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The Idea Behind The Gear by Ryan Charlton

Originally published in Febuary 2020.

My 2020 competition season began on the last weekend of 2019, with the Winter Roundhouse Challenge. It provided a great opportunity to catch up with the Precision Rifle League crew and as the morning was a free practice with access to all of the obstacles there was a relaxed atmosphere which let me get to grips with my Christmas delivery from Sig Sauer Optics which consisted of a new Oscar 8 spotting scope and a new Tango 6 rifle scope!

With as many new shooters as experienced shooters taking to the firing line and engaging targets out to 600y in very tricky switching winds smiles and head scratching was rife. I buddied up with a first time visitor to the Roundhouse, former Royal Marine, Tommo. We had a great time figuring out how to approach a variety of obstacles and misses were thankfully rare, we ended up sharing my gun as Tommo was getting low on ammo. The call for lunch came over the radio so we enjoyed a barbecue whilst sorting out squads for the afternoon.

Feeling suitably refreshed we headed out to the firing line for a small scale competition designed to test us all. Before I left for the Roundhouse I decided to only shoot the smaller of the two targets on a stage regardless. With some really small targetry sticking rigidly to this plan made for a challenging afternoon and showed the importance of keeping a flexible approach to competition shooting! PRL League Director Tiff Dew used this shoot to trial new things for the coming PRL season. Two of the things I really liked were; starting with the magazine inserted into the rifle and the bolt open, in the rear position like the rest of the worlds precision rifle matches. With the small time advantage gained by not having to insert a mag, the par times were reduced, the longest time for a 10 shot stage was 100 seconds! As someone who likes the pressure of shooting quickly, I really enjoyed the challenge of shorter par times. The second was any gear/equipment was to be deployed on the clock, this means shooters have to re-evaluate equipment choices to streamline their approach for a stage.

For whatever reason I didn’t shoot especially well in the afternoon, I couldn’t get steady and most unlike me I made a few bad trigger presses which cost me points every time trying to hit those small targets! My favourite stage of the day was a ladder stage, the target was a 7” gong at 644y, which was to be engaged with 3 rounds from 3 positions in 100 seconds. I shot last having seen my squad mates fighting with the rapidly switching wind and struggling to see their misses. Luckily, despite missing my first shot I’d got a good enough position built to see the splash in the sand which allowed me to make a correction and hit my second and third shots. From the second position, I rushed building my position and made two bad trigger pulls which caused me to miss. I rebuilt the position to make sure I made a good shot and saw it connect with the middle of the gong. As I got into the third position, I was solid. With the RO calling 15 seconds left I let off 3 shots in super quick succession, watching some of the trace of each shot and each impact land with seconds to spare!

The highlight was shooting plaster Unicorns at 100y, whilst not very far the wind was whipping across them and once hit they were spectacular! Top spot of the day went to 2019 PRL champion Josh Martin and pleasingly despite a bad day I placed second with Jack Crawford third. A great way to round off the year with friends and some friendly competition.

Building on my previous weaknesses I’ve been doing lots of one shot drills, both on paper and steel targets, this involves getting into position, taking a shot and coming away to repeat the process. The idea being that it’ll help me increase the amount of first round hits rather than relying on my ability to make a good correction for the second. To further develop this, I’ve added time pressure by setting an alarm to go off after 20 seconds and am already seeing my groups on scaled down McQueens targets improve dramatically. To further help me practice, my best mate and regular shooting partner has welded up some portable practice barricades for me, alongside using any available surface these will enable me to recreate commonly encountered stage obstacles and get more proficient at dealing with them.

With the longer nights curtailing my practice I’ve been looking at other areas that I can make improvements in my processes whilst shooting and make the whole thing more efficient. Being a kit magpie I’ve accumulated a lot of accessories over the years shooting some are really useful, some have been resigned to the darkest corners of the garage!

One of the big differences with shooting the PRL compared to most types of shooting, is that the cars are a long way away and everything needs to be carried to each stage. With 3 rounds being held in very hilly terrain making smarter gear choices and keeping my rucksack stream lined will reduce the amount of effort needed to move around the course – especially with a planned super heavy match rifle to carry around!

I carry everything in an Erblestock rucksack which allows me to have both hands free with the rifle in the scabbard. It also has room for a whole days sustenance (Haribo, snack bars and water), as well as the essentials for shooting. My bare essentials are as follows;

Ear and eye protection, I’ll keep them in my rucksack so that they’re always where I need them and are harder to forget! Coletac Ammo Novel – It holds 90 rounds and only takes up a small amount of space. Along with a pair of MDT 12 round AICS magazines and a two shot “match saver” with spare rounds on the chassis, the ammo for the day is taken care of. A Kestrel 5700 Elite, provides all of the ballistics information needed to hit the targets which is the aim of the game. Area419 Pint sized Game Changer, last season I used this bag 90% of the time, either as a rear support, or front support, it can be hand held or attaches to the fore end of my rifle with an ARCA mount. This bag lives up to its name and is a regular fixture away from the PRL firing point, really useful when shooting from a vehicle or resting on a gate. Another bag that’s useful when required is the Area419 Grip Changer it’s very light and as the name suggests very grippy, as well as being a much lower profile for a front support when shooting low to the ground. One thing that doesn’t take up much room is a legacy from my Airgun competition days in the form of a target glove, this comes in useful for those times when shooting from a fist as forward support, or when extra grip is needed on a prop.

Some things that are always worth carrying are extra sharpies for scoring. I have a DOPE card holder which is a miniature whiteboard that attaches to my scope rail and I’ll write my corrections on as a visual reminder for multiple targets. There’s also a waterproof oil pen so regardless of the weather I can see my DOPE. Being as some of the most important items are battery powered, I also have spare batteries in case they fail, these are kept in waterproof bags along with soft tissue to wipe water off scope lenses in the event of rain. As a further back up to my Kestrel I have a printed DOPE card for my drops, along with a paper and pen.

Alongside this, I have my tripod which can be used for a rear support, as well as an improvised shooting rest. Mostly I use it for watching squad mates shoot through my Sig Sauer Kilo 3000 binoculars. An extra set of eyes is useful to spot impacts as scoring is self policing and nobody wants to miss a squad mates impacts. The built in range finder is useful to confirm the target distance in the match book. Most importantly though, by watching where other shooters shots land, it gives an idea of what the wind is doing and any potential problems on the stage. A small tool kit consisting of Fixit sticks in a pouch, with a variety of bits, including extended ones for stock screws and small Allen keys for scope turrets. Paired with a SOG multi tool this means that any minor mechanical issues can be dealt with on the firing line – part of my pre match check list involves checking the torque of every screw, but these helped a couple of squad mates last year. Being as the British weather is changeable at the best of times, there’s still room for a Ridgeline Monsoon Elite smock, which is light and packs down small making it ideal to be included “just in case”!

For things I need to hand when shooting a stage, I wear a Mil Spec Tailor shooters belt. Attached to this I have mag pouches for a spare mag mid stage and as a place to store my AICS pattern Flagazine breech flag. I have a dump pouch on my belt which allows me to quickly gather up my brass after finishing a stage, before putting it into an empty pocket in my rucksack ready for the next shoot.

The PRL continues to go from strength to strength with some rounds having sold out already. There is still time to sign up and get involved. For all information on the PRL check out www.precisionrifleleague.co.uk.

Competitor Spotlight – Alex White

Rifle –6mmXC, Defiance Deviant Action, MDT ACC chassis, built by Valkyrie Custom Rifles

Scope – Khales 5-25i, MSR2, Mil/Mil

Position last year – 5th

Favourite thing about shooting precision rifle? Competing with some of the best shooters in the country and spending time great friends old and new makes for an especially enjoyable competition.

Top tip for someone getting started? Don’t be afraid to turn up with what you’ve got, yes there will be people with all of the gear but most of it isn’t necessary. Knowing your rifle and learning how to make the most of it will get more hits than any accessory.