Although I have shot a few 600 yard matches before I had never shot a sniper match before and as I discovered, the two are vastly different. The 600 yard matches are pretty slow going, a round a minute and they let you really work on perfect placement from a perfect shooting position. A TCGC sniper match in contrast is very dynamic with very short times to complete the stage and is shot from all sorts of different and unusual positions which really amplify the stress. And as well all know stress equals mistakes if you are a neophyte or don’t train for it, and I made some pretty gross ones that killed me in the rankings. Below is a stage description from the match.
From the sniper’s hide you were to engage a specific target that was set up at 468 yards with 5 rounds. You were scored by the total number of hits in a particular zone and ties were broken up by the time completed. You were given 180 seconds to drop to the line, setup your position, load your rifle and take your shots. Seems easy enough, right? Well is should of been. I can get most of my rounds on a pie plate at 600 yards so this should have been a snap but in my haste I forgot to set my elevation and was surprised why I couldn’t see the bullet trace/splash. What a rookie maneuver! But that’s what stress does to a new shooter.
Similar to Stage One, from the sniper’s hide you were to engage five 10 inch plates at varying distances and locations ranging from 308 yards to 475 yards. Again, you had to get into position, load your rifle and set it up for the proper ranges on the clock. I really should have only used five rounds and taken this stage down with ease. But I read the wind a few minutes earlier and it was pushing around 10 MPH from my 3 o’clock so I added to MOA to my windage to compensate. The problem was that once I started shooting the wind went still and I was off to the right about 2 MOA. Once I noticed that bullet splash off to the right and dialed it back I was out of time and finished the stage with a humiliating zero points.
I finally started to understand what I needed to do to not make the mistakes like I did on the first two stages. For this stage you started in position with five rounds loaded in your rifle and waiting prone. The target was a torso sized bullseye target at 150 yards that was attached to a pulley system that drew it past an area of about 20 yards at approximately 7 MPH. I’ve never shot a mover before and was sure if I was going to track it or trap it but I knew that even at 150 yards I had better give it some lead time. I wound up tracking with it and held off about a MIL and pulled my first shot low on the target. I recomposed and put the rest of my rounds on target without much issue or any stupid mistakes.
This was a stage that called for you to crawl up a simulated roof top and engage a target group at approximately 300 yards with 5 rounds only. There were four different targets from 12 inches in size to 3 inches in size, each with a certain amount of points associated with them. The smaller the target the higher the points. Initially I had planned on trying for the smallest target and making up some points from the disastrous first couple of stages, but once I climbed up into position and loaded up I realized that I had forgotten my sandbag and just couldn’t get the crosshairs stable enough to be certain of the hits I needed. Just to be safe I put one in a target that was a little larger and then started putting them into the next smallest one. I didn’t do too bad but will have to add a sandbag to my newly developed shooting checklist. I don’t have a picture of me shooting this stage, but here is a picture of it being shot by another competitor.
Although this stage was one of the shortest distances, about 200 yards, it was probably the most difficult for me. It was simple enough; from behind a flimsy barricade that offered no support you were to engage a target from four positions with two shots from each. The first was standing. Even though this was static it sure seemed like a moving target. Note to self, get a sling and learn how to use it because my rifle is darn heavy and this was ridiculous! The next position was kneeling which went better but could have benefited significantly from a sling. A quick reload and on to sitting which felt substantially more stable, and finally, two rounds from prone which were a snap.
This was the shortest stage of the match with the targets being the smallest as well. From about 100 yards you had to drop into position, load only five rounds and engage your five targets. The targets however were eggs! Although small I was close, had my sandbag and made short work of the eggs without any issues. On a side note, it’s pretty darn funny to see eggs hit with a 308.
Because of my errors on the first two stages I only took 19th out of 47, but I consider it a very successful first sniper match. I learned volumes from my mistakes and had a great time despite my erratic performance. And the more I replay the match over in my head the more things I realize I need to add to my lessons learned. For example,
- Have checklists. A pre and post shooting should serve me well so I don’t forget to set my scope with the proper data. It should also include simple things like loading ammunition, switching the safety off, deploying the bipod/sandbag, etc… all of those simple things that can be easily missed when under stress. Also to set the scope back to my zero and close the caps once I’m finished.
- Put a rubber band on my notebook to keep the wind from blowing over the page with my ranges on it.
- Get a sling and get proficient with it.
- Practice shooting from strange positions.
Have a system to remember the target order and ranges. I did have trouble remembering which target I had planned on shooting next and the range as well as location. This seems obvious but my plan went out the window and mind went blank when I heard the timer sound and was missing.
- Get data on moving targets. Stage Three was pretty easy since it was close but I have no data on moving objects at great distances.