2014 TIGER Valley Team Match

Background

TIGER Valley of Waco, TX is a world class shooting facility that regularly holds various competitive events. It is one of the only facilities that hosts open registration tactical team matches. From 2009-2012 TIGER Valley ran annual 4 man tactical team competitions. In 2013 the match was cancelled at the height of the national ammo shortage. For 2014 the match was rebooted as a 2 man team format making it easier for competitors to coordinate with friends to attend. Shotgun was also eliminated from the course of fire making it a rifle/pistol match and thus logistically easier to run, and easier for traveling competitors to attend.

Match Director TJ Pilling started running the team match after noting forum posters complaining that they could not attend events like the national SWAT competition. The team match is open for anyone of any skill level to attend, though without the right skill set and an appropriate level of physical fitness the match can be very challenging to a novice. TJ has applied his experience as a Garland, TX SWAT officer and precision marksman to the stage designs. To make it safe for everyone of any skill level to attend, any time team members move on a stage rifles must be clear and pistols holstered.

Team and Equipment

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My team mate Karl Kasarda and I have attended every previous TIGER Valley match together, as well as other team events including the 2009 American Heroes Challenge Match, and Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club team matches throughout the years. We also regularly shoot similarly challenging stages at the 2 Gun Action Challenge Match Karl runs. Confidence in your team mates abilities in addition to your own makes dealing with the stages much easier. If you are attending an event like this, you need to have a peer level partner. If not be very conscious of what each team members strengths are and try to handle the stages accordingly.

Karl used his Daniel Defense 16″ DMR rifle with 4X Crosshair ACOG, and CZ SP01 Pistol.
I used my CAV-15 MKII with 16″ Sionics Upper with Kompressor and Aimpoint M4 with Samson Magnifier. For pistol I used my Suarez International Glock 17 with Warren Tactical Sights.  We both used bipods on our rifles as there was a large amount of prone shooting. When not in use, I stored my bipod in a pouch on my vest.

Match Day 1

Humidity was high and we experienced some rain while shooting and resetting the first stage. Glasses fogging were a constant problem and made shooting accurately difficult.

Stage 1

After Stage 1 we stopped shooting for a short time while a deluge of rain hit the range. The rain turned the range into thick clay mud, that weighed down our boots and randomly came off in large chunks.

Stage 2

On stage 2 I made my one mistake of the match. I didn’t hit one of the far targets about 25 yards away. The fogging of my glasses combined with the close proximity of two of the targets to each other and the inability to distinguish the sound of my hits from my team mate, made me think I had hit it. The unhit target added +30 seconds to our score, a dramatically higher penalty than we normally have in most action shooting competitions. The high penalties did make us slow down and shoot more cautiously than we normally would for the rest of the match. After stage 2 the sun came out and started cooking off the rain.

Stage 3

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The obstacles were a 30 second penalty per team if they were not crossed. The 4 foot wall, roof, and window were all things we had done before or had equivalent props at our range in Tucson and experience going over them. We decided to skip the 6 foot wall and 8 foot wall because figuring out the technique on the clock would be inefficient, risk failure, and likely take longer than 30 seconds. If it had been 30 seconds per team mate, we would have attempted them. The Huey body at the end is on springs and moves significantly as we climb in it, giving it bounce while trying to take the shot. We both hit the stop plate at the end at the same time.

Stage 4

The vehicle ambush stage was a lot of fun. There was a pyrodex charge that fired when the car drove over a trip wire. My major concern on this stage was getting out of the vehicle without getting hung up on something so I rehearsed it a few times while we were waiting.

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There was a good spot for my rifle on the left side of my seat in my Fusion.

2Towers on stage 4.

6a0133ec985af6970b01b8d0717e55970cKarl inside the smaller building on stage 4

Stage 5

I shot the paper here more than I needed to because I didn’t want to get any more +30 second penalties. Looking at my targets afterwards, I did hit them with all the rounds fired.

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Match Day 2

Movers Stage

This video is not very exciting, but the stage was challenging. The hardest part of this stage was being on target in the prone position for 30 minutes waiting for our targets to randomly emerge. Hits on paper were scored and converted into time to fit in with the total time match results.

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Stage 6

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This stage was all about how fast the teams found the right info. Every steel was painted a different color. The leader had to be shot first, then the hostage had to not be shot.

Stage 7

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Only 2 shots allowed per paper.  Clearing rifles efficiently and reloading quickly was critical on this stage.

Stage 8

Shooting from the 60 foot tower at a downward angle is different than the long range stages we normally shoot in 3-gun.

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Victory!

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Karl and I won the match by a 30% margin. We won many of the stages or were in the top three teams. While we weren’t the absolute fastest on every stage we avoided costly penalties that other teams incurred. Shooting clean mattered a lot more than being 5% faster and risking penalties. We won matching chest rigs with armor generously donated by US Palm. The other Arizona teams that came with us placed 3rd and 4th.

Attendance was reduced this year because of concerns about the weather. TIGER Valley will run matches rain or shine, and learning how things work in real field conditions is a valuable experience. The $150 match fee to use the facility and shoot from unique props and conditions and as a team is a bargain. Martial shooters should come to this match even if they have no interest in their scores or being competitive. Comparing oneself against peers is always a good thing and can help motivate you to stay sharp.

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Rio Salado Sportsmans Club Team Matches August 2014

At the end of August, the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club multigun division ran 2 team matches.  Team matches are rare events because they present certain logistical challenges for running them.  The main ones being safety with multiple people shooting at once, and the number of targets required.  To address the safety aspect these team matches were relay race style with all shooters engaging targets one at a time or standing in a fixed location to shoot.  Every available steel target the club owns was used for this match.

Team 3 Gun

The Team 3 Gun Match was held on 8-30-2014.  Teams were only allowed to have one open shooters, the other shooters could be from any other division.  It was up to the teams to decide who engaged which targets.

My team consisted of the following:

Myself (Tac Scope):
Rifle: 16″ CAV-15 MKII with Aimpoint M4 and 3.5x Samson Magnifier and TSD Kompressor muzzle device
Shotgun:  Beretta 1301 Comp
Pistol:  Not Used

Karl (open)
Rifle: 16″ Daniel Defense DMR Rifle with 4X ACOG
Shotgun: Saiga-12 with Vortexx Strikefire and 20 round drum.
Pistol: Not Used

Paul (Tac Scope)
Rifle: Ultralight AR15 with 1.5-5X Leupold MKIV
Shotgun: Benelli M1 Entry
Pistol: Glock 34

We placed 3rd/18 Teams.  The major hang up we had was cutting the 2×4 in half at the end.  Karl and Paul rapidly engaged all the long range steel then joined me shooting it.  We estimated that we expended around 300 rounds on it.    Teams shooting .308s still shot upwards of 200 rounds at it.  We had the option of using 12 gauge slugs to do this, but did not because of the target size and distance of 50 yards.  Only one team I am aware of attempted to use slugs.

Team Pistol

The Rio Salado crew reconfigured the range to run a pistol only team match the next day.  This match was significantly faster to shoot than the team 3 Gun.  We were done in only 1.5 hours.  I attribute this to less messing around with staging guns and reconfiguring gear.  Pistol matches are more simple logistically and thus run faster.  Like the team 3 gun we could only have one open shooter on our team for this event.

Myself: Suarez International Glock 17 (LIMITED)
Paul: Glock 34 with Trijicon RMR (OPEN)
Andy: Glock 34

We placed 5th/14 teams at this event.  The 2×4 was our nemesis again, though it was easier to shoot in half with pistols than rifles (larger handgun rounds tearing up the wood more).  Double stack .45s had an advantage on that and the deliberately heavy steel targets on stage 4.

Team matches are a lot of fun for shooters and spectators alike, if there is one you can attend in your area I would recommend it.

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The Arms Room Podcast

On August 25th, 2014 I was on The Arms Room Podcast talking about competition shooting:

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July 2014 Matches

6th/50 overall.
Rifle: Sig 556R with Aimpoint M4 and TSD Kompressor
Pistol: Suarez International Glock 17 with Inforce APL.

Rifle: VZ2008
Shotgun: Beretta 1301 Comp
Pistol: Suarez International Glock 17

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Moving Targets

Not every club has access to elaborate moving target systems, and it is certainly less common for the individual to have them to practice on their own.  Consequently, when presented with a stage like this at a major match shooters who haven’t encountered these challenges before can be intimidated.  Here is some general guidance if you do encounter this type of stage.

1) Pay close attention during the stage briefing, and watch the demostration of the targets being activated.  This is particularly true if you are the first shooter.
2) If you are not the first shooter watch at least 3-4 other shooters on the stage to get an idea of how consistently the targets move and present themselves.  Sometimes activators don’t work as quickly or targets move faster.
3) With multiple moving targets you need to know the sequence and how much time you have availble.  You need to know that split second of when to abandon one target and move onto the next.  In this video I took a second longer to make sure my shotgun safetywas on; Something I didn’t account for in stage planning.  I only got one shot off at a disappearing paper.  Fortunately that one shot counted to neutralize the target.
4) If you aren’t confident, don’t take the risk.  Some people tried to engage more targets during the delays between activators.  They didn’t accurately gauge how long it would take to transiton back, and thus missed multiple targets.  People either did well on this stage or crashed and burned.
5) Targets that disappear with no chance to re-engage are alway the priority.
6) On swinging targets don’t chase them, pick a spot and ambush them with 3-4 rounds as they swing past.
7) In the event movers will slow down and remain visible activate the mover first then shoot everything else and finish on the mover once it has slowed down a bit.

There is no substitute for practicing on the actual target systems you will face at matches.  If possible find a local match that has some, or do a group buy with friends to have some to practice on your own.

Russell Phagan-Suarez International Specialist Competitive Shooting
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2 Gun Action Challenge Match: A Model for the Future

The Case For Rifle/Pistol Matches

The number one reason people tell me they don’t want to shoot 3 Gun is because they don’t have/don’t want to buy a shotgun just for shooting a game. I have heard this more and more since the mid-2000s.  There are three major things I believe are contributing to this:

1) There is a large pool of people that came back from the global war on terror.  They have bought carbines similar to the ones they were issued, and want an outlet to practice the martial skills they learned and used. Very few of these people actually used shotguns, and those who did will admit their limited utility.

2) The focus in commercial defensive/tactical shooting schools as whole is largely geared around rifles and handguns now, there aren’t as many tactical shotgun classes taught anymore by comparison.

3) Expense: one less gun makes it that much more affordable to compete in both initial equipment investment and ammunition costs.  While people may own shotguns, few are optimized for shooting 3 Gun.  Competitive 3 Gun Shotguns are somewhere between a home defense shotgun and a hunting shotgun.  21-24″ barrels with chokes and full length or longer magazine tubes are the norm.  The ammunition carrying equipment to be competitive is also increasingly impractical for anything other than competing.  The shotgun is consequently viewed as much more specialized equipment than rifles or pistols.

2GACM

With these things in mind, there is an untapped market of potential competitors.  The 2 Gun Action Challenge Match in Tucson, Arizona is an event that appeals to these demographics. It is strictly a rifle/pistol match.  Many of the stages combine physical challenge elements.  The more complex stages are often based around real world incidents.  The mean age of competitors is younger than other venues.  More active duty military, veterans, and Law Enforcement attend it. There are also more people attending who have paid for commercial training that want a monthly event to keep their skills sharp

Physical Challenges

Including physical challenges as part of stages changes the tone of the match.  Shooting this match feels more like a training session with friends than a serious competitive event.  It also helps keep away the whiners and complainers that can ruin the experience.  The fewer the targets on the stage, the harder the stage is physically.  Physical Challenges Can Include: 100-200 yard sprints, kettle bell throws, carrying heavy objects, crawling under obstacles, or going through obstacles.  The end result is more challenging stages with less ammunition expended.

Inclusivity Fosters Success

The match has wisely chosen to remain inclusive in the sense that any equipment allowed at other multi-gun matches is allowed there.  Arizona has a large action shooting population, they can use the same rifles and pistols they use in 3-Gun if they want.  Prohibiting equipment simply gives people a reason not to participate.  There is crossover from other local competitive venues as a result.  Armored division is available for people who wish to compete with body armor on as it does tend to make one slower and the physical challenges harder.

Stage Design Defines Everything

2GACM distinguishes itself based upon stage design and shooting/physical challenges.  Events that try to distinguish themselves based upon equipment restrictions invariably prohibit equipment with real world applications.  Stage design alone determines how useful something is in reality, and how martially applicable the match itself is.  We often see that traditional match equipment is a liability at 2GACM.  At the basic level magazines fall out of pouches because the match is more physical.  Typical competition rifles are too long to maneuver in confined spaces.  Short Barrelled Rifles can in fact be advantageous. Limited eye relief optics are slower, the more times the shooter has to reacquire the sight picture or from awkward positions.  Carpets are not placed on the ground in shooting areas so muzzle brakes can kick up dirt/dust obscuring targets down range.

Run Your Own Match

2GACM is open source; all you need to get your own match going is a range that is 50-100 yards, shot clocks, and 2-3 steel targets.  If you don’t like what your own local clubs have going on, get your own match started.  Even if it’s just 5-10 guys at first you can grow it over time and make more complex props and acquire more advanced target arrays.  You do not need the backing of a national organization to make your event happen.  There will be a learning curve in match logistics and how to set up and run your match in a timely manner.  As long as you have a range to run your match on, none of the challenges you face are insurmountable.

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Competition Shooting for the Martial Gunman

Techniques, Tactics, and Mindset

All the Action Shooting Sports we see today have martial roots, just as archery, fencing, wrestling, and track and field do as well.  How martially applicable various matches are depends solely on stage design which determines the skills tested and what type of equipment is more advantageous than others. When designed to test martial skills stages can make using traditional USPSA or 3 Gun Equipment less effective or a liability.

IMG_2584The simple fact is in many areas matches are the only venue where shooters can draw from a holster, move and shoot, or engage in positional shooting.  Many public ranges prohibit these actions at anything other than matches, so the martial shooter may have to shoot matches to have a venue to practice in at all.  With that in mind,  what you get out of competition largely depends on the mindset you have going into it. Use it to focus on gun handling and marksmanship skills, proofing out equipment, and socializing with like-minded people.  If your sole intent is to win, that path will take you down the rabbit hole that would cause you to start disregarding martially suitable equipment and gun handling techniques.

DSCN1573Matches cannot and will never be able to test tactics objectively. Accept this and move on.  Do not view stages as literal tactical scenarios.   Instead look at them as a shooting drill with some problem solving. There are often shooting drills used in various courses that are not literal tactical scenarios, they are simply meant to build gun handling and marksmanship skills.  View stages the same way, it’s just a drill where you’re trying to shoot as fast and accurately as possible.  The fact there are barricades that form a hallway and the targets are humanoid does not turn it into the hallway in your home practicing for a home invasion.  What it does let you do is practice moving in confined spaces safely with a gun and acquiring targets rapidly.

IMG_2458Martial gun handling techniques such as using your support hand to run your slide every time or reloading with retention generally will not have a significant effect on your score.  If you shoot fast and accurately and move efficiently you will still place well.  If your mindset is to win at all costs, then these things may bother you.  I like winning, and I feel proud when I win or place high, but ultimately my goal for going to a lot of these things is for the shooting experience and to validate equipment and techniques.  For example I’ve won Trooper division twice at Ironman 3 Gun (2008, 2009), but I will tell you both those years were not my best performance.   Over all the best performance I had was in 2011 and I placed fifth  How can I say it was my best performance with that placement?  I trained really hard, all my equipment worked exactly as I wanted it to, and I shot the cleanest and fastest I ever have.  There were 4 people who were simply better than me that showed up that year.  Having annual events to go to helps keep yourself motivated and gives you things to work on in the interim.

Equipment and Technology

RMR-2We have seen quite frequently products developed through the rapid feedback cycle of competitive shooting being useful for martial purposes. Sometimes they require modifications to be suitable, other times they do not. At matches I have attended all over the country I have spoken with and shot with a large number of military and law enforcement that are there using it for training augmentation and R&D purposes. In 2005 for example when I attended the US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Fort Benning 3 Gun Challenge; the commander at the time told us all “we are here to find better ways to kill the enemies of the United States”. He made a point of going around to each squad and talking to us about what we were using and why we used it. At the Ironman 3 Gun match I have regularly competed with servicemen from various special units that were trying out new equipment and asking us about the equipment we were using. You can use these venues for the same purposes. If your equipment does not work under the mild stress of competition, it is unlikely it will work when your life is on the line. If it works consistently match after match, it is more likely you can trust your life to it.

Recommendations to get the most out of matches as a martial gunman:
1) Safety Rules and Range Rules/Procedures: Comply with the rules so you can finish the whole match
2) Scoring/Penalties. Again treat it like a drill. Understand the requirements and operate within those requirements.
3) Target Systems: There are a lot of target systems that are for lack of a better term essentially carnival games or tricks, but they do move and require timing to hit properly. Understand how these systems work to engage them effectively.
4) Understand that people that go to matches are all there for different reasons. Get a group of buddies with the same mindset and goals and go compete against each other. If you beat a large percentage of the sport-only mindset shooters you can consider that you are doing well.
5) Use your daily carry gear or whatever martial gear you have in the appropriate division. Equipment is always of much less consequence than shooting ability. For example Race Holsters matter less than simply running faster at times, and they can be a liability when the gun falls out resulting in a DQ. Similarly split times with a tuned low mass gun matter less than simply being able to get into and out of positions faster and being familiar with your equipment. None of these equipment advantages really matters until you get to the top 5% of shooters.
6) The only way to get better at matches is to shoot matches. Local matches are organized practice sessions for larger events, don’t stress it and view it as simply renting the range time for you to run. You will never be ready for your first match, just go do it.

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