A day at the range is one of the more enjoyable things a shooter does. Being able to put your round on target at extended distances is the culminating event of a series of tasks; rifle preparation, load development, range estimation, judging of wind conditions, properly applying drop data, and finally the shot. All of these things are fun in and of themselves, but adding a bit of competition seems to make it much more enjoyable. This is the thought behind the Missouri Steel Tactical (MoST) series, allowing shooters to shoot and compete in a low stress match that allows for practice and the instant feedback of steel targets. The MoST series was designed for Missouri and surrounding area shooters, with matches run at several ranges here in Missouri.
The roots of this series can be traced back to the Tactical Rifleman's League proposed by Frank Galli in the 2014 time frame. Buzz Masters and I spent several days in a car traveling to and from a match and discussed how to establish events that would promote shooters to get out to the matches. The ranges we shoot at predominantly are Big Piney Sportsman’s Club (Houston, MO) and Rolling Hills Rifle and Pistol club (near Macks Creek, MO). There were established matches at each of these ranges, but they were individual events and not necessarily steel tactical type matches. We decided to set up a series like the Tactical Rifleman's League...and that was the BIG catalyst that guys seemed to be waiting for...a chance to see their cumulative scores over a whole season, and how they stacked up against other shooters.
We didn’t really want to aspire to the PRS level matches due to investments of time and money required to be competitive by the shooters. We decided on a separate series that would allow for introduction to long range shooting and a competition geared more towards the shooter that wants to get out on a weekend and shoot his hunting/tactical rifle in a low stress competition ….drive to the range, shoot for four hours, and drive home with a total expenditure of about $100 for the day.
Once we came up with the concept, we pitched the idea to BPSC and asked them to allow us to use the facilities there to test the theory and concept. They were more than willing, providing a tremendous amount of support, and encouragement. They were enthusiastic beyond our expectations, allowing us to run pilot matches and proof of concept events. In the end they have given us several range days, facilities and assistance for series matches.
At this point we had a range, and an idea. We didn’t have a course of fire. Buzz started pulling together specific ideas on things we wanted to test shooters on during a match; cold bore shoots, rapid engagements from stable positions, long range precision engagements, hostage/ bad guy engagements, close range engagements, and many other tasks that were not beyond the realm of reasonable shots. What we didn’t want to do was overwhelm the new shooters with ‘trick shots’ that wouldn’t allow them to get hits. At the same time, we struggled to challenge the more experienced shooters. While this sounds easy, it was very difficult, we found we had to adjust the distance on targets, or adjust the size on them to facilitate this. In some cases we had to set time limits on the stages to limit the length of the day. This was a lot of trial and error. Buzz and I spent a lot of time discussing how to plan these events, our biggest worry was that if we ran a match, we would have too many shooters show up to get through the course of fire in a day. This was a good thing to worry about, so we made plans on how to maneuver shooters and adjust stages, even adjusting the amount of time we would allow for prep by shooters on some stages.
Since we wanted to make this a Steel series, we needed steel targets. This is where Buzz stepped in. He purchased the Steel plates for targets and donated them to Big Piney Sportsman’s Club. Actually, Buzz purchased steel sheets and took them a friend, Steve Hobbs of Clever Welding, who fabricated the targets for us. Steve did an outstanding job, we can see these targets lasting for many years to come. I was overwhelmed to see Buzz and Steve invest into this endeavor as they did. They hit a home run on the targets they built for this. Once we had the targets, we spent a day at the range establishing locations for the targets, and marking target placement locations. BPSC has a narrow firing lane and we needed to ensure the targets were visible from the firing points we established. Dave McPherson came out and helped us establish locations. This was a day of setting up a target, only to find it needed moved. This was a long day, but we finally got it done.
Finally, we got to the proof of concept event. After all was said and done, we had 36 shooters show up to help us test the course of fire. To quote Buzz, “I declare victory!” Our first match was a safe match that was successfully completed. To say it was flawless would be an untruth. But we got through it. They shooters were the key to the whole thing!! They stepped up, and where we had a conflict or perceived problem, they helped us get through it. We ran several more matches to prove concepts, and refine the stages. This took place through 2013 and 2014. During 2014, Rolling Hills agreed to allow us to run matches there and joined the series. Brian Butts was establishing a range at about this time as we entered into discussions with him to include Rolling Hills into the series. The facilities at Rolling Hills had several target arrays, but the layout of the range allowed us to establish permanent targets in 50 yard increments between 300 and 1100 yards. Once again, Buzz and Steve got the Targets produced, and all four of us (Dave included) put out targets. We ran several proof of concept matches and we were done! Finally, we were ready for the series, and we announced the roll out of the MoST series starting in 2015.
I want to be clear on something, the shooters we get at these matches are what allow us to succeed. They let us know when something is going well, or not quite right. They provide a large amount of feedback, offering suggestions on improvements, and changes. We ever enlist the more experienced shooters to assist in running some of the stages. This expedites the day and allows us to get through without having to find scarce help. These folks carry the day at these matches, getting and using their feedback. Their help is invaluable.
We have also learned some valuable lessons on match design and courses of fire:
- New guys have to get hits if you want them to come back. Make the targets big enough/close enough that they can get some hits (3-5 MOA sounds big, but they need it!). Give expert shooters their choice of target sizes...smaller targets get more points (or paint some small hit zones on the target for more points). Set a 'par time' on most stages. No penalty for new guys going over the time, but give bonus points to the pros for each second under 'par'.
- You have to run three or four stages simultaneously if you are going to finish in four hours, so find a way to run them side-by-side. Nudge the shooters toward the shortest line!
We realized early on that we would need to establish several periods where we brought new shooters out to the range to assist them in getting drop data, so we set up “Dope Days” at Rolling Hills (remember the 50 yard incremental targets?). These were a huge success. We also turned these into more of a clinic on long range shooting where Buzz and I spent the day assisting with drop data sheet building, to working on wind calls. These events were well received, and well attended. Sometimes, we had to throw folks off the firing platform to allow everyone to get a chance to shoot.
Finally, we started the Series. We are half way through our initial year, and have had an average shooter turn out of about 40 folks signing up for the matches. Theses matches are like an extended family reunion, seeing the same faces show up at match after match. We have a great mix of novice shooters and experienced match competitors that are all willing to help each other out. We had one instance where we needed to reshoot a stage at one of the matches. One of the competitors didn’t have the ammo to support this. Without hesitation, another shooter volunteered 20 rounds to allow him to finish out the day. Things like this are the norm, and speak volumes about the character of the folks involved in this series.
Partway through our first season, we have been approached by two new organizations wanting to join the series. We have already included dates for Defensive Engagement Concepts into this years scheduled matches. They are a welcome addition that add a new set of stages to the series. If you haven’t made it to one of their matches, this is a trip you need to schedule. The other organization is still being coordinated with for future events. This series is growing by leaps. We have already had to start making decisions on what number of matches we will max out at per year!!
These are fun matches, not big money big prize matches. We made the decision early on to find a way to keep match costs low. The ranges have all been very supportive and receptive to this. Average match fees are in $20-30 dollar range. One of the ranges even allows Range members to shoot the matches for free!!! (One note, this is a labor of love for Buzz and I. We do not accept compensation for running the matches we run, everything goes to the ranges)
Buzz and I had to make a tough decision on sponsorship. Basically, we are lazy, and are trying to keep the level of effort for this series low for us. We decided we did not want to court sponsors. This means the shooters don’t see a huge prize table. We felt if we provided fabulous prizes, we would have a new set of problems to solve as well. There would more ‘gaming’ of the stages, higher expectations for range officials, and more cussing and discussing the scores awarded for the stages. We didn’t want any of these headaches. So, we have not sought out sponsors. That being said, we have had several organizations volunteer prizes, and are even working on t-shirts for the shooters. This just means the shooters get more benefits from competing.
We did several thing to attract shooters to the competitions. First off, we posted our schedules and started discussions on Snipershide. This is a great place to get volumes of info about long range shooting and related areas of this sport. There is a huge number of shooters that are members of the forum there and it seemed natural for us to have a presence there. The second thing we did was form a Facebook page. In today’s electronic environment, everyone is on Facebook. We use this as another means to share information with shooters and other interested parties.
Once we had these communication sites open, we needed something to make things POP. This is where Justin Brammer enters the picture. Justin has become the official photographer of the MOST Series. Justin doesn’t only show up and take pictures, he spends hours editing them. His work is phenomenal, and is a large part of our success. All of the pictures I am including are taken by Justin. He is also starting to enter matches, I see a bright future for him.
The MoST series embodies the concepts that Frank Galli proposed for the Tactical Rifleman's League....local matches that encourage new shooters to join the sport in a fun and educational format, while challenging the pros as they practice their skills and refine their techniques for higher level competitions like PRS and SHC.
As we look to the future we see the MoST series being held at ranges within Missouri and the surrounding states. We are at the point where we are going to limit the number of ranges we allow to enter the series, to allow the ranges that have committed to us to hold more competitions. This is a loyalty issue on our part. They committed to us, we will remain loyal to them.
So, if you are in Missouri and have a free day, come out and join in on the fun.
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Join in the Fun, shoot a tactical Match !