From Modern Gunner Executive, Conrad Davenport
Competition Shooting as a Training Aid
Part 2: Rifle
One of the biggest groups in the firearm owning demographic is the hunter. I hunt; it was the reason that I picked up my first firearm. Unfortunately, hunting generally takes place during a season. These seasons are not that long, and hunters, if lucky, only take a few shots. Those shots really matter. A rifle hunter needs to be accurate and precise when shooting at game. A well placed shot is critical for the safe and humane harvesting of the game. With seasons being short, and shots being few, how does a hunter stay sharp? Many hunters go to the rifle range a few weeks before hunting season. They will dust off their rifle, buy a box of ammo, and put 10 -20 rounds down range. From what I’ve seen, hunters are frequently only checking their scope’s zero. Rarely have I seen a hunter practicing for their shot. Why is this? It can be boring. It isn’t the hunt. There is a lack of adrenaline, unlike when you have a huge elk in your scope. Competition rifle shooting is a way to keep yourself sharp and have fun doing it.
If you are hunting in an area that requires long, precise shots, F-Class shooting may be something for you to look into. F-Class shooting is stationary rifle shooting at static targets. The most common F-Class divisions are Target and Open. The only difference between the two is the rifles. Generally F-Class competitions take place on a 600 yard range where the shooter is prone aiming at the target. The target has an x-ring of ½ MOA, a 10-ring of 1MOA and onward. Target division shooter must shoot a rifle in .223 or .308. If shooting off of a front rest, which most shooters do, the rifle is restricted to a 16lb maximum. Open class shooters can use any caliber they choose and they may have a rifle weighing up to 22lbs. A spotter is needed to call your shots for you. There are two 20 round courses of fire. You have 20 minutes to complete each course of fire. A perfect score is 200 per COF, plus Xs. The rifles of F-Class are usually custom jobs with very expensive, high-power optics. F-Class is not cheap. If you really get into it, expect to be into your rifle and optic for $3,500-4,000.
If laying on the ground shooting a static target isn’t for you, but sitting at a bench is, you might want to check out Benchrest shooting. Benchrest shooting is a form of rifle competition where a shooter shoots from a shooting bench at a static target. Ranges vary by competition. Benchrest shooting is broken down into two different types of competition: Accuracy (points) and Precision (group size). In accuracy competitions the shooters all shoot at for the highest point score. The target used is similar to the F-Class target. Precision shooters shoot five to ten rounds for the smallest group. Rifles range from Varmint rifles, Open Class rifles, to Rail Guns. Varmint rifles are pretty much customized hunting rifles with high power optics. Open Class rifles tend to be custom action rifles with ultra-heavy barrels, fiberglass stocks and high power optics. The Rail gun is its own beast. It is a barreled action attached to a rifle rest. These things are the peak of accuracy. Most Benchrest shooters hand load their ammunition due to the need for the highest degree of accuracy. This is something to look at for the deer blind hunters.
NRA High Power Rifle Competition
For the iron sight shooters out there, NRA High Power Rifle Competition may be for you. NRA High Power is broken down into two divisions: Service Rifle and Match Rifle. Service Rifle consists of military style semi-automatic rifles (M1, M14, M16). These are usually considered rack grade or issue grade. The Match rifles are usually customized version of the same rifles. All divisions shoot peep aperture sights. The course of fire consists of 40 rounds at three distances: First, 10 rounds, standing, at 200 yards, with a 10 minute maximum. The second round is 10 rounds, sitting/kneeling, at 200 yards, 60 second maximum. The third round consists of 10 rounds, prone, at 300 yards, 70 second maximum. The final round consists of 10 rounds, prone, at 500 yards with a 10 minute maximum. The combination between slow and rapid fire adds a high degree of difficulty to NRA High Power Rifle Competition. Of the stated competitions, NRA High Power is probably the least expensive to get into.
Tactical / Precision Rifle
For the varying terrain hunters or the shooters that just like to get a little tactical or “tacticool”, Tactical/Precision Rifle competition could be for you. Another name for these competitions you may have heard is Sniper Matches. Tactical/Precision matches consist of varying distance (known and unknown) in varying terrain. A match can take you from a 200 yard position, prone, known distance, to shooting off the hood of a car at 550 yards, with the distance not stated. These competitions tend to be a practical exercise of what a sniper would encounter abroad or in a local SWAT capacity. The rules and courses of fire are usually dictated by whoever puts on the match. The rifles in this type of competition range from match grade AR15s, to .308 bolt action rifles, to the big boy .338 Lapua bolt action rifles. A high power optics is usually a given in the competitions due to the extreme distances that are shot. Most competitors hand load their own ammunition for better accuracy and to save money. The entry level rifle optics packages can be a low as $1,000-1,500, but can get up to $5,000. These competitions will expensive as you want to make them. If you are a hunter that shoots a .300 Win Mag at 300-600 yards already, you probably have most the necessary equipment to start. If not, and you want an excuse (like you need one), to buy a $2,500 rifle, this is it. Whether you are practicing for that once in a life time trophy buck, or you want to feel like a Spec Ops marksman, Tactical / Precision Rifle competitions might just be your speed.
If, like the handgun competitions, you don’t want to go to big, organized matches and competitions, take a look at your local firearms range. Most rifle ranges hold weekly / bi-weekly competitions. Some have competitions set up just like the listed competitions, and some will make their own. Either way, competition tends to make things a little bit more fun. When something is fun, we usually do it more often. These are just a few options to spruce up your rifle practice. If you don’t think you would like these, or have tried them and didn’t like them, find something that will keep you practicing. The better shot that you are, the better hunter / sport-shooter you are. You only get better with practice. So, keep shooting and keep the shooting sports alive.