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Pro Tips from Top Finishers of the Accuracy International Long Range Classic

In March, Accuracy International held its third annual Long Range Classic. The match was a two-day event in Baker, FL at CORE Shooting Solutions. Many Precision Rifle Series matches are more of an experience rather than just a match. The AI Long Range Classic was a perfect example of this, with a vendor and train up day on Friday, a BBQ and bonfire on Saturday, and the final day of shooting and awards on Sunday.

Match Director, Ryan Castle, incorporated difficult positional shooting into most of the stages with targets out to 840 yards. With a total of 190 possible points, Matthew Brousseau won with 175 points.

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Right to left: Regina Milkovich, Wade Stuteville, Caleb Gidcumb, Matthew Brousseau, Matthew Gervais, Kevin Shepherd, Ryan Hey

We were able to catch up with the top finishers of the AI Long Range Classic to hear about the gear they choose, their recap of the match, and the advice they'd give a new shooter.

AI Long Range Classic Top Finishers:

Matthew Brousseau – 1st place Open Division (1/139 overall)

Matthew Gervais – 2nd place Open Division (2/139 overall)

Caleb Gidcumb – 3rd place Open Division (3/139 overall)

Kevin Shepherd – 4th place Open Division (4/139 overall)

Wade Stuteville – 5th place Open Division (5/139 overall)

Regina Milkovich – High Lady (9/139 overall)

Ryan Hey – 1st place Tactical Division (56/139 overall)

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What's the one piece of gear you need at matches that helps you feel better prepared, and why?

Brousseau: My kestrel. The kestrel has all of your ballistic data, reads the changing environment and current wind speed. You can borrow anything else, but this is your lifeline.

Gervais: My Applied Ballistics Kestrel 5700 Elite. It provides me with solid data solutions every time that I can count on, day in and day out. The Kestrel 5700 is very rugged, so I am confident it will endure whatever is thrown at it, all the while being easy to setup and use with high levels of accuracy. My confidence is my firing solutions from point blank to 1400 yards are spot on, giving me less to worry about on a stage and allowing me more focus to ensure my position and trigger control are perfect to connect with targets.

Gidcumb: My Armageddon gear waxed canvas Gamechanger bag. I feel like this is the most versatile and beneficial pieces of equipment in my arsenal. This bag can be used for so many different obstacles from a rear bag for prone to shooting a mover off of a pipe fence. I truly feel like I can compete in any match or situation that gets thrown my way with this bag. I even find myself reaching for the Gamechanger in day-to-day hunting situations. It is also an easy accessory to practice with and gain knowledge with at every practice session.

Shepherd: One of my favorites from last year to now is my Thunderbeast Ultra 7 suppressor with Rifles Only MAD cover. The reduction in recoil, noise reduction, and elimination of muzzle blast has helped me shoot much more consistent from day 1 to day 2 in matches. Without getting constantly blasted by a brake, it feels easier to stay focused on the match.

Stuteville: The one piece of gear that helps me to feel prepared is my Silencerco Omega suppressor. It allows me excellent communication while working through a stage.

Milkovich: My range finding binos so I can watch trace and see impacts while I'm deciding on my wind calls.

Hey: The Wiebad Mini-Fortune Cookie. I can use this bag as a rear bag and barricade rest on wide and thin (fences, straps, chains) obstacles.

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Please recap the AI Long Range Classic in your own words:

Brousseau: The AI match at CORE is always a good mix of new shooters, experienced shooters, and the best in the country. The match is well run, the food is great, and the environment is super friendly and inviting to all.

Gervais: The AI match held at CORE Shooting Solutions in Florida is on its 3rd successful year, selling out in under 90 minutes. Every year we are greeted with a challenging and very fun course of fire. I found this year's match to be a challenging balance between small target sizes, positional shooting, short time limits that stressed proper stage planning and fluidity of movement. If you rushed your movement or built hasty positions compromising stability you would immediately regret it.

Gidcumb: The AI match is always fun and a close race. The match is fast paced and requires a very accurate setup for the smaller targets. I enjoyed every minute of it!

Shepherd: The AI Classic at CORE is pretty much what you would think. It is one of the classic east coast matches. Lots of positional shots at mid-range on tough but fair targets. The facility is awesome, and as a shooter, it is a privilege to be able to come back year after year and participate (as long as you can get signed up before it is sold out). It is the type of iconic match that you should have on your shooting bucket list.

Stuteville: The AI Classic is a challenging and fun course of fire at a top-notch facility with great people.

Milkovich: The AI match was a great time with a fun course of fire.

Hey: The CORE AI match was pure fun. The facility, the staff, the Course of Fire: all of it is the example of an awesome national level shooting event.

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What advice would you give a new shooter?

Brousseau: Just get out and shoot! I see way too many people worried/scared about not being prepared to shoot their first match. I promise you will learn so much more at a PRS match than you will practicing by yourself. You will meet people, make friends, borrow gear, try new things, see new things, and learn a ton.

Gervais: I advise new shooters to seek out their local club matches and to go at least one national two-day precision rifle match a year. Most newer shooters may feel as though they are not ‘ready' for competition, but how can they determine if they are or are not ready if they haven't yet experienced what precision long range competition is all about?  If you can evaluate your performance in a match setting, you will be much better at determining where your shortcomings are and what you need to train for to improve performance.

Gidcumb: One piece of advice I like to give new shooters is get out and compete, don’t hesitate. That is the first step. Everyone has to start somewhere and with all the helpful shooters in this discipline, they will make you feel right at home. It is also helpful to shoot with like-minded people and see gear that we use before pulling the trigger on a complete setup.

Shepherd: Get out and shoot. Don't get caught up in the gear race mentality. You can go a long way with a solid performing rifle, scope, and ammo combination. Throw in a bipod, sling, and rear bag– and you're good to go.

Stuteville: After two decades of shooting this sport, I would give a new shooter the following advice: Don’t chase velocity to the detriment of consistency or reliability. Practice and mindset are the keys to success.

Milkovich: The advice I give every new shooter I've met is to remember we do this for fun, ask a lot of questions, listen, and go shoot. Nothing can replace application.

Hey: Get to matches. Start small: club matches. Build barricades and dry fire. Study and practice reading wind.

Photos courtesy of Precision Rifle Series


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