I could almost hear the collective prayers for good weather after Rod Hansen and John Markwell announced the dates for Allegheny Sniper Challenge 3. After hearing the reports from ASC2, it seemed that good weather was in order. The requests must have been heard because when I got up on Saturday to meet the rest of the shooters and roll out to the event location, the sky was blue and the temperatures mild. It would be a beautiful day for a rifle match.
This rifle event is a purist's match in the sense that Rod and John don't allow laser rangefinders. All range estimation is done passively with the majority of the shooters using mildot reticles (we had one shooter using a MOA reticle). Nearly all of the events are unknown distance, field shooting type of events and none of them are on level ground. So the successful competitor must understand the effect that high angle shooting has on bullet trajectory. The match is also structured in a manner that requires the shooter to carry all of the gear that will be needed with them. There is no running back to the truck for water, ammo or food. Either you have it when you need it or you go without. I really enjoy this type of match format since it really forces the shooter to think about his kit carefully before setting out for the day.
The night before at the shooters' meeting, John and Rod both mentioned the format would be similar to past years with one exception. There would be some "gambles" in this match and it was understood that the winner of this match would have to have some guts. The format of the match allowed a group of shooters to participate in a set of events in a single location and then move to another location for another set of events. This structure forced the shooters to be expedient in estimating range and getting the shot off. This was not stressful, but the match kept a steady tempo that forced the shooters to be at the ready when their turn came to engage the target. Most of the events of the match allowed the shooter to take 2 shots in an event. First round hits were 10 points with second round hits being 5 points. Two misses result in no score for an event. The exception here being the gamble events, where taking the gamble resulted in bonus points for a hit or a zero score for a miss.
The equipment that the competitors carried ranged from the standard .308 Winchester bolt guns (the majority of the weapons) to an AR10 chambered in .260 Remington. There were also some bolt guns chambered in other calibers. A .260 Remington and .300 Win Mag were present. Optics ran the gamut as well from fixed 10x scopes to high-powered variables.
The format of the match required that the body of shooters be split into two groups. Rod took half the shooters through and John took the other half through a different course. My partner and I were squadded with Rod for the first day and John for the second day.
The first day found my partner and I on the back of a 4 wheeler headed on to Narrow Back, the local ridgeline in the Allegheny Mountains that marks the Eastern Continental Divide. I was surprised we were using a motorized conveyance and fully expected to be walking up to the top.
However, we were dropped off far from the top where we had a little early morning hike to get the heart pumping in time for our cold bore shot. This little morning walk clearly illustrated the need for me to include some more meaningful PT into my training routine.
The first event of the day was the cold bore shot at a steep 30° downhill angle. The target engaged for the CBS was a 3.75" x 3.75" swinger at around 130 yards. 20 points for a first round hit and 5 for a second round hit. The grass was very tall and several shooters were forced to move pretty far over the hill and lay at a very steep angle. The picture below shows the competitors preparing for the CBS.
At one point, one competitor's ruck was spotted sliding down the hill. After seeing this, I had visions of riding my drag bag down into the valley, so I chose my shooting positions carefully the remainder of the match. Luckily, the falling ruck was stopped and retrieved before it got too far away.
In addition to the cold bore, we fired 4 more events from this position at the top of the mountain, each of the shots at an angle sufficient to have an altering effect on the bullet's trajectory when compared to level flight. The 4 events are described below:
This same set of firing positions also presented the first gambles of the match. For Angle of the Dangle, the shooter was to engage a 22" diameter round target at a range of 512 yards at a steep downhill angle. If the shooter scored a first round hit, the shooter had the opportunity to engage an 8" MGM flopper, a hit resulting in an additional 15 bonus points for that event. This event was followed by a true gamble in Shooter's Choice where the shooter engaged a target at around 680 yards at a steep angle. This was a one shot exercise – sitting unsupported for 25 points or prone for 10 points.The photo below shows the group getting ready to shoot the Level Taliban event.
The good news about having the hike up to the top of the mountain first thing in the morning is that the rest of the day was pretty much all downhill hiking. So from this position we moved down slightly to three more events, Level Taliban, Road Cut Slide and Steep & Deep:
The next stop on the tour of Joe Harper's farm offered one of the most spectacular views in West Virginia. From this point shown in the photo below we shot:
I don't know what was more overwhelming, the shooting or the scenery for the events as depicted in the photo.
After all the shooters engaged these targets it was time again to move and to engage the following:
After these events were fired we moved on to the final three events of the day. The first of the 3 was called "1-0". This scenario as designed to force the shooter to use some sort of hold off to engage 7 targets ranging in size from 10"x14.5" to 24"x33" at ranges from 187 yards to 610 yards. The shooters were allowed to use any zero range they wanted but then could not touch the elevation dial for the remainder of the event. There was also a 1-minute time limit to engage all the targets. This was a great event since the shooter was forced to use an aiming point other than the intersection of the cross hairs so traditionally used when elevation and windage are corrected via a turret adjustment. It also demonstrates the versatility of the time proven mildot reticle design in engaging multiple targets at varying ranges quickly. The majority of the shooters scored at least 5 of 7 hits, with a large part of that majority getting 6 of 7 or cleaning the event.
The second of the final three events was engaging an 18"x25" Middle Bro plate at 379 yards. This was followed by the "Dirty Group" event. The "Dirty Group" event was shot on oval targets with no aiming point. It was certainly a challenge to have a consistent point of aim when there was no defined aiming point on the target. However, several shooters managed groups in the sub 0.5 MOA range. Below is Frank Galli with his winning "Dirty Group". Frank was shooting a GA Precision built rifle with a US Optics scope.
The Dirty Group event was the final event in a great day of shooting. At this point, the group of shooters headed back to John's place for the Barbeque that is always a highlight of the ASC. John and his lovely wife Helen graciously hosted a very motley crew of shooters at their house. It was a great time.
After we finished up with dinner, we all headed down to Rod's house for the door prize giveaways. Several great prizes were donated by various sponsors. Sponsors and the prizes they generously provided for the match are detailed at the end of this article. This year's big prize was a Remington 700 based .308 SWS built by Terry Cross of KMW out of Forrest Hill, LA. The lucky winner this year was Mark Kerenyi. Congratulations to Mark and we hope you enjoy your new rifle. We all know it will be a good shooter.
Day 2 found the two groups of shooters exchanging leadership. Our squad, who shot with Rod on Day 1, was now following John's lead. John's course of fire was a little different from Rod's in that several of the shooting events were such that only a single shooter could engage at a time. This meant expediency was the order of the day. It should also be noted that John's events took place on a separate, more wooded and steeper part of the farm, which would require plenty of walking.
We started with the CBS and there was a gamble. The shooter could engage either a 1.825" square tile for 20 points or a 1" square tile for 40 points. The range was about 120 yards and everyone that took the gamble on day 2 missed it. No one hit the 1" tile. Looking back at this, I am sure SEVERAL shooters were very surprised and disappointed they missed such a shot. I think the lesson here is shooting on ground 3500' higher than one is used to shooting on will affect POI enough to cause a miss on a small target if not accounted for properly. Following the CBS, we had another 5 shot group event. The format for the 5 shot group was similar to Day 1 in that it was an oval target with no real aiming point on the target, obviously making it challenging for the shooter to maintain the same point of aim.
The next event was another trajectory flexing type of event where multiple targets had to be engaged at multiple ranges without making an elevation adjustment to the rifle optic. The point was to force the shooter to hold off using the reticle. Ranges were given for this event and the shooter had to get 6 rounds off in one minute, each hit counting 10 points for a max of 60.
The group then started hiking into the back hollow for the next event called "Uphill Offhand Option". This event incorporated a gamble where the shooter could engage a 12"x21" Thinman target at 384 yards with a single round for 20 points or engage from the prone for 10 points. There were not many takers for this gamble in our squad. However, John informed us there were several the previous day that had first round hits from the standing position at this event.
We then moved on to one of my favorite shots at the ASC. It is called "Rock Option" and basically requires the shooter to use a very unorthodox shooting position where the rifle is resting on a large boulder. The boulder required a position too high to be sitting, but too low to be standing. All this is done while trying to not slide down the steep bank. It is quite a challenge. The main target for this event is an 8" flopper at 247 yards. There was an option here to go for a 6" swinger for additional 20 points after a first round hit on the main target. The ‘gamble' in this case was that a miss on the second target left the shooter with zero points.
Next we moved on to "Cabin Ridge Gamble" (pictured below). Here I learned that shooting across these steep cuts is challenging for 2 reasons. One, there is a tendency to overestimate the range and two, it is difficult to see what the wind is doing since there is little indication of what the breeze is doing when there is nothing between the shooter and the target but air! The range for the 8" flopper (primary) and 6" swinger (option) was 325 yards, deceptively close given the way it looked across the cut.
"Cross Canyon" was next. This was a 24"x33" Fatman target at 700 yards.
The event following this one proved to be the most challenging for me and I think several other shooters. "Between the Poles" (pictured below) was a shot on a 24" x 33" Fatman target uphill (8.5º) across a very long and deep ravine that provided very little indication as to what the wind was doing between the shooter and target. I estimated the range at 1007 yards one time and 1030 yards the next. I corrected for slope, put my dope on the scope, held 1.5 mils of left wind and fired. The bullet struck right under the left corner of the target. So I held up and less wind and squeezed, POI was off the right side of the target. I obviously didn't spot the wind change, which would have been very difficult in good conditions given the terrain. I later learned that this shot was designed to really challenge the shooter's wind reading abilities. It turns out that the target was set up near the start of a steep cut and the wind will come over the ridge, out of the cut and do strange things in the gap that empties out into the main bowl on the Harper property. I also later learned the actual range was 995 yards.
"Roadside Ambush Option" was the next shot. It allowed the shooter to engage a 12"x21" Thinman target and if there was a first round hit, then the shooter could gamble on a 6"swinger for an additional 20 points. The actual range for this target was 345 yards. The shot was set up looking slightly downhill across a steep cut. The grass was high and the terrain uneven and forced the shooter into an uncomfortable position.
From here we moved with John to "Road Cut" which was a 360 yard shot on a 8"x14" popper target followed by "Out of the Trees", a 528 yard shot on a 24"x33" Fatman target at an 18º slope.
Pictured below was another one of the favorite shots of the match. "Cruising for the Taliban" was a shot that forced the shooter to use a 4 wheeler as support and to shoot at a very steep uphill target. The angle was 29º uphill and the range was 510 yards. The target to be engaged was a 24"x 33" Fatman. The shooter could choose the best position to engage the target and it was very interesting to see what positions that the shooters used to engage the target.
Another interesting event that John created for this match was "Sh*t! Look at That". This event required the shooter to engage an 8.5"x11" plate at about 100 yards. The catch here was that the shooter would begin with the rifle at a relaxed "port arms" position. The idea was to bring the rifle up, acquire and engage the target in under 7 seconds. Below is Tony Yackowski engaging the target.
The final event of Day 2 was the "Sniper Observer" event. The shooter was to engage 2 8" MGM floppers. The first flopper to be engaged was the "Sniper" flopper. If the shooter scored a hit, then move to the "Spotter" flopper. The idea here was to simulate being given a rapid order to engage a target and doing so when advised to take the shot. John would give the instruction that a target was identified in the shooter's AO and to standby for the order to take the shot. John would then be sure an unknown amount of time passed before giving the order to engage the target.
There were 695 points possible in this match. This assumes that you won both group events and won every gamble that were offered in the match. I think an effective measure of a shooter's performance is the percentage of the available points that are earned rather than an absolute point count. Kerenyi is to be commended on scoring 71% of the available points, an excellent performance.
Before I close, I want to be sure and thank the following folks.
Joe Harper, thank you Sir, for allowing Rod and John to have this match on your picturesque farm. There is no other match that affords the type of varied terrain that your farm does.
Rod Hansen and John Markwell, again you guys continue to contribute immeasurably to the shooting community by hosting this event. Keep up the excellent work; you and your efforts are sincerely appreciated.
Helen Markwell, thanks so much for putting up with a very motley crew of shooters hanging out at your house the majority of the weekend.
Brock Markwell, Jeremy and Tyler, thanks for all your help keeping the livestock safe and setting steel.
I also want to thank the generous folks who provided prizes for the match.
Terry Cross, owner of KMW - Long Range Solutions, thank you for the rifle, it is a work of art and you have made Mark Kerenyi a very happy guy.
Dick and Chris Thomas of Premier Reticle, donors of the new Spider spotting scope, thanks for your generosity.
John Carver of Eagle Industries, thanks very much for the drag bags. These are always a great prize.
George Gardiner, owner of GA Precision, thanks for the barrel change prize. Your work is top notch.
Anonymous Match Fee donor, you know who you are (cause we don't). Thanks for your generosity.
Marty Bordson, owner of Badger Ordnance, thanks for the bolt knob installation prizes.
Brack Wilson of Starlight Cases, thanks for the case.
Bruce Robinson, maker of the Mildot Master, thanks for the Mildot Masters as well as your support for our men and women in uniform through your Goodies For the Grunts program.
Again, many thanks to the gracious hosts of ASC3 and we all look forward to ASC4.