by final position in descending order.  The first colored column is total score, the second is the first day total scores, and the third is the second day total scores.  The reason this is interesting is you can look and see how people did day 1 vs. day 2.  Because of the size of these tables I have made the file available here.

There was one stage that was shot with a stage gun.  Although this was recorded it was not included in the shooters final scores.  I've omitted this from the AAR as well.


Below is the total list of shooters with each score listed from low to high.  I find it interesting that just about every match I shoot in at the national level will have a very similar graph.  You can really see it.  

On the left side, a drop off in scores; the new shooters, the shooters that didn't finish, or the shooters that had equipment problems and didn't finish.  

To the contrast, the short spike; the guys who put in the extra time and practice, the guys at the top of their game, the best of the best.  Then in the middle, a gradual slope; This completes the average population distribution of shooters.

 

Here's a new bit of analysis.  Thanks to the hard working match directors I was able to put together a graph that shows every shot taken during the match with distance and target size.  They have been grouped into some of the more common shooting position categories that we see in NRL matches and listed from shortest shot to longest shot. 

I think this is good information for comparing one match to another, allowing you to get a feel for the makeup of this match.  

Total Round count was around 255

Average Shot distance was 619 yards

Average Target size was 2.14 MOA

 

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 37% (90.25 out of 242 possible), I would say that this was a tough match.


Below is a comparison of day 1 stages to day 2. To my surprise, their wasn't a dramatic change in performance across all of them.  Maybe I'm just surprised because I'm one of the guys who get flustered when you take 30 seconds away.  The notable exceptions are; Stage 1 is considered a different stage day 1 and day 2, and Stage 10 the spinner.

 


This stage was a little confusing (as you can tell by the lengthy description).  I believe the premise of it was scraped and we were giving the distances in the end.  With an average hit percentage of 63% this stage is considered a confidence builder.

Distances were omitted because the same targets were used from day 1 stage 1.  The stage proved to be a bit more challenging due to the awkward positioning on the side of a hill.  And we were shooting from a hole created from the first day that was filled with sand.  Not very forgiving. 

With an average hit percentage of 33% I'd say a lot of these "practical" shooters have some practicing to do.

 


This was a challenging stage if you didn't choose the right body position to get stable.  Shooters were given a small box (probably 5'x6') outlined by 4 stakes on the side of a hill to set up in.  The majority of shooters used some variation of: sitting on a ledge and use a tripod, using long bipod legs or laying down sideways and picking your feet up so not to extend any of your gear outside the box.  After talking to several shooters, laying down proved to be a better option.

 

With a hit percentage better than day one, I'd say that the word got out after the end of day one and more shooters figured out a more stable position to shoot from.


 

Love them or hate them this stage required the use of a tripod.  I have been practicing with one for about a year now.  I think they have good applications in hunting scenarios where the vegetation is high and you can't get a clear shot from a prone position.

The first shot on this stage was about a 35° angle shot.  With the target being only 70yds away there was a slight chance for missing high.  With a hit percentage of 58% this was another confidence builder stage.

Day two proved to be a little more difficult for some and the hit percentage decreased to 55%.


What a fun stage!  I'd like to thank Desert Tech and Bison Tactical for putting this together. I've never shot a 375 CT nor have I ever had the chance to shoot something that large suppressed. I had my concerns but after pulling the trigger I was blown away (and not by the recoil).  AWESOME!  I want one now 😃

Here's a little food for thought.  I forget what the exact holds were but, the elevation adjustment for the Cheytec to hit a target at 1200 yards was less than the elevation it took for my 6.5x47L to hit the 590 yd target (half the distance and almost half the hold too).  Let that sink in for a bit...

In my opinion, this was on of those stages that separated the men from the boys, the women from the girls.  and you can see this is something the top competitors do well at.  Short par time (given the barricade positions, and number of positions) and difficult targets to spot in a field of sage bush.  

I seem to remember one or more of them being a yeti.  He wasn't easy to find.  One trick I use for stages like this is a dope card on which I can draw a picture of what landmarks are out there and where the targets are in relation.  I put that in my sidewinderand I'm good to go.  Yardage and holds below with target positions above.  This has saved me several times and this stage was no exception.  You can pick up both waterproof and regular sidewinder inserts at Bison Tactical.  He even has them with grids if you like to keep your data neat. 


Big thanks to Caracal for providing the pistol and AR-15.  They gave away the stage pistol to the shooter with the most hits and fastest time!

 

This stage was (fun?).  Either you had good wind and dope or you didn't.  

When my squad got to this stage the third target was "down" and had fallen onto a dirt patch in front of the t-post.  The first target was placed in front of a large patch of trees.  It was strongly suggested by NRL director of match operations who was RO'ing the stage that we take a "sighter" shot or two at the target on the ground so that we could get a good POI before starting to shoot at the targets sitting on 6' high t-posts.

Most probably know why this is important.  But for those of you currently scratching your head let me help you out.  With a shot this long, most shooters bullets are arcing in towards the target at a pretty good angle.  If you try to make correction based on the perceived bullet impact versus target location, you will often miscalculate the correction because of the distance the bullet travels after going past the target suspended up in the air.  Additionally, with the heavy winds we were having, you might miss you wind call correction as well.  So, pick a target (at distance) close to the ground and take a shot at it to make sure you have the right correction and you are on target.  

With the proper correction now known, you can attempt the shot at the first target with the bullet eating, no impact showing, sun-of-a-gun placed in front of a large patch of trees and bushes behind the target and hopefully hit it successfully. Thanks a lot match directors. 😬

Being a timed event, I figured I throw in a graph showing how everyone did on the stage.  Shooters are listed from left to right based on stage placement.  The height of the graph shows how long they took to shoot.  I think it's fair to say that the majority of shooters took their time and finished with about 10 sec left and then there are the the top shooters who are both quick and accurate.


I think this was supposed to induce some sympathetic trigger fire or a flinch so to throw you off target.  Either way, there were two stages next to each other, the first (not used for final score) was shot with either a pistol or carbine and the shooter placed 10' away from the rifle shooter in stage 7.  Or you could say that it was something similar to a combat scenario where you have one precision shooter shooting long range targets and one cover fire shooter taking aim at close range targets with a pistol or carbine.  

 


This was another stage where having a picture of where the targets and your dope on a card next to the scope was a huge advantage.  I see a lot of guys run them on the left side of their scope but they are shooters who don't use both eyes when searching for targets.  I put mine on the right side.  With a quick glance (yes there is some movement in the cheek weld). I'm able to see where my target should be and the hold I need to hit it.  I figure that is a lot better than picking up my whole head, looking around finding the target and then trying to point the rifle on target and engage it.


 

This was the stage that Andy Reinhardt was RO'ing.  A big thank you goes out to all the RO's who donated their time to RO matches.  With out you guys we wouldn't get to shoot matches like this.  

This stage was very time limited and had some tough sized targets.  Not very may competitors in my squad got off all the rounds (even on day one).  With hit percentages at 31% and 28% it shows.  But again, top competitors really separate themselves from the rest of the pack with stages like this.


 

A precision rifle match just wouldn't feel complete without a spinner stage.  This one required timing, precision, accuracy, and a skilled game plan.  As it turns out, the spinner target was larger than the first small plate you had to shoot at after spinning the plate.  With all impacts counting for 1 point each, it didn't make sense to try and spin the spinner for the bonus point just to drop one point trying to hit the small plate.  Only 3 competitors were able to shoot a clean stage and get the bonus point for spinning the spinner.  Second day no one completed the stage for total possible points.

The score vs. time graphs are a little different on this stage and not a lot can be determined from them.

 

 

 

 

 


I really like shooting stages like this.  This was one of the best put together troop lines I've shot.  Targets were very tough, they were painted green and blended in with the sage green hillside we were shooting into.  The 800 yd target was at the base of a tree line, the 900 was in the trees and the 1000 was above the tree line, making them a little easier to find.  

Because of the rifle issues I was experiencing I shot this stage with two different scopes.  One had the TReMoR 3 reticle and the other the H59.  Both fairly similar but the TReMoR 3 has the added advantage of using wind dots.  On stages like this, those wind dots really pay for themselves.  Once you hit one target and you register what the wind value is, all you have to do is follow the line of dots down for the next distance (using a hold over technique).  No more guessing at what to hold for wind (unless it changes on you while shooting).

Which one do you think looks easier to follow for your wind call?  

(I have since replaced the H59 scope with another TReMoR 3)


Another tripod stage.  This one required the tripod so that you could see the target over the hill.  No chance for shooting prone here.  

One day two I think I was starting to get a little tired and the sun was getting to me.  I did OK the first day but the second time around I walked up to the stage without creating a dope card for the stage.  Spotting the targets was pretty easy but if you don't know your bullet drop you don't have much of a chance of hitting it.  Good thing we just get done shooting 10" to a Grand and that card was still in my Sidewinder.  I didn't do as good as the first day (6 out of 8) but I was able to pull out two hits by asking for the target distance then looking at my drops from the previous stage and making an estimation.  I'm pretty sure my hits were on second round attempts after seeing the first bullet miss and then making the correction.  Lesson learned, keep hydrated and eat snacks throughout the day when food isn't provided during the match.


This was on the harder side of the challenging stages.  Hit percentages of 40% and 33% day 2.  I have a hard time with stages like this because if you miss there isn't much of a chance to spot your bullet impact and make a correction.  Targets 2 and 3 were hidden in and around a bunker house made out of hay bales.  One trick that helped me was to take my time on the first shot and watch for bullet splash (bullet impact) on the easier target.  Then use that hold on the rest of the shots. That helped me turn my day on score of 1 impact into 5 on the second.


The only thing more difficult than shooting four targets ranging from 1276 to 1407 yds was trying to do it with 30 seconds less time!  These were most difficult stages of the entire match.  

An extremely difficult stage that separated competitors that "can" from the ones who can't.  But, don't let anyone tell you that it's not possible.  You can complain about the wind not being kind to you or that another competitor had favorable wind conditions when he was shooting.  If you look at the top leaders, the majority of them did well at this stage both days.  

One of the competitors in my squad was able to get hits on a couple of these targets with his .223.  Yes, that's right, a 223.  So what's your excuse?


This one seems to have messed with lots of shooters even some of the best.  Confidence in your ability to hit KYL plates, speed, and keeping track of your round count was important.  This was one of my first times shooting a stage where you had to hit a large plate to "confirm" your points.  Nothing difficult about it, but under the pressure of time it seems to goof people up.

Closing thoughts:

This was a big match.  Lots about it was big.  The prize table was one of the biggest I've seen.  The yardages were long (targets were small).  The total round count was high (250+).  The number of stages to get through in a day (15) was big.  The number of top shooters from around the nation was big.  

But it didn't all go off without a hitch.  Match Directors, please take this with a grain of salt (nothing personal here).  There were lot's of downed targets on the second day.  One stage was scrapped and shot for fun because of the confusion.  There was a long delay before the final scores were released causing a delay in getting shooters through the award banquet and on their way home.

For me, I thought the target sizes were challenging.  The reduction in par times almost seemed like a cop out from the MD's who didn't want to create another 15 stages.  But it was educational for me and I found it challenging.  I need to learn efficiency in creating a stable barricade position as well as developing an internal clock telling me when to get the shots off.  I thought this match offered some of the longest target distances I've seen in a match.  Which kind of makes since for Colorado being at a higher elevation and the Altitude Density being that much thinner.  This is a vast contrast to the majority of matches in the US.  

I'd like to extend a personal thanks to the land owner who let us run around shooting steel for 2 days.  It's an awesome venue with great scenery.   I'm very excited to hear that they are open to hosting local matches.  This place offers shooting opportunities you don't get at any public range.

I really want to thank Travis, Tyler, Rob, Andy, and Jeff for putting such a great match together.  For the majority of shooters (the average Joe if you will), we pay into this sport and don't get a lot back.  It's not likely that we are going to be taking home a new rifle or a $1000 check anytime soon.  As you can tell the top competitors compete at a level higher and they maintain that through practice and the ability to get out and shoot/train more.  This match did have a very nice selection of prizes that extended down the winner placement list pretty far.  At other matches I've seen the prize table top loaded.  Which is fine (don't get me wrong here, this is a touchy subject for some).  I liked that the MD's picked out a struggling shooter and give them a custom rifle. They gave out prizes to RO's. And they gave out prizes to top Youth and Lady's shooters.  I was able to pick up a cert for applied ballistics software.  Given my placement, that's not too bad.  So, what makes a match like this better than others? It's the little things.  

The MDs worked with the local 4H club and got them to sell drinks and snacks to the shooters during the two days we were out there.  I like getting local community organizations involved.  Grassroots is where we will generate the interest in the sport to keep it going.  

The shirt.  I've attended a fair amount of matches and I have to say, sometimes we come away with items in the swag bag that don't fit the quality of the event. The shirt is one of those for me.  It's often all I get to remind me of the good times I had with friends I don't see too often.  This match had a shirt that I'd be glad to wear any day on the range.  I can't say that for ½ of the other shirts I have in the closet that will ultimately end up as gun rags.

A quality match book.  I'll be handing a copy of this book to my local club MD for stage ideas.  Hopefully we can add a few.  And for this match, the match book didn't have any errors! All the yardages were true.  That's a huge relief for someone like me who doesn't have the time management experience between stages to deal with bad ranges quickly when preparing for the next stage.  I often create DOPE cards the night before to help alleviate some of the stress and time management.  And there were target sizes!  This helps the shooter figure out a game plan (like the spinner stage).  But it also helps me write these AAR's 😉

 

 

 

Lou Smith
Lou Smith


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