Competitive Shooting How to Ruck, Shoot, and Win a Team Match Sean Murphy May 7, 2019 Precision rifle team matches are growing in popularity, with the challenge of rucking with your gear and facing unknown shooting challenges at events like the Mammoth Sniper Challenge and Bushnell Elite Sniper Challenge being some of the toughest rifle matches around. Rucking matches like the Mammoth and Bushnell events not only test shooting and field skills as a team, but also have the physical challenge of making timed rucks between stages. For those wanting extra punishment, there is an option to camp outside for the weekend, hauling all food, ammo and sleep gear with you. Wanting to try something new, my shooting partner (Greg of PROOF Research) and I decided to tackle the Mammoth Sniper Challenge and Bushnell Elite Sniper Challenge this past winter. The saying “Piss Poor Planning equals Piss Poor Results” is very true for any competition…even more so for two shooters, with unknown stages and having to cover 30+ miles. While we have been successful at other run and shoot type team matches, we began our journey towards making ruck times and rifle shots with planning. Preparations included physical conditioning for rucking, having equipment carefully selected and prepared, and working on communication/team dynamics for each stage. Rucking Since neither of us was experienced at rucking, we reached out to friends that have covered plenty of miles carrying heavy loads. We narrowed down our focus to the following: take care of your feet and use good, broken-in shoes; save weight where you can; make sure the pack manages the load well, and know your body and what it needs to sustain for the effort. Rucking at Ft. Gordon hill for the Mammoth Sniper Challenge. Conditioning for rucking began with lighter (25-30lb) loads over a couple of miles. We both tracked ourselves via GPS, figuring out our pacing, uphill vs downhill changes and hydration needs. Weight and distance were gradually increased, along with some experimentation with socks and footwear. I ended up changing backpacks and shoes along this journey, both changes to add better support for the heavier weight. Eventually, you’ll find the right combination of socks, shoes, pacing, and hydration that doesn’t give you hot spots/blisters and wear you out completely. Tracking pace and distance with GPS. Rifle strapped to pack ready for a ruck. Guns and Gear Due to our shooting in team matches before, we felt our shooting gear was dialed in for blind/unknown challenges. Because we would have to carry everything, plenty of hours were spent debating the importance of every item. This is where teams gamble with leaving gear behind or dragging something along they may or may not need. Our rifles were built to be light, and we cut weight by running tight margins on spare magazines, extra ammo and tools/cleaning supplies that are otherwise comfort items. Some items can be shared, like a tripod, but some stuff we both decided were important to bring like rangefinding binoculars. We also looked hard at trying to match equipment and how we packed our gear, being prepared if we had to shoot each other’s guns or deal with contingencies on the clock. Our rifles were matching PROOF Research TAC IIIs, featuring their carbon fiber wrapped barrels and carbon fiber stock design. The weight savings with the TAC III allowed us to use Nightforce ATACR 7-35x riflescopes, suppressors and Ckye-Pod bipods. Our total rifle weight (rifle, bipod, suppressor, and scope) came in around twelve pounds. The rules of these events required a .308 or .223 rifle for the secondary shooter, so as primary my rifle was chambered in 6mm Creedmoor and the other in .223. In cartridge selection for unknown distance targets, a flatter trajectory will increase hit probabilities if the target distance isn’t always perfect. The secondary rifle used handloaded Hornady 75gr ELD-M bullets at 2900 fps…which are tough to beat out to the 800-yd maximum range. Between better accuracy, increased velocity, and better performing bullets, the .223 bolt action was significantly better than any semi-auto setup we had. Compared to a .308, the .223 has significantly less recoil and weighs less per round when calculating the ammunition load. Engaging targets from a seated position using a tall Ckye Pod bipod. Our backpack of choice was the Mystery Ranch Pintler. While a hunting pack, it features the tri-zip design, has a 2500 cu-in capacity and uses the Guide Light Frame. For the rucks, we strapped rifles to the outside of the pack but were able to fit all our gear, food, water bladder and ammo with some room to spare in the bags. In total, our packs with rifles weighed in around 45-pounds. The guys and gals camping were dragging around at least another 15-25 pounds on their backs. Rifles, packs, tripods, and teammates. Shooting Stages Aside from making ruck times, these events score the team on shooting performance. Most stages are shot blind, meaning you get a stage briefing but cannot see the targets and/or shooting positions. Other information such as target distances or sequences aren’t always provided, forcing the team to adapt on the clock. This was one aspect my partner and I have a good amount of experience with from other team events. We have an order to the chaos that helps us succeed on these types of stages: Stage Planning – figure out what you know beforehand, then work out contingencies based on what is presented. Shooting/Task Order – identify who does what and when, based on match rules and stage info. Identify and get into the shooting position – Have the person shooting second get any other required tasks completed while the shooter gets into position. Identify, Range (if necessary) and Shooting targets – work together as much or as little as necessary to successfully hit targets. The second shooter should be finding targets for the first shooter, ideally having the first target’s information ready for the shooter to start with. When shooting we work independently, not relying on a spotter to call wind or drop data unless the conditions are tricky. This saves time allowing the non-shooter to find and range targets ahead of the shooter or complete other non-firing tasks required. Change position/change shooters – Once the first shooter is done firing, their new job is preparing for the next shooting position or target sequence if alternating shots. Communication Communication is the key to many things in life, including shooting team matches. While everyone might not be able to pick a perfect partner, communicating with each other is essential. Things like target information, distances, shot corrections and other pertinent information need to be related clearly and succinctly. Little things like running suppressed rifles cuts down concussion and noise, enabling better communication. Some stages are designed to require good communication, such as at Mammoth with one stage setting the team 50 feet apart and each shooter had the others target sequence. Being together all weekend, facing adverse conditions and trying to be competitive while tired and hungry can create tense moments. Being able to work through being tired and irritated also helps keep a team going. I’ve seen quite a few teams get lost in a stage or even get into arguments on the clock, which never ends well. Game Time Going into each match, we felt good about our gear and preparation. We had prepared with heavier weight in our bags to meet the ruck standards and had our shooting gear dialed in. One early and hard-learned lesson at Mammoth was pacing. Greg had pointed out that we just had to make the times, whereas I had a nervous drive to move a little too aggressively. We eventually worked out a plan to start at a faster pace for the first third of a ruck to build some reserve time, then slow down to an easier pace to finish. We were tipped off to bring some music along the way, which helped keep spirits up and keep knocking down the miles. Throughout the days of the competition, don’t forget it is a team event. Managing gear is a team task… and the tripod plus some ammo were a few pounds that moved packs for a little relief. When shooting stages, these events are “run what you brung as long as you carry it.” Don’t be afraid to use your pack, tripod, trekking poles or other gear you brought to complete a stage if it gives you an advantage. Use your time wisely, but also remember that the stage times are usually par times and don’t reward finishing fast but missing. Sometimes it might feel like you might be burning time but setting up a tripod or adjusting your gear or rifle in a shooting position can pay dividends with hits on steel. Using our packs to shield our eyes from the sun as it was low on the horizon. Whether you just ruck and shoot or camp as well, to be successful you need to plan; be physically ready, work out your team dynamic and have some skill with your rifle and equipment. Our preparations for 2019 paid off in the form of 1st place in Regular (and highest shooting points overall) at the Mammoth Sniper Challenge and 1st place in Trooper at the Bushnell Elite Sniper Challenge. Photos just after we crossed the finish line at the Mammoth Sniper Challenge. 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