Challenge accepted, Mark Passemeneck

The question was asked on Facebook:

If I were to tell you to set up a match for your 100 closest friends, what would it look like?

1. What discipline(s)
2. How many stages
3. How many days
4. Physicality
5. Hoser, precision, mix type of stages
6. Set schedule or carnival style
7. You are not rich, so you do have an entry fee…how much?
8. Match meals or no
9. Other group activities or no
10. Prize table or no.

To answer each question,

  1. What discipline(s)
    IDPA, USPSA, Steel Challenge, 3-Gun, Precision Rifle and Sporting Clays
  2. How many stages?
    A blind tactical pistol stage run under IDPA-esque rules where the shooters don’t get to do a walk thru or even see where the targets are before the buzzer goes off, another “regular” IDPA Stage, Outer Limits, a USPSA stage, two 3 Gun stages, a Precision Rifle Stage and some clays.
  3. How many days?
  4. Physicality
    Moderate. No IronMan-esque stages, but not Bullseye either.
  5. Hoser, precision, mix type of stages
    The blind stage would be accuracy-heavy and the rest a mix of hoser/precision, with cool props a la Mystery Mountain.
  6. Set schedule or carnival style
    Carnival style
  7. You are not rich, so you do have an entry fee…how much?
    Enough to cover expenses and kick in something for the RO’s and the prize table. Let’s say $200, max.
  8. Match meals or no?
    Depending on the venue. Rio Salado has restaurants a half-hour away, but others don’t have that luxury. I kinda like match meals, those, as it helps with socialization.
  9. Other group activities
    Factory demos are always good, and maybe a pay-for-play full auto demo.
  10. Prize Table or no
    Definitely yes, with prizes given out at random and for best scores.

I like the mix of speed, tactical, long-range and shotgun work that a match like would provide. Your ideas?

The Purpose-Driven AR

For the last 20 years, buying an AR was the goal of buying an AR: Either they were banned, or they were about to be banned. Back then, you didn’t need a reason to buy an AR other than “It’s an AR, it’s in-sotck, and I want it.”

That is no longer the case, and the downturn in AR sales reflect that fact. Yes, there are people who buy guns for gun’s sake, but I’m not one of them, and I’m not certain that attitude reflects the majority of today’s gun owners, who buy guns for a reason, not because they’re “into guns”.

From my (brief) experience slinging steel over the counter, the big things driving AR’s these days are a) uniqueness or b) price. Either people are willing to pay more for an AR that does more than the average rifle, like, say, an LWRC or a Noveske, or else they want to buy the cheapest (not: I did not say “least expensive”) gun out there.

AR’s needed no other reason to exist beyond “we can buy one”, but that’s no longer the case now. It’s going to be interesting to see what they become over the next few years, as we move into a post-pessimist world of gun ownership. The reason for getting a defensive pistol are self-evident, and even shotguns have an aura of “I’m just protecting what’s mine” about them.

A rifle, though, is different, because a rifle allows for engagements at distances far beyond what non-gun people consider to be an “immediate threat”. Yes, the power of a rifle trumps the power of a pistol, but a shotgun does that as well, without the baggage of being something regularly seen in the hands of the military, not civilians.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not banging on the capabilities of a rifle as a self-defense weapon. I have one dedicated to just such a thing myself, and I also think that an AR-15 is an essential part of anyone’s arsenal, but acknowledging the realities means being able to overcome the problems, and getting the AR off the range and into the home is the logical next step for rifle manufacturers.

Match Report: 3 Gun at Altair Training

I got in a bunch of new gear in advance of an article for another firearm blog about what it takes to shoot 3 Gun left handed (thank you SO much, cross-eye dominance), so I thought I’d put my new gear to the test at a 3 Gun match atAltair Gun Training.

This was Stage 4 at the match, a pistol-heavy 3 gun stage with short-range rifle targets, and aside from a shot-up no-shot and two not-shot shoot plates (derp), I did ok. Note my prancing across the stage with my rifle, caused by the need to keep my rifle pointed downrange while carrying it left-handed. This is also the first time I’ve used my TacCom shell holders in a match, and I thought they REALLY speeded up my shotgun reloads, although they did have a nasty tendency to drop a shell or two as my body flexed.

The dry fire work I’ve recently put in showed up on the pistol stage, where I was one of the few competitors to go 1 for 1 on most of those $!#% plates. Where I need work is on the long-range rifle shots, especially from all the goofy positions on a VTAC barrier. More work, probably with my .22 adapter, is needed to get better at that sort of thing.

Overall, I was very pleased with both my gear and my performance: I managed to win the Tac Iron division, which sounds really good until you realize there were only 18 people at the match and 3 people shooting Tac Iron, but hey, a win is a win, and look for the article sometime very soon.

Post-Modern Pentathlon

The Olympic sport of Modern Pentathlon was created as a throwback to the original reason for the Olympics: Preparing young men for war.

“As the events of the ancient pentathlon were modeled after the skills of the ideal soldier of that time, Coubertin created the contest to simulate the experience of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight enemies with pistol and sword, swim, and run to return to his own soldiers.”

The events of the modern penthalon are:

  • Fighting with a sword (Fencing)
  • Fighting with a pistol (Was 10m air pistol, now they use lasers)
  • Swim (200m Freestyle)
  • Ride (Show Jumping)
  • Running (3km cross country)

It’s not the 19th century, and we’re not fighting wars based on Edwardian tactics and equipment anymore. The needs of an ideal soldier have changed quite a lot in 200 years, and “modern” pentathlon doesn’t seem all that modern these days. If the IOOC were going to update the modern pentathlon to reflect the needs of today’s soldiers, what sports would they chose?

There are rigid guidelines that control which sports are and are not in the Olympics, so the chances of getting something new like 3 Gun into the games are mighty slim. Therefore, the post-modern pentathlon needs to use five previously-existing sports which have some application to the modern battlefield.

In other words, no rhythmic gymnastics.

My suggestion for the (really) modern pentathlon are:

Cavalry these days rides in light armored vehicles, not on horses, and they’re hasn’t been a need for swords in combat for quite some time. Rather than base the sports on a cavalry trooper, I chose sports based around light infantry or special forces. The rifle and pistol choices are obvious, and I chose Judo as a hand-to-hand sport because it’s the closest to the today’s mixed fighting arts I could find on the list of designated Olympic sports. I kept swimming as is (really tempted to swap it out for 200m Medley) and rather than a cross-country run, I chose the 3000 metre steeplechase because it adds in elements from obstacle courses to make things a little more exciting. My selections are a little heavy on the combat side, and if I had to swap one combat sport for a non-combat sport, I’d probably go with sprint kayak over pistol to reflect the needs of troops to infiltrate enemy regions over water.

Ok, your five?

Dear Sponsored Shooters

Aside from my pre-existing recognition and affiliation with the brands you wear on your shirt, why should I take interest in your shooting abilities? Are you a compelling person on and off the gun range who advances the brand recognition of your sponsors? Are you the type of person who makes people want to buy the products named on your shirt? Can make me more likely to buy your sponsor’s products?

You can’t?

Then why are you wearing that shirt?

A game-changer for practical shooting?

How much fun would it be to watch a match using these interactive electronic targets instead of paper targets?

If hunting is a day’s walk followed by an autopsy, practical shooting is 30 seconds of sheer terror followed by three minutes of bookkeeping.


Think about how this changes things:

  • If you’re a spectator, you can watch hits in real-time. Rather than wait for someone to call out “Two Alpha!” (or in my case, “Charlie Mike!”), you can see the match play itself in real-time right before your eyes.
  • If you’re a competitor, you can see the target go down and if the app is hooked up to a decent set of speakers, hear the clang of the hit. All the benefits of steel, with all the benefits of paper. Cool.
  • If you’re a trainer, you can set up a course of fire that works with random amounts of hits on a target. “Shoot ’em until they’re no longer a threat” finally becomes a reality with these targets.
  • If you run a match, you can instantly reset a stage, making for faster matches and more options than steel alone.

It’s going to be really interested in seeing how big this product might become.

Here, hold my beer while I try this.

There are a lot of extreme sports out there that will get you killed right dead if you mess up, but only a few are on TV. Almost all of us can understand what’s involved in a sport like downhill skiing, because due to our fear of and experience with falling down, we know that controlling yourself while plummeting down a mountain at forty miles an hour is an extraordinary thing to do.

However, not all extraordinary accomplishments make for good TV. Climbing a 200 foot high frozen waterfall is challenging and extremely dangerous, but you won’t find it on ESPN anytime soon because there are no “Oh wow!” moments where the showmanship of the sport can shine. Skateboarding, on the other hand, is comparatively safe, but has opportunities aplenty for showmanship, and therefore makes for great TV. Somewhere in between those two sports is BASE jumping, which is both extremely dangerous and makes for great visuals, but not great broadcast TV.

Practical shooting, as it stand right now, is behind the curve in both those accounts. Most people don’t understand how difficult it is to pull off a clean six second El Presidenté drill, and watching someone else shoot a match makes for boring TV because there is no opportunities for showmanship in a typical USPSA match.

One of the reasons why Top Shot succeeded so well was because it had difficult tasks filled with “Oh wow!” moments that almost anyone could relate to. Shooting a target a mile away is tough. Splitting a hangman’s rope with a rifle bullet is tough. Blasting away at exploding targets with a .30 cal from back of a half-track might not be tough, but man, was it ever an “Oh, wow!” moment.

I’ve shot a fair amount of matches, and while I’ve seen some extraordinary feats of shooting, there hasn’t been any that I can talk about as an “Oh wow!” moment to people outside the sport, and until that sort of thing becomes commonplace, practical shooting will remain a sport that’s focused on it’s competitors, not on it’s audience.

How Expensive is 3 Gun?

Have you checked out how much it costs to compete in airsoft? $4000 a year per player? If people are willing to shell out $4k to run around and shoot plastic pellets, how much would they be willing to pay to blast away with a real gun in their hands?

The problem is that four grand is just the cost of the guns needed to start into 3 Gun. Match fees and ammo (especially ammo) are going to cost you much, much more. The question remains: How much will you actually spend the first year shooting 3 Gun matches?

A typical four-stage 3 Gun match requires approximately 100 rounds of rifle ammo, 100 rounds of pistol ammo, 50 shells and a half-dozen slugs. You may shoot more, you may shoot less, but that’s a good amount to take to the range on match day, and you can use the leftover ammo for practice or plinking.

Guns: $3500
Match Fees: $180

Shooting one match a month, that means you’ll shoot 1200 rounds each of rifle and pistol ammo, 600 shells and 70 slugs. Match fees vary, but figure $10-20 each time you show up as good benchmark, meaning you’ll pay $180 to your local clubs for the matches you shoot during the year.

Ammo: $880
1200 rounds 9mm: $275
1200 rounds .223: $360
600 12ga shells: $185
70 12ga slugs: $60

First Year Startup Cost: $4560
Subsequent Yearly Cost: $1560

The subsequent yearly cost is based on a year’s worth of ammo cost and match fees, plus an additional $500 each year for gear tweaks and equipment upgrades. To be honest, I was expecting the yearly cost to be much more, but sticking with inexpensive ammo like PMC and Armscor dropped the price significantly. Ammo costs would be even less with remanufactured ammo, reloading your own rounds or going with even cheaper brands like Wolf and Tula.

Is 3 gun more expensive than USPSA or IDPA? Obviously yes, because you are spending more more money on more guns and more expensive ammunition than a pistol-only competition, but it’s not out of reach of the average U.S. household. The startup cost is high, but the enjoyment factor is very high as well.

Shooting Teams Are The New Blue Angels, Part II

Let’s pick up from where we left off last time.

The Army’s Golden Knights parachute team has a YouTube Channel, and the most popular video on that channel has over 1.2 million views.

Not bad, until you realize that the most popular video on Hickok45’s channel has over 10 million views, and the most popular video on Jerry Miculek’s channel (a relative newcomer to YouTube) has over 2 million views, and it’s just him and his family cranking out the content, not the full weight and power of the United States Army.

All is not lost, however. Aside from the world-record stunts and two celebrity tandem jumps, the average views for a Golden Knights YouTube video is less than 40,000 views. However, the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) has more videos of over 40,000 views than the Golden Knights, and their content has consistently higher engagement as well.

So the people want to watch people using firearms on YouTube. The question is, who is going to give them content to watch?