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Rocky Mountain 3 Gun Aug 9-12, 2017

Rocky Mountain 3 Gun Aug 9-12, 2017
By Sterling White

The road to the Rocky Mountain 3 Gun match this year started back in February and March.    Having spent many years in New Mexico I wanted to share some of the really cool places to see with my wife Lynda.    Like any good road trip the best plans are those you make several weeks out.  We put together a list of places to see including but not limited to eating at the La Posta in Old Mesilla; seeing the White Sands; and visiting small towns (Cloudcroft, Weed, Mayhill, and Sacramento) located in the mountains just east of the White Sands loaded with tall pines, deer, elk, and turkey.

I’m always amazed at how fast the shooting season comes and goes.   Like many others we both work and have small critters that need daily attention.  As match dates quickly approached we were lucky to have cool neighbors with a 14-yo son who said that he would be happy to help us with chores.  Very soon we found ourselves on a sightseeing trip 10-days before the match.   Taking a spouse on road trip in advance of a competition to see different parts of this country is something that I would recommend to others.

This match is one of my favorites for several reasons – it is a reunion of friends that share the same interest, the location of the match at the NRA Whittington Center is absolutely scenic, and the opportunity to shoot using natural terrain is much different than shooting with berms which is common at most shooting events.   The RM3G has for as long as I can remember many gracious product donations by manufacturers in the industry.   For this year’s match I put together a plan for something new, something I’ve wanted to try but never have, and something that is a little bit old school.  This would be competing in the He Man Limited (iron sites or 1x rifle, 45 caliber pistol, pump shotgun) division.  The equipment and supplies used are as follows:

Kimber Single Stack 45
Barrel:  Factory 5”, factory sites, and a Techwell
Ammo: Accurate #2, Bear Creek SWC 200 Grain, mixed brass, Winchester Primer
Magazines: Wilson and Chip Mccormick
Belt, holster, accessories: Safariland

JP PSC-12 308
Barrel: Factory 16.5” w/ JPTRE Comp
Optic: Leupold LCO
Ammo:  TAC Powder, Nosler Varmageddon 110 Grain Tipped Bullet, Lake City Brass,

Remington 870 12ga
Barrel: Factory 24”
Tube Extension:  Nordic Components
Ammo:  Fiocchi JM Slugs, Remington Nitro
Shell holders: Safariland

Prior to the big match I had gone to the range at 5 or 6 times to practice and used this equipment in several local matches.  Knowing that the shooting positions are always a challenge a mixed bag at the match I spent quite a bit of time practicing from the kneeling, prone and standing positions.   Often we use tree branches or tank traps to stabilize with so it helps to put that into routine at the range.  Patience is often the hardest skill to master and understand.   Let the site settle and try not to rush the shot and the results are often easily measured on a timer with faster times.  Take a look at Plaxco’s “economy of motion” principles sometime.  Little things add time so if I can save a little here or there with practice its sure to pay off at the match – especially now that my knee’s a quite a bit older than when I first started this sport.

The day arrived when our bags were loaded and we were headed down the road.   We both look at each other while running though our checklist of things to bring and asking questions about the things the other may have forgot.   Nothing worse than getting miles from home and realize that you forgot a belt, holster, or the box of snacks for the trip.   We made our way through the desert Southwest with numerous thunderstorms and rain clouds providing valuable moisture.   Unlike years past with drought like conditions this trip was filled with miles of green grasses and scrub.   Should be a great year for ranchers, farmers, and wildlife.

Over the course of a week we were able to visit the mountain communities of Cloudcroft, Weed, Sacramento, Santa Fe, Chama, and Bayfield.  It was really nice being able to catch up with old friends. Some that I have not seen for 8-10 years or more.   This gave Lynda a better look into the world I often speak about.    She can now laugh with me and have a little better understanding when some things are just mañana.   And she gets it when I say things like: Hatch Green Chili is numero uno and it goes on just about everything; the red enchilada plate at La Posta is something to write home to mom about; or when I say New Mexico is cultural diverse and rich with heritage (something an outsider wouldn’t understand).

One thing that you can count on at the NRA Whittington Center are the mosquitos when the rain storms are dancing about.  Bring good bug spray if you plan to wear shorts!   The scenery at the Center is really nice.   It is not uncommon to see several large antelope herds scattered about, mule deer, and maybe if you are lucky a glimpse at one of the many bears on the property.    Access is pretty good however with afternoon or evening storms some of the roads getting in and out of the stages become sketchy.  Such was the case this year.  If you find yourself in the staring at a go / no go muddy situation take a minute and ask yourself is it really worth it.  Might be better to jump in with a friend that’s driving a 4×4.

This year’s match hit a high mark in my opinion.  Many of the rifle steel had visible yellow backers and were easy to spot.  Except for that one that was placed in a meadow loaded with sunflowers!   The stages each offered the competitors a host of challenges.  Some we have already discussed like various shooting positions and branches or tank traps for support.   The one thing that will challenge more people than not is the altitude.   Living at 1,100 feet above sea level and competing at an elevation of 6,700 feet or more is really noticeable.   Taking a 75 yard off-hand rifle or shotgun slug shot after finishing a 50-yard pistol run now turns into a challenge.   Trust me – if there is a limb, tank trap, or opportunity to use a rest take it.   The mind says its faster to stand and shoot however it’s the wisdom from past lessons learned that tell you to drop down and take the time to get a solid shot.  Especially true in the case if you are not training at altitude.

This year’s match had a mix of everything.

Stage 1 was fun but don’t miss.  It was a short range stage using all 3 guns with limited rounds.  The action starts with the competitor lying flat on a cot in an old single wide trailer tucked away in the woods.   At the buzzer the pistol is retrieved along with 2 magazines off of a table top and work begins by shooting paper and steel out of the back of the trailer, then transitioning to the rifle and engaging short range steel swingers from another window and outside the trailer either across or through a pinon tree.   Finding the right branch at a comfortable height was key here.   Next take out a bunch of shotgun clays while on the move away from the trailer.   Before the match we were able to take a peek at the stage.  I laughed while watching a bunch of old guys crawl up, around, and thru the tree trying to find a stable support to shoot steel at 80-90 yards.

Stage 2 was a gasser – by the end of the run have someone bring the O2!  Having made the decision to shoot with a 1x (non-magnified optic) at this match is challenge.   The Leupold LCO is really a nice piece of equipment that performed as well or better than expected.  It features a 1moa adjustable brightness dot, weighs in at a little over 8.5 ounces, and has some super clean glass.  I’ve also been running 110gn Nosler VG’s out of the 308 propelled by Ramshot TAC. Some will debate that heavy is better for longer distance however I’m satisfied with the results I’ve been having in practice.  “Be ready to shoot long distance (+/- 550 yds) when you come to this stage” another competitor had said over dinner the night before.  With that tidbit I smiles and said no problem.   That next day when it was my turn to go  I started on the farthest target (pink steel in the picture was set at about 530 yards) taking 3-shots to get the hit (noted by the flash of strobes) and then going almost 1 for 1 working my way back towards the line.  It was a good feeling as I dumped the rifle into the safe box and progressed on with shotgun and pistol.  This is the reason that I like this match and is the one stage that I practiced for the most this year.

Stage 3 is this crazy big shotgun stage that requires you to strap on caddies on every available part of body real estate possible.   Here is a look at the caddies that had on my person before the stage and yes they were all used!  This stage has you really thinking about:  were to load, shooting areas, target engagement, best place to shoot flyers, and which choke will help get the job done.   A trail about 60 yards long is a target rich environment of static clays and steel with an abundance of spinning clay wheels and flyers.   At the end of the stage I looked at the RO and ask “did I miss anything?” with a big smile and a tired arm from pumping the shotgun.  What a hoot.

Stage six was “blind” high round count pistol memory stage with only a 5-minute walk through.   Staff had placed game cameras out on the trail so anyone caught on camera walking the stage prior were asked to turn in their time sheets (no cheating).   The stage was pretty straight forward and targets visible from certain areas.  One thing about shooting a single stack on a stage like this is to stop to reload before moving which I wished I would have done.  Instead I reloaded on the move and it cost me.  My focus was on footing and the reload.  I walked right past a couple of targets cleverly hidden and visible for a short time.

One thing new this year, for me, was attending the swap meet which was hosted by King of the Mountain, Inc..  A lot of people showed up with a lot of gear for sale at really descent prices.  This also gave several of us (Team Leupold competitors – True Pierce, Ryan and Dianna L. Muller) a chance to set up a display table with a number of Leupold scopes and hand out swag.    I would encourage sponsors and sponsored competitors to bring with you marketing kits for these events.  It is a great opportunity to see what others are using and ask questions.

Many thanks to Denise, JJ, and the many sponsors who help make this match happen.  Overall I think this year’s match was really good.  Kudo’s to the hard working volunteers who humped in and placed all the targets not to mention working through rain storms!   Thank you for keeping the steel painted and having yellow backers.   For a guy shooting a 1x scope I had very little trouble spotting targets.  For me personally I finished up 6th in the division with many lessons learned.  My take away is that any competitor who plans to shoot He Man (limited heavy) at this match really needs to put the time in with your equipment – it’s not a walk in the park!