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2019 started off with a big bang

at the 1st Annual Special Operations Multi-Gun Challenge at Range Project in DeFuniak Springs, FL. The match consisted of 6 hard core stages with different elevation levels, shooting stances, obstacles, and some non-dominant hand shooting. There were about 50 shooters in attendance from all different military backgrounds and some individuals driving as far as Pensacola and Tallahassee.

Competitive shooting consists of a very small, tight group of individuals and there’s always a good chance you will run into someone you’ve shot with before. I got started in competitive shooting over four years ago and shot my first multi gun competition in 2017, where I was squadded with one of the Co-Owners, Brendan, of Range Project. Once I heard about the upcoming match at Range Project, a friend of mine, Bryan, who also shot the multi gun competition in 2017 signed up as well. Range Project made the decision to open the match up to new competition shooters to give people an introduction to multi-gun competitions and focus on how to shoot a match safely. Bryan and I were both able to bring two new shooters to shoot the match and they had a great first time experience!

The night before the match I was a ball of nerves. I got into Cowboy Action shooting over a year ago and spent almost no time with semi-autos since. I wasn’t sure if I remembered how to shoot paper targets accurately. The gear for the match was super simple thankfully to not having to supply a shotgun and because the only category to shoot in was outlaw. The outlaw division allows you to shoot firearms with modified triggers, optics, load your magazines to full capacity, and basically don’t have many constraints on what you can shoot. My process the night before a match is to over prepare. The gear needed to shoot a multi gun competition is a sturdy belt (I started out with a leather belt, eventually got a competition belt, but wore my 511 belt for this match), an easy draw holster, three magazines at least for your pistol, magazine pouches for your pistol, and a spare mag and pouch for your rifle just in case.

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned after shooting so many different types of competitions is to invest in a gun cart (especially for multi gun competitions), always bring snacks, water, sunscreen, a chair or stool to sit on, and excess ammunition. The morning of, I loaded up and headed out at 6 a.m. with a friend from Pensacola, FL with about two hours of sleep in me. It was a very cold morning, but in Florida fashion, it warmed up during the day. Range Project had top notch Range Officers on each stage trained to keep everyone safe, teach new shooters how to shoot, and run the scoring. They also had a great medic/photographer who also helped out a lot of first time competitors.

Once the safety brief ended, squads were formed and the shooting commenced. The first stage is always the hardest, at least for me. I’m never sure what to expect, over analyze, and tend to not relax until it’s out of the way. The stage my squad started on was stage 5 which consisted of a SKEDCO drag, loading slugs and shooting a pump action shotgun, running down range with your pistol and clearing steel knockdowns on the left, right, and more down range. Your squad really makes or breaks a match. Having a good squad means everyone is helping paste targets, reset steel targets, ensuring the scoring is correct, making sure they’re ready to shoot when they’re up next, and having a great attitude.

Range Project had a humvee on loan for the match and our squad got picked up in it and transported down to stage six. Stage 6 was probably one of my favorite stages, but also a large challenge. Range Project had some amazing sponsors who supplied ammunition and firearms for the match so for a lot of us, it was the first time ever handling a firearm, and we had to learn them fast in a competition. Stage 6 started off by shooting a bolt action Ruger 308 at 400 yards with a Schmidt & Bender scope on it. That was the very first time I’ve ever used one of their scopes before and it was the clearest target I’ve ever seen in my life. After that, you had a choice of going left or right to shoot a paper target and a Texas star together, or a paper target and 5 small steel targets. Then you ran down range again to shoot a plate rack and dumped your pistol in the dump bucket. The rifle was the last portion and if you weren’t careful, you missed shooting the two paper targets hidden behind a hay barrel before making the long range shots. There were 4 steel targets at varying distances of 100 – 250 yards and if you missed with the bolt action rifle, you could attempt to make up the shot with your rifle. The last item was a swinger target you had to make spin at least 180 degrees with your rifle. All of that fun can be seen on my YouTube.

The humvee then took us down to Stage 1, which was by far the longest distance running and gunning stage for the day. Range Project cooked up an intense stage of shooting a pump action magazine fed shotgun from on top of railroad ties, to shooting paper and steel knockdowns with your rifle, then running through the woods hitting paper and steel targets from three different stopping points, running through the woods some more, and ending by jumping on more railroad ties and shoot steel targets, knockdowns, paper, and a Texas star with your pistol. I was spent by the time I got to my pistol, but with a miraculous recovery, I managed to finish the star and not time out on the maximum time allowed to shoot the stage. You can watch my ending on YouTube.

We got to shoot out of a Jeep on Stage 2! I was so excited to shoot this stage because after shooting through the window and back door of the Jeep, you had to get out through the back and do a dummy drag to get it behind cover. Multi gun competitions are all about long range shooting. The paper targets are so close that they really don’t add or subtract much time, and long range skills really come in handy on a stage like this one. After dragging the dummy, you ran up range, loaded your rifle, and had to shoot 4 targets at varying distances from 4 different shooting positions. I timed out due to some rifle magazine issues, but I had a blast attempting this stage and seeing if I could even complete the dummy drag. Check out the video online!

Stage 3 is the best stage I’ve ever shot in a competition in my life. Range Project absolutely did a phenomenal job with this stage. The starting movement was to run up a berm and jump on top of a shipping container or run up a ladder onto it and shoot paper targets with your rifle from on top of the shipping container. Then you jumped onto the berm again, ran/slide down, run up range and shoot a pistol caliber carbine (PCC) at a steel plate rack. This was also a donated firearm so there was a learning curve on how to shoot one. After clearing that, you ran next door to another bay to shoot a mixture of paper and various steel targets with your pistol, dump it, and finish off by shooting a supplied AK-47 at paper targets. Coming off that stage was a high I’ve never experienced before and a complete adrenaline rush. If you want to see some wild movements, check out the video.

The last stage of the day for us was a fun struggle of shooting your rifle and pistol with your non-dominant hand. The set up was to shoot dominant hand, non-dominant hand, and dominant hand with your rifle and pistol. The rifle targets included one paper and three steel targets for each segment. The pistol portion was a section of paper with your dominant hand, a plate rack with your non-dominant hand, and 5 stationary steel targets with your dominant hand. I was proud of myself for my time and for only having the one plate left up because I was worried about the time limit. My rifle magazine did not seat properly or chamber a round, my pistol had a stovepipe in the first section, and completely dropped out of my pistol on the last section. Nonetheless, it was amazing fun!

I had high expectations for myself going into the match and really put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. At the end of the day, I knew I had no chance of winning with the crazy amount of errors I had so when my name was called as Ladies Top Gun for the match, I was truly surprised. I have a lot of people to thank for this match. Range Project is absolutely changing the game for shooters on the Gulf Coast. Their staff and facility are top notch. The range officers were the nicest people I’ve ever met and a few actually coached me through some stages which you’ll hear/see in the videos. Ammunition Depot sponsored me for this match and supplied all of my ammo for my rifle and pistol. They loaded me up with gear, including a sling pack and hat. Precision Tactical are class act gentlemen who made the custom full size M&P I won as first place. Mississippi Brass supplied ammo (sorry for the magazine dump with the PCC) for the match. The UPS Store made a generous donation by creating all the signage at the match. Moriarti Arms and Precision Tactical also supplied the firearms that were staged at the match for everyone to shoot.

Leaving the match and still today I can’t believe that I was a part of that match. It tested me mentally, physically, and really made me appreciate how tough special operations are. I have the utmost respect for the men and women in uniform and am very appreciative to meet so many shooters who have served our country. I’m excited to become a Charter Member of Range Project and shoot many more matches to come in the future.

If you’re on the fence about competitive shooting, Range Project is a safe place to start, an open community for new shooters, and I’d love to meet and help more shooters, especially women get into competitive shooting. My friends who shot this match both as the first competition ever in their lives can’t stop talking about it and already are wanting to shoot more. If you have questions or want to chat, reach out to me on social media!

Written and submitted by

McKenzie Fitzpatrick

 

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